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.

Stanford/Bowdoin Crosswalk Improvements Coming

This spring, the City of Palo Alto Office of Transportation will install high-visibility yellow crosswalks and required school crossing signage to the Stanford/Bowdoin intersection. This project was initiated by PTA Transportation Safety Representatives of Escondido and Nixon Elementary Schools approaching the City of Palo Alto’s Safe Routes to School and Stanford staff to improve student visibility.

After several observations with PTA volunteers and design iterations by Stanford’s consultants, City staff and the project stakeholders agreed that the striping and signage project was an important step in enhancing safety at this busy intersection for students and other road users due to the proximity to two elementary schools and high use by students of all ages.

After installation, the City and Safe Routes partners will continue to monitor the intersection as a regular activity of the Safe Routes to School Partnership. Questions about the project can be sent to SafeRoutes@cityofpaloalto.org.

In other good news for neighborhood pedestrians, Caltrans is installing Pedestrian Hybrid Beacons (PHBs) at several intersections along El Camino Real, including one at College Avenue.

PHBs are flashing signals that tell drivers to stop when pedestrians are crossing the roadway. The installation process at Palo Alto intersections (Vista Ave, Barron Ave, Fernando Ave, College Ave, and Palo Alto Ave) is scheduled to begin this month and the full project should be completed by summer.

Please see the City of Palo Alto’s Stop for Pedestrians flyer for more information on how drivers and pedestrians should use these crosswalk safety enhancements. For more information, contact Caltrans Public Information Officer for District 4, Victor Gauthier at victor.gauthier@dot.ca.gov.

CTRA Observer Reports for February

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. This month, we have updates from our Stanford and California Avenue observers.


California Avenue Business District

Khoury’s Market

The city has approved a permit application for exterior improvements to the building that include new paint, new storefront glazing, new lighting, and new planters to an outdoor seating/gathering area. The application was submitted in September and approved earlier this month.

The September application also included a proposal for exterior signage, however a decision was made to remove that item and re-submit it as a separate application. That occurred on February 8. It calls for the installation of two “Khoury’s Market” signs: one above the El Camino Real entrance way, and one on Oxford Avenue. The plans also show a horizontal illuminated, vertical projecting, “parking here” sign (i.e., a “P” within a circle above an arrow within a circle) just past the garage ramps.

Senior planning staff also informs us that:

  • The planner assigned “is working expeditiously with the applicant towards an approval, but there are no guarantees the application will be approved in March.”
  • Code Enforcement is looking into the bins that have replaced the dumpsters on Oxford Avenue across the street from the market.
  • While the roof globe lights were part of the original permit, the prior property owner had made a commitment to turn the lights off after the grocery store closes at night. Once the new owners get a building permit, they will be free to remove them.

Inside the market itself, grocery carts have been delivered and an Italian coffee machine is on order. Stop by and let a member of the Khoury family know your suggestions.

–Ann Balin


Stanford

Now that the holidays are over, things have picked up again! 

First, the County Historical Heritage Commission is continuing to look at the Historic Resources section of the GUP Application.  The County has hired a second peer review firm, JRP Historical Consulting, to address various questions about Stanford’s methodology for determining which structures are “historic”.  The HHC’s next meeting was pushed out from February 21st and is now scheduled for March 6 at 6:30 p.m. 

In addition, Supervisor Simitian approached PAST Heritage, requesting them to weigh in.  They have agreed to step up and craft a letter which will go initially to the HHC and then most likely to the County Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors.   

At a Community Resources Group meeting last fall, Stanford staff made the point of telling us that they had presented their historic analysis to Palo Alto’s Historic Resources Board.  But at the PAST board meeting last week, one of the HRB members expressed disappointment that this “presentation” was only a study session and they were not given the chance to make any recommendation to Council concerning this important item.  

On the main GUP path, the first two County Planning Commission study sessions have been scheduled for February 28th and March 14th, both at 1:30 p.m.  Supervisor Simitian continues to support full mitigation for impacts and a group of Stanford students have launched a petition requesting this too. 

Finally, regarding the zoning amendment in the San Juan area of the campus, the Board of Supervisors felt that there was no ground for them to deny the application.  Everything about it was consistent with the General Plan and Stanford Community Plan as they currently stand.  And since it was actually a down-zoning (from Academic Campus to Campus Residential-Low Density), they had to allow it.  However, Supervisor Simitian added an amendment directing staff to investigate possible changes to these overarching plans to give the Board tools that would allow them to deny future similar applications in the San Juan neighborhood.

–Pria Graves