Dear YIMBYs: The brutal, unfettered market won’t stop displacement

San Francisco Examiner – OpEd by   and  / July 20, 2017

Your platform, which relies on the filtering theory, states, “Today’s new, expensive housing becomes tomorrow’s inexpensive housing.” This theory doesn’t hold true for San Francisco, nor likely any other city strangled by the current global speculative market. When the California Legislative Analyst’s Office misused UC Berkeley’s Urban Displacement Project data to advocate for the construction of market-rate housing as an anti-displacement tool, the researchers responded, in summary, by saying:

  • Producing tons of market-rate units to lower rents may take generations and may never actually work to relieve displacement pressures.
  • Subsidized units for low-income folks have more than twice the impact on reducing displacement pressures…

Editorial: Facebook’s proposed ‘village’

Palo Alto Weekly – by Palo Alto Weekly editorial board / July 14, 2017

Massive development proposal will only worsen housing, transportation problems

It’s hard to imagine a better example of how messed up our region’s planning processes and development policies are than Facebook’s latest proposal to build nine new office buildings totaling 1.75 million square feet, likely to be occupied by up to 10,000 new employees, while eventually constructing 1,500 rental apartment units.

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.

A City’s Moral Impetus

Palo Alto Matters – Guest Commentary by Greer Stone / June 25, 2017

Santa Clara County Human Relations Commissioner, Chairman of the Santa Clara County Justice Review Committee, and former Chair of Palo Alto’s Human Relations Commission

In 2003 the world was a different place. A gallon of gas cost $1.79, a dozen eggs would run you $1.24, and the average price of a home in Palo Alto cost $1,179,000. The world had never heard of Barack Obama, and Donald Trump had not even begun his reality show, let alone his career in politics. Yes, much has changed, but unfortunately, the funding provided by the City of Palo Alto to help the most vulnerable members of our community has not.

City Budget – a view of the forest through the trees

Palo Alto Matters – June 25, 2017

City Council will review and approve Palo Alto’s fiscal year 2018 Budget on June 27, before adjourning for a six week summer recess.

Most City decisions involve trade-offs that affect future opportunities, but in deliberating over specific issues throughout the year, it can be difficult to see the forest through the trees. The city Budget shines light on the intersection of those decisions and their cumulative effect as well as the overarching liabilities that constrain them.

This special Budget edition of Palo Alto Matters draws your attention to big picture questions about where we’re headed, explains the bottom line numbers and points to some specific issues of concern in the alignment of values and strategies.

Is PAUSD the City’s Single Top Revenue Source?

Palo Alto Matters – Guest Commentary by Eric Filseth / June 11, 2017

Palo Alto City Council Member, Finance Committee Chair

Outlandish as it sounds, there’s actually a line of thinking for this.

Sales taxes are many cities’ largest revenue source, and they’re a major contributor in Palo Alto as well: normally about 15% of our General Fund, with the Stanford Shopping Center usually being our largest single contributor, last year about $5.5 million.

But in Palo Alto, our lead revenue source is actually property taxes, at about 20% of our General Fund. Most of our property tax revenue – about 75%, or $30 million for FY2018 – is residential. This is partly because our commercial base stays low (basically loopholes in Prop 13), but mostly because Palo Alto residential property values are high; and residential property values are influenced by school districts.

Wolbach and Fine oppose planning for school impacts from city growth

Palo Alto Matters – May 13, 2017

Maintaining the quality of schools and the sufficiency of local infrastructure to support them are of paramount importance to the Palo Alto community. Nevertheless, the current City Council has shown little interest in either planning to ensure that schools can support Palo Alto’s rate of growth or regulating land uses to accommodate future school expansions.

Instead, the Council majority frequently cites PAUSD’s current decline in elementary enrollment as excuse not to worry about how city growth will impact schools in the future. On May 1, Councilmembers Wolbach and Fine went further, opposing a longstanding City policy to consider school enrollment impacts in land use planning. They argued that school impacts should not be considered at all in the City’s land use decision-making, regardless of current or future enrollment, because doing so could restrain development, making Palo Alto “unwelcoming” to newcomers.

“Young guns” out of step with community – Editorial

Palo Alto Matters – May 13, 2017

Councilmembers Wolbach, Tanaka and Fine have stretched their wings as part of the new Council majority with policy proposals that would worsen the city’s jobs/housing imbalance and shift parking and traffic burdens to residents. Along the way, they have employed tactics that sidestep City staff, exclude public input and forego opportunities for compromise, undermining public trust and repeatedly raising widespread and vocal community concern.

Editorial: A council adrift

Palo Alto Weekly – by Palo Alto Weekly editorial board / May 5, 2017

Bizarre and poorly conceived ‘symbolic’ proposals are wasting time and disrespecting the public process

Hundreds protest bait and switch tactics on “granny units”

Palo Alto Matters – April 24, 2017

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.