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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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Smart Growth, Commuting and Non Commute Travel Options

Uploaded: Jun 27, 2014
Many households include multiple workers who often work in different directions from where they live. What are the "smart" locations for these households to minimize total commuting time and convenience? Of course people may have reasons for living in other locations but here let's look at locations in terms of commuting convenience.

The criteria are pretty straightforward—access to close by commute options for as many different work locations as possible. This includes freeway, bridge and transit options.
Fremont seems like a good choice. It is near BART going north and south and even into SF and near 880 going north and south and close to the Dumbarton Bridge. Oakland and Berkeley are good choices. They are accessible to the East Bay and San Francisco by BART and freeway and accessible to Silicon Valley, which will get easier as the new BART stations are opened south of Fremont.

San Francisco is a good location for many. It has access to the East Bay and the Peninsula with both public transportation and freeways.

And Palo Alto is a smart choice for maximizing commute options. Palo Alto is in the center of Silicon Valley with Caltrain and freeway (two freeways actually) north and south. And Palo Alto sits near the entrance to the Dumbarton Bridge and has public transit access to the Fremont BART station and East Bay as well.

It is hard to name another mid-Peninsula city with greater commuting flexibility. Some locations in Palo Alto have better commute access than others, which is why many residents at the last alternative futures meeting this week talked about having new housing focused around the Caltrain stations but most locations in the city offer commute options for households with workers heading in different directions.

Of course Palo Alto is an expensive housing market and households should be free to locate in more distant communities with longer commutes if they want that choice.

Smart growth also focuses on reducing the need for non-commute trips. The idea is to locate housing near services. So our location in downtown Palo Alto does that for our family. We walk to nearly everything we do on most days—shopping, eating out, doctors and dentists and wide variety of other activities and so do the families in our building with children. It is a lifestyle that many enjoy. And it does reduce total car trips and parking needs. There will still be car trips but fewer.

Many people at our table at the city's alternative futures meeting and at other tables wished they could reduce the housing growth in Palo Alto. On the other hand many in the room wanted to make more housing available with a focus on maintaining some diversity in our expensive city.

But all the groups as in the prior city Our Palo Alto meeting were consistent in identifying the smart growth locations within Palo Alto for future housing growth with a dual focus of 1) reducing or eliminating growth within existing single family neighborhoods and 2) focusing growth near shopping and services. So locations like the downtown/Stanford Shopping Center area, California Avenue, parts of El Camino, parts of the research park (if possible) and the Fabian Way area had substantial support.

The next step for the city staff is to flesh out some alternative land use patterns with more detail on the housing and other options and implications.

The most difficult challenge is that there are always different perspectives in Palo Alto as in most communities—the perspective of residents feeling the pressures of growth, the perspective of property owners and their legal rights to develop their properties, the perspective of businesses and the University and the perspective of new residents to the region who want to join the Palo Alto community.
What is it worth to you?


Posted by Local, a resident of Green Acres,
on Jun 27, 2014 at 1:19 pm

Let me guess, you live on the north side of town. On the south side, we actually need more services and business, not housing. The traffic is so bad from the overdeveloped housing and limited infrastructure, it's not realistic to just tell us to drive north.

You make it sound like most people have a choice. When we were looking for housing, whether rental or purchase, sunnyvale or san carlos, we were usually looking with a gazillion other people. Unless you are Zuckerberg, you get what you can get. Surprisingly, we ended up in Palo Alto, but we had stopped looking by then, we really just lucked out. (And had the world's greatest agent.) Although, having lived on both sides of Palo Alto, I find the people a lot friendlier over here than in the north. It's also more diverse, which we prefer. Not that I don't have friends on the other side, it's just almost as hard to visit them now as friends in RWC. Just as hard to visit most of our municipal and rec facilities, which are concentrated in the north.

Posted by curmudgeon, a resident of Downtown North,
on Jun 27, 2014 at 4:49 pm

"[The group recommended]...housing growth with a dual focus of 1) reducing or eliminating growth within existing single family neighborhoods and 2) focusing growth near shopping and services."

It's no surprise that the first priority is maintaining the purity of single-family neighborhoods, followed by the dog-whistle mantra of sequestering growth near shopping and services. Translation: NIMBY

How was the composition of the group divided between single family dwellings and multifamily residents? I could guess... .

What are these R1 types so afraid of? In my neighborhood, multifamily housing developments routinely coexist cheek by jowl with single-family homes. It's a beautiful, tree-lined, diverse neighborhood as a result.

Yet, despite living in and near Downtown, we must drive to shop for basics like everyday clothing and non-premium groceries. Stanford Shopping Center? Forget it. Few of us tend our yards in duds from Wilkes-Bashford and Nieman-Marcus.

"Smart Growth" is deeply flawed because it is based not on facts, but on ad hoc assumptions. Like, build housing near transit in suburban town such as ours because that's what they are presumed to do in real cities (they don't; they bring the transit to the people via buses).

If you build it, will they ride?

Do you know what fraction of the residents of our existing multifamily units near Caltrain take the train or bus to work? City hall doggedly declines to find out, but one enterprising resident of a large Cal Ave multifamily edifice right by the station surveyed her complex and reported the outcome to the city council: 1 in 20. Meantime, Middlefield Road is clogged from Willow Road every evening, and in the reverse direction each morning. Go watch.

Urban densities and suburban driving necessities are the perfect prescription for the perfect gridlock storm. Which is where "Smart Growth" will inevitably take us.

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Jun 27, 2014 at 5:13 pm

One of the biggest problems in Palo Alto is the school commute. Many students ride their bikes, some 3+ miles each day, but it can be hard to ride a bike with a musical instrument, sports equipment, an injury or a homework project.

There are free shuttles for many of the Paly students, and VTA 88 for Gunn students, but these shuttles and buses get very full and do not help many areas of town.

As a result, there are a lot of parents driving kids to school, we have commuter schools and overflow space across town, but no school buses.

Getting kids to and from school by means other than cars would make a big difference. Even now, there is summer school and school camps and so many cars are driving kids to where they need to be.

Then you can start looking at the practicalities of getting from A to B at non commute times, when even a simple errand run of maybe 2 or 3 different places mean parking 3 different times. Not many of us are able to pick up groceries, visit the post office, library, dry cleaners and perhaps have lunch all within a 15 minute walk each way and get back home in less than an hour, it is more like a morning or afternoon experience taking a couple of hours, even by car on a Saturday.

Posted by Data?, a resident of Old Mountain View,
on Jun 27, 2014 at 9:32 pm

"We walk to nearly everything we do on most days?shopping, eating out, doctors and dentists and wide variety of other activities and so do the families in our building with children. It is a lifestyle that many enjoy."

I want to focus specifically on your statement: "It is a lifestyle that many enjoy." I think a more correct statement ought to be "It is a lifestyle that a few enjoy", unless you can show some data collected from a reliable source that proves that a significant percentage (40% let's say) are not only doing most of their activities by walking, but are actually ENJOYING it. ("Enjoying" can also mean just "doing" it without the positive emotion usually attached to "enjoyment")

I'm sure that you SEE some others doing it in your neighborhood, but I think if you go to any fairly densely populated area, you might witness what seems to be "many" people "enjoying" the walkability to services. But what about all the people you ARE NOT SEEING? The ones that are in their cars trying to get to the services and activities that they truly do need or all the people that just stay home miserable because of the horrible livability that the higher density area has created.

So far, I have not seen any Smart Growther address these issues.

Posted by Iconoclast, a resident of University South,
on Jun 27, 2014 at 10:32 pm

"So far, I have not seen any Smart Growther address these issues."

Nor will you. They are heresy in the SG religion, beneath notice.

En garde, Steve Levy.

Posted by boscoli, a resident of Old Palo Alto,
on Jun 28, 2014 at 6:23 am

"Smart growth" is a meaningless cliche. It's a code word for growth that will lead to gridlock, population over density and a deterioration of our quality of life. SG has never been successful anywhere, and it never will be. When an area has been overdeveloped and overpopulated, the only remedy is No More Growth.

Posted by Garrett, a resident of another community,
on Jun 28, 2014 at 8:43 am

I don't see entire R-1 neighborhoods going to high density which makes no sense or not very smart. Yes a in law, duplex here and there but closer to shopping center, business districts and downtown areas. El Camino Real even parts of San Antonio, Page Mill could become medium density with retail, professional serives.

The problem is getting all cities to think along the same lines, create entire liveable neighborhoods from old strip malls, old industrail areas, large outdated shopping center and parking lots that sit empty at nights and weekends.

Posted by Lee Thé, a resident of Greenmeadow,
on Jun 28, 2014 at 10:34 pm

Is there a "Smart Water Supply" correlary to "Smart Growth" that I'm not aware of?

Last time I checked, most people need water--potable water. This year there's a statewide drought. Governor Brown has asked all Californians to reduce water consumption 20%. Palo Alto's water comes from Hetch Hetchy Reservoir plus local walls when need be. Remember what that tastes like? Meanwhile San Francisco, which owns the Hetch Hetchy water system, is probably going to start rationing our water.

And one of the byproducts of global warming is less reliable weather patterns. We cannot assume that past rainfall patterns will continue.

Of cours Palo Alto is full of shrubbery. We can do without that, right?

Because if we add to the city's population and have to ration our water, what choice will we have but to give up our greenery?

Funny how "Smart Growth" people never talk about that.

Posted by Garrett , a resident of another community,
on Jun 29, 2014 at 7:41 am

Building for Smart Water Usage makes perfect sense but watching them build hundreds of single family homes or garden style apartments in the central valley doesn't male sense.

People commute 2 times a day, 5 days a week, rest of the car trips, car trips to buy even a cup of coffee. Seen this on a Sunday morning at Starbucks, lined up in sleepwear.

How to build raileay suburbs or neighborhoods that will enhance the quality of life. Instead with the commute, traffic and everyone rushing around to get extra time just to enjoy some down time.

Posted by Mike Humphries, a resident of Crescent Park,
on Jun 29, 2014 at 9:17 am

Many of us, if we care enough and have a bit of luck eventually have a home in a community that is not just a waypoint to the next acquisition but really home. Even if our place of choice is not perfect the trade- offs work for us. It is where we want to live long term and contribute to maintaining the qualities that made us decide to stay and become a part of the community.

For a lot of us that is Palo Alto. It's the people, homes, neighborhoods, schools, trees, parks and our own local downtown. We are truly lucky. But except for a few small pieces of land we are built out. New single family homes must be built mostly by tearing down old ones- which is now common but in most cases compatible with the character of Palo Alto. Shoehorning dense new multi-family development into Palo Alto will (and already is) fundamentally transforming the look and feel of the town that attracted many of us. And the ill effects cascade as density and population increase: traffic, noise, demands on schools, water resources and quality of life.

Unless those of us who chose Palo Alto as our long term home are really crazy we should never allow external forces and a few internal special interests to force growth and density on us in order to achieve their agendas for revenue, jobs/housing ratios and "Smart Growth." We are going to have to join forces and defeat Smart Growth and other entities with similar objectives unless we are willing to lose the Palo Alto we chose as our home.

Posted by Steve Levy, a Almanac Online blogger,
on Jun 29, 2014 at 11:44 am

Steve Levy is a registered user.

@ Mike Humphries

Thanks for your post and for signing your name.

My understanding from your post and that of most respondents is that they wish for zero or very little growth in Palo Alto.

So when you say "defeat Smart Growth" I think you mean something more like "Stop Growth". If I am wrong, please correct me.

But so-called Smart Growth is not about the level of growth but, rather about how best to accommodate the growth that is occurring. And Smart Growth is a regional concept looking at the best places in the region for growth to occur--in which communities and where in those communities.

I respect the rights of people to not want growth and to, within legal limits, to control their city land use policies.

But I have never heard an answer that makes any sense to me either logically or practically to the question of "if not some of the growth here, then where".

I am confident that the three assertions in my post are correct and have not heard anything to the contrary:

1) Palo Alto is one of the best locations for access to highway, bridge and public transportation options for families with workers commuting in different directions (and also for businesses seeking briad access to the region's labor force)

2) Within Palo Alto, locations like downtown allow families to make fewer (not none but fewer) non work trips and

3) that the high housing prices and rents are evidence that these locations serve the needs of new residents who are making the choice to pay up for these locations rather than spend less for housing in farther away communities.

Again, thank you for posting under your real name.

Posted by Steve Levy, a Almanac Online blogger,
on Jun 29, 2014 at 11:50 am

Steve Levy is a registered user.

This is copied from a post on the main TS page responding to the Weekly's editorial on developers. It echoes my experience from attending the Our Palo Alto meetings and my hope that we can come together and meet the challenges of growth that is legally permitted under current zoning in a regional and Peninsula economy that is leading the state in job and population growth.

"It seems that there is a strong "us versus them" attitude throughout these comments ("residentalist party"), and I wonder if this impacts the willingness to find a common ground.

There is much that can be done to set the future of Palo Alto - and the city is reaching out to us. How many commenting here have attended the previous three "Our Palo Alto 2030" meetings? I have found each had wide varieties of views from the citizens, and there were a significant number of city employees in attendance, and taking many notes. There was a continuing sense of civil discourse with strong views presented without emotion.

The world is changing - rapidly. I support active, positive, and civil involvement to direct this change. We can't stop it - change is inevitable. We can help guide it. Polarized political parties will not help guide it."

Posted by Garrett , a resident of another community,
on Jun 29, 2014 at 1:43 pm

Most people come to a place for jobs, we all know that the area is hot bed of job creation. 10, 20, 30 years ago we were having the same conversation about job to housing, the same answer was to grow somplace else. In some cases tech moved offices, plants and warehouses elsewhere keeping larger more significant operations in the area.

Yet it seems with every bust cycle comes boom cycle, same.conversation about growth, transit vs automobile. Suburban vs smart growth. Yet the edge of Suburbia grows, prices go up, the idea of living within reasonable commute grows futher as out of town commuters grows.

Yes Fremont to Palo Alto is reasonable but the same quality of life issues, different city, different county. Fremont Warm Springs BART future site of big development with housing and offices. Fremont is enjoying the same boom cycle, jobs, jobs and jobs.

Most likely the Warm Spring BART development will dislocate blue collar plants, warehouses for tech related development. Warehouses, product making plants and non tech related businesses will move futher east

Posted by Mike Humphries, a resident of Crescent Park,
on Jun 30, 2014 at 10:50 am

Stephen, here is my response to your questions about my post yesterday. It is longer than I'd like but I don't think I will be adding any more later so it covers all my thoughts.

You are correct in that my comment about defeating Smart Growth is really "stop growth." I think it unnecessary to state we also need to defeat Dumb Growth and Mediocure Growth. You say 'change is inevitable' which in the big scope of things is true but it does not mean all things must change including localized housing density, land use and quality of life.

I understand your three points but disagree in some areas with what I think you imply:

1. Yes, Palo Alto is in a good location for access to freeways, public transit, etc. But that does not mean the future should bring the condemnation of thousands of Palo lots to be replaced with high rises to allow many more people to be here and take advantage of the location. I have been here 30 years and have had more than six different offices in SF requiring I be there 4-5 days each week. Today that commute is very painful not matter what you do- and public transit from PA to the Financial District adds 30 plus minutes each way. I now am in a position to choose my business clients and no longer engage with those that would cause me to incur extensive commutes. We all have trade-offs between work and home. Many large tech companies have addressed this by building satellite campuses in other communities like Sacramento, Austin and Portland. Eventually they will also be at capacity and new locations must be found for needed expansion.There is no fundemental right to live and work in Palo Alto or anywhere else I know of.

2. "Locations like downtown let families make fewer non-work trips" But if we are to accommodate everyone who wants that convenience we will need to replace most of downtown with high rises so they can all live here and walk to restaurants. The downtown would be completely transformed. São Paulo is like that and people that can afford to travel from building top to building top by helicopter because transiting on the street is too slow. The logical smart growth future for our downtown will result in a place not likely compatible with what your family and others currently downtown appreciate as your lifestyle.

3. The high prices you refer to are I think because of a lot of things- among them location and the community and schools. I listed others in my original post. I can see why developers and property owners downtown would want to promote growth as they now do. There is big money to be made. But for them it's a business -for most of us who live here it is home. That is a big part of the "us versus them" you refer to. I don't begrudge someone an ability to run a business but draw the line when doing so degrades our chosen community and home.

Should we allow lumberjacks to cut Palo Alto's neighborhood redwoods because it supports their profession, provides them a living and let's them work close by? After all, there are a number of parks nearby where we can go to see redwoods when these are gone. Absurd example yet that is pretty much the kind of trade off being supported in the quest to shoehorn more people and businesses wanting to be here (with their supporting infrastructure) into Palo Alto and adjacent communities.

So I guess it really is down to 'us versus them.' 'Them' being those with an interest in high density development, those who support that so they may live here and quasi governmental agencies with social or other agendas that bargain governmental dollars for buying into 'Smart Growth.'

There is a time when choosing to protect a quality of life supercedes accomodation of others' business interests or their desire to have a right to live somewhere they cannot currently afford. I lived in Mountain View when I first moved here after college and never thought I had a right to live in Palo Alto. We bought here when we decided we could afford the prices and although high even for this area did so because the quality of the community made it worthwhile.

Perhaps you and I simply have different visions of what version of Palo Alto makes us happy, and perhaps they are mutually compatible-your downtown and my Crescent Park, Lucy Stern, Foothills Park, Bixby Park, etc. But if those visions are not compatible then I'd be foolish to go along with anything that promotes transformation of the Palo Alto I chose and support to something I would never choose.

Posted by curmudgeon, a resident of Downtown North,
on Jun 30, 2014 at 11:59 am

"How many commenting here have attended the previous three "Our Palo Alto 2030" meetings?"

You are at the feelgood stage of the theatre. The hard lesson comes at its conclusion, when staff presents its foreordained outcome to the city council as the result of its public "outreach" and you cannot object that few (if any) citizens supported (or even heard of) that outcome because the mayor has closed the public part of the hearing and staff owns the floor to present whatever it pleases as your fond wish. The council heaps fulsome praise on the participants and votes the staff recommendation. You zombie out of the chamber dazed.

I know because I've been there, and am acquainted with others who have. Once upon a time I naively served on two city citizen groups where "there were a significant number of city employees in attendance, and taking many notes." The outcome in both cases was as I described above. Taking notes and listening are not the same thing. Never again will I be a staff stooge.

Posted by Garrett, a resident of another community,
on Jun 30, 2014 at 1:26 pm

Been to London many times, Lindon is not all high rises, single family homes exist but built differently.

Nobody ever talk about between a single family home and high rise apartment buildings in Stanford Business Park.

Not everyone has the right to live in (blank) or work in (blank). People tend to work, do want a quality of life outside of work but don't want to spend there lives in commute H*"L.

Posted by Garrett, a resident of another community,
on Jun 30, 2014 at 1:36 pm

Meant to say "Their lives in commute H*"l". Do fully understand 2 to 3 paychech households, with 3 kids, 2 cars, one child special need and having to spend quality time. Not me but the above is a.friend of mine

Posted by Mark Weiss, a resident of Barron Park,
on Jun 30, 2014 at 4:31 pm

Aha, it took me two weeks to figure out that when you say "TS" you mean "town square" -- there are about six other uses of that TLA search-able.

Meanwhile, I's been thinkin':

've been meaning to organize my thoughts about Our Palo Alto, and the workshop I attended last week, at the Elks Club. I was seated, via purportedly random processes, at a group of 7 that included Steve Levy and Ray Bachetti, as well as announced-candidate for City Council Tom Dubois and staff person Elena Lee.

The overall context is my incredulity about the process: How is "Our Palo Alto" not a $325,000 subsidy of the developers? Or, how is "Our Palo Alto" not a $325,000 slush fund for the re-election of incumbents?

My table also included two people, a husband and wife, who live in or near Barron Park and were involved in the referendum that became Measure D. I counted nine tables of seven or eight people each, and maybe ten staff

I used the opportunity to practice stumping for my proposal to try to zone the Fry's Property as a park rather than more housing. Would a park in Ventura be a gentler way to gentrify that area, where average home values are about 60 percent of Palo Alto average? I flipped thru my Parks of Palo Alto booklet (produced by PAHA) to suggest that Greer Park could be a precedent for Ventura Park (and why not call it, working title Gary Fazzino Park?). Greer Park came about when the Palo Alto drive-in folded and the taxpayers reached out to keep the land a public amenity. So if Fry's is falling victim to the disruptive nature of the internet (Ebay et al), why not move them downtown -- perhaps to 456 University -- and I bite my tongue saying this -- and use that land for public benefit. As it stands the momentum is with the large South Bay developer getting their way to bring housing and the citizens nodding their consent. It would take quite an effort to not give this 400 pound gorilla what it wants.

But we can at least talk about it, right?

Meanwhile the four choices the Our Palo Alto workshop people were given were two types of growth and not much discussion to "doing nothing".

There are about 130 days until an election here and things are getting, in my humble opinion, curiouser and curiouser.

There's a book by George Packer called "The Unwinding" that is quite recent and instructive here. By his model Democracy is something that we must attend to, or it will run down.

Our Palo Alto does not speak for me. It seems, among its faults, to beg the question that both high density housing AND commercial office space will continue and offers us a narrowly framed pseudo-choice of types of reactions. Further: is it debatable whether we even need to revise let alone amend the Comp Plan, or is that another orchestrated interpretation of what we the people have wanted and are working on? Likewise, the Downtown Cap is a promise we made to ourselves, why are they making it seem archaic, why give it mere lip-service? And I think there are many of us who would stand up for what is best for 60,000 current Palo Alto residents and risk a bureaucratic response from pseudo-governmental (and probably biased, or tainted) regional entities like ABAG, pushing for more housing.

As a liberal arts graduate, still liberating and continuing my studies even 30 years past the granting of my diploma, I think we need to question a lot of what is served up.

edit here as you see fit (portions were deleted), answer that and stay fashionable, or do what you will:

Why would property rights trump the will of the people?

Posted by palo alto resident, a resident of Crescent Park,
on Jun 30, 2014 at 5:11 pm

@Steve Maybe I'm missing something, but besides the Caltrain, the Palo Alto Shuttle and Stanford Marguerite, what type of public transit does Palo Alto have that residents actually USE? Residents, not people living elsewhere that take the bus to work.

As far as walking to amenities downtown, it is a lovely office park with lots of restaurants but the only actual "stores" left downtown are Toy and Sport, Whole Foods, Walgreens, CVS and Palo Alto Hardware.

I think there is a big disconnect between those who thing Palo Alto should become a very urban City and those who want to preserve Palo Alto as a suburb and college town.

Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park,
on Jul 1, 2014 at 11:02 am

If you're going to argue for which city is the best for "smart" growth, I would argue that Mountain View has the best set up on the Peninsula.

Transit - the downtown station has access to Caltrain, VTA light rail, VTA buses.

Autos - easy access and large capacity...101, 85, Central Expressway, Foothill Expressway, El Camino, Shoreline, 280 (via 85 or Foothill), San Antonio Road, Rengstorf, Whisman.

Large grocery stores with wide variety and very good pricing - including stores that specialize in ethnic offerings. Plus reasonable access to big box stores within the city limits (Costco, Best Buy, REI, Bed/Bath, Walmart, Target). Gas stations all over town.

Vibrant downtown area. Downtown theater. Parks everywhere. Stevens Creek Trail. Shoreline Amphitheater.

Medical - PAMF at the old Emporium site. El Camino Hospital on Grant Road.

Schools - both Los Altos HS and Mtn Vw HS have top academic marks. St. Francis is a decently priced private HS (as opposed to the astronomical fees at Casti, Menlo and SHP).

High Tech center with plenty of room to grow.

Don't get me wrong, I love living in PA. But Mountain View is superior to PA when it comes to a place to experiment with the growth ideals you have in mind.

Posted by stephen levy, a resident of University South,
on Jul 1, 2014 at 11:52 am

stephen levy is a registered user.

Lots of good comments. Thank you.

I am busy for a day or two but will respond when I have time.

Posted by reader, a resident of Old Mountain View,
on Jul 3, 2014 at 1:23 pm

Since when is growth always good? Growth in jobs? Growth in housing? Growth in school size? Growth in fast food places? Growth in waist lines? Growth in diseases?
My point is there is sizes that are good and sometimes growth is wrong and maybe companies here and the communities need a diet. Too much overcrowding causes more stress that people can handle -- people get sicker- people lose time, the air gets worse, people get ruder and feelings of community disappear.
It seems people believe economic growth is always a good thing and just needs to be managed better. Past a limit that is lower that many would like, it has not been shown to be able to be managed better. Or if you think there are such examples, do you really believe they can be successfully implemented here now even accepting the resulting massive disruption to existing communities?

Posted by stephen levy, a resident of University South,
on Jul 3, 2014 at 5:28 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

Crescent Park Dad writes about what a smart place Mountain View is for growth in housing.

I agree but we need lots of smart places to put the Peninsula growth that is coming. And Palo Alto ranks near the top of the list on the very criteria CPD mentions.

Some of the skeptical posters call for "facts". Here's one suggested by CPD's post.

Residents young and old, with and without children, are paying high prices and rents to live in my downtown neighborhood. Check out the prices in the Weekly.

For these prices and rents they could live in a condo or single family home in Mountain View or many parts of south Palo Alto.

So they are making a choice to live in downtown PA showing that they have differences preferences than many of the posters.

Posted by stephen levy, a resident of University South,
on Jul 3, 2014 at 5:36 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

Mark Weiss writes "why would property rights trump the will of the people".

My perspective is that "rights" in America like the Bill of Rights are an important part of what is great about out country. I am happy the rights of African Americans trumped the will of the people in many southern communities in our past and current times.

I am happy the rights of gay Americans are "trumping" the will of the people as court after court throws out voter approved bans.

I am happy that the right of my parents to live in their neighborhood 60 years ago trumped the will of residents who inserted "don't sell to Jews" restrictions on their property.

And, yes I think property owners have rights. On the other hand those rights do not include building outside of current zoning without specific approval. But they do include to develop their property legally whether or not their neighbors object.

Posted by stephen levy, a resident of University South,
on Jul 3, 2014 at 5:40 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

I think Mike Humphries have agreed to both agree and disagree.

We seem to agree that downtown is a good location for the people who want to move there and that many do.

We probably agree that many residents would prefer this not happen.

And we probably disagree about the extent to which housing growth should proceed and what that means for the community.

Thanks again for posting under I assume your real name.

Posted by stephen levy, a resident of University South,
on Jul 3, 2014 at 5:44 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

Curmudgeon and Mark Weiss are skeptical about the Our Palo Alto process. I am am less skeptical.

But the real point of my post and that of another resident about these meetings was not about the staff or council but about the wide variety of perspectives of the residents who came and participated.

Those residents expressed more openness to working together than many Town Square posters.

Posted by stephen levy, a resident of University South,
on Jul 3, 2014 at 6:02 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

Palo Alto resident writes "@Steve Maybe I'm missing something, but besides the Caltrain, the Palo Alto Shuttle and Stanford Marguerite, what type of public transit does Palo Alto have that residents actually USE? Residents, not people living elsewhere that take the bus to work."

I think there are not many other transit options BUT what you listed is pretty darn good compared to most Peninsula communities.

In addition I am arguing that PA is a good location for commuters working in other cities.

PAR and others question the usefulness of downtown businesses for residents living nearby and others note that downtown is expensive, which is often true.

My experience of downtown is that it is a convenient place--far more so than when we lived in single family neighborhoods for nearly 30 years. But this conversation tends to get limited as it is really a "different strokes for different folks" situation.

We are happy being able to walk to Whole Foods and TJs. CVS and Walgreens now offer a far broader array of goods than before.

Nancy's doctors are a very short walk away at PAMC. Both our dentists are downtown. We use the Verizon and Apple stores and bought covers as Speck. We get clothes altered downtown. I get haircuts downtown and buy shoes nearby. There is a downtown hardware store and one with beauty supplies. We are near dry cleaning shops.

We find a great variety of places to eat and many are not that expensive while some are more expensive.

There are no Costco or Walmart stores or Best Buy but there weren't any of these where we lived previously. There is a steady stream of deliveries from online purchases where we live and I suspect many families are doing shopping online.

Stanford Shopping center is a medium walk or short drive away. The Stanford shuttle opens up access to the University and medical center and Welch Road.

And there are a lot of people paying dollars to live downtown that they could have used to live in Mountain View or south Palo Alto so downtown ust work for them too.

Posted by stephen levy, a resident of University South,
on Jul 3, 2014 at 6:05 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

Reader wonders whether growth is always good. I suspect the answer depends on who is being asked. That is not the point of this blog. I accept that a certain amount of growth is coming and write about where it might best be located.

Posted by reader, a resident of Old Mountain View,
on Jul 3, 2014 at 9:07 pm

whether growth is good is basic to this issue. and to say it is coming whether or not so what is best is how things like global warming and other disasters are handled by americans. They want the benefits that they themselves get for whatever they want and the problems that may be downwind to others are not their problem. when downwind, they want to control the other--this is not a very intelligent way of handling things, nor is this method of just accepting growth intelligent. If everyone wants to drive in China, should they be allowed to? If you say no, then what right do you have to say this?

Posted by local, a resident of Green Acres,
on Jul 4, 2014 at 3:38 am

"I used the opportunity to practice stumping for my proposal to try to zone the Fry's Property as a park rather than more housing."

I have been thinking the same thing! That location is so central and could be a community anchor on this side of town that has seen SO much growth.

But why stop at park? Why not some kind of innovation/maker space and park? Why not a place where we can remember what the horizon and sky look like? Keep it open, keep it low...

@Mike Humphries,
Beautifully said!

(Portion deleted)

Posted by curmudgeon, a resident of Downtown North,
on Jul 7, 2014 at 10:07 am

" I accept that a certain amount of growth is coming and write about where it might best be located."

The best place for growth is everywhere. Downtown North (and parts of University South) shows that multifamily and single-family housing can exist very well next door to one another, and the effect is a very pleasant, walkable, diverse neighborhood. Such a pattern uses the available land more efficiently, particularly the numerous oversize lots in our pre-1950s neighborhoods. I would advocate zoning incentives to bring this about, and to make the construction of neighborhood-serving stores like Willows Market in Menlo Park attractive. A fleet of small quiet buses will suffice for transit.

To build sustainable high-density residential islands clustered around transit terminals would necessitate clear-cutting the expensive development currently there and engineering an urban environment with residential-serving commercial interspersed among high-rises.

If we simply plant housing towers we get the nightmare gridlockogenic scenario I've described earlier: urban dwelling density with suburban driving necessity.

But there's a catch-22 in all of this. Constructing the sustainable scenario is economically impossible in today's boom. When the boom ends and commercial development becomes unattractive, as it eventually will, population pressure will ease and there will be no need for these housing projects.

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