City braces for impacts of new housing laws

Palo Alto Weekly – by Gennady Sheyner / December 5, 2017

Palo Alto council members, planning staff say recently passed bills could reduce local control, spur major change

For Palo Alto’s housing advocates, the broad package of bills that Sacramento lawmakers signed into law this fall are exactly the type of disruption that the city needs after years of sluggish residential construction and a deepening crisis of affordable housing.

But for the Palo Alto City Council, which has made housing one of its top priorities for the year, the Sacramento-administered medicine comes with a host of unpredictable side effects. The new laws could upend the city’s policies on everything from parking requirements to architectural reviews. And with the new laws kicking in on Jan. 1, City Hall staff are scrambling to understand the implications and come up with new procedures and policies to address them.

City seeks more protection from Stanford expansion

Palo Alto Weekly – by Gennady Sheyner / December 1, 2017

Palo Alto officials, residents question university’s plans to manage anticipated traffic and housing problems

The City Council plans to approve on Monday night a comment letter on the project’s voluminous draft Environmental Impact Report, which assesses likely consequences of the expansion. The letter takes issues with Stanford’s assumptions about traffic, groundwater and fire-service demand, among many other things.

We found which Bay Area cities aren’t pulling their weight on housing

Curbed San Francisco – by Scott Lucas / October 12, 2017

An exclusive analysis of regional jobs and housing with surprising conclusions

When you look at the data, the cities that score the worst in building enough housing units for their workers aren’t Palo Alto and similar cities. It’s our biggest cities, like San Francisco and San Jose, that really drive the problem.

Here’s what we found.

Palo Alto may ease parking rules to spur housing

Palo Alto Weekly – by Gennady Sheyner / October 29, 2017

Three council members propose eliminating off-street parking requirements for ‘car-light’ projects

In the latest effort to combat Palo Alto’s housing crisis, three council members are proposing significant revisions to the city’s parking regulations, including eliminating parking requirements altogether for “car-light” developments that offer transit amenities to their tenants.

The proposals in the memo target a wide range of disparate regulations — including ones relating to floor area ratio (FAR), building heights and expanded “pedestrian transit-oriented development” zones, which give developers near transit nodes more flexibility on density and parking. One recommendation would establish “housing minimums” for new developments in residential zones so that a project would be required to provide at least 80 percent of the units that its land use designation can accommodate.

Plan to boost renter protections fizzles

Palo Alto Weekly – by Gennady Sheyner / October 17, 2017

Palo Alto officials opt not to explore rent stabilization measures

Palo Alto’s foray into rent stabilization blew up at the starting line Monday night after the City Council majority struck down a proposal from three council members to strengthen the city’s tenant-protection laws.

After a marathon discussion that featured philosophical clashes, procedural disagreements, personal attacks and testimony from nearly 70 public speakers, the council voted 6-3 to reject a recommendation from council members Tom DuBois, Karen Holman and Lydia Kou to consider rent-protection measures such as limitations on rent increases and restrictions on no-cause eviction. The vote means that the proposals in the memo will not be studied.

Cottage clusters becoming a thing of the past?

Palo Alto Weekly – by Sue Dremann / October 13, 2017

Advocates: Lacking city protection, eight bungalows could be razed

Palo Alto could soon lose two more cottage clusters, small groupings of bungalows built between the 1930s and 1950s that some people say are a vital part of the city’s diverse housing stock.

According to City Councilmember Karen Holman, “Cottage clusters provide housing for many who otherwise would not be able to live in Palo Alto due not only to their size typically being smaller, and thus somewhat less expensive, but also because they expand the types of housing opportunities that exist.”

Palo Alto looks to firm up renter protections

Palo Alto Weekly – by Gennady Sheyner / October 10, 2017

Three City Council members propose limits on rent increases, restrictions on tenant evictions

As rising rents continue to drive longtime residents out of Palo Alto, city officials are preparing to adopt regulations that would offer renters greater protection.

The regulations are the latest attempt by the City Council to address the city’s shortage of affordable housing, a problem that council members identified as a top priority this year. The proposals include an annual cap on rent increases for apartment buildings and measures to protect tenants from eviction without just cause, according to a memo submitted by council members Tom DuBois, Karen Holman and Lydia Kou.

New housing laws pose planning challenges for city

Palo Alto Weekly – by Gennady Sheyner / October 5, 2017

City had opposed SB 35, which creates ‘streamlined’ approval process for multi-family housing

The housing crunch may be an official Palo Alto priority, but City Hall wasn’t cheering last week when Gov. Jerry Brown signed 15 bills that aim to encourage residential development.

State Senate Bill 35, which was sponsored by Scott Weiner, D-San Francisco, is among the most significant components in a package of housing bills that the Legislature approved in late September and that Brown subsequently signed into law on Sept. 29. The bill creates a “streamlined” approval process for housing developers whose projects meet “objective” planning standards and include below-market-rate housing.

It is also the only housing bill that Palo Alto formally opposed.

Council: North Bayshore development must support schools

Mountain View Voice – by Kevin Forestieri / September 28, 2017

Proposed housing boom would require plans to house thousands of new students

Council members unanimously agreed to add language to the North Bayshore Precise Plan that would require the region’s two major landowners, Google and Sobrato, to submit a “local school district strategy” as part of any dense residential project, showing precisely how the developers would assist in building local, neighborhood-oriented schools in the area. The strategy is fairly broad, and could include land dedication, funding, transferring development rights or other “innovative strategies.”

Google demands more office space, threatens to block North Bayshore housing

The Mercury News – by Ethan Baron / September 27, 2017

MOUNTAIN VIEW — In a standoff with city officials, Google is demanding more office space for its futuristic new “Charleston East” campus and is threatening to block nearly 10,000 units of critically needed housing if it doesn’t get its way.

The company’s move could derail a plan — given preliminary approval by the Mountain View City Council early Wednesday morning and which Google says it still supports — for construction of 9,850 homes in the North Bayshore development anchored by Charleston East. The Mountain View search giant had earlier told the city it would work with partners to have 9,600 housing units built on its property, said Vice-Mayor Lenny Siegel.