Let’s Get This Comp Plan Party Started!

A crisp chill has settled in the air, the leaves have fallen, pumpkins and goblins are out on porches, waiting for the the trick-or-treaters.  And then November will be here, bringing the next important step for Palo Alto's Comprehensive Plan process.  In an earlier blog post, we briefly outlined why the Comp Plan is so important and the connection to this election cycle.  The next big milestone for the Comp Plan is a Monday Nov 3 City Council meeting to review four revised alternatives.  In advance of that, we’re also getting together Tuesday Oct 21 to brainstorm ideas for Comp Plan Alternatives to improve housing and transportation options in Palo Alto. Read more

Survey Shows Palo Alto Residents Feel the Pain of High Housing Costs

I recently ran a survey of housing attitudes among people living in Palo Alto.  It yielded some interesting results. Why I ran this survey to satisfy my own curiosity: I wanted to get real data on Palo Altans' attitudes towards housing.  Housing and zoning has been a politically fraught issue in recent years, but (as far as I know), there's been very little actual data on people's attitudes. Read more

Regional Context for Housing & Transit

We see the symptoms every day.  Housing prices (sale and rent) that get more and more expensive.  The struggle to get to work, to school, to accomplish life’s basic tasks.  Palo Alto Forward was launched in an effort to start a conversation about how we can pursue better housing and transportation options for Palo Alto.  And part of that journey starts with understanding how these problems came to be. Read more

How to Bring Innovative, Not-Insanely-Wealthy People Back to Palo Alto

The other night, I found myself reading my almost-three-year-old daughter a children’s book from 1950. The book focused on family life, and I had to explain some of the things she didn’t recognize. The father was smoking a pipe, and sitting in front of a fire. There were no TVs, phones, or laptops anywhere in sight. Explaining to her that I’d had neither a laptop nor a cellphone growing up unleashed a series of “why”s I could only answer meekly. The world has changed immensely — not only since 1950, but since 1996, when I arrived at Stanford as an 18-year-old freshman from Philadelphia. There are things I like about those changes, and things I don’t like, but one thing is clear: there’s no going back. Read more

Yes to Measure B For Quality of Life and Public Safety

This piece is reposted verbatim from the Invest or Die blog from Palo Alto Online, with permission from Steve Levy, Director/Senior Economist at Center for Continuing Study of the California Economy (CCSCE). The upcoming election will be full of both local and statewide election choices. Most attention in Palo Alto has been focused on the upcoming city council elections. But there is another choice on our local ballot (Measure B) that will directly support the quality of life and public safety in our city now and in the years to come. Measure B will raise the transient occupancy (hotel) tax from 12% to 14% and provide approximately $31 million (roughly 25%) of the $126 million needed for the next round of infrastructure investments. The other 75% will come in roughly equal parts from 1) monies provided by Stanford as part of the agreement to expand the medical facilities, 2) hotel tax from the five new hotels currently planned and 3) monies in the city's infrastructure reserve, parking fees, city surpluses and other sources. Read more

October 2 City Council Candidates Forum

Last Thursday night, Palo Alto Neighborhoods (PAN), PTAs, and PA Weekly sponsored a Candidates Forum for the 12 City Council candidates: Incumbents Karen Holman, Greg Scharff and Nancy Shepherd, and new candidates Wayne Douglass, Tom DuBois, Eric Filseth, John Karl Fredrich, AC Johnston, Lydia Kou, Seelam Reddy, Mark Weiss and Cory Wolbach. Half of the evening was devoted to questions directly from the sponsors, and the latter half was open to questions from the audience. Due to time limits, only a portion of the candidates were asked to respond to each question. Read more

LWV City Council Candidates Forum

Last night was the League of Women Voters City Candidates Forum at the Etz Chayim Congregation. The 12 candidates each had time to give opening statements, ask each other questions, take questions from the audience and give closing remarks. Most of the candidates expressed their desire to increase parking availability, reduce traffic and congestion, and restore public trust in city government. Read more

School funding, enrollment, and housing strategy

Quick synopsis: Palo Alto families often fear that increased local housing will degrade school quality through budget and enrollment pressure. A closer examination of the budgetary and enrollment impact of various housing types reveals that higher density apartment units would be a highly effective tool to shore up school finances without contributing additional enrollment pressure   Local Housing Policy and School Funding-- the beginning of an investigation   A few months ago, I sent a message to my good friends declaring my strongly held belief that Palo Alto should invest in more housing options in the downtown areas.  I believe that increased access to a variety of housing makes for a more diverse, healthy, sustainable, and fun city. I was expecting some common pushback.  “Wouldn’t this create more traffic and parking problems?” Why, no… putting housing near services and offices near transit actually helps us deal with our traffic and parking problems.  “Wouldn’t this be environmentally irresponsible?” No…. dense housing is FAR greener than sprawling single family homes. Finally, one of my friends whose opinion I always value wrote back: “I get what you’re saying, and I agree with you in general.  However, our schools are overstretched already, and that is the main reason that we moved here.  Screw with that, and you’ve lost me!” Hmmm… that’s a very good argument that touches me personally as I have two young children in the Palo Alto school system myself.  I had to go investigate.     Read more

Tap Your Secret Planning Geek and Vote!

We all have a secret planning geek lurking inside. If you came of age in the 1990s, 1980s, 1970’s, or 1960’s, you may have played a game like SimCity, Oregon Trail, or Risk, and reveled in the ability to virtually control how a community is shaped. Heck, going back further, any Lego fanatic probably reveled in their childhood fantasy to create a new, alternate world. Of course real life isn’t a virtual reality game or made up of blocks.  Most of us don’t know what rules shape our physical environment, let alone how those rules get influenced or made. It falls under the domain of local government. And let’s be honest, municipal policy and planning just isn’t terribly sexy.  It reeks of bureaucratic process and inefficiency, petty discourse and incivility.  Those perceptions are not unfounded.  But in our local democracies, citizen voices do carry weight.  And if you live in Palo Alto (or any Bay Area Peninsula community) and are concerned about the crazy housing prices or limited alternative transportation options, here’s why you might want to unleash that planning geek and learn more about the process. Read more

A Tale of Two Venues

Whew… launch week!     Here at Palo Alto Forward World Headquarters --usually just a table at Scotty’s Bar and Grill-- we have had a great reception to the launch of our website (www.paloaltoforward.com) on Friday.  As of this writing, we have had over a thousand visitors, and over 100 registrations, and over 50 volunteers. For a 4 day tally, we’ve come out of the blocks strongly!   Last night, we were active in two venues: City Council Chambers and Scotty’s Bar.  This reflects our organizational philosophy: we want to join the public debate, and also engage in amicable, respectful discussion among engaged citizenry-- sometimes best conducted over a beer.   Read more


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