Jun 262015

Palo Alto should approve funding to bolster chances of preserving mobile-home park

 We Need Your Help

The County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously on Tuesday (June 23rd) to set aside an additional $6.5 million towards preserving the park for its residents and affordable housing, making the total set-aside by the County $14.5 million, all coming from developer fees paid by Stanford.

On Monday, June 29th, the Palo Alto City Council will be voting on taking next steps towards matching these funds. This is  a critical juncture for the City Council to take action towards keeping Buena Vista’s residents in their homes. In order to encourage them, we are suggesting that folks:

1)      Write letters to the City Council
Urge them to take steps to match the County’s funds and preserve the park. These will be very influential to the Council in understanding our community support for affordable housing and for keeping Buena Vista residents in their homes. The Council can be reached as a group here:

2)      Attend the City Council meeting on Monday night. There is a good chance that this is one of the last meetings we’ll be asking folks to come to before there is a deal to approve, so it will be worthwhile for supporters to come out. The item is scheduled to be heard by 6:40pm, so I recommend arriving by 6:15pm.  We won’t need folks to speak – they have a long meeting that night, and they’ve heard from many of us already – but we do need to show that the broader community supports preserving the park.

Jun 252015

Supervisors allocate another $6.5 million,
contingent on match from Palo Alto

Santa Clara County supervisors on Tuesday upped the ante in a bid to preserve the Buena Vista Mobile Home Park when they unanimously voted to allocate an additional $6.5 million toward the cause, contingent on a similar match from Palo Alto.

With little discussion, the Board of Supervisors voted to contribute $6.5 million from its affordable-housing fund for the purchase of Buena Vista. The new allocation raises the county’s potential contribution toward preserving Palo Alto’s sole mobile-home park to $14.5 million.

On June 29, the City Council will discuss Buena Vista and consider its next steps. If the council chooses to match the county’s contribution, the total set aside by the city and the county would go up to $29 million. All of the contributions pledged by the city and the county thus far would come from funds designated for affordable housing.

[Read full story…]

Jun 212015

On Tuesday morning, June 23, 2015 the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors will meet to consider a proposal by Supervisors Joseph Simitian and Dave Cortese to set aside an additional $6.5 million from the County’s Stanford GUP Affordable Housing Fund to be used to provide a portion of the necessary funding to secure deed-restricted affordable housing units at the Buena Vista Mobile Home Park.

The meeting will begin at 9:15 AM in the Board of Supervisor’s Chambers in the County Government Building at 70 West Hedding Street in San Jose. [Directions]

If the proposal is passed by the Board of Supervisors, the total set-aside from the Stanford GUP Affordable Housing Fund would be $14.5 million, subject to further authorization by the Board of Supervisors. County funds will be set aside contingent on a 1:1 match with funds set aside by the City of Palo Alto… Requiring a 1:1 match with City funds would ensure the local commitment necessary for this project to be successful. This is an opportunity for the County to leverage its limited funding, and to act effectively on our oft-stated commitment to affordable housing.

The full text of the proposal is available here.

May 212015

Do you have a vision for Palo Alto’s future?  Help create a better Palo Alto.  Make sure your voice is heard in the creation of the new Comprehensive Plan.

The City of Palo Alto is sponsoring “Our Palo Alto 2030 The Summit” on May 30, 8:30 a.m.-6 p.m., at the Mitchell Park Community Center, 3700 Middlefield Road.

​We have developed a spreadsheet which allows you to model the effect of various changes in growth and examine the impact on city services and the quality of life in Palo Alto. You will find the model at SimPaloAlto. Read the introduction and the instructions, download the spreadsheet, try out your ideas and view the results. Then load the spreadsheet onto your laptop, come to the Summit and speak out for a better Palo Alto.

The Summit is free and open to the public. If you are planning to attend, click here to register.

Jul 192014

On July 18th the Palo Alto Weekly published an excellent article on the architectural review process in Palo Alto. Gennady Sheyner’s carefully researched work covered both sides of the controversial question: Is Palo Alto’s architectural review process broken?

Palo Alto, a city that relishes its role as the center of innovation and creator of “disruptive” technologies, finds itself in the midst of an escalating battle over architecture — a tussle that pits some of today’s most prolific architects against a growing coalition of residents who are enraged about modernist new buildings and intent on changing the way proposed developments get reviewed. In one corner are proponents of modernity, economic growth and what they see as inevitable urbanization. In the other are land-use watchdogs, neighborhood leaders and residents bent on preserving what they refer to as the city’s “quality of life.”

In meeting after meeting over the past two years, residents have lashed out at architects with the scorn traditionally reserved for developers, accusing them of blighting the city with modernist monstrosities. Council watchdogs and slow-growth “residentialists” slammed the designs of such recent developments as the affordable-housing complex at 801 Alma St.; the Arbor Real townhouses on El Camino Real; and Alma Village, where the flagship grocery store appears to turn its broad, beige back on the public.

But the larger issue is about the whole development process in Palo Alto with many residents feeling that the system IS broken, that developers get preferable consideration by the ARB, the Planning and Transportation Commission, City planning staff and the council and that the very character and quality of life of Palo Alto is being irreversibly altered by overdevelopment.

The Architectural Review Board (ARB) is charged with five goals:

  • Promote orderly and harmonious development of the City
  • Enhance the desirability of residence or investment in the City
  • Encourage the attainment of the most desirable use of land and improvements
  • Enhance the desirability of living conditions upon the immediate site or in adjacent areas
  • Promote visual environments which are of high aesthetic quality and variety and which, at the same time, are considerate of each other.

The ARB has no authority to modify or grant exceptions to zoning ordinances. That is the purview of the Planning and Transportation Commission (P&TC). So when members of the ARB make statements extolling the virtues of ‘higher density’ they are outside their realm. And when they do so, ignoring the obvious fact that the proposed structure grossly conflicts with the classical architecture which is iconic of Palo Alto, they fail to fulfill their mandate.

Perhaps it would be better if the process were reversed and review by the P&TC should precede that by the ARB so that the architects don’t waste their time deciding on the style, shape and color of the project before it is known if it is in conformance with the zoning ordinances. To have the ARB review first is like deciding on the arrangement of the deck chairs on the Titanic before you know if the ship will float or sink.

Granted, there are projects which are clearly within the prescribed zoning guidelines and do not require P&TC review. But here we encounter yet another piece of the broken system: the Director’s approval. Having passed ARB review the project receives approval from the Director of Planning and is then placed directly on the Consent Calendar of the City Council to be passed by a simple majority vote without public discussion. Even when a resident has filed (and paid the fee for) an appeal against the Director’s approval, that resident will not be allowed to speak and that appeal will not be heard unless 3 members of Council vote to remove the project from the consent calendar. This does not promote a feeling of trust that the Council represents the views of the residents. Any wonder that many feel that the election in November has to bring about major changes in the Council?