Too Much Housing? City Council Candidates Weigh-In

Palo Alto City Council Candidates discuss their views on new housing construction projects and affordable housing.

Driving through Palo Alto, it is impossible not to be confronted by large residential construction projects. What once was the Palo Alto Bowl will soon be turned into a development of 26 townhouses and a new hotel. What was once Alma Plaza Shopping Center will soon host restaurants, a new supermarket, apartments and houses. What was once San Antonio Shopping Center will soon be the location of an upscale shopping mall, complete with restaurants and of course more apartments.

For nostalgic Palo Alto residents, these projects represent a departure from the ‘small-town’ vibe the city once had. However, for many, these projects represent an improved use for under-utilized space. Though the Palo Alto Bowl was loved, it was under-used. Though San Antonio Shopping Center provided residents with inexpensive goods, its buildings, dominated by the old Sears, were decaying.

Candidates for discussed their views on the city's housing and construction development as part of a series of interviews with the people who will be on the ballot this November. 

For , the debate represents a contrast between the way Palo Altans view their city and the reality of the city’s situation.

“Palo Alto still thinks they’re a small neighborhood community but we’ve literally become a global destination,” said Kniss, who added that as a County Supervisor, she is regularly invited to talk to leaders around the world about Palo Alto’s success.

Most candidates stressed the need for a balance in development, between commercial and residential, and between market priced and affordable housing.

Attorney stressed that having a diverse range of housing options is good for all Palo Alto residents.

“It’s bad to grow up in a bubble,” said Berman, adding that his childhood in Palo Alto was spent in the company of a socio-economically diverse set of friends.

According to Council Member , who is seeking re-election, building more townhouses and apartments, as has been the trend, can help Palo Alto’s elderly residents who may wish to move out of their larger single family homes.

Schmid did, however, lament that more has not been done to develop housing in a way that makes public transportation a viable option for new residents.

Council Member , who is also seeking re-election, said that the construction projects going on today are the result of decisions made years ago. According to Burt, very little development will go on after the current projects are through.

“A lot of people don’t appreciate that the boom of apartments in South Palo Alto is now history,” said Burt, adding that he worked closely to ensure that the Alma Plaza construction included sufficient retail space.

Music Promoter disagreed with his fellow candidates over the issue of housing, expressing concern over excessive development.

“We’re pretty built up,” said Weiss, who is a renter.

Weiss expressed concern that development companies have excessive sway in the Palo Alto political scene, and as a result are given carte blanche to build.

Weiss contends that the city is in need of more affordable housing, particularly for city employees, who he contends should be able to afford to live in Palo Alto.

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Laura R August 14, 2012 at 02:42 PM
The overbuilding in Palo Alto has changed it for the worse. It is not 'nostalgia' to want a city to remain nice. I would urge controlling overbuilding, which simply detracts from the quality of the city and seems to have resulted in increased crime as well.
sister madly August 15, 2012 at 12:07 AM
it's not overbuilding when you get more than 75 applications for one small apartment - meaning there isn't enough housing in the palo alto...and it's somewhat disingenuous to include san antonio center, which is in mountain view, not palo alto...
Dan M September 07, 2012 at 06:10 PM
San Antonio Center might as well be in PA, as it sits on that cities border. The entire area has been ruined by ugly buildings and too much over-construction. It has been stripped of character; of any coherent theme. It has been robbed of its essence; of anything to make the area stand out, and of anything to lure visitors. And with that said, this issue should never be a two cities type of deal. Rather, it ought to be a "come together" type of deal; and a "we actually care" type of deal; and a "non-discrimination" type of deal. We need leaders who are actually willing to stand up for people; not politicians who run on platforms of lies; who end up as whores for the rich, and use their political title for their own, personal gain. I mean, who gives a damn about regular people, right?
Bob Silvestri September 19, 2012 at 05:55 AM
An alternative view of Planning and Affordable Housing in the SF Bay Area The Best Laid Plans - Part I: A Brief History of Planning http://millvalley.patch.com/blog_posts/the-best-laid-plans-part-i-a-brief-history-of-planning The Best Laid Plans - Part II: 21st Century Planning http://millvalley.patch.com/blog_posts/the-best-laid-plans-part-ii-21st-century-planning The Best Laid Plans – Part III: Affordable Housing http://millvalley.patch.com/blog_posts/the-best-laid-plans-part-iii-affordable-housing The Best Laid Plans - Part IV: Public Policy, Community Voice and Social Equity http://millvalley.patch.com/blog_posts/the-best-laid-plans-part-iv-public-policy-community-voice-social-equity
Michael Talis September 19, 2012 at 03:41 PM
The housing prices in Palo Alto, both sale and rental, are over-pacing the inflation and most of the surrounding areas. To me it is a proof of not enough housing in Palo Alto to satisfy the demand. Stanford University, booming high-tech industry and world-class education made Palo Alto a global destination. We must develop more housing to welcome more people and new people to our community. It is a painful process but, I guess, Manhattan 150 years ago looked more like Palo Alto today...


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