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By Steve Levy

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About this blog: I grew up in Los Angeles and moved to the area in 1963 when I started graduate school at Stanford. Nancy and I were married in 1977 and we lived for nearly 30 years in the Duveneck school area. Our children went to Paly. We moved ...  (More)

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Planning for the Future in Palo Alto and the Region

Uploaded: Feb 27, 2014
I recently attended two meetings where the future of the region and Palo Alto were discussed. One was a class at Stanford where students presented their summary of Plan Bay Area, which lays out a vision for the region's growth to 2040. The second event was a gathering of interested neighbors in downtown north.

For the most part the people at these events were not "the usual faces" who comment here and at council meetings. They were younger and seemed open to the fact that the region is growing and changing and interested in how we might plan for the future.
I offered my three priorities for planning in Palo Alto and the region:
--providing for an honoring the different choices people make
--being a welcoming community and region
--planning for the future and the growth and change that is coming

Expanding on these themes could take pages so I will share one example for each.
Choice is both about values and about knowing that not everyone wants the same things as each other or as an earlier generation wanted. The most important planning challenge around the choice issue is housing. Providing choice means to me planning for "granny units", allowing smaller housing units to be built, and honoring the choice of people who want to live in denser housing in our core downtown areas. It also means honoring the choice of people who want to live in Palo Alto and those who want to live in Tracy or Los Banos. I realize that there are choices in providing choices but my priority and value is to lean toward accommodating a variety of choices.

Welcoming is both a value but also an economic prosperity foundation. We do well in Palo Alto and the region and benefit from our welcoming of people from other countries, other religions, other sexual preferences and, I hope, a variety of lifestyles. A welcoming attitude attracts diversity and talent and enriches our community and region.

I also think the region and Palo Alto benefit from being a welcoming community for innovation and growth. Growth brings challenges but my experience indicates that regions that are not welcoming to new ideas and the associated growth eventually kill or at least maim the economic competitiveness and attractiveness of the region. That is why, for example, that housing and transportation are economic competitiveness foundations.

Planning for the future in the Palo Alto context (we are starting long-term housing and parking planning efforts) starts with acknowledging that the future will bring growth and change. I think the Plan Bay Area regional forecasts that I developed are about right—perhaps a tad too low but the 2 million people, over 1 million jobs and roughly 700,000 added households is in the ballpark.

Most people who look at this growth and the region's land come to the conclusion that the growth will be best accommodated by concentrating density in selected areas (Plan Bay Area calls them priority development areas) consistent with honoring choices. This implies an increase in density but concentrated along corridors nearer to transportation corridors and concentrations of services.

The change is even more certain. Most population growth will be Asian and Latino. The proportion of population over 65 will increase sharply and in the near term the 25-34 age group will be the other growth cohort. Planning for the future means anticipating what these groups will want. It turns out that the demographic changes support the priority development, concentrate where density goes, scenario,

For me planning for the future also includes my gratitude to the people who did that for me and my family. Besides being good planning I want to continue the generational connection that was given to me and helps me remember to support schools and services for the next generation.

In the Palo Alto planning process all of this means two things—1) make sure that variety of voices are represented by reaching out beyond the regular "stakeholders" and 2) include voices for the future. One example is don't just solve today's parking challenge but include the probability of growth in the planning so we don't see the same problem a few years down the road.

Comments

Posted by Reply to Steve, a resident of Barron Park,
on Feb 27, 2014 at 12:11 pm

Where did we get this vision of the future from that Asians and Latinos aspire to live in high density housing, and that being against high density housing is

Portion deleted. I suspect that the Asians and Latinos to come aspire to exactly what we did--a SFR in place where we can see the sky and trees, and a place not choked with traffic.


Posted by Garrett83, a resident of another community,
on Feb 27, 2014 at 1:05 pm

Garrett83 is a registered user.

I don't every square mile will zoned or meant for high density. Not everyone desires, wants or even needs to live in a SFR type dwelling.


Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Community Center,
on Feb 27, 2014 at 1:56 pm

Am curious if there was any serious discussion about the basic infrastructure required to make any of these planning dreams come close to reality?

I understand and support the issues that need addressing now - traffic and parking.

However, before we start building high density housing along public transit corridors you need to have some essential services in place. In other words, I don't think it is wise to build a bunch of 100-unit apartment/condo buildings without...

- adequate electricity supply
- ample fresh (and continued high quality) water
- expanded sewer capacity and treatment facility
- acquiring space and building new schools for the new residents
- expanding safety services (headcount, equipment, locations) to cover the growth.
- acquiring land and adding to the inventory of consumer based services, such as grocery stores (not specialty or fringe outfits), that will be needed to serve all of those units on transit lines.

This gets back to the argument on whether PA is built out or not. But it also speaks to some state level resource problems as well...for example, we are all keenly aware that we have a drought. And given that the state has not significantly expanded its water harvesting and storage capacity since the early 1970's, one has to wonder where the water is going to come from.

Same can be said for electricity on a state level.

"Build it and they will come" is not going to work for PA or any other city in this area. True, you can build it --- but without available drinking water, electricity, schools and other basic infrastructure requirements to support expanded cities (that clearly doesn't exist today), all of the high density ideas are worthless.

ABAG (not getting personal here) is very good at telling us what we have to do when it comes to housing. But I don't think they've connected the dots on what has to happen to support all of this. You just can't keep throwing up (pun intended) housing without considering the hard facts about limited resources and infrastructure.


Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park,
on Feb 27, 2014 at 2:21 pm

Sorry - forgot the (expected) final thought/retort. And that is...

Even if we can identify all of the infrastructure shortfalls, and that those items must be remedied before any significant housing growth starts...how much is all of that going to cost and who is going to pay for it?

While the "Please, tax me some more" environment has been surprisingly friendly (i.e., the Jerry Brown tax vote), I wouldn\'t count on that happening again anytime soon. Given the recent polls, I think it is hard enough to get PA residents to consider voting yes on the pending infrastructure bond/loan ideas coming from the CC. You can\'t force people to continually increase their taxes...I just don\'t see where all of the money is going to come from.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Feb 27, 2014 at 3:41 pm

The biggest obstacle to this vision is that Palo Alto is full of residents who are allowed to vote.

Portion deleted


Posted by Mr. BBQ, a resident of Community Center,
on Feb 27, 2014 at 6:07 pm

Deleted


Posted by Steve Levy, a Mountain View Online blogger,
on Feb 27, 2014 at 6:30 pm

Steve Levy is a registered user.

It is fine to be anonymous on this blog and to disagree.

But keep the sarcasm and put downs away.

I shared my ideas.

How about sharing alternative ideas or addressing the other issues I raised besides housing?

How would you handle the 2 million new residents and 1 million jobs?

Do you disagree about the importance of planning for the future or providing choices for people that might be different than how you live?


Posted by Jay Park, a resident of Jackson Park,
on Feb 27, 2014 at 7:47 pm

Deleted


Posted by Steve Levy, a Mountain View Online blogger,
on Feb 27, 2014 at 8:08 pm

Steve Levy is a registered user.

Jay, Park,

If you want to see off point disrespectful posts there are plenty of other blogs to view.

If you want to respond respectfully to the posts here, please join in.


Posted by Mr.Recycle, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis,
on Feb 27, 2014 at 9:24 pm

So as part of ABAG, are you partly responsible for the housing requirements that are destroying Palo Alto?


Posted by stephen levy, a resident of University South,
on Feb 27, 2014 at 9:36 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

I am not part of ABAG as explained many times.

I did the regional growth projections to 2040 as a consultant as I have done for several regions in CA.

The housing planning targets to 2022 are mandated by the state. A committee of peers at ABAG allocates the regional total to communities.

This was all done prior to and independent of the 2040 growth plan that I provided regional projections for, which by the way includes no requirements.

In the housing planning targets to 2022 Palo Alto with roughly 3% of the county's population and 10% of the jobs and with 2 1/2 CalYrain stations was given a planning target of 3% of the county' total allocation.

If you want to respond again, please direct your comments to my blog including your vision and priorities


Posted by Garrett83, a resident of another community,
on Feb 28, 2014 at 6:14 am

Garrett83 is a registered user.

People you talk about families living in Palo Alto, 2 kids attend P.A. schools, graduate high school and college. How do we house them and their family? How do we house their friends?


Posted by stephen levy, a resident of University South,
on Feb 28, 2014 at 6:40 am

stephen levy is a registered user.

Hi garett83

How would you answer your questions?

How should we house the large growth in seniors, some of who do not want to stay in their large emptier homes but do want to remain in Palo Alto-- still active and less active.

My answer is to provide a range of housing options.zMvby


Posted by Garrett83, a resident of another community,
on Feb 28, 2014 at 7:31 am

Garrett83 is a registered user.

I agree, I have been saying this for the last few years.


Posted by stephen levy, a resident of University South,
on Feb 28, 2014 at 10:18 am

stephen levy is a registered user.

@ Reply to Steve

I am not arguing that Asians and Latinos have any particular preferences for housing. My comment there was about making sure that new and different voices are included in decision making. Folks should speak for themselves.

It is true that people who want to live in single family homes will get pushed outside the region except for buying existing homes because most new housing is multi-family and, by the way, seems to be in high demand.

I do favor choice and one option that I think would serve the region well is experimenting with smaller housing units. One, they offer lower prices for those who can live in less space. Two, they can serve a market segment of singles--older or younger--and by the way not add children to the population. I think they would be popular in Palo Alto as well. Three, they add density, which is coming like it or not, in a less land use intensive way than larger units.


Posted by stephen levy, a resident of University South,
on Feb 28, 2014 at 10:49 am

stephen levy is a registered user.

@ CPD

It starts with the jobs. We approve large job expansions and people come. Santa Clara County has the largest % population growth in the state as a result of our large job growth.

You take the jobs, you buy the housing demand. We can argue about where it should go but not about that housing demand follows job growth.

If you don't want the people and housing, stop the job growth. It is not a choice I favor but at least it is a consistent position.

With the population growth comes the challenge but also to me the obligation to build the schools, expand and upgrade infrastructure and solve issues like parking.

You are a really sensible person even if we sometimes disagree. Tell me how you would solve the regional and PA challenges of accommodating what comes with large job growth.

My position is one reason this blog series is titled Invest or Die. I think moving forward and solving problems is the best course.

And as I have said often, I feel an obligation to continue the tradition of those who came before me and gave my family a great city amidst an earlier period of great regional growth.


Posted by Garrett83, a resident of another community,
on Feb 28, 2014 at 1:30 pm

Garrett83 is a registered user.

Jobs are a pretty good reason to move or in this relocate. So many other jobs have been created over so many years, late end baby boom that has seen prices rise. Housing has been a problem since. 1980's, in fact most of the people I know got squeezed out. Have traveled and lived worldwide, people will not come here unless they pay really high.

Hate to when educated baby boomers start leaving non tech high paying jobs.


Posted by resident 1, a resident of Adobe-Meadows,
on Feb 28, 2014 at 11:00 pm

When people talk about high density and job growth in Santa Clara County they are describing San Jose. The number of large commercial buildings, major companies, apartment buildings, hotels, shopping centers is reflecting a large city that has more than one type of transportation. That also describes Oakland and San Francisco. This region does have all of those elements described.
It is there now.
The whole peninsula does not have to look like San Jose, Oakland, or San Francisco - we have regional diversity. I think that the choices that people want are already here. People who want a dense area to live in can go to San Jose. There is a diverse population that has regional population centers in the bay area. If that is what people are looking for it is there.
As indicated above we have a number of challenges concerning water and waste disposal. We also have a city employment base that has a large pension plan that needs to be captured in the city budget. With the resources we have now we are just hanging in there.


Posted by Garrett83, a resident of another community,
on Mar 1, 2014 at 6:11 am

Garrett83 is a registered user.

I wouldn't expect nor would I want to see cities turned into San Jose or San Francisco. In fact for years was used as a bad example of city planning. Yes they have tall building but most companies aren't beating down the door.

I wouldn't expect nor would I want to see large parts of zoned for high density. We ate talking 3 to 5 story building in certain places. San Jose has its own housing problem, their own pension problems and the idea is to send more problems to another city.

We just don't have room to add hundreds if not thousands of 50's style single family, with low rise buildings close to such high job growth.

San Jose has a green belt law, most foothill communities have hillside restrictions and lot.size restrictions.


Posted by resident 1, a resident of Adobe-Meadows,
on Mar 1, 2014 at 7:59 am

Garrett83 - you live in the east bay IAW other comments you have made. You need to focus on the east bay cities that are currently bulking up population growth and commercial growth. Many government agencies and commercial companies have satellite locations throughout the east bay. Chevron is based in the east bay. Tesla has its manufacturing facilities on 880.

As to San Jose it is growing as to commercial and community endowments. Silicon Valley works and plays in San Jose, as well as Santa Clara with the new stadium ready to open. There is a lot of high density growth. Just drive down 101 - major companies are located in that location.
Yes - companies are beating down the doors to have representation in Silicon Valley and it is in the commercial corridors going down 101 to San Jose. Very large companies have their corporate centers in the east coast - Delaware and Maryland for legal and tax purposes but have their manufacturing and technology centers in the states that provide the best tax advantage and technology balance. California has challenges in the tax department which will not be solved by any one city.

Yes all cities have problems - and there are certain characteristics which typically occur with out of control growth. The job in planning is to mitigate the high risk factors which cause problems. So far PA has been able to keep the balance.


Posted by Garrett83, a resident of another community,
on Mar 1, 2014 at 8:32 am

Garrett83 is a registered user.

That is just it, people are coming here to find affordable housing, the locals are getting squeezed out. BART to Palo Alto from Livermore.

We have growth issues here, transit headaches, traffic.

Not everyone wants to live in San Jose or the East Bay, Chevron moved to San Ramon before the Silicon Valley booms.

Yes I agree East Bay needs PDA's and TOD's, but I keep hearing that view, sun and sky argument. East Bay has loads of ugly strip malls, run down shopping centers and car centered development.


Posted by resident 1, a resident of Adobe-Meadows,
on Mar 1, 2014 at 10:05 am

All long term projections of growth are predated by history. Palo Alto housing was a need based on the fact that Lockheed Martin had over 30,000 employees in the area, NASA, Moffatt Field being up and active. The city planning was after the fact.

San Francisco had military support in boat building and manufacturing as did Oakland. You will note that military bases in California which had huge labor forces are gone. They are still working out the bugs in those bases to make them suitable for housing. Whatever agricultural activity we had has moved east and south - it is gone.

Boeing is based in Chicago but builds planes in Washington State. Lockheed is based in Maryland but builds planes in Texas and ships on east coast.
Tesla is going to put his battery factory elsewhere. If his auto factory goes union he will move it out of California.

The state of California is putting a higher tax rate on companies so they are based elsewhere. Manufacturing happens elsewhere.
The only growth area is technology while in the research area. Once you build the product it happens elsewhere. HP builds its computers in China and is now using trains to transport to Europe on what was the old "silk road". US companies are assisting in this venture to make it work. Note the focus on that area now - very high.

The only people who will benefit from a housing boom are the people building the homes who are typically union based labor. Also the insurance companies that support Workmen's compensation and other high risk factors.

The idea that if you build houses they will come did not work in the outlying areas of Sacramento where whole housing developments sank because no one could buy the houses. There was no work in those locations.
Technology is moving to Texas and New York who is providing huge tax breaks, and to other locations that have cheaper labor and better tax base.

At some point here it needs to be further evaluated as to what all of these people are going to do - because if they do not have the proper skill sets there will be no jobs.

You can thank Sacramento for the state of the union, which is driven by union based employment - teachers, nurses, transportation personnel, state employees, etc. Those employees are not building products - they're servicing the people who build products.
Bottom line is there has to be a base industrial set of products to support the service industries.


Posted by Steve Levy, a Mountain View Online blogger,
on Mar 1, 2014 at 12:18 pm

Steve Levy is a registered user.

@ resident 1

Let's stick to what is actually happening here.

There is strong job growth driven by high wage innovation sectors that sell goods and services all around the world. These workers can and do support a large population serving sector.

All of your writing about jobs going elsewhere and union jobs is just contrary to the facts up and down the peninsula.

This job growth brings people who need housing. Over the long term we are talking about growth of less than 1% per year so hardly "out of control" at the regional level.

I offered choice, welcoming and thinking about the future as my priorities.

In terms of choice you point out correctly that San Jose, San Francisco and Oakland offer higher density choices. that is true but you end up telling folks where to live (not here I infer) while my vision of choice is they get to choose, not you.

Is it that you don;t think people want to live in Palo Alto in four or five or even eight story complexes or that really you are arguing to prevent their choices?

To accommodate the housing connected to job growth up and down the peninsula, housing will need to built most everywhere--here, Mt.View, Redwood City, Santa Clara and in between. It all can't go in San Jose, SF and Oakland. And nowhere will there be much single family housing built on the peninsula. There is only "up" not "out".

Yes, from what I infer (please correct if I am wrong) you and most other posters are not in a welcoming mood for Palo Alto's share of regional housing growth.

Yet the challenges you and others mention--traffic, pensions, schools, water, infrastructure and so forth--are share in all communities. It sounds like (correct me if I am misinterpreting you)) that you want PA to opt out while the growth goes elsewhere in the region.

It would be helpful if you give up the clearly incorrect notion that there is not substantial job growth now and in coming years where the families need housing and will have a variety of preferences.

And posters should not forget that the largest growth in housing demand for at least 15 years will be in young and senior households.


Posted by Garrett83, a resident of another community,
on Mar 1, 2014 at 1:10 pm

Garrett83 is a registered user.

Industry has changed, we as a region have been largely helped the change. I would suggest a walk to 369 South San Antonio Rd, think about 8 men and how their impact on a industry.

A friend who was architect, saw the same problems we were are having. To much job grow or people entering a.workforce and not enough housing. We talked about housing, city planning and post war industrial centered infrastructure around a centralized transit system.

Date was 1985, seen some good plans from the.early 50's


Posted by stephen levy, a resident of University South,
on Mar 1, 2014 at 2:04 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

I have two proposals made above that I invite comment on.

They honor choice, are welcoming and plan for the future.

One is to allow more "granny units" in PA.

The second is allow at least one development of small or micro units to see how the demand is.


Posted by Garrett83, a resident of another community,
on Mar 1, 2014 at 2:07 pm

Garrett83 is a registered user.

I like small 2 story or 1 story cottages, small yards, low ceiling heights. Good for young and old.


Posted by palo alto resident, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland,
on Mar 2, 2014 at 9:18 am

@stephen - the granny unit idea is a no brainer to me, there are already lots of not quite legal structures in people's backyards… we just need to make sure that the permits we require don't price people out of being able to build and/or bring existing units up to code.

As far as micro-housing (and other dense housing) I have a school-related concern. Many families from China and Taiwan rent an apartment and to send their children to Gunn. I would love a rule that an adult needed to be in the residence, because many of these students are living without adult supervision.


Posted by Resident 1, a resident of Adobe-Meadows,
on Mar 2, 2014 at 10:47 am

Are we talking regional growth or Palo Alto growth? Is the reference to millions of people specific to PA or the region?
1. In Palo Alto we have substantial building of apartment / condos on El Camino, East Meadow Circle, West Bayshore, Alma; as well as older apartment /condos throughout the city. We have continual building in process on new living units. What more are you looking to happen here?
2.Commercial properties on East Bayshore, and some on West Bayshore are continually up for lease. They have parking so that is not the issue. Those new techies need some garages from which to start their businesses.
3. City management -
A. poor financial controls on community center building, possibly on Rinconada library site - TBD;
B. Lack of decision on waste management - which includes land management;
C. Article in Post on San Fransquito flood control plan - not accepted by government agency. Both PA and Stanford need to work together to correct that plan. Current plan increases risk of flooding vs decrease flooding.
D. School system - Cubberly is not being used correctly - it used to be a high school and needs to be positioned as such for future growth.
4. Recognition that Stanford is the primary reason this city was created and that we need to work closely to make sure that the support systems are all in place.

Bottom line - there is choice / diversity all over the place here in PA - we just need to clean-up our outstanding issues to demonstrate that we can take on more density. People who want high density can find it here. In the corporate world if the business is not going forward then the shareholders rise up and ask for clarity / better management. Good project management and financial controls in small cities is paramount.

I am a fourth generation California native born in San Francisco, lived in Los Angeles, Long Beach, Marina Del Rey, Manhattan Beach, and Palo Alto. I have been at the hub of change and growth my whole life. I know that there has to be good financial controls and project management to make all of the requirements work together. Some small cities - which Palo Alto is - can work this issue very well. Others struggle to make it work and get bogged down in single issue topics which cannot survive without the other elements in place.


Posted by stephen levy, a resident of University South,
on Mar 2, 2014 at 11:28 am

stephen levy is a registered user.

Thanks to the recent posters.

PA will grow by probably 1% per year. The 2 million people, 1 million jobs is the regional growth to 2040.

So we will need more housing up and down the peninsula including PA.

I favor putting the new housing around downtown, Cal Ave and El Camino. We have choice now. I am talking about choice in the growth context.

The peninsula, PA and the region are adding jobs and we need to allow the associated housing. If folks want to live in Tracy that is allowed but most want to live on the peninsula so future choice is what I am talking about.

I recognize everyone's concerns but once you see the job growth we need to allow the housing. There are questions of practicality and ethics.

If people don't want the job growth or want PA to opt out of housing, they should say so. It is not my choice.

I agree we can make this work well and good management helps. But so does good and realistic planning.

If people "cheat" to get kids in the school as one poster suggested, that is not something I support but should not be used to argue against housing and choice.


Posted by Joe, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Mar 2, 2014 at 12:28 pm

> demand for senior housing is large ..

Wells Fargo says many will kiss Bay Area goodbye at retirement
Web Link

Seems Wells Fargo has been doing some research into this area, with the conclusion that about 40% of seniors will be saying goodbye to the high cost of living in the Bay Area once they are retired.

Seems that the private sector has a very different view of this than Steve Levy and his government-centric views of how people should be managed by the political class.

By the way, who wants to spend their golden years in a "micro" apartment where you will be very likely controlled by some sort of unaccountable building management--when you can move to a location of your choice, and live the life you want to.


Posted by stephen levy, a resident of University South,
on Mar 2, 2014 at 12:57 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

Joe really doesn't get the concept of choice. Joe is the one telling other people how they should live. It always amazes me how posters choose to speak for others.

If there is no market for additional housing of any kind it will not be built. I believe there is and will be demand and am arguing up to ALLOW it if private builders want tongo for it.

Far from Joe's clueless rant, I favor allowing the market to serve customer's choices in housing not have the givernment mandate or deny choice.

The planning issue is to make sure that communities allow enough housing to be built of a kind consumers want.

By the way, the 40% number Joe cited comes from a survey, not research, and up is wildly different from the very small number of residents over 65 who leave the region each year.

As to cost, I envision many moving to a lower not higher cost home if they move to smaller units as we did.

We value choice in most areas of consumer demand. Housing merits similar consideration.


Posted by Joe, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Mar 2, 2014 at 1:13 pm

> Joe really doesn\'t get the concept of choice

Being forced to live in "micromanaged/micro-apartments" is choice?

People who have lived long enough to have watched the disaster of central planning in the former Soviet Union, and Mao\'s China certainly have a good idea of what "choice" is.

> Surveys are not research

Really? So next time we get the results of that lame survey of Palo Altans that the City Auditor promotes as an example of Palo Alto satisfaction--should we reject that just as you seem to be rejecting Wells Fargo\'s survey?

Research is a very open word--that has no fixed, or legal, definition. Steve Levy ought to know that.


Posted by Garrett83, a resident of another community,
on Mar 2, 2014 at 1:19 pm

Garrett83 is a registered user.

As a region we have created jobs, lots of jobs. We created machines that added whole new words for work. As for housing not so much, demand is far greater then supply. Supply hasn't kept pace, transit infrastructure hasn't kept pace, but yet we talk about jobs.

Granny flats, studios, flats or dorm housing needs to be looked at and built.

Not everyone is going to chose a high paying job in the wonderful world.of tech. You will still need other workers, you will need the services of (your choice here). I remember in the first Dot.com boom, bonus were given for people to come work here.

One day traffic will bad, truck drivers will ask for money to deliver goods here. We are going to end up like New York City, paying extra for wages, goods and services.


Posted by resident 1, a resident of Adobe-Meadows,
on Mar 2, 2014 at 2:59 pm

I am concerned by the way conclusions are arrived at here - the fact that everyone is coming at this topic from a different perspective and agenda does not require put-downs.
1. No one is rejecting the notion of job growth - we all recognize that - but the form it is going to take is not conclusive. The fact that we are in Silicon Valley defines the type of job growth we can expect to see. However there are many cities and states that are competing for the same type of employees - Apple is looking to expand in Arizona. We are competing with states that are offering many tax breaks to be there. And better, cheaper housing.
2. No one is saying that building more living space is bad - we are just recognizing that it is occurring on an on-going manner in the specific areas that Mr. Levy identified. It is happening now - we don't have to beat the drum like nothing is going on out there. But once the current new apartments are built there is no going back to tear them down to build bigger buildings. The city today is maxing out the available space in those corridors. Palo Alto does have borders.
3. I don't appreciate being told that I don't want choices as I never said that - the whole city today provides all kinds of choices. No one is arguing about that. I want more choices in transportation - I want BART to circle the bay and close the loop - that provides the where-with-all to open the door for more choices.

4. Palo Alto is not ground zero on housing or jobs. I see snarky comments in the SJM Opinion page about Palo Alto that are not appreciated. Someone has somehow created an expectation in the general community about PA taking on all kinds of changes that it does not have the manpower or engineering competence to complete successfully. Understand the limitations - both in financing, management, and space.


Posted by Garrett, a resident of another community,
on Mar 2, 2014 at 7:31 pm

No I am not blaming Palo Alto sorely on the housing crunch, look at Marin, Sonoma, San Mateo, and cities. They passed zoning restrictions, fought against BART, freeways, water expanding storage, industrial growth, high density housing on their home patch. Views, views and more views but when people are sitting in snaking traffic jobs with no choice expect to relocate to further and further communities.

When the offer of other jobs come up with cheaper and better housing they tend to take it. Only to realize later they moved somewhere worse, crummy schools, heat, worse traffic because not everyone really wants a transit system. I know people who have moved to Arizona only realize dust stores and expensive water.

When you leave California, it is for good. I want to stay, but the choices are drying up fast.

I am 5th generation native, my family came out to farm which to farm in this state is getting harder and harder. They bypassed the cities in favor of small farming towns. Hate to say this folks, but small town living in California is going the way as fruit trees in Mountain View.

I don't care to see small farming towns become suburbs because people living across from San Francisco want to remain small little towns.

The bay area as a whole has done a very poor job on housing choices. I don't blame Palo Alto, just how most of the cities treat housing density.


Posted by Mr. BBQ, a resident of Community Center,
on Mar 3, 2014 at 11:22 am

Disappointed my post was deleted, basically I said Palo Alto is going to continue their growth pattern, and how this city supports the changes. Yes I'm one of the older citizens of Palo Alto, just think Palo Alto is moving in the wrong way. I can accept change, but the Palo Alto I now is moving just to fast in the last last few years. Amazing how a post can be deleted, and not saying any thing really negative , just wish we would slow down with our growth, we are moving to fast. As for Steve Levy, he deletes, posts that the way Palo Alto and the government are moving. Sad but true. Were is freedom of speech? What my previous post tried to state is we are moving to fast, without much thought, we need to think were we want to go. I see the City Leaders wanting to see us building a large city, losing the small city feeling. Yes I'm open to change, but lets move slower, big rules. Steve I'm disappointed, it's just a blog, I should be able to express my thoughts.


Posted by Garrett83, a resident of another community,
on Mar 3, 2014 at 11:50 am

Garrett83 is a registered user.

I lived in Melbourne Victoria in Australia which for 3 1/2 years really found it to be like bay area.

Melbourne.
Pop 4,246,000.
Density. 4,060 persons per square mile.
Metro area. 3,851 square mile.

San Francisco Bay Ares.
Pop. 7,150,000.
Density. 1,023. Persons per square mile.
Metro Area. 6,984 square miles.

Both areas have a bay, city center with moslty low rise suburbs. Outlaying industrial parks, 3 to 5 story buildings found in outlaying neighborhoods, traffic.

The only difference, Melbourne has a urban limit line, SF Bay Area doesn't.

Melbourne has really big choice in housing, SF Bay doesn't.


Posted by stephen levy, a resident of University South,
on Mar 3, 2014 at 12:36 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

@ Mr. BBQ

Your post contained a put down and sarcasm. And it did not respond to the issues inam raising except to complain.

I have been pretty clear throughout my blogs that such posts are not appropriate here especially from people who choose not to use their name.

There are no freedom of speech issues.

I am disappointed back that so many posters just complain without addressing how they would meet the regional growth challenges.


Posted by pat, a resident of Midtown,
on Mar 3, 2014 at 1:20 pm

Steve,
How come you're so particular about people being respectful in their posts, but it's OK for you to accuse Joe of a "clueless rant"?

I guess you also think Wells Fargo is clueless for doing surveys instead of "research."

This will probably get deleted, but you come across – in all your blogs – as very pompous. According to you, you're the only guy in the state who's got it right.


Posted by Native, a resident of Community Center,
on Mar 3, 2014 at 1:39 pm

Steve -

So many posts are complaints, but they are coming from different angles to make the same point.

The point is that they disagree with your underlying assumptions. You are trying to set up the blog to allow your readers to respond only when they build on your underlying assumptions.

While forcing people to use your underlying assumptions may move them closer to your world view, it is not what most readers want. The whole value of a diverse discussion is the vetting and questioning of underlying assumptions.
I know you want diversity in Palo Alto and you should allow it in your blog as well.

Most posts are based on different assumptions than yours, hence you consider them to be non-responsive or inappropriate or off-topic.

For many, the real problem is not, "how can we best deal with traffic, infrastructure, quality of life, sustainable revenue streams, processes of government etc. in a way that accommodates the projected growth rates I give you?"

Their problem is, "How can we prevent the rapid overpopulation in Palo Alto?" Their assumptions include that we can not well handle rapid population growth, because we haven't handled even the simplest aspects of it thus far. Even if we plan for it, such as by creating a well-thought-out zoning plan, we can't stick with the plan until we make the next one. Because forces of growth overwhelm such plans.

Therefore, the fact that someone would be happy to move to Palo Alto from many, many places and live in a tiny apartment here with their family does not carry weight with these people. The market for a single family home in a Palo Alto that still has a high quality of life (low crime, clean air, enough water, enough police to handle even small issues, schools of ideal size, etc.) may be smaller, but not every city needs to proportionally accommodate the world's population based on their current living situation or proportionally based on affordability.

We need not become a microcosm of the world, the country, the state, or the bay area. We are part of these, providing our environment complimenting the rest. We provide jobs; some places have fewer jobs and need our jobs. We provide locations at a higher money cost but daily less time cost; other places provide a lower money cost but higher daily time cost. We provide suburban sized lots; some places provide larger lots and some smaller.

You seem to assume that we have an obligation to reflect the overall demographic of California or the Bay Area.

We do not, and providing such will weaken the overall Bay Area and state by weakening Palo Alto's contribution to these environments.


Posted by pat, a resident of Midtown,
on Mar 3, 2014 at 3:17 pm

Native, Thank you for spelling out the problem so clearly and explaining to Steve why he's getting all the push back.

The difficulty with any plan today is that the horse is long out of the barn.

It's too late to say we don't want more jobs. Palo Alto has been job-rich since Stanford Industrial Park, or maybe even before. But Google and Facebook have raised the stakes astronomically. It's a regional issue.

For example, Mountain View "Council members picked a conceptual plan for adding as many as 3.4 million square feet of new offices -- with room for at least 15,000 employees -- to Mountain View\\\'s North Bayshore, an area north of Highway 101 that\\\'s home to Google, Microsoft, LinkedIn and Intuit, among others." Web Link

According to the SF Chronicle, as of June 2013, Santa Clara County had 8,000 units of housing under construction and 3,100 units in proposal stages. Web Link

How many of those will be affordable?

My husband was talking to one of the employees at the new Safeway at the San Antonio "Village." He thought he would be able to rent one of the apartments there and just walk downstairs to work. Then he found out that the 537-square-foot studios rent for $2880/month.

Let's face it: developers are not building homes for service workers. They want to maximize their profits by building very dense, very expensive housing for tech workers. In SF, a 279-square-foot space rents for $1,850. A new studio is $2700 on average. Proposed 220 square foot micro units, allowing 2 residents max, will go for about $1500.

Will the techies want to live in micro units when they cash in their stock options and have a family? The guys who run those companies live in single-family homes on large properties.

ABAG has projected that by 2040 the Bay Area will need 1.1 million more jobs and 660,000 new housing units to accommodate the additional 2.1 million people who will move into the area. Web Link

Why do we NEED 1.1 million more jobs? Every time more offices are built, ABAG requires more housing. It's a vicious circle: More jobs, more housing, more people, more cars makes for unsustainable growth and reduced quality of life.

Until we've got an efficient public transit system throughout the region, we should have a moratorium on development, regardless of ABAG threats.

Remember, "Blade Runner" took place in 2019. Only 5 years to go.


Posted by Garrett83, a resident of another community,
on Mar 3, 2014 at 4:30 pm

Garrett83 is a registered user.

The reason for so much job is because the 50 years we provided a product that is desired. Remember Mrs. Fields Cookies, when I lived in Australia was glad to see home.

HP printers, Apple Computers, Levi Jeans, EA Games, Google, Watkins Johnson, and.etc. Yes some of these companies have no connection with Palo Alto but customers live everywhere. Not saying Palo Alto needs to house everyone, have every company based there or create global companies from a garage. It has already happened.

Housing must be solved on a regional scale, each city must build some housing. Build on the coast, in the foothills, South Valley, build up, build out within the 9 counties.


Posted by Reply to Steve II, a resident of Barron Park,
on Mar 3, 2014 at 5:36 pm

"Is it that you don;t think people want to live in Palo Alto in four or five or even eight story complexes or that really you are arguing to prevent their choices?"

No, I don't think people want to live in such complexes. But this has nothing to do with limiting anyone\'s choices. Does downtown Manhattan limit choices by not having SFRs, no. Does Caspar Wyoming limit housing choices by refusing to build high rises?

Palo Altans are not limiting choices, the choice to be a suburb with plenty of SFRs was decided long before many of us lived here. We took Palo Alto as it was and what we could afford in it.

This city is the heart of Silicon Valley, everything from the calculator to social media was invented here. Certainly we can get creative about housing development, but what we have seen to date, like Alma Plaza, doesn\'t give me or many others much comfort about future development. If this place is so desirable, then developers should be willing to bring us fresh and creative choices, architecture that blends in--or how about all new development must be off the grid to reduce carbon footprint or buildings built from 100% recycled materials?

I feel like we\'re on the Titanic and City Council is rearranging the bike lanes instead of demanding the things from developers that could make Palo Alto the leading city in the country for innovation in development. Surely, we can be more creative than Mahattanizing the place in the name of "choice".


Posted by Garrett, a resident of another community,
on Mar 3, 2014 at 8:24 pm

We aren't even doing a good job adding affordable housing, yes 8,000 units are being built for Santa Clara County, 3,100 units are being planned. Google has plans for 15,000 workers for North Bayshore, that is just one company, it doesn't add up.

Facebook is adding jobs, LinkedIn is adding jobs, in face you read every week some company is adding jobs here or there. Even San Francisco can't house everyone.

Now remember things expand, shopping centers, shopping malls, hospitals, colleges, universities, schools, etc. This is throughout the 9 counties.

Mr Levy is right about young people, someone coming here is not going to buy a SFR right away, that is why the rents are going up. Not enough rentals.


Posted by Neilson Buchanan, a resident of Downtown North,
on Mar 3, 2014 at 9:18 pm

Would someone run 20 year trend data on Palo Alto "seniors" for me? The leading edge of the baby boom was born in 1946 and now is 68 years young. At age 75 the demand for housing shifts. Let\\\'s make some 20 yr standard demographic assumptions about the numbers of Palo Altans age 75 and their housing choices. A small percentage die and the housing issue is moot except for their spouse or partner. A significant minority will choose to age in their homes until the final end. A minority will elect to retire elsewhere and/or move away to be closer to adult children or friends.

Channing House, the Sequoias, Vi, Palo Alto Commons and other top quality organization offer attractive options for a minority of older citizens who want social and economic advantages of congregate housing, ie, a continuum of housing, a nursing home and other specialized care commonly associated with frail elder... all in one location much to the relief of senior couples and single (and their adult children). I dont know the numbers but I foresee naturally higher turnover of single family homes as the baby boomers enter into older cohorts. And I predict significant growth in demand for Channing House type housing choices. Of course, this isnt apparent today. Not enough of us are old enough...yet. Steve Levy has a valid point using the law of large numbers applied to the Bay Area mass senior population and to the micro-market of Palo Alto.


Posted by Robert, a resident of another community,
on Mar 3, 2014 at 9:26 pm

>Does downtown Manhattan limit choices by not having SFRs, no. Does Caspar Wyoming limit housing choices by refusing to build high rises?

The difference is that neither of the housing choices of those two places are being dictated by the government, rather its market forces. I think the point thats being missed here is that regardless of whether or not you believe growth is going to occur, it is, and there are consequences whether you allow it to be accomidated or not. The city of Santa Monica and many parts of Los Angeles adopted a slow growth model, and now have those areas in gridlock because the growth continued to occur, either by more people in the existing housing stock, and outside growth requring people to commute in.


Posted by Garrett, a resident of another community,
on Mar 3, 2014 at 9:56 pm

I was born 1964, but the time i reached high school, graduated in 1983, people who were born in 1946 were well on the way of owning homes. Also have to mention back in 78 to 79 remember people moving from the other places to get in on the computer boom, before the big home PC market took off.

Just remember the housing prices taking in the late 70's, while entire counties become no growth. When was the last major housing tract built south of San Francisco?

When was the last major housing tract built north of San Francisco?

Outside of Dublin when was the last major one built in the East Bay.

When I mean large, I mean 3,000 to 5,000 homes.


Posted by Resident 1, a resident of Adobe-Meadows,
on Mar 3, 2014 at 11:47 pm

Robert - reference to LA/Santa Monica area - Los Angeles Airport (LAX) went through a huge growth by adding more capacity / area - the city of Westchester was cut in half and eliminated to create more LAX space. Marina Del Rey next door was created out of a lagoon to add significant housing - all of the space is apartment/Condos. That whole area was recreated to service the housing and transportation business with more parking, hotels, etc. There is a huge defense complex in El Segundo which was built on open land.

McDonnell Douglas was at the current location of the Santa Monica Airport - a major employer in the area - and then moved to Huntington Beach, CA - now Boeing. When the space programs shut down there was a major downturn in the economy - here and in Florida - Cape Canaveral. Santa Monica and LA went through a hard time due to many factors in that time period. Lockheed was at what is now the Burbank Airport and was a major employer in the area.

There were other economic factors which drew the economy down.
LA is a case study for how economic factors cause deterioration and redevelopment of areas that are driven by the economy.
GM had an auto manufacturing line in the San Fernando valley but that was shut down and moved out of state due to corporate decision to consolidate facilities dedicated to certain lines of autos.
Other factor were wars - Korean and Vietnam which changed up the population centers in LA. You will note now that San Jose has major communities of Vietnamese, as does LA.

In Palo Alto Ford Aerospace was in the space business but Ford opted out and sold to Loral. Loral at one point went through bankruptcy but the commercial satellite business accelerated and a new market was developed.
Lockheed was a major employer but is consolidating its major product lines out of state.
Those are examples of how the economy changes up where people are located - there has to be a pool of business to hire people. If there is not an active business community then the housing deteriorates very quickly along with the commercial businesses that support the communities.

Right now Stanford U solidifies this area. But UC and Berkley which has more density is not doing well. That opens up another case study as to moving a lot of new university dedicated facilities to Mission Bay, etc.
If an area is having trouble than people will opt out and not move there - so business has to move itself out to where there is less risk to the employees. It is a balancing act.













Posted by palo alto resident, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland,
on Mar 4, 2014 at 11:29 am

@Native - very well put. Stephen goes on the assumption we should plan our housing based on projected growth rates when many Palo Alto residents would like to slow (not stop) those rates to a level that we can handle based on our current infrastructure including currently levels of public transportation, access to clean water, sewer systems, school size, parking etc. Palo Alto does not have the non-housing infrastructure to handle the projected growth and has no plans to add it. The Bay area does not have a coordinated transportation plan to handle the growth, nor does it have plans to add that (and I'm not talking about simply Caltrain or the HSR).

Until we have plans AND funding to adequately address infrastructure in Palo Alto and the whole Bay area, we are foolish to plan for unsustainable housing.


Posted by Cheryl Lilienstein, a resident of Barron Park,
on Mar 4, 2014 at 1:08 pm

The same concerns driving density are opposing it:

1. economic growth (With employers and developers enabled by ABAG designing our "choices")
2. greenhouse gas concerns (traffic, pollution increasing and no mass transit system worth its name).
3. sustainability (Where will the water come from? Those sea water desalinization plants promised in 1950 are still not around the corner)

As for welcoming "young people." Young people, families, and old people as well, would like to live in welcoming, stable communities, that has some flexibility embedded in the living situation. Yet, developers continue to build expensive individual dwelling spaces, for transient work forces, that provide very limited choices about how people live. Want TV? Great. Want to play the drums or have kids? Oops, drummers and musicians and actors and dancers and gymnasts and skaters and artists and gardeners and kids who play with balloons or skateboards or truck toys....will not be so "welcome." You'll have to go outside, get in your car, brave the traffic, go to the community center, sign up for a room, wait for a class, pay the fee, and then you can "play" with your "friends." Not the best "choice."

So I don't see the "welcoming" idea as a trustworthy frame, until developers consider culture and build beyond a bed and a plug, and the transit system emerges as a real "mass" "transit" "system."





Posted by Garrett, a resident of another community,
on Mar 4, 2014 at 1:23 pm

Cheap warehouse space will do good for drummers, dancers, skateboarders, gardeners.

I wrote to the paper once about having allotments in a orchard, no it has to remain open space. All high density developments must have some sort of open space, outside, on the roof, a few rooms, or help maintain open space in a park.

Community Centers throughout a city would help, different sizes, a room to sing as a group. But that would be putting up a building in a park, again open space. We can even solve the dog park problem.

No all developments will be children centered, not all developments will be senior centered. Sometime stacked housing will do, but what is matter with 2 bedroom, 2 story cottages attached around a green area, with backyards.

People like SFR's, apartments, granny units, row homes, flats, condo's, living in high density, middle density or low density.


Posted by Adina, a resident of Menlo Park,
on Mar 4, 2014 at 11:21 pm

@cheryl the concern about transit might be plausible, if Stanford had not successfully reduced the amount of car commuting from 72% to 42% in a decade, using the public transit system plus shuttles to connect to public transit, and charging for parking.

Yes, there are limitations to the transit system, and because of the area's land use there are some people who can't be served even by carpool/vanpool. But Stanford has enabled driving to become a minority commute option among its employees already. This suggests similar places could also reduce driving, parking and traffic pressure, even with the system as it is today.


Posted by Resident 1, a resident of Adobe-Meadows,
on Mar 5, 2014 at 7:58 am

Garrett of another community - in the city of Palo Alto the Eichler communities have community centers with swimming pools, tennis courts, and rooms to use for the purpose you identified. We also have community centers - rebuilding in process - which provide community meeting rooms available for groups. Lucie Stern center is available to groups. Yes it is nice and it is already there. This has all been planned out and that is why we need to protect the status quo in those areas. It is not a future desire - it is a here and now fact. The Oshman Center also has a music group and two auditoriums for events.
I do not understand why people cannot see what is in front of them. There are new apartment / Condos going down El Camino, all over the city. Transportation is our weakness - we keep trying to hype HSR to the detriment of all other possibilities that other communities have already put in place.


Posted by CrescentParkAnon., a resident of Crescent Park,
on Mar 5, 2014 at 8:58 am

> I offered my three priorities for planning in Palo Alto and the region:
> --providing for an honoring the different choices people make
> --being a welcoming community and region
> --planning for the future and the growth and change that is coming

Gee, how can anyone disagree with that when it is so beautifully crafted in
the latest corporate smiley-speak gobbledygook ?

"Honoring", "welcoming", "planning" ... sounds so wonderfully adult, and
those positive action verbs, in corporate form - sounds marvelous, but -

- IT DOESN'T MEAN ANYTHING BUT LET DEVELOPERS DO WHAT THEY WANT.

Henceforth when Steve Levy posts something, can someone just review it
and post the ENGLISH TRANSLATION and save us all the trouble of translation?


Posted by Garrett, a resident of another community,
on Mar 5, 2014 at 9:48 am

To support a really good transportation system we need a fair share of people living in density higher then a single family home spread out for miles.

Key to a good transit system, how well it runs at all times of the day. It seems that we forget that a transit system needs passengers, kicker is they need to ride 24/7. We seem to center everything on what people do best, Work.

El Camino Real can take some of the new housing, not all of it because I still expect we need places for businesses that can't operate around housing. Downtown can take some more housing, older single story apartments building can take housing.

Housing that is not just apartments, or SFRs.

I don't expect Palo Alto to house everyone, Mountain View, Menlo Park, Redwood City, Fremont, and Sunnyvale. All have to plan for new housing choices, density, that community room idea, parks, schools, almost everything written about and comment on has to be spread out but within the area.


Posted by resident 1, a resident of Adobe-Meadows,
on Mar 5, 2014 at 9:53 am

The stated goal of ABAG is to move communities along transit lines - guess what - they already are. The unstated goal of ABAG is to reduce private ownership of property to state / corporate ownership of property.
People who live in "dense" apartments and condominiums do not own their property - they lease it or are under the control of the corporation that owns the property. If they do not pay the home ownership organization then they are gone.

Wow - what are people working and striving for - some piece of mind and something that is their personal investment. For most people that is their home for their families - however that is defined.


Posted by resident 1, a resident of Adobe-Meadows,
on Mar 5, 2014 at 10:05 am

Garrett of another community - no matter what is pointed out you just throw back a response that does not recognize what is on the ground - like all new apartments and condominiums on El Camino. They have already been built.
Community centers - they are all over the city - some in perpetual repair.
Schools - spread out over the community - we have a good school system. You keep using the "we" word. If your local community - what ever it is - does not do it for you then you need to address your needs to your local community.
This is like walking a dog who is always straining at the leash - choking itself.


Posted by curmudgeon, a resident of Downtown North,
on Mar 5, 2014 at 10:31 am

"Stanford has enabled driving to become a minority commute option among its employees already."

Are you sure about that? What Stanford actually did was make on-campus parking very expensive and institute free shuttles to the transit center. But how many Stanford commuters drive in, park their cars for free on the streets, and stroll to the free Stanford shuttles?


Posted by stephen levy, a resident of University South,
on Mar 5, 2014 at 11:03 am

stephen levy is a registered user.

@Cheryl Lillenstein

I will address these comments to you because you were neither embarrassed or fearful of posting with your real name and I appreciate that. I have heard you speak at council and while I suspect we disagree about the future of PA, I know you intelligent.

You and other posters seem to think you know what new residents want in the way of living arrangements. You many be right and I may be wrong (I doubt it since this is part of my professional world) but neither of us should be determining how other people live.

Choice is allowing them to decide and see a full range of options.

I do not agree with your comment about developers or those of other posters. I do not think developers are evil any more than I think Apple, Google or General Motors are evil corporations.

In my view private companies serve customers and in this case what you see built in Palo Alto (and sold or rented quickly and with rapidly rising prices) is meeting consumer demand. Developers may be building housing that you and other posters don't like or wouldn't live in but they ARE building housing that customers want.

Welcoming is not about developers. It is about us. Do we welcome people who want to live in Palo Alto even if they choose to live in housing that we do not choose for ourselves?


Posted by stephen levy, a resident of University South,
on Mar 5, 2014 at 11:17 am

stephen levy is a registered user.

@Cheryl Lillenstein and others

Some posters have pointed out that PA does have a good deal of dense housing already. This is true.

But there is a reason this blog is called Planning for the FUTURE.

It is about how the region and city accommodate the coming growth.

Most of that growth will be in multi-family housing as that is what is happening already and there is little space to add single family housing.

As mentioned many times already, people are free (have the CHOICE) to live farther away in single family housing if they want. But the fact is many want to live up and down the peninsula in denser housing in walkable communities with transit options.

It all starts with job growth.

Cheryl, did you go to Cupertino and argue against the Apple expansion? Did you got to Mountain View and argue against expansion of Google, Microsoft and others? Did you go to Menlo Park and argue against expansion of Facebook?

All of these companies are adding jobs and some of these go to new residents who can afford to and want to live in PA.

The regional growth projections to 2040 are on a path to be exceeded--at least 1 million jobs (still growth at less than 1% per year after the recovery), 2 million people and the associated housing.

What is your position about housing that growth? What is Palo Alto's share? Are you for restricting the choice of people who want to live here and making them live elsewhere? Do you favor or have a plan to stop the regional job growth?


Posted by stephen levy, a resident of University South,
on Mar 5, 2014 at 12:08 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

@Cheryl Lillenstein and others

You mention a number of real challenges--water, transportation, community facilities, etc that are needed to accommodate growth well.

I agree but my position is that a previous generation did that for me and it is my turn to return the favor and provide for the next generation. i am happy to pay my share to build or expand schools and improve community assets.

But most of the issues you raise are regional and not a reason to stop or limit growth in Palo Alto (remember we are talking 1% per year over the long term) and ask people to live elsewhere where the challenges are the same.

As Adina pointed out and we talked at great length yesterday, there are many proactive solutions combining housing and transportation demand that can help now and prepare for the future.

And as Garrett pointed out, having more housing in downtown areas and transit corridors build a market for transit as well as meet people's choices.


Posted by Garrett, a resident of another community,
on Mar 5, 2014 at 2:19 pm

I have lived all over the bay area, from the bay area, 5th generation native. I have seen housing prices go up, heard the argument for high density only to hear about sun, sky and view. Most of the pro dense people aren't talking about redeveloping the single family home areass, or outdated commercial areas.

Tell you the truth I see older 1950's to 1970's poorly designed apartment complexes and buildings getting redeveloped before single family homes. I see older used car lots, outdated shopping centers. I don't expect Palo Alto to house every person who works there, I expect all cities to come up with housing style to solve the housing problems.


Posted by Eric F, a resident of Downtown North,
on Mar 5, 2014 at 3:23 pm

I think the reason this dialogue has become so spirited is that the differences are over philosophy and values, not facts.

The fact is that more people would like to live in Palo Alto in the future than easily can at the moment (although I suspect the oft-cited draw of "vibrancy" is less meaningful to that then access to good public schools is). This desire can change the character of Palo Alto, and Mr. Levy is entirely correct in his point that you cannot argue against that change without arguing against job growth. There should be no dispute about the following sequence (I hope this formats legibly):

-------------------------------------------
Job Growth (partly correlated to highrise Office Development)
|
V
Traffic and parking woes
Infrastructure stress and pollution
Regional pressure for more housing
|
V
More traffic and parking woes
More infrastructure stress and pollution
School overcrowding
-------------------------------------------

Mr. Levy's point about jobs, that arguing against degradation of what most Palo Altans consider quality-of-life means arguing against white-collar job growth in Palo Alto, is completely logical. The two go together.

The place there's philosophical disagreement is not these things themselves, but in how Palo Alto should respond. This reduces to two basic positions, each self-consistent:

1. We have a moral obligation to accommodate people who would like to move here, but can't. If the nature of Palo Alto changes, it's nothing that many other cities have not learned to live with. The quality-of-life degradation is acceptable.

2. Palo Alto is built out. The quality-of-life degradation is not acceptable. If that means the Facebooks of Palo Alto continue to eventually outgrow us and move away, so be it.

There should also be no dispute about these things themselves; only over which should prevail.

As Mr. Levy points out, this is about the FUTURE (Mr. Levy's capitals). The two positions above lead to two very, very different futures for Palo Alto.

In one vision, Palo Alto continues to be a moderate-density, family-oriented suburb with a strong residential focus and good public schools.

In the other, Palo Alto is the financial and professional center of the peninsula with a busy downtown corridor and a lot of good places to eat, but also with persistent traffic, congestion and infrastructure woes. Apologists will argue that these things can be mitigated via expanded public transit and a lot of school bonds, but the reality is they can't be eliminated. You want the one, you have to accept the other.

These two futures are mutually exclusive. I think it's clear where Mr Levy stands, as well as the majority of the incumbent City Council, and certainly much of the professional city staff. Many of the posters on this board favor the other.

But the difference between these two positions, and the scale of their implications, is so great and of such a "values" nature that it's inappropriate for any one smart person to make it with a spreadsheet. It needs a broad public discourse, which in our society normally translates to an election.

I hope and also believe that the clash between these two views will be the central theme of November's city election. It deserves to be. Readers of this board, on both sides, will have their chance to be counted.



Posted by pat, a resident of Midtown,
on Mar 5, 2014 at 5:08 pm

Thank you Eric for pointing out that we have choices for our FUTURE. Mr Levy seems adamant that his philosophy and values provide the only option.

How does Atherton remain an enclave of SFRs on large lots? Is it just through zoning laws? In any case, Atherton residents can't escape the traffic problems from surrounding cities.


Posted by resident 1, a resident of Adobe-Meadows,
on Mar 5, 2014 at 5:14 pm

Eric - nice effort - Comments on your points:
1. "We have a moral obligation to accommodate people who want to live here."
Does Atherton have a moral obligation to accommodate people who want to live there? Does Hillsborough? Does your comment make sense?
2. "Palo Alto is the financial and professional center of the peninsula" - who is drinking the Kool-Aid? San Jose is the center of Santa Clara County for all government offices. Also the center for transportation options - including a major airport. Also he base for major corporations - along with Mountain View.
3. Facebook has moved away and is going to build a whole mini-city in their area - Menlo Park. They took their marbles and left.
4. I don't see the two different futures - all of the houses that here in the city will be in the future - all people do is rebuild on site. That is not going to change. Every city around us has houses - that is not going to change. Private ownership of property is still the desired goal.
5. The only thing happening here is that we are "too easy" to talk about. Try Oakland or the more gritty cities - they have far more to talk about - real problems. Like building new stadiums, freeways, etc.



Posted by Garrett83, a resident of another community,
on Mar 6, 2014 at 8:56 am

Garrett83 is a registered user.

Atherton, Woodside, Hillsborough and Portola Valley also need to building, even if is high income housing.

What is wrong with large mansion looking buildings that will house flats on large lots.


Posted by palo alto resident, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland,
on Mar 6, 2014 at 10:23 am

@eric - I totally agree with you that we are at a juncture - do we want Palo Alto to remain a vibrant suburb or do we want it to become a more urban center?

@resident1 - San Jose may have the government offices and an airport, but the driving force in Silicon Valley is technology, not government. Tech is driven/funded by Venture Capital $$ and those are in Palo Alto and Menlo Park. Try renting office space in San Jose vs. Palo Alto and see what it costs and how easily available that space is.

@pat - Atherton remains an enclave of SFR on large lots because of zoning. It doesn't have much of a push from the ABAG to build affordable housing because there are few jobs in Atherton. Same with Portola Valley, Los Altos Hills and to a lessor extent, Woodside and Los Altos.


Posted by stephen levy, a resident of University South,
on Mar 6, 2014 at 10:35 am

stephen levy is a registered user.

@ Eric F and Cheryl Lillenstein

You are both leaders in the current discussions around growth, parking and related issues in PA.

Eric is right that part of the decisions about planning for the future in Palo Alto deal with values.

But I notice that neither of you have chosen to clarify your values about how the growth should be handled.

I raised a number of questions in my replies to Cheryl.

Please reply as I am sure readers and residents will be interested in whether your position is just to dump the growth in neighboring cities and PA "opt out" because these challenges are REGIONAL.

Eric, it occurs to me that you may be confusing the impact of what you call "high rise office development" (these four story buildings downtown) with the demand for more housing in PA. It is likely that these developments have, along with growing customer use of retail and service activities downtown, contributed to the parking challenges downtown.

But they are surely not the cause of much increased housing demand. For that you will agree comes from the surge up and down the peninsula in jobs at places like Facebook, Google, Apple, Microsoft, LinkedIn and the like.

As far as schools are concerned, why don't we add capacity as the generation before me did so my children had great schools.

You are both sensible people. I cannot believe until you tell me that I am wrong that your solution is "I/m not willing to pay to increase school capacity, let's have the kids live in our neighboring communities.

Or are you now going to inform me that you have both publicly opposed all large regional job growth projects like Apple in Cupertino or Facebook in Menlo Park.

Eric, most of the job growth is not related to downtown four story new office buildings. What is your position about regional job growth or the ability of companies and Stanford to meet changing and growing demands?

We can disagree on vision or values but need to get facts and causation straight.

thanks for taking the time to participate


Posted by resident 1, a resident of Adobe-Meadows,
on Mar 6, 2014 at 11:11 am

Yahoo Finance just posted a list of the areas with highest declining affordability in homes prices. For Northern California they are San Francisco, Santa Rosa, San Jose, and Salinas. Salinas is showing the biggest jump in home prices. We are not on their radar - even though they are based in Sunnyvale.

As you can see San Jose is on their radar.


Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park,
on Mar 7, 2014 at 12:25 pm

I don't have time at the moment to write up my thoughts I and contribute to this great conversation. However, I'd like to point out that Apple expansion in Cupertino really isn't what is implied. Yes, Apple is expanding. However they are *not* expanding (at least not by much) the overall office capacity of Cupertino as they are building on the old HP Cupertino site...which hosted 1000s of HP workers (including me) before Apple bought the property.

And then looking at PA, I'm not acquainted with how job growth is projected for our town. It can't be too much more...the Arrillaga project will probably be an impact, but right now I don't see them getting the 8 story buildings they wanted. Of course Stanford is expanding...but there are many who feel that Stanford is responsible their own local housing issues.


Posted by Reply to Steve II, a resident of Barron Park,
on Mar 7, 2014 at 2:38 pm

Steve, for some reason, you are not willing to accept that many of us don't agree with your assumptions about the right future for Palo Alto.

I'm fine with the city remaining a bedroom community, you aren't. How can I (or other commenters) answer your questions, if I think you are asking the wrong ones? Engage us where we are, not where you assume we should be.


Posted by Robert, a resident of another community,
on Mar 7, 2014 at 3:43 pm

@Reply to Steve II

Wanting the city to remain a "bedroom community" doesn't mean you have a disagreement over assumptions, it means you're either living in a fantasy world, or have no idea what that term means.


Posted by stephen levy, a resident of University South,
on Mar 7, 2014 at 8:08 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

@reply II

They seem like simple questions that you, Eric.and Cheryl are not answering.

If not in PA, where do you want the 2 million new residents to live and why is that acceptable as a regional solution?

Did you go fight the expansion of Apple, Google, Fscebook jobs or any regional job growth?

Why are these the "wrong" questions except possibly be that you have no answer that passes the smell test?

And what do you mean by a bedroom community.? When Inlived with three grad students on Oxford, was I part of a bedroom communit?

When my wife and I now live in a five story condo, are we part of a bedroom community?

When the young tech worker lives down the hall with his son, are they part of a bedroom communit?

Or only people that you like how they live? Only single family homes with children?


Posted by Jerry Underdal, a resident of Barron Park,
on Mar 8, 2014 at 1:45 am

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

Current homeowners, myself included, would see their net worth greatly increase if the city held the line on any housing densification in Palo Alto. The fewer residential units there are, the more each one is worth. But I believe it would be terrible public policy, where private gain would defeat the public good. Palo Alto would become an enclave for the rich as each property turnover replaced an existing household with one with much greater means.

We're already experiencing this, but it will become much more extreme if the most restrictive policies advocated by the new residentialists of Palo Alto prevail.

We often hear talk about developers trying to benefit from land use decisions, but we hear a lot less about home owners or real estate agents trying to do the same thing.




Posted by resident 1, a resident of Adobe-Meadows,
on Mar 8, 2014 at 8:17 am

Jerry - you live in Barron Park - when you come out to El Camino you will note all of the new apartment/ condos That go all the way down to San Antonio - our border with Los Altos. If you go north you will note the new housing on Stanford property at Stanford Avenue. All will note that Mr. Levy lives in a condo in central PA - as do many people.
This city has a lot of new and old apartment / condos.
So exactly where are the new developments suppose to go?
I think this blog is gaming the one-story apartments on Alma between East Meadow and Oregon Expressway.
However - that is our low-cost housing. So the argument for low cost housing butts up against the high rise apartments for the expensive singles.
You all need to cut to the chase and specifically state where the housing is suppose to go. At this point you are going in circles.


Posted by stephen levy, a resident of University South,
on Mar 8, 2014 at 12:05 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

@resident 1

the city is starting a process of identifying sites for housing to 2023.

In general terms it should go where the city plans for higher density and developers and customers want.

I have given lots of specific ideas as to type--granny units and micro units in addition to condo/townhouses that could go higher than currently allowed.

and places--downtown where I live, Cal Ave area, El Camino (in addition to the south and perhaps parts of Alma.

You have joined Cheryl, Eric and others in not answering my question about "if not here, where and why")

Jerry suggests the possibility of the not here group might be maximizing the value of their homes. I am not sure if there are any "bad" motives for your position (feel free to explain) but I do question the refusal to consider the regional implications of job growth and where housing might go.


Posted by resident 1, a resident of Adobe-Meadows,
on Mar 8, 2014 at 5:04 pm

Hey - I was asking you for specific locations. I don't need to provide them - I am not in the "inner circle" of the developer team.
You have the "always answer the question with a question" response going - I have provided many thought and responses in this stream. I am out of here.


Posted by resident 1, a resident of Adobe-Meadows,
on Mar 9, 2014 at 12:47 pm

1. Menlo Park is working on a referendum to reduce growth, including reducing the current plans for the John Arrillega - El Camino development on the old car lots. Lots of sentiment against increased growth. Reference the Sunday SJM - "Menlo Park - Initiative to limit office space gets okay to move ahead", Page B2.

2. The smart money says Mr. Levy did not sell his home - he is renting or leasing it out. He is getting enough to pay for his condo. It is probably in a trust for his children. The smart money says he is still in the game banking on the increased value of the house property.


Posted by resident 1, a resident of Adobe-Meadows,
on Mar 9, 2014 at 12:47 pm

Duplicate post .


Posted by stephen levy, a resident of University South,
on Mar 9, 2014 at 1:00 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

Hey resident 1

I thought you were " out of here"

Yet back with another presumptuous put down. Where do you make up this stuff? FYI. We did sell our house.

And the question you Cheryl, Eric and others seem not to want to answer does not require you to be an insider.

It is the simples of questions. If you don't want more growth in Palo Alto, where should it go and why there and not here?

My next post will explore the surge in job growth reported yesterday centered in Silicon Valley.

I hope you and others give up on denying the job trends and pose solutions that work for the whole region.







Posted by Jerry Underdal, a resident of Barron Park,
on Mar 9, 2014 at 1:55 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

Resident 1

I think we have a different take on what we see out on El Camino on exiting from Barron Park.

I've reminded myself constantly over the last several years to notice and take pleasure while I can from every example of funky, interesting, not likely to last, sometimes ugly land use on El Camino Real, from Page Mill to San Antonio, not because I thought they should persist into the future but because I knew they wouldn't.

Now many of those properties are being turned into multi-family housing or mixed use developments which I think look a lot better than what they are replacing. People often cite Arbor Real as an example of what they don't like about changes in Palo Alto. I have walked and bicycled through and around the complex and it looks like a calm and attractive location to live. I doubt that many people who bought there regret their decision.

I'm curious rather than depressed on seeing the apartments going up between Lozano's and CVS. The hotel going in next to Hobee's is better use of the property than a car rental agency that was only there because of Ricky's. There will be many other changes, some I'll like and others not. Over all I approve of a strategy of putting more housing on El Camino without tinkering with existing R-1 properties back in the neighborhoods.


Posted by pat, a resident of Midtown,
on Mar 10, 2014 at 10:58 am

This is well worth the read: Web Link

"Boomtowns also drive out people who perform essential services for relatively modest salaries, ... along with people who might have time for civic engagement.

"The boom workers ... drive up the cost of housing for the locals, drive out some locals,

"...unlike gigantic employers in other times and places, the corporations of Silicon Valley aren't much interested in improving public transport, and in fact the many corporations providing private transport are undermining the financial basis for the commuter train."


Posted by stephen levy, a resident of University South,
on Mar 10, 2014 at 11:12 am

stephen levy is a registered user.

Pat's post and the quote is simply wrong. Completely backwards.

For example the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, which includes Valley's leading employers is a STRONG supporter of public transportation including CalTrain and BART. The same is true for Google.

The same is true for all the major employer groups I am familiar with including the Bay Area Council and SAMCEDA as well as organizations like Joint Venture Silicon Valley.


Posted by resident 1, a resident of Adobe-Meadows,
on Mar 10, 2014 at 8:22 pm

Steve - I agree with your comments on transportation. You will note that BART is now coming into San Jose at 101, then is going to go on to the Santa Clara Caltrain station. Once is successfully anchors that leg of the bay loop it can then proceed up to the west peninsula to the BART locations that connect with the SFO.
Yes it is going to happen - I am really excited about that. That is progress.


Posted by stephen levy, a resident of University South,
on Mar 11, 2014 at 1:49 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

@ resident 1

Nice when we can agree on something and thanks for pointing that out.

It makes it easier to honor disagreement on other issues.


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