What is Measure D really about? | October 11, 2013 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |


Palo Alto Weekly

Cover Story - October 11, 2013

What is Measure D really about?

Checking the facts in Palo Alto's bitter zoning debate

by Gennady Sheyner

The uprising began with a simple loan.

It was November 2012 and no one in Palo Alto had expected either the loan or the project it would ultimately fund to generate any community interest, much less opposition.

But within months, residents in Green Acres and Barron Park would be leading an insurrection against high-density zoning all over Palo Alto; Candice Gonzalez, executive director of the Palo Alto Housing Corporation, would be sucked into her first political campaign, and her nonprofit, which builds low-income housing, would be labeled "big development" by some city residents; and the $3.2 million loan itself would trigger a chain of events leading to a citywide election a year hence.

By unanimous vote last November, the City Council approved a loan that helped the Housing Corporation to buy a 2.46-acre orchard site near the corner of Maybell and Clemo avenues. The proposal at the time was to build 60 units of affordable housing for seniors and 15 single-family homes in the Green Acres neighborhood. The new senior housing would be nestled at the back of the property, away from Maybell, a busy route to multiple schools. It would sit adjacent to Arastradero Park Apartments, a 66-unit Housing Corporation development for low-income families, and Tan Apartments, a market-rate eight-story complex that was around before Palo Alto's 1975 annexation of the adjacent Barron Park area.

The council approved the loan with no dissent or debate. The only surprise from the council's perspective was that such a site was available in a city that members often refer to as "built out." Adding housing for low-income seniors seemed to the council like a no-brainer. With the city's senior population rising almost as rapidly as its property values and nearly 20 percent living at or near the poverty level, the council quickly got behind the loan.

"Many of us are surprised that we have a parcel of this size sort of hiding in plain sight," Councilman Larry Klein said at the Nov. 19, 2012, meeting. "I think this an excellent use of the property, and I'm happy to support the proposal."

The horizon had looked sunny two months prior, in September, when the Housing Corporation unveiled its plan at a community meeting attended by at least 30 people from the neighborhoods.

No one was revolting on Nov. 30, when the Housing Corporation closed escrow on its $15.6 million purchase of the orchard site, beating out at least five developers.

A mid-January meeting didn't turn up neighborhood dissent, according to Housing Corporation board member Jean McCown. And City Hall was a place of wonky serenity on Feb. 13, when the Planning and Transportation Commission voted to initiate a "planned community" zone change, a frequently controversial process by which the city allows developers to break from zoning rules in exchange for giving "public benefits." Commissioner Greg Tanaka, who joined Alex Panelli in dissenting, marveled at the lack of people attending the meeting and proclaimed: "I think if the people in the (neighborhood) really knew what was being built across the street, there would be more of an outcry there."

And things were so calm on March 4, when the council supplemented its $3.2 million loan with another one totaling $2.6 million, the decision was approved on the council's "consent calendar," with nary a syllable of discussion.

A final neighborhood meeting, held in late April, focused on traffic and the revised designs for the project.

It wasn't until May 9 that Tanaka's prophecy began to unfold. That afternoon, dozens of residents packed into the cramped Council Conference Room to lay out for the first time their concerns about the development. The residents, mostly from the Barron Park and Green Acres neighborhoods, came to protest the inclusion of the not-yet-approved Maybell project in the city's Housing Element, a state-mandated document that lists the city's plans for complying with regional housing goals. They decried the proposed development's expected additional traffic, the lack of nearby amenities for seniors who would live there, and the denseness of the buildings on the site. More notably, they lashed out at the city's process for approving this new development, the fact that the city had loaned the development money and included it in the Housing Element before actually approving the project. Robert Hessen, a Georgia Avenue resident, said he and his neighbors felt like they were being "fundamentally disrespected" by the city.

"I have the sense we're being played," Hessen said.

The rhetoric heated up and the crowds swelled over the next five weeks as the project wound its way through the city's approval process. Faced with about 150 spectators and 60 speaker cards, planning Commissioner Eduardo Martinez observed on May 22 that this was the largest crowd he had ever seen at a commission meeting. The following month, when the project came to the City Council for approval, veteran councilman Klein observed that he had never experienced "such virulent opposition" to a project.

Klein's proposed solution, a weekend summit moderated by Mayor Greg Scharff, brought the sides together for pizza and fact-exchanges about 567 Maybell Ave. But there was little compromise. Residents suggested reducing the number of homes from 15 to eight, four on Clemo and four on Maybell. On June 17, the project received the final green light from the council, which reduced the number of single-family residences to 12 (seven along Maybell and five along Clemo) and required that the Maybell houses be restricted to two stories and have no driveways exiting on to Maybell.

On Nov. 5, thanks to a referendum campaign, Palo Alto voters will determine whether this approval will stand. If they vote yes on Measure D, the project will move ahead. If they vote against it, the site will retain its existing zoning designations, which would allow up to 46 units of housing at the orchard site.

In the meantime, each side is offering its own version of what the election is really about. Tempers continue to flare. On Sept. 28, Councilman Marc Berman angrily confronted Measure D opponent Tim Gray after a debate on Measure D to demand "an apology or proof" to back up Gray's assertion that the council made a "backroom deal" with the Housing Corporation long before giving its official approval to the project. Gray offered neither. But 4,000 citizens had signed the referendum petition to put Measure D up for a citywide vote, suggesting that public discontent is far more widespread than the area around the orchard.

The city is also facing a lawsuit from a new group, Palo Altans to Preserve Neighborhood Zoning, which alleges that the city violated environmental law in approving 567 Maybell.

Over the course of long public hearings, passionate debates, ballot arguments and legal threats, each side in the Measure D debate has made numerous questionable statements. All the noise has made it difficult at times to distinguish facts from rhetorical exaggerations. After hearing each side out during public meetings, in-depth interviews, a tour of the orchard site and dozens of conversations with supporters and opponents, the Weekly zooms in on eight iffy claims that both sides have put forth in the hope they will convince voters come Nov. 5.

"They made a backroom deal for some loans then brought it to the public and reversed engineered a democratic process to justify the end." (Tim Gray, Sept. 28 debate on Measure D)

Opponents of Measure D have repeatedly accused the council of an unethical, if not illegal, approval of a loan to the Housing Corporation before the details of the project were released to the public. Gray, treasurer for Palo Altans to Preserve Neighborhood Zoning, repeated this assertion during Sept. 28's debate at City Hall, prompting the heated response from Councilman Berman after the debate.

Similarly, resident Bob Moss, who helped get the referendum on November's ballot, called the council's approval of the project a "done deal — done under the table." Moss softened his stance on Sept. 30, when he addressed the council and clarified that he believed the council's action was ill-advised but not illegal.

The sequence for the council's approval was irregular, but irregularity hardly constitutes a "backroom deal." The loan was made weeks before the Housing Corporation, under pressure of a deadline, bought the orchard site. While the council had a general idea of what the project would entail, there was no project on the table to approve.

The loan ordinance that the council approved in November explicitly states: "By approving the acquisition loan agreement, the City has made no commitment to approve the project or any particular application for land use approvals on the property." The ordinance also states that "site-specific environmental review will be completed when an application for specific land-use approvals is made and plans are developed for the project."

The terms of the loan also shields the city from financial risk. In the event of a default, the loan will continue to accrue interest until repaid, according to the loan documents. The loan agreement also states: "The parties recognize that the City has the sole discretion and right to terminate this agreement without fault or default if City determines not to approve the land use approvals for the project."

Clearly, the loan didn't formally commit the council to anything. Informally, however, it created some political problems. The Housing Corporation has asserted that municipalities frequently find themselves as both lender and project approver. But even though law allows a council member to wear two hats, that doesn't mean it's a good look. In most situations, being both a lender and the impartial judge on a project would constitute a conflict of interest.

Gray's statement that the money was approved in the "back room" is an overreach, but his assertion that the game at least appeared to be predetermined before the council approved the project is reasonable. The awkward sequence may have been necessary to make the land deal, but it fostered cynicism and made residents feel disrespected months later, when opposition to the Maybell project began to snowball.

On a related note, that of whether the community was left out of the process, Moss said the "first real public meeting" on the project was in late April, attracting what he characterized as a furious mob. For the record, the Housing Corporation held neighborhood meetings in September 2012 and January and April 2013, in addition to public reviews of the project with city boards. But the project was fluid, and plans for such issues as traffic flow changed over time so the project that neighbors learned about a year ago was not exactly the same project that the public scrutinized in April.

"PC zones are not springing up in your local neighborhood. I think people need to realize that." (Greg Scharff, Sept. 28 debate on Measure D)

Measure D opponents have two objectives: to stop the rezoning at 567 Maybell Ave. and to take a firm stance against "planned community" projects in general. As Joe Hirsch, one of the leaders of the campaign, told the City Council on Sept. 30: "We want to send a clear message to you and City Hall to stop incremental degradation of Palo Alto by approving 'planned community' zones that sweep away longstanding and historic site regulations that have protected all of us in Palo Alto for decades."

At the Sept. 28 debate, Mayor Scharff had tried to downplay such anxieties, characterizing them as "over the top."

"No one is going to come and put a PC zone next to your house," Scharff said. "It's not going to happen. It's way over the top. When I've been on the council, we've had two PC zones that we've approved. Two.

"PC zones are not springing up in your local neighborhood. People need to realize that."

This is true, as long as your "local neighborhood" isn't around 2180 El Camino Real, 101 Lytton Ave. (aka Lytton Gateway), the Maybell site, 27 University Ave., 395 Page Mill Road, 2755 El Camino Real or anywhere near the Stanford University Medical Center.

The council has actually approved three PC projects — Lytton Gateway, Edgewood Plaza and Maybell — since Scharff joined the council in January 2010. But the College Terrace Centre at 2180 El Camino Real, a PC project, earned the green light in December 2009, between the time Scharff was elected and the time he joined the council.

The colossal expansion of the Stanford University Medical Center was approved in 2011 and, while not a PC project, required revisions in the city's Comprehensive Plan to enable the density Stanford requested.

Developer John Arrillaga's proposal for 27 University Ave., while not yet formally submitted as a plan to the city, conceptualizes four office towers, two of them taller than 100 feet, and a theater near the downtown Caltrain station. Much like with any other PC process, approval would give Arrillaga permission to far exceed zoning regulations in exchange for public benefits — a new theater and various improvements around the transit station.

It was this project that most recently was responsible for stoking community frustration and suspicion over the city staff's and council's predilection for zone-busting PC projects. A product of months of closed-door negotiations, staff's enthusiasm for Arrillaga's "concept" and recommendation to hold a special election on the massive proposal moved it forward quickly even without a formal application. When it finally got to the council, along with intense public outcry, members pulled back on the reins on the project.

The concerns from Measure D opponents that the city often looks past the Comprehensive Plan, the city's guiding land-use document, in considering dense projects appears to be valid. The staff report for 27 University waxed ecstatically about all the transportation improvements the project would bring to the city. But it remained strangely silent on the Comprehensive Plan policies the project would violate, including policies guiding historical preservation and protection of "views of the foothills by guiding building heights and massing."

The Jay Paul Co. proposal for 395 Page Mill Road, which would bring 311,000 square feet of office space, is another PC proposal, one that would offer as its public benefit a new police station for the city. The council's Infrastructure Committee was so excited by that prospect, it agreed earlier this year to accelerate the timeline for the approval process.

The council is also considering a PC proposal at 2755 El Camino Real, a four-story office project that would occupy what is now a parking lot near the most congested intersection in Palo Alto: Page Mill and El Camino.

Scharff's statement is misleading in its implication that PC projects are rare exceptions and not likely to infringe on residents. There is a reason why three planning commissioners authored a memo earlier this year calling PC zoning "the greatest challenge to land-use planning in Palo Alto today."

At the same time, despite the furor over PC zones, the Housing Corporation's McCown has also pointed out that Measure D does not contain any language or requirements that would alter the city's consideration of PC zones. Its defeat, while sending a message, would not bring with it any concrete or specified changes to the PC process.

"It has nothing to do with seniors or affordability. It is about money." (Measure D rebuttal argument)

Critics can reasonably take umbrage with the process by which the Maybell development was approved or with the recent wave of PC proposals, but associating a nonprofit developer with commercial builders like Jay Paul Co. or Arrillaga is a stretch. Palo Alto Housing Corporation has a four-decade history of building affordable housing throughout the city. Opponents could have hardly picked a worse poster child for the "It is about money" argument.

The Housing Corporation competed against at least five private developers to purchase the site from Maybell Sambuceto Properties, LLC and Sambuceto Partners. Its bid wasn't the highest, but the family that owned the property agreed to sell to the nonprofit because of tax write-offs. Given the market demand, and the opposition to its project, the Housing Corporation could at this point sell the property and probably walk away with a profit. Instead of doing that, it is pursuing an aggressive and costly election campaign — the first time it has been forced to do so.

The Weekly recently asked the Housing Corporation's Gonzalez: Why not simply sell the land and walk away with a profit? She acknowledged the Housing Corporation could probably "make more than we bought it for."

"That's been discussed. Should we just avoid this expensive referendum?" Gonzalez said. "That's the easy way out, but it doesn't feel good, and it doesn't serve our mission."

There is one part of the project, however, that opponents have most vehemently opposed and questioned: the market-rate homes that would subsidize the senior housing. This is the first project developed by the nonprofit that includes a market-rate component.

At the 11th-hour summit that concluded before the council's approval of Maybell in June, Green Acres and Barron Park residents said they'd be willing to compromise if the number of homes was reduced from 15 to eight. The Housing Corporation chose not to go that route, claiming the change would compromise the entire project financially. At a recent interview, Gonzalez said each lot is projected to bring in about $1 million for the total development when re-sold to a private home builder. By selling that part of the land, it helps makes the senior-housing component more financially viable. Because of the City Council mandate that the number of homes be reduced from 15 to 12, the Housing Corporation was already left scrambling to bridge the $3 million gap, Gonzalez said.

When questioned about why eight larger lots could not be sold for the equivalent of 12 smaller ones, Gonzalez said in an email that the Housing Corporation didn't believe the revenue would be equal, as developers wouldn't pay premium unless they had guarantees that larger homes could be built there.

Those questions aside, and returning to the assertion that Measure D "has nothing to do with senior housing," the claim ignores the simplest fact that, if the measure passes, the city's limited stock of affordable housing will receive a huge boost.

"The PC zone here will produce a project that is less dense, less impactful and protects the neighborhood better than existing zoning." (Councilman Larry Klein on Aug. 8.)

Council members and Housing Corporation officials have repeatedly asserted that changing the zoning for 567 Maybell Ave. would result in a less — not more — dense development than what could be built with current zoning. Opponents say the PC project represents an intensification that would harm the neighborhood character.

What is clear is that the two sides wildly disagree on what could be built under the current zoning. Scharff predicted dozens of condominiums would go up; Gray and Moss countered that developers would likely construct around 15 single-family homes.

The City FAQ on Maybell states: "Under the existing zoning (R-2 and R-15) approximately 34-46 homes could be built."

So let's do some math. The existing RM-15 zone, which allows up to 15 multi-family residences per acre, makes up more than 75 percent of the orchard site. That's about 1.8 acres. So as many as 27 units could be built in the RM-15 portion.

Then there's the R-2 part, known as a "two-family residence district," along Maybell Avenue. It's much like R-1, the standard single-family-home neighborhood, except that it allows a second unit with each house. Currently, the zone includes four homes. If redeveloped, each home in the R-2 zone could theoretically add a dwelling unit, raising the number of residences to eight. The total for the parcel would then be 35.

The number can go up further, though, if the developer offers to designate some of the residences "below market rate." State law would give the developer a bonus of 35 percent more density if 10 percent of the project is devoted to the "very low" income level. Thus staff's estimate that the site could accommodate 46 units under existing zoning seems accurate.

There are some complications, though. The R-2 zone, for example, allows a second dwelling unit but requires a lot of at least 6,000 square feet. The whole R-2 site itself is not quite 14,000 square feet and has four homes on it, meaning the lot sizes are nowhere near 6,000-square-foot minimum. That calls into question the city's calculation that there could be two residences on each lot.

Even if homeowners were allowed to build a second residence, the type would be a small granny unit, according to the city's zoning code — hardly a true "duplex," as the city's FAQ states.

Opponents call the city's upward estimate of 46 residences "pure fantasy." Joe Hirsch has labeled the staff analysis a "scare tactic" and has criticized the smallness of the lots that 46 residences would have to be built on.

But city staff has countered with examples of other RM-15 zones in Palo Alto where single-family homes were located on lots smaller than 2,330 square feet. The Wisteria Lane development, built in 1999, has 13 detached condominiums and lot sizes ranging from 1,742 to 2,010 square feet, according to the planning department. The Sterling Park development on West Bayshore Avenue is not in an R-15 zone, but it includes detached homes on 1,398-square-foot lots.

Hirsch dismissed this possibility and argued that a developer is unlikely to build "stack-and-pack homes" of this sort on the Maybell site, noting that these homes would have no front yards, no back yards and would be "totally out of character with surrounding single-family neighborhoods."

There are problems, too, with the Housing Corporation's assertion that the development does not represent an increased density for the neighborhood. On Maybell, there are currently four homes on the 0.6 acres of R-2. With the PC zoning, the same land would host seven homes.

Those homes would be setback from the street about 20 feet, with lot widths of 48 feet. The five three-story homes on Clemo would have 20-foot setbacks.

Comparing the numbers of residences is a bit like apples and oranges, admittedly. Councilman Berman, in supporting the Housing Corporation's proposal, noted that the numbers of bedrooms and people need to be considered. Sixty one-bedroom senior apartments, he said, would have less of an impact than a 34-unit market-rate development in which most homes would have multiple bedrooms. One could also argue that, depending on the size of lots, four larger single-family homes could have more people living in them than seven smaller homes.

The question of what can be allowed at the site was critical in the council's decision on whether to approve the zone change at 567 Maybell Ave. The council, which includes former planning commissioners Pat Burt, Karen Holman and Klein, did not challenge staff's analysis. In fact, the two council members most familiar with the fine print in the zoning code, Burt and Holman, both struggled to see why the neighborhood is opposing the zone change, given what can be approved under the existing zoning designation.

On Aug. 8, just before the council voted to hold an election in November, Burt argued that even without the benefit of senior housing, the zone change will result "in a project with less density and less impacts than existing zoning."

"Affordable senior housing can be built within existing zoning." (Rebuttal argument from Measure D opponents)

In theory, opponents of Measure D are correct in asserting that existing zoning would accommodate senior housing. In practice, this would be a long shot.

The Palo Alto Housing Corporation was able to get funding for the purchase through the state's tax-credits system precisely because of the project's density and its ability to devote 20 of 60 units to the lowest-income seniors, who make 30 percent or less of the area median income (monthly rent here would be about $500). The other 40 units would serve seniors who earn up to 60 percent of the area median income and generate higher rents (up to about $1,000), making it financially feasible to run the housing complex.

Existing zoning would allow 41 units of senior housing, but if the Housing Corporation had pursued that option, it may have missed out on the roughly $13 million in state tax-credit funding. According to the Housing Corporation, the tax-credit application process awards applicants "more points for extremely low-income units," yet also expects projects to "have a mix that allows the project to support itself over the long term."

"The application looks at total project costs per unit. More units offset costs to balance out the high cost of land, especially in a real estate market like Palo Alto. The fixed costs stay the same (e.g., land, architect fees, etc.) so costs per unit go down with more units," the Housing Corporation stated.

Gonzalez said that if Measure D fails, the Housing Corporation may sell the land. It's far from a given that whoever buys it will choose to build affordable housing. Both opponents and proponents of Measure D have speculated on what a developer would do with the land, but neither side has suggested that a private developer would use it to build affordable housing for seniors, even though, technically, he "can."

"I'd argue there are lots of opportunities for seniors without cars to travel — to get on the bus, get off the bus, transfer from this area to a wide range of services." (Jean McCown, Sept. 28 debate)

Proponents of Measure D claim the area around Maybell and Clemo has plenty of services and amenities for seniors. Opponents disagree. At the June 10 council meeting, area resident John Elman provided an oral catalog of oil-change services and motels in the area. The El Camino Real corridor has more than a dozen motels, some of which "entertain people for the whole night" and others are for people who have "an hour to kill or so." Real amenities for seniors, he said, are sorely lacking.

"I suggest you rezone parts of El Camino Real so you have a supermarket or a hardware store, if you're in the rezoning business," Elman said.

McCown made an argument to the contrary at the Sept. 28 debate on Measure D.

She pointed to the Walgreens and Starbucks nearby and lauded Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) bus service, specifically Line 22, which runs up and down El Camino Real.

"El Camino is really a transportation corridor that works very, very well," she said.

But though Walgreens offers groceries, it is "not like a supermarket," McCown admitted.

As for medical facilities? At a recent tour of the orchard, Gonzalez pointed to Planned Parenthood on San Antonio Road, which she stressed provides more than just birth-control and family-planning services.

Gonzalez also noted that there would be synergies between the new development and the adjacent Arastradero Parks Apartments, a project for low-income families that is run by the Housing Corporation. There would be shared vans for runs to the grocery store. A residential-services coordinator would also be able to offer rides to seniors heading to medical appointments.

Still, it's a tall order to claim that the area is rich in accessible amenities for seniors. The site may be a short walk from El Camino, but it's well south of both downtown and Town and Country Village.

Planning and Transportation Commissioner Alex Panelli, who lives in south Palo Alto, was the sole member of the commission to vote against the project largely on the basis of inadequate services.

He said he doesn't consider the amenities near the Maybell site to be "significant enough" to satisfy seniors' needs.

"This project, as a PC zone, will create as much or more traffic than existing zoning." (Bob Moss, Sept. 30 meeting of the City Council)

Residents have every right to be concerned about adding traffic to Maybell Avenue, a popular school route to Gunn High, Terman Middle and other schools. During the morning commute, a trail of slow-moving cars competes with groups of bicycling children for space on the narrow road. Things also get hairy in the afternoon when Gunn gets out, and its growing legion of bicyclists hits the streets.

Otherwise, the road is quiet. On a recent weekday afternoon, the orchard site was perfectly serene, with silence occasionally punctuated by a cruising vehicle.

At recent council meetings, proponents and opponents agreed that the traffic situation around Maybell and Clemo is far from ideal. Barron Park resident Maurice Green, who opposes Measure D, and Councilman Marc Berman, who supports it, each showed videos to illustrate that same point.

Green suggested the Maybell development would make the situation even worse.

"Seniors may not drive very much, even during morning hours, but what about their caretakers, the staff that comes to the senior housing project to take care of them?"

Another area resident, Kevin Hauck, lamented at a recent meeting that residents around Maybell are "forced to play defense about concerns that our kids are going to be in a very dangerous situation every morning and afternoon."

Unfortunately, unless the site remains an orchard (which neither side expects will happen), development is coming and with it more traffic. The big question is whether the Housing Corporation project would worsen commute-hour traffic more than would a development built under existing zoning. City staff's position on this matter has been unequivocal: Traffic caused by the Maybell project will be less.

At the Arastadero Park Apartments, a low-income housing complex next to the orchard site, 55 percent of its senior tenants don't drive, according to the Housing Corporation. Those who do drive, typically do it during non-rush hours.

At the Sheridan Senior Apartments, the only Housing Corporation development devoted exclusively to seniors, only one out of 66 seniors works, and the job is part-time, Gonzalez said.

The Maybell development would generate 16 additional car trips during the morning peak hour and 21 during the evening commute, according to a city traffic study.

By contrast, a 34-unit subdivision that could be built under existing zoning would generate 22 and 32 peak-hour trips in the morning and afternoon, respectively. If the subdivision were to get a "density bonus" to build 35 percent more housing units, the numbers would go up to 32 and 43, respectively, city Planner Tim Wong told the planning commission in May.

Former planning director Curtis Williams said at the meeting that even if the Housing Corporation development produced twice as many cars as estimated, it's "one car every five minutes at that location at most."

The city's environmental analysis concludes that, with mitigation, "There would be no significant adverse impacts to traffic and circulation from the proposed project."

Hogwash, say opponents. Bob Moss pointed to a paper prepared by traffic engineer Stephen Corcoran and presented to the Institute of Traffic Engineers in 1995. Corcoran analyzed data on 24 senior-housing developments from transportation agencies in California, Arizona and Florida and concluded that the average number of daily trips per unit was 4.52. Applying it to 60 units would net 271 trips a day from the senior development alone. Moss took that figure and added it to the projected traffic from the proposed 12 single-family homes. Using a figure of 10 trips per day, which Moss attributed to former city Chief Transportation Official Joe Kott (Corcoran's figure of 9.55 is in the ballpark), the 12 houses would result in 120 trips. Under this formulation, the entire development would result in 391 additional trips. (Using a higher ratio for the senior housing listed in Corcoran's report, 5.64, Moss estimated the additional trips could total as much as 458.)

Under existing zoning, if 28 apartments are built in the R-15 zone, Moss estimated they each would net 7.5 or 8 trips per day, bringing the total to 210 to 224. That number could rise to 304 with the 35 percent density bonus. At the highest end of the spectrum, a project complying with existing zoning could generate 370 trips under Moss' calculation.

"That's why we keep saying this project, with the PC zone, will create as much or more traffic as existing zoning," Moss told the council on Sept. 30.

This calculation requires some caution, however. Corcoran's study came out in 1995 and it relies on methodologies that were formulated in 1991 and 1987, respectively. Even disregarding the passage of time, the study is loaded with caveats and limitations, including the small sample of data on which it was based. Corcoran warned that the study lumped various types of senior housing — regular apartments, assisted-care units, senior single-family homes, etc. — together.

"The trip-generation rates for individual facilities varied. Insufficient information on all the survey locations made it difficult to statistically draw conclusions on individual impact of those factors," he wrote.

Corcoran's paper did confirm the Housing Corporation's assertions that seniors are far less likely than other residents to drive during the morning peak hour (though his average trip rate, at 0.22, was roughly double that of the Housing Corporation's estimate). The busiest commute time in California was between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m., depending on the facility. He noted that residents "do not have or want to travel during the rush hour."

Corcoran also pointed out that "as the average age of residents increases, the number of trips and parking demand decreases." His conclusion on the issue of traffic?

"Compared to other residential land-uses, senior developments generate significantly less traffic on a per-unit basis."

"Almost all, if not all, senior housing and affordable housing in Palo Alto has required a PC rezone." (Candice Gonzalez, June 10 City Council meeting)

Palo Alto's history is filled with examples of the city supporting low-income developments. There are plenty of precedents for the city granting PC zones to affordable-housing proposals, including the Housing Corporation's most recent development, the 35-unit Treehouse on Charleston Road. Proponents have pointed out repeatedly that PC projects are required to create the kind of density these projects need to be financially viable.

"Every affordable senior project, and I think virtually every affordable-housing project, is a PC zone," McCown said in an interview at the Weekly. "So the zoning that (the city) created for market-rate assumptions doesn't actually work for affordable-housing projects. Every project has had to come in and present itself slightly outside the box of traditional zoning that the PC allows for."

But to imply that every affordable-housing project requires a PC zone is inaccurate. The city's most prominent and recent affordable-housing development, 801 Alma St., is a case in point.

Spearheaded by Eden Housing and the Community Working Group, the project was initially proposed as a PC zone and included 50 housing units for low-income families and 46 units of senior housing.

Much like in the Maybell debate, opponents of 801 Alma, including those living in the adjacent 800 High St., asserted the development would be too dense and that its traffic impacts would prove too much for the South of Forest Avenue (SOFA) neighborhood.

Eden Housing listened to the criticism and backed away from the zone change. It then came back with a revised proposal that eliminated the senior housing and the handful of businesses that would have been in the ground floor of that building. What was left, under existing RT-50 (residential transition) zoning, was 50 units of family housing.

The tale of 801 Alma St. can be viewed in two ways. One can argue that backing away from the PC zone doomed the senior-housing project, which underscores the need for PC zoning to accommodate senior developments. One can argue equally persuasively that sticking with underlying zoning created an affordable-housing project that was more palatable to the community (aside from the architecture, which many Palo Altans, including some council members, have recently derided as "fortress-like"). But given 801 Alma, the assertion that a PC zone is absolutely necessary for an affordable-housing project isn't entirely accurate.

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


Posted by Neilson Buchanan, a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 11, 2013 at 8:51 am

I oppose Measure D because it shows how shallow Palo Alto Planning process really is. The whole Peninsula lacks a real plan for senior housing...whether it be low income or making it more feasible for aging baby boomers like me who want to move into affordable, quality alternatives to our single unit homes. Two things could and should happen after Nov. 5 if the Mayor and Vice-Mayor move the Council to strategic not tactical action. First, energize the staid Housing Element in new Comprehensive Plan. Small projects like Maybell do not add significantly to the senior housing supply. Menlo Park, Mountain View and Palo Alto need at least one new, large, quality continuing care center every five years for the foreseeable future. Think about Vi, The Forum and Channing House. Convene a tri-city call to action and act on it. Second, face the facts. Future high-quality, cost efficient senior housing is not possible with 3 and 4 story projects like The Forum and Vi. Vacant land does not exist. The only alternative is to "zone up" for seniors. Does this Council have the courage to acknowledge senior housing means tall buildings like standard-setting, time-proven Channing House. OK, Greg and Nancy, show us your stuff after the Nov 5 election.

Posted by Don't waste this opportunity, a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 11, 2013 at 9:34 am

I'm happy people are now considering a Channing House size development on the Maybell site instead of the current proposal. This makes a lot more sense. It would look like this: Web Link
I'm glad that residents understand the current Maybell proposal with a measly 60 units is too small when we can put a much grander development on that site.

Posted by Tom DuBois, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 11, 2013 at 9:44 am

I’m Against Measure D. I have been working with citizens across Palo Alto to defeat this measure, which I believe is a strong test case for putting high-density housing anywhere in Palo Alto, even in totally inappropriate locations.
The city has used “Planned Community”(PC) zoning to increase the density of a development on Maybell and Clemo. A 60 unit senior housing complex is being paid for by cramming 12 single family homes into Barron Park. This will worsen an already intolerable traffic problem, smack in the middle of the prime commuting and biking path to four schools.
This is the first time PC zoning has been used in a residential neighborhood (as opposed to commercial district). It is a test case and if Measure D passes the city will look to many more locations to increase high-density housing with in Palo Alto.
Please check out Web Link for more information and volunteer to help if you can. After the election, there is an active group of citizens planning to remain organized to give citizens a voice against other large developments planned throughout PA. By supporting our Barron Park and Green Acres neighbors now, they will be there for us in the future.

Posted by senior longtime resident, a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 11, 2013 at 10:16 am

Measure D is indeed "a strong test case for putting high-density housing anywhere in Palo Alto". We have only to see the results of already completed structures such as Miki's and the stack and pack houses behind it, Arbor Real, the housing currently being built on the bowling alley site and the many proposals for commercial buildings entirely out of character with the look of Palo Alto. Ours City Council has allowed developers to build these despite environmental problems, dense traffic problems, lack of parking, etc.

Please VOTE AGAINST MEASURE D and send a message that Palo Altans will not accept selling out our city to deveolpers.

Posted by Stop it Now, a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 11, 2013 at 11:00 am

NO on D is the first step in sending a clear message that we are united to stop out of control development that has brought traffic congestion, pollution and housing that reminds me of the 'Ticky Tacky' that inspired the Little Boxes song written by Malvina Reynolds in 1962.

Posted by A neighbor voting against D, a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 11, 2013 at 11:10 am

I am opposing Measure D because of the following reasons:

1- This rental complex is not a continuing care or assisted living facility. It has no cafeteria or any other amenities. It is awfully cruel of PAHC's McCown to say that the residents will do their grocery shopping at Walgreens. I would love to see her buy her food from Walgreens for a few weeks and see how it feels. Nearby there is just car dealerships and oil change places. You have to walk 1/3 mile to get to a bus stop if you are capable of carrying your groceries on the bus.

2- Folks who rent in this building will -have- to own cars as it will be impossible for them to buy food and see a doctor, etc. without a car. 42 parking spots is nowhere near enough for over 100 people who will be living in this building.

3- PAHC by state law can not limit the tenants to those who are from Palo Alto. A random sampling shows that the majority of PAHC operated facilities' residents rent in Palo Alto because that is where these apartments are. Typically they have no connections to Palo Alto.

4- If Palo Alto decides that they want to offer housing to Bay Area low income residents that is fine. But we should pass a tax so that every Palo Alto household pays a small amount for it. If we had such a tax PAHC could reduce the number of for profit houses to a reasonable number. The current PAHC scheme of making money from the stack and pack houses asks the neighborhood to pay (in added density, etc.) to enable the project.

Posted by mutti, a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 11, 2013 at 11:13 am

I support Measure D. Seniors need a place to stay in Palo Alto, especially so they can sell their homes to the many families who want to move here. This won't create much more traffic or bother than many, many family housing units would cause, and it won't make our local schools even more crowded. When Ortega School was torn down and 21 houses were built there in 1970's the developers estimated 7 children would live there because the houses were too expensive for families. Ha! The first year there were over 20 children, and the number just went up. 30+ multi-bedroom family housing units is 30+ more children at Briones, Terman, etc. They are already over crowded.

Posted by Voter, a resident of Ventura
on Oct 11, 2013 at 11:16 am

Absolutely I'm voting no. I'm of the naive view that the city government is supposed to listen to and represent the will of the people who they represent.

The way the council steamrolled its own residents in the Maybell process is disgraceful. How can they still claim with a straight face that they were unbiased despite their financial investment? How could an unbiased party decide that a traffic study on a congested school transit corridor should be allowed to ignore bike traffic?

Apparently having some light shone on the corrupt process is a little too much for Councilman Berman, who epitomizes the "I know what's better for you than you do" attitude on the city council. Methinks his hissy fit at the debate is quite telling.

Posted by 2issues-not1, a resident of Palo Verde
on Oct 11, 2013 at 11:17 am

Thanks to The Weekly for this update on what I think are key issues in the debate. I believe that Measure D should be analyzed on its own merits.
Although I question whether PC zoning has been over-used and inappropriately applied, this measure should not be used as a "down with PC re-zoning" revolution. Let's do that via a separate initiative, targeted specifically to enact changes to PC zoning and its use.

Posted by Adobe, a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 11, 2013 at 11:24 am

The notion that the city needs to sponsor housing for seniors in order to "keep local families together" in Palo Alto almost sounds like it comes from an Onion article.

Surely in a city where average house selling prices are approaching $2 million, where median family income is in the stratosphere, and three quarters of adults have graduate degrees, the overwhelming majority of Palo Altans are look after their elderly parents without subsidies from the government. And if our affluent families still cannot afford buying condos for Grandma in the heart of Palo Alto, well, there's nothing really wrong with buying a cheaper one in Mountain View or some other nearby town, is there?

Creating below-market rents is fantastic for those very few people lucky enough to get them, but the 99.9% of people unable to secure such deals for themselves lose out, and we end up merely pushing up rents not subject to such artificial controls.

This all seems like a thinly-veiled attempt to ram through more high density housing in a town that already has too much of it using some bogus argument that doing so somehow helps "families". The whole cynical "families" argument is no valid here than it was when the anti-gay marriage forces used it in the last election.

Posted by Adobe, a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 11, 2013 at 11:26 am

Sorry, meant to write, "majority of Palo Altans *are able to* look after their elderly parents"

Posted by It is about the money, a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 11, 2013 at 11:27 am

I will oppose D.

The market component that the Housing Corporation deems tessential "for the project" makes this ONLY about the money.

Money is what the Housing Corporation needs to make to make the project feasible.

In addition to the loan the CIty has given them to buy the land, the tax benefits this group is entitled to, now rezoning?

City Council as usual forgets the real COSTS to the residents of the CIty, and worries only about the feasibility of the projects themselves.

It's time to halt any further projects unless we have given a valuation to rezoning, and for Palo Alto to deal only with actual numbers attached to the value of what is being given up.

With back of the envelope numbers, I'm sure the City could have found a better way to make the shortfall on the compromise that was proposed work.

But, Housing Corporation needs all the money, wants all the money, and cannot do without the money.

Posted by just one voter, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Oct 11, 2013 at 11:29 am

I see no reason to vote for D and plenty of reasons to vote against it.

Posted by Please no rezoning, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 11, 2013 at 11:30 am

To Mutti "I support Measure D. Seniors need a place to stay in Palo Alto, especially so they can sell their homes to the many families who want to move here."

Simple fact: if a Senior sells their home to stay in Palo Alto they will not qualify for the PAHC housing. if they own a home, especially in PA, then they are not low income by virtue of their real estate value.

Posted by Jeanie Smith, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Oct 11, 2013 at 11:35 am

Thanks to the Weekly for this incisive and detailed accounting of the history and the arguments on both sides. This is extremely helpful in making my decision regarding Measure D. I hope more Palo Alto residents will take the time to thoroughly read the article and make an informed choice, rather than simply listening to rhetoric and exaggerations.

I would also hope that residents, in the same spirit, would refrain from rhetoric and exaggerations and unsupported statements in this comments section-- let the article speak for itself...

J K Smith

Posted by JerryL, a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 11, 2013 at 11:43 am

Thanks for mentioning Channing House. Ever try to visit anybody there?
Where do you park? On city streets, spilling out all around the neighborhood.
I'm voting NO on D, in part because of the inadequacy of parking being planned.

Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 11, 2013 at 11:57 am

Missing from the analysis: parking.

60 units, 40 spaces (to be shared by residents, guests and staff). You can theorize how many seniors will own a car...but the bottom line is there is no way there is enough parking. The over flow will go into the neighborhood.

Missing from the analysis: building height impact.

50ft. building in a predominately single residence neighborhood. Not good at all.

No on D.

Posted by Pre-Senior, a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 11, 2013 at 12:39 pm

I agree with Adobe's comments. I don't have numbers to prove this, but I doubt there are a significant number of families with multiple generations owning homes here. For the fortunate few who can do that, it is unlikley that Grama and Grampa live in affordable housing. The "families can be together" flier that arrived in our post boxes this week is fundamentally misleading. Proponents of Measure D would surely be touting the developement as one that specifically benefits Palo Alto seniors if that were the case. Instead, proponents of D have designed campaign materials (e.g. "ruby slippers" and "families together") that are sentimental ploys to lure voters into voting for something the project won't really deliver. Think about it. If Measure D passes, there's no guarantee that the seniors who reside there will be from here or even be related to someone from here. So why should a Palo Alto neighborhood be "densified" and zoning changed and problems exacerbated to achieve a public benefit that arguably really isn't a public benefit? I have already voted No on D and sincerely hope the measure fails. This does not mean I am against senior housing; it means I am against this project.

Posted by Ken, a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 11, 2013 at 12:54 pm

Many thanks to the Weekly for the impartial look into the history and rhetoric of this controversial issue. That is truly a service to the community.

But it's depressing to see that most of the reader comments (following the article) seem to ignore the article and restate many of the points the article just debunked. I'm afraid the web has created a place where everyone can talk and nobody listens. Humans are such herd animals....

Posted by It is about the money, a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 11, 2013 at 1:12 pm


Would you or anyone out there happen to know

1. Who qualifies for below market rate senior housing?

2. Is the senior age 55 or 50?

2. Do you have to be a Palo Alto resident? for how long? Is there a review of where the senior is moving from? A Palo Alto house, apartment, other senior housing? Another town?

3. How many Palo Alto seniors are currently applying for housing? Average age. Will we need 2, 3, 4 of these projects every how often?

4. What are senior demographics in Palo Alto, and how do these seniors fare financially, what is the percentage of well to do seniors, or are most in need?

5. What are the different levels of "below market". Apparently there is senior housing sitting empty at the JCC - below market, but no takers?

Where are the applicants waiting for Maybell currently living? Wouldn't they have to be paying Palo Alto rents?

Posted by Outer Dark, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 11, 2013 at 1:18 pm

What measure D is about: getting developers, the city council, the planning commission, the architectural review board, etc, to LISTEN to the residents of Palo Alto, whom they are supposed to represent. To get control of the corruption rampant among the aforementioned parties. To give Palo Altans control and choices over how their neighborhoods are developed, since they have a vested interest in them and have look at the developments every day, as well as live with the traffic increases and safety issues for their children. And to make sure new housing is built in appropriate places, not on streets used as alternate routes to get to and from the freeway in lieu of a stupidly narrowed and now-congested main route. Not in a neighborhood with too much pre-existing traffic. not I. A neighborhood that is. to zoned for high-density dwellings. Not in a neighborhood with a lot of school children bike riding to school during rush hour. Not in a neighborhood with several schools. And no development plans that are unrealistic and do not provide adequate parking, ingress, or egress!

Posted by Pre-Senior, a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 11, 2013 at 1:24 pm

I want to add my thanks to the Weekly for the good article. I especially appreciated the re-cap of the PC rezone instances. I was surprised by the mayor's comment about this at the debate and this article clarified the situation. I look forward to reading more such reporting as the other controversial projects wend their way through the process.

Posted by That's a switch, a resident of Community Center
on Oct 11, 2013 at 1:25 pm

Having followed the debate on Measure D, I must say that I find Neilson's argument the most creative in recent weeks. Having previously aligned himself with project opponents who have argued that the project is too large and unneeded, he now argues that his opposition is because the project is too small and does not solve the entire problem.
If I was the Housing Corp, I wouldn't know how to respond to simultaneous criticisms from both the right and the left. Then again, perhaps that is the strategy.

Posted by John, a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 11, 2013 at 1:25 pm

Thanks to Palo Alto On-Line for taking the time required for a careful and complete study of the background of this controversy.

Posted by Sanna, a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 11, 2013 at 1:26 pm

It is KEN who missed the point: the comments of those AGAINST D DID follow the very articulate in-depth article in detail and arrived at their conclusions logically. I take offense at the (very expensive 4 color) flyers proD groups have sent out. How many of our children can afford to buy homes in Palo Alto now? Our 5 could not! As writers pointed out-it is granny with the home here who would not qualify for the housing! I hope that the intelligent voters of Palo Alto will not be swayed by all the money being poured into support of this zoning change-in flyers and the newspaper ads that are sure to appear in coming weeks. The grass roots AGAINST D campaign will try to get the facts out around town without the ad budget of PAHC. Perhaps after the defeat of D we can all work together in support of senior affordable housing in keeping with its neighborhood and near critical services.

Posted by Marian, a resident of Professorville
on Oct 11, 2013 at 1:59 pm

If we are going to subsidize housing in Palo Alto, let's offer the coveted apartments to teachers, firemen and policemen who are serving our community.

Posted by JA3+, a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 11, 2013 at 2:13 pm

Thank you, Palo Alto Weekly, for this detailed article; well done.

Posted by Garrett, a resident of another community
on Oct 11, 2013 at 2:33 pm

I really don't who or how many will apply to live in the Maybell complex but I do know that baby boomers are growing in numbers as the hair grays I don't how many seniors will end up in Palo Alto or if they have one good stroke might wipe them out in money which chances are you just can't go out and start over.

I am 49 years old, had a stroke 3 years ago which I came out lucky and was able enough to work. I know people who were wiped out due to medical costs and being out of work for so long. I don't see a rush to hire seniors or the chances that a 56 year old starting over again after a health related illness or some kind of life changing event.

Posted by Mr.Recycle, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 11, 2013 at 3:39 pm

This is pretty simple. Should residents have a say in zoning and developments, or should we just continue to allow the city council to outsource the decisions to special interests, developers and donors? I think it is clear the residents need to take back some control, so I'm opposing measure D.

Posted by Garrett, a resident of another community
on Oct 11, 2013 at 3:50 pm

Also one other thing. As low income housing gets harder to build along with affordable housing that doesn't take any kind of BMR, public or non profit funds. You know the kind of housing that the great Joseph Eichler built which was affordable and most working people could buy.

I don't how many of you want to stay or will leave Palo Alto? Do know anything expect that you comment on here and have a opinion. All I know is we have a huge baby boom population shift coming and they are going to need housing. All these aging baby boomers are going to need resources, helpers and other health needs.

I don't know the make up of aging baby boomers in Palo Alto but if the 1948 to 1964 children that were born between those years. Forget schools, platting fields we are going to need senior centered services.

Posted by Anon, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 11, 2013 at 5:14 pm

I'm glad people are waking up to the traffic problem. Going back to the "residentialist" struggles of times past, traffic has been the issue, but, in recent years it has been swept under the rug. It now takes me at least 15 minutes to get 1.5 miles away from my house in any direction at rush hour due to traffic congestion. And that is just the traffic. Streets in many areas, including mine, are perpetually short of parking, and, good luck trying to park downtown any time of the day or night. I like the look of 3-5 story buildings, but, for decades, developers have been able to build downtime without adequate parking just by adding a few (much cheaper) bells and whistles. Forget the bells and whistles-- if they can afford to build it, they can build it with adequate parking, and, with street trees and real sidewalks.

I don't mind sharing Palo Alto with more people, but, I do mind sharing it with more cars. If the developers can figure out how to get people out of their cars, I would be more positive about what they want to build.

Posted by PA Dweller, a resident of Community Center
on Oct 11, 2013 at 5:19 pm

Just mailed in my NO vote.
I vote against re-zoning.
I vote against high density housing.
I vote against low income housing - It's not fair to others.
I vote against more Senior housing when there is plenty in town.
I vote NO NO NO NO!

Posted by It is about the money, a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 11, 2013 at 5:29 pm


"If we are going to subsidize housing in Palo Alto, let's offer the coveted apartments to teachers, firemen and policemen who are serving our community."

I completely agree.

I would think there would be a broader plan or guidance about how the CIty makes decisions about rezoning endowments of this nature and of this size? And that City gifts would connect with broader needs in the community.

Behind all this is a real estate deal, and why Mayor Scharff, as a real estate lawyer, cannot see past the economics of the deal itself.

Posted by It is about the money, a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 11, 2013 at 5:32 pm


"If we are going to subsidize housing in Palo Alto, let's offer the coveted apartments to teachers, firemen and policemen who are serving our community."

I completely agree.

I would think there would be a broader plan or guidance about how the CIty makes decisions about rezoning endowments/gifts of this nature and of this size.

Behind all this is a real estate deal, and why Mayor Scharff, as a real estate lawyer, cannot see past the economics of the deal itself.

Posted by Vote AGAINST D, a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 11, 2013 at 6:44 pm

There is a large amount of senior housing just across El Camino from this neighborhood, and much closer to the bus stop, including a large new multi-story building. It is a real senior center where people can age in place, not just apartments like at Maybell.

Wouldn't it be better to consider subsidizing residents who need it instead of these kinds of controversial land use decisions? A subsidy program could ensure both an income and residency requirement, would be more flexible, and make it easier to match an analysis of need with the meeting of as much need as possible.

The vagaries of the financing setup and funding application seem to have dictated what is being built at Maybell and who benefits, not the need or a market analysis (which was as near as I can tell, never done). If we had a program where residents could apply for a direct subsidy instead, Palo Alto seniors benefit, and can live where there are full services and they can age in place. The Maybell plan is no place for someone with mobility problems, who will have to be moved away from friends anyway when the time comes, just when they need familiarity the most.

It's a legitimate concern as to whether the Maybell project will be worth it or serve the intended need. The above article fails to mention that when the loan was made, this was not envisioned for seniors. As the project progressed, both PACC and PAHC have justified it saying that 20% of seniors live below the poverty limit in Palo Alto, but the stated income range for the project won't include a singe senior living below the poverty limit. The analysis of the need never gets any more specific than that, except that back in April, PAHC tried to claim it was because of homeless Palo Alto seniors (who also won't be served by this project, either).

PAHC was in charge of the 20 out of 24 senior BMR units at Moldaw that went unfilled for 3years - even though it is a full-service senior center with age in place provision and assisted living. When the City finally renegotiated the terms because of the Maybell controversy shedding a light on it, they filled slots, showing they could have all along if they had felt the need were so urgent. They also didn't fill all of the spots right away, demonstrating at least how important a real market study is.

I think we should consider a subsidy program instead, especially since the beneficiaries would be much more integrated, and indistinguishable from others. At the very least, we should be considering a real market study and whether such a program could better meet the need and cost less (in so many ways, including the neighborhood).

Lastly, if PAHC is willing to dabble with market-rate development, why don't they just do the subdivision for a 18 house development and take the profit to the next development? At 2.5 to 3+ million for new 2800 square foot homes on 6,000 sq ft lots, they would make millions, and can take the profit to develop a project on a more appropriate corridor for density. They like to argue that no place is perfect, but they have provided no evidence whatsoever of having searched for a property more appropriate for the kind of density they say they need for this property AT ALL -- at least one that isn't in a residential neighborhood -- or having looked with the kind of loans in hand the City and County made for buying Maybell.

Please Vote AGAINST D. If you want to justify something based on it not "feeling right", believe the neighbors who live here, who would rather see the City putting the money into saving the 400 low-income Buena Vista residents - many long-time Palo Alto residents themselves - just a few blocks away in the same neighborhood.

Posted by Susan Fineberg, a resident of Palo Verde
on Oct 11, 2013 at 7:09 pm

On November 5th I will vote Against Measure D.

When non-profit housing corporations develop both market-rate and affordable housing together at one site, they blur the line between their charitable mission and profit making real estate activities.

The Maybell project is NOT the first affordable senior housing built in Palo Alto where a significant portion of the site was sold to a commercial builder for a profit. In 2006 Bridge Housing (BUILD) developed 4.5 acres on Fabian Way. Under PC Zoning they sold 4 acres (89% of the site) and 103 market rate homes were built at Altaire. They constructed 56 affordable senior units on the remaining half acre.

If this is the model non-profit developers will use then there needs to be a public policy discussion. Should the good will and zoning flexibility rightfully granted to the affordable component of the project be extended through Planned Community (PC) zoning to the portions being sold off for profit to commercial developers? These decisions should not be made on a project-by-project basis. This competitive advantage given to non-profit developers puts properties throughout Palo Alto at risk of being re-developed as PCs with half or almost all of the site being sold off and developed at an intensity that would not otherwise be permitted. Existing zoning regulations were designed to protect neighborhoods from this!

On November 5th I will vote Against Measure D.

Posted by Anonymous, a resident of Stanford
on Oct 11, 2013 at 7:27 pm

I attended a talk by a local raptor specialist who presented research on the gps banding of hawks. Year after year, several hawks return to the site of this former orchard as the end point of their southern migration. Wish we'd let more little pockets of open space remain undeveloped to help our non-human neighbors flourish.

Posted by Timothy Gray, a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Oct 11, 2013 at 7:35 pm

Without comment, I will remind all of another data point that was not mentioned in the article:

The City Staff signed a sworn affidavit under penalty of purjury that the site was zoned to allow the project two days before the Council voted on the rezoning, and a full 30 days before the rezoning took place.

I will allow myself one question: How does that not lead one to use the words "Done Deal"?


Tim Gray

Posted by barron park resident, a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 11, 2013 at 7:35 pm

I will vote no on measure D because I want the best kind of senior housing (not some fast fix), preserve the current zoning and lot size zoning laws.

My decision is based on maintainng zoning laws, lot size restriction, square foot limits on homes, set backs, required yards, max. 2 story homes. No three story homes without yards and sufficient parking.

I don't care about the PAHC housing other than they need to be "fully parked".

I have to vote NO on D because this mistake should not proceed. This can be stopped and given more time to correct the problems.

Posted by It is about the money, a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 11, 2013 at 8:13 pm

Susan Feinberg,

"Should the good will and zoning flexibility rightfully granted to the affordable component of the project be extended through Planned Community (PC) zoning to the portions being sold off for profit to commercial developers?"

This indeed should be a public discussion.

I would say absolutely not, zero extensions to a for profit development, even if it is part of a non-profit one. Unless a dollar value has been assigned to the gift, and the gift fits within a context of the City's overall policy on where to shell out the free money.

If you are giving away your grandmother's jewelry, wouldn't you want to know how much it's worth before giving it away? No senior joke intended.

Just because it's a zoning donation it does not mean it does not have current or future monetary value.

I still cannot believe that there are seniors currently living in Palo Alto who need so much below market rate housing after selling their million dollar homes?

But maybe somebody will answer my questions about demographics, I have not seen any numbers.

Posted by Joanna, a resident of Juana Briones School
on Oct 11, 2013 at 8:34 pm

Please keep in mind that this project is being build along the safe route to school for Terman, Gunn, Bowan and Juana Briones. I hope you will value our children's safety when you cast your vote.

Posted by Bob the Builder, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Oct 11, 2013 at 8:43 pm

I mailed back my absentee ballot yesterday, I voted NO!

If I could have voted to subject PAHC to a full financial audit, I would have voted yes that too. This 'deal' reeks of an inside job. I can't recall the city council falling all over themselves so fast to expedite any other development before. I suspect that a modest home remodel needing to pass the architectural review board would get more scrutiny, and require much more time, than this entire PC development got.

Posted by Vote AGAINST D, a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 12, 2013 at 12:55 am

As much as I appreciate the thoughtfulness of thoroughness of this article, unfortunately it still reads like the Revisionist History of Maybell According to PAHC and PACC.

Case in point. The article quotes Larry Klein as saying, "Many of us are surprised that we have a parcel of this size sort of hiding in plain sight," Councilman Larry Klein said at the Nov. 19, 2012 meeting.

This is a completely disingenuous statement. According to the meeting minutes from the June 13 meeting, Candace Gonzales said that PAHC tried unsuccessfully to purchase the property in 2011, when another developer wanted to build but didn't, and the property fell out of contract. I recall her saying at some point (perhaps then, not everything ends up in the minutes) that PAHC had been eyeing the property for years.
Web Link

According to Jessica de Wit at PAHC, it was the City who told PAHC to pursue the Maybell property. And of course we now know that Larry Klein's lawfirm represented a seller of the Maybell property.

Another case in point. In enumerating the public money, this article goes back to saying the loans amount to $5.8 million. But the funding documents PAHC submitted to the state have letters from the City saying the public loans amount to $7.3 million. Candace Gonzales has admitted in the Weekly that the $1.5 milliion difference comes from an in lieu fee from the market-rate side, which comes from the DENSITY of the market-rate development -- zoning for sale -- that the City wrote into the ordinance and dedicated to that project in the financing scheme they worked out when the property was purchased. In other words, the financing that was worked out from the very start, and which PAHC has said along the way restricted what they could do to compromise, that financing and the ordinance already counted on the in lieu fee that came from the density of the market-rate portion. Did you catch that? Even if they made as much money with a handful of mansions (though they never actually even bothered to price that), they couldn't compromise, because the City shakes another $1.5 million out of the developer in in lieu fees. That $1.5 million is also public money, though, just as some of the other millions are in lieu fees from other developers who avoided putting their required BMR units in, and should be mentioned in the history.

If PAHC purchased this property with its own money, it would be one thing. But the City ultimately agreed to loan $7.3 million, and the County over $8 million - in public money. Given that it was public money, our governmental bodies owed the public, especially the public affected by the expenditure, a conversation about how to spend that money. If public money was going to go into purchasing the orchard site, the public should have at least been able to participate FROM THE START in the decisionmaking about that site's land use.

Perhaps it would be different if PAHC and the City had been working together to try to find a site for a specific development they knew they needed from a market analysis. But no such market analysis was ever done, and they never made any such effort. They simply saw a shiny object (that they could get at fire sale prices at the neighborhood's expense), aided by the fact that Larry Klein's firm represented a seller (the City told PAHC to focus on that property), and made up their minds to do what they wanted, set it in stone, then made a show of going through the motions. The public was beside the point.

Please reject Measure D. As a longtime Palo Alto resident, it feels TERRIBLE to be this powerless to keep our neighborhood from being altered in such a negative way for such a dubious public benefit. There was a time when the City worked with neighbors - which is why we have the Terman Apartments just a few blocks away in Greenacres, with 92 units, far more housing. But here, we are just being steamrolled.

Posted by Vote AGAINST D, a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 12, 2013 at 1:04 am

"because the City shakes another $1.5 million out of the developer in in lieu fees from the high-density market-rate housing."

The in lieu fees come about because of the density of the market-rate housing.

The so-called summit between neighbors is a complete revisionist history, too. I was there at the meeting when City Council wanted to call this. They had a bunch of neighbors who attended the meeting out in the lobby and wanted representatives from the neighborhoods. No one wanted to sign up, because people were just there as individuals. The City employees then said they just needed people FROM those neighborhoods, they would figure out how to work out representative relationships later, but they never did. Neighbors who attended the meetings reiterated that they were there representing only themselves. People in the neighborhoods were completely in the dark, and there were some angry comments that went across the lists because no attempt had ever been made to establish real representatives and people were feeling shut out. It is a completely self-serving revisionist history for the Mayor to have claimed this was some kind of summit or civic negotiation. It was a sales job, i.e. trap, that a bunch of naive neighbors walked into that the Mayor I think always intended to use as a way of saying they tried to negotiate. The Weekly could have seen that, too, but it takes a desire to dig and not just take what slick Scharff and pretty Candace Gonzales spoon feed you. (Go ahead and censor that, I just want you to know what a lot of us out here are thinking when we see such City-centric revisionist history.)

Posted by boscli, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 12, 2013 at 6:13 am

This development is part of the incessant push, backed by the city council, to increase the population density in Palo Alto, already grossly high, with no end in sight. Our city's character has already been changed forever by gross and tacky overdevelopment, resulting in traffic congestion, pollution, great pressure on our infrastructure and ever decreasing quality of life. We need to look at this development as what it really is: one step out of many to overdevelop Palo Alto for the benefit of developers who want to cash in on the fact that Palo Alto's real estate is among the most expensive in the entire world. If D is approved, the flood gates will open wide. it will become a precedent and there will be no going back.

Posted by registered user, Jerry Underdal, a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 12, 2013 at 7:02 am

"The Housing Corporation competed against at least five private developers to purchase the site"

If one of those private developers had prevailed, that property would already be headed for construction of up to 46 homes, either a condominium project or a mix of single family, duplex and townhouse units. There would be no public input no matter how upset the neighborhood might be at the increased traffic and out-of-character appearance of what was going in.

What thanks does PAHC get for saving us from what opposition voices have called "a nightmare scenario" when talking about development to the maximum allowed under current zoning? None. Instead we've had half a year of denigration of PAHC's work and motives.

If Measure D fails, aren't we back to where things stood as five private developers competed to see who could get the most off the Maybell/Clemo property?

Posted by It is about the money, a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 12, 2013 at 10:49 am


60 senior +12 market homes, not fully parked with, zoning exemptions that are not properly valued. According to Maybell the zoning exemptions gives them $1 million extra necessary to make the project viable. This is mind boggling to me, that 12 new market homes would only provide $1 million extra for the project.

The costs alone of not fully parking this proposed village are a nightmare, but the other nightmare is all the assumptions from the people trying to push the project, as is. I think they should have compromised.


potentially 46 homes fully parked (no zoning exceptions), complying to regular neighborhood zoning).

I will oppose D


"Simple fact: if a Senior sells their home to stay in Palo Alto they will not qualify for the PAHC housing. if they own a home, especially in PA, then they are not low income by virtue of their real estate value."

If this is a fact,

I am still waiting to hear more about the demographics, and where is this 20% of seniors being in poverty is coming from.

If they are in poverty and do not own homes in Palo Alto, are they renting?

Are there rent controlled apartments in Palo Alto?

How can so many seniors afford to live in Palo Alto renting?

In 3,5,10 years we will still be saying there are seniors living here who need below market housing, when we know it is impossible to afford housing here whether you are a senior or not?

Posted by Vote AGAINST D, a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 12, 2013 at 11:06 am

"If one of those private developers had prevailed, that property would already be headed for construction of up to 46 homes, either a condominium project or a mix of single family, duplex and townhouse units. There would be no public input no matter how upset the neighborhood might be at the increased traffic and out-of-character appearance of what was going in."

One of those private developers did prevail in 2011. Hmmm.... Somehow it's not a condo complex. Maybe the developer realized that in order to put what you envision onto that property, he was going to have to subdivide, and maybe he realized that when you subdivide, you can only sneak in something so inconsistent with the comprehensive plan if the neighbors aren't paying attention and the City gets away with it. And maybe he realized that the examples brought up in this article are not in the heart of residential neighborhoods like Maybell is, and it's harder to sneak things by the neighbors when plopping something right into the middle of their residential neighborhood.

Since Gennady doesn't know the area or the history except according to PACC and PAHC, and just took what the City provided him, when he was looking at recent developments, he forgot to include the Glenbrook extension in Greenacres I, a very large tract of land that the city tried to make into a road from El Camino to Arastradero and even sued neighbors over. But neighbors managed to fight the City and guess what? It's a subdivision with large homes and "normal" sized lots, some homes (not a typo, I said "homes") even larger than 9,000sq ft. (That happened about 10 years ago.)

NOTICE TO ANYONE WHO DOESN'T WANT TO SEE A LARGE DEVELOPMENT GO IN AT MAYBELL, WHETHER BY PAHC OR ANYONE ELSE (of course check with your friendly neighborhood land use attorney): When a private developer -- or PAHC for that matter, they have to subdivide, too -- goes to subdivide, the subdivision is subject to the Subdivision Map Act, which means that's a time when those who care can ensure the project is consistent with the general plan. This is why even PAHC's funding application asks for verification that a project is consistent with the city's general plan, which of course our city provided along with the objectively falsified verification of the rezoning (technically, the property has never been rezoned, the referendum put to a vote whether to enact the ordinance).

So, there is an opportunity for residents to ensure a development is consistent with the general plan. Not the City's self-serving cherry-picked version, but the actual general plan. For example, something that Gennady also didn't know, is that the general plan calls for transition zoning (as the RM-15 is) to be on the LOWER END of the range when adjacent to R-1 areas. That is EIGHT units per acre, not 15. Neighbors have only let that argument slide because if PAHC does develop affordable senior units there under existing zoning, they aren't going to argue about the extra units for that purpose. But they will if it's a market-rate development. And the density bonuses Gennady brought up are only for AFFORDABLE HOUSING. (If the City tries to invoke that for one or two BMR units, they will face a court challenge over that, which there is precedent they will lose.)

Unlike the political process we just went through, proceedings under the Subdivision Map Act are an evidentiary process that even charter cities like Palo Alto have to comply with and which can be enforced in court.

So if you are reading this, and you don't want to see a dense development, don't leave it up to someone else, contact the City on Monday or Tuesday, and insist that you be notified of any and all proceedings for the Maybell property under the Subdivision Map Act. Then go sit with a highlighter and our Comprehensive Plan, and mark out all the many ways a high-density development in that spot is inconsistent with the general plan. Be sure to check out more than just land use. When the time comes, submit your findings by letter. Again, it's not a political process then, you are providing evidence for a court challenge, which is already in the works, and your citizen input will be invaluable. Web Link

Lastly, it's ludicrous to think any sane builder would try to put 600 sq ft 1-bedroom condos there - which is what you would get if you had to live with the existing zoning limits and tried to put in more and more units - when he or she could put in 15-20 nice, very desirable homes of 2,500-3,000sq ft that would sell around $2.5-3million plus in this neighborhood. Regardless, any sane builder who goes to buy that property is going to know they face huge blowback if they try to build anything else, because a giant stack of letters with concerns about traffic, etc (i.e., city and developer liability) have been included with the file on that property.

Please vote AGAINST D, just to show the City Council that steamrolling neighborhoods will be rejected by residents no matter how it is packaged, and in future they need to work with Palo Alto residents. No stack and pack in the middle of residential neighborhoods!

Posted by palo alto resident, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Oct 12, 2013 at 11:08 am

@its about the money - you raise a good point, many seniors are low in "income" but high in wealth because the majority of their net worth is in their homes. If the sell their homes - or even rent them - and move into senior apartments, the suddenly have more income. I'm sure there are truly low-income seniors in Palo Alto (Buena Vista residents come to mind) and others living in rental properties.

BTW - One way to alleviate the parking issue of senior housing is for the building to provide shuttle service for their residents. I'd be curious what percentage of Lytton Gardens residents still have vehicles.

I'm totally for senior housing, my parents both live in it, but I am also totally opposed to our City becoming overdeveloped because of $$ and ABAG requirements. This is one way for the residents to send a message to the City Council that we actually like our suburbs and neighborhoods.

Posted by Vote AGAINST D, a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 12, 2013 at 11:17 am

@It is about the money is Crescent Park,

PAHC originally tried to say they needed the development because of all the homeless seniors in Palo Alto, but quickly realized that wasn't helping them. So they and the City have been perpetuating this "20% of the seniors in Palo Alto are living at or below the poverty level" line as sole justification for the need.

But the 2013 poverty limit is
$11,490 for a single-person household
$15,510 for a two-person houshold

The ordinance states the Maybell senior apartments will serve only those at 30-60% of AREA MEDIAN INCOME, which according to PAHC's website for 2013 is $73,850 and $84,400 respectively.

Therefore, if you calculate 30-60% of AMI, you find that depending on whether you have one or two residents, those allowed at these apartments will have incomes anywhere from TWICE to 3.25 TIMES the poverty limit.


But you would be right in questioning whether any marketing survey had been done to see whether Palo Altans in that income limit, who could be living quite well and not be looked at as poor with their incomes in less expensive places (even places accessible to Palo Alto by bus, which we are assured everyone who would be living there will be happy to use), would want to live there. No, no marketing survey was done to my knowledge. They are just assuming if they build it, they will meet the need they assume exists. But it won't be the 20% living below the poverty limit, if they even exist (Bob Moss disputes this number).

Posted by pavoter, a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 12, 2013 at 11:38 am

Many good comments made here but the city is not addressing these issues. On the contrary, the glossy brochures are maintaining this is solely about "senior housing". Trying to make Maybell an isolated issue of interest only to a small neighborhood of NIMBYS is the main tactic but it won't work because Palo Altans have woken up on what is going on city wide. Steamrolling a neighborhood one at at time has worked in the past, but I don't think it will this time.

And, people are talking about Measure D in Mountain View, Los Altos, and Menlo Park, and they are watching what is happening because they, too, have growing concerns about the very high density apartment buildings that are springing up in multiple locations.

Given all the irregularities of how this project was approved, I wonder if the "yes on D" folks understand that they are approving of very dubious governing practices to say the least.

Vote NO!

Posted by Vote AGAINST D, a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 12, 2013 at 11:49 am

I'd like to take a moment to dispute another point made in this article.

Maybell is not just crazy busy at two times of the day as this article says. That is a naive mistake by someone who hasn't spent enough time here. And, I would note, things change a lot when the weather gets bad. Even Marc Berman who declared after visiting many times that Maybell may be a Safe Route to School but it's not a safe route to school -- he came here at a time when I even remember thinking to myself how nice it was that we were in that time of year when the traffic is so much BETTER.

Most of us who live here have numerous stories of near misses with bicyclists. I have personally witnessed numerous bike wipeouts where cyclists were injured but luckily nothing worse. There are basically two main ways for the almost four thousand children who attend Gunn, Terman, Bowman, and Juana Briones to get to school, that's Arastradero and Maybell. The only routes in and out of this high-density development are Arastradero and Maybell. That alone should have been reason that the City should have had public discussions about the land use there and how best to spend PUBLIC DOLLARS when it committed $7.3million in loans there.

Maybell already went through a serious $200,000 safety upgrade within the last few years, which many neighbors spent more than 6 months helping to work out. It's as safe as it's going to get. Somehow this story didn't touch on any of that, or the City's lame attempt to throw a little money at another safety review where they told residents they needed to start from scratch and not use any of the information gained through 6 months of hard work they were involved in with the last safety review within the last few years.

Neighbors have actually been told their safety concerns for the kids work against them politically, and that no one who doesn't live here will care. If you care about the safety of the kids going to local schools, please vote Against D, and let the City know that children's safety isn't a side issue they can just gloss over (if only to avoid the liability to the City if you don't care about the kids). The general plan says safety comes first, and that was NOT done here.

Posted by Vote AGAINST D, a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 12, 2013 at 11:53 am

I almost forgot the most important point. The new "safety" review where the City is telling residents they want them to start completely from scratch and not use anything learned from the recent safety upgrade of Maybell? They STILL won't do a traffic analysis that includes the safety impact to the bikes and pedestrians of that high-density development, in fact they said at the meeting that there would be no discussion about the development. So they want neighbors to start from scratch, but also as if that high-density development wasn't even there! And still no traffic safety analysis by the City!!

Posted by Yes on D, a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 12, 2013 at 12:11 pm

That's because it is only about senior housing. All the other arguments are to try and prevent that. If you don't want senior housing, go head and vote no. If you want senior housing vote YES ON D!

Posted by Garrett, a resident of another community
on Oct 12, 2013 at 12:45 pm

Because you sell your home doesn't mean you become instant millionaires. Do you owe a balance on the mortgage, remember your tax bill and how much can be turned into income producing capital. How much income will you get from the capital and will it be enough to rent, medical costs, food, car expense, other carry over bills.

Posted by It is about the money, a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 12, 2013 at 1:25 pm


"the glossy brochures are maintaining this is solely about "senior housing".

I tried to Google PAHC and Maybell and did not find these brochures.

Any links?

Maybe my other questions will be answered by the brochures.

Why does the City of Palo Alto need to subsidize housing for more upscale seniors? Or make such a hullabaloo about senior housing that will not serve the neediest cases?

I'm not trying to be funny or disrespectful because I may be a senior any day now (one who wants to stay in Palo Alto near family, and not a billionaire), but isn't that what Florida is for?

To be clear, I am referring to seniors who have lived in Palo Alto for decades, spending so much money to stay, how can the claim then be, that they now need these tight quarters with no real senior services to live in, and that the City must subsidize. Maybe that's ok, but up to how much, and how are these endowment decisions made? Are there more of these down the road?

There is too much missing data about seniors.

The information and data is important because pushing Maybell seems to be about pushing the market rate housing segment (which "needs" the rezoning gifts), to make the senior housing project feasible, and that is all about money. It's just where the money is coming from. What if the seniors who are applicants can afford to make the project feasible by paying more. From all the missing information, it just looks like a real estate deal for the developer, and not even a good one for PAHC. or the seniors. Certainly not compared to the costs (traffic, parking, and safety)

What about the neediest seniors by the way, where do they go?

Posted by Please no rezoning, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 12, 2013 at 1:46 pm

"Because you sell your home doesn't mean you become instant millionaires."

Maybe not but any senior who has been living in their house for several years in Palo Alto and decides to sell will make enough money on the investment that they no longer qualify as low income. Assets are normally taken into account for applications for low income housing.

As to Lytton Gardens and parking/cars: "Our residents enjoy a variety of activities, amenities, communal dining options, and the camaraderie of over 300 neighbors. A range of Resident Committees encourage Seniors to continue taking roles of responsibility and giving to their community. Committees supervise gardening, welcoming new residents, running an on-site gift ship, volunteering for projects with area children, and more.

The Maybell project offers none of the amenities of Lytton Garden. The Maybell project is ONLY apartments for seniors. There is NO food service. People living in apartments need to get purchase food, go to the doctor, etc. Most seniors drive until they really have to give up their license. The idea that a 65 year old is not going to drive makes no sense.

VoteAgainstD.com for more information

Posted by common sense, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 12, 2013 at 1:49 pm

How many senior citizens who lives in Palo Alto would qualify for this housing have kids that live in Palo Alto?

Most kids who grew up in Palo Alto cannot afford to live in Palo Alto, where a 50 - 60 year old small house will cost close to $2 million dollars. Instead, many choose to live elsewhere, where they can have larger houses, land, and discretionary income that's not spent on housing. And any kid who can afford to live in Palo Alto, and whose parents still live in Palo Alto most likely has the wealth to support their parents in their current living accomodations. Many of the seniors I know own their house that they bought in the 1950's, 1960's, and 1970's. None are looking to move to a small apartment with no services (like assisted living) or no parking.

That's a huge mis-perception pushed by the PAHC and the city council.

I watched the debate on Measure D, and not once did I see Mayor Scharff or the PAHC board member address the outdated traffic study that did not include bikes or pedestrians. On this and other points, I got the impression that the Mayor was trying to ignore concerns, and put "spin" on how good this will all be. Not what I expect from someone elected to represent the residents.

To me the city council is as out of touch on this issue, as they were when they voted to endorse the High Speed Rail bond measure. Look where that got us.

Posted by pavoter, a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 12, 2013 at 2:29 pm

@ It's about the money: The brochures I am referring to are in my mailbox every other day. The latest touts a San Jose editorial that also maintains this is only about senior housing. San Jose editorial doesn't bother to mention that senior housing is fine with neighbors if there is no upzoning. Upzoning is the issue.

What's amazing is that according to our city leaders, upzoning creates less density! This can only really happen if the city approves a number of variances for that parcel under existing zoning. To do that would be an abuse of power and would entail ignoring certain requirements in the current Comprehensive Plan.

And, that's the point: the "public benefits" variances are the problem.

If you vote Yes on D, you are supporting dubious governing practices that will lead to more high density projects.

Vote No!

Posted by Vote AGAINST D, a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 12, 2013 at 2:35 pm

@ Yes on D,
No, it's not about the senior housing. Because if Yes on D prevails, they will be engaged in even more battles over that property, and may very well not be able to build on that property anyway. If No on D prevails, PAHC will be free to move on and prove to us that it is about senior housing, and providing it in a more appropriate way. Despite all their rhetoric about no location being perfect, they went after that site because they wanted it and saw the opportunity to become top low-income provider in Palo Alto again after losing 801 Alma to Eden Housing, cheaply too, using the market-rate scheme. They never tried to find a more appropriate location for density before this, especially not with $15 million in loans from City and County in hand. If No on D prevails, they can direct their attention to providing the housing without having to densify residential neighborhoods or resort to such a repugnant financing scheme to involves violating all residential zoning for the sake of reducing the cost of their development. Despite what you may think of the architecture at 801 Alma, they spent the money necessary to build it without having to resort to such a scheme, at a cost of three or four times per unit what PAHC is getting away with at Maybell by upzoning the neighborhood and proving inadequate parking, etc.

If it was about senior housing, PAHC would have simply paid equivalent costs and built JUST the senior housing at that location, done the safety studies, and they would in all likelihood be building the 60 senior units there now, with no controversy.

No, it is about money.

It's not about the housing, because if Yes on D succeeds, the same neighbors who qualified 2 referenda, one in only 10 days, will continue to fight the development, and they have good standing in a number of areas, some the City has no idea about and some they know very well.

The neighbors have been belittled about their concerns over the safety of schoolchildren, but they will continue to pursue this because they take that seriously, it has been one of the primary motivators.

Yes on D == ongoing battles
No on D == City Council knows they can't steamroll the residents and PAHC can begin to fulfill their mission the next day again (having learned that they can do so better if they try to be part of the community rather than treating us as beside the point at best and as enemies to be squashed at worst).

Posted by common sense, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 12, 2013 at 3:55 pm

I got another pro Measure D mailer today. It says the expected number of school kids that the project will add is 6. Twelve houses only adding 6 kids?

By the way on last week's city council consent calendar was a budget allocation of $150,000 to the PAHC for "BMR administration"; so far PAHC has spent $100,000 on this pro Measure D campaign. Well, if PAHC can spend over $100,000 on a political campaign, they are charging the city way too much to administer the BMR program; it's my feeling that this allocation frees up money elsewhere in the PAHC budget to spend on the political campaign. So now my tax payer dollars are being used to fund a campaign that I'm against. Unbelievable.

Posted by Please no rezoning, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 12, 2013 at 4:49 pm

"I got another pro Measure D mailer today. It says the expected number of school kids that the project will add is 6. Twelve houses only adding 6 kids? "

Twelve houses and each have four bedrooms and you are going to tell me that there will only be six children? Seriously, who is doing these projections?

Posted by Vote AGAINST D, a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 12, 2013 at 6:00 pm

@ Please no rezoning,
"Twelve houses and each have four bedrooms and you are going to tell me that there will only be six children? Seriously, who is doing these projections?"

The same people who think 36 parking spaces is enough for 60 units at a site where there is no on-site dining, no walkable grocery or walkable services of any kind.

Which makes me wonder why the Weekly didn't delve into this issue a little more deeply. It isn't just the lack of grocery stores across the street. This is about the same ratio of parking as at Stevenson House where there are on-site meals served, where a grocery store is across the street, where people live steps away from a community center (Cubberly), a library and community center (Mitchell park, which will open again), tennis courts, a park, a church, Betty Wright swim center, and up the street from Costco. Yet Stevenson House has OVERFLOW PARKING which they have an arrangement with the next-door church over during the week, and at Hoover on the weekend.

Ask the fire department. They go to all the senior centers. In senior apartments with no services, they drive.

As for the Arastradero Park Apartments - I think that's really interesting that the senior residents there don't have cars, because that property already creates a lot of overflow parking for the neighborhood which has been problematic, and they get 1 spot per resident. I wonder if the residents there realize that if Measure D passes, they will lose all the parking along Maybell and much of Clemo, as well as 3 on-site spaces.

Posted by Joe, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 12, 2013 at 6:21 pm

> Twelve houses only adding 6 kids?

Census data for Palo Alto has shown that there are about 2.7 people per dwelling unit (DU). This suggests .6 kids per DU, or about 8 kids for 12 new units.

Posted by resident, a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 12, 2013 at 6:42 pm

Be careful what you wish for. Looks like you are going to get it. Oh, by the way did you notice how there is not a single word in prop.D about future projects? We are asked to vote against THIS PARTICULAR DEVELOPMENT and nothing more.

Posted by Vote AGAINST D, a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 12, 2013 at 7:22 pm

@ resident of College Terrace,

In the City meetings, and in discussions with City Council people neighbors have had since, it became very clear that if PAHC gets away with using this financing mechanism at Maybell, this will become their new way of doing business in the future. Call Gail Price, she'll go on and on about how other places do this and we should too.

"IN ORDER TO REDUCE THE DEVELOPMENT COSTS of the senior housing project, the PAHC is proposing to develop market-rate single-family homes adjacent to the residential building for seniors. PAHC plans to sell the land identified for the single family homes and the entitlements (if approved) to a housing developer ... this is a creative way to help finance affordable housing. It will require less City financial assistance and since PAHC is providing a greater amount of equity, the development will be more competitive in securing other sources of public financing."
Web Link

The setup for this financing mechanism is written into the ordinance: For example, by densifying the market-rate housing which takes up 55% of the land, the City extracts $1.5 million in in lieu fees from the developer, and amount which was dedicated to the financing for this project. That in lieu fee is written into the ordinance.

What, you think the City Attorney was going to say anything about that in her "impartial" analysis? The City Attorney who wrote the ballot question to make it seem like people were voting for or against seniors?

So, by the way, did you happen to notice that if you vote AGAINST Measure D, PAHC still owns the property and is welcome to come back with another proposal for 60 senior units, only generally respecting height, setback, daylight plane, parking, density, and other zoning restrictions just a wee bit more closely, and doing the safety analysis for the bikes and pedestrians, and the neighborhood will not fight it, we have said so?

If they won't build it if they can't make the neighborhood essentially pay for it, then it really is about money, isn't it? Because Eden Housing was willing to pay the costs the build within the existing zoning at 801 Alma. Why is PAHC putting us all through this so they get the fire sale prices? (money)

Posted by Vote AGAINST D, a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 12, 2013 at 7:30 pm

The only number that makes any sense to use in assessing how many kids will live in those new houses is how many kids on average are there in homes purchased in the neighborhood. Pretty much the only people purchasing homes in this neighborhood are paying these prices to send their kids to the local schools. Twelve houses will probably mean 24 kids.

The other problem with those houses is that they are not age-in-place houses, which also makes them odd for the neighborhood. People who buy them will come and go, for the schools, because they aren't homes for people with mobility problems (another reason they should not be built across the street from a school for severely disabled children, but who cares who they feel, according to our CC, right?), in contrast with the rest of the neighborhood which is cohesive because people buy to live out there lives there.

Posted by It is about the money, a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 12, 2013 at 7:35 pm

IFFY "Iffy" issue number 7

"Compared to other residential land-uses, senior developments generate significantly less traffic on a per-unit basis."

What kind of seniors are we talking about? Immobilized, bedridden,

or 62 year olds with fast cars? Supposedly children of seniors can live also with them, any accounting for this?

I am glad this article covers some of the main assertions, but it has only raised more questions for me, and I hope the Weekly will consider delving more deeply into each issue and especially all the assumptions flying around.

from article,

"Adding housing for low-income seniors seemed to the council like a no-brainer. With the city's senior population rising almost as rapidly as its property values and nearly 20 percent living at or near the poverty level, the council quickly got behind the loan."

Housing for low-income seniors, but Maybell is for higher income seniors, not for really low income.

this frequent quote "nearly 20 percent living at or near poverty"

Now I get it. The City is using this 20% which is 20% of the population, it's not that 20% of seniors are low income.

I can see completely why some may find all of the assertions from the City and the Housing corporation misleading.

from article,

"No one was revolting on Nov. 30, when the Housing Corporation closed escrow on its $15.6 million purchase of the orchard site, beating out at least five developers."

How is the average resident like myself supposed to know the Housing Corporation closed escrow? And know enough facts to revolt?


Where should we have to look every week what loans are being granted by the CIty - $3.2 million here, add another $2.6 Million there.

Posted by It is about the money, a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 12, 2013 at 7:41 pm

Sorry, maybe it is 20% of seniors.

I hope someone will post actual data and numbers.

And it would be helpful to know what the average age of the Maybell applicant pool is, it would impacts traffic and parking in a big way.

Posted by Joe, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 12, 2013 at 9:29 pm

> The only number that makes any sense to use in assessing how many
> kids will live in those new houses is how many kids on average
> are there in homes purchased in the neighborhood.

"The only number that makes any sense ..". Wow! So.. where do you propose to get that number, and how do you propose to prove that its correct?

Moreover, what's a neighborhood? Is there a defined, and accepted way, to actually determine what a neighborhood is, for the purposes of coming up with a "yield" number (how many houses yield how many kids).

Is it your claim then, that every house in Barron Park has two kids in it?

Not likely.

The Census is going to release their most recent data for, say, 70 years. Maybe the PAUSD might offer up a suggestion, if someone asked.

A lot of work has been done on housing yields over the past few years, here in Palo Alto. It's not likely that that work is available on the City web-site, but one could request it through official channels.

Does anyone know of a block of twelve new houses here in Palo Alto that has two, or more, kids in each home?

Think that the lower number (<=1) would be a better choice. Oh, and remember, that kids exit the school system after a period of time, and then the number of kids per household goes to zero. Not every child that moves into Palo Alto is a baby, so some of these kids will exit the school system in less than twelve years.

Posted by Vote for affordable housing , a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 12, 2013 at 9:35 pm

Measure D is about low income housing. If it fails the reality is that there won't be any more low income housing in PA because it can't be done without PC zoning. That's just how it is. If you want to makes sure that no more low income housing is built in PAfor years to come vote no. If you want more affordable housing vote yes. And if you want to tell these NIMBY people that yes Barron Park welcomes all people by all means vote Yes and tell your friends to vote yes too.

This is a referendum on the future of affordable housing in Palo Alto. It's that simple.

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 12, 2013 at 9:47 pm

Joe (and others)

PAUSD works with demographers that use various types of data to determine and speculate how many students would come from proposed housing. Sometimes they get it right and sometimes they get it wrong.

Some of the data they use is plot graphs which display dots for each student in each address and spread across the city they can see visually where the students live. An example of this can be found on page 10 of this board packet. Web Link

The next thing you have to remember is that a child may move into Palo Alto at the age of 2, but not enter kindergarten for 3 years and then will be in PAUSD for 13 years. A baby born in a home will be eligible for PAUSD 5 years after birth and then for 13 years until 18 years of age. Your approximate 12 years is a little off.

Lastly, many grandparents are taking in grandchildren (situations vary but include divorce of parents and one parent moving in with their parent, single mothers staying with parent, grandparents becoming anchor homeowner/renter, etc.)

Interesting to try and work these things out, but professional demographers try to do this and get it wrong as often as they get it right. Palo Alto in particular does not follow the same trends as in other Bay Area cities.

Posted by Vote AGAINST D, a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 12, 2013 at 9:52 pm

@Vote for,

You really, honestly expect us to believe that if Palo Altans reject this rezoning, that those same bulldog-persistent people at PAHC will just fold up and never try to build any affordable housing ever again? Give me a break.

Do you think they ever tried to buy property on El Camino instead, where many properties have changed hands in recent years, and where there are properties for sale now? (No) Do you think they ever tried to buy property in more appropriate places for seniors with $15 million in public funds in hand? (No)

But you know what? if they had tried to use the PC zoning closer to what it was originally intended for, to provide some flexibility, and asked for something closer to the existing zoning -- for 60 seniors, and just manned up and paid for the actual cost like the builder did at 801 Alma, and respecting neighborhood character and zoning -- they would be building that affordable housing now with the blessing of the neighborhood.

What is simple is that if you don't want to have to wake up someday and put aside your life for a year because the City has no respect for neighborhood zoning, then please vote Against D and let City Council and their developer friends know they can't just steamroll the neighborhoods, that zoning rules should be respected, and citizens will can fight City Hall if they don't. If you let them get away with this by passing D, they will know citizens can't fight City Hall no matter how bad the plan.

If PAHC knew they needed that kind of density to make this property work, they should have gone for an area more appropriate for density along a corridor like El Camino, not a property in a residential neighborhood. And they shouldn't have tried to use this financing scheme with more than half the property going for a market-rate development, upzoned for the for-profit developer's benefit. They want you to believe it's about affordable housing, but if it were, they would have kept that in mind and would be building now.

Do you really care about affordable housing? Then vote Against this rezoning, because the financing scheme means PAHC will be taking money away from projects in less wealthy communities that could provide more housing for needier people, where they probably don't have other options as we do here.

If you want to support affordable housing in Barron Park, then vote AGAINST this rezoning and tell the City to take the money and invest in saving Buena Vista Mobile home park, which would retain over 400 low-income residents who are already long-time Palo Altans.

Posted by Please no rezoning, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 12, 2013 at 9:56 pm

"If it fails the reality is that there won't be any more low income housing in PA because it can't be done without PC zoning."

So this is it, either Maybell or nothing!?!? I am not sure how you have those facts but please share. It may be the only way that PAHC can do it but there are other organizations that can afford to do it without PC. Maybe there is a better fit for Maybell. Vote against Measure D so that the City can spend some time to find a better fit.

VoteAgainstD.com for more information

Posted by Vote AGAINST D, a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 12, 2013 at 10:02 pm

@Vote for,
Please read the article, too. Eden Housing just built 801 Alma under the existing zoning. Despite what you may think about the aesthetics of the building, it would have been much worse as a much taller, more massive high rise.

They did this by paying approximately 3 or 4 times per unit as what is being paid at Maybell; PAHC is essentially asking you to vote for their discount at the neighborhood's expense, and for the benefit of a market-rate developer. The City's own reports say as much.

Maybe you're right, maybe PAHC isn't the developer to build there. Maybe they can't afford it. But there are other low-income developers around who can, who are building today because they decided to respect existing zoning. If voting Against means those other low-income developers take more of a prominent role in local low-income housing, maybe it's all for the best. (If I hadn't already called myself "Vote AGAINST D", I'd have called myself "former PAHC devotee" for this post. They have succeeded in causing me to lose all respect for them as an operation.)

Posted by Vote for affordable housing , a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 12, 2013 at 10:36 pm

This is about the future of affordable housing in Palo Alto. PC zoning is essential. Density is essential to obtain tax credits and make senior housing feasible. Lots of distracting talk about a lot of things aside , this is not complicated. This is a good project that will help people. If you want affordable housing vote yes.

It's that simple.

Posted by It is about the money, a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 12, 2013 at 11:03 pm

Vote for affordable,

I have just learned from a related thread that PAHC's subsidized-housing wait list draws from all of Santa Clara

What is the difference between this social issue and homelessness then?

How is the City making choices about which social issues matter more?

Really bothers me that this off the charts City benevolence is not even going to truly needy cases, or towards housing that has something to do with Palo Alto, as someone suggested "subsidizing homes for teachers, firemen, and policeman who are serving the community"

Someone else explained there are other organizations building affordable housing, and respecting zoning. I am certain there are MUCH better ways to serve seniors.

This really is not about seniors, you didn't even mention the word in your post.

It's not about Barron Park being a "welcoming" community.

Maybell will not welcome the neediest seniors.

I will oppose D.

Posted by registered user, Jerry Underdal, a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 12, 2013 at 11:36 pm


"One of those private developers did prevail in 2011. Hmmm.... Somehow it's not a condo complex."

Sorry, but I don't understand your reference. What happened in 2011? Were there not, in fact, as many as five commercial developers competing for that property when PAHC bought it in 2012? That's a major contention to make in the context of this debate. Please provide evidence.

You play an important role in this on-line discussion. Do you plan at any point to make your identity known so we can weigh your words against those of Gennady Sheyner, who wrote the piece? Perhaps he could interview you to get more accurate information if he has received incorrect information from Candice Gonzalez, executive director of PAHC.

Posted by Min Hai, a resident of Community Center
on Oct 13, 2013 at 12:56 am

WORLD ANIMAL AWARENESS SOCIETY: PALO ALTANS CARE MORE ABOUT DOGS THAN SENIORS. Try crossing street with a dog(cars stop or slow down) or alone. Notice the difference in drivers' attitudes.

Posted by Vote AGAINST D, a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 13, 2013 at 1:47 am

@Vote for,
"PC zoning is essential. Density is essential to obtain tax credits and make senior housing feasible."

This article by Gennady Sheynar seems to say that's a false claim. 801 Alma didn't need PC zoning. They also didn't need to upzone. That was just built, downtown, in a pretty expensive area, and they didn't need PC zoning.

If PAHC felt they had to have the density and to use PC zoning to make the property up to 8 times more dense than allowed by existing zoning as they are on Maybell, they should not have gone after a property in a RESIDENTIAL area, assuming they'd get whatever they wanted no matter what it did to the neighborhood because they supposedly want to do some good. (The project wasn't originally intended by them for seniors by the way, they switched as soon as they realized seniors were an easier sell politically.) The City zoning code is pretty clear about where density is appropriate in Palo Alto based on zoning ... that's what it's for! PAHC likes to say no property is perfect, but there is no evidence they actually tried to go after any property in a more appropriate location for density, at all, even though there have been many on El Camino.

If you care about affordable housing in Palo Alto, vote AGAINST D and support affordable housing operators who care about the future of affordable housing in Palo Alto enough to work with residents rather than against them. (Ever heard the old saw "Don't bite the hand that feeds you?") Are you really that blind to how PAHC has turned literally thousands of previous supporters, including me, against them by what they are doing at Maybell? This is about them, their professional ambitions, and saving money getting there. It's not about affordable housing, or like Eden Housing, they'd have long ago bit the bullet and JUST put in the affordable housing. They would be building it right now with the neighborhood's blessing.

Posted by Vote AGAINST D, a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 13, 2013 at 2:03 am

On this thread, and most recent other threads, I have only posted as "Vote AGAINST D", I have no idea who the dozens of others speaking out against D are, many who have made very good arguments. I reuse a lot of things other people write, too. For example, I remembered that Candace Gonzales SAID TO THE CITY COUNCIL that the Maybell property had gone into contract with a private developer in 2011, and that it fell out of contract in 2012. You can read that in the City minutes, Jerry.

(By the way, while we're communicating, I would just like to point out the Gennady Sheynar comes down on my side that the Tan Apartments were built under county rules and brought into the City when that area became Palo Alto. Not that it matters, because the RM-15 is the transition zone from that apartment and is the appropriate zoning, despite how you try to misportray the dominant land use by misusing the Tan.

[Portion removed.]

Posted by It is about the money, a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 13, 2013 at 10:02 am

I should first say I do not know any of the good people on PAHC and my remarks are not personal.

I was reading PAHC's mission, and the reason the organization was set up was due to a recognition that many people who work here or grew up here could not afford to live here.

The fact is that anybody who lives here now can afford to live here, and it is very dubious that the CIty should be worrying about relatively wealthy people who could afford to stay here.

As for people who work here, if PAHC's waiting list draws from all of Santa Clara County, then people who work elsewhere and have no connection to Palo Alto are being housed by Palo Alto.

"PAHC's mission has always been to foster, develop, acquire, and manage low- and moderate- income housing in Palo Alto and the San Francisco Bay Area. "

So, this is a REGIONAL organization.

I think the CIty's funding of this organization deserves a second look. WHy the largess, and who else is chipping away at their town to sell off parts,, to fund regional issues?

Last night I found an essay that should be a must read for every new resident.

Web Link
Look for the Eric Filseth essay at the bottom of the thread.

Was this published somewhere else in the Weekly?

Posted by Wayne Martin, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Oct 13, 2013 at 10:03 am

It’s really fascinating to read all of these comments and try to make sense of this situation—as it’s clear that the “revolt of the residentialists” is based on many issues, which we are all aware of, but none of which allow for simple sound-bytes to express our collective frustrations with the City, and the Council, and increasingly State/Regional government.

I see the issues falling into several different layers: 1) Site Specific (traffic increases, safety, quality-of-life) 2) Opposition to High Densification/PC-zoning Abuse, 3) Transparent and Sustainable Government Finances, and 4) Immigration-related issues.

While the Measure D Ballot language is clearly site/situation specific, it’s clear that there is a “process” on-going behind the scenes that is not clearly transparent, but none-the-less real, and on-going, which threatens our single-family neighborhoods in ways that become more evident as time passes.

Given that the Vote-NO people have done a really good job identifying the objections to this project being built at the Maybell site, I’ve taken a quick look at some of the hidden public costs associated with Maybell. The Weekly kindly published my letter in this week’s print edition. I uploaded a short paper that looks at some of the most easily identified “externalities” associated with this project, which is the basis for my letter--

Public Costs of Private Affordable Housing:
Web Link

It’s my sense that the public costs associated with Maybell will be over $100M in the coming years (55-year timeframe).

I encourage a NO vote, to be followed by another round of “residentialist” activism that would call for advancing a Ballot item that would terminate PC zoning. Additionally, we need a full, and honest, review of the interactions between the City of Palo Alto, and the Palo Alto Housing Corporation. It’s clear that a lot of less-than-visible cooperation between the City and the PAHC has gotten us to where we are.

Lastly, it’s clear that the PAHC has financial assets that exceed $200M. Their portfolio of properties is quite extensive—likely making them one of the largest property owners in Palo Alto. So, why is this organization continuing to latch itself onto the public treasury, when it could use its own financial assets to finance its future growth?

We need an investigation into the City/PAHC relationship. It’s unlikely that the City Auditor will ever take on such a task, or could be depended upon to do a comprehensive job trying to bring some “sunlight” to this relationship. The City Council could, in one way or another, initiate such an audit—but with their “heels dug in” position on Maybell, it’s difficult to believe that they will take the high ground and see that such an audit is conducted.

Unless the Council does do something, this seemingly unhealthy situation will continue until we elect a Council which is more concerned with Palo Alto as a whole, and not so supportive of the developers who have targeted Palo Alto for their own financial gain.

Posted by Vote for affordable housing , a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 13, 2013 at 10:14 am

Measure D is about the future of affordable housing in Palo Alto. Senior housing cannot be built without PC zoning. Eden had to eliminate the senior part of its development because it could not be done under existing zoning. Affordable senior housing requires PC as does all affordable housing such as the Opportunity Center. This referendum will decide the future of affordable and low income housing in Palo Alto. If you support affordable housing vote yes. If measure D loses there will be no more affordable housing in Palo Alto. Private for profit developers want measure D to fail to stop affordable housing. Send a message to private developers that Palo Alto supports nonprofit affordable housing

This is a vote for the future of affordable housing.

It's that simple

Posted by Wayne Martin, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Oct 13, 2013 at 10:25 am

> Senior housing cannot be built without PC zoning

There is ABSOLUTELY no evidence that this is true. "Senior" housing is built all over the US in communities that do not have anything like PC zoning.

Somewhere buried in the mass of details, and hyperbole, is a question about the PAHC's business plan for this site, as well as their whole operation.

Voting NO on Measure D will not stop any future "senior housing" (whatever that really is).

Posted by pavoter, a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 13, 2013 at 10:34 am

@Vote for: Your view of this that it's simply about affordable housing is misleading. Even the Weekly article itself points out that the city council made a number of irregular decisions in pushing this project forward. At the very least, citizens have a right to be concerned about transparency in governance.

If you are so concerned about affordable housing, what about low income housing that gets converted after 20 years as recently was the case at Terman apartments. What about the new JCC senior housing units that sat empty for 3 years until very recently when it was pointed out.

This is about poor decision making on the part of our city council. If you vote yes, you are giving the council a blank check to do as they please and ignore the Comprehensive Plan and zoning regulations.

Posted by It is about the money, a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 13, 2013 at 12:01 pm

PAHC's mission talks about "here"

people who grew up here,

people who work here,

in the next sentence, the mission is about housing for the Bay area.

If there is a PAHC audit, first place to start is this mission statement, and a review of the process to fund housing for people who have nothing to do with "here."

Anyone living "here" has been living and spending into relative economic prosperity. You need a lot of money to do that, and if you were unable to plan to pay for housing at the end of your life, exactly how much of my taxes should go to make your retirement "affordable."

And wouldn't there be less expensive places to build housing for people who have nothing to do with "here"?

If PAHC has nothing to do with Palo Alto, what is the role that the CIty should play in funding housing for moderate income people (rich by world standards) in the Bay area?

I will vote NO on D.

Posted by Vote AGAINST D, a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 13, 2013 at 12:16 pm

Greg Schmid said that Lytton Gateway was originally designed with low-income senior housing on the top floor, but then someone said, you mean those seniors will get those great views? So the developers took it all off and paid an in lieu fee which SHOULD have been enough to create the affordable housing elsewhere without making the neighborhood pay for it, but clearly wasnt. Schmid's point was fix the inadequate in lieu fee situation. If you vote for D, City Council will never have the incentive to fix that, because they will know they can individually steamroll neighborhoods whenever they want, despite historic levels of opposition. Do you want to face what we are facing at Maybell, with no say over this huge transformation of the character of your neighbrhood and children's safety? Pease help us vote against D.

We need to stop the arms race over large concentrated properties going on now with PAHC who was unhappy about losing 801 Alma to Eden Housing. Concentrating affordabe housing in one place is known to be bad for residents and affordable housing in general, which is why it's against HUD policy. There is an existing PAHC apartment next door, which is why it SHOULDN'T be a good site to put another complex. Efficiency for the providers created the ills of concentrated affordable housing, and decades of research speaks against doing it. PAHCs own website used to tout how they interspersed affordable housing, until they wanted Maybell.

No marketing study even went into deciding whether this would meet any need we have, for all the sacrifices asked of the neghbrhood. My elderly friends who have needed care or downsizing have mostly moved to other communities to find what met their needs - from Berkely to San Leandro, from East Palo Alto to Mountain View, others from Mountain View to Texas, from Michigan to Arizona. Seniors would be better served by senior centers where they can age in place -- Maybell is just apartments which seniors face the disruption of leaving when they need care -- and have services without being moved, and low-income seniors are better served by being mixed in with all incomes so they arent stigmatized. Studies show the stigma is felt by those who are concentrated even when it's not coming externally. We are all better off saying NO to the Maybell rezonng and pushing for a larger, regional senior center for all incomes. That doesnt seem like that's best done by PAHC, but they are making this about what's best for them professionally, not what's best for affordable housing, for seniors, for the neighborhood, for the thousands of schoolkids, for community and cohesion in this town.

If people vote this in, all it will guarantee is ongoing battles. If peope vote against it, we can all start the next day and solve these problems in a saner way. Neighbors asked for a working group like the one that resulted in saving Terman Middle School property for PAUSD back when it was to be sold, AND 92 unts of affordable housing at Terman Apartments in our neighborhood (now at risk, but the City is tight about info). Right now, we would prefer to put the resources into saving the 400 low-income residents and long-time Palo Altans at Buena Vista instead of this terrible plan at Maybell. Please vote against D.

Posted by It is about the money, a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 13, 2013 at 2:46 pm

from the article,

"The council approved the loan with no dissent or debate. The only surprise from the council's perspective was that such a site was available in a city that members often refer to as "built out."

Nothing else went through their minds with regard to the "built out city."

Really apparently nothing went through their minds. Is this why this was a "no-brainer"?

As a resident who would not have know how to keep up with all these issues, I really thank the people who protested.

Council probably counts on people who are not informed. Incredible.

Posted by Mark Weiss , a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 13, 2013 at 3:45 pm


Regardless of outcome, the referendum shows that people are losing confidence in leadership and ready and willing to take back Democracy here, if that is not over-stating or over-generalizing.

It's still an uphill battle because the real estate industry is a billon-dollar industry locally and people like myself who go to meetings and post on blogs and try to make a difference are acting our conscience more than our self-interests, and certainly not doing this for the money. (Although in this case I am not affiliated or working on the referendum, just following along and now taking sides, or chiming in my two bytes worth).

One error I noted in the debate is Greg Scharff said the money the City gave PAHC was earmarked for housing yet I believe the staff report says half the money came from SUMC (what Stanford gave us to offset problems from the hospital expansion) which I would think is discretionary or moreover supposed to be about traffic mitigation per se.

I also am wondering about people's views on Maybell compared to Buena Vista Mobile Home proposal: to me consistency would be to reject leadership's position on each, arguing that the people's views are in both cases compromised by the will of the industry. Council should broker the deal for the residents to buy out their landlord, for a fair profit, and not acquiesce to his greed by upzoning, if you excuse the digression. (The fact that the two parcels are so close together and in play simultaneously is remarkable).

To my mind, anything over 3,000 votes AGAINST D shows that there is serious opposition mounting and hope for the pendulum to swing back soon to the residents.

Posted by Mark Weiss , a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 13, 2013 at 3:49 pm

I also wrote two other essays on this, in a more "pop" vein, at this link
Web Link
and if you scroll up from that.

I like the new Weekly online format!

Posted by boscoli, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 13, 2013 at 3:50 pm

There's no guarantee that even one senior Palo Altan will end up living in this development if approved. We will end up squeezing in seniors from other cities, perhaps other countries, thereby increasing the population density of a city that desperately needs to decrease it, without doing anything to create affordable senior housing in one of the most expensive real estate markets in the world.

Posted by palo alto resident, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Oct 13, 2013 at 4:40 pm

According to the City/PAHC 20% of our seniors live below the poverty level, yet the City Data link I found has the following:

Age 65-74 Men below the poverty level in Palo Alto - 1.9%
Age 65-74 Women below the poverty level in Palo Alto - 6.9%
Age 75+ Men below the poverty level in Palo Alto - 5.8%
Age 75+ Women below the poverty level in Palo Alto - 7.7%

Web Link

And unless they are planning on providing services such as communal dining and shuttles, there WILL be a need for cars and at least one parking spot for each apartment plus employee parking. Stevenson House, a somewhat similar housing option in Palo Alto has a free shuttle, optional meal service (dinners are only $159 for a whole month) and lots of on-site programs.

@Mark Weiss - according to the City website, the appraisal of Buena Vista does NOT require a zoning change to be valued at $30 million vs. $14 million, it just requires the removal of the trailers.

Posted by It is about the money, a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 13, 2013 at 5:47 pm

To anyone who knows PAHC well,

Would it be fair or unfair to say that PAHC has little to do with serving Palo Alto residents, or people who work here, except that the housing PAHC is looking to build is in Palo Alto?

If PAHC serves Santa Clara and San Francisco applicants,

Why is it called Palo Alto Housing Corporation?

If the PAHC is a regional organization, does PAHC work with the other cities whose residents they are serving? The other cities are not that far away, why does the housing have to be in Palo Alto which is one of the most expensive places in the world?

How do other cities in the country plan affordable senior housing, for example, in NYC do they build affordable senior housing in the middle of Manhattan?

The Bay area is connected in so many ways, there must be a better way to plan senior housing regionally. to share the cost of comprehensive services (get more for the money), and for seniors get the best possible outcomes (shared medical points of service, entertainment, transportation).

What about the fact that little or no housing programs seems to be available for Palo Alto teachers, firemen, policemen in the hundreds of millions of properties managed by PAHC?

And why is everybody on the PAHC board a developer, real estate broker, architect, or real estate lawyer?

This expertise would speak to knowing about real estate and developing deals, the business of land and buildings, but what about everything else, in particular long range regional planning.

I hope these questions are considered fair, and if not, please let me know why not.

Posted by parent, a resident of Palo Verde
on Oct 13, 2013 at 6:38 pm

Just mailed in my vote: NO ON MEASURE D

Posted by Please no rezoning, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 13, 2013 at 6:46 pm

The Maybell senior project offers no amenities. The Maybell project is ONLY small apartments for seniors. There is NO food service. People living in apartments need to get purchase food, go to the doctor, etc. Most seniors drive until they really have to give up their license. The idea that a 65 year old is not going to drive makes no sense.

If you look at what Lytton Gardens offers you can see why they may not need cars: "Our residents enjoy a variety of activities, amenities, communal dining options, and the camaraderie of over 300 neighbors. A range of Resident Committees encourage Seniors to continue taking roles of responsibility and giving to their community. Committees supervise gardening, welcoming new residents, running an on-site gift ship, volunteering for projects with area children, and more."

Our seniors, low income or not, deserve more than what the Maybell project has to offer.

VoteAgainstD.com for more information

Posted by Resident against D, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 13, 2013 at 7:49 pm

The reasons to vote "NO" just pile up. There are so many questions about
the location, neighborhood impacts of this project raised by the
residents, the financing, a required rezoning. What kind of a project
creates such controversy and emotional debate? A project which should not
be approved.

Then overhanging all this is what our City government and staff have done and are continuing to do to our City with over-development, and bad projects with inadequate parking in giveaways to developers,poor design, and in the neighborhoods lack of conformance to the guidelines under the Single-Family Individual Review process for new and remodeled 2-story houses, and unrestricted dewatering of sites for basements, and traffic
management to cope with all the increased traffic which is perplexing at best and creates its own negative impacts.

Drive by the under-parked Lytton Gateway under construction and ask yourself if this massive overpowering and uninteresting building is appropriate for this site in Downtown Palo Alto.It looks transplanted from an industrial park on Lawrence Expwy in Sunnyvale. And only at the last minute was the top floor taken off not because of its visual impact, after-all this was a "gateway" project. a "statement", but because the housing component didn't really fit.

Then ask yourself if you want to ratify and encourage more of the same
by this City govermment by voting "yes" on D or do you want to make your own statement and begin to turn this around by voting "NO" on D? I'm voting "NO".

Posted by and the misleading Advertising, a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 13, 2013 at 7:53 pm

I am changing my handle "it is about the money" to " and the misleading Advertising"

Other weighty issues are being discussed, and it's clear money from the market deal of Maybell is what drives this project. Can anyone think of a real estate deal in Palo Alto that is not about money?

Anyway, I took a look at letters in favor of Maybell, the website for a yes vote, PAHC, and the Mercury news editorial. I found interesting that many of the letters submitted in favor of D are from people who are already in affordable housing in Palo Alto.

I do not disagree that Palo Alto is a great place to live, but what is being asked -to re-zone a neighborhood to allow a for-profit deal, after all the other tax and other benefits PAHC receives. To house moderate income seniors (not the lowest income), most likely not Palo Alto residents (unless residents already in affordable housing count), with misleading advertising that this is about Palo Alto residents?

Every single Ad speaks to the need to help PALO ALTO seniors, and that there are hundreds of applications.

Mercury News

"What's at stake here is the ability of older residents on reduced, fixed incomes to remain in their community."

that would be Palo Alto residents? Not already in affordable housing?

the website for D

"Palo Alto's seniors deserve a high quality, safe and affordable place to live. "

Weekly or City Council

"20% of Palo Alto seniors are at or near the poverty level"

yet pa resident posted this data

Palo Alto seniors

Age 65-74 Men below the poverty level in Palo Alto - 1.9%
Age 65-74 Women below the poverty level in Palo Alto - 6.9%
Age 75+ Men below the poverty level in Palo Alto - 5.8%
Age 75+ Women below the poverty level in Palo Alto - 7.7%

If the Palo Alto seniors story was intended to mislead, PAHC and the City are not doing any seniors a service.

PAHC should be doing what other are doing, building affordable housing without special deals. If PC is the only way, then what about considering what the rest of us moderate income people consider, eventually leaving Palo Alto because it is not affordable.

Palo Alto is not affordable for anyone.

Posted by and the misleading Advertising, a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 13, 2013 at 8:02 pm

By the way, if people were truthful that this is about housing the broader Bay area community, to keep Palo Alto real, having diversity of economic backgrounds (as it we don't have it already), I may not be as bothered.

I would still oppose landing on a neighborhood and re-zoning it on demand, on demand by a do-good organization that is forcing me to be good on their for-profit terms.

I am opposing D.

Posted by no on D have no heart, a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 13, 2013 at 8:09 pm

Nice one, misleading! Seniors should just suck it up and leave. Get these bum seniors out of Palo Alto.

Posted by and the misleading Advertising, a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 13, 2013 at 8:29 pm

no on D,

Palo Alto seniors are not exactly bum seniors.

The are getting younger and richer every day.

Posted by what is this about?, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 13, 2013 at 9:13 pm

I would say mass hysteria.

Posted by Concerned Parent, a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 13, 2013 at 9:39 pm

Please oppose the City ordinance to rezone 567-595 Maybell Avenue. We do not want high density zoning spreading into residential neighborhoods.

The proposed development will generate significant extra traffic on this already overcrowded dedicated Safe Route to Schools for the daily commute of several hundred students to/from Bowman, Juana Briones, Terman and Gunn High school.

The traffic study done for the project has a disclaimer about pedestrians and bicyclists and the response from PAHC was that they did not take into account bicyclists and pedestrians. Maybell and Arastedero are Safe Routes to School corridors and bicyclists and pedestrians account for the majority of the traffic during the AM commute. If the traffic study does not take this into account then the study should be considered invalid. The City council and the Planning Commission should not have accepted such a blatantly biased study.

Here is an extract from the study (pages 8 and 9)
Existing Site Observations
However, field observations showed the following operational issues that are not reflected in the level of service calculations:
• Arastradero Road is congested between 7:50 AM and 8:25 AM between Coulombe Drive and El Camino Real. The Clemo Avenue/Ara stradero Road intersection is intermittently blocked during this period by the southbound vehicle queue on Arastradero Road from its intersection with Coulombe Drive. At its peak, this southbound queue extends to El Camino Real, which blocks the sight distance for a left turning vehicle from Clemo Avenue. In addition, there are a significant number of pedestrians and bikes that cross Arastradero Road at Clemo Avenue, which adds to the difficulty of making a left turn from Clemo Avenue.

• Maybell Avenue is congested between 7:45 AM and 8:15 AM. Southbound vehicle queues on
Maybell Avenue extend from the intersection of Coulombe Drive/Maybell Avenue past Amaranta
Avenue and a short distance past Clemo Avenue. In addition, there are hundreds of pedestrians
and bikes that use the Maybell corridor during this period to access the nearby schools. This
reduces the capacity for motor vehicle traffic through the corridor. At the intersection of Coulombe Drive/Maybell Avenue, the vehicle queues westbound on Coulombe Drive extend approximately 150 feet during the peak morning period. The intersection of Coulombe Drive/Maybell Avenue is controlled by a crossing guard during school hours to assist with the heavy pedestrian and bike traffic.

Here is a link to the study from the Barron Park website for reference:
Web Link

The measure is important because it impacts thousands of students who use Maybell/Arastedero to walk or bike to school.

Please VOTE AGAINST Measure D.

Posted by resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 13, 2013 at 10:05 pm

Vote "NO".
When I scan the list of board members of PAHC, a name jumps out.
This developer came into our neighborhood and I can best describe
what happened as subterfuge, detachment from the residents and
neighborhood, and general arrogance driven by the profit motive. This
experience alone would make me vote "NO" on D but in combination with
all the other broader considerations this experience is just icing on
the cake.

Posted by Steven - against Measure D, a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 13, 2013 at 10:10 pm

no on D have no heart,

No one is picking on seniors. Most kids who grow up here can't afford to stay here, for example. I have listened to many of them complain about having to move away. I know several people who have left after having gotten laid off and not being able to afford it. My kids both have friends whose families left for cheaper housing the minute the kids graduated from high school. These folks are all long term residents of Palo Alto. Aren't they they deserving as well? Do you really think healthy seniors, most of whom are not Palo Alto residents, deserve subsidized housing, but no one else does?

Posted by Steven - against Measure D, a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 13, 2013 at 10:16 pm

I notice that many of the folks for measure D say "it really is just about senior housing because without PC zoning, it will be unaffordable here or anywhere in Palo Alto", and then say this is not about using PC zoning to to push dense development into other neighborhoods. If the only way you can get affordable housing done is by the methods proposed for Maybell, then you are saying that this will be done for all future affordable housing developments, all through Palo Alto. You are supporting the arguments against measure D. It really is about stopping the densification of residential neighborhoods everywhere in Palo Alto. And if you turn around and say "no, no, I meant to say its only necessary for this one development", then that means it could be done without the PC zoning elsewhere, and therefore should be done that way. Either way, you can't argue its just about affordable senior housing on Maybell.

Posted by Vote AGAINST D, a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 13, 2013 at 10:31 pm

@no heart

You wrote, "Nice one, misleading! Seniors should just suck it up and leave. Get these bum seniors out of Palo Alto."

Actually, that's just another ridiculous, misleading sound bite from you proponents of rezoning.

Here's why:
1) The major demographic in the neighborhood, and AGAINST Measure D is seniors.

2) A large development of senior housing sits just 1/4 to 1/3 mile away from this site, just across El Camino essentially in the same neighborhood. They are building a tall new building on El Camino and El Camino Way. All large developments include BMR housing, so there will be affordable housing there. No one in the neighborhood has even said one peep in protest, because it's on El Camino. (El Camino Way has a SERIOUS parking problem, though, but it's unclear who is causing that.)

3) This same neighborhood already hosts the most affordable housing of any residential neighborhood in Palo Alto, including the Terman Apartments which has designated senior spots. Residents were a big reason we have that project, many of the same residents who are AGAINST the bad plan at Maybell. Those Terman low-income units may be at risk of being converted to market-rate - if so, the same residents are planning to fight to keep those low-income units.

4) The same neighborhood is currently in the process of losing over 400 low-income residents at Buena Vista. The City is doing nothing to stop it. If the City committed the $7million they are loaning for Maybell, and the County committed the $8million they are loaning at Maybell, instead to Buena Vista and added to the $14million the neighbors have offered, they could buy the 4 acre property together and save vastly more low-income housing than at Maybell. The City could sit on their portion or develop it over time for more low income housing, thus saving 400 low-income residents who are already Palo Alto residents, many seniors and families. They won't, though. Speaking of heartless.

5) PAHC manages the Moldaw senior BMR units, in a new beautiful senior center with fully assisted living and age-in-place provisions, where 20 out of 24 of those BMR units went completely empty and unfilled for three years, and PAHC did nothing at all about it. Presumably if there is so much need, THEY were telling seniors to take a hike, or at least doing nothing to negotiate a different deal. Which they got the City to do this past spring because of the giant and embarrassing spotlight on all those empty senior units, so clearly they could have filled those if they had felt the need. (Are they even all filled now?)

6) PAHC and the City keep advertising that the need for Maybell is because 20% of Palo Alto seniors live below the poverty limit. Yet the lowest-income person allowed at Maybell will make more than twice the poverty limit, many almost 3.5 times the poverty limit, i.e., not one single person living in poverty will be housed at Maybell. Yet PAHC and the City have been advertising that as the reason for the development, getting up the hopes of those living in poverty who think they will benefit. Now THAT's heartless.

7) PAHC never did a real marketing study to figure out what the greatest need for senior housing in Palo Alto is (refer to Moldaw experience and misadvertising to the impoverished above). They are committing millions without knowing whether this does a good job of meeting the need we have, thus inadvertently leaving the greatest need unmet, and possibly without resources because of this project going forward.

7) The City's own documents show that the whole point of the setup at Maybell -- which necessitated the rezoning -- was to save money for the City and make PAHC more competitive in their funding competition. But who are they competing against? Other projects in Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties from less wealthy communities, where the same money would pay for more affordable housing for needier people. Generally, the categories compete with like projects, so PAHC being more competitive means they're housing a few seniors in Palo Alto instead of housing a whole lot more seniors in, say, Gilroy or East Palo Alto. Even if no one were competing with them (doubtful, PAHC said they were one in five), if they don't take the money, it's there in the next round for a worthy project. Palo Alto is a wealthy community that has never had to finance affordable housing this way or by taking money from projects in less wealthy communities before. (i.e., be that heartless)

8) PAHC is a regional housing provider not limited to Palo Alto. They can provide far more affordable housing for Palo Alto seniors by taking a more regional approach. They have stated their position that seniors living in low-income housing are comfortable taking the bus, so presumably downtown Palo Alto is just a busride away. Why not build a much nicer regional senior center in Sunnyvale, say, where seniors of all income levels can live (those who have higher income can help subsidize more low-income), providing more housing for all seniors, nearby, and in a better location for the density like on El Camino?

9) Maybell is just apartments. No on-site dining, no nearby grocery or medical services. When residents need assisted living, they will have to find it and move away from their friends and what they know. As one geriatrician told me, moving is really hard on old people, the older and more fragile, the harder it is. Palo Alto is some of the most expensive real estate in the world. The cost of simply dedicating this land tax free for so long could put those same seniors in subsidized senior centers where they could have assisted living when they need it!

10) Neighbors are not heartless and if PAHC really wants to build the housing there, they are happy to step aside if they build under the existing zoning (or even close). Many neighbors even pointed out in City meetings that they should JUST build the senior housing and drop the market-rate for-profit portion taking up 55% of the property. PAHC probably won't do that because they don't have the kind of resources that Eden Housing who built 801 Alma has, in fact they went after Maybell because they were kind of miffed at the City giving 801 Alma to Eden and wanted to be top affordable-housing dog in town again -- there is a professional/ego-related motive in there for PAHC. Now who's being heartless?

If this was really about the affordable housing, the City could have guessed such overdevelopment would be a problem (this wouldn't be the first time overdevelopment was protested) and gone with a low-income developer who could pay the actual costs and put in just the affordable housing. If the low-income developer paid as much per unit at Maybell as Eden did at 801 Alma, the financing scheme at Maybell wouldn't be necessary, they could build 40-60 senior units at Alma with density, height, setbacks, daylight plane, parking and other restrictions closer to existing zoning, and wouldn't over burden the neighborhood. This isn't about rejecting the senior housing for the neighborhood, it's about rejecting the overdevelopment and rezoning. PAHC and the City could have easily put this on a different path and instead of insisting on getting their big discount at the neighborhood's expense, they would be building there now. It's not the neighbors who are heartless, it's the City who is being heartless and greedy, and cynical to steamroll and blame this on neighbors.

11) Lastly, neighbors have been much more considerate of the needs of affordable housing than proponents of the rezoning have been about the disabled kids who attend the long-time programs at the OH at Juana Briones School, the part of the school facing the park and catty corner to the new development. To save money, the City is allowing new stovepipe houses the disabled could never live in to be built right across the street from where these kids go to school, tangible evidence of the City's complete disregard for the disabled in its housing policies. They are taking a cavalier attitude to the impact of the overflow parking on the families of those who take their kids to the county rehabilitation facility there. Speaking of heartless.

If you look beyond the glib soundbites, please have a heart (and a brain) and vote AGAINST D.

Posted by please explain, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 13, 2013 at 10:35 pm

What the heck is "PC zoning"??

Posted by Vote AGAINST D, a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 13, 2013 at 10:47 pm

@ please explain,
Your question made me laugh, because the City Attorney wrote the ballot question in a really biased way to make it seem like a choice between affordable housing for seniors or not, and deliberately left the term "PC" off.

PC stands for Planned Community - it was originally conceived as a way to allow some flexibility so small zoning technicalities didn't keep projects that were really very close to the existing zoning from being built. But lately it's been used by the City to basically pretend we don't have a zoning code. That has particularly serious consequences in a residential neighborhood, hence all the protests over Maybell.

Posted by and the misleading Advertising, a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 13, 2013 at 11:19 pm

please explain,

My interpretation of PC, Planned Community:

It is a way for City Council members to sell or gift zoning to developers.

There is controversy that Council is giving zoning away, without regard to the value of what is being received in return, and Council members seem to have blind spots to the costs to the community when developers take over.

They were to start "independent" studies to value the economics of these deals, but in a recent PC analysis for re-zoning in exchange for a police building shell, the analyst concluded the deal sounded really fine for the developer, but I have not heard of the study providing insight as to the the economics for the rest of us.

Among the things they forget to value are traffic, parking issues, and preserving the quality of life.

Many seem to have concluded that destroying the City is an acceptable punishment for its success, and PC just speeds up the process.

Posted by and the misleading Advertising, a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 13, 2013 at 11:34 pm

Please explain,

I should clarify, obviously Council members individually cannot sell zoning, but as a group and through their unanimous votes, they have the power to change zoning with a magic wand through PC.

It's really hard to keep up with this, so sometimes you find out zoning has changed after the fact.

I think PC should be eliminated or very limited to tiny concessions, just so one can sleep at night.

Posted by Please no rezoning, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 13, 2013 at 11:35 pm

PC - Planned Community in the Maybell case allows a for-profit builder to build three story houses instead of the normal two story houses in the neighborhood. It will allow a 50' apartment building instead of a 30' building.

In this case it is super-sizing the building in the middle of a neighborhood.

Posted by Vote AGAINST D, a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 14, 2013 at 2:33 am

Also, the PC zoning is allowing a 60-unit building with just 36 parking spots for residents when existing zoning would require over 100.

The existing zoning is RM-15, or (as the City Attorney conveniently forgot to describe it in the ballot) "low-density multifamily residential) from the City code.

The PC rezone violates even RM-45, which is the highest density in the Palo Alto code, so that it is the equivalent of RM-60 in density, a zoning designation that doesn't even exist in Palo Alto code.

Posted by Vote AGAINST D, a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 14, 2013 at 3:13 am

PAHC says their total cost per unit at Maybell will be $438,277.

Greg Schmid says that's around what the units cost at 801 Alma, where the developer paid them rather than violating the zoning.

He says the market-rate development and all the upzoning ends up cutting the cost of the Maybell units to 1/3 of what PAHC reports.

Of course it's about money. Why the double standard between downtown and the Maybell residential area as far as the City is concerned? Could it be their putting our side of town as targeted for density in the comprehensive plan?

Posted by and the misleading Advertising, a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 14, 2013 at 8:55 am

In other words, the Palo Alto Housing Corporation may be building the most expensive and unaffordable senior housing built in modern history.

For this kind of money, instead of 60 senior apartments you could build housing for 600 or maybe even 6000 seniors in a poor country, furnished.

Posted by Wayne Martin, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Oct 14, 2013 at 9:16 am

A number of postings have made reference to 20% of Palo Alto’s seniors “living in Poverty”. Having grown up in a part of the country where some people were using outhouses, hand-pumped well water and wood stoves—this concept really doesn’t resonate with me.

Here’s the latest age breakdown of Palo Alto—

Age People Percent
Under 18 15,079 (23.4%)
Aged 18 to 24 3,141 (4.9%)
Aged 25 to 44 17,159 (26.6%)
Aged 45 to 64 18,018 (28.0%)
65 years/older 11,006 (17.1%)

So .. by these numbers, we are led to believe about 2,750 Palo Altans, over 65, are “living in poverty”.

So, where are all of these people living today? Is every one over 65 so poor that they have been forced out of their homes/apartments--living rough, off the land, or on the streets? Are there shanty towns where people over 65 are dropped off, to end their days?

From perusing various web-sites on this topic, it seems “poverty” is being defined only on the basis of “income”, and not assets. People living in million dollar homes, but little “income”, are tarred with this pejorative term, even though they might easily liquid assets allowing them to live any lifestyle they might choose to live.

The general thrust of the Vote-Yes crowd seems to make many “seniors” out to be incapable people who have no idea how to manage their affairs, and should be considered “wards of the state” as soon as they hit the magic age of 65 years. What hogwash!

Incomes might be easy to established, in the aggregate. But assets, are not so easily established without having access to peoples’ bank accounts, safety deposit boxes, and their holdings in bonds/equities/etc. So, the “government” seems to have focused only on data that it can easily access in order to make these pronouncements about the existence of “poverty”, and who is living in “poverty”. It’s interesting to note that many people living in “poverty” have television sets, cars, air conditioning, public education for their children, and even housing, provided by the government, or other agencies.

If one of the messages of the Vote-Yes people is that everyone living in “poverty” in Palo Alto should be living in these special/low-cost accommodations, then isn’t it time for them to start building for all of the 2,750 souls that they have pushed into this “bottom rung” of the socio-economic spectrum?

I would ask you to look around and see if one in five of the people who are over sixty-five, living in Palo Alto, are “poor”, and need to be moved into government-sponsored housing? If not, maybe, just maybe, all of these claims of “senior poverty” in Palo Alto are BOGUS!

Posted by and the misleading Advertising, a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 14, 2013 at 10:12 am

Are seniors who are currently in affordable housing in Palo Alto part of the hundreds applying to Maybell?

If they are upgraded to senior housing, I guess that would free up affordable housing in general, but then say so.

If it's about 60 units of affordable housing, why not work it into a project that would save Buena Vista which is affordable housing that is about to be wiped out, along with an entire community with roots in Palo Alto.

At some point though, this issue of Palo Alto poverty stricken seniors needs to get real or we will be building for that "20% " forever in a most expensive way.

Honesty and data would be appreciated.

Posted by Midtown Resident, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 14, 2013 at 12:49 pm

The author surprisingly does not mention the disaster that is Alma Plaza. That project convinced me that the City Council is not to be trusted. What did the city do?

1. Passed a high-density housing with tall houses packed like sardines over objections from most of the residents.
2. Told us that one of the reason they passed it was the public benefit of a park and a community center and a grocery store. The grocery store is on Alma with no setback. The "community center" is a small room on top of the grocery store. The park is a patch of grass the size of a large carpet. For this the neighbors gave up their sunlight and will have to endure congestion.

Sorry, but after that project, I learnt how the city council collaborates with developers, essentially selling of bits and pieces of our quality of life. They bend over backwards, changing rules that an average homeowner has to comply with. They also do not keep the developers to their promises of a "public benefit". I'm willing to bet that if Maybell is built we will find out that there was some clause buried in the fine print that makes the public benefit not much of a benefit at all..

Sorry but I will vote NO on D

Posted by Vote AGAINST D, a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 14, 2013 at 1:09 pm

Dear Midtown Resident,
Please send in your ballot now and do not wait. You can vote early by:

1) Mailing in your ballot now
2) Going to the Registrar of Voters at 1555 Berger Drive, Building 2, San Jose. They have a 24-hour drop box in the parking lot, but it's best to bring it inside.

Confirm your ballot has been received using your stub, and if it hasn't, fill out a provisional ballot on election day.

The LWV has behaved in an uncharacteristically biased way throughout all of this and while they brought in an out-of-town League for moderating the debate, refused to do so for analyzing the pros and cons or making their recommendation. Guess who usually mans the polls? Send in your ballot now and don't wait until election day!

Posted by curmudgeon, a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 14, 2013 at 2:00 pm

"The LWV has behaved in an uncharacteristically biased way throughout all of this"

No, the PA LWV is behaving in its characteristically biased way. It always takes sides in elections and, strangely, always sides with big developers. It has fallen a long way from its founding principles and is just another advocacy group.

Posted by registered user, Douglas Moran, a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 14, 2013 at 3:39 pm

@curmudgeon on the League of Woman Voters:
The LWV has two components: The part that handles supposedly debates in a non-partisan manner and a part that is advocacy for various issues.

One of the advocacy activities of the LWV is affordable housing, and as noted here and elsewhere, the LWV is an absolutely reliable supporter for any developer whose project includes any affordable housing, regardless of any other considerations about the project -- I know because I have tried talking to the LWV people about problems with individual projects.

And because LWV participate on both sides of the organization, various of their sponsored forums have had a decidedly partisan hue (example: questions asked by the moderator, audience questions selected).

IMO, one of the barriers to doing better regarding affordable housing is that automatic support for developers by LWV and similar groups removes any incentive for developers to do better.

Posted by Vote AGAINST D, a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 14, 2013 at 4:44 pm

Regardless, please mail your ballot in early an pd be sure to contact the registrar to be sure it arrived! I have been dropping off my ballot on election day, but that's the wrong strategy in this election! The ends do justify the neans for many of these League people, longtime associates and officers on the PAHC board. They seem to think undue influence only applies to others.

There's a lot at stake, it's just a good precaution. IF you know you are against, please mail in your ballot asap, check that they got it using your stub, and vote provisionally if not.

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 14, 2013 at 4:49 pm

[Post removed.]

Posted by Midtown Resident, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 14, 2013 at 6:20 pm

@"A neighbor voting against D"

"If Palo Alto decides that they want to offer housing to Bay Area low income residents that is fine. But we should pass a tax so that every Palo Alto household pays a small amount for it. If we had such a tax PAHC could reduce the number of for profit houses to a reasonable number. The current PAHC scheme of making money from the stack and pack houses asks the neighborhood to pay (in added density, etc.) to enable the project"

I really like this idea!! Brilliant. Let ever Palo Alto resident pay for subsidised housing for seniors, not just the Maybell neighbors. Put that on the ballot and see how far it gets. This will really test if people all of us will out our money where our mouth is. The reason this won't happen is that the city know he tax won't pass so they decide to raise money by ruining the neighborhood quality of life.

I see no reason why only some residents should bear the brunt of such development. BTW I do not live near Maybell and would be glad to vote for such a tax if the city can prove there is a demand for this and that the housing will go to deserving folks. As it stands, I'm sceptical..

Posted by Midtown Resident, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 14, 2013 at 6:38 pm

Reading through these posts I remember Palo Alto before Charleston Meadows, Alma Plaza and other monstrous developments. It used to feel nice and open and bright. Now, when I pass by, I feel hemmed in and uncomfortable. I really want to make sure the rest of Palo Alto does not become like this. It seems like we need to work to put another measure on the next ballot to curtain PC zoning. I'm sure the developers will pressure the city again at another location, hoping people are too busy with their lives to notice.

Posted by palo alto resident, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Oct 14, 2013 at 6:40 pm

From reading thru all these threads, I feel like a vote for Measure D means you think Palo Alto should welcome dense housing and a vote against means that you don't.

For D - we welcome dense housing, build more of it!

No on D - no more dense housing developments

Posted by Midtown Resident, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 14, 2013 at 6:40 pm

@"Yes on D"

"That's because it is only about senior housing. All the other arguments are to try and prevent that. If you don't want senior housing, go head and vote no. If you want senior housing vote YES ON D"

If you want senior housing, be willing to support a tax that will subsidize housing. That way the pain is spread evenly among the residents AND we do not get ugly high-rises in our backyards.

Posted by no on D have no heart, a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 14, 2013 at 7:10 pm

[Post removed.]

Posted by Sorry in PA, a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Oct 14, 2013 at 9:55 pm

I'm sorry to see what a mess the city government and a once respectable "non profit" institution have become. The latest PAHC mailer (paid most likely by my own tax dollars that the city routed to PAHC) repeats the PAHC misrepresentations about parking, traffic, etc. and insults my intelligence by taking the line of "if you repeat a lie enough, it becomes truth."

My ballot is proudly filled out and mailed. Thank you Maybell Neighbors for shining a light on this deception and corruption that is festering under our very noses. When a residentialist slate runs in 2014, I will be backing it all the way.

Posted by 16 year resident, a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 14, 2013 at 11:21 pm

Once D is rejected, how fast can we have a recall election for the city council members?

They clearly are not listening to what the citizens want, and are totally on the side of developers.

The Architecture Review Board micromanages every individual home remodel, yet allow disasters to be built on enormous scales. Seems their main job is to "rearrange the chairs on the ship", while the council drives the city into the icebergs.

I'm so frustrated at what they are doing to our town, and forcing down our throats their ideas on how we should live.

Posted by Tom, a resident of Community Center
on Oct 14, 2013 at 11:26 pm

My wife and I are "older" resident who have lived in our home for many years. The GI Bill mortgage was paid off years ago. We are frugal, own one car, have enough to live on, some retirement, a pension after years with a company, and Social Security - which we both started paying into in the late 1940's - making a whopping 50- 62 cents an hour - or less. We are fortunate. We have a large group of friends in the same situation, men all GI's, and not ONE of us plans to move unless it is to an easier-to-care-for condo. If we run out of money, then we will get a home equity line of credit to 'tide us over'. Our kids live all over the country, but there is alway their own old bedroom to nestle into when they come home. And our wonderful garden to sit in with us. I would really like to know the statistics on and life stories of the "elderly" who are to live in these proposed senior units. Are they current residents? What are the ground rules for getting one of these apartments? Is the building of these apartments worth the trauma to the neighborhood? What kind of life will these "senior" occupants have? Is any lack of services worth any trauma to the qualifying renters? How old is old.....or how young is young? Does the PAHC even ask? Just who will live there? The AARP offers membership to age 50. Is there a waiting list of Palo Alto seniors? What are the ground rules for this 'senior' apartments occupancy?

Posted by Vote AGAINST D, a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 15, 2013 at 12:26 am

@ Tom,
Answers to many of your questions, or at least both sides weighing in, can be found in previous posts on this and other Measure D threads. Many of the questions you are asking are things the rest of us have been asking.

For example, instead of a marketing study, PAHC points to the waiting lists for their properties. But the waiting lists aren't pre-screened, don't provide good guidance as to whether someone qualifies for a given housing property, are filled with people who aren't living in Palo Alto (they can't restrict legally) and they market heavily to get people on those lists.

The Moldaw experience is case in point. PAHC says the need for seniors in Palo Alto is so urgent, and that they have waiting lists on all their properties, yet they had 20 out of 24 senior BMR units at Moldaw go empty for three years. At first they said it was because the require buy-in was too high, but it turned out when the City renegotiated the terms this spring because of the spotlight the Maybell situation put on it, they found it was because the asset limit was too LOW, and the buy-in terms too harsh compared to "regular" units. Which they fixed and started filling units, showing they could have all along. Rather than waiting 3 years.

They then said Moldaw isn't relevant because it's a different income range than Maybell. So... they are less good at managing units depending on the income range and for this reason we should let them put this high-density overdevelopment in our neighborhood? Huh? The income range at Moldaw is the same as at High Street, which they got a 600 person waiting list for through heavy marketing - they couldn't find 20 people who needed BMR senior units in a brand new senior center with age-in-place and assisted living?! (Maybell is just apartments)

Anyway, read some of the discussions above, many of us have been asking those same questions. The short answer is that no, PAHC really doesn't seem to understand the need, has advertised this project as necessary based on an income range they won't even serve, has had unfilled units in nice full seniors centers for years without trying to change things to fill them (and in other properties before when they didn't consider the needs and wants of the residents), and when the neighbors tried to pin down these issues, rezoning proponents pulled the NIMBY-card.

Read Eric Filseth's essay and Doug Moran's paloaltoonline blog about deciding.

Please read about the bias in the ballot question and "analysis" from the neighbors' perspective, since the City Attorney writes them despite these conflicts of interest!
Web Link

Please vote against D.

Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 15, 2013 at 8:08 am

@ Tom. Thank you for your service to our country!

You also prove my point that I have made whenever the city planner talks about erecting high rises for seniors along the CalTrain corridor. He is dreaming. PA seniors love their homes! No reason to leave when you have so much equity in your home. Same can be said for seniors in our neighbor cities (Menlo, Los Altos, etc.).

Posted by and the misleading Advertising, a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 15, 2013 at 10:42 am


I hope everyone gets to read your post. Developers look at Palo Alto like a commodity, and forget people love their homes because it's their home. I would imagine there are many seniors like Tom in the neighborhood that has been chosen to be de-zoned, re-zoned, to make a profit.

PAHC, as a property company (with developers and real estate brokers at the helm), can't help to look at Palo Alto like a commodity as well, it's part of doing business in the business they are in.

But I will never look at a PAHC senior affordable housing in the same way. PAHC serves seniors of the greater Bay area and that should require REGIONAL planning. Imagine serving 60 seniors at a time with these type of deals. City Hall in turn seems to push any new office building or any building with a senior affordable housing story. They refer to Palo Alto seniors, but that is misleading.

I think Scharff said people should not worry that this could happen to their neighborhood.

If Maybell was any good it should happen to every neighborhood but we know Maybell is SO bad Council has to say it's not happening again, but I don't believe that. It can happen in other ways, it is probably happening now and we'll learn later. As this story points, stuff happens and we may be expected to revolt in more timely manner.

If you are a Palo Alto resident, get informed.

I am opposing D

Posted by registered user, Douglas Moran, a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 15, 2013 at 1:22 pm

When Mayor Scharff said that this (Maybell) can't happen in other neighborhoods, he is wrong.

I was a residential representative on the Technical Advisory Group to the recent revision of the Housing Element to the Comprehensive Plan. One of our tasks was reviewing what Staff considered to be candidate sites for high-density housing (affordable and otherwise). There were multiple such sites within residential neighborhoods, most on the edges but several deep inside those neighborhoods. These sites were typically modest density housing (above R-1), but Staff was considering re-zoning in order to meet the ABAG "goals" for new housing.

One of the ironies is that ABAG is essentially forcing Palo Alto to eliminate some of its most affordable housing (older building that have lower rents) in favor of new buildings where "affordability" can be achieved only with substantial public subsidies. (This observation is hardly new to me -- it has been around for years and now Council member Karen Holman has been a long time advocate of this viewpoint).

Posted by curmudgeon, a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 15, 2013 at 1:23 pm

Measure D is basically about whether Palo Alto will be a community or a commodity.

Posted by and the misleading Advertising, a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 15, 2013 at 1:38 pm

Douglas Moran,

"One of the ironies is that ABAG is essentially forcing Palo Alto to eliminate some of its most affordable housing (older building that have lower rents) in favor of new buildings where "affordability" can be achieved only with substantial public subsidies. (This observation is hardly new to me -- it has been around for years and now Council member Karen Holman has been a long time advocate of this viewpoint)."

Could you please explain this further? From the projects I have heard of, the only public subsides I can see are rezoning.

WOuld you know if there a list of how much affordable housing already exists in Palo Alto, how many residents are seniors, and what the plans ahead are, actual numbers, and how this compares to the other Bay area cities?

Posted by and the misleading Advertising, a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 15, 2013 at 1:39 pm

meant to ask, how many residents in current affordable housing in Palo Alto are seniors.

Posted by Please read, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 15, 2013 at 1:49 pm

If you don't believe that this can happen in other parts of Palo Alto check out this excerpt from an article seen in regard to a proposed development in downtown PA.

This would turn a four-story house into a four-story office and apartment complex.

"Janice Berman who lives across the street from 636 Waverley st., said she's concerned about the building because it is out of character with the neighborhood. "It is too big," Berman said, "Our street is predominately residential. It is not a place where we have high-rise office buildings."

Measure D means you want to supersize the building height and the for profit houses. There can be senior housing at the current zoning that is the historic zoning for the neighborhood if you vote NO on D.

You can see for yourself how this super-sizing will impact the neighborhood.
Go to www.VoteAgainstD.com and see for yourself.

Posted by bobgnote, a resident of Mountain View
on Oct 15, 2013 at 2:09 pm

I wish we could have senior housing, where construction is ongoing, in the Walmart block, north Mtn.View, or on El Camino, where to the south, past Springer Road, an old motel was just demolished. Bus and shopping availability is considerable.

I hope P.A. makes money on the land, since those against D seem prevalent.

Posted by Eileen 1, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 15, 2013 at 2:38 pm

I don't understand why no one is discussing the issue of the impact these two types of development will have on the school district. If the senior citizen housing is built and only 12 houses are built on Maybell and Clemo streets, then potentially there could be school age children in each of the these 12 houses. (I am assuming that it will be impossible for children to live in the senior citizen housing.) If the zoning stays as it currently is, it appears that it would be possible for at least 30 houses to be built on this site, if not more. Can we all agree that these 30 homes will have the possibility of putting many more children into the school system than the 12 homes that will be allowed under the zoning change. My question is where will all of these additional children go to school?

There was recently an article in the Weekly in which our district's Superintendent commented on the challenge of placing the additional children that will come to the area as a result of new housing at Stanford University. There are only a finite number of schools in this city (give or take a few rented schools). Maybe the neighborhood would prefer 30 additional houses to 12 houses and a senior citizen apartment, but where do they anticipate the incoming children will go to school? Why isn't anyone talking about this?

Posted by Vote AGAINST D, a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 15, 2013 at 3:24 pm

@ Eileen 1,
This issue has been discussed.

The biggest impact issue for the school children is the impact of putting a large high-density development where there is currently 4 ranch houses and an orchard. The development has no other ways in and out except via the two (and only) major Safe Routes to School traveled by nearly 4,000 school children every school day, nearly half by bike and foot. One of those routes, Maybell, is seriously substandard in width, with no room for even a single regular bike lane or sidewalk on either side.

Residents in the neighborhood participated in an in-depth safety review, with 6 months of discussions and six-figure upgrade of Maybell within the last 4 or 5 years. Maybell is about is safe as it's going to get, and those neighbors realize it's not safe now, much less with a high-density development on it.

City policy is to subject developments along school commute corridors to "heightened scrutiny" for safety, yet this was never done despite months of calls by neighbors along the way. The traffic study was minimal, included almost no current data, and never examined the impact of the development on the bikes and pedestrians.

It's specious to argue about how much seniors drive or don't drive. We should have had an actual study with current data for such a major development, instead of arguing without any data. The City policy calls for it and we owe it to our children. Even the article above was clearly written by someone who is not familiar with the traffic patterns on Maybell, which change depending on the season, the weather, the school schedule (such as kindergarten) and is NOT limited to two surges a day.

The second impact on the schools that have been brought up but roundly ignored by City Council is the direct impact on the school that sits right across from the development. The part of the school that faces the park and development has a preschool for seriously disabled children, an elementary program for seriously disabled children, and a rehabilitation program for seriously disabled children from around the county, all long-time programs.

The children in these programs use the park daily. There are already parking challenges in that segment of the neighborhood and families in those programs, especially the rehabilitation program. The consequences of building a high-density development that has seriously inadequate parking to the families of the disabled children in those programs have not been addressed. The City Council brushed off all concerns about the symbolism of their allowing a market-rate development of high density, stovepipe homes the disabled could never live in right in the faces of these schools for disabled children, evidence of our City's complete and total disregard for the disabled in new housing development in Palo Alto.

The other thing that has been a topic of hot discussion has been what could go on that site if this development isn't built.

There are many reasons the scenario you envision with 30 units being built there will never happen. But let me cover a few:

1) By virtue of the fact that the City and County basically bought the property with $15million in loans, the loan agreements give the City full power to take over the property. If PAHC wants to sell, the City has first right of refusal. They could take the property, put deed restrictions on it that ensure 6,000 sq ft lots (i.e., around 15 or 16 single-family homes), then resell it at a profit. If they believe the impact of the land use you envision is even possible (many don't) and so negative, they have a duty to exercise their power to prevent it. And they do have full power to prevent it.

2) Anyone who subdivides the property has to comply with the Subdivision Map Act. Unlike the political process where they can shameless cherry pick the comprehensive plan for whatever will help them justify their outcome, the SMA is an evidentiary process that even charter cities have to comply with. When neighbors aren't involved, the City clearly gets away with things such as in the examples they gave Sheyner for this article. But they didn't mention that in the same neighborhood in Greenacres I, the huge Glenbrook extension was built around 10 years ago not with stack and pack, but with compatible lots - some houses even larger than 9,000 sq ft (the houses, the lots are larger). Neighbors had to battle the city in that situation over everything, and the result was they got a compatible development. I can tell you they will continue to be involved at Maybell, because I know there are plans to do so already before even the referendum was qualified.

The scenario you have asked about won't happen because of that alone.

3) Do the math. Talk to some builders. Building 2500 sq ft new homes in this area is a guaranteed sale of $.25-3million in a week. Building 1 bedroom 600 square foot apartments? It costs more to build that many more bathrooms and kitchens, and the returns are way less guaranteed. Remember, if you have to build under existing zoning, there are setback, height, parking, density, square footage, and other restrictions that will make what the City envisions to scare us pretty unlikely. The Mayor himself said in one of the meetings that a 30-foot height restriction (as is on the whole Maybell existing zoning) pretty much limits it to 2 stories. When you put in more units, you have to have internal lanes (with minimum widths) and the homes get smaller and smaller. Note that the houses at Alma Plaza were done under PC zoning and could not be done at Maybell under existing zoning. Unless it is rezoned for high-density.

4) If you are concerned about the impact on the schools, perhaps you will consider supporting one of the many efforts that will proceed after Nov 5 to convert the property to a low-traffic use, such as a community orchard, as would be safest for the kids in the many local schools.

There are some other reasons afoot but this post is already too long.

Bottom line: If Measure D is passed, there will be ongoing battles, and neighbors have very good standing to still prevent the high-density development. If Measure D is rejected (AGAINST wins), the same neighbors who have fought City Hall for the first time in so many years will, I promise you, ensure that the (already extremely improbable) scenario you are worried about will never happen.

Posted by Vote AGAINST D, a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 15, 2013 at 3:30 pm

Oops, typo above: Building 2500 sq ft new homes in this area is a guaranteed sale of $2.5-3million in a week.

Posted by registered user, Douglas Moran, a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 15, 2013 at 4:09 pm

@"and the misleading Advertising"

On subsidies for affordable housing: The subsidies aren't paid directly to the occupants, but are done indirectly by not having the developer pay for various impacts of the project.

Basic economics teaches that hidden payments/subsidies are inefficient:
1. The "money-launderer" often takes a large cut of the payment
2. Because the subsidy is non-transparent, it is not subject to easy evaluation and critiquing, and thus is often mis-priced, either intentionally or innocently.

For example, the primary "public benefit" of Alma Plaza was some affordable housing units (ignoring the huge negative public benefit of removing an neighborhood retail center). To achieve that, the City's rezoning awarded the developer at least a $16M *increase* in the value of the existing property (on a $6M investment).

Posted by registered user, Douglas Moran, a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 15, 2013 at 4:16 pm

@"and the misleading Advertising"
On the lists of affordable units: I don't know--I exhausted myself trying to get credible info and leave that frustration to others.

On who occupies current units: My experience with Palo Alto Housing Corp is that they don't bother much with getting this info about their occupants or their waiting list (no experience with the other managers of affordable housing). Either that, or they are unwilling to provide that info to official groups (such as the TAG I mentioned above). And this doesn't seem to bother City Staff (or Council).

Posted by I am voting yes., a resident of Midtown
on Oct 15, 2013 at 4:22 pm

So what is your experience, Doug, with PAHC? Do you think they should be giving out that info to people like you? So which is it-- they don't get the info or they won't give it to you? And we all know why alma plaza ended up the way it did.
I am voting yes on D-- thanks Doug and bob.

Posted by Vote AGAINST D, a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 15, 2013 at 4:36 pm

Per my above comment: "Anyone who subdivides the property has to comply with the Subdivision Map Act. Unlike the political process where they can shameless cherry pick the comprehensive plan for whatever will help them justify their outcome, the SMA is an evidentiary process that even charter cities have to comply with."

Regardless of the outcome of Measure D, it will be subdivided, I would like to encourage everyone who is concerned about overdevelopment there and in all residential neighborhoods in Palo Alto to send an email to the Planning Department and ask to be given notice of any and all proceedings under the Subdivision Map Act for the Maybell parcel. Then come and participate. It will help you understand how to protect your own neighborhood against these Stack and Pack houses that have become the new norm for residential development in Palo Alto.

Posted by and the misleading Advertising, a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 15, 2013 at 4:37 pm

I am,

What happened at Alma Plaza, related to a list of the affordable housing in Palo Alto, and why is that the reason you are voting yes?

By the way, I was not referring to personal information obviously.

Lists as in data.

If you are in the know, would you have a link to data?


Do you have data?

Posted by I am voting yes., a resident of Midtown
on Oct 15, 2013 at 4:41 pm

And the misleading--- read Moran's postings above.
Doug Moran and bob moss are my reasons for voting yes.lus I think the maybell plan is a good one.

Posted by Vote AGAINST D, a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 15, 2013 at 5:11 pm

I think this town is incredibly lucky to have residents like Doug and Bob who are willing to stand up for things like sane planning and quality of life, and who spend so much of their time to be civically involved in ways the rest of us can't or don't.

Thank you Bob and Doug, for taking the slings and arrows and still sticking up for what's right. We appreciate you out here.

Posted by Please no rezoning, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 15, 2013 at 5:39 pm

Here is exactly why we need the dedication of people like Bob and Doug. They are bringing up issues and making us think before we blindly vote or blindly follow the staff recommendations. The City Manager says it all, "The findings in the staff reports tend to support the particular staff recommendation rather than represent all views, he said." See below:

From July 19th Weekly article:

"The job of the council, Scharff said, is to weigh these conflicts and make a judgment. But the conflict that Scharff mentions won't be found in the staff report. When planners list 19 reasons for why the project is consistent with the Comprehensive Plan and zero reasons why it isn't, it's easy to see why legions of residents in Barron Park, Green Acres, Downtown North and other parts of the city feel like developers are in charge while the neighborhoods are being ignored.

When asked about the omissions in the recent staff reports, City Manager James Keene emphasized the limitations of these reports, which he said neither attempt nor intend to represent all views and tensions inherent in a project. The city assumes, even without explicitly mentioning these policies, "that so much has happened in public discussion and public process that it's really clear what those (tensions) are," he told the Weekly. The findings in the staff reports tend to support the particular staff recommendation rather than represent all views, he said."

VoteAgainstD.com for more information

Posted by Vote Against D, a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 15, 2013 at 5:57 pm

I agree. Thank you Doug and Bob for all your mighty work. Palo Alto and area is supposed to have one of the largest concentrations of Ph.D's in the country. Why can't this translate into the common sense intelligence to see through the guise of the developers and the profit-seekers who don't care if they wreck havoc on our neighborhoods?? "Keep our families together"!!! Oh please, give me a break. Use your common sense intelligence to see through this slogan, please.

Posted by I am voting yes, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 15, 2013 at 6:04 pm

Vote against D-- perhaps you guys should stick to facts and not insult the I telling ce of those that exercised the right to vote on D as they desire. Claiming that supporters do not have common sense for voting for D is another of the scurrilous attacks used by the anti-D people. We already have had you attacking the character of the PAHC board and the LWV.
You provide perfect reasons to vote for D

Posted by R Evans, a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 15, 2013 at 6:06 pm

Gennady mentions several early, non-controversial community meetings about the project apparently attended by a handful of "community members", implying that the community supported the project. Although I live in Barron Square on Thain Way, which is very close to the proposed high density rezoning project and travel by the site on Maybell either by bicycle or car at least 5 days a week, I received no notice until Jen Fryling came to Thain Way the weekend before the April meeting at Arastradero Park and told us about the planned project. We spread the word and that April meeting was really the first where the real neighborhood was present.

Notice that the project is next to Arastradero Park Apts (owned by PAHC) on one side and by Briones park on the other. Possibly the notice, if any was provided, was only given to one or two actual residents because only immediately adjacent property owners were notified?

What ever the actual circumstances, it is undisputed that no adequate notice was provided to the surrounding community and that we had to inform ourselves after

I am used to seeing postings saying "Rezoning Applied For, inquire at City Hall" or the like before any rezoning change is considered. This property has NEVER had such a posting.

While Tim Grey's comment about a "backroom deal" may have angered Mr. Scharf, it is exactly what all of us felt in April when we first were informed about this huge project which the city had already endorsed by providing huge loans.

To point to the language in the loan documents that gives the city a way out, is simply good lawyering of the loan agreement and does not imply that this was not a deal which was "as good as done" at the time the loan was approved.

It also goes without saying that the city was not at all concerned that high density rezoning and development fees to be extracted from the developers of the excessive number of market rate units which are proposed to cover 60% of the site were required to meet the project financial requirements.

Posted by Ken / Barron Park Resident, a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 15, 2013 at 6:14 pm

This project is a terrible thing for Baron Park; residents of other parts of Palo Alto need to reject it as well both due to just how offensive and inappropriate it is and for what it boads in the future for other parts of Palo Alto. This is in the middle of a community, not commercial land -- so using PC to give the developers a windfall is obscene.

BE CLEAR. THIS IS NOT ABOUT SENIOR HOUSING, this is profits to developers from a city council mostly in cahoots with the builders. Really, downright sleazy . . . the council, but for the two dissenting members, needs to be replaced in the next election. They have displayed amazing arrogance and complete disrespect for the community.

Posted by I am voting yes, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 15, 2013 at 6:26 pm

Ken-- start a recall campaign for the council. Perhaps Doug and bob can spearhead it.

Posted by and the misleading Advertising, a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 15, 2013 at 7:26 pm

I am voting yes (because of Bob and Doug?),

This is apparently getting ugly fast, and maybe the Editor will moderate your one liner personal attacks on "Bob and Doug."

Whatever your personal issues with Bob and Doug, I guess you have no answers about data on affordable housing in Palo Alto.

How can it be that there is no data???

No, I do not want to decipher the PAHC website and count zip codes, and then walk around town asking what is and what is not.

I want pie charts, bar charts, audits, that kind of thing so that whenever I am asked to vote on issues of affordable housing and senior housing, I am informed year after year. There is an affordable housing project every day it seems.

What's the plan? 25% of new building will be affordable housing, 30%, 50%? LOL that so much would be made "affordable", when the rest of us are paying through the nose to live here!

I'm impressed (distressed?) that you can vote on something based on Bob and Doug,

I want data please.

Posted by in default, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 15, 2013 at 7:34 pm

Vote "NO"
The Federal govt is threatening "default". Our City Council is in "default".
The Council has not met its obligations to the residents to protect the
quality of life, the character of the city, the aesthetic values,the safety of the streets, the zoning. Instead, the Council and staff have served
the developers and their own interests. If "D" passes the champagne will be
poured at their election eve parties and they will see this as a "green
light" to keep it going. Just think of the consequences if "D" passes.
Don't let this become a Halloween horror story because if "D" passes that's
what it will be.

Posted by I am voting yes, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 15, 2013 at 7:37 pm

And the misleading...- no personal attack on Doug and bob-- just stating my reason for voting yes on D. If you want ugly check out vote against D's comments regarding common sense. Or check out the other threads with derogatory comments about the PAHC board or lens comments about the council being sleazy.
Whether you are impressed by how I vote is none of your business. I do not need to justify my decision to you or anyone else. If you cannot accept my decision, then move on and stop harassing me about it.

Posted by SL, a resident of Community Center
on Oct 15, 2013 at 8:26 pm

I'm also voting yes.We have the right to vote our consciences. Most of us analyze the data. Some don't. However, I reserve the right to vote for what I believe is right. I don't criticize others for their views...I don't understand why mine (Yes on D) requires anyone's judgment but my own.

Posted by parent, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Oct 15, 2013 at 8:39 pm

We should all vote for Measure D. It helps the Department of Housing and Community Development's target for the Bay Area. Like it or not, higher density living is here to stay.

Posted by and the misleading Advertising, a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 15, 2013 at 9:20 pm

I am voting,

Please don't confuse my need to be informed with anything else. I do not personally know any of the people (on any side), they could be anyone, the affairs of the City should be everyone's, who live here.

If the idea is to not be informed about what's behind all the big letters, PC, PAHC, D what is the point of the thread.

What is measure D really all about? Nothing anyone needs to know?

I've had the posts saying I don't have a heart for asking questions, which I happen to think are important because I have one.

At this point I expect some thug to take me down because I ask questions, what is going on?

I'm with the seniors, I will oppose D.

Posted by Vote AGAINST D, a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 15, 2013 at 9:33 pm

"Like it or not, higher density living is here to stay."
The it-can't-be-helped argument is a fallacy. PAHC and the City never made any attempt together to locate a better site for density, as many sites have come up along El Camino for instance - in fact, a large senior center going up just across El Camino from this very neighborhood (that residents did not oppose because it's on El Camino).

Concentrating affordable housing developments in one place -- as this is next door to an existing affordable housing development -- is actually against HUD policy because of decades of research about what works and what doesn't. It's bad for the residents themselves and the cause of affordable housing to concentrate it, it's better spread out in a community. That's all out the door, though, because of the chance to get a discount at the neighborhood's expense. Please don't fall for it.

If Measure D is voted down, PAHC will be free to move on the next day to fulfill their mission, with some important lessons learned. At 801 Alma, the builder agreed to work within the existing zoning, and regardless of how one feels about the architectural design, they did get it done. PAHC could have done the same. If PAHC built within the existing zoning at Maybell, it would mean only 19 units less, and frankly that's more than made up by the 20 senior units at Moldaw that they are finally getting filled after 3 years of them being empty, as a result of this controversy putting a spotlight on it. Between us, if PAHC simply came back with a more reasonable PC zone that was closer to existing zoning with 60 units, the neighbors would be okay with that, too. That's assuming they also do the safety analysis and work out how to ensure the kids aren't negatively impacted.

You can get the housing without having to push a bad plan on someone else's neighborhood. Maybe that doesn't bother you, but I think we should be having this discussion of whether we want Palo Alto Manhattanized or not outside of whether to plop high-density developments in the middle of residential neighborhoods without doing any of the safety analysis City policy normally calls for.

Plus, if Measure D passes, it isn't really going to provide the housing, because the neighbors planned to fight the development assuming they might not win D since they are so outgunned. But it was the next step. If Measure D is rejected by voters, that's actually the opportunity to move on to rebuilding relationships and moving forward in a more positive way the next day. If Measure D passes, it will only lead to more battles, not the housing you say you want.

Please vote Against D.

Posted by registered user, Marie, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 15, 2013 at 10:41 pm

No on D

I am a senior who has lived in Palo Alto since 1989. When, if ever, I move from my small home in Palo Alto, it will be someplace that will allow me to age in place, and provide services I can no longer provide for myself. It will not be to a 650 sq. ft. one bedroom senior apartment with no services and inadequate parking, even though I probably would qualify. This development makes no sense.

Posted by member, a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 15, 2013 at 11:06 pm

It's hard to believe anyone from Greenmeadow is voting yes on Measure D. What is it ok for higher density in other Palo Alto communities but not in Greenmeadow which has an ordinance allowing only one story?

Posted by Vote AGAINST D, a resident of Greater Miranda
on Oct 16, 2013 at 12:16 am

There is definitely a huge element of City power against the residents in the Maybell situation. City Council didn't expect the residents to referend, and the deck is so stacked against residents when they do, City Council is still waiting for confirmation on Nov 5 of their ability to do what they want for developers without regard to even major public opposition. If AGAINST Measure D wins the day for the neighborhood, it will definitely send a huge message to the City Council that the era of ignoring the residents because residents can't do anything about it is over. By contrast, if Measure D gets approved by voters, the City Council knows it can always stack the deck despite enormous opposition and continue to do whatever it wants without any checks and balances.

Even when neighbors referend, the City Attorney gets to write the ballot analysis and ballot question, which I believe is the reason the neighbors lost in the High Street referendum, 10 years ago. The question is structured identically: Shall we rezone from X (a dry designation not described) to Y, for this REALLY GREAT stuff you get with Y? Yes?!

In the Maybell ballot, the City Attorney wrote a blatant and leading attempt to ask people "Are you in favor of senior housing or not?" or more to the point, "Do you want senior affordable housing or not" (no costs or consequences alluded to, so, basically, FREE!), rather than whether a neighborhood should be upzoned with 3-8 times the allowed density by a development that is almost twice the allowed height and seriously underparked, and whether the for-profit market-rate portion with huge developer giveaways - which takes up more than half the property and you would never know it by what the City Attorney wrote - should be allowed to also so seriously violate existing zoning so that the City and PAHC can get the rest of the housing at fire sale prices?

Someone on the City Council made it clear to Bob Moss early on that the City would try to make this about a choice between senior housing or not, and if they succeeded, the neighborhood would lose. Which essentially admits the City Council has this game rigged and knows it.

The ballot question even mislabeled RM-15 as multifamily residential, when the City Code actually defines it as "low density" multifamily residential - neighbors pointed out the omission both directly and through an attorney (see the bias letter Web Link), but the City Attorney refused to change even something so clearly wrong and intended to create bias toward the City's desired outcome in the election.

When people talk about what the Maybell vote represents, I think the biggest overarching issue is Palo Alto Citizen Power. If AGAINST wins, the next time City Council faces historic levels of citizen opposition to a decision, they will know they have to sit up and listen, maybe even (shudder) work with residents rather than treating the democratic process like an annoying perfunctory show.

In the midst of the debates leading up to the City Council vote, some of the same neighbors who are AGAINST Measure D spoke about years ago participating in the Terman Working Group, which ended up saving the Terman School site from being sold off back then, AND giving us the Terman Apartments with 92 units of family and senior affordable housing. They asked the City Council to let us do something like that again at Maybell. Despite the NIMBY-card being used to bludgeon neighbors in this debate, this really is a very conscientious neighborhood of people who care about affordable housing - but they wanted to work things out in a way that respected all parties, especially the safety of school children (a serious concern at that site that has been essentially belittled and glossed over by the City and PAHC in this debate). If the City Council knows it HAS to work with residents in the future because residents will otherwise have the power to reject bad decisions, they are more likely to take the neighbors up on calls to work things out like they did here.

Since Measure D is the first time residents have risen up and challenged a City Council decision in over 10 years, and since they narrowly lost the last time (with a ballot identically biased by the City Attorney as here), there really is far more at stake for Palo Alto citizens in this election than most realize.

Please Vote AGAINST D.

Posted by registered user, Douglas Moran, a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 16, 2013 at 2:06 am

Additional note on the traffic study:
The company that did this, Hexagon Transportation Consultants, also produced the traffic study for the California Avenue area that stated "there are no pending projects or planned projects in the foreseeable future. Therefore, traffic volumes on California Avenue between El Camino and Park Boulevard will remain unchanged with the current land uses." This despite the approved and pending projects and the area having been designated by the City as a "Priority Development Area".

Posted by Wayne Martin, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Oct 16, 2013 at 9:29 am

I can remember when someone sent around a link to a Google/Earth picture of a small, undeveloped bit of land on Maybell Avenue, somewhere in Barron Park, alerting Palo Altans to the possibility that this parcel of land might be rezoned so that a large, multi-family development could be built in this single-family neighborhood. That was easily a year ago. Today, the Post ran its second set of GOs on the upcoming Ballot item: Measure D. This Maybell rezoning clearly has implications that are more than site-specific, but citywide, and possibly even regional.

Today’s Post GOs were authored by local Attorney Richard Alexander, and local business woman, Barbara Gross. Alexander argues the NO side, while Gross argues the YES side of this rezoning question.

Alexander starts off by introducing the concept of “spot zoning”, which he declares to be “illegal”. He then goes on to make the claim that Palo Alto’s PC zoning is just “spot zoning” in another name. Moreover, he reminds us (one more time) how the Palo Alto City Council has been “played” by developers for years—agreeing to zoning variances that result in large projects benefiting the developers, while offering nothing of substance in terms of “public benefits” to the City. Miki's, 801 Alma and the housing project that replaced Rickey’s Hyatt are offered as examples of the inability of the Council to actually negotiate meaningful public benefits for these variances.

I had not heard of “spot zoning”, so thought it would be a good thing to look up the term—

California Planning Guide--Spot Zoning:
Web Link

The zoning of an isolated parcel in a manner which is inconsistent or incompatible with surrounding zoning or land uses, particularly if done to favor a particular landowner. A conditional use permit is not a spot zone.

A more complicated legal definition appears from land use law—

Spot Zoning
Web Link

According to the court, "the essence of spot zoning is irrational discrimination." Quoting at length from Arcadia Development Co. v. City of Morgan Hill, 197 Cal. App. 4th 1526 (2011), the court continued: "Spot zoning occurs where a small parcel is restricted and given lesser rights than the surrounding property, as where a lot in the center of a business or commercial district is limited to uses for residential purposes thereby creating an 'island' in the middle of a larger area devoted to other uses. . . . Usually spot zoning involves a small parcel of land, the larger the property the more difficult it is to sustain an allegation of spot zoning. . . . Likewise, where the 'spot' is not an island but is connected on some sides to a like zone the allegation of spot zoning is more difficult to establish since lines must be drawn at some point. . . . Even where a small island is created in the midst of less restrictive zoning, the zoning may be upheld where rational reason in the public benefit exists for such a classification." Rejecting the City's proffered justification for the treatment of the subject parcel, the court determined that there was "no question" that the plaintiff's property "is a one-house-per-20 acre island in two-to-six-house-per-acre sea", noted that even after the proposed subdivision the property "would be less dense than everything that surrounds it" and upheld the trial court's ruling on the writ of mandate.

Other Google search results offer up this example of illegal “spot zoning”:

Judge rules illegal spot zoning in North Tustin case:
Web Link

A judge has decided the Orange County Board of Supervisors used illegal spot zoning practices for a proposed senior living community in North Tustin that has been the subject of debate for three years

Judge Gail Andler ruled that the zone change from single family residential to senior residential housing is illegal spot zoning, and that the county will have to cancel its approval of the Springs at Bethsaida development.


The folks who have been trying to protect their neighborhoods should look into the possibility that the Maybell rezoning is really a “spot zoning”, and illegal, as Attorney Alexander suggests.

Perhaps there might be a way to use the notion of “illegal spot zoning” to get rid of PC zoning, too.

Posted by sunshine, a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 16, 2013 at 9:35 am

I have questions that still have not been answered:
1. Is Maybell to be "continuing care" or will residents be evicted if they become physically or mentally disabled?
2. Who will be eligible for this housing? It is promoted as affordable housing for PA seniors, yet no mention has been made that residency will be restricted to current PA residents. Will it be open to the entire county? If so, why here and not further south or east where land is cheaper?
3. What about Avant? PA seniors could live here if the city insisted on a certain number of low income units. It is about 0.5 mile from Maybell, on El Camino.
4. What happens if a resident has to go to the hospital and needs some extra care for recovery? Is that available.
5. Will residents be expected to cook all their own meals or is there a dining commons on site?
6. Will utilities be included in the rent?
7. Why is parking so limited? There needs to be sufficient parking on site for all residents of both senior and single family residences and all their visitors. No overflow parking in the neighborhood.
If this is not good continuing care with well landscaped grounds that meets all parking needs of the site on site, it is unacceptable and is a cruel hoax on low income seniors. I urge your NO vote on D.

Posted by pavoter, a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 16, 2013 at 9:51 am

@parent: Your comment "We should all vote for Measure D. It helps the Department of Housing and Community Development's target for the Bay Area. Like it or not, higher density living is here to stay."

I had to laugh because you say you are from Greenmeadow! But there is an ordinance in the neighborhood which does not allow a second story much less stack and pack. You seem to be unaware of this, I wonder why.

So, the State dictates this? If so, why are Yes on D folks (icluding our Mayor) characterizing this as solely about senior housing, and senior housing for needy Palo Altans. The facts are senior housing could be built there under existing zoning, so it is really about Upzoning by our city willy-nilly. And, senior housing cannot be restricted to Palo Altans.

This spin by the Yes on D folks will backfire because it is easy to see through this.

Vote no!

Posted by Vote AGAINST D, a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 16, 2013 at 10:03 am

@ Sunshine,
These are all good questions, many of which have been asked by neighbors along the way, so looking at previous comment sections for Measure D and Maybell stories, as well as even watching the video of the City Council mtgs could help answer.

Maybell is not a senior center, it is just apartments restricted to seniors, so yes, when they need care, they would have to move. There are no on-site dining services at all, which is one of the reasons neighbors were so upset that there is such inadequate parking and the excuse was comparisons to properties that have on-site dining and nearby amenities like grocery across the street. (The "shuttle" described in the ballot won't have a driver, it's just a shared van that residents can take, according to Candace Gonzales, unless that has changed, but I see no evidence of that expenditure for a driver in their application - not sure whether having untrained seniors in a large van actually makes the children safer on substandard Maybell.)

They cannot legally restrict the waiting list to Palo Alto residents, and if history is any guide, the waiting list will comprise mostly people from outside Palo Alto.

Those making 30-60% of Area Median Income will be eligible. There is a set number of spots for 30%, 45% and 60%, it's a calculation so they can make it work financially. There doesn't seem to have been any marketing survey to see if there is a need for apartments in that income range in Palo Alto, and the justification they keep making is that there are seniors living below the poverty limit, even though not one single person living below the poverty limit will be served by that income range restriction. I thought THAT was cruel, to get up the hopes of people living in poverty who will not be eligible to live there.

You bring up a good question about looking at it regionally, since land is cheaper close enough to be accessible to Palo Alto and more housing could be provided. Additionally, in their funding application for state and federal funds, PAHC is in competition with projects from those cheaper communities, so they are literally taking money away from low income people who would otherwise be housed in order to put this expensive project in at Maybell. Even if they weren't in competition with others (doubtful, they said one in five chance), if they didn't take the money, it rolls over to the next round, so any way you look at it, they are making extremely bad use of public funds to create expensive housing for an unclear need, in a place that isn't so great for those with limited resources in other ways.

Residents asked if there would be underground parking to make up for the limited spots, and PAHC said it would cost too much. The parking is so limited because more than half the property is going to the market-rate housing, and they are putting in almost 60 units per acre.

I agree -- why can't we offer subsidies like at Avant which is a new senior center. It's probably cheaper and giving people choices usually works better, and makes the program more flexible. A subsidy program would also allow us to cover as much need of actual Palo Alto residents as possible.

Posted by bad use of public funds, a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 16, 2013 at 11:25 am

I am now changing my handle to "bad use of public funds"

Vote against D,

"they are making extremely bad use of public funds to create expensive housing for an unclear need, in a place that isn't so great for those with limited resources in other ways. "

Your quote summarizes the situation for me.

1. Making extremely bad use of public funding:

If PAHC is competing with other non-profits to build senior housing, it appears the competition is for public money available to serve seniors, but not necessarily to serve as many seniors as possible, in the best possible way. That to me is an extremely bad use of public funding.

2. Creating expensive housing for an unclear need.

A letter to the editor to the Post starts by saying there is a "desperate" need for senior housing in Palo Alto.

There is a "desperate" need for housing in general, using "seniors" is just a ploy to pull at heart strings to fudge over the fact that many more seniors are not being served by these "deals."

3. A place that isn't so great for those with limited resources

It won''t even be for people with really limited resources. It's a terrible place for a senior, unless they have a car (s), and a ton of money to live there. It may serve the seniors who are in their early 60's, with extended family living with them. So you could have more cars, and more needs. A real senior facility would not allow non-seniors.

I am shocked to hear that PAHC is competing with other regional organizations like themselves instead of their working together to provide real solutions.

Where is the investigative reporter out there who can explain how this works?

Vote NO on D until we have answers.

Vote NO on D.

Posted by bad use of public funds, a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 16, 2013 at 11:35 am

"I am now changing my handle to "bad use of public funds""

my previous handle was "and about misleading advertising"

I think Measure D is about both - misleading advertising and bad use of public funds

I will oppose D.

Posted by Midtown Resident, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 16, 2013 at 11:45 am

@"I am voting yes"

Do tell us why you think Alma Plaza ended up as it did - with houses packed like sardines in a can and with the public benefits of a "community center", a small room on top of Mikis which has no setback and a "park" which is the size of a large carpet. I attended the city council meetings a very large percentage of the attendees objected to the development. The fact that folks objected to a super-size supermarket doesn't make the current development OK.

Now the nice open feeling in that neighborhood is gone and so is the evening sunlight for the neighbors. I remodeled my house recently and the city charged me ridiculously high fees and I had to follow every setback and daylight plane rules and I was happy to, because I know it keeps the neighborhood pleasant and does not infringe on my neighbors' right to light and space.

Instead of rezoning to subsidize housing and ruining the quality of life of the neighbors, add a parcel tax that everyone has to pay. That will be a fair way of subsidizing housing instead of selling palo alto piecemeal to the developers. If this continues, Palo alto will eventually be a mess of high-rise and high-density housing destroying the suburban character of the city.

Posted by Midtown Resident, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 16, 2013 at 12:20 pm

From the Merck

"According to campaign finance statements filed this week, Palo Altans for Affordable Senior Housing has amassed roughly $104,300 to pass Measure D. Meanwhile, Palo Altans to Preserve Neighborhood Zoning has collected less than $8,175.

Palo Alto Housing was the biggest contributor to the "Yes on Measure D" campaign. Statements show that the nonprofit provided $50,000 in cash and expects to donate $44,000 in "employee time and expenses" through Nov. 4, the day before the election"

I wonder how it can be legal for PAHC which has taken $7.3 million from taxes I paid, to canvass for itself.

I would also like to know where the rest of the $104K came from. Anyone know how to find out? I suspect it is from devlopers who want D to pass and set a precedent.

The fact that there is big money behind D should be a red flag to people who think this is about senior housing.

Posted by Neighbor, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Oct 16, 2013 at 12:45 pm

I will be voting against Measure D. I was amazed to read a letter from Art Lieberman who points out that there are still many low income senior housing units at the JCC which sit empty. His argument, of course, is why are we building more low income senior housing units if we can't fill the ones we already have.

Posted by Senior, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Oct 16, 2013 at 2:30 pm

I don't understand how the yes on D folks (and even the city council and attorney) keep restating the mantra that this is about having senior housing or not. That is not the issue at all. A no vote on D to protect neighborhood zoning does not have anything to do with senior housing which is a completely separate issue.

I am voting No on D to protect further abuses of favors to developers at the expense of resident taxpayers.

Posted by Fan of Transparent Governance, a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 16, 2013 at 3:00 pm

The city council ran this review process in a very opaque, conflicted, and biased fashion; from

1. the initial investment of city dollars into the project prior to any approval,
2. attesting under penalty of perjury to the state that the zoning was in place before a vote had even occurred
3. putting forth biased ballot language once the project was referended
4. Spending extra tax dollars to give PAHC the election at the time of PAHC's choosing, despite PAHC's dismissive behavior toward the neighborhood that caused the referendum in the first place
5. Continued insistence on deceptive interpretations of current zoning laws to justify the city's argument that "upzoning actually means less crowding/traffic/etc"

Despite a tidal wave of referendum signatures in such a short time, our council still seems to think it knows what its citizens want better than they themselves do.

This is an easy NO vote for me and my husband.

Posted by Wayne Martin, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Oct 16, 2013 at 3:21 pm

> I wonder how it can be legal for PAHC which has taken $7.3
> million from taxes I paid, to canvass for itself.

As a point of order, this is not true. The loans from the City would not be used for this sort of activity. The PAHC has a consider portfolio of property, worth nominally between $200M and $300M. The rents from the current properties likely bring in over $7M a year. While the PAHC no doubt pays its bills with this money, it's hard to believe that it has no money in the bank be because it is a "non-profit".

One point that does need to be made about these loans, however, is that there are provisions in the contracts for a "loan forgiveness". The City's 2012 CAFR (Comprehensive Annual Financial Report) shows that about half of the total value of its outstanding loan portfolio has been potentially written off through "loan forgiveness". So, it's possible that the PAHC might not repay all of the $7.3M in loans it received for the Maybell Project.

The City's involvement with the various "non-profits" is murky enough that it would pay to have a full audit of these activities. Sadly, we can't seem to keep an Auditor for more than a few months.

Posted by pavoter, a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 16, 2013 at 4:33 pm

It is interesting to note that this could not happen to the Greenmeadow neighborhood. Greenmeadow will not have to face stack and pack projects. Greenmeadow put in the one story ordinance because they wanted to preserve the character of their neighborhoods, ensure privacy, and also sunlight.

That's what zoning is there for, but the city council is flaunting the zoning ordinances by upzoning at will with the Maybell project. (When we renovated our house, there were notices sent out to many neighbors, and a sign posted in the front yard well before our project was approved. That's not what happened at Maybell.)

Are all the Greenmeadow neighbors NIMBY's too? If you believe that, then all R-1 Zoning is for bad, stingy people. What a lot of nonsense coming from the yes on D.

This is very much about zoning regulations and not allowing the city to vaunt zoning laws. If the yes on D prevail, then zoning is at the mercy of the city.

Vote no!

Posted by VOTE YES, a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 16, 2013 at 4:39 pm

What nonsense. You've bought into the argument that this will cause massive developments everywhere. This is unique site. It is an undeveloped area next to large development, apartments and park. If Greenmeadows had a similar site, yes it would be applicable. Since they don't have such a site, it is not an issue.
You're trying really hard to find a reason to vote no when the simple answer when you consider the real issues is to VOTE YES.

Posted by Vote AGAINST D, a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 16, 2013 at 5:44 pm

@vote y,
This is NOT different. You are spinning the Tan Apartment situation again as if it entitles you to upzone beyond all reason. The EXISTING RM-15 low density multifamily zoning is a transitional zone that is that designation because of the apartments. That zone allows 8-15 units per acre and is supposed to serve as a transition zone to the surrounding R-1 singe family residential area, which is the dominant land use.

The proposed high-density development is the equivalent of RM-60, a high density urban designation that doesnt even exist in Palo Alto code, and the proposed development doesnt even comply with that zone's parking requirements.

The EXISTING zoning is only RM-15 because of the Tan. The EXISTING zoning is what it should be with those things there! In fact, when the Tan became part of Palo Alto, which was zoned under county rules and brought into Palo Alto when BP was annexed, the RM-15was actually RM-1, but at some point the City just upzoned all RM-1 to RM-15 all at once.

If you look in the comprehensive plan, it actually says RM-15 is supposed to be on the low end of the range next to single family residential neighborhoods, which this is, i.e. it's supposed to be only 8 units per acre. This development main building has 7-8 times the density for its zoning. RM15 is the correct zoning given the apartments, and given that the DOMINANT LAND USE of the whole area is R-1 single family residential.

But seeing how you and the City have blatantly tried to misuse those historic exceptions to try to excuse violating the neighborhood zoning, it's another reason those of us who live here implore our neighbors in Palo Alto to make the City respect the zoning code and VOTE AGAINST D! Because if they then build this even higher density property into the residential neighborhood (at least the existing apartments are on Arastradero), we will have no protection at all from further densification, our neighborhood character and quality of life over here is toast.

The City Attorney trying to misportray the zoning and area land use to justify spot zoning for such dense building in a residential neighborhood is one of the slimiest thing about the biased "analysis" she wrote. You can read about it from the neighborhood perspective here : Web Link

Another thing the City attorney conveniently left out was what this ordinance was going to cost taxpayers. Do you see a cost analysis? No mention at all of the major consequences or costs, but it does mention an electric car charging station. When we asked her why, she said she only had so much space. Clearly misleading the electorate about the area's zoning and getting people excited about a charging station (something else for free!) were more important than letting the voters know the consequences and costs of enacting the ordinance. Shameful.

This is yet another reason to vote against D.

Posted by Midtown Resident, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 16, 2013 at 6:37 pm

@ "vote against D"

Thanks for the link showing the biased language of the ballot. I'm flabbergasted by the lack of ethics shown by the city attorney. This is a serious corruption of democracy, nothing less.

Folks who want to vote Yes on D, doesn't this give you an inkling as to the trustworthiness of the people pushing measure D?

Posted by pavoter, a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 16, 2013 at 6:43 pm

@Vote yes: You assert that if Greenmeadows had a similar site, then the city could build the same type of project as at Maybell.

No, they can't, because Greenmeadows has an additional overlay ordinance which restricts the neighborhood to one story. Greenmeadows did this in response to very large, new, two story homes that were being built and they put a stop to it.

Greenmeadows did that to preserve the character of their neighborhood which is what R-1 zoning should do.

R-1 zoning should be upheld by the city, but if the city wants to upzone, the city should give proper notice to the neighborhood, which was lacking at Maybell.

Furthermore, the four R-1 compatible homes that are on Maybell (which are zones R-2 because they are considered transitional, but they still meet R-1) are slated to be demolished and replaced with stack and pack.

You cannot stack and pack in Greenmeadows.

And as for massive development, yes, they are going on all around us here in south Palo Alto. Granted some of these near us are actually located in Mountain View and Los Altos, but these are huge apartment buildings being built at Rancho San Antonio Shopping Center (why wasn't this considered as a more appropriate location with services for seniors?), the former garden store across from it on El Camino, the huge site next to Lozano's, another huge site at Palo Alto Bowl, and across the way another huge site at the former car rental agency, all on El Camino near Arastradero.

Vote No!

Posted by VOTE YES, a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 16, 2013 at 7:25 pm

You have to try really hard to find a reason to vote no. That's because YES ON D have made their case.
Find an undeveloped piece of land next to a 100 foot apartement building, next to another apartment complex and opposite a park in Greenmeadows and it would be candidate for development regardless of overlay. There is no better place for this development in the entire city than the proposed site.
Keep inventing non existent comparisons, it just emphasizes the strength of the YES arguments.
Latest polls show 2 to 1 for the measure!

Posted by Please no rezoning, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 16, 2013 at 7:36 pm

Who is conducting the polls? Everyone I have spoken to across town is voting Against Measure D.

Do you want to see why: www.VoteAgainstD.com

Posted by VOTE YES, a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 16, 2013 at 7:44 pm

They polls are independent. Unlike your "everyone I have spoken topostage net the number of "vote yes on D" yard signs should have told you that. Yet another example of trying too hard to make your argument, it just makes your case weaker.

Posted by pavoter, a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 16, 2013 at 7:51 pm

@yes -- You say: "Find an undeveloped piece of land next to a 100 foot apartement building, next to another apartment complex and opposite a park in Greenmeadows and it would be candidate for development regardless of overlay."

No, you can't. That's the point: Greenmeadows added an extra layer of protection to over-development by the adding an overlay protection to their neighborhood.

The "yes" side doesn't stick with the facts. (Unless you mean that the city will ignore zoning regulations and steam-roll over an overlay like that.) But currently, Greenmeadows is safe from stack and pack.

If this is only about senior housing, why wouldn't senior housing be better served in all the massive development going up on El Camino, especially at San Antonio Shopping Center?

Posted by Vote AGAINST D, a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 16, 2013 at 8:23 pm

Actually, as much as proponents of rezoning have tried to negatively portray the orchard in order to keep people who care about trees and nature and open space from coming to the aide of those who would like to preserve that location as open space/parkland, it is the last piece of heritage orchard in Palo Alto.

Every other community around us has preserved some piece of orchard or our agricultural past. There are grants at the state and federal level for that. The piece of property sits across the street from an existing park, facing the hills. There are over 100 established trees and 12 giant, 100-year-old oaks (2 of which will come down for this development - isn't it convenient that the 2 in the "worst" shape are the ones they most need to take down for the development?)

It's a bad place to put a high-density development because it's in the middle of a residential neighborhood. It's a bad place to put a high-density development because it sits at a bottleneck for traffic for the neighborhood and along the Safe Routes to School for 4 major schools that are already overcrowded and not very safe. It's a bad place to put a high-density development because it's currently zoned LOW DENSITY, and it is the psychological heart of the neighborhood across from Juana Briones School and Park. It is a BAD PLACE to put high-density market-rate stovepipe homes across from 3 schools for severely disabled children who could never live in such homes, reminding them that Palo Alto doesn't even consider the disabled in its diversity goals in the housing element, and is building as fast as it can while shutting them out. It is a bad place to put a high-density development with inadequate parking with no provision to protect the park and schools from the overflow parking.

Frankly, the fact that it is "undeveloped" is the very reason a high-density development shouldn't go there. It should go somewhere on a corridor like El Camino where the code says a high-density development is appropriate. The senior center across El Camino from the neighborhood is putting in a large new building right as we speak - Huh. Was that the second to the last "undeveloped" piece of property so that's why they got to build there? Or maybe they bought a dilapidated property and tore it down, like everyone else does, what do you think? How many new buildings do you see going up on El Camino right now? And guess what, there's an empty lot on El Camino right in the neighborhood...

Frankly, they went after that parcel because they wanted it, as admitted by Candace Gonzales who said they had been eyeing it for years. But the City and County put up $15 million in PUBLIC MONEY to buy it, shouldn't the public have been given some consideration in deciding its best land use before it was all written in stone?

In this neighborhood, we have more affordable housing developments already than any other residential neighborhood in Palo Alto. Downtown has a lot, too, but downtown also has City Hall, the downtown library, Rinconada Park, Rinconada tennis courts, Rinconada pool, the Children's pool, Avenidas, the children's library, the children's theater, Lucie Stern Theatre, Lucie Stern Community Center, the Art Center, Gamble Gardens, the Bowling Green, the Baylands nearby with the airport, the golf course, the proposed gym and soccer fields, the main library, etc. etc. Mitchell Park isn't even really on our side of town, we have to cross El Camino, Alma, and the railroad tracks to get there, too.

All we have on this side is Juana Briones Park, which would be an electrical substation if neighbors hadn't intervened. We used to have a bowling alley on this side of town, but now that's a dense ugly development. Barron Park has Bol Park and the donkeys. Yet we are taking more than our share of densification and hits to our quality of life with no commensurate investment in open space or community assets such as on the other sides of town. We have schools, but our City Council seem to think our schools satisfy our open space requirement even though they are mostly not available to the public.

So, the fact that the land is still open space with a historic orchard and 100 trees makes it a very bad place to put a high-density development. High-density developments can go many places -- perhaps the City Council and PAHC should have tried finding one. It makes it a very good place to consider for preserving the trees, open space, or perhaps to put a community asset there such as relocating Betty Wright Swim Center, if they would wish to go there.

Posted by bad use of public funds, a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 16, 2013 at 8:31 pm

@vote yes

"the number of "vote yes on D" yard signs should have told you that."

Zero "vote yes on D" on my block.

I think the no signs are the ones you cannot see.

No signs = NO on D

I did see the strategically spread out "yes" signs on Alma though.

The yes signs on Alma are not a lawn, not posted by an actual voter, they are professionally done, with my taxes.

Posted by Vote AGAINST D, a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 16, 2013 at 8:43 pm

@ Please no rezoning,
"Everyone I have spoken to across town is voting Against Measure D."

Do not be complaisant. The City has done everything in its power to stack this deck, including having the City Attorney write such a biased ballot, it's hard to vote against it. Web Link

They've basically asked, Do you want us to help these poor baby seals for FREE?! Yes?! People who just read the ballot would have no idea what this is about. How many Palo Alto voters are going to know what it's really about?

On the other hand, I know of no recent poll. We're pretty connected to a large network of citizens around town, and no one has been polled. If there had been even a segment of the thousands who signed the two referenda (it was more than 4,000, because there were people who signed one and not the other, usually because of travel) were being polled, it would have gotten around by now.

But there was a poll by a professional polling company right after the referendum was qualified. Word got out like lightning, and people against the rezoning refused to participate unless they were told who was sponsoring it. So, people working for the polling company on minimum wage just moved on to the next person. It's hard to say how representative such a poll was even then, much less as word gets out about what the election is really about.

Nevertheless, the City knows it can slide a huge load through under "baby seal" cover. We'll see if this informed citizenry figure out.

However, a vote FOR will just be a vote FOR ONGOING BATTLES, because this really is about what the neighbors are saying, and the plans to fight were in place even before the referendum (hope for the best, plan for the worst). A vote AGAINST help protect schoolchildren, protect neighborhood zoning, and send a message to City Council about not steamrolling residents anymore. (And PAHC will be free to continue their good work the next day, with some important lessons learned. Actually everyone who cares should stop them from completely and totally destroying their reputation, and just vote NO.)

It's difficult to say where that poster is coming from, but the League of Women Voters has also behaved shamefully in this, probably because of the officers who are also PAHC board members and an unwillingness to believe that they could be affected by undue influence like the rest of the human race. It's not so hard to imagine shenanigans when you realize the City staff, under penalty of perjury, submitted more than one false verification of PAHC's zoning and a whole bunch of other stuff that isn't true, in order to get money out of the state and feds.

Might be time to contact the registrar of voters and demand poll watchers....

Posted by Vote AGAINST Measure D, a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 17, 2013 at 1:23 pm

I just received a very thoughtful analysis Against Measure D by Fred Balin, high respected neighborhood leader in College Terrace.

He mentioned something I didn't realize, which is that PAHC entered into a contract to buy the property and only asked the City for money into the process. This is where the neighbors' concerns about the seller being represented by Larry Klein's lawfirm start to become more relevant.

PAHC was apparently asking for the money so the deal they had already made wouldn't fall through, and the City came through with millions. I'm not sure anyone is able to ascertain whether Klein or anyone else had an actual conflict of interest, because PAHC is a private company and the public doesn't have access to all the documents. It doesn't look good, though.

Does anyone know if Fred Balin's essay is posted anywhere? It's definitely worth a read.

Posted by Please no rezoning, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 17, 2013 at 2:03 pm

"I just received a very thoughtful analysis Against Measure D by Fred Balin, high respected neighborhood leader in College Terrace. Does anyone know if Fred Balin's essay is posted anywhere? It's definitely worth a read."

This article is very interesting and well worth the read. It has been posted at the following site:

Web Link

Posted by bad use of public funds, a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 17, 2013 at 7:17 pm

Palo Alto "affordable" housing has to be the most expensive and most unaffordable housing on the face of the planet.

Residents are being asked to pay for a senior affordable housing STORY, with no transparency or logic for that matter. PAHC nor any organization should have an inside with the City to use our taxes to lend itself money, do deals, and create fancy advertising to build housing for a few people to live like millionaires.

This is not about seniors, it is about making PAHC "competitive."

I am opposing D.

Posted by voted today, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 17, 2013 at 10:20 pm

Mailed in my vote against today. I hope the other 4000 people who signed the petition get their votes in as well.

Posted by on the fence, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 18, 2013 at 12:26 am

What would be the financial consequences for the city of Palo Alto if Prop D fails? What about for PAHC?

Posted by Vote AGAINST D, a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 18, 2013 at 3:05 am

@on the fence,
That's a really good question. Unfortunately, the City Attorney didn't do a proper analysis. In San Francisco, where they have a ballot committee that holds public meetings to prepare a fair and impartial ballot summary, they always include four sections:
*The Way It Is Now
*The Proposal
* A "Yes" Vote Means
* A "No" Vote Means
Web Link

And typically that analysis includes the costs to the taxpayers. Unfortunately, the City and City Attorney have been over the top advocating for this rezoning, so there really is no telling what the financial consequences would be, and it would be a fair bet that they wouldn't give an impartial answer about them even if asked.

I think perhaps it's good to consider what will happen if for Prop D wins and the neighbors keep fighting, because they will - this really is about the safety issues and neighborhood character, and the neighborhood is one where people tend to live out their lives, it's deadly serious business to them. That's just going to cost everyone more money, and (based on what I know) PAHC may very well not be able to build that development in the end anyway. If the City keeps at it, they may find energized neighbors overturning their density bonus rules in court the way the citizens in LA did.

Again, it's not about affordable housing, as affordable housing is welcome there under existing zoning or close to -- and as you know, there is more affordable housing development in this neighborhood than any residential neighborhood in Palo Alto, some of it brought in by the same neighbors opposing D (read above re: the Terman Working Group), and they would be more than happy to save the low-income residents at the Buena Vista mobile home park in the same neighborhood (frankly, it's a better use of the same money - over 400 low-income residents -- if Measure D fails, can residents re-purpose it to help there?)

If PAHC keeps fighting the way they have, they will only hurt their reputation among many Palo Altans more than they already have. They will indelibly ruin their reputation among thousands of previous supporters in these adjacent neighborhoods alone. It will cost them money to fight, and perhaps cost them future ability to apply for grants if the city's and their malfeasance becomes clear to the state. In fact, the state CTCAC seems pretty calm about the idea, since if this happens, they get to keep some huge deposit that PAHC would make.

If PAHC loses, and AGAINST wins, however, they could dust themselves off, and if they haven't alienated the neighborhood already too much, come up with a plan for a development within the existing zoning, or even for 60 seniors (but without the market rate portion and assuming they finally do a legitimate traffic study), like they should have in the first place, and it will probably proceed faster than if they end up in court battles. I'm not sure they haven't burned too many bridges already, though, it might be better for everyone if they instead took a broader more regional look at this issue and proceeded only after doing actual market studies, etc. But rest assured, the same PAHC people will go after the next good work with some valuable lessons and the same dogged persistence they seem to have in spades.

Wayne Martin did a calculation about what the development will cost Palo Altans, printed in the print edition of the Weekly. I do not know how accurate it is, but he's the only person who seems to have considered the costs of the development to taxpayers.
Web Link

It makes one wonder why we aren't handling senior low-income housing with a subsidy program instead. The Maybell housing will only be apartments with not even dining services, people will have to be disrupted and leave when they start ailing, just when they need familiarity and friends the most. It makes me wonder why they aren't considering a subsidy program for seniors instead. A subsidy program for younger people probably wouldn't work because market conditions are so variable in this area, but for senior centers, generally prices are fairly well established/advertised, it's easier to shop for spots and for a subsidy program to understand costs versus available resources and need. It would be much easier to meet as much of the need as possible, in a flexible way year to year, and seniors could live in places that have services. If Wayne Martin is correct, we could serve an awful lot of seniors for a very long time for the same money.

[Portion removed.]

As someone who has to leave the neighborhood by that location daily, and am just terrified by how unsafe it is for the kids already - most of us have many near miss stories with child bicyclists - I ask you to please read through the comments made above, and vote Against.

Posted by Vote AGAINST D, a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 18, 2013 at 3:08 am

P.S. Wayne Martin's letter with his analysis of what the development will cost Palo Alto is on page 21.

Web Link

Posted by Midtown resident, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 22, 2013 at 12:04 am

I find it strange that they're picking Palo Alto, the bastion of high land prices to build a low-income housing. Makes no sense at all. Pick a place with low prices, at least relatively, santa clara, even sunnyvale is cheaper than Palo Alto. This is the reason they have to come with the cute excuse of "keeping families together". I'm not sure how they're keeping families together esp. given that they're not allowed to discriminate against seniors who live outside palo alto in allocating the housing.

Posted by bewildered, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Oct 22, 2013 at 4:40 pm

[Post removed.]

Posted by let's care for our seniors, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Oct 22, 2013 at 6:16 pm

Please don't stuff our seniors into the backlot in a 600sf stack and pack box without cars. Let's give them affordable housing that we would be proud to live in. These apartments don't offer any community living space for them to eat together or watch tv together. It's just hiding them away. Just like what we did to the homeless at Cubberly and moving out the residents at the Buena Vista Mobile Home Park. Are we really caring Palo Altans or just out to make a profit. Let's care for our elderly and VOTE NO ON D.

Posted by Vote Against D, a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 24, 2013 at 10:34 am

The choice in Measure D is really very simple. We want the housing. Are we going to ask individual neighborhoods to pay for it through basically selling off their zoning, changing the character if the neighborhood, causing overflow parking, ignoring and reducing safety for children, ignoring the needs of the existing residents, such as the disabled children in the programs across the street?

Or are we going to, as a City, pay the actual cost of what we want (or as in the case of 801 Alma, make the developer pay the actual cost)? Because we have never had to make individual neighborhoods pay like this before to put in affordable housing. If the voters greenlight this, it will become the new norm, and the next neighborhod will have far less defense than ours.


Posted by Suzanne Keehn, a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 24, 2013 at 11:43 am

I have already voted against Proposition D. Yes there are many reasons why I did so, many of which have been stated by others. I am aghast at the amount of building happening not only in Palo Alto but up and down the Peninsula. We seem to have an addiction to cover up every square foot of space that can make someone some money.

What happened to our community that enjoyed living in Palo Alto the home of so many trees. Do we want to give that up? It is already happening in case you haven’t noticed. Most of what has been built is to put it simply, totally ugly, no setbacks, right up to the sidewalks, with the effect of feeling penned in. Are we happy with the amount of traffic we experience?

The PC community envisioned on Maybell will cover the last open area with an orchard in the Palo Alto area. How about making that an extension of Juana Briones Park, with a small building for showing the history of this valley, which was known as The Valley of the Hearts Delight. We could remember and share with our children the history of this land of beauty and plenty. We could use more sites for the public in the Barron Park area of Palo Alto.

Palo Alto used to be known as a city that cared about our environment, we had sustainable policies that limited growth. Every city has only a certain amount of space to work with, and perhaps we as a community need to discuss whether or not to limit the amount of business we wish to attract, weighing the effect on our community as we try to provide housing for the people working here. Do we want to live in a mini Manhattan?

We each receive in our Utility bill each month flyers and information about Zero Waste, with websites and seminars so we can be less wasteful of water, food, etc. This is a great program, why doesn’t it translate into our Planning Department? Have we decided that the Bay Area will not experience Global Warming, that we have access to all the water that is, and will be needed for the people and businesses who will populate this increased density? Would it not be wiser for us as a city and community to plan for such events, to focus on practices that will help create a healthy, sustainable, and livable environment?

These questions are not limited to Palo Alto, but ones the whole Bay Area might consider.

Vote NO on D

Posted by Not an issue, a resident of Community Center
on Oct 24, 2013 at 3:21 pm

I noticed that " vote against D" ads are running on the weekly website. This comes after the anti-D " editorial" last Friday. A little quid pro quo????

Posted by zayda, a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 24, 2013 at 4:29 pm

@ Not an issue
"Quid pro quo?" Get real!
Newspapers, print and online, stay in business by selling ads. Political campaigns run ads to convince voters to vote with them. You pays your money, you runs your ad.
Come to think of it, we ran ads in other papers and they endorsed us too.

Posted by Please no rezoning, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 24, 2013 at 4:50 pm

Not a quid pro quo. Advertising in the three Palo Alto papers was planned long before the editorials were written. However, it is nice that the papers' editorials are Against Measure D.

Posted by Clara, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 24, 2013 at 9:30 pm

One thing I dont really understand is that there is no info. about how much below market rate housing, senior housing, subsidized units there are in Palo Alto. How much money has the City (our taxes) been spent on low cost housing?I'm also wondering about the lack of data regarding residents who live in these units. What is their breakdown by income level, age, ethnicity, Palo Alto citizenry? Lastly, I never remember voting to require low income units for housing developments.

Posted by Michael, a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 27, 2013 at 11:49 am

Hi, I am a 7th grade student at Terman Middle School. I think that building the housing on Maybell Street would be a huge mistake for the Barron Park community. First of all, this project will cause the increase of traffic. This can be a problem because the street is already dense with cars on school days. I know students who are already late because of traffic, so this will be devastating to them. Also, this project will make it dangerous for bikers, like me, when I am biking to school. If there are more cars, I wouldn’t feel as safe. The accident rate in Palo Alto will rise. Finally, the building noise would disturb the peace that Barron Park has. This impacts me because one of the things I love about Palo Alto is the quiet. Families, who are looking for houses in Barron Park might be turned away by the noise level. I think anyone who is for Prop. D doesn’t live in the area so it wouldn’t impact them if it were built.

Posted by Vote AGAINST D, a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 27, 2013 at 2:22 pm

Dear Michael,
Thank you for writing and expressing your well-written opinion. Will you write your opinion to the City Council? If you send and email to this address, it goes to everyone on the City Council.

Posted by Vote AGAINST D, a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 27, 2013 at 3:08 pm

One thing I want to clarify, it seems like people are getting this confused, including PAHC in their recent ad:
No one is accusing PAHC of pocketing profits. But people mistakenly believe they are using the houses on the market rate portion to finance the affordable housing, which is not true.

PAHC IS using the 55% percent of the property - the market-rate portion - to make money to help make the rest of the development cheaper. However, they are ONLY making money from REZONING the land for the for-profit developer and selling the land. The for-profit developer will then make a ton of money from building and selling the for-profit houses, all of the profits of which will go into the for-profit developer's own pocket. The profits from selling the new upzoned houses will NOT be going to support the affordable component, only the proceeds of selling the upzoned land will, and an in lieu fee.*

PAHC is the actual (non-profit) developer for the affordable component - so why don't they just build the for-profit houses themselves at the same time as the main building, sell the houses, and put all the profits into the affordable housing? They could afford to respect the zoning them. They would make far more money than the plan in Measure D by many millions, enabling them to build something acceptable to the neighborhood and better for the low-income residents.

Neighbors asked for this win-win at City Hall meetings, but PAHC said it's not their mission, making money from building. Yet they are making money by selling the land they get the privilege of upzoning because the public thinks it's for affordable housing, but they 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 the houses to help finance the main building far better?

Under Measure D, the for-profit developer of that market-rate portion will keep the millions in profits of selling the homes, those greater profits will not go to support the affordable side. They are literally taking the advantage of people's heartstrings over affordable housing to sell the densification of the neighborhood, to enable millions in profit for a for-profit developer. If someone wants to do an affordable development there, that is millions that could be used to minimize the impacts on the neighborhood, but won't be if Measure D passes, it will just make a for-profit developer rich.

If for D wins, the City and everyone else will continue to do whatever they want to the neighborhood with impunity, and remain just as deaf to pleas over other high-density projects coming up if they see even this much neighborhood opposition can't change anything.

If AGAINST D wins, the neighbors have indicated a willingness to work out a way to have the affordable housing. Many of the same neighbors leading Against D were involved in the Terman Working Group which not only brought us the 92units of affordable housing in the same neighborhood, it saved the school land at Terman from being sold to a developer -- these same civic leaders have asked in City meetings for such a chance for a win-win again, but have been ignored. If AGAINST D wins, the City would have a better sense going into the future that they have to work with neighborhoods and not just ignore them. Neighbors would have a louder voice against developers if the City knows citizen referenda can make a difference, despite the City Attorney being able to write a biased and leading ballot.

Voting Against is the only path to a win-win rather than more battles. Please vote AGAINST D

*The City of Palo Alto just last week lost a major case in the California Supreme Court that has bearing on this and affects this ordinance.

Posted by Not an issue, a resident of Community Center
on Oct 27, 2013 at 3:13 pm

Vote for D. Ignore the rhetoric of vote against D.

Posted by registered user, Vote AGAINST D, a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 28, 2013 at 3:04 pm

"After hearing each side out during public meetings, in-depth interviews, a tour of the orchard site and dozens of conversations with supporters and opponents...."

Then, after reviewing everything, the Weekly editorial board recommended people vote AGAINST D, as did the Daily Post.

Bottom line: If AGAINST D wins, the senior housing can still be built in a way that respects the neighborhood character, children's safety, and (at least to some reasonable measure) the existing zoning. Neighborhood leaders have offered this all along in City meetings but were ignored. Many of the same people leading AGAINST D were part of the Terman Working Group that brought 92-units of low-income housing to this same neighborhood, but also managed to safe the school site from development, so we have them to thank for Terman Middle School there now.

The choice in Measure D is of whether to implement a particularly bad zoning plan or not. That's all. If AGAINST wins, there is more than one way to achieve the housing while also respecting neighborhood character, children's safety, and residential zoning principles.

Being for D only means being for lawsuits, because that's what will happen and the housing may never be built. The neighbors are dead serious about the safety and character of the neighborhood, regardless of the political shenanigans they have had to face. They went into this referendum as only the next step, recognized what they were up against, and never counted on winning.

AGAINST D is the only healing path forward, and can result in the housing, too, just not this particular bad plan, which was done with little regard for the impact on the neighborhood or the implications to Palo Alto.

Posted by Not an issue, a resident of Community Center
on Oct 28, 2013 at 5:31 pm

So if D wins, the neighbors will not respect the will of the people and will disregard the election result and sue??? Yet if D is defeated, you would expect the will of the people to be respected?
Well, I guess that says plenty about the opponents of D

Posted by Claire, a resident of Greater Miranda
on Oct 28, 2013 at 6:45 pm

@ Not an issue - You have pinpointed the exact problem with the process. City Council and Staff make decisions in favor of small well financed groups (developers, affordable housing coalitions, Stanford) that are not in the best interest of residents. Residents happen to be the only ones eligible to vote. When residents voice their displeasure at Council actions, there is no negotiation process so Staff tells them to sue. Well, the residents did sue and are bringing the referendum to the voters. So, now you are demonizing the residents who don't want to cede all authority to you and your friends. The opponents of Measure D are voters exercising their democratic rights and will continue to do so until the elected representative start to represent them too.

Posted by Midtowner, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 28, 2013 at 6:53 pm

I sent in my ballot with my NO vote last week. It felt good.

We need to reclaim our town from an out-of-control city-hall.

Posted by Not an issue, a resident of Community Center
on Oct 28, 2013 at 6:53 pm

Claire-- you have it all wrong. The residents did not sue. They brought it to a referendum. According to vote against D, if the vote does not go their way, they will ignore the will of the people and sue.
I am not demonizing anyone. And the supporters of D are also voters exercising their democratic rights. And democracy also means accepting the will of the people, in this case the vote on D .

Posted by Vote AGAINST D, a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 28, 2013 at 8:57 pm

@ Not an issue,
If the City Attorney had not written such a blatantly leading ballot question, you might have a point. Web Link

But citizens knew the odds they were not in their favor going into this, because they are totally grassroots, where PAHC hired an expensive elections firm that specializes in squashing citizen referenda and initiatives.

The referendum was just the next step in the process, in order to AVOID lawsuits. Neighbors of the property also know the problems better than anyone else, and will continue to do whatever it takes to ensure the safety issues are dealt with as they should have been, and that the neighborhood character is protected.

The way referenda work, qualifying the signatures actually set aside the City Council decision, set aside the rezoning. The will of the people was exercised in setting aside the council decision by referendum.

The Council at that point had the choice, per the City code, to honor the will of the people or put it to a vote. When they decided to put it to a vote, they already knew from the High Street referendum that they could influence the outcome by writing a leading ballot question, because the City Attorney gets to write the "impartial" analysis and ballot question. Here, she didn't even tell taxpayers the implications of for and against, as would have been required in, say, San Francisco, where they have an impartial committee to write ballots in a public process involving both sides. Here, the City Attorney even deliberately left off the "low density" official designation from the City Code of one of the existing zoning designations. I say deliberately, because neighbors pointed out the omission to her in writing, citing the City code. She mentioned an electric car charging station, but failed to analyze the costs of for and against to taxpayers. Her stated reason for this was the word limit.

So if D passes, residents will take it to the legal arena. But they will be suing against a bad plan, not the affordable housing, which could be achieved if AGAINST wins. If it's more important to you to squash the citizens and show them who's boss, then by all means, interpret it with the same negative way. If it's more important to you to have the affordable housing, you'll recognize that it's in the interest of achieving that to vote AGAINST. Because the same folks who brought us the Terman low-income apartments are leading AGAINST D and will work out a compromise if AGAINST D prevails and they are finally listened to. But if For D wins, there will be no talking to the pro-rezoning side except in court.

The biggest problem I see with your argument against the neighbors, is that if AGAINST D wins, it will be interpreted as against affordable housing in Palo Alto -- if you push that, YOU will be hurting the cause of affordable housing here. If AGAINST D wins, you should acknowledge that other people saw it was a bad plan, too, that residents want City Hall and developers to respect zoning rules (even approximately) in residential neighborhoods, and that safety should be the highest priority, as the Comprehensive Plan states. If the other side wins, neighbors will go on trying to protect safety and their neighborhood character as they have been trying all along. If you again continue to interpret it in a way that I know, from personal experience, is not true, YOU will be hurting the cause for solutions that bring us a better plan and ultimately a win-win for the neighborhood and affordable housing.

Posted by Ignore Vote against D, a resident of Stanford
on Oct 29, 2013 at 9:08 am

Vote against D--as with most of your postings, your comments are filled with [portion removed] distortions and innuendo.

"The will of the people was exercised in setting aside the council decision by referendum. "
Gathering signatures is not reflective of the will of the people. The final vote is the will of the people. If just gathering signatures was enough, then why bother with the vote?

"If it's more important to you to squash the citizens and show them who's boss, then by all means, interpret it with the same negative way."
So, if D passes, then you interpret it as "squashing the citizens"?? I sit the will of the people only when your side wins

"So if D passes, residents will take it to the legal arena."
So the anti-D people will not respect the will of the people on this vote?

You make claims that a yes vote will hurt affordable housing, Previously you stated that a yes vote harms handicapped children. [Portion removed.]

Posted by Yes Dear God please stop this , a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Oct 29, 2013 at 12:40 pm

AGAINST D in addition to being excessively repetitive has also been super duper willing to make scurrilous accusations against pretty much everyone. Now we have threats (a la the 2000 Bush campaign) to refuse to accept the vote count and instead tie the matter up in the courts. What do we have to do Weekly to stop AGAINST's relentless filibustering, false accusations of corruption (a crime) and just all around nightmare behavior? Is the Weekly also AGAINST D to the point that it keeps allowing this rather than applying its own terms of use fairly?

Against -- we know how you feel already. Please stop saying it over and over. If you have a new point or new evidence then by all means bring it forward but please stop repeating yourself.

Posted by Not an issue, a resident of Community Center
on Oct 29, 2013 at 12:58 pm

Yes--- the weekly allows Vote against D to rave and rant all he wants. They edit comments which call some of his postings as lies and selectively edit comments that go against him. But remember that the weekly endorsed a no vote on D and is also carrying advertisement from the vote against D group. I guess do not want to bite the hand the feeds them

Posted by On the fence, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Oct 29, 2013 at 1:21 pm

Hmmm seems the Weekly has also ran advertisement from the yes on D group also. After reading and checking out the issues I am now leaning strongly to the No on D side. I see many more holes in the the yes side that cannot be filled.

The argument for No on D are more credible. Another thing that convinces me is list of contributed post on the Palo Alto City web site. On the Yes side the big buck contribution are mainly developers, contractors and PAHC buying into the cities wishes. I don't think they represent my interest.

Posted by On the fence, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Oct 29, 2013 at 1:25 pm

Last paragraph on my post should have read "list of contributions posted on the Palo Alto City web site.

Posted by registered user, stephen levy, a resident of University South
on Oct 29, 2013 at 1:26 pm

I know some of the people who oppose Measure D and respect their opinions.

But some recent posts make it seem as if the Ted Cruz and Tea Party spirit is alive in PARTS of the Measure D opposition.

They seem to be saying "if we win, we win but if YES wins, we sue and obstruct".

That sounds painfully familiar given recent Congressional debates over the Affordable Care Act and debt limit increases.

Proud to be a small contributor to the YES on Measure D campaign.

Posted by pavoter, a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 29, 2013 at 2:03 pm

Talk about obfuscating the facts! The most recent "Yes on D" flyer again keeps repeating that "Measure D is not about citywide zoning issues" and that's what our mayor and city council members keep insisting.

If you are still on the fence, consider this: If the existing zoning had been respected, there would be no referendum. "No on D" would not exist.

"No on D" are neighbors who oppose the upzoning behind closed doors. That is why many other Palo Altans have joined the "No on D" because they feel the city's PC (public benefit) has been misused too many times.

There are many other issues here, but that alone should give you good reason to vote No on D.

Posted by Not an isuue, a resident of Community Center
on Oct 29, 2013 at 2:16 pm

Measure D is not about citywide zoning issues. It is about the maybell project, specifically. There may be undercurrent of dislike for current city policies and some people may vote on D based on teir feelings about development in the city. Read the language, pavoter, of the measure. Their s no " obscurantist of the facts" , unlike the claims of a vocal opponent of D

Posted by Craig Laughton, a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 29, 2013 at 2:31 pm

>Measure D is not about citywide zoning issues

Yes it is. Otherwise it only would be a local neighborhood issue, rather than attracting so much support (in opposition) from other neighborhoods. Dah?!

Posted by Not an issue, a resident of Community Center
on Oct 29, 2013 at 2:50 pm

Read the wording of measure D. It is specifically about the Maybell rezoning. You can say it is about citywide zoning issues, but it is not. Try reading the measure, Craig. And of course you do not know how much pro D support there is, do you, craig???? Dah!!!'!!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by Joe, a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 29, 2013 at 3:02 pm

Steve Levy wrote: They seem to be saying "if we win, we win but if YES wins, we sue and obstruct".

No, you're clearly misinterpreting the neighborhood's position against Measure D. If Measure D gets approved, the CEQA lawsuit will provide an opportunity for the City to fix the most glaring errors in the process. Unquestionably, these flaws should have been addressed during the reviews of PAHC's project but were almost completely ignored.

You and the rest of the YES crowd lost the moral high ground when the City rammed the project through over vehement public opposition. The City dared the neighbors to sue. The neighbors did. The City thought that the opposition was a "small vocal minority" and dared the neighborhood to place a referendum on the ballot. The neighbors did, twice.

Steve, the flaw in your argument is that referendum isn't about PAHC and senior housing. That's just the dirty bathwater your drinking from developers running City Hall. Measure D is about rezoning the Maybell Orchard to Planned Community. If D wins, the zoning stands, but the CEQA lawsuit provides a way to for the neighbors to highlight the project's problems in venue that will certainly be more objective than the process used by the City. The neighbor's aren't shutting down City Hall and sending the City's employee's home without pay. So, any comparison with the mess in Washington is simply hyperbole.

Honestly, Steve, finding that you're supporting D is the best advertisement I can think of for VOTING AGAINST D. Your well known reputation advocating unbridled development in Palo Alto makes you the perfect poster boy for the opposition.

Posted by Bob/Mary Carlstead, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 29, 2013 at 3:07 pm

Posted by Bob/Mary Carlstead, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis

We are seniors and have lived here forty-eight years. We think Measure D sets the most dangerous
threat to protected single-family zoning that has ever been placed on the ballot. Look at the top contributors to
Yes on D! Is their support and enthusiasm only for the Maybell project OR are they looking down the
road to their "building future" ? What's in it for politicians who endorsed it? What is the next 'target'? If it can
happen to Maybell, it can happen all over town. VOTE A RESOUNDING "NO ON D"

Bob and Mary Carlstead, Duveneck/St. Francis Neighborhood.

Posted by Craig Laughton, a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 29, 2013 at 3:16 pm

>And of course you do not know how much pro D support there is, do you, craig???? Dah!!!'!!!!!!!!!!!!

No, I do not. The only answer will come with the election. I think there is a lot of support against D, because it IS seen as a city-wide issue, putting all neighborhoods in jeopardy, if it is not defeated. This election is a tipping point, which will determine the next decade or so, in Palo Alto.

The essential question is: Do you want YOUR neighborhood to have to face the machinations of the PAHC/city council?

BTW, "Not an issue" , isn't it about time that you use your real name, given that you claim to be such a supporter of your point of view, and claim to represent so much of Palo Alto? If you do so, it will put you on point and give you some gravitas.

Posted by Not an issue, a resident of Community Center
on Oct 29, 2013 at 3:35 pm

Not an issue is my real name, Craig. Isn't everybody a supporter of their own point of view? Dah!!!!!
I do not claim to represent anyone but myself-- you however claim that there is citywide opposition to D, then you claim to not know how much support there is for D. S who is claiming to,represent much of palo alto. I am not looking to be "on point" or for gravitas. There must be a reason why the vast majority of,posters on this forum post anonymously.
And for that matter how do,we know that you are Craig Laughton????

Posted by Who Would Jesus Not Want in His Backyard?, a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 29, 2013 at 3:36 pm

It's the D opponents' right to go to court. But every lawyer knows a CEQA lawsuit on a project like this is just a delaying tactic. CEQA is procedural. The City has to show that it followed a process and considered factors. It does NOT mandate any particular result or alternative be selected. If the city failed some element of the CEQA process then it can correct that and consider those factors and then proceed if the federal and state grants are still available.

That is of course the real reason behind the suit -- not to ensure that some CEQA EIR is correctly drafted. To ensure that the project loses its funding and tax credits so that it will never be built. And that is why the AGAINST position looks to me and to Steve like a refusal to accept the results of the election, but a declaration of a "bitter end" strategy.

If an when this worthwhile project is ever built, how will the people who buy there be welcomed into the community? Do you, AGAINST D, have a plan or strategy to accept defeat and welcome your new neighbors? If not, how will you be reconciled to the rest of the community.

please, no ranting. This is a serious question. Do you choose the path of obstruction or reconciliation in the hypothetic situation in which D wins?

Posted by pavoter, a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 29, 2013 at 3:55 pm

@not an issue, you state: "Read the wording of measure D. It is specifically about the Maybell rezoning."

This is the mantra of "yes on D" and it's a divide and conquer tactic, which has worked in the past, but now Palo Altans have woken up.

If the current zoning had been respected, then the senior housing project would be welcomed and there would be no opposition. Using the PC public benefit to upzone has become a major concern for all of Palo Alto.

Posted by Not an issue, a resident of Community Center
on Oct 29, 2013 at 4:11 pm

Not sure what you are talking about now, pavoter

Measure D states:

Shall the Palo Alto Municipal Code be amended to rezone the property located at 567-595 Maybell Avenue from R-2 Low Density Residential and RM-15 Multiple Family Residential to Planned Community Overlay Zone to include 12 single family units and 60 units of affordable senior housing?

Pretty clear wording to me. What is this " divide and conquer" nonsense or are you questioning the ability of palo alto voters to make informed decisions.

Posted by On the fence, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Oct 29, 2013 at 4:20 pm

Whether D passes or not, there are still legal issues raised that should to be addressed. These issues are separate from the voting on just Maybell rezoning which will set a precedence for future actions.

If D fails there may be an opportunity to settle some of these issues out of court but if D passes there will be little incentive for any resolution reconciliation of these separate legal issues.

The thing that is really causing me to go over to the No on D side is the full page ad that the Yes side ran in the Weekly last Friday - The facts/Inconsistent statement they claim do not seem to reflect reality or present a very inaccurate picture.

Posted by pavoter, a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 29, 2013 at 7:06 pm

@not an issue: Divide and conquer is being used when "yes on D" insists this is not related to other neighborhoods and that it is not about upzoning or about PC variances that are being misused with very little public benefit.

Sounds like the "yes on D" folks are very worried that Palo Altans see that the problems at Maybell are similar to problems with PC zoning all over Palo Alto.

Posted by Vote AGAINST D, a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 29, 2013 at 9:26 pm

Another legal avenue is the subdivision map act, because even charter cities have to comply, the subdivision has to be consistent with the comrehensive plan - not the cherry-picked compatibility of the City staff, but the actual comprehensive plan. The ordinance still requires subdivision. The city was forced to take the rezoning out of the comprehensive plan. And it's not a political process, it's evidentiary, so neighbors can sue to enforce it. The comprehendive plan says 8 units an acre for RM-15 next to residential areas, the City has been using 15, which the neighbors weren't fighting because they really do support affordable housing there if it is done respecting the nighborhood. But if they have to fight the subdivision by the developer. PAHC may end up regretting it didnt try to work with neghbors, because the neighbors could enforce an even lower density.

And then there's the questionable ethics of city council using public money to enable upzoning for a private developer. The 55% of the land being developed privately will make a private developer millions in profit. People mistakenly think it will all go to support the affordable housing, but only the sale of the land will, made more valuable by giving the developer permission to violate the zoning. All the profits from building and selling the homes will go to the private developer.

How irresistable is that for private developers coming to our city? The need for affordable housing can be used to ignore zoning in residental areas. They will make a killing. This is new in Palo Alto, but it's actually becoming a problem in some other states like NY.

Just vote against!

Posted by Debi B, a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 29, 2013 at 9:37 pm

I just received two very expensive glossy ads from the YES on D folks.... My Lord! Enough with the transparent argument that Palo Alto's growing senior population will be affected either way by these units. ITS OPEN FOR ANYONE ANYWHERE to live in the proposed housing, so STOP IT. Theoretically, it might not serve ANY Palo Altans. Do I care where the needy seniors come from? NO, NEED IS NEED, but stop with the shallow pandering to the least informed, non-critical thinkers. UGH!

[Portion removed.] We are "rural Palo Alto", home of broken down shacks, fiercely proud of our two elementary schools, which--by the way--North Palo Alto residents would give a kidney NOT to send their kids to (test scores, right real estate agents??)and no sidewalks--and DAMN PROUD of it. WE HOST THE LAST TRAILER PARK IN THIS STUCK-UP CITY. They are our neighbors, our children, our classmates. I have lived in Palo Alto, in Barron Park, for 15 years and never been so disgusted by my peers. Just stop it, all of you!

Posted by Vote AGAINST D, a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 29, 2013 at 9:45 pm

I think Jesus woud probably think a lot more about the disabled kids in the school across the street, and the really poor people who will not qualify for this property, and the many other poor people who will not be housed in poorer communities because PAHC wins their funding.

I think the better question is, if Jesus had $30 million to spend, would He do it to provide 60 apartments for not even very poor people? Or that it's being used to enable millions in profit for a for-profit developer on the market-rate side? I seem to recall Jesus was only once moved to physical anger by people using the synagog for thir personal profit - I'm guessing similar reaction to using affordable housing to make millions in profit for a private developer, instead of doing the maximum good.

How would he feel that the same people let 20 senior units go empty for years? I seem to recall Jesus didnt like hypocrites very much. You claim you are for affordable housing, but this isn't exactly doing a good job caring for the poor, and much more could be done with that money.

And from everything I know, I think Jesus would rather see the City Council putting their money where their mouths are on the poor instead of spending $2.1 million on a cosmetic upgrade of already nice council chambers.

Posted by Vote AGAINST D, a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 30, 2013 at 7:52 pm

@who would Jesus,
The City was willing to let the whole thing become a CEQA suit rather thanjust doing a proper safety analysis that included current data and the impact to pedestrians and bicycles on the two major Safe Routes to School of Arastradero and Maybell.

Why in all those months did they steadfastly refuse to give the corridor the scrutiny their own Policy calls for and that hundreds of residents were calling for? It's not for the expense, the City spent $600,000 extra to hold a special election rather than just holding the vote next year in the next general election. They could have bought a great traffic study for much less than that. Seriously, who does a traffic study on school commute corridors without including the impact to the bicycles? The residents hired one of the most well-respected traffic engineers in the state to look at the traffic report and he deemed it "inadequate".

Residents have had to sue the City to demand a traffic safety review for the kids. Ya think the same City that has been steamroling this through over historic opposition would stonewall to this point if they really thought the actual data would support their claims?

I think the neighbors were right to sue, because the only way the City seems willing to do the right thing is if a judge tells them. You think it's somehow a threat that an environmental study can finally be done and the problems can be remedied?! That's the whole point of the suit, to make the City live up to their responsibility to safety and our kids.

Posted by Please read, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 31, 2013 at 9:32 pm

What Measure D really means is up-zoning for the profit of developers which is happening in different parts of Palo Alto. The idea that you can not build low income housing without building three story for-profit homes surrounding it is not true. It may mean that PAHC does not know how to do it but there are other low income organizations that have been doing it for years. Senior housing can be built at the current zoning and PA residents should be smart enough to hold out for the best project for the City of PA, not the best project for the developers.

VoteAgainstD.com Palo Altans to Preserve Neighborhood Zoning

Posted by Vote AGAINST D, a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 31, 2013 at 11:30 pm

@Please read,
We're on the same side, but you're missing the point. PAHC isn't even using the profits from the homes to build the affordable housing -- the profits from the sale of the homes ala Miki's Market will all go to the for-profit developer.

Only the sale of the land and upzoning of that land will go to support the affordable side. With more than half the land going to market-rate for-profit development, there are real questions about facilitating this violation of zoning laws via a private corporation with all the advantages of public money and partnership with the City, but none of the transparency and disclosure of a city or public entity.

It was very cynical of PAHC to say in their ads that they aren't profiting -- implying that all the money goes to the affordable housing, which is doesn't, not even close -- they don't mention at all that the scheme enables millions in profits for a market-rate developer because of their ability to upzone the neighborhood as a result of their involvement.

Voting Against is only voting against THIS plan, this rezoning, neighbors will work for a better plan afterwards as they did at Terman. Voting for is just voting for lawsuits.

Vote Against D.

Posted by registered user, Margaret Fruth, a resident of Ventura
on Nov 2, 2013 at 10:52 am

Maybell Middle Ground

Everyone agrees that the Maybell site is an excellent site for senior housing, which could be the start of working toward consensus. No one wants to see the land sold to a for-profit developer, but an alternative to the rezoning overdevelopment will not emerge unless Measure D fails to pass.

The corporation backing Measure D, the proponent of rezoning, claims that they cannot obtain all of the grants & loans with just a 41-unit apartment building at Maybell. But they can build the 60-unit building they want to build, without any modifications to to the existing design, through a density transfer from the rest of the land. They also claim that their budget will not balance without the twelve luxury homes planned for two-thirds of the land. I have been attempting to obtain evidence which prove or refute this claim since July, 2013; when and if I receive any I'll get back to you.

If Measure D fails, the financial issues can be put on hold while the neighbors & the corporation negotiate a solution everyone can live with. Preferably directly, without the City Council playing emperor. If a compromise is reached, the pending lawsuits will disappear before the next City Council election. Otherwise the discord will continue to be expensive for all in both time, money, & additional damage to the social fabric of the community. This much-needed reconciliation will not happen unless Measure D fails, so please vote NO on Measure D.

Posted by Barron Parker, a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 2, 2013 at 1:11 pm

[Portion removed.]
Every smart liberal in Palo Alto is on the side of building this project. Why is the Weekly against PAHC and with the Post? I just can't understand it. Your October 18 editorial is a rag-tag mishmash of conflicting assertions and unsupported allegations. You say, for example, that selling market rate homes to finance the affordable housing "is inconsistent with the goals of the Comprehensive Plan." Which goals? What page? Where shall we look for support for this statement in the Comprehensive Plan?

The Comprehensive Plan is a big document and its goals are broad. It contains something for everyone and so is not the best document on which to rest such a flat assertion -- particularly without specifics and evidence. But on chapter 4, page 1, under the "vision statement" for the 2007 Housing Element, it states "The City is committed to increasing the development of affordable and market-rate housing."

It is very hard to say that the Maybell project is "inconsistent" with that goal, at least.

Weekly, what is really going on here is that you have your underwear in a twist over 27 University and you are willing to see Measure D pass because you are far more interested in sending a message to City Hall than you are in having affordable housing. You proclaim that you aren't really being forced to make a choice, because somehow by magic (MAGIC! Who doesn't love MAGIC?) it will all be great after Measure D loses and we will end up both sending the message and getting the affordable housing through a process of happy negotiation.

That is incredibly unlikely to happen. Finding a golden ticket to ride a unicorn in your crackerjack box is more likely. The most likely outcome of the imminent Measure D loss --thanks in part to you-- is that it will very hard to build affordable housing anywhere in PA in the foreseeable future because it all requires PC zoning and the PACC will be undertandably gun shy; and because PA is expensive and without using creative funding mechanisms like this one it is becoming impossible.

Many PA residents want to stop development because they want to have their cake and eat it too. They want to live in a the bright center of the universe, with all the money, jobs, shopping, transportation, great schools, etc. But they don't want anyone else to come here, and they can't understand that those two goals are inherently incompatible. Urbanization and increased density is what success looks like. Just ask all the towns that were bypassed by the railroad in the 19th century. This Measure D thing is the equivalent of some backwater town in Kansas forming a citizens committee to keep the railroad out in order to keep out increased density. I wonder how that would look in the light of history?

Editor, why have you done this? You have cut off the nose of one of our best nonprofits to spite John Arillaga's face. Not your finest moment in any way.

Posted by registered user, Vote AGAINST D, a resident of Green Acres
on Nov 3, 2013 at 1:56 am

All 3 local papers have now endorsed Vote AGAINST D.

Posted by registered user, Tom DuBois, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 3, 2013 at 4:05 pm

It's too late to mail in your ballot - drop it off signed at your polling place or vote in person on Tuesday!