Maybell Mythologies


At the Measure D debate, on September 28, Mayor Greg Scharff confidently and repeatedly made a number of assertions with regard to the Maybell PC that are not correct. And no matter often they are repeated, it will not make them correct.

Let’s review a few:

On Traffic and Traffic Analyses

“Traffic experts concluded that this project has much less impact on traffic, school crowding, and safety than any other project.”

“Now, this project, we’ve heard a lot of claims, and, you know, we have traffic engineers in the City of Palo Alto, we hire them, you can read their reports. You can’t believe unsubstantiated claims that the traffic’s wrong, that the reports are wrong. The world devolves into madness if you say that the city’s data is wrong. We all need to agree on the data, and we have correct data”

Traffic experts did not conclude that the PC would produce fewer impacts.

One traffic consultant, who has a history of favoring direction from the city, omitting required elements, and disputed conclusions, did.

However another consultant, recognized as completely independent and the top choice for peer review by arguably the most respected environmental law firm in the state, found that the report of the city’s consultant to be inadequate and was not to be relied upon to make that claim.

The world will not devolve into madness if an expert peer reviewer says the city’s traffic data is wrong.

Rather if the report is revised properly and completely as per the reviewer’s findings, it will begin the process in Palo Alto of making traffic reports more valuable and credible.

On the PC

The 60 units of senior housing and the 12 single-family homes “are in effect a downzoning from the R-2 and RM-15 zoning.”

This PC is not “in effect a down-zoning” from the current RM-2 and RM-15 zoning.  

Here, as always, a PC is a mechanism to gut existing zoning standards in the name of increased intensity.

A PC is the opposite of good planning. Zoning follows from our comprehensive plan (called a general plan in other cities). It is a state-mandated document. Our current one is well thought out through an intensive-community engagement process a number of years ago, and it is the guidance for the specific zonings created and updated via a thoughtful and public process and that residents can clearly know and should be able to rely on.

In Palo Alto, staff brings forward and council too often allows a backwards process. A PC breaks the careful zoning plan for an area, creates a brand new single-use zone inconsistent with the comprehensive plan, but which the council then modifies to conform to the PC.

This is not legal in 85% of California cities. Only charter cities, such as Palo Alto, can choose to use this loophole to good planning, unless they specifically amend their charter, which charter cities, such as Irvine have done.

PCs also transfer profits to developers and the related impacts onto the backs of residents.

And PCs create great confusion and obstacles for the public. Try and wade through the Maybell 15-pager, Ordinance No. 5200 beginning on page 06 of your “Sample Ballot & Voter Information Pamphlet.”

The PC language includes dubious justifications (“findings”) to allow the PC and the often not-so-commensurate public benefits associated with them. They also include the proposal’s custom uses and various conditions. What you do not find is what has been removed from the carefully crafted zoning that currently exists.

The direct corollary of the mayor’s PC-is-best mythology is, of course, its flip side: without the PC, matters will be a lot worse for residents.

“It doesn’t take a crystal ball to image what will happen to this land if the Palo Alto Housing Corporation is not allowed to build their senior housing project,” was the mayor’s opening to a laundry list of extreme and unverifiable consequences that will rain on the community.

Nobody knows better what life is most likely to be like under the Maybell PC than the residents who live there. They have expressed their view in overwhelming numbers via public meetings with the city and the PAHC and via referendum petitions. They vehemently disagree with this assessment. They are the ones who will live with the impacts, and via their successful referendum petition of the PC approval, are calling this bluff.

And then there is the classic pro-PC tactic that plays on both heart and guilt strings. Below is my take on the essentials of this spoken and implied falsehood regarding the Maybell PC

Unless the Planned Community zone is approved now by the voters,

— and therefore combines the R-2 and RM-15 parcels as part of a PC,

— and enables the owner, PAHC, to flip 60% of the site to another developer to build 12 single-family homes on sub-standard 3,700 square foot lots

— and PAHC cannot build its desired 4-story, 60 unit, 1-bedroom senior housing development on the remaining 1.1 acres that PAHC will retain as owner,

—  the delicate financial balance required to create this project will dissolve,

— and PAHC will not be able to build low-income senior housing on this site,

— and needy seniors will be deprived and may not be able to stay in the community – near family and friends,

— and it will be the fault of misguided and selfish residents in the area, who did not care enough about our seniors.

Pure and simple manipulation; not always easy to shake, but realize that it is not new.

Here in College Terrace, a developer claimed they urgently needed a PC approval for a dense out-of-character project, in order for him to “save JJ&F Market,” which for 60 years had been owned and operated by the Garcia Family.

The developer hired a professional public relations firm, who played its music well. The developer also pledged to build the new market for the Garcias immediately after the PC was approved. Nearly four years have elapsed since the council approved the PC. No project has started, and the Garcia’s couldn’t hold on.

Don’t fall for this type of music.

On Council Consensus

“On controversial land use decisions, the city council almost never votes unanimously, because there are different points of view. On this project there was one point of view, from the most ardent, what we term, residentialist to the most pro-development council member. Everybody agreed this was the right project for the city; it was unanimous.

But unanimity on the council is not a guarantee of wisdom.

This is especially true when something sounds like a good idea and touches a sweet spot within a symbiotic and mutually reinforcing circle of elected officials, political organizations, advocacy groups, and those directly involved in the concept.

This council already exhibited bad judgment via its unanimous vote to loan PAHC money to by land before it ruled on its proposed project.

And it was just around this time five years ago when the Palo Alto City Council unanimously voted to recommend that we all vote for California Proposition 1A, the initial funding of hi-speed rail in this state.

Take a stand against the Maybell Mythologies


Vote Against Measure D


< Previous Return to Blog Next >

 Leave a Reply

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>