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Palo Alto City Council sends mixed signals on Ventura housing proposal

Original post made on Oct 6, 2020

Despite a renewed focus on housing production, the City Council struggled on Monday to reach a consensus on the city's latest development proposal, which would bring 119 apartments to a Ventura site.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, October 6, 2020, 1:04 AM

Comments (16)

Posted by Zee Kay
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 6, 2020 at 8:46 am

Zee Kay is a registered user.

City should allow high rises and relax it’s height requirements. More multi-residence units will help provide business to the struggling small businesses in Palo Alto. Redwood City has been so successful with its progressive approach but Palo Alto is still stuck in the 60’s.

Posted by Zee Kay
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 6, 2020 at 8:46 am

Zee Kay is a registered user.

City should allow high rises and relax it’s height requirements. More multi-residence units will help provide business to the struggling small businesses in Palo Alto. Redwood City has been so successful with its progressive approach but Palo Alto is still old fashioned.

Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 6, 2020 at 9:14 am

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

Yes - RWC is doing a great job in re-making it's DOWNTOWN. It has nothing to do with "progressive" ideas - it has to do with JOBS. Saying something is a "progressive" idea says nothing relevant to the facts on the table. The facts are specific to the economic growth in that specific area. The port system is developing and will get a ferry to SF. Technology jobs are increasing in the COUNTY. San Mateo County appears to be more advanced in their Caltrain issues - they use underpasses on major streets. San Mateo County has a different working relationship with its' business base.

And yes - the apartment buildings in the downtown area are at a higher level. But they are not into breaking up residential areas - all of their growth is in the downtown area.

That is a direct opposite from PA - we do not have high apartment's on El Camino in concentrated locations. We do not have underpasses on major streets for Caltrain. We appear to be doing everything backward from what successful cities are doing. RWC does not have RV's parked on El Camino.

Take every issue in PA and look at what another county and city are doing. What works, what does not work. And this is specific to JOBS.
For PA - the FRY's site is where you need to concentrate your buildings - up to 4 high rises in that location with a building type dedicated to teachers, city workers, and older people with a mini urgency care on a first floor. The current owner of that location has a decidedly very low tax base. The city should take that land with help from the state if need be. It would respond to the very issues that we are required to meet as a city.

Posted by Joyce Freiberg
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Oct 6, 2020 at 11:42 am

Joyce Freiberg is a registered user.

What is the status if the old Fry’s property? Seems to me it is quite large and could be developed with green space and mixed use. Without crowding people into that space it could be nicely developed.

Posted by Here Since 1979
a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 6, 2020 at 11:56 am

Here Since 1979 is a registered user.

Again people, yes we need jobs and income BUT no one will answer the question of where the water is going to come from. I've lived through 3 major droughts here including one where we had rationing. Water is essential for life and industry. It is finite. We can't rely on contracts with other states to buy water from them if needed. We've been fighting the peripheral canal (in its many forms) to keep our water in No. Calif. All the greedy people whose money is more important than anything else, there will Holy Hades to pay when some of the same people who wanted development start to complain that they don't have enough water for the new people drawn here. Be responsible, not greedy.

Posted by Chris
a resident of University South
on Oct 6, 2020 at 12:26 pm

Chris is a registered user.

If Kuo insists on blocking housing, the state will force less desirable buildings on Palo Alto. It is time to elect some reasonable people to City Council.

Posted by Overpopulation is the real problem
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 6, 2020 at 12:53 pm

Overpopulation is the real problem is a registered user.

Palo Alto and the surrounding area are massively overpopulated. The developer of the above project says that it is too expensive to buy land and develop in this area. Exactly - so go somewhere else where it is less expensive. It is expensive here because it is full.

Further it is time to really deal with global climate change and environmental destruction. The guiding plan for continued human life on this planet is to open up discuss of population control, using fewer resources and saving the planet from our excesses. Building more luxury buildings is just more consumption and ignorance of what needs to be done.

Posted by Me 2
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 6, 2020 at 1:31 pm

Me 2 is a registered user.

"Palo Alto and the surrounding area are massively overpopulated."

LOL. Someone needs to drive up to Palo Alto Hills or just on 280 to know this is a falsehood.

"'If the benefit is supposed to be affordable housing, 20% is not significant enough. It needs to be a lot higher — 50% or more,' Kou said."

The unholy alliance between NIMBYs and housing advocates has now come down from SF to infect Palo Alto. Of course 50% won't pencil out, because the "market rate" housing will be too expensive to subsidize such a ridiculous requirement. Either she is not smart enough to understand that developers pass along costs to the eventual buyers/renters of "market rate" units or she is just doing her thing to squelch housing.

She doesn't strike me as being dumb, so it must be she is just a NIMBY. She should just be honest instead of cloaking her intentions behind nonsensical affordable housing requirements.

Typical. She already has hers, so she doesn't care about anyone new. Build a wall, indeed.

The focus on BMRs/affordable housing squeezes out the middle class. People like Kou are the reason why.

Posted by NIMBYest
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 6, 2020 at 4:51 pm

NIMBYest is a registered user.

City Council allocated a good chuck of our money to study housing development, code requirements and methods to potentially realize more housing PROPOSALS. The study returned that 15% of units as affordable makes sense and perhaps you could get 20%, exactly as this developer has done.

Kou sits there and gets personally offended when projects propose a reasonable development but do not solve the housing imbalance in one stroke. Affordable housing developers have the same (actually way more with the use of public funds) feasibility requirements as market rate developers. The project must pencil, otherwise, no project. The now routine and expected melt downs are an extremely disingenuous act to show support for affordable housing but is a ruse to see that no housing of any kind gets built. Remember, Kou was instrumental in the opposition of an affordable senior housing project that by unit count was 83% affordable (12 units market rate, 60 units affordable).

Dubois on the other hand just nitpicks, not even constructively, any reason to get to NO. Apparently there was a code violation on one of the properties, perhaps for years. Can we fine them and use the money in the affordable housing fund? Anyway, moving on.... let's just pick at this and hope to not see it again.

It does appear that this project could make some adjustments to be workable and provide 20% of the units to affordable housing (yes, 20% of something) at a significant cost and risk to this developer with NO funds from the city, which has none anyway.

However, the developer must now consider wanting to further invest money & time in the multitude reviews, design revisions, environmental studies and then perhaps after a few years build a project. Or they could go elsewhere and put their limited resources to use since Palo Alto is a well-known waste of time. As the Mayor said at the outset of this review, Palo Alto already lost a potential housing project down the street earlier this year, but guess what? We are going to get a large office building! Well done Council! Way to skin that opportunity to disappear.

How are we having constructive approaches to creating housing and what's with our city leaders? One we are stuck with, the other, let's send on their way with a special thanks for service and making the city look like the biggest NIMBY stronghold in the country.

Let's vote thoughtful, creative, responsible, collaborative leadership. Perhaps if that happens housing proposals on El Camino or other parts of the city might actually, one day, in several years, get built.

Posted by N
a resident of Ventura
on Oct 6, 2020 at 5:19 pm

N is a registered user.

Isn't it amazing how every developer says they can't build housing without going double over the zoning regulations?

Critical thinking tells us that there is a market with both SUPPLY and DEMAND. Clearly the large developers think (and have learned from past experience) that they can often get approval to go way over the zoning. What does this do to land prices? It drives it up!

Simple cause and effect. If we let one developer get permission to go over double the density that zoning law allows, the prices of surrounding parcels will rise (if we as a city do not hold firm). And so the cycle continues.

All we need to do to start making *all* projects "pencil-out" for profitability, is to hold the line on zoning consistently and firmly. After a few months to a year, developers will get the message and they can either build per zoning, or sell their (long vacant & speculated-upon) properties for market value.

Posted by Native to the BAY
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 6, 2020 at 6:18 pm

Native to the BAY is a registered user.

More “kicking the can down the road” politic’ing from an overly privileged CC. Renters unit. Vote reasonable, affordable housing candidates in — Vote change. CC Excuses nervously ensue that single family homes will get overshadowed by multi family housing from all they moved here for?! Discriminatory, scare tactics .

Posted by chris
a resident of University South
on Oct 6, 2020 at 6:42 pm

chris is a registered user.


You don’t know what overpopulation is. It was Palo Alto’s choice to allow 3x as many jobs as workers. As a Palo Altan, you have benefited from this imbalance for a long time. Now you need to take responsibility for dealing with the impact.
The results for Pal Alto will be worse if the solutions are forced on Palo Alto. The city needs to act responsibly before that happens.

Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 7, 2020 at 10:19 am

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

RWC is proceeding with building a large number of apartment buildings in the downtown area between Veteran and El Camino. They are tall buildings over three stories. SU has a new, huge apartment on Jefferson across from the shopping center. They have concentrated their new buildings within the downtown area. It looks really great. This has benefited the downtown restaurants and shops. The economy is booming.

Meanwhile - on El Camino we have one-story commercial buildings that have been there over 50 years. How much business do they get there? I have no incentive to go shopping there. We instead argue about invading the established residential areas and bombarding them with duplexes, etc. Does who ever owns those old buildings have so much clout in this city that they are untouchable?
And the FRY's site is still untouchable for housing? My guess on that one is that the city is gaming that site to put pressure on the Cubberley site. We can see the game and it is not acceptable. If you follow these "ideas" through their logical conclusion if you increase the population of the city then you have more children going to school. Cubberley is a school - I have a relative who went there. And you are not going to dismantle the school because you gamed other locations.

Your last location is the Palo Alto Business Park on East Bayshore at San Antonio. There is a gigantic parking space there and buildings which are half empty. The city has a building there You don't want to talk about that location? No- never comes up. There is your issue - you decline to discuss the obvious,.

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Oct 7, 2020 at 10:38 am

Online Name is a registered user.

"It was Palo Alto’s choice to allow 3x as many jobs as workers. As a Palo Altan, you have benefited from this imbalance for a long time."

How have we benefited from this imbalance?? We've got congestion. We've got gridlock on major roads during rush-hour and school pickup/drop off times. It takes much longer to get anywhere. Offices have replaced stores and service businesses so we have to drive to other towns to accomplish what we used to be able to do within city limits, thus depriving the city of sales tax revenue.

Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 8, 2020 at 9:13 am

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

When I mentioned the Palo Alto Business Park on East Bayshore and San Antonio to a county supervisor the response was: "ROI". That is "Return on Investment". So private homeowners and churches are being sold an idea and meanwhile the baseline for city owned property is protected. If you dump duplexes into the middle of single family homes you are reducing the ROI for the single family homes. If you allow RV's in a broken down condition on El Camino you are reducing the ROI of the city in general.

The current want-a-bees for the PACC want to eliminate the R-1 zoning and therefore reduce the ROI for the property owners but must be getting a kick-back in state funding for increasing the home stock. What is the trade-off?

For every debit there is a credit. So now the city and sate have to fully define what the trade-offs are and since ROI is the name of the game then define the problem in those terms.

Posted by Name hidden
a resident of Downtown North

on Oct 9, 2020 at 10:23 pm

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