Updated to fold in comments from 3 sources:
Critique: Palo Alto's Housing Element and 2007-2014 RHNA wrestling
(The main insights in this critique come from anonymous sources.)
The fact that staff got Council to adopt RHNA numbers (and avoid a lawsuit for an out-of-compliance housing element) deserves an A.
Menlo Park's rushed lawsuit settlement for their out-of-compliance housing element may have helped to motivate Palo Alto to avoid such embarrassment. (See http://www.almanacnews.com/morguepdf/2012/2012_07_11.alm.section1.pdf,
Features of Palo Alto's new Housing Element:
* Targets major transportation hubs for growth.
* Protects single-family residential neighborhoods.
* Will probably result in the 50' building height limit being modified
* Encourages smaller units and senior housing. These will yield fewer kids resulting in a larger positive fiscal new housing impact from high property taxes with low service draw.
* Compatible with SB375 SCS.
Council is majority slow-growth and is infamous for factually-challenged anti-RHNA and anti-ABAG comments. Staff fought an uphill battle that seemed doomed, but eventually reversed Council's anti-climate and "I've got mine, you can't have yours" proclivities. Local papers reinforce factually-challenged arguments, relaying false statements such as "Palo Alto is built out" as if they were true. During the process, it appeared that haphazard growth would occur, as there did not seem to be a coherent, overarching vision. It now seems as though staff may have had a vision the entire time, they just couldn't air it out in public.
The process deserves an F for tardiness, although staff might have cleverly employed some schedule brinksmanship to win the day. The adoption of a Housing Element where the total housing opportunities identified do not add up to the RHNA goal, with the instigation of an additional study to find new housing sites is appallingly slow. With this particular Council, it is fair to contemplate conspiracy theories such as, "Council reasoned that it could continue to defer on the actual delivery of housing units by adopting the RHNA goal (while resisting housing at the project level), as opposed to risking a lawsuit that could result in Court Order to deliver a specified number of units in a specified period of time."
Overall, the outcome avoided the embarrassment of Palo Alto being sued for an out-of-compliance housing element. Hence, a much better-than-expected outcome, although still nothing to brag about.
See July 13 Weakly, "The council's decision to forward the Housing Element to the state will now prompt a dialogue between city and state officials about the policies in the document. Once the state signs off, the council can adopt it and integrate it into its Comprehensive Plan, the city's official land-use bible."
Recent approval of new office towers by Caltrain represents a lost opportunity to maximize dense, walkable housing near train stations to meet RHNA and SB375. A more prudent RHNA-focused course of action is for the city to proactively up-zone ripe-for-redevelopment parcels for denser-than-usual residential.
For the much larger 2014-2021 RHNA allocation, Council formed a Regional Housing Mandate Committee to further caterwaul against modern regional planning methods.
--- In ALPA_Forum@yahoogroups.com, Jeffrey Rensch <jrensch@...> wrote:
> Irv - if this gets approved, the 50 ft height limit is history, which would
> ultimately be good news for housing.
> On Sat, Sep 22, 2012 at 1:55 PM, Irvin Dawid <irvindawid@...> wrote:
> > Steve,
> > The fact that the 'highrise' has no housing, is a TOD sans housing
> > depending on design, also goes to the "jobs-housing" ratio that proves,
> > from a certain perspective, that ABAG was right - PA goes all out for
> > commercial but neglects its housing responsibility.
> > I see from today's Daily News that we may vote on it - without the housing
> > component I believe this development is unsupportable.
> > What do others think?
> > Irvin Dawid