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By Steve Levy

Questions for Council Candidates--Housing

Uploaded: Aug 21, 2014

Below are six questions related to housing. Readers as well as candidates are invited to respond. Following the questions is a short set of background material. The guidelines for commenting remain as they have been—1) answer the questions, 2) stick to the topic, 3) no personal comments and 4) no put downs.

Question 1—The City with I believe unanimous Council approval has submitted a draft Housing Element update plan to the state for comment. There is still time for revisions. The update identifies sites that could accommodate the 2,000 housing units for the next eight years in response to state law.

If elected, will you support this Housing Element update or one with similar numbers of units in different locations?
If not, how do you plan to avoid state penalties and the resulting lawsuits if PA violates state law?

Question 2
In recent meetings Tom DuBois, Greg Schmid and I (there may be others) have suggested identifying sites for more housing in downtown and around Cal Ave and less in south PA than is in the current draft?

Do you support this change?

Question 3
State law requires identifying sites for housing where residents receive subsidy assistance to be able to live there, i.e., housing for low income individuals and families.

Do you support this state policy? If not, what do you propose to do?

Question 4
Do you support changing zoning to allow for smaller units that could reduce the cost of housing such as second units on existing sites and smaller units that might be of interest to 1 or 2 person households?

Question 5

Palo Alto has just over 3% of the county's population, 9% of the county's jobs and 20% (not counting San Antonio) of the county's regular use Caltrain stations. Palo Alto was allocated just over 3% of the county's housing target. Is this fair?

Question 6
There is a proposal for all of the cities in the County to decide how the county's housing target should be split among cities and the unincorporated area.

Do you favor this proposal and how do you think it will affect the allocation?


1. State law requires regions and local jurisdictions to make land available for housing sufficient to meet forecasted needs. The state gives a regional planning target to regional agencies, which in turn asks members to develop allocations to local jurisdictions. The planning period is for eight years into the future.
2. The current allocation was based on a state target developed before the recent surge in jobs and population. If a new target were developed today, it would be higher.
3. The state law responds to two main policy objectives—1) to provide enough housing to support projected job growth and 2) to locate housing in such a way to minimize commuting AND non-commute travel.
4. Within the Bay Area the allocation was based on current and projected jobs and housing, access to transportation and, in the case of low income housing, based on a formula to allocate more to areas that have a less proportionate share currently.
5. The City has certified that there are no environmental or infrastructure constraints to these housing sites. Education and infrastructure requirements are NOT a legal basis for refusing to plan for enough sites.
6. The Palo Alto update process can be accessed by searching for Palo Alto Housing Element update. The next committee meeting is August 28th at Lucie Stern. The agenda is not posted yet. The draft submitted to the state is on the update website.
7. The current schedule is for the plan to go to the Planning Commission in September to a council committee in October and to the Council in November and then to the state for review after which changes can be made.