The Barron Park Association

Jun 202013

Dear Barron Park Community:

I want to be sure to communicate to Barron Park that the Barron Park Association Board of Directors are not opposed to senior housing, low income or otherwise.  A couple of proposals were brought before the BPA Board on May 21, 2013 and the agenda stating such was sent by email to all on the BPA distribution list.  The proposals were as follows:

  1. Recommend to the Planning and Transportation Commission to recommend a NO to City Council with regard to Palo Alto Housing Corporation’s application to rezone the Maybell/Clemo properties to PC zoning, which would mean high density.  This would mean that PAHC can continue with its quest to build low income senior housing, however, within the current zoning.
  2. Recommend to the Planning and Transportation Commission to recommend to City Council to allow the senior housing project and the PC zoning to proceed but only with a smaller single family home cluster – five along Maybell and three along Clemo, scaled down to no more than two stories with standard 20’ setbacks.

The BPA Board of 11 voted 6 in favor of Proposal 1 and 4 in favor of Proposal 2 with 1 board member absent.

Along the way, Palo Alto Housing Corporation and the City’s departments’ transparency issues have come to light and for us as taxpayers and residents, forces us to question how this city represents its constituents, especially the taxpayers.

Some facts about this application from PAHC for rezoning for the Maybell/Clemo properties to PC (high density/planned community):

1)     In order to purchase the land, the City of Palo Alto helped PAHC finance the purchase by providing a loan of over 5 Million dollars.  This is all prior to approval of the rezone PAHC needs.  Notifications and disclosure to the general public, this city’s constituents and taxpayers, were not adequately given.

2)     In order to facilitate such a project, the city has to approve a resolution amending the Comprehensive Plan Designation for a portion of the site to become single family residential where it used to be multi-family residential.

3)     PAHC does not have enough funds to build the senior housing.  In order to make up the funds, PAHC proposes to build 15 3-story buildings erected on Maybell and Clemo.  Those homes will be sold at market rate and will provide the funding to build the senior housing.

4)     In order to facilitate such buildings, in the rezoning, the developer and PAHC has also proposed and applied for many alternatives to property setbacks, daylight planes which involves the height of the building, its compatibility to the immediate neighborhood, parking, etc., which normally most applicants would have been denied.

5)     Since the restriping on Arastradero Road, traffic from both automobile drivers and bicyclists have been a nightmare on neighboring streets and it spreads throughout the neighborhood, including Green Acres I & II and Palo Alto Orchards.  Even the Ventura neighborhood has been experiencing the increase in traffic as alternatives to having to use Arastradero and Charleston Roads.  Even Matadero Avenue, on the other end of Barron Park, has experienced increased traffic.

6)     PAHC hired a traffic study consultant, Hexagon, to conduct the traffic study and Hexagon’s representatives insists that the increase in traffic will be by 1 automobile.  The study was not current and did not take into factors of current situations especially during high commute hours when schools are in session.

7)     Planning and Transportation Commission and Departments provided these same Hexagon traffic safety reports and PAHC’s development plans and reports to Palo Alto Fire Department to assess emergency response only to this proposed site.  We would like to know how emergency response will be affected into the interior of Barron Park and also Green Acres.

8)     To place a senior facility in the midst of a neighborhood that has virtually no amenities that serves the senior residents conveniently seems to be poor outlook.  There are no continuous sidewalks for the senior citizen to walk to El Camino Real to access public transportation unless they drive which adds to traffic.  Grocery shopping is not close either.

The BPA Board Members who voted in favor of Proposal 1 (No to rezones) were highly concerned of the number of proposed and possible high density developments planned for Palo Alto, in particular it seems most are in the southern part of Palo Alto.  The following sites are slated for PC (Planned Community) or RM40 high density rezones or some may have received approval on their applications already, (I may not have all of them):

  • Maybell/Clemo properties – received city council approval last night for rezoning to Planned Development.
  • 4124 El Camino Real (formally Enterprise, across from Arbor Real) – has been rezoned and a hotel is under construction.
  • Agilent right here on Page Mill is in the application process to rezone to commercial.
  • The parking lot on the corner of Page Mill and El Camino Real next to the Sunrise Senior Housing, wants to apply for PC rezone in order to put in an office building.
  • 451 Page Mill and its surrounding single family homes finally sold and is in the application process for PC rezone.
  • 4146 El Camino Real, across from Starbuck’s off El Camino Way and the property has a billboard in it, the owners are or will be applying for high density rezoning.
  • Buena Vista Mobile Home Park – another rezone to high density, the developer hopes to build an apartment complex with 180 units.
  • Compadres site was just sold and still in escrow.  Purchaser is a developer and plans to submit an application to rezone to PC.
  • Fry’s Electronics site – if the lease is not renewed, slated for PC rezone.
  • Palo Alto Bowling property will be or already rezoned to PC.
  • 4329-4335 El Camino Real, diagonally across from Cabana Crown Plaza, rezoned to PC and is under construction.
  • 3159 El Camino Real, formally the “We fix Macs” site, request Site and Design Review. Existing is a 900s.f. commercial building, need PTC approval for 5-story, 75,042 s.f.  to establish 48 residential apartment units, and commercial and retail.
  • 27 University – yes, rezone to PC.

Sites that are of great concern that may be sold off and can be rezoned for high density which will further impact and compound our traffic issues:

  • The site at the corner of Barron Ave and El Camino Real.  There is a tailor shop, a clothing shop and a large open spaced lot at this time.
  • The site on the corner of Matadero Ave and El Camino Real.  There is an auto repair/smog shop, open lot, parking lot, bunker structure at this time.

Controlled points of entry into Barron Park and its neighboring neighborhoods, those controlled by traffic lights, are limited.  Most of these streets with traffic lights are at El Camino Real or Arastradero which are congested most of the time.  Do we overlook the potential danger to becoming isolated and constrained because of traffic congestion on ECR due to all these developments to high density.  As an emergency preparedness and awareness advocate, this concerns me greatly.

Before I end though, I would ask you to give consideration to the following:

  • Consider the larger picture rather than focus on the red herring, that this is a senior housing which is low income, that is not the matter at hand.  The matter at hand is about all the massive developments in this city and the city’s extremely short term outlook/planning and implementation of its infrastructure, especially resolving traffic issues; which brings about safety, health and quality of life issues.
  • Maybell Avenue residents are Barron Park residents.  What core values do we have if we do not have empathetic consideration for their quality of life day in and day out.  Are we INMBYs, It’s Not In My Backyard… so what do I care?  Bottom-line, we are all residents of Palo Alto and it is not this neighborhood vs. that neighborhood, talking this talk is a diversion and takes us all off focus.
  • Is a urban Palo Alto the Palo Alto we moved to?  Where’s the charm or does anyone care?
  • Today Maybell Avenue, tomorrow where?  Hopefully, it is not in your backyard!

The BPA board members voted as such in order to halt the Planning and Transportation Commission and City Council Members from making a decision so quickly without revisiting and confirming data provided and to conduct their due diligence, not only on the Maybell/Clemo rezone application but, future high density applications.  Further, this particular rezone for Maybell/Clemo can or may set precedence for future developments where any form of high density can go anywhere.

Determining the highest and best land use is not easy in a city where land is scarce, but do you want the highest and best use defined and determined at the whim of the city, never mind tax paying residents’ right to safety, health and quality of life?


Lydia Kou

Barron Park resident and BPA board member

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