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By Steve Levy

Palo Alto Housing Element Update

Uploaded: May 2, 2014

Palo Alto has begun the process of updating the City's Housing Element (HE). The process is well summarized in a memo to the Council's Regional Housing Mandate Committee (RHMC), which meets next on May 8 at 4pm at City Hall. click here. There is a citizen advisory committee that has been meeting. More information is available at click here.

The City is looking to identify sites that could hold roughly 2,200 units by 2023 to meet state and ABAG planning requirements. All of the sites proposed by staff have existing zoning and virtually all the new units would be in multiple-family structures with a few potential "granny" units as part of the proposal.

My understanding is that approval of already zoned units on these sites cannot simply be dismissed by the council except in extraordinary circumstances, e.g. toxics on the site.
So even people who think (incorrectly) that they can stop all condo and townhouse developments should be interested in having a voice on which sites are selected.

There are at least three important decisions described in the memo to the RHMC.

One decision is whether to eliminate some sites in the current HE (that are mainly in south PA) and replace them with units in downtown and Cal Ave, I like this idea.

A second decision is how much housing to plan for on the Fry's site. It is the ONLY site under discussion with the potential for a large number of new units.

A third decision is about some sites along San Antonio.

All of these choices are described in the memo.

My understanding is that even if a different council is elected in November, these choices will need to be made and that just "no" is not a legal option.
Please discuss the choices and not whether you like that they have to be made. To clarify another point, the HE is a planning requirement but the sites under consideration have a legal right to be developed under current zoning should an owner wish to do so.