Town Square

Post a New Topic

Contentious Maybell development wins approval

Original post made on Jun 17, 2013

After several false starts, Palo Alto's bitter and deeply emotional debate over a proposed housing development on Maybell Avenue finally reached its conclusion Monday night when the City Council unanimously granted a zone change that would make the project a reality.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Monday, June 17, 2013, 11:26 PM

Comments (80)

Posted by Amazing
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 17, 2013 at 11:51 pm

I should have expected exactly this: the council would make a few face-saving, meaningless concessions, and then steamroll the residents in favor of the developer. The outcome was rigged last year when the council aligned themselves with PAHC financially with millions of city dollars.

I hope the neighbors reject this patronizing, insulting overreach for what it is and force the city to defend itself in a non-biased forum via a CEQA suit.

I also hope they organize a referendum because I'm happy to support it. Its a matter of principle, as well as self interest (how long till my neighborhood is trampled by a council developer giveaway?)

Posted by Attendee
a resident of Green Acres
on Jun 18, 2013 at 12:26 am

First of all, there was no "summit" with neighborhood "representatives' - that makes it sound like people are officially speaking for the neighborhood. A handful of good people FROM a few of the neighborhoods were kind of grabbed after the meeting Thursday and invited to three days of talking that got trimmed to two. There never was actually any effort to get "representatives" - meaning people who were speaking for the neighborhoods.

The "compromise' that was voted on was not substantially different than what was offered Thursday, and is still too large for the neighborhood. PAHC made the point that the project is only financially viable if they have 60 units rather than the 40 the neighbors suggested that would allow them to have a 3-story building rather than a 4-story building. It's disturbing that PAHC went into a residential area knowing they had to rezone for such density in order to make their project work, and could hold that out as leverage (in addition to the need to rezone the market-rate portion for the sake of the for-profit developers).

Councilman Schmid made a really good point that the purchase of the property was in part from a City fund that comes about because of, for example, a downtown developer paying money to avoid having to put any affordable housing in their project, that that money is being used to make it possible to put all those units at Maybell instead. But the money being provided is not enough to reduce the burden on the neighborhood by making up for the difference so that PAHC can make the finances work for a reasonably sized development.

He suggested they're not charging enough when developers weasel out of affordable housing (my words, not his). If they were being charged enough, the money would have been available for the City to pay the true cost of this housing, rather than foisting the cost on the neighborhood through the density required for PAHC's requirements and the for-profit market-rate houses they are selling off to help finance the project.

I was really disturbed at how several of the Councilmembers dismissed the traffic and safety problems of Arastradero and Maybell, as if large developments are somehow a separate issue.

Posted by dear city council
a resident of Green Acres
on Jun 18, 2013 at 12:50 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Unbelievable
a resident of Green Acres
on Jun 18, 2013 at 1:05 am

Lawsuits should still be filed, and when the construction crews show up to start groundbreaking, and doing work, form a human chain around the entire parcel, and stop PAHC from building anything. Very predictable this council. They knew they would vote this outcome at the normal council meeting on last Monday, and this past Thursday. The attempt for a compromise in understanding meeting was simply a way to quiet the masses. Simply put, the market rate homes should not be built. Affordable housing is affordable housing, and should not come with market rate home construction strings attached further congesting the neigborhood with both people and traffic. Arillaga has enough money to lend or give PAHC in order to build the affordable senior units. Why is he not being asked to dig deeper, and provide a true public service benefit in the form of giving PAHC the money to build the senior apartments without having to build the market rate homes.

Posted by long term palo altan
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 18, 2013 at 1:47 am

City council made a bad decision.

Posted by Attendee
a resident of Green Acres
on Jun 18, 2013 at 2:31 am

I wouldn't form a human chain. PAHC has shown a huge disdain for the neighbors through all of this. They continue to fight the boiler plate NIMBY battles, tonight some even calling the neighbors liars and deriding their stated support of affordable housing, even using the word NIMBY. I've been part of many neighborhood meetings over the past two months, and I've never heard anyone say anything unsupportive of affordable housing, people have been genuinely wrestling with battling a bad plan for the neighborhood and wanting to support affordable housing.

I was so disgusted by how PAHC has attacked the neighbors that way, if I had any inclination to get civically involved to help PAHC in the future, it's gone. What other affordable housing providers are there in town, and who if any are better? Several of the attendees that PAHC rounded up from their locations complained to me over the course of the meetings about conditions at the properties. How do the other providers compare?

The people running the project made a monumental mistake by trying to sneak it by the neighbors and not realizing this is a neighborhood where they would have gotten people working with them to come up with something that worked if they'd had a spirit of good faith and good will from the beginning. I have been really stunned through all of this at how derisive PAHC employees and supporters were. The irony is of course that they pick this part of Palo Alto precisely because neighbors are more supportive/tolerant of affordable housing. (Despite Klein's protestations that as much affordable housing is in the north as the south of town, in the north it's all basically concentrated downtown, which is an appropriate place for high density. This is a residential neighborhood. Take the downtown out of the equation, and the northern neighborhoods really aren't taking their fair share of affordable housing. Klein lives over in Leland Manor on Seale (public knowledge, Weekly, right on Council website), which, less see, has all of ... ZERO?... large affordable housing complexes, where this neighborhood already has three? This one apparently paid for partly by money developers downtown paid so they wouldn't have to have affordable housing in THEIR projects. But not enough money so the neighborhood doesn't have to mostly bear the ultimate cost. There was a lot of NIMBYism going on here tonight, and most of it was up on the podium.)

Posted by Douglas Moran
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 18, 2013 at 5:33 am

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

The result was very predictable and in line with what Council has done as long as I can remember. Council will approve a bad project with a few minor changes. Developers have learned to present projects to Council that demand outrageous concessions from the community and expect that "the compromise" will be to reduce those concessions from outrageous to extravagant.

That said, what was different about this time was the weekend "summit" as an attempt to do slightly better. What I don't hear is any concern about the broken process that allowed that proposal to reach Council in a form they felt they needed to approve.

Aside: For chuckles or perspective, you can read a rant I wrote back in 2007 in the aftermath of similar fiascoes to see how little has changed: Web Link

Posted by Douglas Moran
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 18, 2013 at 5:49 am

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

The statement in the memo's overview that "PAHC also has a better understanding of the neighbors' primary concerns as they relate to neighborhood compatibility, existing conditions and perceived project impacts." (pg 1, para 5). I attended the various PAHC community meetings on this project and at the first one (12 Sept 2012), each of these issues was raised by multiple attendees. Ditto for subsequent meetings.

The repeated lesson from Council is that they will reward, not punish, developers for ignoring public input.

Posted by common sense
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 18, 2013 at 7:11 am

A very sad day for Palo Alto governance; the use of the city's financial resources to help the developers, the modification of zoning to permit higher density development, the total disregard for the neighborhood concerns of traffic, as well as the wider community for the safety of school kids bike routes, the sleazy way the city staff tried to include this in the housing element, and imputing of bad motives on the neighbors all highlight what is wrong with city staff & the city council.

Several ballot measures are needed:

1) Take away zoning decisions from the council, and put it to the voters.

2) City should not be allowed to help finance these developments, thereby creating conflicts of interests in approving these projects.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 18, 2013 at 7:22 am

I hope the council remembers their dismissal of traffic issues when the first child on a bike gets hit by a vehicle.

Posted by overheated councilmembers
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 18, 2013 at 7:28 am

Resident--is that what you are hoping for?

Check out today's Daily News
Web Link
Holman says:
"Council Member Karen Holman expressed disappointment that the so-called “weekend summit” did not yield a solution that pleased both sides equally."
She is in a fantasy world

Poor, sensitive Larry Klein says too much overheated language was used:
"However, Council Member Larry Klein said both sides had failed in some regard — the nonprofit organization for not doing more outreach and opponents for using “overheated language.” "
Of course thinks anytime anyone disagrees with him they are using "overheated language".

Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jun 18, 2013 at 8:07 am

Will there be any effort to put this decision to a Referendum? There ought to be enough voters in the Barron Park area, alone, to collect the necessary signatures.

Posted by disappointed
a resident of Green Acres
on Jun 18, 2013 at 8:13 am

Make a few meaningless concession, put on a show of listening to neighbor's concerns but in the end voting as predicted from the beginning. City council and staff are in lock-step with PAHC.

Nearly doubling the number current number of houses along Maybell from 4 now to 7 and an additional 5-6 on Clemo. That could mean 13, not 12 market rate homes squeezed into the space to help finance the senior complex.

Posted by Senior citizen
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 18, 2013 at 8:23 am

Senior citizens do not drive much? Who do you think volunteers around here, and we all drive automobiles.

Posted by Attendee
a resident of Green Acres
on Jun 18, 2013 at 8:33 am

There are so many problems and impacts with this proposal, no one was even able to defend the park.

It totally went by people that there were some minor toxics issues with the soil - possibly because it was an orchard for so long and things were sprayed? it was never explained - so they determined in a previous meeting to sweep the sidewalks daily to keep the dust from building up there when they are removing the 90 trees and grading for the construction. I couldn't tell if some of the contaminated soil was being removed too, or if it was just regular grading.

What about the impacts on Juana Briones Park and the fact that the little kids' area is right across the street? Is someone going to wipe down the play structures? Will the kids have build up of contaminated dust on their play structures or in the play sand? What about little kids and babies breathing the dust? Are they going to put up giant construction fencing around the park play structures to keep kids from running out there once all the construction traffic starts? How is that going to impact the park usage, and how welcoming the park is? What if parents stop trusting the safety of the park? I was just amazed that sweeping the sidewalks was a remediation, but the children's play sand right next to the sidewalks never came up.

Posted by Attendee
a resident of Green Acres
on Jun 18, 2013 at 8:41 am

@Senior Citizen,
That was one of the problems the neighbors had - the project only has 47 parking spots for 60 units, staff, and visitors. This is not a neighborhood that can absorb any additional parking, and any that happens will take up the limited parking available for Juana Briones Park. Again, if the traffic problem could be solved (big IF), at least an underground parking garage would provide the parking spaces, but PAHC can't afford to put in underground parking - again, making the neighborhood bear the cost, instead of being paid for by developers. Or through extra money to buy a location closer to services seniors need.

Schmid specifically pointed out a development where they paid not to have the affordable housing units there, was near Avenidas, PAMF, the train station, bus hub, etc. etc In meeting, PAHC reps kept making the point that Whole Foods is just a mile away, etc., when people are still mostly going to have to take cars to those "nearby" places, nevermind the affordability issues with the places they proferred.

Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 18, 2013 at 8:47 am

This outcome was a given after the City put millions into this project before any reviews were completed.

It's time for a referendum and to vote out the advocates, including Barton.

Posted by Carlos
a resident of Green Acres
on Jun 18, 2013 at 9:18 am

It's clear from this decision that the city council does not represent the community and our best interests. It's up to us now to take the next steps to get them out of office and stop this project which will bring no benefits to the community.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 18, 2013 at 9:19 am

Klein needs to climb down from his imaginary pedestal and try super hard to be/sound less condescending.

Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jun 18, 2013 at 9:27 am

> Councilman Schmid made a really good point that the
> purchase of the property was in part from a City fund [an in-lieu of fund]

I have it from a reliable source that funding for the PAHC comes from:

Funding comes from Housing in-Lieu and CDBG (Block Grant) funds. Most recently Stanford Hospital Expansion – Development Agreement.

Presumably this is legal, but probably not well documented for the public's consumption.

I don't think Mr. Schmid is fully aware of the funding, or being totally honest about it.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 18, 2013 at 9:34 am


Re: your concerns on the impact of contaminated dust settling in the park... Can we "overheated opponents" just take care of this ourselves? Can we galvanize a group (perhaps dub ourselves the Overheated Overreactionaries ;) and post warnings about the sand in and around jb park. Also we could wipe down the structures, perhaps with donated supplies (rags, plastic bags, facemasks) from local hardware stores ?

Could we work with Gunn teachers to measure the level of contamination via swabs, sand samples? Seems like a great service learning project. What non profit organizations could get involved?

Just a thought. I'm sure the council expects us to do absolutely nothing. Maybe we should do something but with a very wide audience.

Posted by homeowner
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 18, 2013 at 9:45 am


Members of the city council express concern over each of the valid point raised by the neighbors. They agree with them, sometime stating that certain things are unacceptable then vote to approve the project anyway.

Posted by Michele
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jun 18, 2013 at 9:47 am

It was a done deal. Palo Alto politics are almost as bad as the politics of my home state, where as a little girl I watched votes being purchased for bottles of liquor.

Posted by Michele
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jun 18, 2013 at 9:52 am

Vote 'em out:

Patrick Burt, Marc Berman, Larry Klein, Karen Holman, Gail Price, Gregory Sharff, Greg Schmid, Nancy Shepherd, Liz Kniss

Posted by Eric
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 18, 2013 at 10:16 am

Several years ago, my wife asked then-councilmember Gary Fazzino, "whose interests do you represent -- the Residents, or the Developers?"

Fazzino's answer was: "it's 50-50."

This question should be a central one in the election next year. As the Maybell result shows, and as many people above have pointed out, the city council and staff simply don't feel anymore like they work for the residents and voters of Palo Alto.

One of the next focal points will be the downtown neighborhood parking crunch, caused by city approval of too many highrise office constructions without their own parking. Although that one is nominally local to North Palo Alto, it's really just one part of a broad, city-wide problem: the nature of development in Palo Alto, the answer to the question, "whose interests do you represent," and what we want our city to look like over the next few decades.

The next election is absolutely crucial. It's imperative we elect a set of councilmembers whose answer is, "residents first," and start from there.

Posted by overheated councilmembers
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 18, 2013 at 10:24 am

Also remember that the council wants to get rid of term limits--in other words they do not care about the will of the people (term limits were decided by a vote of the people a number of years ago).
Something to think about if that issue comes to the ballot box soon.

Posted by Attendee
a resident of Green Acres
on Jun 18, 2013 at 10:24 am

Looking back at the recall election of 1967 is instructive, it was developers versus residentialists. It's not as easy today, though, the ABAG pressures are real. Look at what's happening to Menlo Park - they just ignored it and now they're having to come up with 1,000 spaces in the next 6 months. The invisible hand of the ABAG mandate was definitely over this project.

Posted by no affordable housing
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 18, 2013 at 10:42 am

We don't mind senior in our neighborhood, but the key is "affordable housing". This will depress home prices and also attract low-income visitors to our neighborhood, like the children and grandchildren of these seniors. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Juno
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 18, 2013 at 10:48 am

Only time will tell if the "debate over a proposed housing development on Maybell Avenue" has "finally reached its conclusion."

Posted by Richard C. Placone
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 18, 2013 at 10:52 am

I've sent this letter to the city council and city manager, for whatever good it will do.

Mayor Scharff:

I read the report of the private meeting between you, some staff and 9 residents of the community surrounding the proposed Maybell project. I won't go into the matter that only nine residents showed up, or were invited, or however that many were chosen, given the unprecedented protests against this project, but I do think this is very curious.

What I want to know from you is why the information presented in the report about the so called disadvantages of developing the site under the current zoning, disadvantages that have caused the residents in attendance to change their minds about the proposed zoning change, was not presented to the community well in advance of the start of this project? I find this very hard to believe. Frankly, this entire private meeting seems to me (and others I know of) to be a "divide and conquer" process to get the city's way on this project. Can you please explain to me why the city and its various agencies including the private development company with whom the city seems to have a "sweetheart" relationship, one which I find personally distasteful, fully planned and advanced over $5,000,000 of tax payer money, before a word of this was given to the residents of the community who would be most effected by the development. Please tell me why this is an appropriate way for the city to govern, in secret as it were, instead of involving voters in the very beginning of the process. Why do developers get special treatment, hearings and taxpayer funds before anyone of the citizens of Palo Alto learn of what is proposed? This seems to be a pattern, i.e., 27 University Avenue, and the proposed sale of Arastadero reserve property.

I want you to know that I strongly object to this type of governance and demand that it cease and desist and that henceforth the council and staff begin to act as if the city is not your private fiefdom, but rather is an entity that belongs to everyone one of us who lives here, owners, taxpayers, renters - everyone and that you elected people, and you well paid staff are privileged, yes, privileged to be involved as you are.


Richard C. Placone
Chimalus Drive
Barron Park, Palo Alto

Posted by Kimberly
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 18, 2013 at 11:00 am

It is a myth that affordable housing has any negative effect on housing prices in Palo Alto. There is a lot of information on this and a lot of examples. Below market rate housing and market rate housing exist fine side by side. Downtown the most expensive condos in the area are across from Oak Court - affordable housing with no bad effect according to area Real Estate Agents.

The tone of the email by a Barron Park neighbor bemoaning the lack of racial profiling is obnoxious with the bias against lower income people (many of whom live in Palo Alto). This prejudice is not the Palo Alto I want to live in. Palo Alto welcomes economic, age and ethnic diversity and is one of the strengths of Barron Park. For shame.

Posted by realist
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 18, 2013 at 11:05 am

When the City approves massive office projects increasing the jobs/housing imbalance it plays right into the hands of ABAG and loses all credibility in opposing the mandates. The Council has made its choice.

When Klein says the Maybell project shouldn't be "made proxy for traffic" he is right in one sense. His decisions on the Council have made the traffic mess so bad in Palo Alto that it is an unsolvable problem just like Downtown parking. But residents should not overreact to the the destruction of their neighborhoods and the
quality of life in Palo Alto.

Posted by Roy M
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jun 18, 2013 at 11:26 am

It's not just about voting the council members out. We need residents to run for council seats. The criteria is simple:
1. Represent residents only, not developers
2. Accept no campaign money from non-residents or developers
3. Agree that the city council is not a stepping stone for a political career. It's only about making Palo Alto a better place to live.

Posted by Juno
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 18, 2013 at 11:35 am

If we really want to address the ABAG issue, I think the most effective way to do it is to vote out Rich Gordon and Jerry Hill, our representatives in the state legislature. Both Democrats. I am a former Democrat, now registered "Decline to State" because the Democrats in Sacramento have brought us into this ABAG hell. (Didn't vote for Jerry Brown either because of High Speed Rail).

If state legislators realize that there are consequences to their decisions, and that voters are waking up to the results of the party-line path that they have taken, then there might be some hope for the future.

Posted by Attendee
a resident of Green Acres
on Jun 18, 2013 at 12:49 pm

I agree with you that the affordable housing would have an impact on housing prices. But I am suspicious of whether "no affordable housing" is even from the neighborhood. I've attended many large meetings and had numerous private email and personal conversations with neighbors over the last few months, and I've never heard anyone express that sentiment. This neighborhood actually already has 3 large affordable housing projects here already. The overwhelming sentiment of the neighbors is supportive of affordable housing, and I don't recall anyone ever being even privately concerned about property values from the affordable housing.

It WAS clear from the whole battle up til now that PAHC was ready to steamroll the neighbors with the usual NIMBY attack plan, and they didn't and won't stop. These are good people very impacted by the logistics of the infrastructure in that location, and legitimately concerned about safety for the kids. The circumstances are unprecedented, with the safe routes to school surrounding that property and no other outlet, the unprecedented traffic of the last two years, one of the streets being so substandard, etc., yet PAHC said oh, EVEYRONE complains (by implication, it's never valid).

Neighbors care an awful lot about affordable housing. It's why the City told PAHC to concentrate on that neighborhood (I heard this from a PAHC employee that the City told them to concentrate there). PAHC does not seem to share the same concern for the residents and their concern for safety of the neighborhood children.

It has convinced me that this rezoning should be overturned, the City should raise the in lieu fees where developers get to avoid having affordable housing in their properties, so that PAHC can afford to pay the actual cost of the housing and not foist it on a neighborhood.

Posted by Michele
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jun 18, 2013 at 12:53 pm

I am not opposed to having low income housing in the community - my problem with this project is putting ANY more housing of any type on this tiny street that is already choked with kids on bikes and anxious parents trying to rush kids to school. Add more cars and it is a mix for disaster.
There are many empty deteriorating buildings along El Camino causing blight - why not use some of those? Example - the Boston Market on Fernando and El Camino is now empty. An Apartment building with say 8 senior apartments could easily be put there.

Posted by Attendee
a resident of Green Acres
on Jun 18, 2013 at 12:59 pm

Typo apology! I mean: I agree with you that the affordable housing would NOT have an impact on housing prices. I haven't heard one person from the neighborhood in all these weeks even suggest it. Affordable housing is an integrated part of this neighborhood already.

PAHC has shown throughout this that they have a real machine for mowing down NIMBYs, and wasn't even prepared to contemplate that the people they were attacking didn't feel that way about affordable housing.

I personally am pretty disgusted with PAHC for how they have treated the neighbors, and have suspicions about whether the person you answered is even from the area. Support for affordable housing in Barron Park is as high as Greenacres, where there's a huge amount of support to save the Buena Vista mobile home park and retain the residents in Palo Alto.

PAHC will roll out a lot of ugly things in the next weeks against the neighbors during the referendum, please don't believe all of it. They've pretty much convinced me that if we could get the City Council to charge developers enough in-lieu fees (where they pay to avoid putting affordable housing in their developments) to pay the ACTUAL cost of affordable housing (rather than making the neighborhood bear the burden, as here), PAHC will do just fine and will hardly skip a beat in providing more housing, in a way that doesn't require massive PC zoning in residential neighborhoods.

Posted by Jo Ann
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 18, 2013 at 1:17 pm

Our City Council is a wholly-owned subsidiary of developers. I HATE it that they're turning Palo Alto in Hong Kong with ridiculous density while cutting down traffic lanes because they're hallucinating that no one will drive cars.

Now the CC wants no term limits??? FEH.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 18, 2013 at 1:38 pm

Chop and Roxy and Jim and Arrillaga and Jay Paul etc are not hallucinating about people driving cars. It's just not their problem, because none of them actually lives in Palo Alto.

Posted by just saying
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 18, 2013 at 1:40 pm

Anyone understand why Pat Burt said that the city should look at Maybell calming (again) but was unwilling to add Arastradero in the equation? Is it just too hard to say that a mistake was made on the stretch between El Camino and Foothill?

I can not wait to see the line up of construction vehicles on Arastradero this next school year mixed with the additional VMware employees and the new student drivers.

Oh, that's right, they can not legally turn right on Arastradero from El Camino in the morning (sign was posted last year) so I guess they will have to come down Maybell. Good luck calming that on Maybell.

Posted by Attendee
a resident of Green Acres
on Jun 18, 2013 at 1:57 pm

@just saying,
Oh, but don't you know, they're going to put up a few more signs on Maybell to restrict parking during the day, and you know, Marc Berman has asked if it ever occurred to anyone to consider changing the school start times to solve all the problems?

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 18, 2013 at 2:01 pm

Here are some of the people on the Board of Directors of PAHC:

Michael J. Anderson Developer
Dale Denson Real Estate Broker
David Easton Architect
Ronald Hall Contractor
Thomas B. Jacob Real Estate Attorney
Joseph F. Martignetti Housing Development Executive
Mark Moragne Developer
Mila Zelkha Developer

You trust all these folks to look out for the community, right? As opposed to, "let's build stuff, yowza !!"


Posted by Not affected by this, yet.
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jun 18, 2013 at 2:37 pm

While I can avoid any traffic caused by this particular decision, I find how this came about to be most interesting ---

It is as if many elected leaders now have a preconceived notion of what is best for the communities they are entrusted to serve, and they use power to almost steam-roll projects through that may or may not be good for the community, overall & looking at the big picture. This is happening at the local levels, the state level and even the national level now.

Locally, some development built over the past 5 years or so, that is visually overbearing and imposing from the street, puts many people off. It makes me wonder how the developments were allowed.

Nationally, President Obama recently said his job is 1) to protect citizens & 2) to enforce the Constitution. Of course, everyone knows his #1 job is to uphold the US Constitution, and his oath of office indicates that, so he reversed the order of priority & importance.

But taking what he said at face value, if his administration's idea of protecting citizens disregards or eliminates articles in our Constitution, presumably, it could be rationalized as okay, because his #1 goal was to protect citizens. Correct?

My point is the same is happening locally, with councils caving to developers. If their job is 50/50 representing developers and citizen residents equally, then in the name of doing the public good, what the public actually wants and calls for can be disregarded by council, and everyone else, with complete impunity. Correct?

Whom are they representing, why & what is the ultimate, big picture, goal?

Posted by Jerky
a resident of Ventura
on Jun 18, 2013 at 2:37 pm

Why does South Palo Alto have so much more affordable housing than North Palo Alto? Is it because we are so close to MTN view that we might as well be treated as such?

Posted by When in Doubt
a resident of Green Acres
on Jun 18, 2013 at 2:43 pm

Just sue the bastards!

Posted by Brian
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jun 18, 2013 at 2:49 pm

You are certainly living up to your name. I can determine that even though I don't live in Mountain View. There is plenty of low income housing in "North Palo Alto". I know there is a lot in my area of town (Cal Ave), and also in the south of downtown area. I'm OK with it. Maybe you should consider moving to a place where you won't have to mix with anyone below your station.

Posted by new to PA
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 18, 2013 at 3:01 pm

Juno, please clarify what you mean by the "ABAG issue." Is this a mandate for a certain number of low-income units in cities like Palo Alto?

Posted by Barron Park
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 18, 2013 at 3:11 pm

Here we go again, it is all about who has the money and lets put it in South Palo Alto in the Barron Park and Green Acres, but not on the north side of town. The city Council does not
care about us who live here and drive the congested streets that they approve of, but we have to drive these streets serval times a day, and the kids Woe are we.
Shame on you City Council.

Posted by curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 18, 2013 at 3:33 pm

Ixnay the orthnay outhsay. We're wearing lots of city hall tire tread north of Embarcadero too.

If you want to stop this by a referendum, and shake up city hall, you'll need citywide support.

Posted by Jerky
a resident of Ventura
on Jun 18, 2013 at 3:35 pm


There aren't too many people below my station residing in Palo Alto. I'm one of those people who make too much money to qualify for affordable housing, but not enough money to purchase or even rent a house for me and my family. Thanks for the advice, you sound like a nice guy. Would you mind letting me pitch a tent in your backyard?

Posted by On behalf of Calvin
a resident of Juana Briones School
on Jun 18, 2013 at 5:39 pm

I think we need to act now to take back Palo Alto. Let's organize now. How do we do this? Personally, I want the mayor and ALL the council members recalled ASAP. I have a Facebook page open call "Take back Palo Alto," where you and go and join and we can start the discussion there. It will be a closed, private group.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 18, 2013 at 5:47 pm

Closed private groups on Facebook are not open for people to join, they have to be invited.

Posted by Litigation might work
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 18, 2013 at 5:53 pm

How can council members sleep at night, knowing that they have ignored real safety issues in the Maybell Avenue area? The council was told, shown videos and pictures and did nothing but pay lip service to these concerns.

Traffic calming on Maybell--HA! During the morning rush when school is in session, the traffic does NOT move. What could be calmer than that?

South Palo Altans need to run for and take over city council unless they are prepared to be railroaded again and again and again.

Posted by Attendee
a resident of Green Acres
on Jun 18, 2013 at 6:09 pm

We should definitely not let them divide and conquer. But to the above posters:

The reality of affordable housing distribution throughout the City is that virtually all of the affordable housing in the north side of town is downtown, which is more suited for the kinds of higher densities affordable housing providers seek. There is some around California, which is in south palo alto. But the bulk of the developments in residential areas are going into South Palo Alto neighborhoods. I hope you can see why people in the South would feel like this is unfair since City councilmembers are overwhelmingly from the north side of town. This council has only 2 members south of oregon expwy, while half the population lives here.

In this neighborhood in particular, the fact that we have existing affordable housing is being used as an excuse for rezoning the residential neighborhood to match.

That said, as you say, we are all fed up with the overdevelopment and how it's turned a sleepy suburb of a few years ago into a parking lot. And yes, we should all band together. Watch out for this council group, though, as they showed last weekend, they do the "divide and conquer" thing pretty well.

Posted by just saying
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 18, 2013 at 6:26 pm

My understanding is that this council had previously voted to focus housing density on the south El Camino corridor. Sounds like a plan to me.

Posted by On behalf of Calvin
a resident of Juana Briones School
on Jun 18, 2013 at 6:39 pm


You can search and request to join. Otherwise it is an open group where everyone can see posts. I am not sure I or we want that.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 18, 2013 at 6:51 pm

Tried searching but no results for that name.

I agree that it should be a closed group, but not sure how people can join if we can't get to the page. Perhaps someone with more experience of closed groups can chime in.

Posted by Attendee
a resident of Green Acres
on Jun 18, 2013 at 7:20 pm

@ just saying,
I believe it's in the housing element of the General Plan, which hasn't been approved yet but will be in a few days (?) to concentrate of South Palo Alto for focusing housing density. If you don't like this, let 'em know, so they understand the civic powder keg they just lit!

Posted by Take Back Palo Alto
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 18, 2013 at 8:44 pm

I gave up, long ago, attending city council meetings, and waiting late into the evening to speak on a specific topic. The council doesn't listen to the public. They do not represent the wishes of the citizenry. It's a total waste of time trying to change the minds of this city council. When there is a contentious issue in front of the city council, they pretend to listen to the public remarks. Then they take out of their pockets their previously prepared remarks, which usually give their stamp of approval to the developer trying to, yet again, build a monster development in PA.

Posted by Laurel
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jun 18, 2013 at 8:59 pm

Shame on all the city council members for jamming this through the approval process. Once again, the city has lumbered to south Palo Alto, squatted, and extruded a heap of corn studded **** that would never in a million years be considered in any of the north Palo Alto neighborhoods. To say that the fix was in on this deal is an understatement. With real estate developers and lawyers and a contractor on the housing commission, and the silent ever present hand of ABAG at work, how could the outcome have be anything but some over sized MacDevelopment?

Posted by research
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 18, 2013 at 10:37 pm

Good list of PAHC Board Members
Mark Moragne, Developer is in R&M Properties which did 524 Hamilton
Ave building Downtown which has 7300 sq ft office space and 3600 sq ft residential unit on top floor with 8 parking spaces total. Two of the spaces are reserved for the residence leaving 6 for the offices. Used TDR's and other provisions to reduce on site parking requirements.

Posted by need to please ABAG
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 18, 2013 at 10:47 pm

From the PA Weekly: "ABAG has determined the city must plan for 2,079 new housing units, a number city leaders and virtually everyone else say is unreasonable and not attainable. The goal would require the city to find sites for nearly 260 new homes a year or 21 every month over the eight-year period."

Given ABAG's requirement, building 60 units to house seniors unlikely to impact the schools seems reasonable. If this means adding 15 market-rate townhouses (with, say 30 more PAUSD students), so be it.

Posted by Stanford wants it too
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 18, 2013 at 11:11 pm

The Housing people even trotted out Stanford's chief developer, Jean McCown to support their claim. You didn't expect Larry Klein to vote against his former law partner, now, did you?
I guess Stanford wants this development, why else would she speak for it?

Posted by Attendee
a resident of Green Acres
on Jun 19, 2013 at 12:54 am

@need to please ABAG,
The City actually has more than enough units to meet its ABAG allotment. If they took out 20 to compromise with the neighborhood, they'd still exceed their allotment. If there's such an urgent need, why did they let 20 senior BMR units go unfilled at Moldaw for 3 years rather than renegotiating those? I'm not saying there isn't a need, I'm criticizing the process and the stuff they laid on thick on the neighbors to steamroll the rezoning. The Moldaw units weren't so important to the City because they had already been counted, who cares if they went empty, right? Except people who actually care about affordable housing should have cared, because they could have gotten 40 people into homes already built, right then. PAHC can't reduce 20 at Maybell because of their finances. They entered into it knowing they could only do the project if the City rezoned for them and for the for-profit developer doing the market rate houses. The City is saving money and the neighborhood is paying for it.

Easy for you to say, you live downtown so obviously choose density. There's a reason for zoning laws.

If PAHC had come in with 40 units and 3-stories, plus for-profit houses that fit the neighborhood, this probably wouldn't have ever happened. Again, the benefit is to the City, not the neighborhood, but the neighborhood is being asked to bear the burden of it. The in lieu fees should have been higher so that if they wished to choose an expensive location like that, the City should have been able to pay the actual cost. They did at the new affordable housing development on Alma, they should have here, too.

Someone else who didn't want to put those affordable units downtown paid some money into that pot so that those units could go somewhere else, ie. Maybell. But they didn't pay enough to make the development work in the scale of the neighborhood.

That property is currently an orchard with 2 typical ranch houses on it. It sits between two heavily traveled, overburdened, safe routes to school, one of them of significantly substandard width (only 15 feet at one point) even though it is designated a "bike boulevard" along with Bryant. There are no other routes in and out of the complex than these routes. Even Marc Berman said it's NOT a safe route to school. Anyone who lives here can see that. Safe routes to school are supposed to be afforded a heightened level of scrutiny when it comes to street changes and development that affects them. The City study didn't even take into account the heavy uptick in traffic with data from the last 2 years or study the impact on the over 1,000 school kids on foot and bike who travel every school day.

The City's traffic people claimed that going from 4 houses and an orchard to 15 tall skinny houses and 60 units would generate something like only 10 new trips per day, even though it's almost inconceivable the new market-rate houses won't be filled by at least 2 wage earners and probably teenagers going to Gunn.

But I understand why you think so what, you don't have to worry about the safety of the kids anymore than PAHC or the City does. The neighborhood does, though.

Posted by Lydia Kou
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 19, 2013 at 6:07 am

I would love to see a list of the properties which has applications for rezones to high density and what they propose to build; how many units, commercial or residential, etc. I wonder if PA Weekly can put together a list.

Posted by What have you done for me lately
a resident of Green Acres
on Jun 19, 2013 at 8:15 am

To Stanford wants it to, Jean McCown is also a PAHC board member. That is why she is speaking on behalf of the project. Interesting to note however, she invites the city council members to all the Stanford graduations to sit with the faculty and staff in their robes, and guess what, they get to meet the commencement speakers. A little perk for the city council folks. Some interests are really blatant. Nice little cog Palo Alto has going on. You scratch my back, and I will approve your building projects.

Posted by Bag ABAG
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 19, 2013 at 8:19 am

Nobody here likes ABAG either.

Out of control development, ABAG-driven and other, is a city-wide catastrophe. But it will not be curbed without a different council. If people like Gail Price, Nancy Shepard, Marc Berman get reelected, there will be no stopping this.

Most people in Palo Alto are asleep on this issue. So 14 months are left to spread the word.

Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jun 19, 2013 at 8:55 am

> "ABAG has determined the city must plan for 2,079 new housing
> units, a number city leaders and virtually everyone else say
> is unreasonable and not attainable.

Please keep in mind that this is just a ten-year timeline, which will come and go in the proverbial "blink of an eye". Then, the State, through ABAG, will be demanding an even larger number--perhaps 2,500 or 3,000 for the decade to follow.

It's not hard to see that Palo Alto we all know and love will be destroyed by "developers" and the State Legislature in the next 2-3 decades, unless something is done to protect our town.

Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 19, 2013 at 8:59 am

Maybe it's time to split Palo Alto into two municipalities because the city council doesn't represent the entire city. Maybe if Palo Alto ended at Oregon Expressway, the city council would figure out how to meet their ABAG requirements without dumping on South Palo Alto.

Posted by curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 19, 2013 at 9:41 am

"The reality of affordable housing distribution throughout the City is that virtually all of the affordable housing in the north side of town is downtown, which is more suited for the kinds of higher densities affordable housing providers seek."

So they say. What they don't say is that, if it goes downtown, it won't go into their own neighborhoods. Crescent Park and Old Palo Alto boast no affordable housing.

Nor, until now, did the R-1 districts south of Oregon where many "affordable housing" advocates live. Maybell is the wakeup call. Look out, Crescent Park and Old Paly. The precedent is set.

Posted by need to please ABAG
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 19, 2013 at 10:05 am

The point is, ABAG is requiring PA to build over 2000 new housing units. There is no requirement that these new units be filled. Building small senior housing units (or micro studies for tech workers) is the most economical way to satisfy this requirement, and also produces the lowest impact on PA schools.

Posted by just say no to ABAG
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 19, 2013 at 2:20 pm

How nice and thoughtful of the Coty Council to ignore ALL of the Maybell residents valid complaints. How nice of the city to set them up for disaster by narrowing Arastradero!

Posted by concerned Barron Park resident
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 19, 2013 at 2:28 pm

One simple truth. City Council members do not fairly represent the interests of South Palo Alto residents. They do not even live in the neighborhood. I agree with Let's Vote them out. Shame on them.

Posted by ABAG and local politicians
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 19, 2013 at 3:58 pm

I am inspired to remark, reading the last post about "City Counci members do not fairly represent the interests of South Palo Alto residents." I can't know one way or another as I live in a different area of the city. There sure SEEMS to be a lot of concern and outrage from local residents concerning the recent political decisionmaking process over this low-income and senior and highdensity market rate housing development to be installed in Barron Park....
However, the notion of that remark in the above post strikes a chord. Seems to me that Assemblyman Rich Gordon has taken a position that we all need to do our fair share or etc. with regards to the ABAG dictates (to me, it seems takeover of Bay Area cities -- especially the more attractive ones such as Palo Alto). Someone ought to confirm my notion - up to this point many of us haven't been affected, but as some have posted, that is likely just a matter of time. I am pretty sure I am correct on that....likely falling in line with party dictates, I assume.
What about preserving an attractive area - quality of life - reasonable growth and similar concerns?!
I would like to have our local and regional elected officials representing the views and interests of local residents, homeowners rather than subscribing to some notion that will irrevocably lower the quality of life in many Bay Area communities, all in the guise of "equality"of other people (politicians or anyone who demands a home be handed to them by subsidy under some very complicated scheme - I have not been able to understand the formulas and administration of these subsidies - it isn't super clear....)
There is a weird notion that "anyone" out of the blue is entitled to automatically live in any community, in many cases with these subsidies, though they have wildly different property values, costs of living, employment opportunities/types of empolyment, transportation options. Most of us didn't "demand" to live in Palo Alto as young persons (or elderly) - most have been through a lot to be able to afford this locality....upscale suburban by description, with a lot of professional employment nearby.

Posted by Attendee
a resident of Green Acres
on Jun 19, 2013 at 5:40 pm

That's an interesting point, especially when it comes to seniors.

I was speaking to a young person who actually had a Yes on Maybell button at the vote, and he asked why we were building housing for seniors IN Palo Alto. He actually didn't understand why we spend money on low-income housing when 90% of the people who live there come from outside of Palo Alto. To which I replied that it made perfect sense for people who are younger, because the requirement is that someone either live or work in Palo Alto, and if someone needs affordable housing to live in Palo Alto, obviously they're not living here already, they're coming here to work and it makes sense to provide affordable housing so they can live near where they work.

But seniors aren't in the same circumstances. Seniors everywhere across the country, in every city where there are jobs, make a decision as to whether they can afford to stay after retirement or to move where the cost of living is lower. It's nice for people to stay here, and we should provide for the poorest among us no matter what, but is it really the best use of scarce affordable housing funds to ensure that seniors live exactly within the boundaries of a chosen City, especially one as expensive as this for the other things they need? And since the walkable amenities are so few for that location and planners are essentially promising residents will never go anywhere or have visitors who would add to traffic (so why does it matter that they live there)?

(According to Niall Ferguson, public investments in the elderly are vastly higher than in the young, so the question of whether this is a reasonable public goal is apt. It certainly doesn't reduce emissions as PAHC said the seniors wouldn't be working. And it certainly isn't for the goal of diversity in the neighborhood, we already have a lot of affordable housing for a neighborhood this size, and certainly more than most residential neighborhoods in Palo Alto, and the dominant demographic in the neighborhood already IS seniors. Many of them are on fixed incomes and live in homes that are affordable by virtue of having been purchased so long ago and having low taxes.)

The young person asked why is it that we put seniors in such an expensive location, when if we chose a location a little further away, we could provide nicer homes for 3 times as many seniors for the same cost. If they aren't driving anyway (as PAHC repeated many times), and they aren't going out much, why is it that they should be in that expensive location, what purpose is served? Wouldn't we be better off providing a nice retirement home near medical in, say, a nice part of Castro Valley, and give the seniors free transit passes to come to Palo Alto to visit on those few occasions (and I'm repeating PAHC's contention that those seniors wouldn't get out much) that they get out and about?

I hadn't really thought about it, people just get so stuck in the NIMBY argument, but he made a lot of sense: if the goal is to provide for a need that is clearly much greater than is going to be satisfied by that scale of building, shouldn't we be thinking about such creative solutions? I'm not talking about sticking seniors anywhere unpleasant. I mean, why couldn't we, for the same money, put a thriving Palo Alto senior community with a large affordable component in some nice lakefront area in an outlying area in the hills, a real retirement community, where seniors could return to Palo Alto on public transit as they wished, where the quality of life would be higher and we could afford to provide for far more people? People who would still be near enough that they wouldn't have to sever ties, but far enough that they could have a good quality of life with the money they had to spend after housing costs?

He made a lot of sense. But sense doesn't seem to be guiding the process. (Please don't stoop to any dumb NIMBY name calling here, it's the services for seniors that are Not in My Backyard, not the affordable housing.) PAHC needs this project to expand their domain after losing out to Eden at the new Alma development.

Posted by pares
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 19, 2013 at 7:16 pm

@ ABAG and @ Attendee, your comments make a lot of sense. I would like to add that we are very close to less expensive areas: East Palo Alto, Mountain View, and Redwood City. Many of these areas are already going through a transitional process because real estate is so expensive. Why aren't they included when calculating low income housing close to Palo Alto? Also, investing in these cities benefits those who already live there and improves their towns too.

ABAG is forcing high density urbanization on Palo Alto, especially those of us in the south. It's not right in a democratic society.

Posted by greedyresidents
a resident of another community
on Jun 21, 2013 at 10:40 am

I love these neighbors who are complaining about the impact to their street parking. So many people fill their garages full of junk and then park their cars on the streets. Sorry folks--that is why houses were built with garages and driveways. You are using more than your fair share of public street parking!

I've also seen neighbors who leave their driveway empty and then park on the street anyway. I guess they hate backing up when leaving the house?


Posted by Timothy Gray
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jun 21, 2013 at 1:12 pm

As a former Council candidate, I have stepped back to an observer status, not wanting to appear to have a voice of "sour grapes" -- however, this latest action is absolutely wrong, and is the result of insiders handing off the reigns of government to insiders.

Since I am out of the election business, I will break the silence and say that I am heartbroken to see the future play out in a way that even the worst cynic would not have predicted.

This was a clear fraud on the residents and it works like this: An inflated land price is paid to the land owner based on the valuation of the increased zoning density. (There is not a piece of land in Palo Alto that would not double or triple if increased rental square footage were allowed. We all know that the value is not just in the land, but in the allowed use of the land.)

So the increased price paid for the land, required that the developer build an obese project to make the economics feasible. Then, in a Council created catch 22, the Council claimed that they had to approve the density to allow the charitable project to work, otherwise they would be taking actions agains the poor and the elderly.

Translated: If the developer had paid a market price for the land as zoned, they would not have had to shove the density into a neighborhood that was already facing long and unresolved traffic issues that clearly put the safety of children at risk. Oh yes, and the quality of life for the neighboring residents is a responsibility of the Council. Please don't say that quality of life is a selfish motivation. Our zoning laws exist to protect our quality of life.

I am heartbroken to see this fraud roll out before our eyes and to digest that this is really happening to our town, and I can't just walk out of the theatre and realize it is a bad B-grade movie.

There are also too many levels of conflict of interest to outline in this post, however it is clear that Council members have snubbed their collective noses at the residents.

There will be sequels to this movie: "Purchased political power, Chicago Style II" coming to a neighborhood near you. And that neighborhood, sad to say, will probably be in the South.

I know Larry Klein and others call this concern "divisive", but it is based on empirical observations -- and only those with blinders on would fail to see the obvious future indicated by the extrapolation of data points where South Palo Alto neighborhoods have solely had to absorb the erosion of neighborhoods for the claimed benefit of the community. Fairness in Government 101 requires that their be shared community benefit and shared community pain.

Unless these principles of fairness are followed by the Council, there will be many more sequels to the bad movie we just watched. To those who feel violated by the recent history, I am writing to confirm that you have been.


Tim Gray

Posted by Green Acres resident
a resident of Green Acres
on Jun 21, 2013 at 9:55 pm

I have resisted characterizing actions by City staff as being manipulative or duplicitous but this takes the cake. Much rancor was expressed in opposing the Maybell-Clemo project based on traffic and safety concerns. I received a Community Meeting Notice for "Matadero-Margarita Ave Bicycle Boulevard" in bold face in the mail. The small print, however, states, "The city is soliciting public input on design elements of the proposed Maybell-Donald-Georgia Bicycle Boulevard...." Seriously? The traffic czar will now say that our neighborhood doesn't really care about the traffic when few come to the meeting that was mislabeled. Is this a mistake or planned confusion? One would think that given the public outrage over this Safe Route to School that there would have been some proofing on the notice.

Come to Juana Briones school on Tuesday, June 25 to talk about traffic on Maybell (even though your notice DID NOT mention Maybell in the title.)

Posted by BP resident
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 21, 2013 at 11:29 pm

concerned Barron Park resident,

I, too, agree with Let's Vote them out.

Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.


Post a comment

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

Stay informed.

Get the day's top headlines from Palo Alto Online sent to your inbox in the Express newsletter.

Analysis/paralysis: The infamous ‘Palo Alto Process’ must go
By Diana Diamond | 6 comments | 2,256 views

Common Ground
By Sherry Listgarten | 3 comments | 1,785 views

The Time and Cost Savings of Avoiding a Long Commute
By Steve Levy | 6 comments | 1,613 views

Planting a Fall Garden?
By Laura Stec | 5 comments | 1,070 views


Sign-up now for 5K Run/Walk, 10k Run, Half Marathon

The 39th annual Moonlight Run and Walk is Friday evening, September 29. Join us under the light of the full Harvest Moon on a 5K walk, 5K run, 10K run or half marathon. Complete your race in person or virtually. Proceeds from the race go to the Palo Alto Weekly Holiday Fund, benefiting local nonprofits that serve families and children in Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties.