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A draconian idea for more high-rise housing in our cities

Uploaded: Dec 11, 2018
Suburban residents on the SF Peninsula may possibly be faced with draconian state rules that will dictate how dense and high housing must be built in areas near Caltrain stops and major bus stops – if a newly introduced Senate Bill 50 is adopted.

Specifically, SB 50 prevents cities from allowing low-level residences within a half-mile near a transit hub, such as a Caltrain station or VTA bus stop. It raises height limit requirements to 45 feet, about four stories, within a half-mile of the station or major bus stop, and 55 feet or five stories within a quarter mile. It also eliminates minimum parking requirements for new developments, which means apartments can be built without providing any accompanying parking space needs. In Palo Alto, dwellers would have to park their cars on already overparked city streets near the downtown and Cal Ave stations.

A half-mile is a circular radius of 2,625 feet, meaning at California Avenue that would affect all housing properties all the way from the station eastward to about Waverley Street, according to my car odometer, and westward beyond El Camino. Four-story residences would be required; five stories closer to the tracks. Ditto for the downtown area. That’s why I call this a draconian proposal. This state law would trump local zoning restrictions and concerns and would not allow local governments to preempt this state law.

The suburban quality of our city, I submit, would be drastically changed. High-rise buildings would abound.

The bill, the More HOMES (Housing, Opportunity, Mobility Equity and Stability) Act is being sponsored by Sen. Scott Weiner, D-San Francisco, who attempted similar legislation last year that never got out of committee. But Weiner says that housing attitudes have changed this year and he is optimistic his bill will pass. Suburban communities aren’t doing their job to solve housing problems, Weiner implied, so the state must find a solution, and he said he has found one.

Palo Alto Councilman Adrian Fine, a zealot for more dense, transit-oriented housing, told the Daily Post that he is providing input into Weiner’s bill, at the senator’s request. Fine told the Post that the state needs to step in because “local councils and the idolatry around local control are not going to solve our housing issue.”

Perhaps not, but Weiner’s proposal for higher density housing doesn’t even deal with resultingtraffic and parking woes. Housing is an interrelated problem with traffic and parking -- not the only issue.

The council at first blush seems divided on this issue. Yet Councilman Eric Filseth is already opposed to it, labeling it “dumb.”

At issue here is not only the additional high-rises that would pop up, but also the amazing absence of any ability to locally control the state building requirements. And local control has always been an integral part of the city’s efforts to regulate not only zoning but the kind of density this city wants.

I certainly understand and agree with the need for more affordable housing in Palo Alto, but Weiner’s bill – and his zealotry – is the wrong way to go.
What is it worth to you?


Posted by Billy, a resident of Menlo Park,
on Dec 11, 2018 at 12:19 pm

I think this is great! It would be great if my kids could afford to live in the same county as me. If it takes a few 55 foot tall buildings to get there, I'm all for it!

Posted by Jo Killen, a resident of Menlo Park,
on Dec 11, 2018 at 12:33 pm

Adequate housing is a regional issue that local governments have failed to address. SB-50 looks like a reasonable solution to me. And yes, it will change the suburban landscape and create transit-oriented communities less dependent on cars. And my kids, teachers, firemen, and police and many others are more likely to find affordable housing I am all for it!

Posted by ma ma make Murica greet agin, a resident of South of Midtown,
on Dec 11, 2018 at 5:50 pm

Build 'em.

But the developers will have to share some of their obscene profits for the rights to build.

Posted by Dan, a resident of Midtown,
on Dec 11, 2018 at 5:56 pm

Best way to reduce housing cost ... make the place undesirable to live in. Real money will continue moving to Atherton, Woodside, Saratoga, etc. and the rest of us would be stuck with shoeboxes... downsides of density without the upside of living in a real city like NYC, Rome, London, Barcelona, Shanghai, ...

Posted by Don't Be EVIL Companies, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Dec 11, 2018 at 7:15 pm

Big companies: MOVE. There are towns across this nation that are shutting down schools because they don't have enough people.

You need the "brain trust"? Get together with a few other big companies and move together. Get a college town, and be willing to pay for the amenities your employees want, including the cultural ones. Stop creating a fake "crisis" that the public has to pay to solve by taking away quality of life, productivity, time with their families, health, and everything they worked their whole life for, so that you can have a Palo Alto address. You are also choking out the potential for new startups that will always come from Stanford.

You have already displaced thousands of low-and moderate-income people who had decent lives here and who will not come back just because of high-density crappy human cages euphemistically called micro-housing. San Francisco went from like 15% African American residents to 5% in the last 10 years.

STOP TRYING TO BULLDOZE VIBRANT BAY AREA COMMUNITIES TO BE TRANSIET HOUSING FOR YOUR ENTRY-LEVEL WORKFORCE. You got the benefit of all those public investments to become gazillionaires, now you should pay back instead of foisting all these ills on the public. And all you have to do, is MULTIPLY the number of job centers instead of turning this one into a crappy overdeveloped unsafe place for everyone whose investments allowed you to become what you are today.

Did no one watch what just happened with the North Bay and Paradise fires? The whole Bay Area and Peninsula is prone to such things, it doesn't even bear thinking what could happen with a larger earthquake on a windy day. Does anyone not remember the DROUGHT? I want an ordinance that requires any future water rationing to come from anyone who moves here after last year.

San Antonio, Boulder, Seattle, Portland -- they're all suffering from too much of a good thing. Places with a huge amount of potential: Medford OR, Independence, OR, Chattanooga TN, Fresno, CA, (I was going to say Chico...), Kingman AZ, Fairfield CA, Las Cruces, NM, Jackson WY,

But they may not want you, either. Hover, I'll bet Amazon knows who would....

Posted by Evan, a resident of Crescent Park,
on Dec 11, 2018 at 11:18 pm

I'd almost forgotten that Diana Diamond was still writing, and then this absurd column appeared.

Palo Alto needs more housing, and we need it near transit. Because people like Diana have been running or editorializing about our fair city for the last few decades, housing prices have skyrocketed. My generation of Paly grads can't afford to live here anymore, we blame you, Diana, and you, city councils of yore. We should not be zoning for single family homes right by a Caltrain station, while we invest billions in upgrading the Caltrain line. Each home could house dozens of people �" my single 8 unit, 2-story apartment complex in Menlo Park sits on a lot the same size as my childhood home in Palo Alto.

Palo Alto used to be a place where change was OK. Where immigrants were welcomed. Where orchards were placed with homes, so people could move here. Palo Alto doesn't just belong to you, Diana. It belongs to those who could live here, if we only allowed them to. And right by Caltrain is where those people should live. Until then, all those workers will keep commuting in from Dublin and Tracy. But we totally care about climate change and the environment, right?

Palo Alto, you've become a joke.

Posted by relentlesscactus, a resident of another community,
on Dec 11, 2018 at 11:23 pm

Be careful what you wish for, commenters. In our local burg, the Council decided a highrise met the requirements for a 'major bus stop' despite being near just a plain old bus stop on a 'school season only' line that serves mostly students.

Much as some believe restricting housing will restrict cars, it only partially will, and those in the new housing will park on city streets.

And do any of you believe Atherton won't find a way around this? Can you imagine Atherton losing local control and having highrises pop up within a half-mile of the station because one person sells a couple of acres to a developer and the City of Atherton will have no say? Ha, ha -- ain't gonna happen, and if it does, it is a major violation of very basics of environmental justice.

Posted by Norman Beamer, a resident of Crescent Park,
on Dec 12, 2018 at 5:27 am

It's not just proximity to train and bus stops. The bill also targets high income communities with similar mandates -- i.e., all of Palo Alto.

Posted by Diana’s alternative fact view, a resident of University South,
on Dec 12, 2018 at 11:15 am

Five story buildings are not “high rises." They are called “mid rises" and Palo Alto, and all our neighbors, can and should be building them near transit. Your fear mongering of desperately needed housing is deserving of shame.

The regulations which are draconian are Palo Alto's regulations on housing, which have rendered affordable housing options illegal to build for decades. Like the hotel president, the building in which I reside would be illegal to build today because there isn't enough parking, as deemed by Palo Alto's ridiculous regulations. In reality, parking space garage is more than adequate, as there are empty garage spots daily and largely empty street parking outside the building.

You and the weekly editorial staff should be ashamed of yourselves for your complicity in creating and maintaining the housing crisis. Did you see the Mercury News piece recently that nearly a quarter of children at Ravenswood Elementary are homeless? Real people are harmed when we don't have enough housing. Decades of limiting housing has done incalculable damage to low income communities.

Posted by g_f, a resident of College Terrace,
on Dec 12, 2018 at 11:53 am

g_f is a registered user.

When it comes to housing (more market rate and/or affordability) the palo alto community has clearly shown a tendency for double speak: lots of pro-housing talk but obstruction and delay at every point in the process. In fact the only recent support the community has given for housing is the president "apartment to hotel" conversion - a building that this community would scream and shout about if it were to be built today.
Its obvious that change is not going to happen from within the community, notwithstanding some braver souls who continuously speak up. Clearly we DO need regional and state level policies that encourage and prod stubborn short-sighted communities to join the 21st century and start truly providing diverse living spaces for all.
As for the PA weekly - your complicity in always promoting and supporting the older 20th century viewpoints continues to be a disappointment and disservice to the community.

Posted by CP Rez, a resident of Crescent Park,
on Dec 12, 2018 at 1:11 pm

"Palo Alto needs more housing, and we need it near transit."

Absolutely! Build it over there. Away from Crescent Park.

Posted by dbaron, a resident of University South,
on Dec 12, 2018 at 2:56 pm

dbaron is a registered user.

SB 50 looks great to me. We have a crisis-level housing shortage (and the ridiculous prices that result) because local governments have forbidden new housing for decades; it's past time for the state government to step in to fix things. Focusing on housing that's near good transit or good jobs is a great focus.

I'd like to see *actual* high-rise buildings in areas like downtown Palo Alto (which does have 3 residential and 2 office high rises from before they were banned... and which fit in to the area just fine). But forcing the city to allow mid-rise housing is a good start.

Posted by Read the bill, a resident of Palo Verde,
on Dec 13, 2018 at 11:40 am

Diana - have you read the bill? Nowhere in SB50 (The More HOMES act) does it require cities to do anything. What it DOES do is prohibit them from stopping 3 and 4 story apartment buildings near transit... Seems eminently reasonable to me.

The More HOMES act does not increase height limits, but it does prevent cities like Palo Alto from imposing irrational height limits like 2-stories next to the 2nd busiest Caltrain station on the line.

Before you go off attacking a rational and fact-based effort to address the state's housing crisis, please 1) do your homework, and 2) provide some alternatives.

Posted by DIana Diamond, a resident of Midtown,
on Dec 13, 2018 at 11:57 am

DIana Diamond is a registered user.

A couple of comments:

First of all, I am primarily concerned by SB50's regulations that would require land within a half-mile from the tracks or a major bus stop to be developed as high-rise housing. High-rise apartments near the tracks downtown or on Cal Ave are fine, but not for a half-mile. There are a few lovely lots in town (think of the large one across the street on Santa Rita and Waverley) and high-rise housing, in my estimation, does not belong on such a lot. The bill would result in a cacophony of high-risers next to single-family housing units. That's not the way good zoning works.

Second, Read the Bill wrote I did not read the bill. I did. You and I have different interpretations of the bill. I stand by my interpretation.

Third, Evan you wrote above:
"Because people like Diana have been running or editorializing about our fair city for the last few decades, housing prices have skyrocketed. My generation of Paly grads can't afford to live here anymore, we blame you, Diana,"
Were my columns so powerful as to be able to control the price of housing all through Palo Alto? No. Of course not.

Posted by High Rise Lies, a resident of Downtown North,
on Dec 13, 2018 at 1:10 pm


By almost anyone's definition (except Hyderabad apparently-Web Link More HOMES does not involve any high rise buildings. Stop spreading this lie. Multiple commenters have already corrected you on this point and yet you continue to use incorrect terminology in your reply. Very annoying.

You certainly don't have any direct influence over housing prices, which are a function of the housing market, which currently suffers from housing scarcity (although if you're among those who have a home, your experience is that of a "healthy" market with ever increasing property values). Scarcity means we literally do not have enough homes. When we don't have enough homes, poor people get pushed out of the market and housing costs (aka property values) skyrocket.

local coverage shapes how the community thinks about housing and you've had a long career in local journalism. I've done enough canvassing here to know that people listen to their local papers, which have a disgusting history of fear mongering new housing and pro-housing policies.

I'm glad you agree that Palo Alto needs more affordable housing; however, this is empty sentiment without your ideas for specific policy changes to support affordable housing developments. The fact is that current policies and NIMBY opposition have resulted in 0 new affordable housing developments in many years. Perhaps your next blog can include enthusiastic support for the upcoming Wilton Court development (although I would guess you would focus on "underparking" because you appear to not know anyone who doesn't own a car).

The next time you see a homeless encampment in one of our neighboring communities, I hope you pat yourself on the back--the mass suffering that is becoming more and more visible by the day is a consequence of long-standing exclusionary policies which you prop up. History will not look fondly upon those who value places to put cars more than places to put human beings. A culture in which housing is limited and prohibitively expensive while parking is be free and available at all times is fundamentally broken.

Posted by Reality Check, a resident of University South,
on Dec 13, 2018 at 7:29 pm

This proposed law is exactly the opposite of “draconian," which means harsh or severe. The law, if passed, will remove draconian zoning regulations place on private property by local governments controlled by single-family homeowners. Also, the law will not prohibit single-family homes near transit stops and stations, it will simply allow other types of homes. The editor of this piece should be reprimanded.

Posted by Liquidamber, a resident of Old Palo Alto,
on Dec 13, 2018 at 8:39 pm

Would this State bill prevent neighbors from placing a 2-story overlays through enforceable private convenants on their parcels? If not and if it passes, the 1/2-story "hold-out"s will end up looking like the lead character in the "Up" movie and the string of towns on the Caltrain line will all look like Manhattan. Goodbye "garden" suburbs. (Who is really pushing this bill? Perhaps the Irvine Company and JP Morgan who own much of downtown Sunnyvale which now looks like mid-town Manhattan and is becoming a tenants-only enclave? Goodbye American Dream of home ownership.)

If this passes there is no point in SR-1 zoning anymore in our City. Once one part of Palo Alto has "mandatory" 4-5 story housing, the rest of the City will follow suit because Sacramento will require multi-family zoning along every busy street and highway when automomous cars are more common and we have lots of those roads here.

And, despite such higher housing density, housing prices will continue going up Just like in Manhattan and Hong Kong. Stack and pack.

Posted by Don't be EVIL Companies, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Dec 14, 2018 at 9:21 am

Building more is actually the way that low- and moderate-income residents are pushed out in favor of more highly paid transient entry-level tech workers.

The housing issue is to Democrats what just about everything republican say they believe in (like being fiscally responsible) is to Republicans -- lie to get something the opposite. The new administration in Sacramento is going to destroy trust in Democrats by pushing the big Democratic lie, which says that allowing more development (at enormous cost to the existing public through loss of actual affordable housing, loss of quality of life, loss of productivity of existing residents, greater noise, pollution, civic dysfunction, and ills of densification) will bring down housing prices. It simply does not work in a desirable job center with global demand.

It is not in the best interests of arid California to build to attract everyone from the rest of the nation who wants to live here. This is a vast nation with many beautiful places that aren't attracting the companies because of decades and decades in underinvestment. Now that these companies have made it, they should stop trying to force the public to pay for the destruction of what little they have after decades of sacrifice.

The other elephant in the room is that all this dense housing is horrible to live in because ever since I can remember, especially the new stuff is always the worst financial situation for anyone because there is no stability and no way to build equity. It works for developers and rich landlords, but even for well-paid tech workers, it's not a way to live long-term. People eventually grow up (even the yuppies did, just ask Los Altos), and want a home and a yard to raise their kids. Surveys of millenials show that the majority would prefer a single-family home.

There is affordable housing that people want that solves the supposed "crisis" here, if companies will decide to create the places they want where the competition and prices are currently low. They are supposedly so willing to be innovators, yet are unwilling to be the ones who pay the public investments now that they have made it (on the backs of the many public investments they got for free).

Stopped being fooled by the rhetoric. There is no crisis. It is a manufactured situation that can be fixed if companies that have grown too big for the area and infrastructure decide to grow a microspeck of civic responsibility and invest in multiplying the number of desirable job centers in this nation. It is far easier and more beneficial for a bevy of companies to move than it is to keep overtaxing the infrastructure and expecting people who have already lost so much in the last ten years to pay for it. The zietgeist has just been that anyone successful never has to pay back when they do get successful, but that's not what built our nation. What needs to be built here is a sense of civic responsibility among companies who have made it. That's the real crisis.

Posted by Anon, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Dec 15, 2018 at 10:06 am

For anyone who is tempted by the supply-and-demand argument: show me one city anywhere in the country where building more new high-rises has resulted in cheaper and better low-income housing. It doesn't work that way, for two reasons: land where high-rises are permitted is worth more, raising the cost of land, and high-rise construction is more expensive per square foot of living space.

All Weiner's bill(s) will do is line the pockets of developers while externalizing costs to everybody else.

Posted by Don't Be EVIL Companies, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Dec 15, 2018 at 2:20 pm

Of course Palo Alto has created affordable housing in recent years. There is a large development on El Camino near Cal Ave, which happened after the Maybell referendum to ZERO opposition. There is a hotel converted to low-income residences on Cal Ave. Residents were pretty unanimously behind saving Buena Visa which has over 400 low-income residents. That was ONLY at risk because people like you carrying water for developers -- allowed density drives up the price of land and thus makes it of interest for developers like the one in partnership with the owner of BV (until the Maybell referendum made it clear they could not upzone and they pulled out within weeks) to displace existing residents. Allowing overbuilding/density and zoning exceptions is why the residents of the President Hotel face imminent displacement.

People who are pushing "housing" want to create short-term spaces for their entry level tech workers so they can make the public pay for their takeovers of Bay Area towns that do not have the infrastructure for it. They don't care, they are transient, and when the business cycle turns down, they will leave us all holding an even bigger bag than now. In fact, their workers will leave as they get a little older and want single-family homes and get tired of giving every cent to the landlord in an area with virtually infinite global demand.

Palo Alto can do something very significant for low-income residents by buying all the retail areas in town, the way Stanford owns huge areas near Stanford so they can attract faculty to live in homes more like they could get in the midwest. The faculty can buy the houses at a very cheap price because Stanford owns the land. This is the way "affordability" has always been achieved in this area -- not through density (which only increases costs) but through stability. This is how most people afford to live in their homes as long as I have lived here: make enormous sacrifices over extended periods of time to buy, and then eventually, things stabilize.

If Palo Alto were to buy the retail areas -- first of all, it's always painful to do this (but not that painful, the whole midtown shopping center was bought recently for $15M), then it could do what Stanford does -- make longterm leases with tenants. Over time, what this does is keep the costs down in retail areas, and allows Palo Alto to leverage this to get living wages for traditionally low-wage workers, as well as to get a greater diversity of retail and resident-serving businesses again. Plus it would mean the City could enforce zoning rules to keep greedy selfish companies from taking over the downtowns and retail areas (which has created a wasteland of gyms and companies where only retail is allowed). The great thing is that the value of this investment will only increase over time with no additional costs to the City. This is one way the City can level the playing field for low-income workers without creating a permanent underclass or having to pay for hugely expensive buildings.

The other way is to do what SF is doing, which is to buy smaller units to protect low-income residents from displacement. I do think this should be also on a model that allows the residents some form of investment so that they are not kept in some kind of permanent poverty by the system that is supposed to help them.

So-called low-income housing advocates are just being used by people who are actually working against their interests. The greedy interests who want to overbuild beyond any safety or consideration of what it costs existing residents have conflated the term NIMBY with anyone who opposes overdevelopment, when it used to be a powerful term about hypocrisy of people who think something is great except not near them. I don't believe the stupidity of overbuilding when the infrastructure is already maxed out, and ignoring safety, is good ANYWHERE, whether in my backyard or anywhere else. But allowing development interests to co-opt the word and the movement for their own profits, is not only destroying the Bay Area as a nice place to live, it is making housing LESS affordable and driving out low- and moderate-income residents, and hurting people for whom the actual social justice meaning of the term was coined. And it's hurting the effectiveness and reputation of advocates.

It's great that this area became successful, but too many people want to be here. Hong Kong is the best example because it is what happens when you think you can build your way out of high costs in a job center through density or by building near transit. All you are doing is lining the pockets of developers and creating more density (and all the ills and costs that come with it). The only way to create more affordable housing here is by multiplying the number of job centers. Companies can move, which is the easiest way to achieve it. They won't so long as cities enable them by rolling over for everything they ask, and believing utterly false narratives such as that we have a housing "crisis". We do not have a housing crisis, we have a water crisis, and to some extent, we have an overpopulation crisis. We have a lack of corporate responsibility crisis, in which those who have become hugely successful on the backs of decades of huge public investments think they have no responsibility to pay back.

Posted by Anon, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Dec 15, 2018 at 3:27 pm

Since SB50 would create a special zone within a half-mile of the Caltrain stations, which would have this provision:

"It also eliminates minimum parking requirements for new developments, which means apartments can be built without providing any accompanying parking space needs."

This will be a huge windfall for developers. If this goes through, can the affected cities create an accompanying parking zone that charges for on-street parking? It seems to me a pay-to-park zone will be required, with the revenue going to pay for the purchase of land and construction of city parking garages.

Why does Scott Weiner hate Peninsula cities, anyway?

Posted by Curmudgeon, a resident of Downtown North,
on Dec 15, 2018 at 6:14 pm

"High-rise apartments near the tracks downtown or on Cal Ave are fine, but not for a half-mile. There are a few lovely lots in town (think of the large one across the street on Santa Rita and Waverley) and high-rise housing, in my estimation, does not belong on such a lot. The bill would result in a cacophony of high-risers next to single-family housing units. That's not the way good zoning works."

You are recommending including sensible flexibility in a simplistic one-size-fits-all fiat. That's a very weak position. The idea is quantity, not quality.

Yes, a high rise multifamily building on that lot, although only somewhat smaller than some recent rebuilds in that neighborhood, would initially clash with its surroundings. But that situation would quickly resolve as more former R-1 lots get similarly rebuilt in the area. Each developer would cite the pyramiding exceptions as exemplars of the existing neighborhood character, and a compliant city government would dutifully go along. It's an old effective ruse, used successfully for decades. The Gresham's Law of real estate.

Atherton was smart to close its transit center several years ago. Los Altos was even more farsighted--it totally ripped out the tracks.

Posted by member, a resident of Charleston Gardens,
on Dec 16, 2018 at 4:09 pm

My guess is the writer is a NIMBY that lives within half a mile transit. Only such people who are worried about their own personal house values would care so strongly- as this relief measure draconian. Its clear Prop 13 is not getting overturned so the only way to make housing in the bay area affordable is to build more. Ofcourse the NIMBY's will obstruct you at every step crying about parking and quality of life as if only their lives matter. So this is a great option- build high density housing so people that don't drive cars can use transit to get around and cheaper accommodations. They are already compromising on having a backyard and living in apartments and condos - isn't that enough. It is for the rest of the world. What makes you so special that you are happy taking the thousands of extra jobs and house price increases in your city but want to keep the people that are causing it out of your town?

Posted by member, a resident of El Carmelo School,
on Dec 16, 2018 at 6:42 pm

The French Revolution showed that you don't get to stretch to common man indefinitely while enjoying your cake. Its easy to preach sitting in your mansion when you don't see or don't care that a highly qualified engineer with a education loan, struggling to save for his kids education because the landlord sharks are fleecing him of almost all his pay. Have some shame for god's sake and disclose your personal stake in this debate before you write something biased like this. Don't push the commoners too far- they elected Trump already, any more and they are going to bring out their pitchforks.

Posted by Anon, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Dec 16, 2018 at 7:06 pm

Posted by member, a resident of El Carmelo School

>> sitting in your mansion

Does an 1100-1400 square foot 60-year-old house in the southern part of Palo Alto (e.g. El Carmelo neighborhood) qualify as a "mansion" in your eyes?

>> when you don't see or don't care that a highly qualified engineer with a education loan, struggling to save for his kids education

Where does he live now? Where does he work now?

>> because the landlord sharks are fleecing him of almost all his pay.

The landlord is probably trying to charge him "market rate" although I happen to know a couple of people who had to move for their jobs and rented their houses out at below-market rate for reasons of keeping very stable long-term renters. I assume that you are OK with that?

>> Don't push the commoners too far- they elected Trump already, any more and they are going to bring out their pitchforks.

Is this an evidence-based argument? What makes you think that new high-density housing with no parking near the Caltrain stations will be affordable by that currently-renting engineer? Can you show me where that is working out that way in the US right now? I think we all need to understand what the building parameters are that make that scenario work.

Posted by Don't Be EVIL Companies, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Dec 16, 2018 at 11:40 pm

"the only way to make housing in the bay area affordable is to build more"

That is simply not true. There is global demand in this area and it is a job center. The only thing that building more will do is create more demand by companies who then will stay and expand rather than finally moving.

Hong Kong had these very same arguments in the years that it became denser and denser and denser. It has the best transit in the world, with like 89% usage, and built densely near transit. Do people get to live near where they work? No. Did it bring cost down? No. It just allowed Hong Kong businesses to hire more people and become more dense.

We don't want the extra jobs in this City, the businesses should move. Unlike Hong Kong, we are not a small island with nowhere for them to go. When is the last time you drove across this country? There isn't even a place to stop and go to the bathroom between long stretches between here and Salt Lake City, in the middle of some gorgeous landscape.

California is arid. It is the height of stupidity to crowd into a place that cannot sustain an infinite influx. I've lived in pretty substandard housing for decades in the Bay Area in order to get into a rundown tiny home. I'll bet your family makes more than mine does. The rest of the world does not all live in apartments -- not even the rest of California or neighboring states do. Las Vegas housing market has softened and you can get houses there for a tenth.

Did your employer explain the cost of housing here before you came? Why don't you get together with your fellow employees and ask your employer to move? That is the actual way to get affordable housing -- and good housing. That's a lot easier and more humane than forcing people who make less than you do to pay for you to overtax their infrastructure and make their cities unsafe by overbuilding so that your employer can have a Palo Alto address.

Building won't make this place cheap anymore than it made Hong Kong cheap, it just makes it denser. Hong Kong chased that exact same argument, if they just build more, smaller, denser, things would be affordable, and they never were, and now they are building spaces literally called coffins because they are the size of little human cages that families can't even live together in they are so small. And still they are not affordable.

The answer is to STOP densifying the job center, and make it so companies want to finally repopulate cities and towns in this country that have practically become ghost towns, or create new towns since they and their developer buddies can't seem to stop dumping all over the people who scrape by here now.

You are bullies, and you are using a social justice issue to try to hurt and displace ordinary people, and ruin a nice place. The infrastructure is maxed out. We are in a long drought cycle. It is the height of greed and stupidity to try to force the public to pay so every company that wants to can cram their workers in here. This is a vast state, and a vast nation, and it is simply no necessary. There is plenty of beautiful affordable housing -- tell your employer to move so you can live in it. Maybe you can come up with a narrative where you bully your employer like you bully the ordinary people your employer has already displaced.

Posted by Annette, a resident of College Terrace,
on Dec 17, 2018 at 11:45 am

Annette is a registered user.

I have not decided which is worse: Scott Weiner's overreaching bill or Adrian Fine letting us know that he is helping Weiner and adding this choice comment “local councils and the idolatry around local control are not going to solve our housing issue."

And why do we have a housing issue, Adrian? And when are you and others who think like you going to start addressing the demand side of the equation? I submit that residents would be far less opposed to adding housing IF two things were to happen: #1, stop adding office development until we have lowered the imbalance to some reasonable level below 2:1 and #2 disclose the plan for dealing with ALL the impacts that accompany additional housing, including:

a. increased demand for parking
b. increased circulation issues
c. increased demand on our woefully inadequate public transportation
d. increased demand on ALL utilities
e. increased demand for water
f. the plan for waste management
g. increased demand on schools
h. increased demand on hospitals
I. increased need for public safety personnel (how big will PAPD and PAFD need to be and how will that growth, including the attendant pension costs, be funded?)

How easy it is to utter the words, "We need more housing" as though housing is a single factor issue. It is not. If we paid as much attention to the infrastructure shortage as we do the housing shortage, people like Weiner and Fine might be obliged to put forth bills that do not carry the potential of creating multiple huge problems.

Adding mid-rise housing near transit make sense. But not without seriously addressing the demand aspect of the problem. It is, frankly, galling that that the same "leaders" throughout this region who have created this mess now seek to blithely impose their version of a solution on us with a "you wouldn't give us what we wanted so we are going to take it" attitude.

It's alarmingly important to cast informed votes and reject zealots of any stripe.

Posted by Curmudgeon, a resident of Downtown North,
on Dec 17, 2018 at 2:38 pm

"Don't push the commoners too far- they elected Trump already"

And lo, the words of the Prophet Isiah are fulfilled, "And a little child shall lead them."

"What makes you think that new high-density housing with no parking near the Caltrain stations will be affordable by that currently-renting engineer?"

That is the spiel of the elite investor classes. It is broadcast by their paid shills and believed by the ever-gullible masses [Mencken quote goes here]. Notice that the elite enclaves these elites inhabit--Atherton, Woodside, Hillsborough, Los Altos Hills--are geographically exempt from this fiat. Coincidence, no doubt.

So, if this were to pass, the common people will give their town commercial centers over to massed people warrens, the inhabitants of which will pass their hard earned money to the elite general partners who invested in those hutches, the better to pay for their Bentleys, their yachts, their vacations in Cote d'Agade, and the other necessities of the elite lifestyle.

Posted by Annette, a resident of College Terrace,
on Dec 18, 2018 at 7:47 am

Annette is a registered user.

Correction to my own post: I wrote "I submit that residents would be far less opposed to adding housing" but should have written "I submit that residents would be far less opposed to development projects . . ." I think we all know and accept that we need to find a way to add housing.

But Weiner is over reaching and it would be flat out stupid to relinquish local control over any part of our zoning. WE must live with the consequences of every decision regarding our built environment and as of now we have several big problems to resolve. I think infrastructure issues should be addressed at least simultaneously with development so that we do not inadvertently build-in more unsurmountable problems as we have done with housing. That's what mitigation is supposed to achieve. And local control is key to that.

And Fine calls this idolatry? What kind of talk is that??? There is absolutely no possible way a bunch of politicos in Sacramento or anywhere else can know what is doable, smart, and balanced in communities throughout the state. And let's not forget that our community has to contend with currently unmitigated Stanford growth.

IDOLATRY indeed. Is he channeling Marx? I will take local control over state control in a heartbeat and not for one minute will I view that as either the religious worship of idols or excessive admiration or devotion. No, I regard local control as a better approach than state control.

This is a busy time of year. And it is not unheard of for legislators to deliberately use the calendar to their advantage. Unfortunately, it will take resistance to again keep Weiner et al from over-reaching and imposing the State on the City. Please add to your to-do list: Write Sacramento.

Posted by Oldster, a resident of Old Palo Alto,
on Dec 18, 2018 at 1:51 pm

Crickets so far from Marc Berman, our former Palo Alto City Council member and now our rep in Sacramento.

Palo Alo City Council should have on its agenda in January 2019 a resolution to resist State takeover of our local zoning powers. Otherwise, if this sort of State law passes, we may as well shut down now our planning commission and planning department because Sacramento will be deciding all future zoning and redevelopment permits.

But, perhaps our City Council majority prefers the continuance of developer campaign donations which lubricate their political careers and those of their pals who want to stay in elected offices forever.

Do any of the 2019 City Council live close enough to a Caltrain station to be affected by SB 50?

Posted by Anon, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Dec 20, 2018 at 2:38 pm

I wonder if the Stanford/Embarcadero, Atherton, and Broadway Caltrain mini-stops qualify for Weiner's latest SB50? If any good comes of this, it will be someone attempting to build apartments near the Atherton station. We'll see how long that lasts. ;-)

Posted by David J., a resident of Menlo Park,
on Dec 31, 2018 at 12:53 am


"SB 50 prevents cities from allowing low-level residences within a half-mile near a transit hub, such as a Caltrain station or VTA bus stop."

Is a lie. SB 50 mandates upzones, but upzones don't disallow low-level residences. If that's what the property owner wants to do, they can do it. But the mandatory upzones would prevent some property owners from forcing their neighbors to limit their property to low-rise development.

If you can't see why that's good, important, right, and desperately necessary, it may be because you're a homeowner sitting on millions in unearned wealth, eager to protect it at the expense of both the environment and people without your lucky timing.

Posted by MaryM, a resident of another community,
on Jan 28, 2019 at 1:23 am

SB50 also upzones most, if not all, single family neighborhoods in Palo Alto etc. irrespective of proximity to transit. In fact, nearly all single family neighborhoods in Santa Clara, San Mateo, Marin, Sonoma etc. would probably be upzoned. It's called the "equitable communities incentive." In addition, although it's yet unclear, developments could very likely be "by right" due to the Housing Accountability Act. See below:

Web Link

Posted by Lucille F. Parham, a resident of Adobe-Meadow,
on Feb 17, 2019 at 9:45 pm

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