The Barron Park Association

Jun 212013

posted by Art Liberman, BPA President

These are some of my thoughts following the Council’s action on the Maybell homes and Clemo affordable senior project. My views on that project, the process followed by the City Council in arriving at a decision and its consequences for the neighborhood and the City differ from those expressed by Lydia Kou in the Maybell/Clemo Rezoning  article she recently posted on this topic.

BPA Board and Community Viewpoints

A wide range of opinions were expressed by community members during the weeks of heated debate leading up to the Council decision on this proposal. Many people were adamantly and absolutely opposed to any rezoning, but there were some who supported the Palo Alto Housing Corporation’s (PAHC) proposal, and also those who thought the best option was one in which the senior housing building would be combined with fewer number of market rate single family houses. The debate was more focused on land use policy than about the inclusion of affordable housing in the proposal, though good arguments were presented for why this site was not suitable for affordable senior housing.

No one position captured the voice of the entire neighborhood –  nor of the Barron Park Board, which was just one of the various community groups who met and debated the merits of the PAHC proposal. One group of Board members, those supporting the minority proposal that received 4 of the 10 votes at the Board meeting, coalesced around the view that the rezoning with a senior affordable housing project was acceptable provided there were many fewer market rate single family homes (a total of eight) than what PAHC had proposed (fifteen).

There is a tradeoff when comparing the PAHC project, or variants of it, with other possibilities for development of the Maybell Clemo site. If the property were developed following the existing zoning, most likely we would see a project with 35 or so multi-family units or apartments in the rear and about 8 single family or duplex homes along Maybell, with some adjustments in land lines, still with driveways for entrance and exit on Maybell and Clemo and possibly curb cuts for single family homes or duplex homes along Maybell. While there would be more people and more units and a taller building in the rear of the property, it turns out when looking at the numbers that the combination of many fewer single family homes and the senior affordable unit would likely be less disruptive in terms of traffic and would place fewer demands on schools and street parking than if the property were developed according to current zoning.

Council Action

The Council delayed its action while accepting the many hours of community input, but the debate among Council when it finally happened was shallow and disappointing. It is regrettable that the Council members backed away from asking PAHC some really hard questions about their proposal – for example requiring them to justify their claim for needing so many market rate homes on the site or by squeezing the PAHC developers and mandating many fewer than the twelve they approved.  Granted, PAHC has provided affordable housing to a large number of people in Palo Alto, but there was no justification for the Council members to refuse to give this proposal the same scrutiny as one from a for-profit developer, especially given the fact that the Council had authorized a large loan of public funds (ones it obtains from developers in lieu of providing affordable housing in their projects – not tax dollars) to PAHC to purchase the land.


Traffic was the source of much of the initial opposition to the project, and this point of view was passionately argued by many of the residents who live along the Maybell corridor. They know that the traffic has significantly increased along Maybell and on other neighborhood streets in the past few years. This was the fuel that had spread throughout the neighborhood – the Maybell-Clemo rezoning proposal was the match that set the neighborhood ablaze (figuratively speaking of course).

Resolving the traffic problems may not be easy. Councilman Klein recognized that the school district and City must work together on this, but it is clear it will only happen if there is strong and ongoing community involvement. Progress could be made if the capabilities of the energetic group of Greenacres and Barron Park residents who mobilized so effectively to challenge the PC rezoning could be harnessed to make sure City staff and School District staff examine all the aspects of this issue  – and keep the pressure on them until they come up with some solutions and improvements that we in the neighborhood want to see happen.

Development Pressures

The creeping densification we see around us is the price we are paying for rapidly escalating land and housing prices combined with vigorous job growth. The City is besieged with proposals, including hotels and multi-family housing projects along El Camino from Page Mill to the Mountain View/Los Altos border. Some of these proposals are within the current zoning, which favors higher density along traffic corridors such as El Camino and around Caltrain stations, but others are requesting modifications and exceptions – as was requested by PAHC for their site for Maybell/Clemo site – through the PC (Planned Community) zoning. It is absolutely true that the PC zoning classification has been misused (a polite way of saying ‘abused’) for some time, and it is necessary for our policy makers to come to grips with this fact, and then come forward with a clearer, more specific and much tighter definition of the ‘community benefit’ or discard the PC zoning category completely. That’s another area where citizens should make policy makers focus their efforts.

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

Jun 102013

Note : This is a guest post by Barron Park resident Steven Rosenberg representing the views of residents who are members of the Maybell Action Group.

June 8, 2013
Dear Palo Alto City Council,
Much has been said about the local opposition to the rezoning of 567 Maybell. This letter outlines what we believe is a majority position of the local residents:

• Residents support affordable housing, especially for seniors, under the existing zoning, and respecting zoning principles in the City’s Comprehensive Plan.

• Many residents moved to the neighborhood for the pastoral, rural feel; any development should respect the unique character of the neighborhood and the safety and quality of life of existing residents.

• Residents know the location is not truly on a transit corridor and lacks adjacency and walkability features.

• Residents have experienced significant pressures from traffic and safety in the last two years. Residents believe any decision to rezone must be delayed until a comprehensive study of traffic impacts, including to/from bicycles and pedestrians on school commute corridors, can be completed.

• Residents welcome the City’s consideration of low or no traffic uses of the Maybell site if traffic and safety conditions under existing zoning warrant it. The City has a responsibility to obtain quality data to analyze traffic and safety impacts before voting to rezone.

As you review the Maybell rezoning proposal, you will need to assess its merits based on accurate evidence. To help you, we would like to point out the basis for the community’s concerns, and several of the errors and omissions in the statements provided by the proponents of the rezoning at the previous commission meeting leading up to the City Council vote on June, 10, 2013.

Support for existing affordable housing
The Barron Park and Greenacres neighborhoods have been strong supporters of low cost housing. Barron Park neighbors are currently and actively fighting to preserve the Buena Vista trailer park and its residents. Our neighborhoods also host many affordable housing complexes, such as Arastradero Park Apartments, Terman Apartments, Treehouse and Oak Manor.

Support for affordable housing does not constitute blanket approval of all developments regardless of the relative merits and impact on the character of the neighborhood, quality of life, traffic, safety, and environmental impact. Residents feel planners have placed a high priority on constraints caused by the financing and ABAG, even to the exclusion of giving neighbors due process.

The Planning and Transportation Commission says PAHC is entitled to build 41 affordable senior housing units under the current RM-15 zoning (approximately 2 acre orchard) inclusive of “density bonus.” The neighborhood would support and welcome a development in keeping with the scale of the surrounding neighborhood. We believe 41 affordable senior units would have fewer safety and traffic risks and negative environmental impacts than the current overly dense proposal of 75 units. But, PAHC is refusing to build under existing zoning and does not want to follow the same zoning rules that other properties are subject to. The four existing homes (approximately .4 acres) are zoned R-2 and could also be included in the affordable housing for a total of 45 affordable senior units. The neighbors would support 45 affordable senior units at Maybell as long as a proper traffic analysis would support it.

PAHC is insisting on building a total of 75 housing units. It wants 60 senior units and 15 market-rate three-story single family homes (12 of 15 homes are three stories) with only 12-foot setbacks and a mere 8 feet between each home on Maybell on tiny 2,300-3,400 lot sizes that do not conform to the existing residential neighborhood. PAHC’s proposal is asking the City of Palo Alto to convert property in the heart of a residential neighborhood and turn it into higher density zoning. PAHC is enabling its for-profit developer partner to build 15 market rate homes that are completely out of character and scale with the neighborhood, a proposal a private developer would never achieve on its own, but for PAHC’s partnership with the developer in this project.

Seventy-five housing units are unreasonable for this predominantly low-density, pastoral location. Tall housing on Maybell especially is unreasonable for this location which is dominated by R-1 mostly single-story homes. Market rate housing that is so prominent and so completely inaccessible to the disabled is unreasonable for this location across from a long-time school for the most disabled students in Palo Alto and disabled students from across the county who use the therapy wing, as well as Briones Park daily, which is located directly across from the proposed site.

Maybell is designated as a ‘bicycle boulevard’ and is a school commute corridor serving four schools. Maybell is supposed to be a safe route (2012 data indicates 41% of students bike to Gunn and 37% bike to Terman). There is no continuous sidewalk or bike lane on Maybell and the street width is already substandard and overburdened by a 25% excess traffic volume over that of a typical residential road in Palo Alto. Road signs are knocked down monthly during the day along Maybell. There is a traffic bottleneck, congestion, and heavy pedestrian and bicycle activity which is constrained by constant street parking from Arastradero Park Apartments and limited ingress/egress into the neighborhood at thatcritical intersection of the proposed site.

Densely packed “tall and skinny” three-story “for-profit” single family homes taint this entire project. Public funds should not be used to enable a private development to negatively and disproportionate impact on the character of the neighborhood and the quality of life where there is no direct public benefit in exchange for those incompatible, for profit homes that will only lead to further exacerbation of traffic and safety problems and environmental effects. The 15 market rate homes have nothing to do PAHC’s mission to provide affordable housing. PAHC could today build 41-45 affordable senior units without passing on to one neighborhood the traffic and safety risks and adverse environmental effects associated with the 15 “for profit” homes that are completely out of scale and character with the rest of the R-1 residential neighborhood.

The reason for this “giveaway” to a private developer is to reduce the cost of the units to PAHC, so they are less expensive than the per-unit cost at, say, the new low-income development on Alma. But why should PAHC be allowed to foist the real costs of the housing onto THIS neighborhood. The Alma affordable developer could probably have financed the Alma project quite nicely if it had analogously sold 20% of the property to a for-profit developer and rezoned it for that developer to put up an overwhelmingly tall high rise (significantly out of character with surrounding buildings). Why the double standard for our neighborhood?

The approval process has the appearance of being a done deal, with an attempt to rush it through without thorough study, using out-of-date inaccurate or insufficient data, without sufficient notification to the neighborhood, without decision makers even familiar with the neighborhood, and the various proponents of the project using selective facts to support the rezoning. This in turn damages the trust between the citizens and City Hall, and sullies the reputation of an important institution like PAHC within the community.

Further Concerns:
1. Proposed development is too dense and too large for the residential neighborhood.. Street views show buildings of one size, and street and pedestrians at much larger scale. The renderings showing how the development would look are not done to scale. To understand the impact of these 15 three-story houses with 12-feet setback, and 8 feet between each home on tiny 2,300-3,400 sized lots, we urge you visit Alma Plaza to see a similar-sized, dense development. Typical lot sizes in Greenacres and Barron Park are 6,000 – 12,000 sq ft. Photos of the current single family homes are provided along with examples of proposed replacement home with three stories.

2. Mitigations are ineffective. The various mitigations are either irrelevant (“We will install a commemorative plaque paying respect to the history of the orchard”) or ineffective. For example, PAHC claims that by providing a sidewalk on the Maybell Avenue frontage they are contributing to the safety of pedestrians and bicyclists. However, they provide no continuous sidewalk access to El Camino Real up to Coulombe. It is important to note that, because of existing right of way issues, any pedestrians, including the seniors who may be moving to our neighborhood, who want to walk to El Camino must walk in the street to get there. The sidewalk on the south side of Maybell ends at Arastradero Park Apartments. There is no component of the proposed development that would create a continuous adjoining sidewalk for safe walking for senior and pedestrians along Maybell from El Camino to the proposed site or the propose site to Coulombe. In order to do so, the City would have to purchase right of way from the property owners located between Arastradero Park Apartments and Walgreens and between Briones park and Coulombe to install a continuous sidewalk for seniors and pedestrians. Without this, the City is encouraging less agile seniors to dodge in and out of traffic in an attempt to reach El Camino or to drive. Furthermore, sidewalks do not provide much bicycles safety since bicycles not encouraged to ride on sidewalks due to endangering pedestrians. There are no continuous bike lanes on the substandard width of Maybell Avenue.

3. The traffic study submitted by PAHC by design is inaccurate and incomplete. The traffic study supporting this development did not consider the impact of pedestrians and bikers. The traffic survey, with data completed in 2011, does not represent the major changes in traffic patterns since Gunn starting time was moved back, and pressures on the east-west Arastradero corridor because of major building projects for example. It is also out of date, due to school enrollment changes in the past two years. No traffic counts were done on Coulombe although it is a major feeder in and out of Maybell. (Many car trips originating on Arastradero to reach El Camino, including from Clemo, take Coulombe around the block to Maybell to El Camino). Maybell is one of two designated School Commute corridors flanking the proposed development, and is densely packed with students walking and biking along it.

Finally, the City Council is well aware of school student population increases over the next several years. PAUSD’s own studies: school board packet- study session show a projected increase by 2016 of hundreds of additional students attending the three schools (Juana Briones, Terman and Gunn), served by the Maybell School Commute Corridor. Many of these students and their parents will use Maybell for parts of their commute. The VMware expansion will double the business traffic using the east-west commute corridor of Arastradero. No study of the many projects in close proximity on El Camino and Arastradero, such as the Arbor Real project, that have pushed traffic onto neighborhood streets, has been done, even though Arastradero is a critical east-west route in South Palo Alto. Any major development added to this environment must be studied for traffic and safety impacts.

The traffic impact needs to be assessed against the known increase in traffic of bikers and walkers in the next few years. It is irresponsible to ignore this reality when it poses a potential threat to the safety of our children. A traffic study that takes all these known factors into account needs to be done in order to understand the effect of the proposed Maybell development. Our neighbor city Menlo Park now measures bikes and pedestrians at every intersection. The PAHC traffic study did not even comply with the VTA model it is supposed to follow. There are updated national standards that suggest reviewing time of transit from site to site rather than time crossing intersections. Given that bikes and pedestrians are such a major issue for our corridor, the City should study high quality, objective data before deciding such a major land use issue that cannot be reversed.

4. The City should not abandon its commitment to support the Maybell School Commute Corridor. The safety of our children depends on this. Here are three sections from the city document (School Commute Corridors Network) supporting the School Commute Corridors Network. They show very clearly that the City has a policy to support the corridors in case of concerns with new developments (underlining is ours):

On October 27, 2003 the Palo Alto City Council adopted the School Commute Corridors Network. Council adoption of the School Commute Corridors Network is a statement of policy for the City of Palo Alto that principal school commute routes be given priority for public investment purposes and be accorded enhanced review as regards proposals for new commercial driveways and other street changes.


The focus of the School Commute Corridor Network shall be to maintain and improve cycling and walking safety for school children. This shall include such provisions as may be appropriate for elementary, middle, and secondary school students.


Heightened review of land use changes on Corridor streets with respect to effects on school commute safety of added vehicle trips, including turning movements into and out of development or re-development sites.

The City’s own School Commute Network policy puts priority on reviewing developments which have an impact on the School Commute Network, and the impact on the school commute, including walkers and bikers. PAHC’s traffic survey should have taken into account the school walkers and bikers, and expected overall increases in use due to increasing school enrollment. The City should follow its own policy and demand a proper traffic and bicycle/pedestrian analysis, and then prioritize the safety of our children in considering any rezoning, major driveways, and ingress/egress changes. The Council should delay their decision until they have done the enhanced review their own policy demands. This should be done as the City’s responsibility to the children and their families before any major land use decisions are made for that property. At the very least, this is already City policy.

5. The Maybell rezoning violates the city municipal code. The internal street in the proposed development does not meet the width requirements of the municipal code. This requirement was expressly put in place to ensure that emergency vehicles would have sufficient access to private developments. A senior housing development is likely to have a greater need than most for effective emergency response. How will a fire truck drive through the development to reach the 60 unit senior complex or an ambulance, which has to come from across town, meet emergency response time when traffic and congestion are backed-up on Arastradero pushing congestion on neighboring streets of Maybell and Los Robles? Further, the width of Maybell Avenue is substandard and mandates significant modifications of the proposed project to even meet city municipal codes. Approving this rezoning without meeting such requirements is irresponsible and illegal.

Residents reasonably believe that the City has rushed this project without adequate process and analysis. Given the critical issues at stake for residents and their children — the character and feel of the neighborhood, quality of life, safety, traffic — we believe at a minimum the City Council should delay a vote on rezoning until at least a quality traffic study can be completed. Further the City Council should require that the 15 out-of-character, market rate homes be significantly modified in number and scale.

We are counting on your support to ensure proper safety review and protection of our neighborhood’s distinct pastoral character and cohesion. Thank you for reviewing the information.

Sincerely yours,
Steven Rosenberg
On behalf of the Maybell Action Group


Jun 072013

On Monday,  June 10th, starting at about 7:15 PM in Council Chambers, the City Council will hold its hearing on the Maybell-Clemo project- a proposal from the Palo Alto Housing Corporation for a Planned Community (PC) rezoning of the Maybell-Clemo site for 15 units of single family housing along the front of Maybell and Clemo and a 60 unit affordable senior housing building in the rear of the property.

Here are some final documents that you can download and may want to review- the City Manager’s Staff Report and two Traffic Study documents: the traffic study by the company hired by the Palo Alto Housing Corporation,  and also an independent 3rd party review of that study commissioned by the Coalition for Safe and Sensible Rezoning.

1)  The City Manager’s Staff Report and Maybell FAQ  (Frequently Asked Questions)- a shorter summary, prepared by the City Staff with Staff Response on 10 of the most common inquiries or issues.

The first part of the City Manager’s Staff Report is similar to the Staff Report  presented at the Planning and Transportation Commision (PTC). The new parts are in the Discussion section [Community Concerns] and Other Issues, where the Staff has attempted to address some of the comments and issues that were raised by the community at the PTC meeting.

The Sections of the City Manager’s Staff Report are entitled:

Executive Summary
    Residential Units for Senior Citizens
    Single Family Housing Units
    Previous Hearings
    Key Planning and Transportation Issues
        Impacts Identified in the Mitigated Negative Declaration
    Community Concerns:
         Inappropriate Site for Senior Housing
         Inappropriate Site for Increased Density
         Traffic Safety on Maybell
         Build Under Existing Zoning
        Annex the Orchard to Expand Juana Briones Park
Other Issues
    City Loans for Site Acquisition
    Private Street Requirements
    City Traffic Safety Efforts for Maybell Avenue
    Planned Community Zone Findings
Policy Implications
Resource Impact
Environmental Review


2) Much of the opposition to the PAHC project centers around the recently increased amount of traffic along Maybell and on nearby streets – which was already an annoyance to residents in the area as well as posing a safety hazard to the large number of bicyclists and pedestrians on that road before and after school hours – that could be exacerbated by the PAHC proposal. The Coalition for Safe and Sensible Zoning commissioned Tom Brohard and Associates to conduct an independent 3rd party review of the Traffic Study commissioned by the Palo Alto Housing Corporation, performed by Hexagon Transportation Consultants, and submitted as part of their project- zone change proposal.
You can download both studies here:
Conclusion: “Without further study and/or modifications, the proposed project may have a significant effect on the traffic and circulation as well as pedestrian and bicycle safety.”
Conclusion: “Residents along Maybell Avenue are not expected to notice a change in traffic as a result of the proposed development.”
May 302013

This is an opinion post by Barron Park Association President Art Liberman. The views expressed are his own and do not represent the views of the BPA Board or the BPA itself.

At the May 22nd hearing,  Planning and Transportation Commissioners were sympathetic to the traffic concerns of residents in Barron Park and Greenacres who live along the ‘ Maybell corridor.’  But they were not swayed by the arguments that the Palo Alto Housing Corporation (PAHC) proposal on the Maybell – Clemo site would make the already difficult and dangerous situation that much worse.  Will the City Council decide differently?

I argue that those who have been opposing any rezoning, consider another tack – allowing 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. Fifteen single family homes in the PAHC proposal are too many – the homes are too narrow, too close to each other, on too small lots – and would generate a sizable amount of the total traffic.

The  fifteen single family homes in the current proposal are projected to generate half of the total traffic from the project, so reducing the number of single family homes by a factor of two would reduce the traffic by 25%. This would create the least amount of traffic possible for any realistic development that anyone could envisage for that site. This would also make the single family homes and the street front appearance compatible with the surrounding single family neighborhood.

The Palo Alto Housing Corporation claims they need the market rate houses to subsidize the senior unit, but they have been tight lipped about how they came up with this number. Why fifteen? Why not eight? The Council should require PAHC to be more transparent with their financial arrangements for this project when so much City funds were loaned to them upfront. With new homes in Barron Park now selling for $2 million apiece, eight new homes should be more than adequate for a non-profit to subsidize this project.

Many people – not only neighbors – have expressed a visceral anger about the City’s hand in promoting the project. The Council provided a large amount of funds upfront that allowed PAHC to purchase the land and propose a project that would ultimately require the Council to approve a zoning change!  And this was not just for building affordable housing, but also for market rate homes that could reap a profit for PAHC or a well-connected private developer.

Those of you who support this compromise plan should write to the Council : email