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Palo Alto defies grand jury recommendations for more 'area plans' to boost affordable housing

Original post made on Mar 3, 2022

Palo Alto is taking a defiant stance toward a recommendation from the Santa Clara County Civil Grand Jury that it pursue more area plans -- like Mountain View does -- and mixed-use projects in an effort to create affordable housing.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Thursday, March 3, 2022, 12:53 PM

Comments (20)

Posted by Seth Neumann
a resident of Waverly Park
on Mar 3, 2022 at 7:56 pm

Seth Neumann is a registered user.

Palo Alto may be short on housing, but they're onto something in restricting commercial development! We can not attack the housing crisis solely from the supply side, especially while pursuing anti-building policies such as rent control, (to try to control the effects of the housing shortage on lower income people.) We need to discourage job growth and actively encourage employers to move jobs out until we can get housing demand in balance with housing supply and without destroying the quality of neighborhoods. We need a regional policy on office space and demand creating as well as on allocations of housing supply! We're (Mt View) paying a $1M/unit to create BMR housing, which is clearly not sustainable!


Posted by ivg
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Mar 4, 2022 at 7:44 am

ivg is a registered user.

Palo Alto's office cap is a fig leaf. The city's jobs-housing imbalance is so awful that if they were serious about using this lever, they would limit net new office space to zero. On the other hand, I'm not sure this is a good idea to begin with. Raising residential height limits would be a good start. Why not allow apartment buildings downtown up to the height of City Hall?


Posted by Steven Nelson
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Mar 4, 2022 at 10:44 am

Steven Nelson is a registered user.

@Ivg. (height) Because ...
Because that is PALO ALTO! The politics of Not In My Backyard (the PA version of this party is known and described by The Free Press as "Residentialist" ).

2021 Palo Alto Weekley
Web Link

2020 SJ Mercury News
Web Link


Posted by ivg
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Mar 4, 2022 at 12:02 pm

ivg is a registered user.

@Steven, of course I know that! The "residentialists" who don't want to add new residences. But hey, it can't hurt to ask.


Posted by Leslie Bain
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Mar 6, 2022 at 2:03 pm

Leslie Bain is a registered user.

I'm amazed at the insistence at using name-calling by pro-density, pro-developer forces.

Apparently those who actually live in a community are to be scorned because they LIVE IN THAT COMMUNITY? And the people doing this scorning are doing it because they themselves want to LIVE IN THAT COMMUNITY. There is a logic fail in there somewhere.

The term "residentialist" is insufficient, these people must be called out as NIMBYs. So now by definition, simply living in a community makes one worthy of being shamed?

The virtue signalling is out of control.


Posted by Randy Guelph
a resident of Cuernavaca
on Mar 6, 2022 at 2:49 pm

Randy Guelph is a registered user.

[Post removed due to personal attack]


Posted by Leslie Bain
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Mar 7, 2022 at 12:44 pm

Leslie Bain is a registered user.

[Post removed due to personal attack]


Posted by Randy Guelph
a resident of Cuernavaca
on Mar 7, 2022 at 1:21 pm

Randy Guelph is a registered user.

[Post removed due to personal attack]


Posted by LongResident
a resident of another community
on Mar 7, 2022 at 4:06 pm

LongResident is a registered user.

What's not mentioned in this article is the fact that Palo Alto has a much larger share of its total units operating as BMR units than Mountain View. It's not that the residents don't accept low income housing as much as Mountain View residents do. Palo Alto already has them!

Mountain View has relied heavily on funding created by its extensive development of commercial work space, e.g. offices. Palo Alto has admirably not leaned on that type of growth, which makes problems worse.

The biggest employer in Palo Alto is Stanford, and Palo Alto has worked on Stanford to get it to house more of its students and employees. So much of the office space in Palo Alto is on Stanford land that the city has to contend with Stanford when trying to limit that office growth. Palo Alto converted a large area non owned by Stanford from offices to residences--the old Ford Aerospace plant. Palo Alto is considering to get Stanford land now used for offices to be turned into housing--near to El Camino Real. Palo Alto is doing a lot of things right. The grand jury report was misleading. Funding for public housing is the real limiting factor.


Posted by Randy Guelph
a resident of Cuernavaca
on Mar 7, 2022 at 4:26 pm

Randy Guelph is a registered user.

LongResident, "share of total units" is, as usual for you, a misleading metric. People don't live in a percentage, they live in a home, so absolute numbers are far more important. I'd rather have 1% of 10000 homes be affordable to low-income residents than 10% of 100 homes, and I know which of those scenarios is more accepting of low-income housing.


Posted by Leslie Bain
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Mar 8, 2022 at 2:33 pm

Leslie Bain is a registered user.

Randy, your words speak for themselves.

"I'd rather have 1% of 10000 homes be affordable to low-income residents than 10% of 100 homes, and I know which of those scenarios is more accepting of low-income housing."

You think that a large community where 99% of the homes are completely unaffordable to low-income workers is better/preferable/more desirable/more virtuous than a small community where 90% of the homes are completely unaffordable to low-income workers.

I respectfully disagree, but it does explain what is happening in Mountain View today. A fight for "affordable housing" is being conducted to increase the number - and also the percentage, by the way - of highly paid workers who live here.

As I've said many times before, those who think that this fight is on behalf of low-income or even average income workers are being conned.

"Guest opinion: Housing affordability bills' math doesn't add up" - Web Link

"Most everyone agrees there is a housing crisis in Mountain View and nearby communities. Many are discouraged by having to pay enormous rents. Naomi Klein wrote “The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism” to explain how, during times of crisis, questionable policies are often put forward to exploit the public. People in pain are distracted and willing to embrace “solutions” that are deeply flawed; their pain essentially hinders their ability to think clearly. I submit to you that under a banner of “affordable housing,” proposals are being put forward that will do little to lower rents for most people; these schemes will instead generate massive profits for developers and "Big Tech.""


Posted by LongResident
a resident of another community
on Mar 8, 2022 at 2:53 pm

LongResident is a registered user.

Also the headline of this article is overly flashy. They didn't defy the grand jury "recommendations." How do you go about defying a recommendation? They eschewed it, and gave some good explanations.

In all of this, the elephant in the room is the funding. For the Grand Jury to tell a city to just come up with the money somehow makes it sound like they have tons just sitting around. What Palo Alto did is just like most cities, and it's inadequate to make much progress. The state needs to fund this housing if it is going to mandate it.

Of course Palo Alto could easily have a lot more city revenue if it had allowed office development like Mountain View. It's not clear if that would be enough, but it would be more of an addition than the measures they were able to take.


Posted by Randy Guelph
a resident of Cuernavaca
on Mar 8, 2022 at 2:59 pm

Randy Guelph is a registered user.

Yes, I think a city where there are 100 more homes for people with low incomes is preferable to a city with 10. That you'd pick otherwise does show where your concern lies; you're happy to keep out those 90 families with low incomes in order to prevent others you don't like or don't feel are deserving enough to enter. Doesn't sound very welcoming to me...


Posted by LongResident
a resident of another community
on Mar 9, 2022 at 2:13 pm

LongResident is a registered user.

One thing to consider is that Mountain View has 25,000 more people employed in the city than does Palo Alto and is poised to grow the number of jobs much faster in the near future.... It's the demand from the added jobs in Mountain View that fuel tearing down older cheaper apartments and replacing them with luxury palaces for well paid Tech workers, displacing the low income residents and causing them to need to seek new housing. I'd say Mountain View is the place that needs a lot more new BMR units compared to Palo Alto.

Plus of course the single biggest employer in Palo Alto is non profit health care organization with world wide impact--Stanford Hospital and Lucille Packard Children's Hospital. No taxes are collected on these institutions to fund city services and subsidized housing for low income employees.


Posted by Randy Guelph
a resident of Cuernavaca
on Mar 9, 2022 at 3:10 pm

Randy Guelph is a registered user.

The pretzels you tie yourself into with this. Of course, housing demand respects city borders, so we could solve this problem by having all the offices secede into their own cities! Then all the residential cities would have zero employment, so no need for new homes.

It's amazing what you folks will come up with to justify keeping out new residents.


Posted by Leslie Bain
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Mar 9, 2022 at 3:10 pm

Leslie Bain is a registered user.

A charity that only spends 10% of the proceeds on "the cause" is considered a scam.

I suppose some would say that judgement is unfair, the charity is actually virtuous for "doing good". They prefer to turn a blind eye to where the other 90% of the money is going.

In a city where 99% of the housing units are for the highest wage earners, the developers would make an absolute fortune. Of course they would drool at the chance to build such a place, and even contribute to political movements to convince the public that such building would be "noble" and "virtuous". In politics, it's often a game of "look here, not there".

Think about the "diversity" of such a place. Everyone is welcome, lol, as long as they earn lots of money.

Where will the service workers live? and the teachers? Will they all fit into 100 units? Do those who can afford to live in the other 9,900 units truly care about those at other end of the economic ladder?

And think about the children of that city ... they won't be able to live in the place where they grew up unless they themselves find highly lucrative jobs when they grow up.

The biggest joke of all is that the pro-density, pro-developer schemes are being wrapped in a pretty facade called "affordable housing", lol. The words "for techies" are left off.

The only way to increase the supply of affordable housing is to actually build more AFFORDABLE housing. But that's not easy or cheap.

LongResident is 100% correct:

"In all of this, the elephant in the room is the funding. For the Grand Jury to tell a city to just come up with the money somehow makes it sound like they have tons just sitting around. What Palo Alto did is just like most cities, and it's inadequate to make much progress. The state needs to fund this housing if it is going to mandate it."

Setting high BMR targets for cities without providing funding is a cheesy political move by unaccountable state politicians who care most about optics. I wish that the MV City Council would object to a mandate to increase our housing units by 32%. That is extreme and ridiculous.


Posted by Randy Guelph
a resident of Cuernavaca
on Mar 9, 2022 at 3:27 pm

Randy Guelph is a registered user.

Leslie, you just said you prefer a city with only 10 homes that are affordable to people with low incomes is preferable to a city that has 100. You can't then turn around and say "where will all the low income people live" in that city with 100 homes when your preferred city has 1/10 the space for them! People don't live in percentages, they live in homes.


Posted by Leslie Bain
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Mar 10, 2022 at 12:39 pm

Leslie Bain is a registered user.

Randy, what I said is that I prefer a city that has 10% affordable homes over one that only has 1% affordable homes. You said that the latter is "is more accepting of low-income housing," which is complete bull-pucky.

Percentages matter. Mark Twain talked about lies, d*mn lies, and statistics. Numbers can be used in perverted ways in order to make perverted arguments. We are a math-impaired nation, people can be confused by misleading statistics.

In any proposal, the "good" that comes from it has to be compared against "the bad". A proposal that does a teensy amount of good is not automatically virtuous, the negative impact must also be considered.

Developers are supposed to be creating 15% to 25% of BMR units in new housing developments. - Web Link Those requirements are not new, they have not been recently changed. The result is our current affordable housing crisis. Obviously, a city where only 1% of the homes are affordable would not be any kind of an improvement over what we have today.

In reality, over the past eight-year RHNA cycle only 12% of the permits issued were for affordable units. That is not enough. We need a larger % of AFFORDABLE housing.

Pro-density, pro-developer advocates who make arguments that maximize developer profits over the well-being of the community are not virtuous do-gooders who are "helping" low-income and average wage-earners. They are creating bigger problems than they are solving, and dumping those issues onto the community (privatize the profits, socialize the costs):

* schools -Web Link

* water supply-Web Link

* traffic congestion- Web Link

* parking issues, etc.


Posted by LongResident
a resident of another community
on Mar 10, 2022 at 1:13 pm

LongResident is a registered user.

Since housing demand oozes over city borders, then it would be good for Mountain View to share impact fees and benefits with Palo Alto. That would be a good idea. Also Los Altos and Los Altos Hills.


Posted by Randy Guelph
a resident of Cuernavaca
on Mar 10, 2022 at 1:56 pm

Randy Guelph is a registered user.

Leslie, you're the one engaging in misleading statistics. People don't live in percentages, they live in homes! You said you prefer a city with 10 homes for low income people over a city with 100 homes for low income people, which you try to obfuscate with percentages. Turning away 90 families so you can have a higher percentage is absurd, and you can't seriously be arguing that makes it "more welcoming." I guess you can tell those 90 families that they should be reassured that it's actually better for them, since the percentage for low incomes is so much higher!


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