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Two council members call for greater focus on 'affordable' housing

Original post made on Sep 17, 2019

Palo Alto's efforts to encourage more housing should primarily focus on maintaining diversity and addressing the needs of low-income residents, two members of the City Council are arguing in a new memo.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, September 17, 2019, 1:44 PM

Comments (30)

52 people like this
Posted by Sorely Needed
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 17, 2019 at 2:16 pm

Thank you Kou and DuBois for focusing on the true needs of our town. I pray the rest of the Council stops their endless giveaways to office and luxury condo developers and instead prioritizes below-market rate housing. The County Grand Jury recently cited Palo Alto for doing a terrible job at this - and they're right.


15 people like this
Posted by Skeptical is an understatement.
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 18, 2019 at 9:45 am

Wow. This article applauds the authors of this memo without once acknowledging that they are the two council members most often reluctant to approve housing developments among their peers.

Honestly what a joke. Ask them how they felt about the 100% affordable senior project they both campaigned against.


21 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 18, 2019 at 10:29 am

Posted by Skeptical is an understatement., a resident of Barron Park

>> Wow. This article applauds the authors of this memo without once acknowledging that they are the two council members most often reluctant to approve housing developments among their peers.

This is about -affordable- housing. The unaffordable housing is taking care of itself. PACC should stop bending the rules and allowing zoning-busting developments that are actually making housing less affordable.

>> Honestly what a joke. Ask them how they felt about the 100% affordable senior project they both campaigned against.

Dead horse? Red herring? That project that all yall keep griping about was badly conceived. Period. But, while we are on the subject, we don't need large projects that will dump more auto traffic onto small residential streets with massive kids-on-bikes already present. We don't need projects that depend on upper-income people riding the 22 bus because it is the transit available on a "transit corridor".

How about we build affordable housing on the Fry's site, which is reasonably close to Caltrain and Cal Ave shopping? Already zoned, no zoning-busting required. Already in the plan, no city-plan-busting required. Oh wait-- Sobrato says it won't pencil out. As was pointed out in another thread, "“There are only two markets, ultraluxury and subsidized housing,” said Rafael Viñoly, the architect who designed the tower on Park Avenue at 56th Street, which is called 432 Park." Sobrato has stated that it has no interest in developing affordable housing on that site. So, you're skeptical? Me, too-- but, in a different way.


12 people like this
Posted by Hippo in the room
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 18, 2019 at 10:59 am

Hippo in the room is a registered user.

Kou, affordable housing champion, now that she eliminated any such developments near here house. Ha!


4 people like this
Posted by Judith Wasserman
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Sep 18, 2019 at 11:00 am

Judith Wasserman is a registered user.

Sadly, I think Viñoly is right. Historically, all low cost housing has been either subsidized or directly built by the government. When the state budget had a problem, they tried to solve it by eliminating redevelopment agencies, which were a big source of low cost housing. Nothing has taken its place.
The city of Palo Alto has NO methodology for building anything except public buildings. The only thing it can do is get out of the way of the non-profits that want to, and keep the NIMBYs out of the process.


5 people like this
Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 18, 2019 at 11:10 am

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

Butler Construction in Redwood City is producing beautiful buildings with a lot of style. I hope we are not stuck with specific builders who already have their hooks in our planning department.

The Federal Government is going to provide funding for BMR housing and the CA Gov is already working on that so the door is open to pursue new building that meets the requirements of the new funding. Suggest that "the city" check in with the CA gov and get his attention for funding. The CA Gov attended an event written up in the papers in which Sobrato was mentioned along with Pelosi. It is all there in front of you so go put the pressure on to get the Fry's site scheduled for development. No excuses. Every thing we read in the papers is about housing so make that happen. It checks a lot of boxes for the required funding and cuts down on street traffic if we are renting to teachers and local city staff. And no tax-free finagling here - we need the tax money to pay for the city staff and teachers.


18 people like this
Posted by Green Gables
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 18, 2019 at 12:46 pm

Green Gables is a registered user.

Why does everyone keep calling it "affordable housing" when it should be "low-income housing." There is no such thing as "affordable housing" in the Bay Area.


3 people like this
Posted by Fr0hickey
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Sep 18, 2019 at 5:11 pm

Fr0hickey is a registered user.

Solution to prevent housing from becoming commercial or hotel use:
-Enact a business tax on property owners who allow their property to be used commercially or for hotel use.

Solution to assist community-based workers (PAUSD/City employees/Police/Fire) to reside in Palo Alto:
-Enact a property tax waiver for community-based workers who live in and work in Palo Alto. Employment and residency to be verified yearly. This alone should be worth $25k or more, yearly, which would incentivize community-based workers who work in Palo Alto to live in Palo Alto.

-Increase development fees for commercial projects.
-Reduce development fees for residential projects.


8 people like this
Posted by Same Old City Hall BS
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 18, 2019 at 5:18 pm

Talk is CHEAP.

As Bob Dylan once wrote..."Don't follow leaders. Watch your parking meters."

60+ years ago, he must have had Palo Alto in mind.


8 people like this
Posted by hello?
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 18, 2019 at 5:23 pm

What do we really think the 2 most anti-development council members are attempting with these concepts? Find ways to further obstruct new development, or even interest in doing so. Sacramento is watching and it is maneuvers to ultimately deter housing development, that will lead to state and regional oversight to create the paths to make it happen.


14 people like this
Posted by Same Old City Hall BS
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 18, 2019 at 5:50 pm

Some people just don't get it.

There will NEVER be affordable housing in Palo Alto.

It's too late for that.


24 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Sep 19, 2019 at 7:43 am

Same ole city hall BS.....
You are wrong. Subsidized below market rate housing will always be more affordable as it available only to those who make a certain percentage of the area median income.
It is the housing we need most in Palo Alto.
Our market rate housing production is almost in keeping with the regional assessment, But we are way behind in true BMR housing
The two council members are trying to urge their colleagues to focus on that real need over market rate housing and unwanted new commercial /office development that drives up housing prices and increases our jobs housing imbalance.


8 people like this
Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 19, 2019 at 8:09 am

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

Somehow there is never any mention of the large amount of property at the Palo Alto Business Park off San Antonio and 101 which has empty buildings and a huge wandering parking lot in the back side. It borders one of the prospective locations of RV's which at this time is not developed with any usable parking space. I can see Google signage popping up on the buildings. So question is who in the "city" is managing that land. There is a Palo Alto City office on one of the streets. We have people there so what is going on? Land and buildings were sold on the Embarcadero side of the baylands.

Someone in this city is appropriating usable land with no obvious discussion as to who is either leasing or buying that land.

If we need low cost land for building then that is a great location for some housing. One building has buses for an old people's home but no signage as to who is occupying that land and buildings. So you have transportation in the form of buses and open space for RV's.

Request that the PAW send their "reporters" to the city to find out how available land is being managed, by who, and what the plans area. The "city' keeps focusing on R-1 residential property owners to solve their problems. They need to lay out how available space is going to be used which is not zones as R-1 space.


3 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 19, 2019 at 10:09 am

Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows, a resident of Adobe-Meadow

>> Somehow there is never any mention of the large amount of property at the Palo Alto Business Park off San Antonio and 101 which has empty buildings and a huge wandering parking lot in the back side.

IMHO, a bad place for housing, since it is cut off from transit, from shopping, and requires driving to get anywhere and do anything-- except bike/walk in the adjacent park. But, still bad for housing most people, except bird photographers.

OTOH, it would be a fantastic place for a private school to locate. Just the right size for a middle school/high school combo. Easy freeway access for all the people who drive their daughters to Palo Alto to drop them off on the way to work. Beautiful low-stress views of the wetlands. And, a Palo Alto address. Perfect.

Perhaps the city could do some kind of acquire-and-trade, so that a certain building off Embarcadero could be turned into another community center or museum north of the slot. I'd happily contribute a few of my utility tax dollars to making it happen.



11 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Sep 19, 2019 at 10:45 am

mauricio is a registered user.

There is no such thing as 'affordable housing' in Palo Alto. It's just as intellectually dishonest as saying 'affordable Lamborghini'. Why not be honest at least and call it what it actually is-subsidized housing for those who can't afford Palo Alto.


14 people like this
Posted by Li-Ru Zhao
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Sep 19, 2019 at 1:14 pm

Palo Alto is only affordable for those who can afford to live here.

At one time Palo Alto was reasonable. Not any more.

The earlier (and older) Palo Alto residents will do quite well when they decide to sell their homes as a $50K home purchased in 1970 will now list for well over $4M+.

Only wealthy Chinese & professionals drawing Google-like salaries can afford to live here now.

Affordable/subsidized residential housing will cheapen the Palo Alto image.

As Mr. mauricio stated, there is no 'affordable' housing for people who cannot not to reside in Palo Alto. That is their problem. Go live somewhere else.


13 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Sep 19, 2019 at 3:52 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

The debate should be whether ultra expensive cities should subsidize housing for those who want, but can't afford to live there. It's a debate worth having, but talking about affordable housing in Palo Alto, Woodside, Malibu or Central Park South is intellectually dishonest and frankly, demagogic. Affordable housing in Palo Alto is an oxymoron, such a thing does not exist.


2 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 19, 2019 at 6:10 pm

Posted by mauricio, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland

>> The debate should be whether ultra expensive cities should subsidize housing for those who want, but can't afford to live there. It's a debate worth having, but talking about affordable housing in Palo Alto, Woodside, Malibu or Central Park South is intellectually dishonest and frankly, demagogic. Affordable housing in Palo Alto is an oxymoron, such a thing does not exist.

It exists as subsidized housing and I've had a few acquaintances over the years who lived in subsidized housing. (They have all moved on.) .

Decades ago, I read an article in some local newspaper-- the Times, the Weekly-- I forget-- that described certain towns as being "mature" -- real estate wise -- with older, established families, often inherited wealth and houses, such as Atherton, Hillsborough, and so on, with house prices 10X earned income, while Palo Alto at the time was still considered "young" -- real estate wise -- with house prices 3X earned income. Since then, Palo Alto has moved into the "mature" list. In that sense, you are correct, because you never have affordable market rate housing in a mature community.

However, since then, the entire Peninsula, including SF, has gone into (gentrification)^^2, and, combined with uncontrolled job growth, we now have a "crisis". Because of the "crisis", we have to "do something". So, let's "do something", as long as we are not adding office space and making things worse, or, building luxury-units, which also make things worse. We want the average rent to go down.


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Posted by SMH@BJ
a resident of University South
on Sep 19, 2019 at 8:07 pm

[Post removed.]


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Posted by SMH@BJ
a resident of University South
on Sep 19, 2019 at 8:23 pm

My comment was removed? After the trash I just had to read, MY comment was the offensive one? What a joke.

For posterity, my exact comments (I believe) were as follows:
"This comments section hurts my soul. You people are ghouls. Try therapy instead."

These 3 sentences should be read by the truly sad people writing these despicable things.


5 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 19, 2019 at 9:56 pm

Posted by SMH@BJ

>> "This comments section hurts my soul. You people are ghouls. Try therapy instead." [...] truly sad people writing these despicable things.

Can you identify exactly which comments hurt your soul the most, and, why? Which comments in particular were despicable, and, why?


25 people like this
Posted by "affordable"
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 19, 2019 at 10:47 pm

IMO Mr. Sheyner appears far more sympathetic to the PAF camp's definition of "affordable" housing (appropriate for a single tech worker with a 6-figure salary) than housing that would be affordedable to more financially challenged resident-serving service sector workers that Kou and DuBois are proposing.


8 people like this
Posted by A Moral Compass
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Sep 20, 2019 at 7:40 am

A Moral Compass is a registered user.

>> The debate should be whether ultra expensive cities should subsidize housing for those who want, but can't afford to live there. It's a debate worth having, but talking about affordable housing in Palo Alto, Woodside, Malibu...Affordable housing in Palo Alto is an oxymoron, such a thing does not exist.

^^^ Besides...don't those who can actually afford to reside in the more affluent/pricier neighborhoods do so in order to avoid the elements of subsidized residential developments in their respective communities.

Lake Forest, Malibu, Beverly Hills, Atherton, Hillsborough, Tiburon et al would not be what they are (or represent) if housing 'projects' were also included in the local landscape.

Exclusivity has it privileges and its followed by the dollar sign...big ones.


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Posted by Mike
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 20, 2019 at 8:57 am

Why not help subsidize housing in areas that already have large apartment complexes? Redwood City, EPA and San Jose. Best part is it would give EPA lots of new tax revenue and hopefully more spending at their local businesses. Building along the railway is also a solid way to develop the subsidized housing market without impacting Palo Altos overall feel.


5 people like this
Posted by Publicus
a resident of Green Acres
on Sep 20, 2019 at 10:14 am

I would like to see a cost/benefit analysis of typical "affordable housing" projects funded by public money. I suspect that the cost to build an "affordable" project on a cost per person basis is absurdly high in this area. In other words, affordable housing projects are "feel good" token measures that hardly make a dent in the problem and are economically unjustifiable.


12 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Sep 20, 2019 at 11:03 am

mauricio is a registered user.

Since we all agree this would be subsidized housing, who is more likely to get it, an employee of the city's parks department, or a tech worker making a six figure salary with stock options?

We know the answer, so the public will be subsidizing well compensated tech workers who still don't make enough to buy a home in mega expensive Palo Alto.


13 people like this
Posted by housing for whom?
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 20, 2019 at 1:00 pm

housing for whom? is a registered user.

"We know the answer, so the public will be subsidizing well compensated tech workers who still don't make enough to buy a home in mega expensive Palo Alto."

It seems that every time council discusses housing for those who earn less than $80,000 a year, Adrian Fine persistently argues to build "affordable" housing for tech workers who earn well over $100,000 insead. But, as a tech worker himself, his raison d'etre for running for council was to loosen R-1 zoning standards to permit denser development throughout all of Palo Alto.

The latest emergency housing bill, which is now only waiting for Governor Gavin Newsom's signature, takes particular aim at "job's rich" cities like Palo Alto. This bill will automatically remove local restrictions to permit "by right" denser development standards in all neighborhoods currently restricted to R-1 zoning. Not limited to neighborhoods in close proximity to public transit as with the less jobs rich towns. However, this "emergency" bill is only for the next five years, or at least to begin with.


3 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 22, 2019 at 10:22 pm

@Skeptical is right. DuBois and Kou should be disqualified from putting forward affordable housing measures.

Now some would argue that Maybell was complicated, and point to DuBois and Kou’s support for the Buena Vista rescue, funding affordable housing, the Wilton Court project, the VTA Lot project, the Affordable Housing overlay, and other city housing measures. Nonsense. The only reason to oppose Maybell was that you hate all housing, period. Too many people have forgotten that.

Housing advocacy is a serious calling, and it must resist tainting by interlopers. We need statewide vetting for housing advocates: testing and licensing. Only the righteous should be allowed to even support such a measure, let alone author it. DuBois and Kou’s proposal should be disallowed, and if someone worthier should bring the same thing up again, then DuBois and Kou should be forced to vote against it - it’s the only way to preserve the Movement.


3 people like this
Posted by Movement is a Shill
a resident of Stanford
on Sep 24, 2019 at 8:28 am

So ... it's about the preservation of the Movement, which has absolutely nothing to do with affordable housing except shilling for luxury commercial developers.

Same for SV@Home and Silicon Valley Leadership Group.


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Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 24, 2019 at 12:33 pm

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

As to the Fry's' debacle - that is the most obvious location for mixed housing which could help us check some boxes of state requirements. Multiple towers which could house different wage groups in each tower and segregate out part for teachers and city service people. Kou rhapsodized about the Chinese roots and though that could be some type of heritage museum. We already have a heritage museum. We need housing. So we have PACC members who are waffling on the obvious locations. So where is this all going?


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