As Palo Alto continues to address its housing crisis, it's important to remember Palo Alto's citizens with developmental disabilities. According to the California Department of Developmental Disabilities, there are currently 473 citizens in Palo Alto who have developmental disabilities, only 48 of whom are living in their own apartment.
The cost of rental housing in Palo Alto makes independent living unaffordable for many people who could otherwise live successfully in their own apartment.
To address the housing needs of residents with developmental disabilities and others with extremely low income, Palo Alto should remove the land-use barriers that prevent the construction of high-density, transit-oriented housing that is affordable to a range of incomes.
As a housing-development advocate for Housing Choices Coalition, I know it can be done. Look only as far as Mountain View, where the city worked creatively with the developer to plan 1585 Studios, 27 very affordable studio apartments specifically for people with developmental disabilities.
California Avenue and University Avenue would be ideal locations for developments like this because they are walkable as well as conveniently located near transit.
Mulcaster Court, San Jose
Consider the gifted
The cover story "The Kinder Conundrum" several times referred to the special needs of students and how they could be met by either the full-day or extended-day kinder programs. This left me feeling fed up, and here's why.
The general assumption is that kids with special needs include those who speak English as a second language, those from homes where poverty or other stressors are at work, and those with various learning disabilities, to name a few.
I have worked as a public school teacher and administrator for over 20 years, and I agree that those students' needs are unique and require our time, resources and consideration. But what I'm so tired of is that never once are the special needs of the gifted even mentioned. Why not?
Whether we are discussing which kinder program to implement, whether or not to open another high school campus, or how to help depressed kids, we never bring up the small percentage of kids who are at the right end of the bell curve. They are more prone to feeling isolated and depressed and to not having their intellectual and emotional needs met in the typical classroom.
The teachers and psychologists whom I have spoken with in the Palo Alto Unified School District, where my two children attend, have no experience or training with working with the gifted.
Would we rather not consider them because we're not comfortable with the term "gifted"? Call them whatever you want to, but please realize that two or more standard deviations above "average" lay a group of deserving students who think and feel differently and who very much need our dedicated consideration and support.
Adrienne Van Gorden
Feather Lane, Palo Alto
Shame, not pride
My husband and I have just taken in the daughter of a good friend who has a job she loves but, after numerous rent increases, found herself without housing and sleeping on friends' couches. She has the choice of moving out of the area and maybe getting a job, or staying with a job she loves but doesn't pay very well and being homeless.
Her boyfriend, who works full time at Home Depot, after five rent increases in two years is now spending his nights at the "Hotel 22" bus while looking for housing and waiting for Section 8 housing.
My friend who rents in Redwood City got her rent raised 25 percent this year — an increase of $1,300 a month. And Palo Alto shot down 60 low-income housing units. Wow.
The extraordinary combination of events that created what has become the tech boom was anchored in solid values: riding bikes, ecologically sound and progressive policies, tolerance, understanding the needs of humanity on a large scale. The economic success of this area has nothing to do with greed, avarice, selfishness and ambition. It had everything to do with knowing that you are part of a whole and have a responsibility to act accordingly.
These circumstances were unique in history. What created the social, cultural and intellectual environment in the '60s and '70s in the Bay Area, and particularly in Palo Alto, was rare and precious. It should have been protected, not squandered.
If Palo Alto has become all about people with mini-mansions who don't want anyone else driving or parking in "their" streets and "to hell with you if you can't afford to live here," that's not a Palo Alto I can be proud of. I think it's shameful.
Birch Street, Palo Alto
Remember being 5
Full-day kindergarten at all Palo Alto elementary schools isn't a bad idea ... it is a terrible idea!
Why is it a terrible idea, you ask? First off, it simply sounds like a babysitting service so that most homes can ensure that Mom can and should be working and not wasting time as a homemaker. Furthermore, it means more regimentation of children as a direct insult to their needs for development at ages around 5. By this I mean forcing kindergartners to sit in chairs, remain silent and absorb information.
Sadly lacking in the Palo Alto school system is the approach to early childhood education found in the Waldorf and Montessori schools, which have shown over the years methods that bring out the native abilities of the young and what is best for the physical, emotional and intellectual health of young children. It should have to do with things objective that can be touched, felt and sensed, organized to aid in the best brain development at early ages.
All day in school for the little ones is a mistake. It may interfere with getting enough sleep (we used to have naps during the day when I was in the first grade circa 1936). It may impact kindergarten teachers in a negative way. They certainly will need more help. If you don't think so, try to handle 20 little kids without at least two or three aides.
Also, kindergartners ideally would spend much of their school day out of doors at play, getting sun and fresh air, and then home after a morning or an afternoon ... not whole day!
If those who advocate a full day could remember being 5 years old, the idea of spending a whole day at school would die on the vine, at once.
Philip C. Spickler
Harvard Street, Palo Alto
A positive outcome
Thanks to consultant Ted O'Hanlon and manager Yurong Han of Golden Gate Homes for working patiently with the community over a two-year period to arrive at the excellent project they presented to the community last week.
This is not my personal favorite outcome for the property, a block from my home. Somewhat higher density affordable housing or park expansion with a community gathering place would've come in first and second, respectively. From my perspective, they would have added more value to the community than any market-rate housing, but they are both pipe dreams now.
Third place on my good-as-it-can-be list would be the project Golden Gate showed us: 16 R-1-like single-family homes, all two-story with the option of a third basement floor of living space that won't involve water wastage because the land surface is well above the aquifer. It would have minimal impact on traffic and provide adequate parking.
With an estimated price range of $3 million and up, these should definitely be suitable Palo Alto homes for the second decade of the 21st century.
The neighborhood dodged a bullet when Palo Alto Housing Corporation (PAHC) put the financial pieces together to be able to purchase the Maybell/Clemo property. Without that, a commercial developer would have bought and developed it in a much different manner, I suspect, than Golden Gate Homes is proposing.
Even if you wanted to stymie the PAHC proposal, you should be thankful to PAHC, if you live in the neighborhood, for setting off a series of events that will result, if this project is approved, in a nice addition to this edge of Barron Park.
Georgia Avenue, Palo Alto
Passing along the problem
The council's way of "dealing" with congested parking in downtown has been simply to push it out to our neighborhoods. This was not and is not an answer to a council-created problem.
We live in a condominium that was built in 1997. The building has more than enough parking spaces provided for the number of units, so thankfully, usually we can accommodate a visitor. However, almost nothing built since then has this been the case.
Our neighborhood had plenty of street parking when we moved in and had a two-hour limit, as I recall. This worked quite well for the church, our building and the nearby medical offices. Cars came and went. Now both sides of the street fill up at 8 a.m. and nothing moves out until 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.
The City Council needs to go back to the drawing board and work out something better. You have not arrived at a satisfactory answer.
Byron Street, Palo Alto
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