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By Steve Levy

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About this blog: I grew up in Los Angeles and moved to the area in 1963 when I started graduate school at Stanford. Nancy and I were married in 1977 and we lived for nearly 30 years in the Duveneck school area. Our children went to Paly. We moved ...  (More)

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The Palo Alto I Live In

Uploaded: Jul 22, 2012
I came here in 1963 as a grad student at Stanford. We raised our children in Palo Alto. I have worked downtown since 1969 and we have lived downtown since 2006.

This is the Palo Alto I experience.

Palo Alto is university town. I have lived near UCLA and in Cambridge, Mass. while going to college. Towns with big bustling universities are big bustling places wherever located and never sleepy suburban places.

Add to that Palo Alto is the site of a large medical and research facilty at Stanford, a large regional shopping center and a center of high tech activity. We are not in any sense a traditional suburb nor does Palo Alto have that feel.

Moreover we are in the middle of two of the fastest growing metro areas in the nation measured by recent job growth.

Downtown is bustling and growing. There are several new office buildings under construction and I read that the vacancy ratge downtown is under 2%. Retail spaces are filling up in addition to the new Apple store about to open.

What does all this mean to me.

First, I like living and working in Palo Alto. I like being a part of the bustle and seeing a new generation of smiling young adults piling off CalTrain and steaming into offices, restuarants and places downtown. I like seeing crowded CalTrains and slowly expanding service.

While I don't think the current HSR is well thought out, if it occurs I want a station in PA. I welcome the expansion and bustle and accept the part we play in a competitive regional economy.

Second, I want to return the favor given our family by prioor generations that welcomed and planned for growth with high quality schools and amenities. So in addition to welcoming the job growth and attendant excitement of being near the cutting edge, I accept our responsibility to provide for housing growth as well even though much of the new job and housing growth will be near where we li ve, especially since PA is guiding new development toward areas like downtown.

So I support funding for schools my family will not use and amenities that others will use.

We are temporary visitors in a wonderful place and I want to do for the next and larger cohort of residents what was done for our family.

What is it worth to you?


Posted by Just-Another-Hypercrite, a resident of ,
on Jul 23, 2012 at 9:11 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by stephen levy, a resident of ,
on Jul 23, 2012 at 11:19 am

stephen levy is a registered user.

The deleted post was personal and offensive as well as dragging the President into this thread, which is quite a stretch for my personal statement about Palo Alto.

The poster also suggested I was a hypocrite and probably not paying a large amount of local taxes as I probably owned my house for a long time.

I try really hard to "walk my talk" about being willing to pass on to the next generation of residents as good a place as we are lucxky to live in.

So in fact we pay a large amount of property taxes as we sold our house in 2006 and bought anotheer home in town. We also do not take advantage of the senior exemption for parcel taxes and p0ay them fully.

I had hoped to start a discussion about how others experience Palo Alto and their willingness/obligation to make PA a welcoming and high quality community as we found it.

Also if you are really dissatisfied and can't seem to win an election, why don't you move to a place more conducive to your values? I know that is not easy but it is an interesting questions for the complainers to answer.

Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of ,
on Jul 23, 2012 at 12:48 pm

While I appreciate your sentiment to some degree, the concept of an HSR station has already been turned down. And for a good reason.

Recall that the city would be on the hook for all of the construction, plus would need to construct parking facilities for thousands of cars. And on that thought, how in the world would we ferry thousands of cars to and from 101 and 280 to the HSR station? Where would all of the money come from? And are you really willing to take what is a somewhat pleasant transit area and convert it into a high-rise garage district?

If you want Palo Alto to lose any of its charm that it still has, add an HSR station, the parking garage and the high-volume access roads would be the way to do it.

Nothing personal, but that is very bad idea.

Posted by Sharon, a resident of ,
on Jul 23, 2012 at 5:36 pm

stephen levy has and is supporting programs that mortgage our children s and their children s future.

Stanford Economics Dept in the 60s and 70s and even now -is a major source of socialist policy for the elite-

- it is a complete and utter disaster

The Hoover Institution is the only sanity on Stanford Campus regarding economics.

Posted by socialism, a resident of ,
on Jul 23, 2012 at 5:53 pm

Sharon - can you give us YOUR definition for socialism?

Posted by Sharon, a resident of ,
on Jul 23, 2012 at 7:34 pm

@ Posted by socialism, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood

Do you have access to a library or the internet?

If you are impaired-

- then a library will assist you in reaching the relevant evidence base material-if you are blind-then they can give you audio versions

If you are deaf and blind then the brail community will help you

Go forward

We support the impaired to have access to in formation

Posted by socialism, a resident of ,
on Jul 23, 2012 at 7:45 pm

Sharon - thank you for your guidance. Perhaps in my brevity I neglected to mention I am very well aware of socialism, as well as social democracy and numerous other systems - both their standard definitions as well as their implementations over the arc of history. I also am also of sufficient skill in using technology to research, along with the library.

I asked you because it appears to me-

- you seem to see socialism everywhere, under every rock and behind every tree.

Either you are more aware than most, or significantly less so, perhaps because you see the definition of socialism differently than others.

Will you share your vision of socialism? or shall we just understand that your vision is not correct. The lack of a reply will tell us much, as will the continued arrogance shown in your post above.

Again, I must thank you for your generous offer of direction.

Posted by stephen levy, a resident of ,
on Jul 23, 2012 at 8:14 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

Let's talk about practical examples if we must do this "socialist" thing.

I favor paying for school funding in Palo Alto. I pay a parcel tax I am not legally obligated to pay to return the favor to previous generations that left great schools for my children. Does anyone else feel this way? Is this socialism?

I don't favor the present HSR proposal but if it goes forward I favor having a station in Palo Alto. Our city adjacent to Stamford, the hospital, research park, Sand Hill Road and high tech startups is where most people who stop between San Jose and SF will want to go. It is the practical solution for a bad project.

Does anyone else feel this way? Is this socialism?

I favor giving people who want to live here the opportunity and giving developers who want to build here the opportunity by providing the kind of planning and zining the city is now talking about. Sounds like kind of a free market, private enterprise position to me. Socialism??

Posted by socialism, a resident of ,
on Jul 23, 2012 at 8:44 pm

Mr. Levy, to answer your questions - of course not.

You are far braver than I, willing to dialogue with anonymous posters without the most basic agreement - that of common definition.

Good luck, sir.

Posted by Ed, a resident of ,
on Jul 24, 2012 at 10:30 am

I, too, came to this area to attend Stanford, worked in downtown Palo Alto from the mid-60's, our family moved into a Palo Alto home in 1969.

We, too, love the diversity and vitality of our town. We become community volunteers when we feel our skills may be helpful. We have lived here all our adult lives, have raised our children here (now a number of our grandchildren are nearby), and have massively benefited from the experiences.

Our view of High-Speed Rail differs from Stephen's. The only good news is the early electrification of Caltrain plus some financial support for BART and selected Southern California transit.

The rest of the HSR plan is full of negative surprises that horrify high-profile independent analysts plus a massive unfunded financial obligation that can only grow as time goes on. HSR is so bad, Joe Simitian with considerable insight and courage, defied his Democratic party leadership and voted NO.

Posted by Paul Losch, a resident of ,
on Jul 24, 2012 at 10:30 am

Paul Losch is a registered user.

My take on Steve?s initial posting has to do with what constitutes the character of Palo Alto.

I have the good fortune to have a blog site from PA On-Line, and I indirectly weigh in on aspects of this question from time to time.

Some years ago, when the PA Daily News was in its hay-day, I offered up 5 pillars that contribute to the character of this particular town, some of which parallel Steve?s:
? City of Palo Alto Services
? Schools
? Stanford
? SV
? Volunteer Spirit

I personally find tiresome arguments directed at my blog about ?this and that,? since for the most part a poster is waxing on about a single issue. There may be a leadership issue here at City Hall, and I don?t think that is the problem.

I agree with Steve that this is a great town in which to live, and it is not for everybody. You have to pay a ton of money to buy or rent a residence. People who choose to live here are ?buying? into all sorts of other things, such as I summarized above.

Of course we should discuss and scrutinize what goes on in town, but in the context of what the character of Palo Alto should be.

Fault can be found among those who do not understand that funds are limited?Compost advocates are an example.

Fault can be found among those who do not understand how municipal financing works?it is not one big bucket of money. Conflagrating how to deal with employee health and retirement benefits packages with work done on a capital project, such as road upgrades, is folly. Wish it were that simple, but it?s not.

For me, it is not a matter of finding fault with anyone. It is a matter of making sure the priorities we set and the choices we make tie into the character of a cherished municipality that was here long before we were and will be here long after we leave this veil of tears.

Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of ,
on Jul 24, 2012 at 10:53 am

Not trying to pick a fight...but Stephen, given the state's requirements for hosting an HSR station: host city must fund the construction of the station, the parking facility for thousands of cars and obviously must provide free-flowing access roads to such a facility...

How do you propose this works without destroying the integrity of our current downtown environment? I am also very curious as to how so many cars would travel between 280 or 101 and the HSR station.

Will everything be underground? Including access from the freeways?

Most important --- the state says that Palo Alto would have to foot the entire bill. Where does that money come from? We don't have it. And we're already Parcel taxing ourselves for PAUSD --- let alone the library and the pending infrastructure request.

HSR is a blotted and under-funded tax time bomb. Check out the article in yesterday's Chron. Oops! Someone has to pay for the tunnel to connect HSR to the new Transbay Terminal...and it ain't the state.

Web Link

Posted by stephen levy, a resident of ,
on Jul 24, 2012 at 1:04 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

I didn't mean to start yet another HSR thread but CPD raises a good point.

To clarify again, I wrote on Town Square and other places publicly that I thought the current HSR should be rejected. In terms of the station location, I agree that having local cities pay the entire cost is not workable but the state will eventually figure that out.

My only point was that PA was the logical place for a peninsula station given where riders want to go and that, if so, I was willing to take the extra density/traffic.

I wrote the thread to state my experience that PA is not some quiet suburb, was not so in 1963 and that is an unreasonable expectation or goal as some posters seem to believe.

Moreover, I like the bustle and young faces and energy, also the international look and feel of a university, start up kind of place.

Moreover, I like living and working in Palo Alto and, given all the complaining that goes on with Town Square, thought I would reach out and see if some others also had positive experiences of living here.

Posted by Kevin, a resident of ,
on Jul 24, 2012 at 5:42 pm


Aren't you really saying, "raise taxes"?

Where would you cut? Be specific.

Posted by Sharon, a resident of ,
on Jul 24, 2012 at 6:30 pm

Margaret Thatcher define a Socialist as someone who wants to spend other peoples money-OPM-

-Stephen Levy clearly fit that definition as a Socialist-always has

Quote from Thatcher

"--Socialist governments traditionally do make a financial mess.

They always run out of other people's money.

It's quite a characteristic of them.

They then start to nationalize everything, and people just do not like more and more nationalization, and they're now trying to control everything by other means.

They're progressively reducing the choice available to ordinary people."

Palo Alto is facing a financial cliff as a result of the Socialist policies by Palo Alto politicians and pundits-

-they are still in denial

Enough is enough!

Posted by socialism, a resident of ,
on Jul 24, 2012 at 8:04 pm

Sharon - so despite all your use of the phrase, you don't define it other than "someone who wants to spend other peoples money"?

That makes you a socialist for depending on others to pay taxes and provide your neighborhood with a fire truck, right? Clearly, you can't afford your own.

By your use of Ms. Thatcher's rhetoric (rather than provide a definition) that also makes Reagan and Bush socialists "They always run out of other people's money. It's quite a characteristic of them."

Reagan tripled the debt and Bush doubled it. "They always run out of other people's money. It's quite a characteristic of them."

Quite the socialists.

Thank you for your prompt, if not clear nor lucid, reply.

Posted by Sharon, a resident of ,
on Jul 24, 2012 at 10:49 pm

Palo Alto is facing a financial cliff - the Socialists want to raise taxes

Guess what-

-companies are relocating to Texas where they can survive and thrive.

Palo Alto will end up with a few rich old Socialists living in gated communities in the hills -

- and a Detroit like downtown.

Fortunately Stanford is isolated from this Socialist madness-

-with 280 we can avoid the coming sub-urban nightmare.

Google is in MV, Facebook is in San Mateo.

The money is on Sand Hill Road-close to 280

The Palo Alto Socialists have made Palo Alto a pariah for investments.

It has become just a mailing address and a post box location

Posted by she's in her cups, a resident of ,
on Jul 25, 2012 at 12:00 am

Sharon, what are you talking about????????

Everyones a socialist!

Last time I looked the socialist Facebook was in Menlo, not San Mateo.

But don't let that ruin a good buzz...


Posted by midnight is best, a resident of ,
on Jul 25, 2012 at 12:05 am

Reading the entries around midnight is ALWAYS amusing.

Posted by Solon, a resident of ,
on Jul 25, 2012 at 11:09 am

Schools in Palo Alto are vastly OVERFUNDED.

And are NOT good schools at mid and high level, tho good at elementary level in general.

There are 3 to 4 FULL TIME employees per hundred students NOW than when SL went to school. Not helpful to education.

Our education school confirms there is NO WORKING DEFINITION OF A "GOOD" SCHOOL. SO, we measure by the CHILDREN'S performance -- which is clearly more correlated with parents, parenting, parents education, staying married, having time with children, religious instruction, genetics, etc.

School and individual teachers can be a positive factor for some children.

The OUTCOMES for children would not probably change is school funding were DOUBLED or CUT IN HALF. If you believe contrary, explain how and why and evidence.

burden is on those supporting government run schools.

We will come to a real estate tax bubble in 7 to 12 years about. How many families can really afford about $30,000 in property taxes?
This is about the AVERAGE in my neighborhood for sales.

There a dozen things that can upset our apple cart locally, Palo ALto could face bankruptcy and WILL if trends continue, but corrections are possible.

Why should a homeowner pay for more services than they fairly use?

How can taxing and punishing productivity , to reward not working, reward political friends and donors, fund ideological business plans that do not meet market integrity, (biomass, solar Solyndra, electric cars, etc.) which COULD work if done by market investment but NOT is done by GOVERNMENT investment.

OF course, the "black limousine" culture of entitled overseerers who seek status to "rule" us must have their 20% cut for re-election ads and lifestyle . . .

No, we will not stay this wealthy. There is a big fall coming here in Palo ALto.

Posted by Gary, a resident of ,
on Jul 25, 2012 at 7:17 pm

Stephen Levy says he want to experience a dynamic city. So do I. Why not?

Palo Alto would be much more dynamic, if we did not infuse city funds into programs that can be funded by private funds. Our schools would be better, if we had educational vouchers.

Levy wants to raise taxes, that is very clear. Good call, Kevin.

Posted by Douglas Moran, a resident of ,
on Jul 29, 2012 at 11:57 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

Stephen Levy illustrates what is wrong with Palo Alto's political elite: He advocates a vision, but rejects responsibility for the predictable and well-known consequences of that vision (eg the HSR station).

Posted by thetruth, a resident of ,
on Jul 31, 2012 at 11:46 pm

PLEASE you prop 13 welfare QUEEN...and shut up Levy about High Speed Rail..I dont care about stupid fake PA..AKA Mayberry RFD...The City also owns those track..So stop your arrogant demands and orders..

Posted by Resident, a resident of ,
on Aug 1, 2012 at 12:49 am

Little boxes on the hillside,
Little boxes made of ticky tacky,
Little boxes on the hillside,
Little boxes all the same.
There's a green one and a pink one
And a blue one and a yellow one,
And they're all made out of ticky tacky
And they all look just the same.

And the people in the houses
All went to the university,
Where they were put in boxes
And they came out all the same,
And there's doctors and lawyers,
And business executives,
And they're all made out of ticky tacky
And they all look just the same.

And they all play on the golf course
And drink their martinis dry,
And they all have pretty children
And the children go to school,
And the children go to summer camp
And then to the university,
Where they are put in boxes
And they come out all the same.

And the boys go into business
And marry and raise a family
In boxes made of ticky tacky
And they all look just the same.
There's a green one and a pink one
And a blue one and a yellow one,
And they're all made out of ticky tacky
And they all look just the same.

Posted by Anna, a resident of ,
on Aug 1, 2012 at 5:25 pm

I don't know if Levy is a socialist or even what the definition of socialist is for purposes of this discussion. But Levy leans very far to the collectivist side of most discussions here, including this one. While I agree that Palo Alto is a nice place to live, it would be much nicer from my point of view if there were fewer people like Levy who wish to impose their values on the rest of us and who have grand ideas about how many people should live here, how much "hustle and bustle" we should have in town, etc and very specific ideas about how to impose these ideas on the rest of us.

A prime example of this is his tiresome advocacy of development on a scale that would change the character of Palo Alto to one more dense, more urban and more hectic than the character of the Palo Alto most of us were attracted to when we moved here. Among the fanciful justifications he's offered for this policy is that other people have some vaguely-sourced "right" to live here irrespective of their means.

Levy often comes up with topics that might provide lively debate here if he weren't so incapable of logical thought and reasoned unemotional thinking on the subjects that move him.

Posted by Only Allowed To Look In But Never Really Participate, a resident of ,
on Aug 3, 2012 at 9:03 am

Palo Alto is just an okay place to live, work and hang out. Afterall, it is not London, Paris, New York, San Francisco or some great international city. The challenge with Palo Alto however, is with people like Levy. There seems to be about 400 or so people who really run Palo Alto, and they have the influence to decide who wins city council races; who builds what in the city; what is built in the city; how streets are developed - i.e. reduced so as to increase traffic and buying power to certain areas; what types of retail the city has; whether folks can bike in an area; providing insufficient parking so as to increase biking and walking - good things healthwise, but not always practical; and the list goes on. I have lived in this city for 26 years - not a bad place; one generally feels safe here, and people let you be who you want to be. Unfortunately, Palo Alto is really like Mayberry RFD where only a few people can influence the character, and vibe of the city. Mr. Levy's take is, if you don't like it leave - great persepctive, except it is not a matter of not liking the place. It is the reality that despite the fact that Palo Alto likes to perceive itself as an open minded, accepting community, it is in fact not an open minded accepting community. At the end of the day, people choose to stay because it is peaceful, safe, and no one bothers you here. We can accept that the community is "only" diverse in terms of the physical traits of the people who live and work here, but that the community is not really willing to be open to the opinions and perspectives of those diverse people. Basically, the typical pseudo liberal babble - Palo Alto is the type of city that votes for Obama, and says it supports all that he does for the most part, but will go to any length to exlude its own "Obama" like residents from fully paticipating in the community of Palo Alto. But, again, Palo Alto is an okay place, because no one bothers you here, and one can live in peace. For me, I like safety, peace and to be able to have a non-confrontational quality of life. In the final analysis, the Palo Alto community is the ultimate loser for choosing to want to have complete control over who influences its community and who has the ultimate say; for the residents, life still goes on, albeit not as fully, productive, and vibrant as it could if the place were truly inclusive. So, Palo Alto is just an okay place.

Posted by MadamPresident, a resident of ,
on Aug 3, 2012 at 1:55 pm


PA is much better than most places, but boy oh boy so many backwater people

Posted by stephen levy, a resident of ,
on Sep 28, 2012 at 9:04 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

I am intrigued by the new proposal for the 27 University Ave project and glad we will get a chance to vote if the council decides to flesh out and go forward with the project.

There may be reasons to modify the proposal or reject it but "preserving the small town suburban Palo Alto" is not one of them.

I have worked and lived near the project site for most of the past 45 years and as I write at the start of this thread Palo Alto and particularly downtown PA is not and has not for a long long time been a small town suburb.

Within a short distance of the project site is a major university, a major regional medical center, a regional shopping center and a regional research park. Down the street is a thriving tech center with high deamnd for more office space.

These are already destination areas and if this is a good project for PA, the proposed area is a great choice in my opinion--in the center of a high demand regional happening area.

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