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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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Most Seniors do not Need Senior Housing But Could Benefit from other Choice to Remain in Palo Alto

Uploaded: Apr 22, 2014
Palo Alto has a large number of residents aged 65 and above—17% of the city's population compared to 11% for the state and region. In addition most of the baby boom generation will join the "senior" age group over the next 5 to 15 years. The 65 and above population is poised to surge in the state and region and it is likely that this trend will affect Palo Alto depending on the housing choices of "seniors" and the city.

I put "seniors" in quotation marks because most residents over the age of 65 are still very active either at work or in community and family affairs. The share of people over 55, over 65 and over 75 who are working has been increasing steadily and is projected to continue growing as health and longevity continues to improve.

While some of the city's over 65 population will now or in the future want to live in "senior housing" or places that provide an array of services in addition to places to live, most seniors will not want senior housing at least for many years to come.

Some seniors will stay in their existing residences. Some might move to be close to family members. But some and, I think, an increasing number, will want to remain in Palo Alto but live independently, just not in the larger single family home where they once lived.

I think there is unmet demand for living in still spacious but smaller units near downtown or California Avenue where walking to shopping or dining and other activities is easily available. That is our experience and the experience and choice of many families who live in our condo development downtown. We also have families with children who appreciate being in a more walkable, transit accessible area.

I am not talking here about subsidized housing or the need for more facilities like Channing House as our senior population ages.

I am hoping readers will discuss what the city should do to allow more of our growing over 65 population to remain in Palo Alto if and when they want to move out of their single family homes. I hope we allow them that choice.

Comments

Posted by Everyone has needs, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Apr 22, 2014 at 2:15 pm

I think this is kind of a silly conversation to have. The seniors among us who are working are generally far better off financially and far more stable that their younger counterparts. Often they have very small mortgages and extremely small tax bills, and savings accumulated from years of having such small housing costs relative to their younger counterparts. The property tax bill of a senior neighbor can be $1500/yr, and that of their next-door neighbor, $20,000/yr, for basically the same house.

Many of the younger residents really struggle and sacrifice to live here. The phenomenon of Silicon Valley "House Poor", where people pay so much for their housing, they have little to live on. It is those residents, who typically move away when their kids finish school, who we should be talking about, if we think it's the public's responsibility to somehow make it possible for anyone who wants to stay in this place to remain here.

We didn't begin our life in Silicon Valley able to afford Palo Alto, and we will almost certainly be among the house poor who leave when schooling is done. I can be a political moderate/liberal on many issues, but this is a situation where messing with the marketplace too much creates a kind of public lottery to benefit a few who may or may not deserve it any more than those who are paying for it. In fact, if the compromise is quality of life overall, it's hurting property values, which are many people's only asset because of the great sacrifices made to be here.

The seniors got all the benefits of Prop 13, the increase in housing, the quality of life here until now, I just don't think anyone owes them anything as a group, particularly since overall, they are doing better financially overall than some other demographics.


Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park,
on Apr 22, 2014 at 3:04 pm

Hello Stephen. Not a personal comment or necessarily focused on your opinion...but to be frank, this comes across (to me) as just another angle taken towards trying to convince PA residents to build high-density, high-rise housing along ECR, Alma and/or public transit routes/stations.

Such advocates have tried other demographic pleas to convince PA residents to build high: senior studio apartments (not going to leave their homes unless on a slab); then it was young families (still too expensive and no room at our schools anyway); lately it has been single young professionals (who are all now in SF and don't want PA) --- now an unquantified/measured number of seniors.

Speaking for myself - I'm still not convinced. The arguments have come across to me as "flavor of the month" rather than truly compelling reasons to change what we have today. If anything, the general tenor has definitely needled over to the "pull-back" mode. I don't have any data to support this, just my perception of the mood of PA these days.

Thanks for leading your blog - I enjoy reading, debating and thinking.


Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park,
on Apr 22, 2014 at 3:21 pm

One other factor to consider: long-time PA homeowners are looking at seriously significant tax hit when they sell their homes. This would explain why most seniors (besides the fact that they love their neighborhoods, friends and gardens) why most do not want to leave their homes...


Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park,
on Apr 22, 2014 at 3:22 pm

Sorry for the awful text above. Did not proof read - yuk!


Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park,
on Apr 22, 2014 at 3:22 pm

Sorry for the awful text above. Did not proof read - yuk!


Posted by Marc, a resident of Willowgate,
on Apr 22, 2014 at 4:55 pm

I live in Mid-town Palo Alto. None of my neighbors who bought their homes in the 1970's, have them fully paid off and pay less then $1000 per year in taxes are ever going to move to "senior housing" in any part of Palo Alto. They are going to stay in their house until they die are carted off to some care facility.

What do you expect them to do? Sell the home they bought for $17,500 for $2.1 million and then pay $800,000 to $1.2 million for a tiny apartment along El Camino with yearly taxes of $15,000? That doesn't make any social or economic sense. They are better off living right where they are.

/marc


Posted by neighbor, a resident of another community,
on Apr 22, 2014 at 6:48 pm

Crescent Park Dad
Don't apologize for your text errors. In his article, Mr. Levy started the second paragraph with this phrase: I put "seniors" in PARENTHESES....etc."

Evidently he is a little unclear about the difference between parentheses and quotation marks.

BTW, I definitely agree with the substance of your comments about the article.


Posted by Everyone has needs, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Apr 22, 2014 at 9:22 pm

@ Crescent Park Dad,
Very well said. Please send your comments to city.council@cityopaloalto.org

Who knows, maybe from Crescent Park they'll ignore you less than the rest of us!


Posted by Everyone has needs, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Apr 22, 2014 at 9:23 pm

Speaking of typos...

city.council@cityofpaloalto.org


Posted by Everyone has needs, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Apr 22, 2014 at 9:30 pm

I just heard a news story -- the youngest don't want to live here, it's not San Francisco. They'll want to live here when they get older and start having kids -- but only if we offer something different and better, like this place used to be, and don't blot out the sun, hills, sky, and cut down all the trees by then.

We need to keep Palo Alto a family-friendly place, and stop allowing this City Council to let developers have their way with us. It's not possible to build our way to affordability unless the building destroys quality of life. And then it will be too late to do something about the slide.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Apr 22, 2014 at 10:02 pm

Eduardo Martinez commented to the city council last night, regarding city planning: "We have the attitude that we know what we're doing, and if only the public understood it, they would just go along with us."

He wasn't talking about Our Palo Alto and Steve Levy, but it sounds like he might as well have been.


Posted by DBAG, a resident of Old Mountain View,
on Apr 23, 2014 at 12:14 am

I agree with a commenter above... People like Levy are trying so hard to ruin the beauty of our small cities. If density is so great, why don't more people strive to live in downtown SJ??

Palo Alto and Mountain View have people wanting to live and work here because it is still nice. Crap it up like SJ and that will change...

People like Levy are profiting on the ABAG bandwagon. Rather than punishing cities for attracting employers, why not go after places like Atherton and Los Altos that comply with ABAG ratios by keeping employers out? How does that make any sense???


Posted by Joe, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Apr 23, 2014 at 7:23 am

It's amazing how people like Steven Levy know what other people want and need as they move through their 65th birthday, and beyond. Wonder if Mr. Levy has actually talked to hundreds of Palo Alto seniors, determining their net worth, their person view of staying in this town as they get older, and what might be the trigger to cause them to want to move on?

It's also amazing that Steven Levy seems convinced that none of the folks who live here in this age range are capable of thinking for themselves, or making plans for their own welfare.

With Steven Levy's tireless efforts to destroy what is left of this town—who is going to want to live here and watch the neighborhoods rebuilt in Levy's image—of high rises, government mandated housing and transportation. Maybe this is Levy's view of paradise—but it's not likely to be that of most seniors living here.


Posted by Anonymous, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Apr 23, 2014 at 9:30 am

Prop. 13 means that no senior is going to sell and move to senior housing until they absolutely have to. New senior housing will cater to new residents, not existing seniors.


Posted by Brian, a resident of Evergreen Park,
on Apr 23, 2014 at 10:06 am

A few people on this thread have mentioned the capital gains and property tax hits that seniors will take when they sell their house and move to smaller housing. There are two things that could make these less of a problem for some people. First, in California (a community property state), if one spouse dies, the entire property gets a step-up in basis, making the capital gains tax zero if you sell near that time. Of course this only helps if one of the spouses dies. The second thing is that you can trade down (sell a large house and buy a smaller one) and keep your low property tax bill if you are over 55 and stay in the same county. Some counties accept people from other counties.


Posted by Garrett, a resident of another community,
on Apr 23, 2014 at 10:26 am

What about those who don't own a home, who jobs just couldn't let them get a job which I am not talking low income? What about those small numbers of who decided to move to senior housing just because the family home is getting way too much.

It seem the 60 units that was planned at Maybell is just the tip of ice berg. I am 50 years old, graduated from high school in 1983 with a call of 410 students. The numbers of people hitting the age of senior housing any kind of senior housing it going to be big.

Remember the baby boom and all those children that needed schools, fast forward today. Senior Housing, we are going to need more senior units then schools.


Posted by Joe, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Apr 23, 2014 at 12:02 pm

Seems like Garrett (another community) doesn't see much value in creating a lifetime personal financial plan, which would identify all of the likely expenses in one's life--setting in place savings programs that would allow each of us to live our lives without becoming a ward of the state when we get into our twilight years.

Once there gets to be too many Garretts out there--it's hard to believe that the US will be much of a place to want to live.


Posted by Everyone has needs, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Apr 23, 2014 at 12:06 pm

@Garrett,
Did you see this thread? It could be a way to provide more without the drama. And get data first. My next door neighbor just cashed out and moved to some retirement playground on a golf course near kids in the East Bay.

Web Link

When DID it become an entitlement to live in Palo Alto anyway? However, there are ways for existing seniors who have enjoyed the greatest benefits to make it possible for others. See the link.


Posted by pat, a resident of Midtown,
on Apr 23, 2014 at 12:07 pm

@Marc: You put it very succinctly with your example of the ramifications of selling a home purchased in the 70s and buying a condo at today's prices. Or renting. I just checked the rent for a 1-bedroom in Midtown: $2720/month!

Senior seniors in their 80s are still (safely) driving and don't want to give up their freedom. So why would they feel the need to live within walking distance of everything? When the time comes to give up a car might be the time one has to consider assisted living.

@Joe: Yes, Levy always seems to know what's best for all of us.


Posted by Kate, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis,
on Apr 23, 2014 at 12:57 pm

Steve Levy , ABAG's best friend and all seniors' life counselor, has always been a proponent of getting seniors out of their homes. Maybe his other job is in real estate so he can 'cash in'. Yes, the capital gains tax is a financial killer. Most decent retirement and care facilities cost at LEAST $6K month - for starters. Seniors can stay in their homes and hire assistance if need be. Maybe what IS significant is the number of calls and letters seniors get from realtors who even know their age, how long they have lived in the house (well, anyone with computer skills can find that out). and bold out ask if they are planning to move. I am not going anywhere except feet first out the door. What training does Levy have to be everybody's life counselor? Enough already!!


Posted by resident 1, a resident of Adobe-Meadows,
on Apr 23, 2014 at 1:10 pm

When people sell their homes the tsx assessment of the home is now base-lined to the current sale value. That means that the home is now producing more property tax. Much better for the city than a bunch of homes that were purchased in the 60's, 70's, and beyond which have a low tax assessed value. If you watched the CC meeting on the financial budget the tax assessed value of property was an element of the budget.

The idea that you want to get people out of their homes is a windfall for the city. If people are selling their homes and moving into corporate owned senior homes than that is a transfer of wealth and a windfall for the provider of the senior housing.

Stanford U encourages it's seniors to sell and move on because it owns the property, has a limited number of acres to work with, and wants to provide housing for it's new crop of young professors.

Mr. Levy gets paid to bet the drum for seniors moving into senior housing. That is his job.


Posted by stephen levy, a resident of University South,
on Apr 23, 2014 at 2:20 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

In a blog titled Most Seniors do not need Senior Housing and is about providing other options, some of these comments like the one above are strange.

Perhaps posters are so caught up in what they want that they don't actually read what I wrote.

And in a blog where I call for more CHOICE, it is hard to understand posters saying that I (and not they) are saying what people should and should not do.

If posters are right and no one wants to live and make the choice we made, then no one will build more condos downtown.

I do kind of suspect, though, that the naysayers know that I am right about the demand and just want to restrict choice.

Since nearly all of the new housing built here is in multi-family units and is selling quite well, the argument that no one wants to live this way are also strange and also insulting to the folks including five families with kids that live where I do.


Posted by questions, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis,
on Apr 23, 2014 at 3:01 pm

What specifically would be "still spacious but smaller units?"
Also, for those who hire in-home assistance for seniors, understand that is also costly and involved. You've got an employee or two or are paying an agency to handle all the screening, paperwork, payments, taxes....
What about shared housing - there was some news about an innovative building in Mountain View that could accommodate some seniors (not ill/frail) who could contribute to the community, presumably, but not have to keep up a large house/property or move into a sterile, small room at a senior community. Anyone know how that has worked out?
Transportation is a BIG deal for seniors. Many are continuing to drive who shouldn't be doing that...risky. The city should exert some effort on that issue.


Posted by Very telling, a resident of College Terrace,
on Apr 23, 2014 at 3:15 pm

"I do kind of suspect, though, that the naysayers know that I am right."

My Levy: This sort of response typifies your worldview -- you attempt to belittle anyone who does not agree with you, while failing to respond to any material counterpoints to your claims. This weakens your argument and your credibility. If your opinions were so consistently valid, you'd have an easier time debating them without resorting to dismissive arrogance.


Posted by stephen levy, a resident of University South,
on Apr 23, 2014 at 3:37 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

@ very telling

I have made three arguments.

1) the 65+ population is going to grow.

2) some of these additional seniors will like the choice of living in market rate non-assisted living environments like downtown

3) Such living spaces seem to be in high demand.

Which material counterarguments are you referring to?

What do YOU think is incorrect about these points?

And what do you think about the tone and credibility of this comment below from a post above which is provided as accusation and is false besides being off point because this blog is not about 'SENIOR HOUSING" as clearly stated.

"Mr. Levy gets paid to bet the drum for seniors moving into senior housing. That is his job."

And I absolutely do think most posters know that market rate condos downtown would appeal to some seniors. Which part do you disagree with?

Remember that "some" of a population group that is growing is a large enough market for the city to consider their choices in the Comp Plan.


Posted by stephen levy, a resident of University South,
on Apr 23, 2014 at 3:43 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

@ questions

I think spacious but smaller might be in the 1,200-1,700 square foot range.

I think shared housing is an interesting concept.

Another part of providing a city with choices but I am not knowledgeable about implementing it.


Posted by Nora Charles, a resident of Stanford,
on Apr 23, 2014 at 5:22 pm

Nora Charles is a registered user.

This is an excellent and most necessary discussion to have.

I'm sure for many (and some of us who are not quite seniors!) the burden of taking care of a house, garden, car, grocery shopping, medical appts., et cetera, can be overwhelming, especially if one is alone. It's something all of us will face, and it's never too early to start thinking about it.


Posted by neighbor, a resident of another community,
on Apr 23, 2014 at 7:52 pm

à chacun son goût -- it might be French, but it's the American way.

Those who want to stay in their homes should do so, those who want to move should do so. It's an individual choice and preference.


Posted by resident 1, a resident of Adobe-Meadows,
on Apr 23, 2014 at 9:45 pm

Mr. Levy - look at the last paragraph of your blog - You are talking about the city "allowing then to do so". "I hope they allow them that choice."
Look at your choice of words - the city is not allowing anything - People will live in their homes as long as they want, will move if they want, and will exercise their own choice in the matter. The city has nothing to do with it.


Posted by Bob, a resident of Community Center,
on Apr 23, 2014 at 9:49 pm

Steve Levy wonders what the city can do to assist more seniors to stay in the homes. Here is #1.
#1STOP raising utility rates. Seniors are home more than those who work outside the home, and also seniors feel the
cold more than younger people. Stop nickel and dime-ing the utilities of everybody especially seniors.
#2 And another issue: please stop micromanaging and future-planning other people's lives.
#3 Maybe Steve can recruit another mortuary now that we have only one for the entire city. That should keep him busy.
#4 Improve the shuttle and bus system.


Posted by Bob, a resident of Community Center,
on Apr 23, 2014 at 9:49 pm

Steve Levy wonders what the city can do to assist more seniors to stay in the homes. Here is #1.
#1STOP raising utility rates. Seniors are home more than those who work outside the home, and also seniors feel the
cold more than younger people. Stop nickel and dime-ing the utilities of everybody especially seniors.
#2 And another issue: please stop micromanaging and future-planning other people's lives.
#3 Maybe Steve can recruit another mortuary now that we have only one for the entire city. That should keep him busy.
#4 Improve the shuttle and bus system.


Posted by stephen levy, a resident of University South,
on Apr 24, 2014 at 6:35 am

stephen levy is a registered user.

Thanks resident for pointing out the possible confusion about my use of the word "allow".

I mean city policies to allow more downtown and Cal Ave condos and apartments.

Choice means both the choice of seniors to decide how they want to live but also that these choices are available in the community.

A growing number of seniors, some of whom will not want to stay in the homes where they raised their children, will require new housing units in both independent and assisted living arrangements to "allow" them to stay here if they wish.

Folks may not like this policy but the numbers are surely correct.


Posted by questions, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis,
on Apr 24, 2014 at 8:35 am

@Stephen Levy,
wow, 1700 sq ft DOES make for a good quality of living. Are you thinking of something like the luxury senior condo building downtown which I think is called "The Hamilton?" (I have no personal knowledge of it, have only read of it in the newspaper, but it is VERY expensive). If there is some way older persons can downsize in an agreeable, sensible way (assuming no need for assisted living, etc.) then that would be great. I personally know a person in late 90's who lives independently and more of us are likely to be able to do this in the coming years.
How can we make a situation wherein seniors can sell their large homes and move into a 1700 sq ft space? That would be totally reasonable.
I will try to look up the info on the Mt View shared housing (not particularly aimed at seniors, but I believe they planned for the possibility of including retired persons). It makes sense for widowed persons who are sociable.


Posted by Everyone has needs, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Apr 24, 2014 at 9:01 am

Wow, the wealthy seniors among us sure are navel gazing. Most of the younger counterparts who are paying for their city services can only dream of upszing to 1700 sq ft. And while they are whining about not having enough choices, and screaming at us for wanting to protect the quality of life we are sacrificing for our children in ways they will never know, the rest of us are planning for where we will move afterwards because there's no way to afford here.

In many wealthy European nations with a high quality of life, there is a social pact for seniors to downsize (and yes, move to wht are arguably superior senior quarters to what could ever be available here, but usually not exactly in the same place) so families have the space to raise children. Here, the seniors ask the families to pack in and sacrifice their longterm investment value so that the seniors continue to enjoy more of the wealth and have their choices.


Posted by Garrett83, a resident of another community,
on Apr 24, 2014 at 9:38 am

Garrett83 is a registered user.

You don't know me and my financial plans. I was late end baby boomer from this area which I know about the schools closing when enrollment dropped.

Just turned 50 years old which I am getting closer to senior housing along with the hundreds ahead of me. I don't ecpect to live in Palo Alto but I expect hpusing to be built for the baby boomers.

We did not all get into high paying jobs.


Posted by randy albin, a resident of Mountain View,
on Apr 24, 2014 at 10:48 am

where are those $35,000 houses that were in palo alto? how can someone go to avenidas when they can't afford the cost of living? how ridiculous of a predicament for older people. someone fix this quick


Posted by Joe, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Apr 24, 2014 at 12:08 pm

> Since nearly all of the new housing built here is in multi-family
> units and is selling quite well

And just how many units are we talking about? Hundreds? Thousands?

The number of units going up in Palo Alto is not that very large. Another question not easily answered from reading Steve Levy posts is who is buying these units? With a lot of excess cash on hand, buying real estate as an investment is a lot different than buying a single family house that costs three to five times more.

It would be a lot better to see the data--than have to wade through a bunch of "trust me" posts.


Posted by resident 1, a resident of Adobe-Meadows,
on Apr 24, 2014 at 12:12 pm

You all need to start reading the Real Estate Section of the papers. It shows where the new houses are being built - how much they cost in the various regions. Then look at sales on the existing homes throughout the bay area. That is telling you what is specifically in this area. It is unrealistic to think that the existing land values are going to produce some windfall living arrangement for the majority of elders.

Churches have great retirement communities across the nation - check the local communities in the area to see what the offerings are.

Most people I have worked with plan on going out of state in retirement - Florida, Arizona, and now Portland, Oregon. Many are moving up to the foothills of northern California where they can get a home for a much lower price.

Avenidas in Palo Alto is a great resource and help in this matter.


Posted by Sylvia, a resident of Monroe Park,
on Apr 24, 2014 at 1:32 pm

This is a long thread, and I got worn out trying to see if my point had been made. Someone posted that someone selling their 1970's house would then pay $20K property taxes in a new place. As I understand it, as a senior, you can buy another property and maintain your Prop 13 tax advantage when you move, if it's either within your county or a county that reciprocates (San Mateo?)


Posted by stephen levy, a resident of University South,
on Apr 24, 2014 at 1:46 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

@ Sylvia

Brian made this point but it is worth repeating because some posters did not understand the current Prop 13 law for this situation.


Posted by Garrett, a resident of another community,
on Apr 24, 2014 at 1:57 pm

Anybody with cash or financing can buy a home, you have have to pay you monthly payment and taxes. I think even in 70's people couldn't afford Palo Alto, going south was the next best thing. In the 70's you could buy a reasonable prices home in Santa Clara or even Cupertino, but those are the good old days.

I remember prices rising over the years, late 70's, a few times in the 80's and big push in the 90's but it seem after 2000 prices weren't up. Remember not everyone has high paying jobs or landed a job in the tech industry. Drive up and down El Camino Real today, was much different 25 years ago, most people did land jobs with small businesses.

As for seniors, the numbers are growing, not all of them own or will even afford to keep a large family home with 2nd floors, large years and living alone with 2 1/2 half baths. Driving ability, walking ability can depend how will you age, others do well and still work and function.

Always remember lots of seniors donate time to keep busy, so might want to stay here and help out. Others seniors might just want to stay around because it is home and they want to stay. Yes moving to the country might sound good, but it has drawbacks, poor transportation, poor medical choices, social services also poor and lack of housing choices. Not all seniors are ready to be catered off to a care home or have the funds to live in country club like settings.


Posted by pat, a resident of another community,
on Apr 24, 2014 at 4:11 pm

@Very telling: Thanks for your spot-on assessment of Mr. Levy's worldview. Labeling the opposition "naysayers" and claiming they know he's right takes his argument down to the grade school playground level. He seems to maintain his high opinion of himself by denigrating others.


Posted by stephen levy, a resident of University South,
on Apr 24, 2014 at 4:25 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

@ pat

You have a chance to answer the questions below I put to "very telling". Or do you have nothing to contribute to the conversation except not liking what I write?

I have made three arguments.

1) the 65+ population is going to grow.

2) some of these additional seniors will like the choice of living in market rate non-assisted living environments like downtown

3) Such living spaces seem to be in high demand.

Which material counterarguments are you referring to?

What do YOU think is incorrect about these points?

And what do you think about the tone and credibility of this comment below from a post above which is provided as accusation and is false besides being off point because this blog is not about 'SENIOR HOUSING" as clearly stated.

"Mr. Levy gets paid to bet the drum for seniors moving into senior housing. That is his job."

And I absolutely do think most posters know that market rate condos downtown would appeal to some seniors. Which part do you disagree with?

Remember that "some" of a population group that is growing is a large enough market for the city to consider their choices in the Comp Plan.


Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park,
on Apr 24, 2014 at 4:39 pm

At the risk of being redundant - the problem with this latest argument for high rise / high density housing in PA is that there is no data to support the theory (as it applies to PA).

Yes - senior demograhic is growing in number. What is that number in 10 years? We don't know.

"Some of these additional seniors will like the choice of---". But "some" has not been quantified. Further "where" has not been identified and/or quantified. As such, we have no idea of how many PA seniors may pull of stakes and move to Palm Springs, San Diego or some other sunny California/Arizona climate. We just don't know - period. It is all guessing and posturing in the meantime.

"...in high demand" - again, where? Portola Valley? Newport? PA? Again, there is no data to support the "PA must build high and dense argument".

At this point, the only thing we *do* know is that PA residents have recently rejected an over-sized, zone-waived, senior/BMR/multi-family housing project. And we do know that residents had a conniption when the 27 University Avenue project was sprung upon us.

In other words, what we do know is that the majority of PA residents are against building higher density, high rise, zone waiving buildings of any flavor.


Posted by makes sense, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Apr 24, 2014 at 8:18 pm

Adding small units near amenities suitable for seniors or tech professionals w.o children is the most cost-effective way to satisfy our ABAG requirement to build 100s of new housing units without impacting the schools. History has shown that there's strong demand for any type of housing in Palo Alto.


Posted by ahisee, a resident of another community,
on Apr 25, 2014 at 12:28 am

Oh, I see. Levy is stating that seniors would like to live in Palo Alto and the demand outstrips the supply and challenging us all to disagree with those statements. Of course, the problem is not that he is wrong, but the next thing he argues is that we build up high density units to meet this demand--at any cost!

Sorry Steve--please tell your ABAG friends that you have failed to convince your neighbors that we should destroy our city because people want to move into it. If your only justification is that "Uh, well..people want to move here!", then please reflect on this and maybe understand why few agree.

Unfortunately, we have the Smart Growthers working with the destroyandrunaway developers and leaving us all squashed in between.

Levy--tell your abag buddies to just keep building towers in downtown San jose. It has train, lightrail, bus, hospitals...probably even MORE than one mortuary! And best of all? Nobody will give a rats *ss what you do there, since it is already SmartGrowthed/Uglified.


Posted by soon to be empty nest, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Apr 25, 2014 at 12:59 am

Stephen Levy

"1) the 65+ population is going to grow.

2) some of these additional seniors will like the choice of living in market rate non-assisted living environments like downtown

3) Such living spaces seem to be in high demand.

Which material counterarguments are you referring to?

What do YOU think is incorrect about these points?"

You have no basis to make assumption 3. It all depends.

If the seniors are working, generating income and are wealthy, they seek MORE space not to downsize.

The ones who have stayed around this long, can afford it, and are not working but are ENJOYING their life, as it is, without moving (which is as stressful as a divorce) will not move unless it's a forced event.

Downsizing is not a sought after "choice" in Palo Alto The houses are not high maintenance mansions, and believe it or not seniors still have other seniors in their neighborhoods who they rely on as neighbors.

When you say "such living spaces seem to be in high demand, you're really referring to high density housing is in demand. Yes, but not by the growing senior base.

In a few years I will soon become a statistic of empty nest and future senior. I'm not seeking a condo downtown. I can't imagine why I would live there. It's becoming a cold office park.

The conclusion about the growing senior base stat could as easily mean that senior populations currently not living here also want a house here. There are many parents of Stanford students who buy here, many grandparents of PAUSD kids who can afford to buy here.


Posted by K, a resident of University South,
on Apr 25, 2014 at 5:38 am

Thank you Mr. Levy. The concerns that you have should be a national discussion. Where are those of us who are middle class, the 99%, who rent and cannot necessarily afford a mortgage (especially here in Palo Alto), who don't trust the shenanigans of Wall Street, who therefore save earnestly in low interest accounts in hopes of a safe place to live in old age, what are our modest options? I came to Palo Alto ten years ago. I've lived in a room downtown, less than 275 square feet on about 30 Amps electricity max! I have no stove and no workable fridge, just a sink or a "kitchen area", they call it, there is a very small separate bath, so that's a luxury in my book. Nevertheless, it's great living downtown, even with very little b/c you can walk or bike to everything! I'm 58 years old and counting, hope to be here for a very long time. My point is that living in a small space, downtown is really kinda fun:) I just wish there were more choices for affordable housing!


Posted by resident 1, a resident of Adobe-Meadows,
on Apr 25, 2014 at 9:57 am

web master - there are 7 duplicate entrees above which was unintended. I am seeing this problem more and more for many contributors - check your program - has error.


Posted by CrescentParkAnon., a resident of Crescent Park,
on Apr 25, 2014 at 11:03 am

"resident 1" ... I've noticed this ( duplicate posting ) happens when you click the SUBMIT button more than once. It is mostly an honest mistake, or just in frustration because sometimes nothing seems to be happening perhaps people just sit on the button or click it many times. Then at some point they all get transmitted at once. You are right, there should be a check so the same person and the same post cannot get posted.


Posted by stephen levy, a resident of University South,
on Apr 25, 2014 at 11:32 am

stephen levy is a registered user.

Resident 1

I apologize for not getting to this sooner. I have been dealing with a broken finger.

The duplicates should be gone now.


Posted by Marie, a resident of Midtown,
on Apr 25, 2014 at 11:38 am

Marie is a registered user.

While I believe there is a lot of demand for high rise condos in Palo Alto, I do not believe that demand comes from current seniors in Palo Alto. New high density apartments and condos do nothing to improve the quality of life of current residents and much to detract from it. Even less does Palo Alto need any new office buildings. What it does need is more affordable housing for current residents about to be displaced by very expensive office space and condos. What happened to all the people in the moderate income assisted living facility that was transformed into the $500 a night Epiphany Hotel? Let's find a way to keep the residents of Buena Vista in Palo Alto. Let's find a way to turn the mobile home park into affordable housing for more people. Isn't there some partnership that would allow them to keep their current mobile homes, upgrade them and at the same time add some reasonable (i.e. compliant with current zoning) low-moderate income apartments on the site?

As a senior living in my own home in Palo Alto, I would never have been willing to downsize to a 600 sq. ft. apartment with no access to grocery stores or mass transit. What makes sense for me, is to stay where I am as long as I can, and most likely move to someplace like Channing House in my mid-70's, knowing I will never have to move again. To go to the trouble and expense to move to a downtown condo, pay high monthly fees and contend with who knows what kind of neighbors, has no appeal, only to have to move again when I need more help than you can easily get in your home.

Finding reliable honest helpers when one has become limited in mobility and sadly, often in intellect, is very difficult. After seeing relatives suffer in such situations, that would be my last choice.

Ideally, I would not sell my home, but be able to leave it to my children who would benefit from the last middle class tax benefit, the stepped up basis at one's death, to be able to avoid paying any capital gains tax at all on my appreciated home. I don't think I have to worry about exceeding the $5M exemption to inheritance tax. Even if I did, there will be plenty of money to go around, and I would not begrudge the government their share.

So please try to find some other justification for new luxury condos in downtown and around CA Ave. (where rentals would probably start at $5000 sales would start over $1.5M) than Palo Alto's seniors, who are unlikely to be willing to pay more to get less. Try coming up with a scheme for new housing to meet Palo Alto's real need for moderate and low income housing for younger families. I voted against the Maybell development, not only because of the excessive density, but also because I knew it would not my needs and I doubted it would meet the needs of any seniors I know, in any income bracket.


Posted by Steve Levy, a Almanac Online blogger,
on Apr 25, 2014 at 11:52 am

Steve Levy is a registered user.

Thanks Marie and others. I have also had trouble with the lag when you hit submit.


Posted by Kay, a resident of Palo Verde,
on Apr 27, 2014 at 6:00 am

Dear Mr. Levy:
It is pretty obvious that Palo Alto is a BUILT OUT city. There is an unmet demand from every demographic group to live in Palo Alto. Your opinion for seniors is that they would like to live near downtown or Calif. Ave. to be within walking distance to shopping and other activities. Seniors still need to drive, like the rest of us. In the last 3 years, Page Mill, East Meadow, San Antonio have become parking lots because of your ABAG projections and up zoning from our City Council. The seniors on my block in South Palo Alto are not interested in living in a concrete, densified, ugly high rise condominium with no parking, just so they can stay in Palo Alto. They are staying put and mostly deciding to move out of here for a NICE retirement area with trees, parks, recreation,clean air and NO TRAFFIC. \
Since you also mention what a great choice it is for families to also live in condos who"appreciate being in a more walkable , transit accessible area." Our family enjoys living in our residential, tree lined street, park 2 blocks away, shopping 4 blocks away, library nearby, but we don't like our overcrowded elementary school, way too much traffic--waiting 3-5 minutes to cross Middlefield, getting stuck on Page Mill/San Antonio for long periods of time(30 min.+) to drive to soccer practice,school events,music lessons,religious school, playdates and watching more dense up-zoned housing units threaten to make it even worse. Living in Palo Alto and watching firsthand the Los Angelization of this area and now the Manhattanization of our town is a very sad commentary for us (native sons/daughters of Palo Alto).



Posted by Cheryl Lilienstein, a resident of Barron Park,
on Apr 27, 2014 at 10:56 am

What I am concerned about is our community is being used as an investment portfolio.
As well as a parking lot.

Let's talk about outside of downtown.

As I go around looking at the high density housing around my South Palo Alto neighborhood, I find elders, yes, who frequently are not speaking English to me when I say hello. I have an assumption just as valid as Mr Levy's, (since like you I have no data about "what seniors want", and like you, just an interpretation of my own experience) and here it is:
The very expensive high density housing --without "neighborhood-serving retail" --is being purchased not by local seniors or people who have lived here and recognize the benefits of a neighborhood-friendly community, but by immigrant families who have moved here to benefit from jobs and schools and need a home for their parents. This is just my experience, and my assumption: that some family needs are being met by some families who have money enough to buy whatever the market will bear, just in order to live here. Here is the rest of my assumption: When the kids have been educated, the dwellings will be sold to the next people who value education, and our community will be used like a pleasant investment portfolio.

Some of us prefer to live in places where we can build and count on lasting connections. We want our lives to matter to our neighbors. I hope that the newcomers plan to stay and create community, rather than treating Palo Alto simply as an investment or a launch pad. What would make this possible? Slowing down the building of commercial space, for one.

This is a request to all builders --and the city's zoning regulations--that whether high density is built or not, builders need to provide spacious, convivial "third" places for people to encounter one another and create community.

And, (I am assuming, based on comments heard loud and clear from every driver going up and down El Camino) Palo Alto residents don't trust the present system NOT to build more ugly concrete blocks built out to the sidewalk, which create a sense of darkness and enclosure in a place that has historically enjoyed beauty and openness.

So while Mr Levy may prefer living downtown, I invite him to look beyond his own downtown experience when promoting high density. We need better zoning requirements, and designs that preserve the community, beauty, and openness many of us love. We all, seniors included, need that.


Posted by stephen levy, a resident of University South,
on Apr 27, 2014 at 11:51 am

stephen levy is a registered user.

Readers have raised a number of issues in this blog:
--There is either no demand for more multi-family housing, as Cheryl just argued, their preferences should not count because they are immigrants or transients treating PA as an investment forgoing "lasting connections" as Cheryl argues.

--Readers' friends don't want to live in multi-unit structures

--These structures are ugly and the people living in them are ruining Palo Alto and crowding schools and traffic.

As far as demand in general for multi-family housing, look at this week's Weekly, talk to a real estate friend, go to open houses, check out prices and rents—see for yourself. Condo prices and rents generally are surging. Time on the market is falling. The last two units sold in where I live went in one week and for far over the asking price.
I am confident that the demand is there and readers are finally acknowledging that.
As to senior preferences, I have my experience and those of people living downtown in mid-rise buildings BUT more to the point, the people on the Housing Element citizen's committee who work with seniors make the same point—more choices beyond aging in a single family home are the request of many PA seniors they meet.

Cheryl and Kay treasure their living experiences, But so do I and the folks in my building. To characterize them as transient and lacking real connections is not to know them. Our sense of connection here is as good and in some ways better than when we lived in a single family home. We have neighbors who cover for us when we are gone and vice versa, help with advice and are very friendly on a daily basis.
There are immigrants and long-time residents in our building. And some of the immigrants are or will be long-time residents. Many families here have lived here longer than we have (more than 8 years—FYI, we lived in our first PA neighborhood only 7 years).

Our life style is a way of life preferred by a growing number of families here and everywhere. I respect the choices of people who live in single-family homes (some of whom are renters and here temporarily). Why can't you respect my neighbors?

Are posters contending that the only people who "count" are those who own a single family home and have lived here for 40 years? I have been here 51 years.

The essence of CHOICE is to provide and honor different preferences, whether in religion, sexual orientation, or living preferences.

Here are four examples. In our building is a youngish dad and his son, two older men each living alone, a young couple from India who just had their first child and an older couple where the man retired from HP.
How are they ruining life in PA? Why is it okay to put them down and their housing choice Cheryl and Kay just because you prefer other choices?
Some multi-family structures are more pleasing to the eye than others but the same is true for single-family homes. What does that have to do with providing people with an array of housing choices?

I agree with Cheryl that better design is a goal for all building and I agree with that most new multi-family units need not go south of Oregon Ave—downtown and the Cal Ave area are better choices.


Posted by pat, a resident of Midtown,
on Apr 27, 2014 at 1:18 pm

@Kay, thank you for so perfectly describing the current situation, which grows worse by the day.

@Steve: You wrote, "I am confident that the demand is there and readers are finally acknowledging that."

FINALLY? I think we all have known for quite a while about the demand and the rising cost of housing.

Of course the condos in your building sold in a week! Everyone (who can afford it) wants to live here because of the schools and the nearness of Google, Facebook, Apple, …

Does that mean we should just keep building as long as people can afford to buy/rent? Where does it stop? Four stories, five, ten, 50? I'm sure developers would be happy to do build as many units as possible, because they would surely sell like hot cakes.

You say, "Why is it okay to put them (condo-dwellers) down …"

I don't see anyone putting condo-dwellers or Indians or Latinos or Chinese or anyone else down. It is you, Steve, who insist that everyone who doesn't share your view is a "naysayer."

Cheryl is right when she says there are many investors buying into Palo Alto. A friend in Crescent Park told me that a young man came to her door to show her plans for a home he was remodeling on the corner. He will not live there. He said, "My father is a real estate investor in New York and he told me that if I want to get started in the business I should buy property in Palo Alto."

One of the best things about living in Palo Alto is the diversity. It enriches all our lives. But just how many people can move into houses or condos or apartments before our quality of life is destroyed? It's already badly compromised.

It's not a matter of how many people want to live in Palo Alto or who can afford to live here. It's how many can the city support before we lose what brought us here.

"They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot
With a pink hotel, a boutique
And a swinging hot spot"

"Don't it always seem to go
That you don't know what you've got
Till it's gone
They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot"
Web Link


Posted by Robert, a resident of another community,
on Apr 27, 2014 at 5:17 pm

@pat

I think the basic question is, do you want to stop building and keep Palo Alto a nice place... for those who can afford it, in the light that I find it highly doubtful that you, nor most of the posters with agree that no more housing should be allowed, would fall into the category of those who can afford it. The housing market that exists, for right or wrong, doesn't particulary care about diversity, and I'm not entirely sure how much diversity you're going to get when there is literally no housing available for under a million.


Posted by Cheryl Lilienstein, a resident of Barron Park,
on Apr 28, 2014 at 8:52 am

Steve,
Why did you so entirely mischaracterize what I said?

Please do an accuracy check




Posted by stephen levy, a resident of University South,
on Apr 28, 2014 at 10:00 am

stephen levy is a registered user.

Cheryl,

You are free to clarify any place where you feel I did not accurately reflect what you were saying. Isn't that a simpler approach than an accusation?


Posted by Winnie in PA, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis,
on Apr 28, 2014 at 11:10 am

Sadly,many people in Palo Alto have a single minded view of entitlement. Any new topic or suggestion like what Steve said is misjudged as trying to enforce his own thoughts. I guess , what all of us are wanting to have in PA is a good affordable house for all people , seniors or newcomers who have a desire to call PA their home.Forever.I am one of them.


Posted by Cheryl Lilienstein, a resident of Barron Park,
on Apr 28, 2014 at 11:12 am

Nah. Just read what I said.
It's clear enough.







Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park,
on Apr 28, 2014 at 1:52 pm

My last thought on this subject - let the market decide. If there are true market drivers out there for expanded senior housing in Palo Alto (un subsidized) then someone will build it. Of course, the expectation is that it will happen under current zoning specs. It would be an expensive waste of time for any developer to try and build something wildly outside the zoning rules...Measure D has shown that PA residents will not put up with that nonsense any more.


Posted by soon to be empty nest, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Apr 28, 2014 at 5:30 pm

Crescent Park Dad,

"If there are true market drivers out there for expanded senior housing in Palo Alto (un subsidized) then someone will build it. Of course, the expectation is that it will happen under current zoning specs. It would be an expensive waste of time for any developer to try and build something wildly outside the zoning rules...Measure D has shown that PA residents will not put up with that nonsense any more."

This sums it up - the connection between demographics and development is whatever the market will provide. The market should not expect to be aided by any particular zoning or building perks.

Steven Levy,

Cheryl L. summed it up well that to new people coming to Palo Alto, we're a real estate portfolio, or a launching pad. It's a fact.

Again, let the market do what it will do, but I wouldn't hold my breath for locals who are not as rich as the newcomers to provide freebies for the trades.

Can you explain why you are worried about all the rich seniors in Palo Alto?




Posted by Gardener, a resident of Los Altos Hills,
on Apr 29, 2014 at 12:29 pm

At 78 and 83 we are still able to keep our land and house. But we wonder about if one has to do it alone or if one of us is disabled. Eventually it will be difficult. a smaller unit with outdoor space is what we would want not a tower. If land is so expensive we do not see anything ever being developed which is like that. Unlike some newer residents of our town we are not rich. It would have been nice if Palo Alto had not chosen to be so negative on senior housing. We are very quiet neighbors and drive carefully. We have both spent our lives in helping others.


Posted by Steve Levy, a Almanac Online blogger,
on Apr 29, 2014 at 12:49 pm

Steve Levy is a registered user.

Gardener, thanks for your post

@soon to be empty nest

I care about all residents here and around us. I am troubled with the language about people who come from abroad or are here only for part of their life or who invest to make rental housing available for others. We are a much broader community and region than just residents who live in single family homes as Nancy and I did before we moved downtown.

I favor broad housing choices for seniors of all income groups--our fastest growing population group.

The new people who come to PA as a "launching pad" may stay forever just as many parents of children who went to school with our son have left.

Who is to say which group sees a house as a "portfolio investment" and even so, why does that prevent them from being caring PA residents?


Posted by soon to be empty nest, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Apr 30, 2014 at 2:31 pm

Steve Levy,

"I am troubled with the language about people who come from abroad or are here only for part of their life or who invest to make rental housing available for others."

I agree with you about the negative overtone when speaking about housing and people who either build roots or not, are from abroad or not. My agreement with Cheryl was only with respect to the speculative forces.

There's no pecking order of who belongs in Palo Alto, with the exception of people who are residents already. That's a diverse group, and many are from abroad, as it has always been.

It does matter if the new developments are speculative money churners. Would you have information on what a condo developer would make compared to what the city would gain from housing the absurd demand?

I would bet that if the City would have rent control on new dense housing, somehow that huge demand for condos would taper.

Speculation is not something residents should have to pay for with the degradation in quality of life.


Posted by stephen levy, a resident of University South,
on Apr 30, 2014 at 2:46 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

@ soon to be empty nest

Thanks for the clarification


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