Citing SB 9 concerns, Palo Alto moves to expand historic registry | March 25, 2022 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - March 25, 2022

Citing SB 9 concerns, Palo Alto moves to expand historic registry

Council plans to consider eligibility of more than 150 local properties on National Registry of Historic Places

by Gennady Sheyner

Stating its desire to protect local landmarks from demolition and redevelopment, the Palo Alto City Council agreed Monday to review dozens of homes for possible inclusion on a historic registry, which would shield them from Senate Bill 9.

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Email Staff Writer Gennady Sheyner at [email protected]


Posted by felix
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 22, 2022 at 7:17 am

felix is a registered user.

Good for those on Council who voted to preserve historic homes. They are part of our town or any towns essence, beauty and personality which is no doubt why they are exempt from SB9.

That some such as Steve Levy argued otherwise reveals a zealotry for mass housing over all else no matter if destructive to Palo Alto. I’m reminded of something once said - “We had to destroy the village to save it”.

Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 22, 2022 at 7:20 am

Annette is a registered user.

I agree with Felix. This passed unanimously. This is not defiance; this is a City Council comprised of people with disparate perspectives on issues - including housing - acting to find a way to preserve the architectural tapestry of this city. We need this. As Pat Burt said, these properties are "culturally significant to our community and are architecturally significant". And as Greer Stone said, SB9 itself provides for this. Plus, the numbers are low. To qualify as an act of defiance we'd need to be talking about a far greater number of properties.

Posted by Bystander
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 22, 2022 at 8:20 am

Bystander is a registered user.

SB9 has the potential for converting certain single family homes into future slums.

One of the recent tiny home developments has had a few of the tiny homes destroyed by fire. Although the cause has not been given, it is evident that the fire started inside one of the tiny homes and there has been a plea issued to the residents to not store too many belongings inside the homes as the destroyed units were filled with too much stuff. This shows what many fear.

When people are crammed in close together it is much harder for them to take a pride in their surroundings. There is an inclination to turn what may be nice new surroundings into neglected or overstuffed spaces. Is this what any of us in the adjoining lot to our family home?

SB9 has good intentions, but the reality is that it will end up turning neighborhoods into the lowest desirable place to live.

Posted by Eric Filseth
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 22, 2022 at 9:41 am

Eric Filseth is a registered user.

In the end SB9 may turn out simply to be dumb – paperwork for cities, perks for a few rich people, and no impact on housing prices – but it’s the law of the land. The State Auditor may have blasted the RHNA “vacancy rate” and “household formation” calculations (exactly what the Embarcadero Institute said, as it happens), but it’s the law of the land. The Council gave its input on these things exactly per process; at this point they’re done, and those opposed need to take it up with their state assembly and senate reps.

The current council is over half MBA’s and former CEO’s: it’s pragmatic, not fanatical.

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 22, 2022 at 10:30 am

Online Name is a registered user.

Thank you, City Council, and shame on Levy who can't see the beauty of Pasadena's historic district. Maybe he could take his rich backers and try to defeat all spending by the State Tourism Commissions.

The transparency of those opposing historic preservation bears the same absurdity as those refusing to recognize fire and drought as real dangers.

Also, what are people like Levy doing to prevent the spread of homelessness by requiring his reach backers to support decent pay for gig workers and a real business tax so THEY can pay their fair share??

Posted by stephen levy
a resident of University South
on Mar 22, 2022 at 10:33 am

stephen levy is a registered user.

Owners of historic homes already have the right to register their properties and make them ineligible for SB9 conversion,

I support their right to do so.

I do not support the city having the power as the article points out to list the property as historic even if the property owner does not wish this.

That is clearly an attempt even though the numbers are small to avoid complying with state law on SB9.

The Palo Alto council has every right to oppose state legislation but opposition does not confer the right to circumvent or subvert the law and taking away the rights of homeowners for the express purpose of circumventing state law is a dangerous precedent in my opinion and likely to have legal consequences.

Posted by Outside Observer
a resident of Professorville
on Mar 22, 2022 at 10:35 am

Outside Observer is a registered user.

One word of warning for everyone planning to race out and add their home to the historical registry. Keep in mind that once your home is on the registry, virtually any modification inside or out must be approved by the city (BOTH the Architectural Review Board AND the Historic Resources Board) and must be in keeping with the "historic" nature of the house. Planning to add AC? Thinking about replacing that gas stove and oven with something new and electric? Want to replace your rotting wooden siding with something similar but made of composite materials? Simply planning to add an additional bathroom within your existing space? Thought you could add solar panels? Sorry, at the very least you're now going to have to go through the full "Palo Alto process" for even the simplest changes. And your project stands a much, much greater chance of simply being turned down as "inconsistent" with the now "historic" nature of your house. Remember - one you're on the registry, it's no longer just "your" house. It's now a "piece of history" to be preserved and protected by the government. Have fun! (Been there, done that.) :(

Posted by anon
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 22, 2022 at 10:42 am

anon is a registered user.

In response to the comments made by Outside Observer;
The staff made it abundantly clear last night that registering your house as historic does not involve the interior, only the exterior ...nor does it prevent one from adding solar panels,
air-conditioning or upgraded appliances! So NOPE its just the exterior that is affected, and even that can be changed and/or updated materials used if it appears to be in keeping with the original!

Posted by Allan
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 22, 2022 at 11:14 am

Allan is a registered user.

Real estate experts - how does being listed as a historic home affect market value of the historic home, if at all? Tax advantages or disadvantages for owner and/or county?

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 22, 2022 at 11:40 am

Online Name is a registered user.

@Allan, it may reduce the selling price since it reduces the pool of buyers by eliminating the increasing number of investors, flippers and speculators looking for a quick buck rather than a home.

Do follow the numbers on the rising numbers of home purchasers bought by speculators and flippers, now at 20% and still rising.

Posted by Mayfield Forever
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 22, 2022 at 11:56 am

Mayfield Forever is a registered user.

Anon - that is bullshit. We're 9 months into permit hell with Palo Alto on what we expected to be a small interior remodel of a historical property with some upgrades to the home's electrical system + solar and they have had opinions about *everything* including solar panel placement. The like for like thing is also a lie. They "prefer" you keep historical materials, even if it's an accurate reproduction. That means you get to keep your rotting siding, doors, fences, leaky windows, etc.

The second you get put on the historic registry, every change, including interiors, gets extra scrutiny and that means paying tons of money to Page & Turnbull and all their other "consultants," plus endless back and forth conversations with the city. Full electrification is almost impossible, because making your Title 24 calculations balance out requires significant investments in sealing the envelope of the house (requires changing windows and doors, often not approved by historical) and introducing modern insulation (expensive, impossible in many older homes due to wall and ceiling construction) and upgrading your panel and electrical (get ready for months of back and forth with Palo Alto Utilities.) Say goodbye to your heat pump and induction dreams. Many contractors won't work on a historic property in Palo Alto simply because of the overwhelming bureaucracy that gets introduced into your projects. I would give anything to be off the registry, but alas, in Hotel California....

Congrats to all the new members of the Palo Alto Historical Review Board fan club!

P.S. There are no tax breaks for Palo Alto historical properties. You should plan on 2-3x every project estimate you receive from now on.

Posted by Paly02
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 22, 2022 at 5:15 pm

Paly02 is a registered user.

"The current council is over half MBA’s and former CEO’s"

And? City government shouldn't be run as a business, that would be unethical

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 22, 2022 at 6:25 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

Or it could just be irrational, mendacious, blind and amoral like past councils and mayor who claimed we didn't have ANY traffic problems so huge office development could continue at a horrendous pace to benefit their deep-pocketed backers.

And, odd, this same mayor who's out of power and who's been investigated for campaign finance irregularities NOW wants to restrict residential contributions but not -- heaven's no!! -- contributions from those deep-pocketed businesses, lobbyists and developers.

Don't know why your comment about "unethical" reminded me.

Posted by Paly02
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 22, 2022 at 8:34 pm

Paly02 is a registered user.

Online Name, I think you are trying to respond to me - only I just made the point that MBAs and CEOs aren't as useful of credentials for city gov't as Councilmember Filseth seems to think. And your comment doesn't respond to the substance of that at all....

Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 23, 2022 at 1:56 am

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

I agree with Eric Filseth when he says that this would be an ineffective way to fend off the perceived negative features of SB9. I’m all for it if more property owners protect their historically significant homes from being scraped and replaced by much larger single family units. Voluntarily limiting their flexibility to manage their property as they see fit and reducing their likely eventual capital gains when they sell, all for the sake of maintaining Palo Alto’s architectural legacy, should be applauded as a noble act. But it should not be compelled.

I don’t see where Palo Alto’s housing allocation would be reduced. The city may have a marginally greater challenge to meet its housing targets if significant numbers of single family home owners shield their properties from greater density. That’s a worthy challenge for our fair city.

Posted by [email protected]
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Mar 23, 2022 at 2:41 pm

[email protected] is a registered user.

A prop 13 repeal will fix a lot of this nonsense and eventually lead to housing abundance.

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 23, 2022 at 4:16 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

A prop 13 appeal only makes sense if it considers commercial properties since businesses "live" longer than homeowners, are usually much wealthier with more valuable properties and are often the landlords / developers for renting, building and/or selling housing. See also Willie Sutton's answer to why he robbed banks.

Posted by attaboy
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 24, 2022 at 11:43 am

attaboy is a registered user.

Would you want to buy a house that is on the registry? Or would you rather buy the same house that is not on the registry?

If your house is so designated, what does that do to your property’s value? Would you be happy about that?

Posted by Allen Akin
a resident of Professorville
on Mar 24, 2022 at 1:37 pm

Allen Akin is a registered user.

@attaboy: Years ago I was on the Professorville Design Guidelines Committee, and we spent some effort looking at the question of property values in historic districts.

In general, designating something "historic" reduces its market value, because the restrictions on its use decrease the number of people who are willing to buy it, and limit the ability to adapt to changes in the surrounding environment.

However, if it has some desirable characteristic that's not readily available nearby (for example, it's a single-family home in an area which otherwise doesn't permit that, or it's larger than current rules allow, or it carries a tax benefit, etc.), the market value rises because that characteristic is protected.

In short, there's no simple answer, and the tradeoffs can change over time.

Posted by Jim
a resident of Southgate
on Mar 27, 2022 at 4:34 pm

Jim is a registered user.

Can't seem to connect to the list with the information given:

Posted by Jane
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 28, 2022 at 10:36 am

Jane is a registered user.

We love historic buildings, but if you're in the owner's shoes, do you love it? More limits,more expenses and less value. the owner do the sacrifice, who pay for it? Property Tax Benefit should be used for the historic properties!

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