Town Square

Post a New Topic

Palo Alto looks to loosen parking, retail rules to encourage affordable housing

Original post made on Sep 22, 2020

What would it take to get affordable housing built in Palo Alto? It's a question that the City Council wrestled with Monday night, as it endorsed several zone changes aimed at generating construction after years of minimal growth.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, September 22, 2020, 12:54 AM

Comments (25)

62 people like this
Posted by Palo Alto Grandmother
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Sep 22, 2020 at 10:45 am

Palo Alto Grandmother is a registered user.

I get it that developers need to make money on a project. But nowhere have I ever seen any breakdown of just how much money they make. I've had the sense for a long time, as Palo Alto development exploded, that what the city gives them in benefits is greatly overshadowed by the amount they make from the finished product and that the consequences of the concessions are not in Palo Alto residents favor. In fact, it's not clear to me why they need any concessions from the city at all.

If they build projects, whether offices or housing, without, for instance, ample parking, or reasonable affordability, it is the city and Palo Alto residents who bear the brunt. Where will all the cars go? And skews the projects into the prohibitive for all but the highest paid buyers/renters.

Soooo . . . I'd like to see some actual numbers. And one last comment . . . seems to me that them what has, takes as much as they can get and devil take the hindmost.


26 people like this
Posted by chris
a resident of University South
on Sep 22, 2020 at 10:55 am

chris is a registered user.

PAG,

Why not look at Mountain View, Menlo Park, East Palo Alto, and Redwood City?

They are all building much more housing than Palo Alto. They provide most of the answer to your question. Looking just within the borders of a city with a seriously failed policy makes no sense.


65 people like this
Posted by Duveneck
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 22, 2020 at 11:20 am

Duveneck is a registered user.

Not seen in this discussion are the additional costs for schools, utilities, city services, etc. that these proposed housing units will incur. Where will the money come from?


37 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 22, 2020 at 12:50 pm

Gale Johnson is a registered user.

I watched (suffered through) most of the discussion online last night. I didn't see much progress being made, however. Developers/builders will still rule and call the shots. CC members asked a lot of good questions and they got, for the most part, good answers. Liz was puzzled by what has happened, or hasn't happened, in the past to alleviate the shortage of low cost housing in PA. She's served several terms on council, and as mayor, so if she's still puzzled by it then it's time for her to step aside, which she'll have to do, and let a more qualified replacement step in.

There should be some embarrassment from current CC members who approved the Comprehensive Plan that set the goal of adding 300 housing units a year. And as the deficit is accumulative, they will/should feel more embarrassment as the years go by. That was just a check mark in the long list of agenda items and goals while Gregg Scharff was mayor. It would be good to get a yearly evaluation and report on how well we're doing in meeting those goals.

The offsite building of low income/low rental priced units showed some promise. But that gets back to the question of location and if there are any developers/builders that will be willing to do it.

My thanks to all CC members who are struggling for the best solution to the problem, and especially to those with critical minds and can do math. There were a lot of terms thrown out last night that only developers/builders know about and use in running their businesses and evaluating projects.






19 people like this
Posted by Dick D.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 22, 2020 at 1:32 pm

Dick D. is a registered user.

We already have problems with parking, so that seems an option (reduced parking requirements) that at a practical level won't work. There is one that seems unduly sacred and one that over time is going to have to be accepted – building height. Unlike many places in the Bay area, we sit on granite so there's no physical reason not to go higher. It's mostly an appeal to an outdated notion of what's a "nice town". With ever more humans, we have to go up with buildings. Without screwing-up a lot of other things, taller buildings are the route to go. An otherwise great proposal was offered to build tall buildings near the Palo Alto train station – it's an example of what we must do to get the housing we need.

We can fiddle with other possibilities, but they'll have a second order effect; tall building are first order. With second order effects we'll forever be trying to patch them to squeeze just a little bit more housing.


43 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Sep 22, 2020 at 2:44 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

"Liz was puzzled by what has happened, or hasn't happened, in the past to alleviate the shortage of low cost housing in PA. She's served several terms on council, and as mayor, so if she's still puzzled by it then it's time for her to step aside, which she'll have to do, and let a more qualified replacement step in."

She was also puzzled that we have a traffic problem even though it's been the #1 concern for years. When the outrage reached such a crescendo that it couldn't be ignored, the CC held a meeting that took only limited questions but we were treated to a PowerPoint presentation that would have shamed a 4th grader.

Of course no action items, no solutions. Residents PAID for a traffic survey because the city's couldn't be trusted. When I asked her at the CC meeting where that survey was, she snapped, "That's not OUR survey." To this day, I regret not having snapped back "Why not? It should have been."

But she's still here, voting against residents' interests and grooming her successors to do the same while the probe into her campaign irregularities drags on and on and on.....


16 people like this
Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 22, 2020 at 3:24 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

I'm glad to see such concern over providing affordable housing and a willingness to consider flexibility in parking, density and height requirements. In 2013, a plan for 60 affordable housing units for low and very low income seniors was turned down by referendum after unanimous approval by the city council. Parking, density and height concerns contributed to its defeat.

That site is now Orchard Park, a very nice development of sixteen, five-million dollar homes. Work on the Maybell Avenue side is complete and the first Sale Pending sign just appeared. You might want to take a look if you were interested in the Maybell Project when it was up for debate.

As you look you might ask yourself, as I do, how many Palo Alto senior citizens will have lost out on being able to continue living in their community, due to the cost of housing, over the project's 55-year lifetime. And how should we assess our ability to bring forth affordable housing within existing zoning regulations, as demanded by those who overturned the project while proclaiming their support for affordable housing?

I wish the council success in coming up with measures that bring Palo Alto closer to meeting its housing objectives.


22 people like this
Posted by Native to the BAY
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 22, 2020 at 5:47 pm

Native to the BAY is a registered user.

It feels as though the CC is pushing on through with their usual double speak: unattainable solutions.

We are in a three way hair ball. Housing, health and climate crisis. Whether its 20% inclusionary or 100% affordable project, renters (45% of PA residents) are in a lose, lose situation.

TAX breaks for the top 2% wage earners leave the 98% pushed to the bottom. Trading in residential parking for a higher number of allocated units, retail square footage in exchange for tiny live / work spaces is ludicrous . Store are shuttering, families are leaving for Bend and Boise.

Our community is crumbling at all corners. Light bulb! City of PA might create a housing department, like a recreation and park department and recruit / assign a housing commission for oversight who can take REAL action.

Our social and historical fabric keeps tearing and patches used, are outdated and flimsy trying to cover all CC flaws . Kou and Tanaka flip flop on housing, homeless and development more than an Olympic gymnast seeking gold. Vote them out.

Real progressives are necessary for real solutions, to real problems. It’s is long overdue for the majority residents who have invested heavily in our town’s make up. And I am not speaking of monetarily.

BLM? Inclusiveness? Equity? Hmmm. Not so. Not here. Yes infrastructure (waste water plant) is decrepitly outdated, school blds old . Yet $$$ are spent on: Rinconada fire station, kids museum, library. And once booming biz districts get parking structures.

Follow the tax dollars and the commercial development buy in’s and you’ll pass “go” with $200 million extra dollars to hire consultants to tell us the same thing. Planning for the future whether its in virtual Silicon Valley or where we actually live, Santa Clara County has failed dramatically . Yes. Follow the money !!! All this empty talk and data spreadsheets will pencil out for me come election day . VOTE for real change, not re-election talking points.

Meanwhile buildings with huge lots all over PA sit half or all empty. Outright community neglect, poor decision making and inaction is Palo Alto’s ghost of Christmas past, present and future!


16 people like this
Posted by chris
a resident of University South
on Sep 22, 2020 at 6:04 pm

chris is a registered user.

Dick D.,

If you watched last night, you heard DuBois say he is adamantly opposed to any exceptions to the height limit.

Which city council candidates have the courage to take on this bete noire this year? Palo Alto probably has 10-12 old buildings that exceed the current height limit and they do not seriously degrade the city. We don’t want canyons lined with 30-story buildings, but 10 10-story buildings strategically placed would go a long way toward meeting the housing requirements.


15 people like this
Posted by The Human Economy
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Sep 22, 2020 at 6:05 pm

The Human Economy is a registered user.

I don’t find this funny or ironic, Council Member, Filseth. "We can improve developer economics by not requiring plumbing and electricity too." Public art, having decent place to go to the bathroom, wash dishes, do laundry, park a small utility vehicle and enough space for kids to run outside is a critical component of a well planned neighborhood, not Scrooge economics. Human lives, rich, middle income or poor are intrinsically coupled with community development. It is the stake that moves the social investment marker


38 people like this
Posted by Look at the real problem
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 23, 2020 at 12:50 am

Look at the real problem is a registered user.

The real issue here is that this entire bay area is massively over populated. Greedy developers and their complicit city council members have allowed the massive proliferation of office development that has attracted millions of people to the area. Housing development doesn't return the same profit as office space, so it is ignored. And public lands, parks, open space, streets and schools return no profit at all, so they are sold off if the city staff and developers can figure out how to convert city lands to their own uses.

The reality is that we live in an era when there is no longer cheap open space and if cities do not limit development and plan for a decent quality of life for their residents than we will get more of what we have now, which is the rich greedy developers building what makes them money and ignoring everything else that makes a city worth living in.

By only only discussing building housing our city council is failing residents. We have no room for more housing since we don't even have enough open space for people to freely visit during this current pandemic. (Closed parks, no place to walk or bike). We certainly didn't have enough street capacity before people started to stay at home and it will be worse if we had thousands of homes, more people and cars. And the environment in this area is awful - dirty air, water, pollution and loss of habitat all around.

It is beyond time to not allow any more development. If the city wants to repurpose some office buildings into housing - that is worth discussing. But they absolutely should not do any deals with developers to build housing or office space. The city always get suckered and outsmarted by the developers who must be laughing all the way to the bank.

Lastly remember who is on the city council voting for these developers - Tanaka and Cormack are not friends of Palo Alto residents. They are selling off our city. We need to reelect Lydia Kou who truly represents residents of the city and cares for us. She has a great moral compass and always supports residents and our quality of life. Lauing is so-so, as is Burt but there are clear supporters of growth in the running like Templeton ( a stanch YIMBY and pro-growth advocate). Please vote for city council candidates who will slow all this crazy growth down. It is destroying the city.


37 people like this
Posted by Lee Forrest
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 23, 2020 at 8:40 am

Lee Forrest is a registered user.

> "The real issue here is that this entire bay area is massively over populated."

> "It is beyond time to not allow any more development."

^ Concurring...given the mass proliferation of mundane-looking office buildings & residential high-rise dwellings (along with the resultant increases in traffic gridlock), a citywide & long-term moratorium on any new development should be initiated by the planning commission & PACC.

Quality of life in Palo Alto has noticeably gone down over the past three decades and it will not be remedied nor improved with further development projects.

It's time for prospective Palo Alto residents & businesses to seek out alternative sites for their wishful thinking & commercial endeavors.

And perhaps time for weary folks like me to 'get the hell out of Dodge' before things get any worse.

Palo Alto (like many other once quiet municipalities) has become some sort of a pseudo Mecca for various carpetbaggers & ubiquitous upwardly mobile mentalities.

Santa Clara County has successfully joined the ranks of Los Angeles, Orange, and San Diego Counties when it comes to the over-saturation of people, traffic, strip malls, crappy-looking apartment complexes, and lego-land office building designs.


16 people like this
Posted by JJ
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 23, 2020 at 10:25 pm

JJ is a registered user.

We're driving people out of business and out of work, and driving people crazy with covid lockdowns and rules not backed by data; yet we want to encourage more people to pile into Palo Alto?

Crowding encourages the spread of disease as we've seen throughout history. c19 outbreaks are worst in cities, as with other diseases. *This* is what we need to stop, not kids playing. But, the city seems to exist to support developers so we conveniently set history aside to allow more development.


26 people like this
Posted by Duveneck
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 23, 2020 at 10:55 pm

Duveneck is a registered user.

How is Atherton handling the push for increased housing?


18 people like this
Posted by Rainer
a resident of Mayfield
on Sep 24, 2020 at 12:34 am

Rainer is a registered user.

The above one sentence:

But, the city seems to exist to support developers so we conveniently set history aside to allow more development.

very well summarizes all there is to observe.

Except to add, reelect Lydia Kou, who as a professional Realtor is the only one daring to speak Truth to the Real Estate Powers. She reminds me of Nixon going to China, and Adenauer (1955) going to Moscow, and Kohl promising to reduce the Army by a factor of 3 for getting re-unification, all actions only conservatives could dare to do without being squashed in the next election, even so the more liberal forces wanted to do that as well.


12 people like this
Posted by Anneke
a resident of Professorville
on Sep 24, 2020 at 8:20 am

Anneke is a registered user.

We better start building seawater desalination plants!


15 people like this
Posted by Lee Forrest
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 24, 2020 at 8:33 am

Lee Forrest is a registered user.

> "How is Atherton handling the push for increased housing?

^ Most likely with resistance. Being an exclusive & pricey neighborhood, an increase of 'affordable' housing would diminish it's image...and the same would apply to places like Hillsborough, Malibu,
Pacific Palisades and the like. You really can't blame them.

> "...Nixon going to China,"

^ Not a valid comparison. Nixon established diplomatic relations with the PRC to serve as a buffer between the United States & the USSR.

Given what has transpired to date (i.e. trade & manufacturing imbalances, political & economic conflicts, open immigration, and various pandemics) ....perhaps a BIG mistake.


20 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Sep 24, 2020 at 9:41 am

Online Name is a registered user.

How is Atherton handling the push for affordable housing?

They don't care because since they have few or no jobs within their borders and thus don't have to add housing since the housing targets are based on the number of jobs within their borders.


23 people like this
Posted by Steve Dabrowski
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 24, 2020 at 11:34 am

Steve Dabrowski is a registered user.

"Real progressives are necessary for real solutions, to real problems." Really!, While I see many of the ideas from the left as having merit it is more than clear that Progressives are their own, and others, worst enemy. Progressives could not vote for Al Gore because he was not sufficiently pure on climate change in 2000-so they went for Ralph Nader, insuring GW Bush became president. Not much good for climate change, plus his administration killed many of the progressive actions gained by then, not to mention 911 and the ensuing wars and hundreds of thousands lost lives.

Again in 2016 many of these Progressives just could not in clear conscience vote for Hillary Clinton and so by a few votes we got Donald Trump. So how have progressive gains done with that. Now in a couple of months we will have a super majority conservative Supreme Court for the next few decades, health care and women's rights will suffer and the progressive solutions will be in the desert for decades to come.

So much for Real progressives are necessary for real solutions, to real problems. I'll settle for some middle of the road practical solutions, they wear better.


13 people like this
Posted by Lee Forrest
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 24, 2020 at 12:31 pm

Lee Forrest is a registered user.

Good point Mr. Dabrowski....

> "Real progressives are necessary for real solutions, to real problems."

^ The current brand of so-called 'real progressives' just sit around & gripe offering unrealistic alternatives to 'real problems and issues' and as a result, Bernie Sanders, AOC (and other similar political mindsets) will NEVER rise above or beyond their current positions in federal government.

They are too alienating, too socialist, and too do nothing...except for bellowing their rants targeting idealistic mindsets that share the same unrealistic ideals (aka dilusions).


24 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 24, 2020 at 12:56 pm

Gale Johnson is a registered user.

My head is aching. Too many solutions offered by too many self proclaimed (but pseudo) experts, and I'm sure we'll hear from our local expert economist on the subject. 'Boy, oh boy'...or better yet the new term "C'mon man"...those ABAG folks and their subservient groups seem to be having fun in their think tanks, dreaming up housing numbers that might be good for someone, but certainly not what's good for our communities and residents in our communities. What puzzles me most is that they must know what a paltry track record PA has shown of adding housing, certainly low cost housing, but that doesn't seem stop them from adding on more. Over 10,000 units? 'C'mon Man'! I'm not a user but I might be willing to try the stuff they're smoking.

The 300 new units per year was an unachievable goal, and those who voted to approve the Comprehensive Plan knew that. Approval of the Plan was just a check mark in the list of agenda items on Gregg Scharff's list. Wonderful, we got that done, now we can push that aside, forget about it, and carry on with other business...like supporting big businesses, in lieu of family owned small businesses. I'm waiting to hear how they weigh in on ABAG's new housing goals set for PA. I hope that question comes up during the debates.


25 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Sep 24, 2020 at 1:40 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

@Gale Johnson, PLEASE submit that as a question for the debates. How our city attorney can reject a challenge to ABAG on the grounds they might sue us is so ludicrous. How about OUR suing ABAG for wasting our time and resources trying to meet their ridiculous goals.


8 people like this
Posted by Dick D.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 24, 2020 at 2:34 pm

Dick D. is a registered user.

I don't know the answer, but does a "home" equate to some number of people living together or alone . . . are there other factors of what is assumed to be a "home".


8 people like this
Posted by Dick D.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 24, 2020 at 2:36 pm

Dick D. is a registered user.

I don't know the answer, but does a "home" equate to some number of people living together or alone . . . are there other factors of what is assumed to be a "home"?

Why aren't the 800 block of Emerson and the one at Homer and Almo 10 stories and would people really find that "unacceptable"?


18 people like this
Posted by Staying Young Through Kids
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 24, 2020 at 7:04 pm

Staying Young Through Kids is a registered user.

While I believe a home is a residence able to be occupied by one or more people. It needs to have utilities, a kitchen, a bathroom, and possibly a closet. Probably a door and another means of egress.

I'd like to know this answer.

I have a great-aunt who ran a boarding house in a university town (essentially a dorm). Based on how that worked, could someone with a 5 bedroom house rent to 4 borders and say they are providing 5 residences (themselves & 4 others)?

If yes, a census of how many people are renting out rooms, in law units, cottages, etc might help our ABAG tally quite a bit.

If the definition is fuzzy, I'd once again suggest my "Mailboxes as Apartments" and open a few more UPS Stores with 200 mailboxes. 200 new legal addresses ("Unit 1," "Unit 2," etc.)...easy to do that! And it could provide mail service for RV dwellers around the area.

And...are we counting RVs in our ABAG numbers? For some it's a great housing option, for others it's a deteriorating albatross tied around the neck...a half step to homelessness. It's a clever housing solution for some, a terribly sad situation for others. Sorting it out requires great care.


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

Email:


Post a comment

In order to encourage respectful and thoughtful discussion, commenting on stories is available to those who are registered users. If you are already a registered user and the commenting form is not below, you need to log in. If you are not registered, you can do so here.

Please make sure your comments are truthful, on-topic and do not disrespect another poster. Don't be snarky or belittling. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

See our announcement about requiring registration for commenting.


Get the most important local news stories sent straight to your inbox daily.

How to Buy a Used EV
By Sherry Listgarten | 6 comments | 3,189 views

Gates sets an example for local billionaires to emulate
By Diana Diamond | 5 comments | 1,730 views

Pie Brings People Together
By Laura Stec | 3 comments | 1,465 views

Couples and Premarital: Personal Weather Report (TM)
By Chandrama Anderson | 0 comments | 1,012 views

Tree Lighting Ceremonies
By Cheryl Bac | 0 comments | 855 views

 

Palo Alto Weekly Holiday Fund

For the last 26 years, the Palo Alto Weekly Holiday Fund has given away more than $7 million to local nonprofits serving children and families. When you make a donation, every dollar is automatically doubled, and 100% of the funds go directly to local programs. It’s a great way to ensure your charitable donations are working at home.

DONATE HERE