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New design rules for Palo Alto housing projects govern everything from window sizes to architecture styles

Original post made on Jun 2, 2022

On Wednesday, Palo Alto adopted a slew of new design rules that housing developers would need to meet to win approval.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Thursday, June 2, 2022, 9:31 AM

Comments (4)

Posted by tmp
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 2, 2022 at 2:30 pm

tmp is a registered user.

Overbearing state laws are forcing cities to create objective standards because developers can sue cities based on subjective standards and claim that they are keeping them from building what they want. The city is now forced to create rules for cookie cutter type housing so they can at least have some standards to slow down the overbuilding that the state is forcing on us.

Of course it would be more beneficial to have each project looked at in relationship to its surroundings and what it is being built for but the need for black and white, spelled out objective standards is called for as a way to protect what developers will try to build here if we didn't have the standards.

Only when city's can again control their own density and development and can overturn recent state sponsored give away laws that benefit their rich development based funders will we be able to once again talk one on one with a developer and make them build something acceptable to the community.

We only have the overreaching state legislature and governor to blame for tasteless, overlarge and environmentally destructive development in this state.


Posted by Chris
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jun 3, 2022 at 7:25 am

Chris is a registered user.

A lot of people claim to be environmentalists, yet they are in favor of giant increases to the population. This is not an environmentally friendly position AT ALL. The biggest problem facing our environment is that there are way too many humans on Earth. To feed seven billion people we have to use petroleum fertilizer, which gobbles up the soil too fast, exacerbating our problem. Good for the council on limiting the greed of these disgusting developers who have hijacked Sacramento to all of our great peril


Posted by JAlto
a resident of Palo Alto Orchards
on Jun 4, 2022 at 7:26 am

JAlto is a registered user.

The difference in professed ideals (diversity, equity, and inclusion) and material reality (thwarting development of affordable development at all costs) is striking. The majority of residents of Palo Alto should just admit what they want: A safe community that consists almost entirely of wealthy, well-educated Asian and White white-collar workers and schools that only include children of the same. One that pulls up ladders and jealously hoards habitable space for personal luxury and to deliberately exclude people who it perceives as lesser.

Instead of confronting reality, the majority, like TMP and Chris suddenly discover that they are "environmentalists". TMP is probably aware that this is merely lip service. Their real concern is the first part-- "tasteless" and "overlarge" development-- residences that ruin their pristine suburbia. TMP does not want to actually solve environmental problems, just export them, and use them as a wall to keep property values up and undesirables out. They are evading the real problem: There is not enough housing. It is too expensive. The solution is to build. But, by pointing to a larger problem that cannot be fixed by the community of Palo Alto, they escape taking any responsibility for problems they could solve.

There is nothing magical or more refined about making money in "tech". Crafting cheap consumer products in China and burning fuel to ship them thousands of miles is not eco friendly. Operating giant server farms is not eco friendly. Building electric cars, which still require metals forged in pollution dense factories and charge off of a grid that is also pollution heavy, is again, not solving the problem.

So, this is not about the environment. This is about keeping out the working class. This is about keeping out black and brown people. This is about selfishness and hypocritical blindness. Build and solve the problem, or admit you are the problem, Palo Alto.


Posted by Eric Filseth
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 5, 2022 at 3:37 pm

Eric Filseth is a registered user.

This is a bit old but I’ll weigh in anyway.

The Weekly shouldn’t repeat the conflation of Market-Rate housing with Affordable housing. The main obstacle to building AH is not design standards but funding. The “anything-but-money” State Legislature ignores this truth as air cover for their empty AH promises to Californians, while giving goodies to special interests. But it’s not helpful for the media to tell people AH isn’t about money, when that’s where the real effort is needed. (Note Wilton Ct didn’t need the AH overlay; also PA has the 2nd-highest AH percentage in the County.)

The State’s “standards” legislation doesn’t touch Affordability; its goal is to remove design-quality as a Market-Rate housing criteria, a freebie to Big Real Estate. Essentially it aspires to: “as long as it’s under 1/3 commercial, just build it, and never mind appearance, privacy, daylight, etc.”

However while some folks agree with this, likely more don’t. So Sacramento splits the baby. Most design standards involve judgment – it’s why cities have Architectural Review Boards vs just checklists. So on one hand Sacramento says essentially, “as of Jan 1, 2022, existing residential design standards in California are void – anything goes now” (again, overwhelmingly for Market-Rate, given lack of AH funding; also most cities already flex for true AH projects). On the other, Sacto nods to the majority by saying, “ok, you can have some standards back, if you can reduce them to just numbers.” Yet it’s still less constraint, not more.

The real question - the Weekly should ask it - is: “do we want residential design standards at all?” If “no,” then we should get rid of Objective Standards too. If “yes,” then OS is the framework. But none of it will produce AH; Sacramento may be long on mandates, which cost (them) nothing, but they’re much shorter on funding, which actually does produce AH. So if AH is in fact what you want, then - plug here - think kindly on a possible business tax this Fall.


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