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By Steve Levy

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About this blog: I grew up in Los Angeles and moved to the area in 1963 when I started graduate school at Stanford. Nancy and I were married in 1977 and we lived for nearly 30 years in the Duveneck school area. Our children went to Paly. We moved ...  (More)

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Developers and Development

Uploaded: 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.

Comments

 +  Like this comment
Posted by Traffic is a slog, a resident of another community,
on Dec 3, 2013 at 8:11 pm

I have lived here over 30 years and I wonder how Levy thinks the near traffic gridlock can be alleviated or does he feel it's best that it only get more clogged as we slog about getting to and fro ?

Response: I will be happy to respond to your question when you respond to some of the questions I posed.

I am trying to see if there are areas of agreement (for example you have no complaint about what Marissa Mayer might do with the funeral home site as long as it is legal). That is why I am asking posters to respond to the points I raise in the hlog.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Confused Observer, a resident of another community,
on Dec 4, 2013 at 11:18 am

Agreed, "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." Comments in the link below claim some history of bait-and-switch.

But why does your post dwell on individual owners improving their properties, when current public outcry instead concerns things like a "luxury-apartment complex," a "four-story building," and "numerous controversial" past PC projects that clearly were large commercial developments, not individual-owner initiatives?

Web Link

(Incidentally I'm guessing your 6th pph meant to say "If property owners should be prohibited ... should homeowners be similarly prohibited?" And, granted it's a popular fad usage today, but "epicenter" means above a center. Presumably your final sentence did not intend to assert that worldwide tech growth is underground.)

Response: Thanks for the edits. And a good question.

My blog is deliberately about the other parts of development in Palo Alto. I am trying to find if there are areas of agreement once the big PC developments are put aside for the moment.

I accept that you are worried mainly about them but many posters are calling for no new development at all and have complaints that go beyond the big PCs.

We probably disagree also because I think three and four story buildings are the norm in the core of downtown where I live and work. I live in a five story condo across from two same or larger complexes. So I think density downtown is exactly where it should be and have no problems with the many legal new buildings going up.

It is why I was hoping posters would respond to the rights of private owners and mostly to the fact that stopping big PCs will not stop the basic challenge of handling growth, parking, traffic and infrastructure.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park,
on Dec 4, 2013 at 11:51 am

The most recent rounds of protest targeted at the CC, ARB, City Planning and the Planning Commission have all been caused by the terrible decisions made in the name of PC exceptions.

Stick to the existing zoning, eliminate the downtown/Cal Ave. parking exceptions and then the noise level will drop.

response: this is off point of my blog. Please respond to my two issues: 1) most development is not the result of large PCs and 2) what about the rights of private owners like Marissa Mayer or the other downtown owners making legal expansions.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by GurGurGur, a resident of Castro City,
on Dec 4, 2013 at 2:54 pm

Deleted, not responsive to my blog and questions.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by kb, a resident of Barron Park,
on Dec 4, 2013 at 3:45 pm

Is this blog entry a red herring? I haven't heard anyone complaining about individual homeowners expanding their houses. Perhaps Mr Levy reads a different paper, or talks to different people than my neighbors. People expanding their homes won't lead to big increases in traffic. Bogus PC developments and other high density multi-unit developments are what residents are worried about. Regarding development, I think residents are primarily worried about three things: 1) increases in traffic, 2) losing the 'character' of Palo Alto (i.e., becoming a more urban city rather than a suburban town), and 3) negative effects on property values. #3 is not much of a worry in the short term, but people are concerned that over time increased density will make PA less desirable, and have an effect on property values.

ABAG (whom Mr Levy works with) has targeted Palo Alto for a 26% increase in housing units over the next 25 years; that's 7410 new units. Those new units are not coming from people putting a second floor on their Eichler. In an already built-out town, those units can only come from new high-density multi-unit projects. That's more than 100 projects the size of the proposed Maybell project. I don't think that under the current zoning we have the capacity for 7400 extra units (but I could be wrong - anyone have any data on this?). So to meet ABAG's goals, we're going to need a lot of zoning exceptions. That is what everyone is worried about.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by kb, a resident of Barron Park,
on Dec 4, 2013 at 3:52 pm

Well, in the time it took me to write the above comment, Mr Levy posted some responses the previous comments explaining his post a bit more. Thanks for the clarification. Perhaps you should the blog post to make it more clear you were discussing development excluding PCs and rezoning? I completely missed that both the first time I read it, and on a further re-read. And from the comments, it appears that I'm not the only one who missed that point.

In any case, I haven't heard anyone in my neighborhood complaining about private homeowners redeveloping their houses, except people griping about "bad" architecture. I think most people also accept that the downtown area can take a higher density, up to four or five stories probably. Most people are concerned about all the high density developments popping up in other areas of the city.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park,
on Dec 4, 2013 at 5:23 pm

I'll connect the dots.

People who complain about "greedy" developers typically point towards (in their view) what the developer is trying to get away with (i.e., exceptions, waivers, etc.). The general mood of the city is that it is fed up with favors, exceptions, deals - agreements that allow *any* developer to get something that the common resident perceives he/she cannot.

I do not believe people have issues with property rights. Of course that doesn't stop complaints about style, architecture, etc.

I have a friend (lives about 10 blocks away) who received a letter from a neighbor complaining that the style and color of their garage addition ruined the neighborhood. All before the job was done, other colors painted and landscaping planted. The neighbors also tried to stop the job claiming height infringements, set back infringements and not building to the height approved on the blueprints.

Some people hate change - even if legal and within the zoning requirements.

If the city drops PC, parking exceptions and zoning waivers - only allows development (whether a large company or an individual/family) that fits within existing zoning, the push-back and noise level should drop off (IMHO).

It doesn't matter who the developer is (large, small, individual - commercial or residential), as much as what the developer wants to do.

I think the only other "greed" comments that would pop up are the ones about an owner kicking out a business so that the building can be either remodeled or torn down for a new building. You also see the same response up in SF over apartment-condo conversions.

I have no issue in remodeling or enhancing a property if done legally. Whether they flip the property for a profit is their business, not mine.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by GreedIsWhat, a resident of another community,
on Dec 5, 2013 at 1:57 am

Most homeowners that I know that are committed to living in the community long term do not remodel their homes simply to increase the profit potential. They look to increase their home's livability and enhance the aesthetics. That is very different than the situations that create these horrible high density developments. The landowners are partnered with developers with the #1 goal of maximum profit/minimum risk. That explains why they push as hard as they can to go beyond the zoning limits.

Sometimes we hear that if they are not allowed to go ultra-high density, then the development will not be economically viable. This is both true and not true. It's true because of two reasons:
1) The property owner purchased the property at a high price and needs to make a much higher $ amount to cover their costs AND make enough profit to take the risk.
AND/OR
2) The contract between the property owner and the developer has numbers already plugged in. If the #'s can't be met by sticking with current density, then they will have to modify or cancel the agreement.

But, you can guess where falseness comes in:
1)If the city planners have a history of caving in to the supposed "economic requirements" of the developers, then it's very likely that other developers will notice this and also demand similar concessions.

2) If the landowner bought it at too high a price to make the project viable under current zoning rules, then TOO BAD!!! They paid too much! Why should the community suffer because of their poor investment? They can do what the rest of us does and just sit on the property until the #'s work better.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Ken again, a resident of Menlo Park,
on Dec 5, 2013 at 5:55 am

Deleted

Ken Again,

If you want to complain about the city development process, there are plenty of blog threads going where that is the topic. This is not one of them.

I am exploring areas of agreement about new developments, most of which are not large PCs and exploring what posters think of the rights of property owners who are not large developers.

I have offered the example of Marissa Mayer buying the funeral home site at Addison and Middlefield and asking posters what they think of her rights to build a denser use that is completely legal.

If you want to contribute to this discussion in a positive way, please respond directly to the points I have raised which do not have to do with large PC development issues.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by stephen levy, a resident of University South,
on Dec 5, 2013 at 11:27 am

stephen levy is a registered user.

Thanks kb, crescent park dad and greed is what.

We appear to be finding some areas of agreement.

I do not favor a position of no PCs ever or no zoning changes ever but I will address that in the next blog. I do realize these are difficult and discretionary issues and that the potential for exemptions with no benefits is real, which is why I favor an open and careful process. I have not taken a position on the Jay Paul or Arrillaga developments and these are also not the subject of this thread.

I am NOT just arguing that homeowners have rights but also that property owners in general have rights to pursue legal developments that may increase housing or job density and even argue for zoning changes.

So to tell me that you have not heard anyone complain about homeowner rights does not respond to my issue for which I gave Marissa Mayer and the funeral home property as one example although there are many buildings going up around downtown of three and four stories. I agree that parking should be provided as, for example, it will be for the 500 University Ave more dense development.

I generally agree with Crescent Park Dad's last post and hope others will outline areas of agreement or disagreement with my premises.

I agree with GreedisWhat that the city is not responsible for bailing out landowners who paid too high a price but I do not think that represents very many cases of downtown developments.

I agree that it is good policy to make denser developments in the downtown area but would also include along El Camino and around California Avenue.

I wish that kb was correct that "I think most people also accept that the downtown area can take a higher density, up to four or five stories probably. Most people are concerned about all the high density developments popping up in other areas of the city." But that is not the way I read most TS posters.

I am interested in having posters respond to the Marissa Mayer funeral home example or the 500 University Ave proposal that has extra parking.

My take is that the legally allowed developments will increase the growth in Palo Alto whatever happens to the more contentious developments and we need to plan to accommodate the impacts of that growth and not pretend that stopping a project or two or three will make these challenges go away.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park,
on Dec 5, 2013 at 4:00 pm

I am familiar with the 500 Univ. Ave. project. The family/developer has been a long time owner of the current building and they do not plan to sell after construction.

They have paid into the parking program (funding the garages) over the years and now they are actually going to provide more spaces than required for the building! What a concept...

I think they are asking for one very, very minor exception on the roof of the building - which shouldn't be seen from the street anyway. Some sort of architectural detail for the rooftop patio that will infringe upon the height limit by 5ft. It's an arch of some sort.

The one beef I have about this project is that the ARB total the architect that he couldn't do his original design (a modern take on Stanford architecture). Instead he had to come up with a "modern" building, lots of glass etc. BS on the ARB...the architect/family submitted a building that meets and/or exceeds all requirements and the ARB makes the family change the style of the building. Baloney on them.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by I Love you, a resident of Gemello,
on Dec 6, 2013 at 2:20 pm

But I couldn't read your blog. It was too poorly worded. I gave up.

[portion deleted]


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Political Insider, a resident of Old Mountain View,
on Dec 6, 2013 at 8:56 pm

Steve,

Thanks for being a voice of reason. The name calling and silliness of the NIMBY types doesnt help their cause. Every project is vetted by serious council members and their staff. In Mountain View we have grown and mitigated the impact of most developments. Unfortunately it is never enough for some who just want something to complain about as their housing value continues to rise.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by commonsense, a resident of Adobe-Meadows,
on Dec 6, 2013 at 9:58 pm

The fact is, the non-PC developments have followed all the rules set forth in the PA municipal code. In that code, for many decades, there have been potential parking exemptions. Included in these exemptions are existing square footage without otherwise required parking, the use of transferable development rights and others. This has always been part of the code, not some back room deal developers work out with city staff. Developers are simply following the rules set in the municipal code. If the public does not like it then it needs to lobby to change the rules, not accuse the developers and city staff of corruption.

In the meantime, the population of California will grow from 40m to 52m in the next decade. Trying to stop this or pretend Palo Alto can somehow ignore it is a waste of energy. Embrace it and plan for it or these senseless debates will continue to our wonderful city\'s detriment.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Steve Levy, a Almanac Online blogger,
on Dec 7, 2013 at 2:51 pm

Steve Levy is a registered user.

A poster said he/she could not understand what I wrote. Anyone is always welcome to ask for a clarification.

I deleted part of that post since it was off point and no one should post if they don't understand the blog.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Norman Beamer, a resident of Crescent Park,
on Dec 7, 2013 at 4:41 pm

I agree that it is silly to talk in terms of "greed." It is perfectly normal for people to make real estate investments, and to hope to profit from them. But I have a very simple, perhaps simple-minded, view: Palo Alto does not need a single new office. Sure, developers would like to build more offices, and potential tenants would like to have more offices. So what? Palo Alto already has one of the highest jobs to residents ratio in the country. Traffic and parking has reached its limit. Therefore, there should be absolutely no more PC projects, or design enhancement exceptions, or any other accommodations for proposed office space projects.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by neighbor, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis,
on Dec 7, 2013 at 5:12 pm



I don't understand why we have to have any growth even if the demand is high? It seems to me we have a good thing going in Palo Alto and that we will ruin a great little city with all the development. I have heard that ABAG is requiring us to grow but why not push back on ABAG? What happens if we don't? Does Palo Alto need more money so we need to bring in more with property taxes and sales taxes?

It's great that higher density living can layer people's homes one on top of the other but as far as I know we don't have a way for higher density transportation. We have to come back down to the lowest level to commute. Unless we are just stuck in our houses and don't go anywhere, higher density means tons more traffic.

When can we start talking about population control?


 +  Like this comment
Posted by shocking, a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables,
on Dec 7, 2013 at 6:44 pm

This is a meta-comment which, given what I've seen on this thread, will probably be deleted instantly.

Steve, if you want to respond to a poster's comment, FINE. But do so in a comment that has YOUR NAME on it. It is totally inappropriate to edit a poster's comment with your responses, so we see someone else's name but YOUR thoughts.

This is your blog. I get it. But it would be polite, to say the least, if you could clarify which were comments made by others, and which were your comments.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Steve Levy, a Almanac Online blogger,
on Dec 7, 2013 at 7:19 pm

Steve Levy is a registered user.

I agree with the previous post and see how it could have been confusing.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by stephen levy, a resident of University South,
on Dec 7, 2013 at 7:37 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

By the way "shocking" why did you think your post would be deleted.

I had just written a post asking people to point out if something is not clear, which is what you did although your tone was not too polite in a post asking me to be more polite in clarifying when I was posting.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Still looks like greed, a resident of Crescent Park,
on Dec 7, 2013 at 10:45 pm

Crescent Park Dad calls 11 feet over the height limit "very very minor." I beg to differ. The so-called Design Enhancement (try not to laugh) is for ELEVEN FEET, In other words, almost a full extra story. I would not call that "very very minor." {portion deleted--unsupported personal accusation}
This is the official description:
500 University Avenue [13PLN-00391]: Request by Thoits Brothers Inc. for Architectural Review of a new 26,806 sq. ft. three-story office and retail building in the CD-C (GF) (P) zone district replacing a one-story 15,899 sq. ft. commercial building. The project includes a Design Enhancement Exception (DEE) request to allow roof-top elements to exceed the 50 foot height limit by a maximum of 11 feet.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by POGO, a resident of Woodside: other,
on Dec 8, 2013 at 9:11 am

You may some excellent points, Steve.

A developer investing their own money into a medical office building on El Camino Real - that's bad. But Marissa Mayer buying a funeral home - that's good, of course. That is, until her family expands, she moves to a larger home elsewhere, sells all of her Palo Alto properties and the new owner applies for a variance to build a high rise apartment building. Then it will be bad. I guess as long as you are willing to buy up property and rich enough to shutter it, you will be revered as some kind of local hero.

People often forget that the very homes they live in and the offices they work at were very likely controversial development projects at one time. Of course, now that they are comfortably ensconced in those projects, they want to conveniently shut the door behind themselves. We certainly can't have anyone else trying to duplicate our dreams!

But here's a newsflash for our community - there isn't a city on the Peninsula that even remotely resembles the little town that it was just a few decades ago. We grow. We expand. And as long as companies like Google and Facebook exist and new vital companies form everyday, the pressure to provide housing for their employees, families and service providers and buildings to support all of them is only going to continue.

Take it from those people living in horribly depressed areas of our country (and the world), managing our remarkable growth - like where to locate the newest Tesla dealership or Whole Food Market or a professional office building - is a pretty good problem to have to manage.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Steve Levy, a Almanac Online blogger,
on Dec 8, 2013 at 10:43 am

Steve Levy is a registered user.

@neighbor

The only requirement from ABAG is to plan for new housing in the 2014-2022 period. It is a planning requirement to have enough zoning available. All of the remaining ABAG forecasts and sub regional allocations of where jobs and housing might go are to give cities and residents a sense of how the region might accommodate the expected growth. Palo Alto is not "required" by ABAG to add jobs.

Population control is a worldwide issue and not one in which Palo Alto or the region or state has any control. My fear is that residents here and around the region will continue to use arguments like this to avoid planning to solve existing deficits (for example, not enough parking downtown and out of data police and fire facilities) and the impacts of certain future growth even if it is a bit less than currently anticipated.

I will leave your post up for a bit but encourage you as I have asked others to respond to growth by individual property owners within legal limits such as the funeral home property purchased by Marissa Mayer or the 500 University plan.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Steve Levy, a Almanac Online blogger,
on Dec 8, 2013 at 10:48 am

Steve Levy is a registered user.

@ Norman Beamer

Thanks for responding to the issues I raised.

Yes, there is a conflict between respecting the legal rights of property owners and a goal of no more job growth in Palo Alto.

While I do not support a blanket refusal to consider PC developments or changes in zoning (the subject of my next blog thread) I do support more careful and open consideration of such individual proposals.

My main point continues to be that considering the impacts of past developments and future developments that raise no legal issues, we need to be planning and investing to have the public infrastructure and services.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Abagger, a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights,
on Dec 8, 2013 at 4:57 pm

Steve:

Do you have a relationship with ABAG, and of so, what is it?


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Burned out on traffic, a resident of Charleston Meadows,
on Dec 8, 2013 at 6:00 pm

With all due respect, this is the wrong question:

"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?"

It's not a question of profit. The issue is one of increased density. A homeowner remodeling to add a floor is not adding density the way high density housing or office space does. A single family residence of greater square footage is costlier to purchase than a smaller home, not just in Palo Alto, but in most real estate markets in the country, so it is not exactly evidence of homeowner greed. It's evidence of the laws of supply and demand.

{Portion deleted--not responsive to questions posed in thread).

Steve, your bio says you live downtown. And your bio says you don't drive. Its mostly built-out downtown, and you are not sitting in rush hour traffic every weekday morning like the rest of us. You are seeing a very different Palo Alto than those who drive, park and live in other parts of the city.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Steve Levy, a Almanac Online blogger,
on Dec 8, 2013 at 7:24 pm

Steve Levy is a registered user.

@ abaggger

I do long term (up to 30 year) job, population and household growth projections under contract for regional planning agencies and have done so for 30 years,

In 2011 and 2012 I had a contract to help ABAG prepare the regional growth forecast to 2040--the one that is the basis for Plan Bay Area.

My work does not involve any sub regional analysis (i.e. city or county forecasts or allocations) and does not involve the RHNA housing planning targets for cities.

Also the regional growth projections that I participated in had nothing to do with the current RHNA housing targets for Palo alto or any other jurisdiction. These were done by the state and ABAG not using the Plan Bay Area regional growth projections.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park,
on Dec 8, 2013 at 10:20 pm

@ still:

You\\\'re a bit (understandably) confused on the height waiver process and also what the architects are planning.

The mechanical massing will be 11 ft. above the building height limit. However, please note that the city (by code) provides a waiver of up to 15 ft. above the limit for mechanical mass. So even though the it exceeds the limit, it is actually OK. But even so, the architect and/or developers have to declare the approved incursion.

The element that I was referring to as a very minor incursion was the roof top arch that is 3.5 ft. higher than the 50 ft. limit. Given that the arch is just an arch, that it is not office space, etc....and that the arch will be barely visible except from above, I felt that it was a minor incursion.

The fact is that they could remove the arch but still keep the 11 ft. (permissable) incursion due to the mechanicals. But seeing how the arch has been deemed as an appropriate enhancement to the design and that the net effect to casual observer is that you won\\\'t notice it from the street - an opinion that it is minor seems appropriate. I also find that giving them a minor waiver is a pretty good trade-off when you consider that they are going to build approximately 65 parking spaces when they are only required to build 23.

You can disagree - that\\\'s OK with me. I was totally against Maybell and voted No on D....but I hope you now have a better understanding of what is actually happening at the 500 University site.

I don\\\'t know what personal remark you made about me because it was deleted. But just in case you implied as much...I am not the architect, developer or have any business/financial interest in the project.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Really?, a resident of Old Mountain View,
on Dec 9, 2013 at 3:23 pm

Deleted. Not responsive to the thread.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Steve Levy, a Almanac Online blogger,
on Dec 10, 2013 at 2:06 pm

Steve Levy is a registered user.

@ Burned out in traffic.

Please in further posts respond to the issues I raised, which were about the rights of property owners and how to handle the growth that will occur.

As far as your comments about the fact that I cannot drive (poor eyesight) I wonder if you considered how insensitive that could feel. You, of course, can always choose not to drive and therefore avoid traffic jams but I never had the choice to drive. Think about what that means in terms of personal mobility or being able to drive your children anywhere.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Steve Levy, a Almanac Online blogger,
on Dec 10, 2013 at 2:08 pm

Steve Levy is a registered user.

@ really

If you want to complain about development, there are plenty of other threads on Town Square where that is going on.

If you want to post on this thread, please read my blog and respond to the questions I pose.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Burned out in traffic, a resident of Charleston Gardens,
on Dec 10, 2013 at 11:33 pm

I have no idea--and your bio does not disclose, Steve, why you do do not drive, i.e., cannot versus do not drive. Before you accuse me of insensitivity, please note I have been legally blind--without a correction--since I was ten years old.

But, even with a vision correction, don't assume that I can always CHOOSE not to drive. Unlike many of the millionaires and billionaires who live in our city, I must hold a job; I have a mortgage. Worse still, I have an employer who requires me to show up at their premises each day. So it's quite simple, if I choose not to show up at work each day, my employer will hire someone who will. Therefore, good vision or bad, I will not be able to continue living in Palo Alto unless I can find a comparable job (its not necessarily that easy to find one, and don't forget the possibility of layoffs), or I drive to work. The most recent traffic study results suggest that I am not alone in this.

Per your request that I "please in further posts respond to the issues I raised, which were about the rights of property owners and how to handle the growth that will occur", I do not agree with the central premise that growth **must** occur.

We have to accept that there are limits to growth, the question is where we draw the line. Homeowners popping the top on their bungalows are not contributing to the density problem. We don't all agree on the proper amount of growth here in Palo Alto. If I wanted to live in a high density place like Manhattan, Hong Kong or Tokyo, I already would.

We should take a breather on Palo Alto growth and figure out how to address the existing business traffic, and the impacts of growth and traffic on today's residents, workers, and children's health. Today, many people stew in stopped traffic on weekday mornings, breathing fumes that are unhealthy, while they themselves are frustrated and angry. While I sit in such gridlock as a Palo Alto homeowner, I often wonder why we paid so much to live in Palo Alto to sit idling in traffic--Mountain View and Menlo Park are looking better every day.

Re: workers offered a position in Palo Alto, who wants to take a job to sit in two hours of stop and go traffic each day each way twice a day? The current situation is no healthier for our businesses and their employees than it is for residents.

Palo Alto must do something creative about the infrastructure, enabling people to transport across the city, not just north to south by Caltrans, or private company bus. Don't assume everyone can hop on bikes or that traffic-calming does not force traffic onto side streets never designed to handle it.

And, the reality is that we cannot dump all the growth and all the high density projects on the southern parts of Palo Alto. The infrastructure there was not designed for it.

Developers build, take their profits, and go. Developers don't have to live every day with the consequences of their spurious traffic studies and planned communities. But I do.




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