Palo Alto Housing

Monday, June 15, 2015

View the table: Multiple Housing built since the Comprehensive Plan
            We're Just a Town That Can't Say No

Palo Alto just can't say No to new residential development.
Advocates wax poetic about their project's virtues before our governing bodies, the city brushes a tear from its eyes, and says OK. And the numbers keep growing. But the consequences of this building spree to the city's already-overstretched infrastructure are serious.

Why does it matter?
 In 1998, following a long and involved process, the city adopted a Comprehensive Plan which is "the primary tool for guiding the future development of the city." (CompPlan pg. 1)

The Plan’s Environmental Impact Report’s (EIR) established that Palo Alto could absorb 2,400 new housing units during the period 1997-2010. If it exceeds that number, the city must adapt [before approval] to the impacts the increase would cause - to schools, parks, traffic, and to that elusive quality of life we value.

We’re In a Terrible Fix...

Serious concerns have been expressed about classroom shortages, traffic congestion, crowded parks and libraries. Parents don’t like having to transport their children across town daily. Some families buy a home near a school so that their children can attend it.
Neighbors are impinged upon when permission is routinely granted to exceed the zoning height limits, reduce setbacks, and reduce required light planes (design rules that protect a home from interference with daylight).

Many projects ask for, and receive what is ironically called a DEE - a 'Design Enhancement Exception' which is invariably applied to making a structure bigger. There’s no room for irony when big money is involved.
I compile this list of housing projects from numerous sources. For projects not yet under construction, I use their projected numbers, which sometimes change modestly during the planning process.

Just When I Oughta Say Nix!
By my count, over 4,000 new residential units have been built, or are well along in the planning stages, even though the City’s Comprehensive Plan says the city can only absorb 2,400. Nothing in the approval process is slowing down, in fact, complaints by developers about how long it takes has sped it up. 

The list does not include Stanford campus housing projects, individual homes, commercial properties, or projects that have not yet applied for approval, or been revealed to the public. I appreciate receiving any corrections or omissions.

-Elaine Meyer     

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