Dear Palo Altans
I want to bring your attention to the proposed Senate Bill 35 (SB 35), which would pre-empt local discretionary land use authority. It would provide approvals of multifamily developments that meet inadequate criteria by using “ministerial” actions, bypassing the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and public input.
I urge you to write to our Senator Jerry Hill and Palo Alto City Council. (See below for a sample letter provided by the California League of Cities, which is officially opposing this bill.) Please write ASAP.
While SB 35 is made out to address the state’s housing needs, it would nevertheless be virtually impossible to build affordable housing because SB 35 requires that all housing built under this mandate must ensure that the “prevailing wage” requirement is included in all contracts, including subcontractors, for the performance of the work. Low-cost housing will not be low cost to build.
On average, “affordable housing” costs approximately $500,000 - $600,000 per unit to build around the Peninsula. Requiring affordable housing to be built exclusively by union workers will mean that the units will not be “affordable” without taxpayer subsidies. Taxpayers = we residents mostly. The ramifications due to these developments will be huge, including traffic congestion; parking issues; overburdened city services such as the use of public parks and open space, schools and so much more.
SB 35 will have significant impacts on our communities and many other communities in California. The author of the bill redefines the geographic terms “suburban” and “urban” in order to subject communities to fast-track “by-right rule,” fostering high-density housing. Under his definition, even a village is an “urban cluster” which could mean that even cities such as Los Gatos, Saratoga, Woodside and Portola Valley could be designated as “urban”, thereby allowing big-time developers to build without the pesky environmental review or public engagement and input. Palo Alto, under the leadership of the past and present pro-development Council majority, has made certain that Palo Alto fits under the “urban” criteria.
Former San Francisco Supervisor, now Senator, Scott Wiener, is the author of SB 35 and is strongly supported by construction trades unions. SB 35 is one of many bills trying to exploit the affordable housing crisis to the benefit of the author’s financial supporters at the expense of residents.
While State law again has made a blanket law allowing ADUs in municipalities without review or study as to the cumulative impacts to a neighborhood/town/city, we should be cautious as to impacts to safety within a neighborhood, parking space availability in neighborhoods, short term rentals, use of the owner for their own needs and not to provide housing supply.
I do want to point out that the majority on Council went beyond what State law mandated without any consideration to the negative cumulative impacts to the entire city, especially to the character, safety and sanctity of neighborhoods. Parking is already a major issue, with our many narrow neighborhood streets. The passing of this ordinance will further impact the safe use of Palo Alto’s Complete and Safe Routes to School program.
Many concerned citizens mentioned that these new policies promoting growth will be a cause for neighbor with neighbor disputes. We have in the past experienced this with trees, now it can be parking, or noise, or loss of privacy, etc. Yet Mayor Scharff, Vice-Mayor Kniss, Council Members Wolbach, Fine and Tanaka pushed this ordinance through without further impact analysis or moving forward cautiously using Staff’s March 7th recommendation. The Mayor’s message in the news media mentions that there was a “compromise". If you consider limiting lot size in order to build an ADU to 5000 sf and reorienting the ADU front door to the side or back of the property as "compromises", you are not acknowledging the larger and long term unintended consequences that neighborhoods will have to bear. Before you know it, permit parking, more infrastructure-based fees, school enrollment impacts, parks and open space impacts, etc. will be imposed upon you.
There are two critical items coming to Council on Tuesday, March 7th, 2017.
6:15pm – Dewatering
You may have received the parcel tax ballot measure for Storm Drain Management. While I have endorsement this parcel tax because our storm drains are in dire need of repairs and renovation, I find that the storm drains are being misused by those properties that are pumping a city resource, water, into the storm drains and directly into the bay. What a waste!
In a letter to Council, Bob Wenslau writes “One inequity is obvious to me: through the parcel measure citizens are imposed a fee to build green infrastructure to recharge shallow groundwater, but those pumping shallow groundwater for a construction project do not pay a fee for the same water they remove. A large group of citizens put money into our water bank, a small group robs it.”
For more background information on dewatering, check out Doug Moran’s blog http://www.paloaltoonline.com/blogs/p/2017/03/01/groundwater-pumping-background#comments
Santa Clara County, who has jurisdiction over Stanford University, has received Stanford University's General Use Permit (GUP) application. Palo Alto is one of the cities impacted by Stanford University’s expansion and growth and as a resident of Palo Alto, your input is crucial!
Stanford University’s 2018 General Use Permit is seeking approval for the following:
- To develop/build up to 2.275 million new square feet of research facilities, academic and academic support facilities.
- 3,150 new housing units/beds, of which up to 550 units would be available for faculty, staff, postdoctoral scholars, and medical residents.
- If the need arises, Stanford seeks a condition that would allow it to build additional housing beyond the proposed development limit of 3,150 housing units/beds.
- Stanford also proposes that any remaining unbuilt academic and academic support space square footage that was authorized in the 2000 GUP to be carried over to the 2018 GUP.
- Stanford proposes to include an option to allow construction of a 2,000-space parking supply reserve, if
- 1) Stanford is achieving its No Net New Commute Trip goal;
- 2) such parking would not result in a substantial increase in peak-hour commute trip.
County of Santa Clara will be preparing an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for this project and wants to gather your views regarding the scope and content of the environmental information to be included in this report, the EIR. Palo Alto may then use this EIR when considering approvals for the project.
The deadline for submitting concerns is February 17th, 2017.
Send your comments to the following:
Email: [email protected]
County of Santa Clara Planning Office
Attention: David Rader
County Government Center
70 West Hedding, 7th Floor, East Wing
San Jose, CA 95110
Dear Palo Altans,
I wanted to reach out and to ask you to participate in the following meetings because it is so important to have your concerns, your experiences and your voice heard by those governing our town. I know our National scene is scary, but let's not forget our Local scene...we live here!
I want to start with the results for 2016 National Citizen Survey, please use this link to access the report http://www.cityofpaloalto.org/civicax/filebank/documents/55618.
Please enter these events into your calendar and participate:
Saturday, 1/28/2017 | 9AM
Arts Center, 1313 Newell Road, Palo Alto
Each year, the Council sets its priorities giving the community a clear definition of what the City is trying to accomplish throughout the year. 2016's Council Priorities were:
- The Built Environment: Housing and parking with a particular emphasis on mobility.
- Healthy City, Healthy Community
- Completion of the Comprehensive Plan
Were 2016 priorities accomplished? Residents are encouraged to speak during oral communications to provide recommendations as to what you feel the City's priorities should be focused on. Please attend, participate and make your voice heard.
I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving. It was for me, with a lot to be grateful for; health, home, family and friendships!
This coming week, the City brings upon us a few pretty large studies, as follows:
Monday, 11-28-2016 City Council meeting - discussion of the Sustainability and Climate Action Plan (S/CAP) Framework, Principles & Guidelines and review of the Draft Land Use & Community Design Element of the Comprehensive Plan Update Recommended by the Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC)
- ~ 5:35pm S/CAP Staff report http://www.cityofpaloalto.org/civicax/filebank/documents/54865
- ~ 7:45pm Comprehensive Plan update by the CAC of the Land Use element staff report http://www.cityofpaloalto.org/civicax/filebank/documents/54761
At this meeting, the following is at stake:
- The current 50 foot height limit for buildings.
- Fry's site and South El Camino Real has been identified as locations which are locations focused for development. South El Camino is from Matadero Avenue to the south Palo Alto boundary at/near the Crown Plaza Cabana Hotel.
- Office/Research and Development annual limits. This ordinance was an emergency ordinance by the Council enacted in 2014 and must be continued in order to be able to address traffic safety and congestion, lack of parking, infrastructure, school quality, natural environment and what is not counter-productive sustainability.