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By Steve Levy

My Day at the Comp Plan Summit

Uploaded: Jun 2, 2015

First I want to thank all the staff and volunteers who made the event run smoothly and who were always around to answer questions and help out. Second a shout out to the food from Ada's Café at Mitchell Park Library. And finally, a thank you to all who made the new community center such an inviting place to be.

When I arrived I was given a packet and name tag that had my table number on it. The first hour was a welcome by Mayor Holman and an orientation with background information by City Manager Jim Keene and Planning Director Hillary Gitelman.

The rest of the day was spent in small groups, each discussing first Mobility and Transportation, then Effective Growth Management Tools and, finally, Housing the Next Generation of Palo Altans and their Grandparents. Each session began with a short video and was oriented to answering three questions. A volunteer wrote ideas from the group on a piece of paper and at the end of each session the groups selected a small set of key ideas to text, which were shown to all participants in each room. This week the staff will tabulate and distribute the texts.

Over the course of the day there were six other people at my table, one whom I knew from serving on the infrastructure commission and five who I did not know at all or knew very slightly. We took turns scribing. I am from downtown and the rest of our group was from midtown, south and the hills.

Our group did not have trouble coming to agreement on key takeaways.

On transportation and mobility our key ideas were

--Expand biking options
--Have much more frequent shuttles
--Expand and underground CalTrain and consider housing above

On growth management our key ideas were

--Embrace growth with tough love and mitigation

--Locate development in walkable areas

On Housing our key ideas were

--Accept more height and density for housing in return for community benefits including retail and affordable housing

--Look to downtown, Cal Ave and El Camino BUT also other potentially walkable neighborhoods like midtown shopping center and the Charleston/Fabian Way area.

Our group did not talk much about office development, focusing instead on housing, neighborhoods, mobility and retail. I do not remember any negative or personal comments and no discussion of council members or various groups in the city. I was very pleasantly surprised by the interest and open mindedness of the residents at our table and it made for a very enjoyable day.

Our group was open to more growth but wanted to make sure 1) we got benefits in return and 2) we were working actively to mitigate the impacts (mostly to do with traffic and parking) that we experience.

The people who mentioned making the midtown shopping center and Charleston/Fabian Way neighborhoods areas for more density and retail were the people who lived nearby, not the two members who live north of Embarcadero. There was a lively discussion of the challenges in making El Camino a more walkable area and people were interested in the possibility of Stanford Research Park and the Shopping Center as locations for more housing.

Please share your stories and experiences from the Summit. If you did not attend and have questions, I will try and find someone to answer them if I cannot.