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Palo Alto sued over delay in adopting housing plan

Original post made on Feb 7, 2023

Two pro-housing groups are asking the court to limit Palo Alto’s control over approving development application because it has not adopted a plan for adding more than 6,000 new dwellings by the state's Jan. 31 deadline.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, February 7, 2023, 9:10 AM

Comments (27)

Posted by felix
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 7, 2023 at 10:16 am

felix is a registered user.

Of course Yimby sued - it's what they get paid for. Lots of lawsuits now, a zillion more to come.

Palo Alto turned in its Housing Element in early December, has yet gotten comment back from HCD. I expect the Housing Element to be certified and this lawsuit to be moot.

I also expect that when the state tries to hold cities all over CA responsible for its totally unrealistic unfunded affordable housing goals, cities will rise up and sue enmasse (Palo Altos affordable housing assignment alone will cost about $2.2 billion). Affordable housing is wanted and needed, but this is an ill-conceived con-game having no realistic way of achieving the housing we need.

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 7, 2023 at 10:29 am

Online Name is a registered user.

If they really cared about housing, they'd push to convert all the empty offices and hotels during this new economic downturn. They would have also pushed for more truly affordable housing rather than the profitable market rate units for highly paid techies who might not even be here next year if the layoffs continue at their current rate.

But that wouldn't make their backers in the real estate and construction industry happy. And that's why they keep recruiting "lobbyists" with no conception of economic cycles, no awareness of climate change and that we don't have enough water for the new huge number of NEW residents forget the existing ones, us.

Instead they keep mouthing meaningless nonsense like "more housing will bring down prices." Hah! Tell that to the most densely populated cities like Manhattan.

Posted by EM
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 7, 2023 at 10:37 am

EM is a registered user.

YIMBY is crazy to set such high expectations for Palo Alto! All I have seen being built in our town for the past 20 years are office buildings and Stanford faculty housing. All house owners are NIMBY until they turn YIMBY when their kids turn 18 and leave the bay area to never return because they can't afford it.

Not to worry, Palo Alto is this time moving at a fast pace and TALKING about replacing the McDonald's and fish market restaurants on El Camino near page mill with a 300-single-bedrooms apartment. Oh but wait, parking is going to be a problem... or the increased foot traffic that can slow down traffic... or the lack of a bicycle lane.

Posted by panative
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 7, 2023 at 10:58 am

panative is a registered user.

Lived here most of my life, am a Palo Alto homeowner, happy to see these suits get filed. I'm embarrassed to live in this town, frankly, specifically because of Palo Alto's approach to housing, among other things. We need to do better and apparently lawsuits are the only thing that will motivate the city council to take any action to increase equity. (See e.g. the lawsuit over Foothills Park.)

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 7, 2023 at 11:02 am

Online Name is a registered user.

If you want to increase "equity" then change the housing targets specifying only 5% very low income and 10^ sort of low income. How is housing highly paid single tech workers in studios helping equity? Do they have ties to the community? Will they be here in 3 years?

Posted by NeilsonBuchanan
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 7, 2023 at 11:25 am

NeilsonBuchanan is a registered user.

When the pie gets smaller, the table manners change.

I don't understand the legislative intent and I certainly don't understand nuances of the governing law and regulations. I look forward to whatever merit a judge(s) finds in these two lawsuits.

Posted by PaloAltoVoter
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 7, 2023 at 11:26 am

PaloAltoVoter is a registered user.

@PaNative - I don't understand your comments. Palo Alto has more affordable housing per capita than almost every city in Santa Clara county - I think we're ranked #2. We should all be proud of Palo Alto's long term efforts to create affordable housing in an a very expensive city.

Frivolous lawsuits while the city has submitted a plan to the state and is waiting on them for a response just adds expense and friction to the process. I hope those filing these lawsuits are rightly rebuffed. It would very interesting to understand the source of the funding for these lawsuits. Where does YIMBY Action get its funding from?

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 7, 2023 at 11:40 am

Online Name is a registered user.

In today's report by the San Francisco Chronicle, it said these suits are backed by the National Association of Realtors.

Web Link

"Housing advocates are about to deliver a message to the Bay Area: Comply with state housing law or face the consequences.

The message is being delivered in the form of 12 lawsuits, most of which will be publicly unveiled for the first time Tuesday by three pro-housing legal nonprofits: YIMBY Law, the California Housing Defense Fund and Californians for Homeownership, which was founded and is financially supported by the California Association of Realtors."

Other research has shown that the YIMBY's are backed by big-dollar contributions from high tech execs and VCs like the CEO of Yelp, VC Marc Andreesen and his wife, the daughter of Mr Arrilega (one of the areas biggest developers) who naturally support the more profitable market-rate housing. Andreesen and his wife made national business news when their opposition to multi-family near their $16.6M Atherton mansion was cited as just one example of the YUMBY's hypocrisy.

Look up the WikiPedia entry on their other big-name backers, including the construction trades, Apartment Owners Association etc.

Posted by What Will They Do Next
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 7, 2023 at 11:53 am

What Will They Do Next is a registered user.

Felix has it right. Can't state it any better. Just wonder though how many of these YIMBY members live and own homes in the cities they are sueing or if they own homes at all. One thing for sure is that developers are in it for profitability and low income housing ain't it. My guess is these lawsuits will be hung up in the courts for years.

Posted by Jerry
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 7, 2023 at 11:57 am

Jerry is a registered user.

The hyperbole of these YIMBY groups' statements is truly astounding. The Chron article that @Online posted says this:

"We are talking, after all, about enforcing that simplest of concepts: the deadline. It’s baked into us in elementary school; if you don’t turn in your homework on time, there will be consequences."

How utterly condescending. An over-simplification of a complex problem.

For more of this nonsense, check out the CalHDF website: Web Link
It includes descriptions of their lawsuits, some which lead with the phrase "We Won!"
There's absolutely no meaningful discussion of why following the state's housing mandate is a good thing, or what the impacts to infrastructure will be.

The webpage is merely a lawyer contact front. It even has the audicity to include a "Donate" button.

Yeah, you won and California lost.

Posted by mjh
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 7, 2023 at 12:33 pm

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Posted by ALB
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 7, 2023 at 12:54 pm

ALB is a registered user.

YIMBY is a national organization funded by tech, investment firms, developers, builders and politicians. They pass re: tiny ‘affordable’ housing numbers in projects that are pitched to tech workers IOW market rate. The pro tem Akins’s partner is a developer. If you look at the teacher housing coming to Palo Alto and the already constructed Whilton Court apartments you will not see the developer imprint. Instead the county and nonprofits etc. worked together to get this TRULY affordable housing launched.

YIMBY posits the crusading ‘good guy’ narrative as helping society. We do need housing for modest and low income folks but those are not priorities for the YIMBY crowd. Their priority is making Silicon Valley tech housing at market rate. Again, follow the money as lawsuits require mega dollars. Judges loathe frivolous cases as these will waste their time and further clog the judicial system.

Posted by Cheryl Lilienstein
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 7, 2023 at 1:05 pm

Cheryl Lilienstein is a registered user.

1. If the state cared to produce affordable housing, subsidies would have been mandated. If YIMBYs were honest they'd sue the state for funds to support affordable housing. Conclusion: affordable housing IS NOT the goal. But, I don't suppose those who file lawsuits about this care because...

2. What is this legislation providing? Along with enormous developer profits, I've always assumed it provides support for money laundering. Is there any anti-corruption legislation embedded in this legislation? I haven't read it all, but please enlighten me if it exists. Given the continuous openness of US real estate to money laundering, I assume YIMBY means Yes I am for Money laundering in your Back Yard.
Web Link

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 7, 2023 at 3:32 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

""We are talking, after all, about enforcing that simplest of concepts: the deadline. It’s baked into us in elementary school; if you don’t turn in your homework on time, there will be consequences."

How utterly condescending. An over-simplification of a complex problem."

Indeed. Also proudly ignorant of the fact that while lots of things can change in 8 -- EIGHT -- years, the housing targets are totally sacred and not subject to review under ANY grounds like risk of fire, drought, economic shifts.... Is your salary or stock portfolio worth the same as 8 years ago???

I wonder how old most of the YYIMBYs are since they obviously never lived through -- or even heard of -- the various real estate crashes and the dot.bomb crash in the last 20 years.

Palo Alto and environs are currently a mess because they put all their eggs in the business travel / commuter basket rather than focus on residents and our needs.

Companies don't live forever, esp. tech companies, and I wonder what will happen to cities like San Jose when / if they go the way of other former high-fliers now that they've destroyed much of the city for the Google Transit Village which, ironically, right now is reducing its office space footprint there.

Sloganeering sure is easier than dealing with reality.

Posted by Eric Filseth
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 7, 2023 at 3:52 pm

Eric Filseth is a registered user.

Obviously Palo Alto is going to get a compliant Housing Element done - it’s the law - and HCD trying to negotiate detailed local zoning for every town and city in the state was always going to be a bottleneck. I don’t understand what’s in it for these groups, unless they’re just trying to show their backers that they’re doing something to earn their pay.

Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 7, 2023 at 5:01 pm

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

I hope that these organizations that chose to sue the state are not getting any taxpayer provided funding. Not from the state - not from the cities. There is only so much money available in the budget to keep the lights on, keep libraries open, keep childtren activities funded, keep staff paid. They are taking away from everyone else to create disruption for a situation that is highly complex.

Posted by MyFeelz
a resident of another community
on Feb 7, 2023 at 5:09 pm

MyFeelz is a registered user.

Who didn't see this coming?

Posted by Bystander
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 7, 2023 at 5:31 pm

Bystander is a registered user.

With all the high tech companies downsizing, moving out of state and allowing remote working along with the latest idea of 4 day work week, we must look at housing requirements with fresh eyes.

Are we going to end up with housing nobody wants?

Posted by MyFeelz
a resident of another community
on Feb 7, 2023 at 6:02 pm

MyFeelz is a registered user.

We already have that, Bystander. Housing nobody wants. LEGO buildings aren't very sought-after. And tonight Biden is going to tell us about how unemployment is the lowest since the Stone Age. Meanwhile, tech workers are dropping like flies. I went to a dollar store today and the stores look like the shelves in a Tahoe store before a snowstorm. Empty. They primarily stock their shelves from goods in their remote warehouses. They are running out of goods. Every chain store that sells Chinese made goods -- and that's EVERY CHAIN STORE -- will close before the end of 2023, which will add MORE unemployment. Unemployment numbers are calculated from new claims. When the COVID extensions ran out, people jumped on the PPP gravy train. And now there are no more PPP loans and the government wants everybody to turn in their friends and neighbors to recoup funds they weren't entitled to. They're not considered unemployed because they haven't had enough work credits since 2020. But they are indeed not working. The "great resignation" is a false term. Nobody quit. They just started sucking on the government bottle. Every door dasher, uber driver, lyft driver, aka "SELF EMPLOYED" person doesn't pay into unemployment. Also, the government has caught onto the fact they also haven't been paying taxes on the income. Now the fed is not contemplating but IMPLEMENTING higher interest rates and plans to keep on doing it until millionaires start screaming. What Palo Alto needs to do is to convert office space to housing. The infrastructure is ALREADY there. But, because I am a gloom and doom prognosticator (unfortunately often right), I predict cities will TEAR DOWN office buildings before they will turn them into housing. Just like after 2008, when banks had too many foreclosures, and they started tearing the houses down rather than letting values sink. Web Link There ya go.

Posted by MyFeelz
a resident of another community
on Feb 7, 2023 at 6:12 pm

MyFeelz is a registered user.

"Supply chain issues" is 2022 speak for "we can't get goods from China". China, the world's largest supplier of plywood, is holding the world by the shorthairs. Increased fees for wood will triple the cost to build new housing. It only makes sense to convert existing empty buildings into housing. If Palo Alto wants to showcase itself as the world's best (fill in the blank) they could try to be more forward thinking and show the example by providing a solution to the world's biggest problem: homelessness.

Posted by felix
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 7, 2023 at 6:59 pm

felix is a registered user.

HCD, not Palo Alto is the problem.
Palo Alto turned in its completed Housing Element nearly 2 months before the January 31 deadline, yet HCD hasn’t returned it to the City. You can’t adopt what you don’t have.

Seems the State didn’t have the foresight to hire the staff needed to review Housing Elements in a timely manner.

This is on HCD not Palo Alto, and these sad lawyers know it.

Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 7, 2023 at 7:45 pm

Annette is a registered user.

No way those behind this law suit would skip over the opportunity to sue Palo Alto. We live in one of those places that assures headlines and a type of traction. We have submitted a plan. I think MJH has it right: posturing.

I continue to wonder about the end game. We badly need housing for those with talents that have them in community-serving jobs. These days, it is not unusual for those jobs to pay less than what is needed to make ends meet. This leads me to a troubling question: what good is affordable housing in an increasingly unaffordable city? And how can we met our GHG goals when we are driving businesses out, requiring people to DRIVE to other communities for various services? And how does eliminating an affordable eatery, McDonald's, translate vis-a-vis affordability?

I don't question that some changes are needed; but I think it critical that the changes make sense in the long term.

Posted by Easy8
a resident of Green Acres
on Feb 7, 2023 at 11:39 pm

Easy8 is a registered user.

According to the SF Chronicle, cities have until the end of May to be certified.

This is just chest thumping from lawyers, and snarky, inflammatory comments from YIMBY. No doubt they are trying to justify their salaries and playing up to their income source.

Web Link

Posted by Local Resident
a resident of Community Center
on Feb 8, 2023 at 6:20 am

Local Resident is a registered user.

I think this title is misleading. An example of a better title for this article might be

“While the city waits for feedback from HCD on an already compliant housing plan, YIMBY groups file frivolous lawsuits against the city.”

Note, the housing plan the city filed already meets all the state’s requirements, however, HCD is over reaching on their mandate, which is why its atrempting to extract additional concessions from cities. The RHNA numbers (which are triple the previous cycle) are based on heavily biased projections of growth based on inaccurate modeling with the goal of prioritizing corporate growth and developer profits on market rate housing over local control of their land use. Note the state thumps its chest on how important affordable housing is but then does properly fund it and blames cities.

Posted by JR
a resident of Palo Verde
on Feb 8, 2023 at 7:28 am

JR is a registered user.

Palo Alto has already filed a compliant plan. This is a frivolous lawsuit that will be promptly dismissed. This "YIMBY" group is not interested in improving the housing situation, they are only interested in self-promotion and enriching their moneyed backers.

Palo Alto now must waste resources fighting this bogus lawsuit that would otherwise be spent on city services and real affordable housing.

Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 8, 2023 at 2:46 pm

Gale Johnson is a registered user.

I am anxiously awaiting PACC's reaction to this lawsuit. Hopefully, it will help sort out those who really understand the myth of a shortage of housing, or where it can be built, in PA (missing out on vacant convertible office space, city owned parking lots, vacant retail space, and vacant apartments and ghost houses)...and what kind of new housing the YIMBYs are supporting. Sadly, an effective correction for making housing affordable for the very low and low income people will hurt those who bought/invested in real estate when it was at it's peak, but corrections have been the history of local and national economic up and down swings, policies, and laws passed that were designed to provide a permanent solution..."The Best of Times, The Worst of Times". There are always winners and losers in these transitions. Maybe it's time for a major real estate market correction to get prices down to a real affordable level for our daily service workers. Don't wait for a big 'hurrah' or wild round of applause from the YIMBY crowd for that to happen, however. They're working hard with lobbyists to prevent that from ever happening. It always helps to have billionaires supporting your campaign and paying lawyer fees to support frivolous lawsuits like this one. The bait tossed out to set aside a small percentage of newly built housing for very low and low income workers is a farce IMHO. It just provides leverage for land owners, developers, and contractors to get projects approved. I would like to see an honest survey/study made on how many of the workers that serve us daily in PA, fit into those bottom two income tiers. What %age do they represent? If it's much higher than 15% then I have a complaint/bitch to make! Are our elected officials deaf to good verifiable data? Cool sounding political candidates shouldn't be blindly accepted as looking out for the good of the homeless, and a large portion of our daily workers. Don't get me started on the loss of family owned businesses!

Posted by Elon Thiel
a resident of Community Center
on Feb 9, 2023 at 1:50 pm

Elon Thiel is a registered user.

Legal question for the armchair attorneys…since the State of California is the bottleneck, taking 4 months to respond to Palo Alto’s housing element which was filed last year , can the City make the state party to the lawsuit? The Yimby should have but since they didn’t what can they city do while it is stuck waiting on a bottlenecked, unrealstic HCD.

Could the city simple adopt the submitted housing element next week with an agreement to consider Further updates once the state gets back to us?

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