By Steve Levy
Developers and DevelopmentUploaded: Dec 3, 2013
Town Square has a lot of posts angry about the pace of development in Palo Alto and tossing around inflammatory statements about developers and the City Council.
But reflect on a couple of facts.
First, the reason that there are new homes and offices being built in Palo Alto is because there is strong demand. It is the demand and the prices people are willing to pay to locate in Palo Alto to live and/or work that drives new developments. You might as well get mad at the new office tenants and homeowners as with the people who built the properties.
Second, many if not most, developments are built by individual owners, not speculative developers. And many are built for occupancy by the owner. Think of the large new Apple complex in Cupertino or Google's expanding facilities in Mountain View and surrounding areas. In downtown Palantir has been building and expanding for their own use. Are Apple, Google and Palantir "greedy developers and the council people who reviewed their projects "corrupt"?
Recently Marissa Mayer bought the funeral home property at Addison and Middlefield (do posters think she is a "greedy developer") and two or three individuals bought parcels downtown. Many of the properties being expanded downtown are the result of individual owners, not large corporate developers, seeing an opportunity to earn a better return on their investment. And most developments, with the exception of some large speculative projects now before the city, are completely legal as is.
If property owners should be allowed to take advantage of a strong market to improve their property, should homeowners be similarly prohibited? I am the liberal here arguing for the importance of respecting property rights. If private owners expanding office and retail space on their properties are called greedy, are homeowners who build a second story or improve their property similarly greedy when they sell at a higher price?
I agree that large new projects seeking major zoning changes in exchange for public benefits should undergo a thorough review process that insures that public benefits, if promised, should actually happen. These are completely legitimate matters for public discussion and debate.
But these are not the largest pressures Palo Alto is facing about growth, which comes from the desire of people to live and businesses to locate here and from the process of individual property owners earning a return on their investment.
If the Jay Paul project and the Arrillaga project are reduced or eliminated, the city will continue to grow. Look at all the other developments downtown.
That is why in most of my blogs, I argue for planning for the impacts of this growth and for catching up for the infrastructure (a city role) and transportation (a regional role) that we are behind on even if growth slows.
Calling people greedy and calling council members corrupt, by the way without any evidence, is not going to get the decisions on handling growth, parking and infrastructure done. Palo Alto is an epicenter for worldwide tech growth and we need to handle the part that is discretionary but realize that most is not and get on with handing the impacts.