Should we give up community space for housing? Key trade off could be capacity to meet future service needs.

May 5, 2019

The Cubberley Community Center Master Plan offers an example of the tensions and trade-offs involved in an all out push to build housing supply — in particular, whether limited publicly-owned land should be committed to long-term residential use or dedicated to the community services and facilities necessary to support a growing population. 

On May 9, city consultants will convene the fourth and final community engagement session on a master plan to redevelop the Cubberley site. Anticipated as a wrap-up of the community co-design process, the consultants recently announced, based on discussions with City Council and the School Board, that the final meeting will also cover four brand new housing scenarios for the site. The scope and magnitude of the new housing concepts have not yet been released. But to the extent they impinge significantly on the priorities developed throughout the seven-month community “co-design” process, they could meet with some pushback. 

The first community meeting focused on identifying the kinds of programming/uses participants hoped to see on the consolidated 43-acre site (Cubberley plus Greendell School plus PAUSD owned property at 525 San Antonio Road). The second meeting focused on prioritizing those uses. Affordable housing registered as desirable to some in both meetings, but in both instances was heavily outweighed by other priorities. The third meeting presented a draft concept plan that introduced potential teacher housing on the PAUSD property at 525 San Antonio, but focused primarily on site organization, massing, circulation, parking, and architecture and landscape styles. After that meeting, 73 percent of participants agreed or strongly agreed that “The Cubberley Master Plan is on the right track.” 

One of the five priorities in the city’s 2018 Housing Work Plan included “engag[ing] in community conversations about the use of publicly-owned land for affordable housing.” With no city action on that goal to date, the introduction of new housing concepts at the final meeting of the Cubberley design process may demonstrate that the “conversation” is past due.

The new housing scenarios for Cubberley will be presented on Thursday May 9, at the Cubberley Pavilion, 4120 Middlefield Road. Click here for more information on the Co-Design process and progress to date.

Rising costs won’t shrink California Avenue garage

Despite escalating budget, City Council votes to stick with the plan for a six-level garage

Palo Alto Weekly – by Gennady Sheyner, January 23, 2018

California Avenue merchants scored a political victory Monday night when Palo Alto officials reaffirmed their plan to construct a garage with two basement levels and more than 600 parking stalls on a Sherman Avenue lot.

By an 8-1 vote, with Adrian Fine dissenting, the City Council voted to reject a staff recommendation to eliminate one of the basement levels as part of a strategy to contain the project’s rapidly rising costs.

California Avenue merchants called the proposed reduction “nothing less than a breach of faith with the business community that has worked collaboratively with the City for so many years on this project.”

Editorial: The risks of secrecy

Palo Alto Weekly – by PA Weekly editorial board / December 8, 2017

School board splits on whether and how to accept large anonymous donations

When developing a new public policy, a sure warning sign should be when the policy has to thread a needle to avoid violating existing laws and, in doing so, becomes convoluted and irrational.

The Palo Alto school board struggled Tuesday night trying to balance competing interests of transparency and donor privacy, and a bare majority (Ken Dauber, Jennifer DiBrienza, Terry Godfrey) approved a new policy that, in our opinion, skates on the edge of the law and brings an unacceptable level of secrecy.

Cities seek more time to vet Stanford’s proposed expansion

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

Palo Alto and Menlo Park request 60 more days; Stanford calls proposal ‘unwarranted’

As the comment period on Stanford University’s proposed expansion winds down, city officials from Menlo Park and Palo Alto are calling for the Santa Clara County Planning Department to give them another 60 days to evaluate the potential impacts of the General Use Permit amendment that the university is seeking.

In arguing against the extension, Stanford may have received some help from Palo Alto Mayor Greg Scharff, who called Girard last week to discuss the topic.

Scharff said he called Girard because he had questions about how the extra 60 days would impact the planning process. But Girard recalled that Scharff said that he does not believe the 60-day extension is necessary.

“He said he hadn’t heard that much demand from his constituents for an extended period,” Girard said.

accountability cartoon

What’s all the fuss about code enforcement?

Palo Alto Matters – October 10, 2017

Public trust and damaged community life.

Ask a typical Palo Altan what code enforcement is all about and odds are the first thing they’ll mention is gas-powered leaf blowers. But it also encompasses zoning and building compliance, Use and Occupancy permits, parking, signage, construction noise and more – complex, wonky, and sometimes seemingly nitpicky, issues that have both immediate and cumulative impacts on land use and quality of life. While most residents may not know a specific code violation when they see one, they experience the impacts of noncompliance and it feels unfair.

Immediate neighbors suffer from unabated violations. Worse, Palo Altans city-wide endure a double loss: they suffer lasting changes in the character of their neighborhoods and they feel abandoned, or even duped, by their city government. Supposedly protected retail converts to other uses; burdens on public parking increase unnecessarily; traffic safety in neighborhoods deteriorates; and businesses freely flout rules designed to protect residential quality of life. Rumblings rise about city bias favoring non-resident interests.

Tanaka fined for campaign violations

Palo Alto Weekly – by Gennady Sheyner / September 11, 2017

Palo Alto councilman settles with FPPC after agency finds three violations

Palo Alto City Councilman Greg Tanaka has agreed to pay $733 in fines after the California Fair Political Practices Commission found inaccuracies in the financial forms his campaign filed during last year’s council race.

The agency, which enforces the state’s Political Reform Act, found that Tanaka’s campaign had committed three violations in reporting contributions made during last fall’s campaign season. In two cases, it had failed to disclose contributions of more than $1,000 within 24 hours, as the law requires.

Councilman Greg Tanaka hit with campaign fine

Palo Alto Daily Post – by Allison Levitsky / September 12, 2017

In a City Council race that hinged on development in Palo Alto, now-Councilman Greg Tanaka failed to identify several donors as real estate developers, California Fair Political Practices Commission said yesterday (Sept. 12).

Tanaka said he has agreed to settle with the FPPC for incorrectly reporting campaign donations and leaving blank or misreporting the occupations of Chop Keenan, Jim Baer, Roxy Rapp, Mark Gates Jr., Joseph Martignetti Jr. and Perry Palmer.

How to avoid a train wreck – doing grade separations right

cartoon

Palo Alto Matters – Guest Commentary by Pat Burt / September 1, 2017

Former Mayor of Palo Alto

The city council is scheduled this Tuesday to decide on the process for designing railroad grade separations across Palo Alto, but the current plan for the decision-making runs a high risk of running the project off the tracks. While debate over “process” can make most folks eyes glaze over, how we come to agreement as a community on the design for this very complicated and expensive project is critical to its success.

Committee recommends no stakeholder group in rail redesign

Palo Alto Weekly – by Linda Taaffe / August 17, 2017

City staff directed to look at other options for public input

Palo Alto could move ahead with plans to transform its rail corridor without a formal community stakeholder group to provide feedback on the project if the City Council approves its Rail Committee’s recommendation, which runs counter to what the city’s Planning and Transportation Commission supported last week.

Big league politics undermine community solutions

Palo Alto Matters – June 11, 2017

On a national and even global scale, enmities are fueled around the clock by extreme partisan politics, social media bullying and “fake news.” We’re all up in arms about it. But even as we rally to resist, those same tools of division are intensifying conflict and blocking compromise here at home. Distorted battle lines, name-calling and oversimplification of complex challenges are demonizing local interests, dividing our community and impeding balanced and sustainable solutions.