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Letter of Resignation from the Palo Alto Planning and Transportation Commission

By someone else   2016 Aug 11, 10:04pm   2 links   2,404 views   24 comments   watch (2)   quote      

https://shift.newco.co/letter-of-resignation-from-the-palo-alto-planning-and-transportation-commission-f7b6facd94f5

Dear City Council Members and Palo Alto Residents,
This letter serves as my official resignation from the Planning and Transportation Commission. My family has decided to move to Santa Cruz. After many years of trying to make it work in Palo Alto, my husband and I cannot see a way to stay in Palo Alto and raise a family here. We rent our current home with another couple for $6200 a month; if we wanted to buy the same home and share it with children and not roommates, it would cost $2.7M and our monthly payment would be $12,177 a month in mortgage, taxes, and insurance. That’s $146,127 per year — an entire professional’s income before taxes. This is unaffordable even for an attorney and a software engineer.
It’s clear that if professionals like me cannot raise a family here, then all of our teachers, first responders, and service workers are in dire straits. We already see openings at our police department that we can’t fill and numerous teacher contracts that we can’t renew because the cost of housing is astronomical not just in Palo Alto but many miles in each direction. I have repeatedly made recommendations to the Council to expand the housing supply in Palo Alto so that together with our neighboring cities who are already adding housing, we can start to make a dent in the jobs-housing imbalance that causes housing prices throughout the Bay Area to spiral out of control. Small steps like allowing 2 floors of housing instead of 1 in mixed use developments, enforcing minimum density requirements so that developers build apartments instead of penthouses, legalizing duplexes, easing restrictions on granny units, leveraging the residential parking permit program to experiment with housing for people who don’t want or need two cars, and allowing single-use areas like the Stanford shopping center to add housing on top of shops (or offices), would go a long way in adding desperately needed housing units while maintaining the character of our neighborhoods and preserving historic structures throughout.
Time and again, I’ve seen dozens of people come to both Commission meetings and Council meetings asking Council to make housing its top priority. The City Council received over 1000 signatures from Palo Alto residents asking for the same. In the annual Our Palo Alto survey, it is the top issue cited by residents. This Council has ignored the majority of residents and has charted a course for the next 15 years of this city’s development which substantially continues the same job-housing imbalance this community has been suffering from for some time now: more offices, a nominal amount of housing which the Council is already laying the groundwork to tax out of existence, lip service to preserving retail that simply has no reason to keep serving the average Joe when the city is only affordable to Joe Millionaires.
Over the last 5 years I’ve seen dozens of my friends leave Palo Alto and often leave the Bay Area entirely. I’ve seen friends from other states get job offers here and then turn them down when they started to look at the price of housing. I struggle to think what Palo Alto will become and what it will represent when young families have no hope of ever putting down roots here, and meanwhile the community is engulfed with middle-aged jet-setting executives and investors who are hardly the sort to be personally volunteering for neighborhood block parties, earthquake preparedness responsibilities, or neighborhood watch. If things keep going as they are, yes, Palo Alto’s streets will look just as they did decades ago, but its inhabitants, spirit, and sense of community will be unrecognizable. A once thriving city will turn into a hollowed out museum. We should take care to remember that Palo Alto is famous the world over for its residents’ accomplishments, but none of those people would be able to live in Palo Alto were they starting out today.
Sincerely,
Kate Downing
UPDATE: Thank you so much for the outpouring of interest and support. While we are leaving Palo Alto, the organization I co-founded that is working to invest in housing and transportation will continue on its work so that maybe in the future we can have a more inclusive community. If you’d like to learn more, go here.
If you’d like to look into the belly of the beast, read the comments on our local paper: Palo Alto Online. The loudest voices in the community feel that the desire to create more affordable housing is spoiled entitlement. Until renters, younger people, and people of more modest means organize, this problem will continue throughout the Bay Area.

#housing #politics

Comments 1-24 of 24     Last »

1   someone else   2016 Aug 11, 10:16pm     ↑ like (5)   ↓ dislike   quote    

Patrick says

If things keep going as they are, yes, Palo Alto’s streets will look just as they did decades ago, but its inhabitants, spirit, and sense of community will be unrecognizable. A once thriving city will turn into a hollowed out museum.

Lol, already there! Palo Alto is not a real community at all. Lots of empty houses owned by super-wealthy people who don't actually live there.

My boss's boss from my time at Charles Schwab leaves a big house empty in Palo Alto on Guinda street. He spends his time between his condo in SF and an apartment in NYC. I asked him about the cost of maintenance and he laughed. "The gardeners? That's nothing." I asked why he doesn't rent it out and he said his wife doesn't want strangers in the house. They have a lot of valuable furniture.

I pointed out that he's paying property tax on a house he doesn't use. He laughed again. "I bought so long ago I barely pay any property tax at all. Thanks to Prop 13, you pay my property tax for me!"

Super evil, but true. Well, not me personally because I don't own, but Prop 13 means that wealthy people who have owned a long time just don't pay any property tax to speak of. All their services like police and firemen etc are provided to the rich by poorer and/or more recent taxpayers.

2   BayArea   2016 Aug 11, 10:40pm     ↑ like (4)   ↓ dislike   quote    

Isn't it fun when the extreme rich acknowledge the instances when the rest of us are getting fucked over at their benefit lol

And I feel Kate's pain. But she forgets that she can always move across the bridge to Fremont and commute like most of us. And I wonder what tone Kate's letter would have taken if she bought in Palo Alto years ago?

Patrick says

Well, not me personally because I don't own,

Of course you pay property tax, it's baked into your rent.

3   zzyzzx   2016 Aug 12, 7:07am     ↑ like   ↓ dislike   quote    

Patrick says

All their services like police and firemen etc are provided to the rich by poorer and/or more recent taxpayers.

In al fairness, if he is never there, he's really not using the services much there, isn't he?

4   MMR   2016 Aug 12, 7:07am     ↑ like (2)   ↓ dislike   quote    

Patrick says

Lots of empty houses owned by super-wealthy people who don't actually live there

Yep. Just like NYC but with nothing really to do other than go to downtown Palo Alto. Outside of weather, NYC is better in every other way I can think of.

5   JasonM   2016 Aug 12, 9:38am     ↑ like (2)   ↓ dislike   quote    

Patrick says

We rent our current home with another couple for $6200 a month

$6,200 - How can this be? I thought Palo Alto was immune to insane rents - allowing family members to afford to stay home and watch the kids.

BayArea says

I wonder what tone Kate's letter would have taken if she bought in Palo Alto years ago?

5 years ago, when that place cost 1.3Million, she could have bought it about for the same price as her current rent. She didn't, got priced out and became yet ANOTHER PATNET VICTORY!!!

6   BayArea   2016 Aug 12, 9:47am     ↑ like (3)   ↓ dislike   quote    

I recognize the irony between Kate's occupation and getting priced out of the city. It sucks, no question.

But there is also this bothersome element of her letter where she is complaining about being priced out of one of the most expensive cities in the fucking world when places like Redwood City, San Jose, Fremont, and dozens of others are nearby. The majority of the Bay Area are commuters. And so this letter whining about no longer being able to live and work in the same city, is just bothersome. Lady, there are many many more options than the two you laid out you bitter thing you.

7   someone else   2016 Aug 12, 9:51am     ↑ like (2)   ↓ dislike   quote    

BayArea says

Lady, there are many many more options than the two you laid out you bitter thing you.

Someone tell that to @JasonM too...

8   Rew   2016 Aug 12, 9:59am     ↑ like (1)   ↓ dislike   quote    

JasonM says

5 years ago, when that place cost 1.3Million, she could have bought it about for the same price as her current rent. She didn't, got priced out and became yet ANOTHER PATNET VICTORY!!!

5 years ago they may not have been in a position to buy. Most of my friends are Mid 20s+ young families, with two good professional incomes, that cannot buy (east bay, south bay, santa cruz). Or, what they can buy, are little condos. Once purchased, within 6 months I couldn't afford to buy my house again, and 3 years on it is frankly kind of disgusting what it would list for now.

Patrick says

Lol, already there! Palo Alto is not a real community at all. Lots of empty houses owned by super-wealthy people who don't actually live there.

My personal experience with PA is that Palo Alto definitely is a lived in community, but most people who are home owners there are 50+ years of age. It's a greying community.

the article says

Time and again, I’ve seen dozens of people come to both Commission meetings and Council meetings asking Council to make housing its top priority. The City Council received over 1000 signatures from Palo Alto residents asking for the same ...

Scarce supply fosters high prices. The older/current community wants to be careful what they develop and attract while the newer or those desire to live there want growth and building. Multi-million dollar home owners are not going to be excited to see high density lower income housing. Unfortunately, the only thing which developers seem to want to build, due to the economics, is high density multi-family.

To me the issue is: how do we make the 50s/60s type SFH the attractive option to build?
- land to do it (often the biggest issue)
- economic equation has to work out. (what regs/building BS is there preventing this from being possible?)

I think the truth really is that Palo Alto doesn't want to grow much at all in the first place ... regardless of the fact that the economics just aren't going to make any building of the type desired occur.

9   Strategist   2016 Aug 12, 10:00am     ↑ like (5)   ↓ dislike   quote    

Am I supposed to feel sorry for someone who cannot afford a $2.7 million house?

10   Rew   2016 Aug 12, 10:03am     ↑ like (1)   ↓ dislike   quote    

BayArea says

And so this letter whining about no longer being able to live and work in the same city, is just bothersome. Lady, there are many many more options than the two you laid out you bitter thing you.

Very true. It is kind of sad when cities/communities no longer have a living option possible for the people who work in them, though. It's been that way in CA Bay Area since before I could walk & talk though.

11   Philistine   2016 Aug 12, 10:12am     ↑ like   ↓ dislike   quote    

JasonM says

5 years ago, when that place cost 1.3Million, she could have bought it

Wasn't five years ago in PA a time when it was mostly all-cash offers and insider pocket listings/cash investors at court house steps getting all the decent housing? Is it a person's fault they did not have $1.3mill in cash to compete? Your viewpoint assumes everybody is a bear here.

12   BayArea   2016 Aug 12, 10:24am     ↑ like (1)   ↓ dislike   quote    

Philistine, that's a great point.

We are so quick to point out how everyone should have bought in 2009-2011. But does anyone remember what the inventories were like at that time? And does anyone remember the level of corruption that existed and backdoor investor/realtor deals that were taking place?

I for one made many offers on east bay properties during that time (above asking) and just couldn't get in the door. One of the most discouraging experiences of my life.

13   JasonM   2016 Aug 12, 10:55am     ↑ like (2)   ↓ dislike   quote    

Patrick says

Someone tell that to @JasonM too...

You don't need to tell it to me. I understand it as I am living it.

The one who doesn't understand it is you. Point #32:

Rents could shoot up, making it a better deal to buy.
FALSE. Rents are
limited by the money people actually earn, not by how much they can borrow. Try
walking into a bank and asking for a loan to pay your rent. For rents to shoot
up, salaries would have to shoot up first. Salaries are not likely to rise at
all given the current unemployment rate.

Should be revised to:

Rents could shoot up, making it a better deal to buy.
TRUE. Getting "priced out forever" isn't just realtard BS to scare you into buying.
It can and does happen all of the time. Don't be intoxicated by your current low rent
For everyone in PA (except me) rent rises massively and in a few years will exceed the
monthly nut to buy. Therefore, If you can some how some way afford it, whether by hook
or crook, you MUST BUY OR RISK BEING PRICED OUT FOREVER.

http://patrick.net/37+Bogus+Arguments+About+Housing

14   Strategist   2016 Aug 12, 11:02am     ↑ like   ↓ dislike   quote    

JasonM says

Rents could shoot up, making it a better deal to buy.

FALSE. Rents are

limited by the money people actually earn, not by how much they can borrow. Try

walking into a bank and asking for a loan to pay your rent. For rents to shoot

up, salaries would have to shoot up first. Salaries are not likely to rise at

all given the current unemployment rate.

Not really. Rents have been shooting up for the last 5 years when unemployment was a lot higher. Those who cant afford the higher rents due to salary constraints will either move to a cheaper neighborhood or downsize.

15   JZ   2016 Aug 12, 5:39pm     ↑ like (2)   ↓ dislike   quote    

My oppinion is that Kate, author of the article just failed to win the resource compition game and quit.
The problem is not prop13, which basically prevent new comer from competing with the incumbent. It is just a game rule and everybody should follow it. Why would one think it is reasonable to directly compete people out after they have build the schools, businesses and infrastructures there? You want come in? You should pay.

The problem is that most people work to earn W2 money while these mother fuckers own assets and central bank's just inflate assets which make W2 income difficult to compete. First ones in the line are banks who receives free money, the these asset holders. So Kate should go SF federal reserve and protest over there in stead of saying why can't we build more houses in places I want to live in.

Most W2 people don't get this, if you do not want to get fucked, you have to cut the dick off from the rich and that is the money printer.

16   someone else   2016 Aug 12, 5:48pm     ↑ like   ↓ dislike   quote    

JZ says

if you do not want to get fucked, you have to cut the dick off from the rich and that is the money printer.

Lol, excellent line.

17   FortWayne   2016 Aug 12, 5:50pm     ↑ like (2)   ↓ dislike   quote    

I feel bad for those folks. A lot of people are squeezed by this land hostage situation crap. The party elites locked up all the land and make it impossible for folks to have any land of their own. After that just squeeze everyone for rent more and more every year. Bring more people to live in smaller space, great residual income.

The only way out of this I see is to start giving land out to everyone like back in the days, first come first serve, like founding fathers intended.

18   someone else   2016 Aug 12, 5:52pm     ↑ like (2)   ↓ dislike   quote    

FortWayne says

The only way out of this I see is to start giving land out to everyone like back in the days

I disagree.

The way out is Georgism, meaning a tax on land values and other natural resources, and no other taxes at all.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Georgism

19   HEY YOU   2016 Aug 12, 6:29pm     ↑ like   ↓ dislike   quote    

Why do people hate Americas great economic system?
More for me & screw everyone else.

Georgism should be perfected under the idiocy of R & D Voters.
They've managed to make America run without any glitches.
Of course I only see problems that don't exist.

20   JZ   2016 Aug 12, 8:02pm     ↑ like (1)   ↓ dislike   quote    

Guys I disagree using tax to solve anything.
I also disagree giving lands to everybody.
My humble oppinion is that the system should be designed such that it is evolutionary to make the system better.
Since it is evolutionary, the system does not ensure everybody will survive like everybody was given lands. There has to be competition to evolve.
How ever, the evolution must be such that for the system to become better, therefore the competitors can not use force against each other or each other's properties.
Tax is a form of force against targeted competitors, and that should not be allowed in principle.

The founding fathers of this country intentionally make sure the government does not work by breaking it into pieces. They made sure everybody owns guns, they made sure only gold and silver will be money, and they made sure there were no central banks.

The only thing government should do is basically make sure all competitors will not use force against each other and each other's properties.

Now, we have paper money, central bank, government telling people how to do business and what to do in bedroom, and using force to tax Paul to give to Joe.

It has been corrupted beyond recognition.
I have to say, although the system has been corrupted a lot, it is still better than a lot others on the planet, so I still have respect for this country.

21   Ceffer   2016 Aug 12, 11:36pm     ↑ like   ↓ dislike   quote    

Like, Santa Cruz is a cheap alternative?? Puhleeeze!

22   BlueSardine   2016 Aug 13, 5:45am     ↑ like (1)   ↓ dislike   quote    

my opinion is you should stop dribbling your peanut butter and honey sandwiches over the keyboard while typing...

JZ says

My oppinion is that Kate, author of the article just failed to win the resource compition game and quit.

23   BlueSardine   2016 Aug 13, 5:53am     ↑ like   ↓ dislike   quote    

what about betsy ross? no flag...no country...

JZ says

The founding fathers of this country

24   Booger   2016 Aug 13, 6:18am     ↑ like (1)   ↓ dislike   quote    

Please stop referring to Palo Alto as PA.

PA = Pennsylvania.

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