April 24, 2017 Newsletter

Council deregulates “granny units” despite community uproar and grapples with parking and transportation challenges

Under fire from residents, City council revisits new ordinance on accessory dwelling units (known as ADUs or Junior ADUs), but offers little comfort. Eichler enthusiasts counsel against one-size-fits-all approach and urge more public engagement around Eichler design guidelines.

The City moves forward on parking structures and a possible end to free parking Downtown.  On the transportation front, Council considers new Palo Alto shuttle routes to fill gaps caused by impending cuts in public bus service, and the City turns its attention to grade-separated train crossings.

Major Policy Changes for ADUs as of April 17

ADU Summary box 

Click below to view matrix comparing Council’s recent ADU amendments to current zoning, State law, and publicly vetted staff recommendations:

View matrix here

Hundreds protest major changes to Palo Alto’s residential neighborhoods, approved without analysis or public input

Last month, in a last minute policy shift, a divided City Council voted to allow the construction of second homes (known as accessory dwelling units or ADUs) on any property in single family neighborhoods, within six feet of side and rear property lines and with no on-site parking or design review requirements.

In doing so, Council rejected a publicly vetted and broadly supported staff recommendation in favor of a final hour proposal that reduces privacy protections and creates additional parking impacts. Most residents, including those objecting to portions of the new ordinance, support more ADUs. But many thought abandoning the compromise recommendation amounted to bait and switch policy-making that invalidated years of public participation.

The March ADU vote was the second time this Council (again on a motion by Councilmembers Wolbach and Fine) rejected staff and advisory commission recommendations in favor of controversial and last minute policy changes with potentially substantial community impacts. Much like their recently reversed decision to sideline community recommendations around the Comprehensive Plan Update, they acted without staff analysis or public comment on the implications of the policy shift….

Read on…

Get Up To Speed

Easy solution unlikely to emerge for potential Eichler design guidelines


Eichler houseIn a timely reminder that Palo Altans feel strongly about the physical character of their neighborhoods, an overflow crowd turned out for a workshop to discuss possible design guidelines for Eichler neighborhoods. Attendees cited privacy and architectural compatibility as key concerns than can lead to conflict between neighbors. They emphasized the need for flexibility and more neighborhood inclusion in the planning process for any new guidelines.

City adds new garages and metered parking Downtown to its toolkit


parking meter 2City council voted unanimously to investigate options for a system of paid parking throughout the Downtown core of Palo Alto. Combined with investment in transportation demand management (TDM) programs, the City hopes to reduce solo drivers and create incentives that influence where they park when they do drive. Planning and public outreach to develop a paid parking program will proceed in the coming months.

On the supply side, council opted to move forward with a five-story Downtown parking structure to complement a new four-story garage approved for the California Avenue business district.

Public transit cuts threaten service to Gunn students, seniors, and disabled riders. City eyes costly Shuttle expansion to fill the gaps.


88 busSignificant reductions loom for local bus transit as the Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) moves forward with its Next Network Initiative, scheduled for adoption on May 4. Among the proposed changes, the plan would eliminate the hourly VTA 88 us services to low-income and senior residences, the Campus for Jewish Life, and the Veterans Administration Hospital, retaining only “school tripe” buses serving Gunn High School that would run once in the morning and two times in the afternoon.

The City formally opposed the VTA 88 cuts and potential reduced access to paratransit services as a result of the VTA changes. To help fill the gaps, the City is considering its own Transit Vision Plan that would expand the Palo Alto Shuttle, including a new south Palo Alto route to replace lost 88 bus service. City council will take up the Shuttle proposals in the near future.

New attention to grade-separated train crossings to reduce east-west delays crossing the Caltrain corridor


photo_20250_20110511With High Speed Rail andCaltrain’s Electrification project stuck in limbo, and uncertainty about grade separation funding from the recently passed Transportation Tax, the City Council’s Rail Committee will focus on planning for possible separation of streets from the train tracks. Public outreach will kick off with a community workshop on May 20 to gauge community interest in grade separations. The draft agenda is here. Also looking at grade separations, Menlo Park has begun studying options to either tunnel the road, or elevate the tracks.