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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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I support conversion of office space to housing on West Bayshore

Uploaded: Jun 19, 2022
Dear Mayor Burt and Councilmembers,

I write in support of Summerhill Homes’ development proposal at 2850 West Bayshore Road. Both the staff and PTC have brought this housing proposal to you with their support.

The construction of 48 townhouses on this site is consistent with the Palo Alto Comprehensive Plan, Zoning Ordinance and the current work of the Housing Element Update.

In addition, the development proposal meets two important city objectives with respect to new housing projects:

The planned townhomes will be three and four bedrooms, so the seven BMR units will provide affordable housing alternatives for larger families.

The proposed project replaces office uses with housing . Rejection of this project will raise doubts about the viability of the many commercial sites planned for housing in the site inventory.

The proposal is now one year old and has gone through numerous reviews and public hearings. The City has a goal to expedite and simplify the review project. A good first step would be approving this project tonight.

Stephen Levy

Center for Continuing Study of the California Economy

50+ year resident of Palo Alto
Local Journalism.
What is it worth to you?


Posted by Amy+Sung, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis,
on Jun 19, 2022 at 9:33 pm

Amy+Sung is a registered user.

I am really rooting for this Summerhill project at 2850 West Bay Shore. A reputable builder and 48 townhomes to kick start the commercial space conversion. Didn't realize this project has been on the pipeline for a year. If it checks all the boxes, let's do this.

Posted by stephen levy, a resident of University South,
on Jun 21, 2022 at 10:52 am

stephen levy is a registered user.

Thank you Pat Burt for your clear comments and leadership to get a 7-0 vote of approval

Posted by JAFO, a resident of Old Mountain View,
on Jun 21, 2022 at 12:07 pm

JAFO is a registered user.

I suspect this project will be cancelled. I just did some research on the local rental markets in Mountain view, and Palo Alto has the same history. And the fact that the FED Reserve is going to raise the rate another 75 Basis points in July means that the mortgage and borrowing costs for rentals are going to exceed at minimum 7%. Given that the local market has no chance to ever recover regarding AB5 and Covid, this will in effect kill the stability and the return on investments involved with all local housing plans.


I just posted my first Youtube video demonstrating the current state of the rental market in Mountain View. I plan on doing a video regarding the SCC Tax history of my building shortly.

The video can be seen here (Web Link

It demonstrates that our property values are in no way in position to stay the way they are. And in fact due to the increasing Fed and Mortgage rates, MANY project will be stopped. Several already have in the recent news in the area.

The facts are that INVESTMENT expectations regarding housing were never going to be met consistently, the best rates of return in this market should be no more than 1.5% above CPI. Any history of higher has been met with property value corrections since 2007.

My video shows how VOLITILE the local market is. I am amazed at how rapidly values change in an market area that should be the most stable. It has NEVER been a reliable investment. And the City Council and this City better get used to this REALITY CHECK, or their CHECKS are going to BOUNCE.

Posted by Victor+Bishop, a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood,
on Jun 21, 2022 at 2:53 pm

Victor+Bishop is a registered user.

So pleased to see a housing project approved by the council, without the years long delay and nitpicking that comes with trying to get by the Palo Alto process. It also finally allowed the city council to finally put their money where their mouths are- usually the council talks big on the need for housing etc, but usually goes along with the naysayers and those whose would aim is to delay projects. Was also shocked that the person who always votes no on housing projects , voted for it.

Posted by mjh, a resident of College Terrace,
on Jun 21, 2022 at 5:28 pm

mjh is a registered user.

JAFO, I understood from Summerhill's presentation to the Palo Alto council last night that the units in this development will be sold to individuals and managed by an HOA. Not a development intended as a rental investment. Please correct me if I am wrong.

Posted by mjh, a resident of College Terrace,
on Jun 21, 2022 at 5:34 pm

mjh is a registered user.

Voting “no" to high end office developments that include a few token residential units, that will produce many times the jobs than the few people accommodated in the residential units, is not quite the same as being against housing.

Posted by stephen+levy, a resident of University South,
on Jun 21, 2022 at 5:41 pm

stephen+levy is a registered user.

The units are for sale. The 7 BMR units will be managed by Alta Housing. The homes will have an HOA. The price range mentioned by Summerhill should attract buyers.

Posted by Annette, a resident of College Terrace,
on Jun 22, 2022 at 11:55 am

Annette is a registered user.

The basic premise, converting commercial space to residential space, makes good sense, especially when the commercial space is under-utilized. And as several CC members pointed out on Monday, the size of these units is a plus as they are suitable for families. This proposal strikes me as "smart development" despite how near it is to the freeway.

Posted by WilliamR, a resident of another community,
on Jun 23, 2022 at 7:04 pm

WilliamR is a registered user.

Just out of curiosity, what is the parking setup at this project? How many spaces per unit, visitor and service spaces, etc.? There are no public transportation routes near the site, are there?

Posted by stephen levy, a resident of University South,
on Jun 23, 2022 at 7:11 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

You can check the board packet. My memory is 2 spaces per unit and 4 visitor spaces plus parking spaces empty next to the park.

Posted by PH, a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills,
on Jun 25, 2022 at 8:56 am

PH is a registered user.

@MJH "Voting 'no' to ... office developments ..., that will produce many times the jobs than ...residential units, is not quite the same as being against housing."

Exactly. It continues to amaze me that project Staff Reports don't automatically calculate net housing deficit, displacement, and future RHNA scores. It's like playing basketball without keeping score.

For example. Despite the housing, future Facebook Village workers in MP will displace roughly 1100 low, very low, and extremely low income workers in the region, a quiet fact overshadowed by the public theater of the housing component, which is real.

As part of a legal settlement agreement with EPA , MP agreed to perform Housing Needs Analysis (HNA) for each project in the former M-2 area.

"[An] HNA presents the anticipated housing needs associated with [a] Proposed Project. ...[it] also evaluates the Proposed Project's potential to contribute to the displacement of existing residents ..."

The Facebook Village HNA is here Web Link

Section 3.1.3 of the DEIR gives a bureaucratic master class in how CEQA lets cities ignore this.

".. indirect displacement, as analyzed in the HNA, is provided for informational purposes and is not a requirement of CEQA."

Only "direct" displacement is required by CEQA. Even though "[i]ndirect ... impacts ... caused by a project ... later in time or farther removed in distance [are] still reasonably foreseeable."

Posted by PH, a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills,
on Jun 25, 2022 at 9:05 am

PH is a registered user.

I generally support rezoning commercial to housing. Menlo Park first studied (and advocated) replacing low utilization commercial zones with residential zones back in 2000.

It gives a twofer: The deficit reduction happens twice as fast, and the traffic commute profile is reversed. Unfortunately, the only example in MP is housing in the Linfield neighborhood to replace the old Consolidated Freight building.

There are hundreds of acres of low intensity commercial zones between Marsh Rd and Belmont, between ECR and 101, from Redwood City to Belmont that are now beginning to intensify with high rent offices. If remaining low utilization commercial areas convert to office rather than housing, there will be few areas left, besides single family zones for housing.

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