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About this blog: So much is right — and wrong — about what is happening in Palo Alto. In this blog I want to discuss all that with you. I know many residents care about this town, and I want to explore our collective interests to help ...  (More)

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Do we really have a housing crisis?

Uploaded: Sep 23, 2021
The repeated refrain these past several years: We have a housing crisis in town -- we have to build more housing units so more people can live in our fair cities.

Most of our local officials agree. Forget about more offices -- we need housing -- particularly, affordable housing, they say.

Enter SB 9 and 10, senate bills that are a dramatic statewide override of local city zoning control in order to provide more housing units in California. Together, they will allow single-family property owners to divide their lots into two -- and build two new units on each half. In other words, four units per lot -- and in some cases, eight units. This bill trumps any current zoning for the property, such as an R-1, that allows only single-family zoning on a given area. State Senators Scott Wiener and Toni Atkins sponsored the bills, and they were supported by local Assemblyman Marc Berman and state Senator Josh Becker. Becker voted for SB 9 but abstained from voting for SB 10 and did not support it, according to his staff

SB 10 grants local city councils the power to overturn voter-approved land-use initiatives. It overrides a city's single-family zooning, requires no environmental review, nor public hearings.

Sure doesn't sound very democratic to me!

These bills may be well-intended, as in yes, we need more housing, because to date, local cities aren't cooperating as much as state legislatures wanted. ABAG (Association of Bay Area Governments) has demanded that cities must build a certain number of new units, based on the jobs/housing ratio in their town. Palo Alto has high number of jobs due to Stanford University, its two hospitals, and the Research Park. Atherton, despite one-acre-plus housing lots, is not required to build such housing, because the city has few jobs. This imbalance concept, in my estimation, has been unfair from its beginning. For example, Stanford hospitals serve a regional area, not just Palo Alto. But because it's located here, the city must build more housing to attain a balance.

These bills also are a huge gift to developers -- they will be able to build and build.

One prevailing want-more-housing attitude has been here for a while. When former mayor Adrian Fine was in office, he said (paraphrased) that he wanted a city where everyone who wants to, can move here, and find housing immediately, whether that person came from New York, Chicago or Maine. However, in the limited amount of vacant space that Palo Alto has, that's not a possibility.

The other idea says that high-rise and small lots are the future of our city. Accept it. I am not sure I can. Must that happen? I like our suburban environs.

My overall question is do we really have a housing crisis? Obviously, locally there is not enough low-priced housing in our towns, but nearly 48 percent of housing units in Palo Alto are rentals -- many to Stanford students. So, it's not like all of us here live in huge homes. And if we want to have more housing, why not build apartments closer to the Baylands -- like on Palo Alto's golf course.? Yes, we would lose one of our sporting treasures, but isn't that better than losing our neighborhoods?

My other problem is SB 9 and 10 allow high density next to your and my homes -- and up to eight hogh-riseunits on a parcel of land. Sounds like mixed-up neighborhoods. Yes, in this instance, you can call me a NIMBY.

The law requires a limit on the number of parking spots that would be required on a four-unit parcel. But if the units are located less than a half mile from public transportation -- a bus stop or a train station -- then spots for cars to park are not required.

There is a weird presumption in that section of the law -- that cars are only used to get to work
But what about needing a car to buy groceries, see doctors, or take kids to school daily? If there's no parking provision for the lot I live on, then what do I do? Unclear whether a couple could have two cars.

Here are some other problems:

• During this drought season, we've all become conscious about our water use. But if you have four units on a lot, presumably then four times more water will be needed. What do we do about that?

• And of course, these new rezoning units will have parents with children. How will our schools be affected? Can they handle an annual influx of new students? Will we have to build more schools?

• Are these smaller housing units and divided lots desirable? f developers build them on spec, will they survive and thrive in the marketplace? If they remain empty after they are on the market, what will that mean? And how costly will these empty small units be for developers?

Just questions, and I don't have solid answers for them yet. But SB 9 and 10 are just one way of trying to solve the housing problem, and they haves a lot of kinks in them. What measures we hurriedly adopt can drastically change the local ambience and character of our communities.

Rushing to have suburban neighborhoods change in a dramatic, and to me draconian, way, should not be the solution.
What is it worth to you?


Posted by Dee, a resident of Palo Verde,
on Sep 23, 2021 at 8:00 pm

Dee is a registered user.

Once again, Diana, you are spot on. Did any of our elected officials think this through?!

Posted by MP Reader, a resident of Menlo Park: other,
on Sep 23, 2021 at 10:07 pm

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Hi Diana, thanks for bringing up this important topic! I read your column about PAMF a few weeks ago and found both it and the comment section to be really interesting. Several people there reported the same problem that I and several of my friends have also encountered, which is that our physicians are leaving this area (or choosing not to move here in the first place) and explicitly mentioning the cost of living in their "breakup" letter. That forces us residents to change doctors, or simply leaves us without doctors, fighting to find appointments as you described.

I don't know of any other region in the US where physicians can't afford a home within a reasonable commute of their jobs. And if this is what happens to physicians...I worry a lot about what this means for the rest of our essential workforce. So yes, in my opinion, we are at crisis levels.

To just briefly touch on the infrastructure questions: there are a few great studies that have recently come out on residential water usage. 80% of the state's usage is agricultural. Of residential usage, 50% is for landscaping. Households living in standalone homes use much more water than their counterparts in multi-unit buildings, due to the units' smaller footprint, more modern fixtures, and less need for outdoor irrigation. If we can, for instance, get our workforce out of sprawling, older, single-unit housing stock near the Central Valley or in the wildlife-urban interface (aka fire zone), and into smartly-built homes here in our city, I think that's a fantastic win on several fronts.

Other than that -- this area grew a lot in the 1950s and I know we can have a vibrant community that's a great place to live as we grow again, especially as we house a generation that's an echo of that baby boom. Some younger folks may choose to live a little differently than their parents but so it goes! We might get more walkable neighborhoods out of it! A great European vibe for us all to enjoy.

Posted by Anneke, a resident of Professorville,
on Sep 24, 2021 at 9:00 am

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I strongly believe that the reason for the high value of real estate is the enormous salaries the tech companies in this area are paying their employees. It is not the fault of people who have lived here a long time.

Drought, drought and more drought! Where has the common sense of our state government gone? I have been extremely careful with water consumption, but in light of the mandate to build thousands of new homes in this area, should I?

So many oxymorons!

Posted by Jennifer, a resident of another community,
on Sep 24, 2021 at 9:19 am

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Very well said Diana. Despite strong opposition to these bills, SB 9 and 10 passed. This is "feel good" politics. Politicians now feel better about themselves thinking they've solved the California "housing crisis."

Posted by John Donegan, a resident of another community,
on Sep 24, 2021 at 10:44 am

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We don't have a "housing crisis". We have a "population crisis", in that far more people want to live in the Bay Area than the area can accommodate. Trying to "build our way out" of the problem will leave us like Los Angeles, a once attractive area which is now a dystopian hellhole.

Posted by Brian+Steen, a resident of Greater Miranda,
on Sep 24, 2021 at 11:55 am

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Diana: I wish SB-9 would have been limited to transportation corridors such as Camino Real where we've seen some well designed 4 story apartment buildings replacing old relics such as Quonset huts.
Low traffic suburban neighborhoods should be exempt from SB9/10!

Posted by PH, a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills,
on Sep 24, 2021 at 12:19 pm

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Diana asks the million dollar question but skips by too quickly, in my opinion. Is Palo Alto really required to accommodate everyone on Earth who desires to live and work there?

How do local communities subject to insatiable and unrelenting global demand to occupy them, set limits?

Unfortunately, based on past approvals, cities like Palo Alto and Menlo Park open themselves up to some criticism because they have previously approved so much housing demand (read: jobs -- office) in the city.

Posted by MDS, a resident of Menlo Park,
on Sep 24, 2021 at 1:11 pm

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I'm surprised we're still debating whether the high cost of housing in the area is a problem. It clearly is. Homelessness is increasing, more and more traffic due to people commuting in, and more folks getting priced out such as doctors, like a previous commenter mentioned, but also just about any other first responder / front line worker profession you can think of.

Now regarding how to fix it - we should be having a discussion at the local level on what makes sense for our neighborhoods. I agree that a giant high rise may not make sense everywhere. But instead what we've been doing is just saying no to everything and thus the state is stepping in and forcing us to act. I think it's unfortunate, but I have to agree with what's happening.

Regarding the questions at the end, if you do a tiny bit of research or logical thinking, you will see they are all red herrings. Yes, including the water.

Lastly, saying that SB 10, which was passed by a democratically elected legislature, signed by a democratically elected (and not recalled) governor, which gives democratically elected city councils an OPTION to do something, is undemocratic, is completely absurd.

Posted by Salim Damerdji, a resident of Los Altos,
on Sep 24, 2021 at 1:15 pm

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I appreciate the author's honesty in referring to herself as a NIMBY.

Posted by Evan, a resident of Crescent Park,
on Sep 24, 2021 at 1:38 pm

Evan is a registered user.

Diana �" as an elderly (sorry), long-time homeowner who is massively subsidized on your property taxes by younger generations, I know this is probably hard for you to understand or empathize with. So I'll cut to the chase: Yes, we have a damn housing crisis.

How many people need to sleep on the street for you to understand that? How many people need to park their RVs and vans along El Camino for you to understand that? How many Paly and Gunn grads need to be unable to afford to live near their parents to understand that? How many servers, janitors, teachers and librarians need to commute in from Tracy and Stockton for you to understand that?

Clearly, the answer for you is �" a lot more. Or you need to your eyes (or heart) checked.

This article is also so chock full of errors and hyperbole that I'm shocked it was even allowed to go to print. Such as:
- SB9 doesn't allow "high density housing". I grew up in Palo Alto and lived next door to a house with a grandfathered second housing unit, in Crescent Park. It wasn't high density. On Fife, most lots had already been split to have units in the rear of the property. Again, not a high density neighborhood.
- You called SB10 "undemocratic". All SB10 does is give City Councils, who are elected by local voters, the ability to upzone near transit without triggering CEQA. What is "undemocratic" about your local electeds being able to, you know, actually make decisions?
- You claim "These bills also are a huge gift to developers -- they will be able to build and build." What? SB9 only allows lot splits by owners, not developers. And what "developers" are building duplexes? This might be a gift to HOMEOWNERS, but not developers. SB10 just blocks CEQA reviews of the UPZONING, not actual building proposals. So while it helps City Councils, it doesn't help developers.

Your generation has really destroyed Palo Alto for the young. Instead of burying your head in the sand, it would be nice to see you own up to that.

Posted by Running hard to stay in place, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown,
on Sep 24, 2021 at 2:08 pm

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No one has a right to live wherever they want. I'm not aware of a place on Earth where that "right" exists in practice or even in theory.

The people who have lived in their homes for the last 30 years and have contributed to their communities are NOT responsible for the destruction of the middle class. You should blame the corrupt monetary and political system for that. But you don't seem to be able to figure that one out.

In Menlo Park we have 3 members of our city council who recently voted to NOT protect public spaces from development. This is all about money, and not for the ordinary people, but for the politically well connected who play off of our ignorance and weakness.

The envy and hatred which you clearly demonstrate are an unfortunately common disease which will destroy communities.

Posted by Allen+Akin, a resident of Professorville,
on Sep 24, 2021 at 3:46 pm

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Some folks have been misled about traffic. The main thing to keep in mind is simple: MORE PEOPLE MEANS MORE TRAFFIC.

This is true *even if new residents do not own cars*. Do you ever get deliveries from Amazon? From Doordash? Do you ever use a ridesharing service to go to dinner or to the airport or to the doctor? Do you ever get US Mail delivered? Do you ever need a plumber or an electrician or a painter? Do you use the services of a caregiver or a housecleaner or a landscape maintenance crew? Do you carpool? Do your kids need transportation to get to school or to sports or to music lessons? Do your friends or relatives ever visit? All of these things generate traffic.

The Institute of Transportation Engineers says, as a rule of thumb, each multifamily residential unit generates an average of 7 trips per day. I expect that typically four of those are commuting trips out and back for two workers; the other three would be things like those I mentioned above.

SB9 is particularly bad for traffic for two reasons. One, it concentrates development in the single-family housing zones, which have the *worst* access to mass transit, so it increases the number of people who have to commute by driving as well as increasing all the other types of trips. Second, it provides no funding for new transit infrastructure, so it doesn't help provide alternatives.

So, whether or not you believe we have a housing crisis, SB9 is certainly a bad way to go about adding housing.

Posted by mjh, a resident of College Terrace,
on Sep 24, 2021 at 3:59 pm

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Within the past decade or two Palo Alto's office use has doubled if not trebled the density of employees occupying office space previously occupied by only one employee. Growth far outpacing the ability of housing construction to keep up. Most especially in an area without vacant land.

Only fifteen years ago Facebook hit the national news for the number of youthful employees crammed into their University Avenue offices, working elbow to elbow on laptops around tables, occupying every inch of available floor space including halls and staircases, without a traditional office in sight. Not only a huge novelty which generated widespread TV coverage, a practice unforeseen many decades ago when Palo Alto last revisited the ratio of land designated commercial vs residential.

As the fast growing tech industry continues to fuel their growth recruiting an ever expanding well paid workforce from outside the area and outpacing the housing supply, residents who contribute to and part of our community continue to be displaced.

Past time for Palo Alto to revisit our zoning designations and redress our now outdated imbalance of land use. To "sunset" commercial areas where it makes more sense to rezone to residential. At a scale that could eventually make a meaningful dent in our huge jobs/housing imbalance.

Keeping in mind:
1) The percentage of property tax from commercial vs residential has dropped from approximately 50-50 in 1975 to approximately 25-75 today, on a continuing downward trajectory due to loopholes for commercial properties.
2) Much of Palo Alto's office use does not produce a product which generates a huge amount of sales tax revenue.

Posted by scott, a resident of Fairmeadow,
on Sep 24, 2021 at 4:23 pm

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Everyone who's grown up in the Bay Area in the last 40+ years knows there's a housing crisis. We've watched our loved ones displaced to other regions by housing costs.

Older residents feel the consequences of this, as well. Do your kids live in the Bay Area? If so: how? Do they still live with you? Do they share a home with multiple families? Are they deferring children? Will you live to see grandchildren if your kids try to stay? Will you need plane tickets to see them if they don't?

The housing crisis is all of these things. Me? I plan to bike to see my grandkids. Anyone else who wants to join me needs to vote against politicians like DuBois, Kou, Filseth, Tanaka, Stone, and Burt, who only too-often vote to kill housing. Every project they kill might be the one my kids will need to stay in this area, if they wish. Or perhaps it will be yours.

Posted by Bystander, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Sep 24, 2021 at 4:34 pm

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We have lived in Palo Alto long enough to raise our now adult children and when we arrived Palo Alto was more expensive than neighboring cities. We rented because we wanted to be near jobs and had property to sell which took longer than we wanted in a different state.

At that time, the difference in property costs between various areas of Palo Alto was very noticeable, and PA was more expensive than EPA, MP and MTV. We decided to stay in PA and it was much more expensive for us to do so than if we had chosen to live in those other communities. We had to make sacrifices to our life style to do so. It meant no expensive vacations (staying with family or camping), running one older car, eating out very little and then just fast food or chains for celebration meals, etc.

It seems that nowadays, people still want to get the latest gadgets and cars, have expensive lifestyles, and still expect to be able to afford a home in Palo Alto.

We do not have space for everyone who wants to live here. It is much more expensive than other neighboring cities. Very few people are fortunate enough to live within walking distance of where they work and have to take that into consideration when deciding where to live. Even if it is walking distance for one in a couple, the other may not be able to do so, and people tend to change jobs more often than they move homes.

I have sympathy for those who are not able to live where they grew up, but make some sacrifices and start saving. There are homeless here but they do not all fit the same criteria of being homeless. If they are not working in Palo Alto, living here seems strange to me. If the homeless can't afford to live here and have no reason such as a job to live here, then why can't they move to where they can afford to live. If they are working here that's different but there are cheaper areas not too far away.

Posted by robstar, a resident of Willowgate,
on Sep 24, 2021 at 5:31 pm

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"Running hard to stay in place", if you believe that "No one has a right to live wherever they want.", then surely you also believe that there's no intrinsic right to Prop 13-style lock-in of property taxes and we should be able to charge everyone proportionally to the _current_ value of their property, right?

Posted by Running hard to stay in place, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown,
on Sep 24, 2021 at 7:31 pm

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What connection do you see between prop 13 and the "right" of people to live wherever they want?

Posted by Joe+in+Green+Acres, a resident of Green Acres,
on Sep 24, 2021 at 7:35 pm

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Diana is correct in her assessment of the situation.

Politicians are creating the housing shortfall we have in California. They support the building of vast amounts of new office space, yet complain about the lack of affordable housing. Too many jobs are being created, compared to the limited number of housing units we have.

The demand for housing increases as new office space is built. The supply of housing remains low and cannot catch up with the demand. Dividing a small Palo Alto lot, generally about 6,000sf, into two and putting two or three units on each will not solve our housing problem, simply because developers are unrelenting in their desire to build more and more new office space. Read the papers. Developers want to build tens of thousands of new office space. More than the zoning will allow. Give them more square feet of office space and, yes, they'll build some housing for us, the vast majority of which will be market-rate housing and will house fewer than the number of jobs created in the office space they want to build.

The net result is that the price of housing increases (particularly here in the mid-peninsula) and housing affordable to low- and moderate-income people is priced out of the market as land on which lower cost units (generally rental units) sit is purchased so more office space and market-rate housing can be built.

SB9, which Newsom just signed, will over time destroy single-family neighborhoods with high-density infill housing on small lots, which will not create housing affordable to low- and moderate-income people. SB9 will permit the creation of more market-rate housing to meet the demand of tech employers for the well-paid workers they are bringing into the Bay Area.

Bottom line, we have a jobs crisis - too many jobs being created for well-paid, high-tech employees, while lower-paid service workers struggle to find housing affordable to them (or leave the area when they can't or commute from further away).

Posted by OldPA+Resident, a resident of Old Palo Alto,
on Sep 24, 2021 at 7:55 pm

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So State Senator Becker and Assemblyman Marc Berman were enthusiastic supporters of the anti-democratic SB9 and SB10? It's time for more moderate and more democratically-inclined Democratic politicians to challenge them in the next primaries.

Posted by Online Name, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland,
on Sep 24, 2021 at 8:20 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

Becker and Berman weren't enthusiastic supporters until after the recall election was over. During repeated Zoom meetings they were totally evasive, with Berman saying he was too too busy to get into the details -- and then he proceeded to ignore all those pesky details when presented with them. Becker kept saying he was "trying to wrap his mind around the issues" so often a local wit said all of us who wasted our time listening to him should mail him turbans to wrap around his mind.

Totally dishonest on both of their parts.

Now that the bills have passed, Becker's bragging about all the money he wants to pour into homelessness even though he was REPEATEDLY told the 2 housing bills did practically nothing to ensure below market rate housing would be built.

Both Becker and Berman benefit from the big-tech backers who spent $200,000,000 during the last election to deny gig workers benefits and a decent salary -- thus creating more homeless. Lather, rinse, repeat. At least New York City is capping the delivery companies' larcenous rates while underpaying their delivery folks, many of whom were injured doing deliveries during the recent floods. Without health benefits.

These same big-tech backers have lobbied long and hard against paying ANY Palo Alto business tax while shifting the costs of THEIR growth onto us, the residents and taxpayers.

For you decrying the poor folks who won't see their grandkids, how about worrying about all the friends we lost when they turned 50 and were dumped due to age discrimination?

Greed is good for the developers and their YIMBYs lobbyists.

Posted by Zayda, a resident of Barron Park,
on Sep 24, 2021 at 10:58 pm

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We don't have a "housing shortage". In fact the 2018 census showed 1.2 million VACANT homes in California, vacant homes owned by corporations, investment firms and overseas investors. The problem is the insatiable desire by the high tech firms and the cities who pander to them to "Grow Baby, Grow" ALL IN ONE PLACE rather than share the jobs with the whole Bay Area and beyond. Ironically, one of the benefits of the COVID pandemic is that people have learned that remote working really works. Put a complete moratorium on new office building, enforce the occupancy rules and convert the empty offices to housing. That should change the housing market so that ESSENTIAL workers like first responders, teachers and retail and restaurant workers can afford to live close to where they work. I really feel sorry for the younger generation who are coming out of school with huge debts wanting to get married and raise a family in a decent home with a yard for the kids and family dog only to find that they are destined to be RENTERS for the rest of their lives beholden to the investment firms that own all the property. Professor Joel Kotkin of Claremont University calls it "neofeudalism", the masses as serfs to the wealthy 0.1%. Tennessee Ernie Ford said it. "Lord, don't you call me I can't go. I owe my soul to the company store." It's the new Jonestown and the YIMBYs are drinking the KoolAid.

Posted by Annette, a resident of College Terrace,
on Sep 25, 2021 at 9:33 am

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This week's news about Palo Alto's unfunded pension liability and the possibility of bankruptcy ought to dampen interest in living here. Good grief what a mess!

I think Diana has asked the right question. There are two local papers that are consistently full of housing opportunities, there are "for rent" signs throughout town, and the full impact of work from home is still being defined. Also, there's not much to be done about making Palo Alto affordable. That ship sailed, with development-friendly Council Members supplying the wind.

Maybe we should tie development to utility capacity, including water. Let the developers get in a queue and when the City has a reliable electrical grid and full reservoirs, approve some development, prioritizing and incentivizing housing projects that repurpose existing commercial space.

Posted by Hinrich, a resident of Old Palo Alto,
on Sep 25, 2021 at 9:55 am

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It's really so simple. With good planning and coordination, build other 'Palo Alto's' nearby and make them nice enough that people would want to live there. Everything thus far has been spoke and wheel emanating out of SF and the Bay Area. HP, Intel, others at one time established satellites in and around Sacramento (Roseville, Lincoln) and elsewhere (though eventually effectively abandoned them for China) but for a time, it was very attractive alternative for many employees to go there, buy big houses for less, start their families, and escape the difficult housing equation on the peninsula. If the hive gets too big, make another hive. Palo Alto is very special. Make more of them. The math to 'fix' it so that everyone who comes can all have homes on lots and move easily from point to point is too complicated. Diversity is a cornerstone of sustainability so compelling Facebook, etc to decentralize is the best option.

Posted by Lydia+Kou, a resident of Midtown,
on Sep 25, 2021 at 10:23 am

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SB 10 has a provision that allows your City Council to override voter initiatives/referendums. So much for democracy and yes, Assemblymember Marc Berman voted YES!

Posted by Ilya Gurin, a resident of another community,
on Sep 26, 2021 at 10:14 am

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This is not an "alternative view." It's telling Palo Altans what most of them want to hear, i.e. an excuse to bury their heads in the sand.

Posted by Online Name, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland,
on Sep 26, 2021 at 11:00 am

Online Name is a registered user.

@Ilya Gurin, people who believe creating more high-paying high tech jobs than housing is going to A) make housing more affordable and B) make the area more better by packing people in like sardines has his/her/its head elsewhere.

Or they willfully ignore the daily reports of the millions of sq feet of new office buildings.

Or they're just cynically doing the bidding of their big dollar backers who just spent $200,000,000 lobbying to CONTINUE denying gig workers decent pay and any benefits -- while shoving the cost of increasing homeslessness onto us!

Posted by Annette, a resident of College Terrace,
on Sep 26, 2021 at 5:30 pm

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Is the issue really about adding housing or has it morphed into being about prevailing in an argument and/or getting elected/reelected? I ask because there's still essentially no talk about job-center distribution, the critical need - affordable housing - is only included in projects as a strategic measure to gain project approval, and proposed developments include commercial space because every project needs ROI.

Commercial development adds jobs. Once upon a time, that was solely good. Commercial space is the goose that lays golden eggs - if you are a developer. If you are seeking affordable housing, every commercial development makes your quest harder and pushes you out of town. Often way out. And that adds to commuter woes. Smart cities balance commercial and residential growth. Palo Alto didn't do that. The State legislature and ABAG are now trying to remedy that. I find it ironic that people like Berman and Scharff are now part of the "fix it brigade" since as pro-development members of past CC majorities, they helped create the problem.

Posted by Fr0hickey, a resident of Old Palo Alto,
on Sep 27, 2021 at 12:04 pm

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Do not equate homelessness with expensive housing. Rather equate drug addiction and mental illness with homelessness.
As for the bills/laws in questions, I support them because it brings the decision to build/not build back to the property owners, or closer to the property owners.
And lastly, someone said that NIMBY Diamond is being subsidized by the younger generation, I would like to remedy this. I would like to propose that owner-occupied properties be exempt from property taxes after 30 years of consecutive ownership. If the property is rented out, then property taxes are again due.

Posted by kbehroozi, a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle,
on Sep 27, 2021 at 12:35 pm

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Couple of thoughts to consider:
1) Middle-income and lower wage workers are struggling to find housing here, but here is where their jobs are. This actually connects to something Diana wrote about earlier: the changes at PAMF (fewer support staff and a less reliable supply of primary care doctors). Regardless of whether Facebook continues to let engineers and product managers work from home, there are still a lot of jobs that can't be done remotely, and many of them make our lives easier. Exterminators need to work here. Tree trimmers and gardeners need to work here. Nurses and phlebotomists and physical therapists and preschool teachers and sous-chefs and house cleaners and contractors need to work here. Etc. Many of the jobs that don't easily translate to remote work are less well compensated. Those of us who are well compensated depend on a whole host of people to facilitate our lifestyles. These folks need to get to work somehow. Many of them commute from far away, and their commuting makes it tricky for locals to drive during certain times of day. We should know that a lack of affordable housing translates to a predictable increase in traffic. So there's that.

2) I've seen a lot of mischaracterizations of SB 9, which has more restrictions on it than most probably realize. Diana, you can't use SB 9 to build more than 4 homes on an existing lot, because the lot can't be split more than once and each parcel cannot have more than two homes, period. (ADUs count as a home in this equation.) You also can't use SB 9 to tear down an affordable rental property and build "luxury" condos. (Ironically you *can* buy a rental property, tear it down, and build one giant luxury single-family home, even if the lot is zoned to allow multi-family housing.) My approach to SB 9 is this: wait and see. If there is pent-up market demand for more modest-sized homes in existing single-family neighborhoods, we might see a gradual but necessary transition. If not, then we won't.

Posted by Online Name, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland,
on Sep 27, 2021 at 1:49 pm

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2 news items about housing caught my eye today: 1) Mountain View is allowing one of the last rent-controlled apartment complexes be replaced by market rate condos, displacing 100+ families, and 2) Palo Alto is still failing to report on the housing status at the Opportunity Center as required but that failure hasn't stopped their "planning" and demands for more funds.

Posted by Deborah, a resident of Evergreen Park,
on Sep 27, 2021 at 2:15 pm

Deborah is a registered user.

Ok Diana - You are a NIMBY. Own it.

So what, if you don't like something it's undemocratic? Saying that SB9 and 10 are undemocratic sounds a whole lot like the southern cities and states who tried to make a case for desegregation being undemocratic.

Thinking that SB9 and 10 are wrong and bad because you "like suburban life" is about as self centered and self absorbed as one can get.

Seems to me if the number of nanny, house keeping, pool maintenance and landscaping workers employed by Atherton home owners were counted, their contribution to local employment would definitely put them in the category where they would be subject to these bills. But frankly, I could care less about Atherton. I care about Palo Alto and the Palo Alto I want is a Palo Alto where a variety of people can live, not just the uber wealthy elite.

Posted by Online Name, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland,
on Sep 27, 2021 at 2:36 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

Deborah, one more time. tell us housing for well-paid techies while destroying ethnic neighborhoods, rent-controlled apartments and hotels like The President Hotel and ethnic neighborhoods is democratic and fuels diversity? Most of us know artists, framers, dry cleaners, photographers, musicians, single women, merchannts etc etc who've all been displaced by the short-tomer YIMBYs.

Wanting concentration of young, mostly male techies is diversity? Did you miss all the protests by the ETHIC groups in San Francisco against all the Google buses and the gentrification? Did you miss the fact that big tech companies like Google, Facebook, et al have long used more contractors than full-time employees with benefits? How many sex discrimination cases has Google had to settle recently? Literally thousands each year!

Most of the high-tech workers top out around age 45 when the county stops tracking workers. Tell us about diversity!

Posted by Gale+Johnson, a resident of Adobe-Meadow,
on Sep 27, 2021 at 4:15 pm

Gale+Johnson is a registered user.

Well, well, well! "A nice dilemmina we have here"...A line from Gilbert and Sullivan's "Trial by Jury". I'm a NIMBY. I don't want the housing problem solved by the destruction of my neighborhood, the neighborhood we chose to live in after renting a duplex at 3851 Alma St for 2 1/2 years. We left that duplex, after saving up enough money for a down payment on our home, because we wanted to enjoy the real suburban lifestyle, owning a home on a nice lot, surrounded by other homes, inhabited by like minded neighbors. We knew neighbors up and down the streets and around the corner on Nathan Way. We not only knew them, we engaged in activities with them. We were a race, ethnic, and income diverse neighborhood. That, of course, has changed for various reasons.

The push for ADU's was supposed to help the housing crisis. I think most of them that have been built were built to help pay the mortgage on the existing house, not for dear old 'granny'.

My prediction: Any units that would be built under the SB's would not be affordable by most people...certainly not the very low income, and low income people who provide the services that we enjoy. Developers only build what they feel helps their bottom line. They have profit goals to meet. Office space and market rate housing provides the income to meet those goals.

A little background on a family situation. Our daughter, Susan, married Albert Yeh, who had received an offer from HP, but the job was in Colorado Springs, CO, not in Silicon Valley. Yes, it was difficult at first, because we didn't see them that often, but they were able to buy a home for $115K, and they raised a family there. The mortgage has been paid off. HP made those relocations of certain divisions, some in Colorado, one in Idaho, and in other lower cost of living areas in California. They did it, and it can be done again. Palo Alto is not the only place for tech workers to live. And for companies that don't build anything that has weight and volume, move!

Posted by Mondoman, a resident of Green Acres,
on Sep 27, 2021 at 9:37 pm

Mondoman is a registered user.

Re: " the Palo Alto I want is a Palo Alto where a variety of people can live, not just the uber wealthy elite. "

I think that luxury liner sailed more than 20 years ago :)

Current cheapest 1BR condo somewhere in PA seems to be $800k. What price point did you have in mind to enable the variety you are thinking of?

Posted by Sunny Storm, a resident of Woodside: other,
on Sep 28, 2021 at 12:01 pm

Sunny Storm is a registered user.

The town, the county, the bay area and the state have a well documented, well studied housing problem. Is this still up for debate? It's really not.

This legislation has passed and been signed into law. It exists because every town in the state became NIMBY.

I agree that people don't have the right to live in any particular town, but housing is a human right, and it needs to be in reasonable distances from jobs.

Since PA and Woodside and every other town did NOT due their part to build housing for both low and moderate incomes, the state had to step in.

More legislation is coming.

Posted by Native to the BAY, a resident of Old Palo Alto,
on Sep 28, 2021 at 1:53 pm

Native to the BAY is a registered user.

Capitalism is not a democratic value, "We the People, for the People", Councilwoman, Kou.

Posted by Steven Nelson, a resident of Cuesta Park,
on Sep 28, 2021 at 2:15 pm

Steven Nelson is a registered user.

@Sunny Storm (like that :), A representative democracy allows our elected legislature bodies and governor to use the sovereign power of the state. In this case, to force local (subservient) governments like cities to uphold the "common Welfare". Someone posted- all cities were becomming NIMBY. I think that's true - the tax advantages (for city revenues) was to ADD MORE JOBS/businesses. This new legislations forces cities to 'add more residential units when you ADD MORE JOBS/businesses."

Even a resident of Woodside - recognizes that areas of responsibility exceed the width-of-outstretched-arms. The high-tech, highest-pay jobs of Palo Alto, Mountain View etc. are what feed the wealth of places like Woodside! (and Los Altos Hills, and Los Altos).

Posted by Rvengosh, a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle,
on Sep 28, 2021 at 3:13 pm

Rvengosh is a registered user.

My feeling is that the new laws don't go far enough. NIMBY mentality is running rampant in our communities. We live in the middle of silicon valley - housing here is in high demand. Our cities are artificially restricting growth and this, predictably, results in outrageous housing prices. I know many families who have left the Bay Area because they couldn't afford to live here. I know others who commute for hours each day - adding to our massive traffic problems and to the climate problem. I am the father of 3 teenagers - with these prices my boys will not be able to own a house here, and I suppose that they too will leave.

This is all self inflicted and caused by the notion that we can keep living in the 1970s when the Bay Area was a different place. Enough! Build more housing. Build public transportation. Build schools. Stop pretending we live in villages. We don't. We live in the heart of Silicon Valley.

Posted by Online Name, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland,
on Sep 28, 2021 at 3:27 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

@Rvengosh -- I'm mad no one's giving me a Park Avenue coop and/or Buckingham Palace and a Hawaiian island like Larry Ellison has. It's not fair! I also want a Ferrari and a LearJet and a pony or three.

Seriously, tell us something new! News flash: this is one of the most expensive areas in the country! Should we scrape all the horrible Nimby homes and turn them over to Wall St. speculators who'll raise the prices even more?

Who's going to pay for all you're demanding / expecting? Certainly not the big tech companies that spend hundreds of millions of dollars to avoid paying business taxes and to avoid giving their workers benefits! Certainly not the lobbyists they're paying to push unrealistic expectations like yours.

Posted by Gale+Johnson, a resident of Adobe-Meadow,
on Sep 28, 2021 at 3:35 pm

Gale+Johnson is a registered user.

Always curious! Where do the commenters live? I'm sure some, actually most, are renters, because the SB's help their cause most. That's understandable. But I suspect some are well to do people who live in neighborhoods where they feel they are safe from ever having to deal with the housing they support... duplexes, triplexes, or quadplexes, being built next door to them.

Thanks to CC for taking the right step, okay 'bold step' in supporting the temporary housing project proposal last evening. There is a very fine line between affordable housing and no housing,i.e., homelessness.

I have many great ideas how to alleviate the housing crisis, but some of them are drastic and a little far out and farfetched. My farthest out one is building entire new cities in the valley, desert, or Sierra foothills. There is no reason to bunch up in the Bay Area and demand to live here, when you can perform your job online using your computer, elsewhere. My local idea is to develop a new Alma Street replica of apartments, duplexes, triplexes, and quadplexes. I proposed another one several years ago. Allow multistory buildings, Channing House size, to be built in the transportation corridor areas. That was when micro-units were being touted, 150-200 square foot units you could call 'home'. Unfortunately, that was when CC was more friendly with office space developers.

Another brilliant idea I had was to build adjustable sized units...walls that could be moved to convert 1 bdrm apartments into 2 or 3 bdrm apartments. All the housing proposals I've seen have focused on, and been designed for, singles, maybe couples, but not family units. Let's face become couples, and couples become parents (families are created), wed or not. And those families want space, just like my wife and I wanted in 1961. That's what led us on our journey to rent a duplex, save up enough money for a down payment, and buy our little modest bungalow tract home in South Palo Alto. I'm still here.

Posted by Online Name, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland,
on Sep 28, 2021 at 3:48 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

Gale+Johnson makes a lot of good points. I would happily support below market rate housing for the disabled, seniors and other very low income folks. But I see no earthly reason why companies have to demand microhousing for their single techies or super-high-density housing in the most costly area of the country when other areas of the US are struggling for good jobs and where beautiful homes cost $250,000, not $2,500.000. Not everyone's hitting it big with one or more IPOs!

This high-density push is pushing out the resident-serving businesses and people we need.

Posted by Bystander, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Sep 28, 2021 at 5:56 pm

Bystander is a registered user.

We are all getting used to the working remotely mentality, but of course not every job can be done remotely from home. So many jobs need to be done at the place of work, or in the community.

These jobs may be paid well compared to similar jobs in other areas, but they are not paid to compete with the high tech professionals. If the workers can't afford to live here then what we really need is efficient public transport to get them here so that their commutes can be done in a reasonable amount of time without clogging up highways. Why are we not bringing efficient bus services from across the Bay, from the Coast? Why are we not getting BART or express buses down 280? Why are we not getting express bus services from Morgan Hill? Why are we not getting express bus services running up and down 101 and 85 or the east bay freeways, with stops every 5 miles or so at off ramps with shuttles?

Housing is not going to change affordability no matter how many ADUs, or high rises are built. Public transport that is done efficiently and affordably can be used to bring workers from the less expensive areas of the Peninsula, South Bay, East Bay to Silicon Valley not just for the Google and high tech workers, but for the service industries that support them.

Service workers are integral and important people. They deserve better for their families than a squashed apartment or ADU type structure on someone's lot. A reliable, affordable and efficient transport can make a big difference and quicker than building high rises anywhere.

Posted by Sunny Storm, a resident of Woodside: other,
on Sep 28, 2021 at 7:20 pm

Sunny Storm is a registered user.

I'm laughing with the 26 other housing laws Newsom signed into law today. I don't know what's in them yet, but am looking forward to reading about them.

Each of the new laws so far are modest. All the hair-pulling and sky is falling angst will have to wait.

a few new duplexes and ADUs here and there will help, but not solve the hole that a thousand communities have built in our state over the past 50 years, nor turn all our neighborhoods into cities overnight (or even over the next decade).

As for the proposal to build a mini city for the homeless in the middle of nowhere... think about it. Where will they work? Who in their right mind would want to live in such an area? At it's root, it's basically what early invading americans did to the native americans. It's a racist, classist policy that doesn't belong here or anywhere.

Posted by Running hard to stay in place, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown,
on Sep 29, 2021 at 1:35 pm

Running hard to stay in place is a registered user.

Sunny Storm...I agree that placing the homeless on reservations is obviously not the solution, neither is building more housing under the current financial and political system. People need inexpensive places that they can own, outside of the rent seeking, parasitic system we have. There is a reason that huge third world cities have enormous slum areas. That's ultimately where we are headed as well without reform or an active policy to export the people who can't afford to live here. It's foolish to encourage economic growth and concentration when the infrastructure can't support it without undermining the well-being of the residents. Of course the politically well connected and rich have everything to gain by encouraging that growth. They can always pull up stakes and move when the destruction of the commons becomes a problem for them personally.

Posted by Steve+Dabrowski, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis,
on Sep 30, 2021 at 2:30 pm

Steve+Dabrowski is a registered user.

Californians for Community Planning have submitted a proposition to the Secretary of State on August 25th that will make local control of zoning and housing the rule of California and overturn 9 and 10 as well as a lot of other attempts at Sacramento control. Our communities should do the utmost to support this effort for the 22 ballot. Check out their website to see the text of the proposition and details on this effort

Posted by Gale+Johnson, a resident of Adobe-Meadow,
on Sep 30, 2021 at 8:16 pm

Gale+Johnson is a registered user.

I assume some of those comments that were made about a comment I made about building cities elsewhere must have been directed at me, and terribly misconstrued, because I never suggested it was for the homeless. It was meant to be for anyone who could afford a nice lot or a house on a lot where the value/cost of the lot would be 1/8 th or less of what it is in Palo Alto. It would be family oriented, with single family zoning, but also serve the needs of renters, single people or couples, with the right mix of duplexes, triplexes, quadplexes, and apartment buildings. I said it was a far out and maybe farfetched idea, but it was meant to be a futuristic idea with a futuristic goal, nothing that would happen to help our immediate housing crisis in the near future.

Check out the populations of desert towns like Phoenix or Las Vegas 80 years ago. Those could be replicated in new areas today. Land was pretty cheap when Brigham Young came west to settle next to the Great Salt Lake.

I am not proposing to ship our homeless out into the desert. In fact I propose the opposite, doing everything we can do locally to take care of them here. Raise our taxes for the necessary funding to provide shelter for them. They need all the mental health support that this area can provide.

And to all the multi-billionaires living here...amongst us, but not near us...consider giving $1 billion to the cause of alleviating our homeless situation. You'll probably have enough money left over to buy yachts, estates and mansions in other countries, and even an island in the Pacific if you feel you need to do that to show off how brilliant and successful you've been.

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