Cupertino, Housing, Mt. View, Palo Alto, Salesforce, San Jose, Sunnyvale, Traffic, Zoning
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We seek constructive news from responsible sources. This issue covers a range of issues….facts, fun and follies from communities on the Peninsula.
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IMBYs Face Off!
Zoning used to be a total snooze. Arguments about building heights and density were the eye-glazing preserve of planning wonks and people whose next-door neighbors were contemplating two-story additions. In 2018, zoning got sexy.
Dollars and Sense
Ed. Comment: Get set for all that you ever wanted to know about the IMBYs. Read on! We are providing a link to a most thorough treatise on THE YIMBY/NIMBY divide.
Three Cities Destined to Wrestle!
The cities of Palo Alto and Mountain View are at odds with the city of Sunnyvale over how to allocate funds for rail crossing construction from Measure B almost two years after the sales tax passed, according to city leaders.
“There is no question that from the very beginning, we have heard that there is going to be sort of a shootout over the funds,” Palo Alto’s mayor said. “Kind of what I’ve been hearing is ‘whoever gets there first.’
Ed. Comment: Wrestling will be preferable to a three city shoot-out. Lost in the smoke of an impending feud are two facts. #1: $750 million hard cash is not certain, if and when the food fight for Measure B funds commences. #2 Realistic costs for grade crossings are many multiples greater than $750 million.
New Weasel Words: Commercial Linkage Fees!
The imposition of commercial linkage fees to fund below market-rate housing is still alive in San Jose City Council vote to add a discussion of them in their next agenda.
One Councilman noted, “The only possible conclusion that any study can come back with is more taxes. Because I feel that other cities around us aren’t doing their fair share, I don’t feel that we even need to raise taxes on us and our own businesses.”
A second Councilman suggested, “I’m actually a supporter of a commercial linkage fee, but I’m supporting it for the city of Sunnyvale, Santa Clara, Palo Alto, Cupertino and to have a regional approach,…”
Ed. Comment: It is easy to find Peninsula city council persons in calm panic when discussing the concept of new taxes on local businesses. San Jose is making the quest easier by dropping the words “new taxes” and substituting “commercial linkage fees.”
What is remarkable? The lack of consensus for faltering infrastructure.
What is persistent? affordable housing, homelessness, high speed rail delay, BART/VTA/MTC bumbles and Caltrain’s infamous trio: electrification, grade crossings/new stations and “coming soon” rolling stock.
These circular arguments drone on; capital costs escalate. The solution is not just a substantial tax on businesses who are benefiting from the boom and lower taxes. The solution is also infrastructure taxes on citizens. Only one thing is obvious. Confusion and indecision will prevail until a few world-class mayors such as Liccardo rise above these circular platitudes.
Collaboration among City Councils may evolve in 2019 but this outcome is in the hands of six mayors to stop the circular firing squads. Otherwise infrastructure renaissance becomes less and less affordable even on the mega-wealthy SF Peninsula.
Cupertino Rocked…by Sacramento
Cupertino has come up with its own version of a massive residential, office and retail development plan, marking a major milestone for a project that has been bogged down by delays.
It is an alternate to the proposal previously presented by project developer under the umbrella of a new state law — Senate Bill 35 — that requires cities to approve projects with affordable housing components within 180 days as long as they meet zoning and planning regulations. Sand Hill’s proposal, known as the SB 35 plan, calls for 2,402 homes, 1.8 million square feet of office space and 400,000 square feet of retail in addition to a 30-acre rooftop park.
The alternate plan, which Sand Hill representatives seemed to embrace as well — seeks more homes — with 536 below-market-rate units — slightly more retail and a bit less office space..
San Jose Mercury News
Ed. Comment: This “deal” was struck in a 5+ hour Council meeting after 6 year delay. What’s next? We won’t speculate, but Cupertino has brought great clarity to growing state stranglehold on local zoning and land use.
If Salesforce seems to be everywhere, you’re not imagining things. The software company is now San Francisco’s largest private employer.
But its ebullient chief, Marc Benioff, sees a ceiling to the growth that led his company to overtake Wells Fargo. It now has 8,400 employees in the city. With three skyscrapers clustered in the Financial District, he anticipates Salesforce adding thousands more — though he worries about where he’ll put them.
“They’re not creating more San Francisco,” he said. So the company is growing elsewhere, too.
Ed. Comment: We worry a lot about job/housing ratios. At least this CEO admits that everything is not golden in Golden Gate town. How many other Tech Titans are realizing the age of limits in the Bay Area? How do we urge stewardship for their employee growth on our infrastructure of roads, schools, service providers and parks?
ADUs? Bargaining with the Devil?
In summary, California requires all cities to accommodate housing demand and employs a fair-share housing allocation scheme to quantify and redistribute housing needs. Beginning in 1982, California allowed ADUs as housing units, and as of 2003, ADUs could be counted towards low-income housing needs. This study argued that counting potential ADUs as low-income housing was California’s Faustian Bargain due to a lack of state and city oversight and the unproven efficacy of counting potential ADUs as low-income housing.
Ed. Comment: Mythology and city planning often overlap. In this case we are pleased to challenge the widespread assumptions about homeowners’ backyard investments. Based on this study backyard ADUs may evolve into nothin’ but market rate housing.
Here’s the acid test. Will the ADU-owning homeowners have two noble intentions? #1 put the new ADU into the rental market AND #2 rent the ADU below market rates. How many city planning departments will monitor and measure impact? Not many, we predict.
No Messing Around
During a period of heightened traffic enforcement traffic officers from across San Mateo County made more than 200 traffic stops and issued 199 citations…. Of the citations issued, 63 were for texting and cell phone violations, 40 were for speed violations, 36 were for failing to obey traffic signs, and 21 were for stop sign violations.
Ed. Comment: We agree with Menlo Park’s top cop: “High-visibility traffic enforcement helps us in our mission to provide a safer community for those who live, work and visit here.” But police forces throughout the peninsula are challenged to hire and retain qualified officers. Enforcement works when it is frequent and persistent. Without officers, enforcement is wishful thinking.
It only hurts for a little while! Makes us better persons.
For Readers with a Spare Minute, Here are Some QuickLinks
Council Courageous! Resisting the grand jury.
Palo Alto Weekly
Seeking street smarts
California’s fate depends upon Palo Alto
Birth dearth hits home
San Jose Mercury News
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Editors, Neilson Buchanan and John Guislin, are unpaid, private citizens on the SF Peninsula and have no ties to developers or government organizations.