Statewide Housing Legislation Gains Steam

While Palo Alto’s City Council grapples with ways to address the current housing crisis, legislators in Sacramento are proposing a wide range of bills aimed at spurring development, some of which restrict cities’ abilities to limit or block housing development.

Senate Bill 50 (SB-50), for example, aims to bolster housing development near major transit stops and bus routes, as well as “job-rich” areas, by exempting projects in these areas from local limits on density and parking requirements.

The Embarcadero Institute recently published an analysis of SB-50’s impacts on Palo Alto. It’s worth reviewing the potential impacts on our neighborhood, as parts of College Terrace are within a quarter mile of a “high quality bus corridor” (VTA Routes 22/522) and nearly all of Palo Alto will likely be deemed “job-rich.”

Given Governor Newsom’s aggressive goal to build 3.5 million new homes in California by 2025, it’s worth watching these bills as they progress through the Legislature. The future of Palo Alto housing may be decided in Sacramento and not City Hall.

CTRA Observer Reports for January

The College Terrace Residents Association has a group of board members known as “observers” who monitor relevant public meetings and news in their assigned area and then report back to the entire board on pertinent local actions and issues of interest to College Terrace. These four observers cover Stanford, the City of Palo Alto, the California Avenue Business District, and the Research Park.

The observers typically deliver their reports at the CTRA’s monthly meetings but, going forward, we’re also going to publish those reports on the website so that they’re more readily accessible to the neighborhood. This month, we have updates from our Stanford and California Avenue observers.


Stanford

Things with the Stanford GUP/Development Agreement have slowed way down over the holidays. No further meetings have been announced. And there have been no updates to the development agreement process website.

Meanwhile, the Historic Resources section of the GUP Application is going to the County Historical Heritage Commission for a second study session on Thursday evening, January 17: http://sccgov.iqm2.com/Citizens/Detail_Meeting.aspx?ID=11167

Over the past few weeks the commissioners have been touring the campus to view some of the historic and no-longer-historic buildings.

One other new development on campus: the Board of Supervisors will hold a hearing regarding a zoning amendment in the San Juan Hills area of the campus.  They plan to change the land use designation of the area from Academic Campus to Campus Residential-Low Density and to redistribute five housing units from “Campus Center” to “San Juan Hills” under the 2000 GUP. They are also applying for a ten-lot subdivision. The residents in that area generally seem to be furious about it. There’s not a lot of information about it yet but the Supervisors meeting is scheduled for January 29th.

–Pria Graves


California Avenue Business District

Public Safety Building and Parking Garage

The City of Palo Alto is constructing a new public safety building at Sherman Avenue (Park Blvd.) and a new parking garage at Sherman (Ash Street). CTRA board member, Ann Lafargue Balin, (CAL Avenue observer) attended the walk-through with city staff and neighbors on Friday, January 18th. The project will be completed in 2020. Many people asked about the tree removal aspect of these projects. The trees will likely start to be removed during the week of January 22nd and according to the urban forester will be completed prior to the seasonal nesting season.

The city notified the public of the tree removal in mid-November 2018. There were several public, community meetings and hearings at the Architectural Review Board over the past two years of the project’s planning. The city sent out 2000 postcards to nearby businesses and residents to notify them of the September community meeting. Although the trees that are targeted for removal are healthy they will be removed because they would not survive the trauma of construction. The city’s urban forester and the EIR are requiring mitigation for the removal of the trees. There will be 21 new trees planted on the parking garage parcel and thirty five new trees planted on the Public Safety Building parcel. It will take 15 years for the canopy to mature. The urban forester said that native species will be emphasized in the design. They are suitable for our climate and are drought tolerant.

When the trees were removed on California Avenue in 2009 the residents and many merchants were stunned to find the street without the Holly Oaks. The city had neglected to notify the public. Citizens invited the esteemed landscape designer, Barrie Coate, for the Getty Museum to speak on what kind of species would enhance California Avenue. Dave Muffly, now Apple’s chief landscape designer was engaged to create the design for California Avenue. We now have a variety of species that make Palo Alto’s second downtown attractive. 

The scale of the parking garage is six hundred and thirty six parking places. The city staff had recommended a smaller amount, approximately four hundred, but the council voted for the larger quantity of parking spaces.

Go to project page with links to documents including the arborist’s report, Environmental Impact Report and other resources at www.cityofpaloalto.org/psb.

Other California Avenue News

Khoury’s Market has had their soft opening. The dumpsters from the Stanford Hotel have been removed from Oxford Street.

Pastis is now owned by the restauranteur who owns Cafe Brioche.

Barbeques Galore is closing.

Palo Alto Baking Company has closed as of December 31st.

–Ann Balin

Around the Terrace: January 17, 2019

Here are some recent announcements and news stories of interest to College Terrace and the surrounding area.

Khoury’s Market Soft Opens in College Terrace
Khoury’s Market, the long-awaited, family-run replacement for the College Terrace Market, is now open! The inventory is still coming together–although there’s already a beautiful display of fresh produce–but stop by, meet the Khourys, and check it out.

California Ave Garage/Public Safety Building Project Walk-Through this Friday
With construction slated to begin next week on the new parking garage and Public Safety Building, City staff will host a walk-through at the 350 Sherman Avenue parking lot on Friday at 2:30 p.m. The walk-through is an opportunity for the public to learn about the projects, the upcoming tree removals, and the City’s broader commitment to Palo Alto’s urban forest.

Weigh in on the City Council’s 2019 Priorities
Each year, the City Council reviews its priorities for the year at its Annual Council Retreat (scheduled for February 2nd). This survey is your chance to let the council know what you think it should focus on in the coming year. If you’re curious, the 2018 priorities were Transportation, Housing, Budget and Finance, and Grade Separation. In 2017, they were Transportation, Housing, Infrastructure, Healthy City/Healthy Community, and Budget and Finance.

Join the CTRA Nominating Committee!
The CTRA’s annual meeting and board election is coming up on March 23rd and we’re looking for people to join the nominating committee to recruit candidates for election. If you’ve been curious about what the CTRA does, this is a fantastic opportunity to learn more. Contact the CTRA president, James Cook, for more information.