Regardless of general consensus that downtown Palo Alto is the fantastic area to include residential improvement, the Metropolis Council clashed on Monday about irrespective of whether to move forward with a housing prepare for the transit-pleasant spot just east of the University Avenue Caltrain station.
The discussion was prompted by an $800,000 grant that the city received previous 12 months from the Metropolitan Transportation Fee to produce a downtown housing approach, a vision doc that would examine procedures and guidelines for introducing housing. While the grant would support facilitate the preparing procedure, City Supervisor Ed Shikada warned that it would not be adequate to steer it to completion and believed that the city would need to have to expend about $150,000 in nearby funds annually in excess of the a few-calendar year planning time period.
The energy obtained off to a shaky get started on Monday, with just four council members — Mayor Pat Burt and council associates Alison Cormack, Greer Stone and Greg Tanaka — voting to accept the grant funding to transfer ahead with the approach. A few of their colleagues — Vice Mayor Lydia Kou and council users Tom DuBois and Eric Filseth — dissented and argued that the housing plan would provide as a distraction from other ongoing planning initiatives.
Although the 4-3 vote permits the metropolis to trudge in advance with accepting the MTC resources, it casts a cloud more than a setting up effort and hard work that staff was setting up to kick off in the coming months. Crucially, the vote does not give setting up workers with the funding it experienced asked for to start the program — cash that would be reimbursed by the MTC as section of the grant. That’s because adjusting the council’s spending plan needs a two-thirds council vote, a threshold that the council unsuccessful to fulfill.
The vote does, having said that, set the council up for one more discussion above the downtown prepare in the coming months, as associates kick off general public hearings for next year’s funds. The planning work could hinge on no matter if council customers choose at that time to authorize the funding.
Some council members strongly supported relocating forward with the strategy, which targets a 76-acre part of downtown that is around bounded by Alma Road on the west and Cowper Road on the east, involving Lytton and Hamilton avenues. Council member Alison Cormack advised that the timing of the plan is especially suitable supplied the lots of modifications that the area has knowledgeable around the past two several years, with the amount of personnel diminishing, the vacancy fee increasing and parklets getting to be a long-lasting fixture of the streetscape.
“To me this strategy will be one particular of the cornerstones of our new downtown,” Cormack mentioned. “And our downtown is likely to have to transform primarily based on the pandemic. It is really going to be distinct than it truly is been.”
Other folks, on the other hand, argued that the downtown approach would acquire awareness and assets absent from the lots of scheduling efforts currently underway. These incorporate the drafting of Palo Alto’s new Housing Ingredient, a point out-mandated doc that lays out tactics for household improvement and likely housing websites to accommodate the 6,086 residences that the metropolis have to strategy for concerning 2023 and 2031. Palo Alto is also continuing with operate on streetscape advancements on University Avenue, crafting a lasting parklet ordinance and placing jointly an region plan for a portion of the Ventura community.
Kou recommended that the metropolis ought to focus on the ongoing efforts and on “executing them very well,” relatively than adding far more to the workload. Filseth concurred.
“I just worry the complete matter is going to be a large distraction,” Filseth mentioned. “There is certainly a good deal of ways this can go improper. I think it really is likely to acquire on a daily life of its possess and it is really going to suck bandwidth, focus and methods absent from what we definitely need to have to get the Housing Element completed.”
The plan of putting jointly a coordinated approach for downtown Palo Alto is considerably from new. The city’s Comprehensive Prepare consists of a plan that explicitly phone calls for these an effort. And when the council debated its alternatives for redesigning its rail crossing at Palo Alto Avenue in 2019, customers agreed to defer the dialogue so that the issue can be considered as part of the broader preparing course of action.
The downtown housing prepare that the council debated Monday would not include things like consideration of rail crossings or transportation enhancements. Its principal concentrate would be housing and the boundaries of the arranging region notably exclude the transit middle at 27 University Ave., which includes a Caltrain station, numerous bus stops and the MacArthur Park restaurant. Arranging Director Jonathan Lait claimed staff experienced proposed a relatively slim scope — with a distinct focus on housing — so that the hard work could be aligned with MTC’s funding proposal.
“This looks like a quite timely grant so we are hoping to peel off the housing piece and actually target on that and we will occur back to the council when the time is appropriate for the coordinated place program,” Lait explained.
The Monday discussion implies that the system could nonetheless advance, although some of the particulars remained unresolved. DuBois took challenge with staff’s program to employ the service of consultants to shepherd the downtown work and recommended that it would be a lot more advantageous to employ a extensive-time period planner who could operate on the different attempts pertaining to downtown. He also instructed that the downtown approach is “out of get” offered all the other planning initiatives presently in the works.
Supporters of the downtown strategy maintained that the exertion, while time-consuming, aligns very well with the city’s efforts to develop much more housing and to convert some of the business homes in transit-pleasant parts to household use.
“I imagine that searching at housing prospects and particularly types that would likely regulate us from larger office environment development to bigger housing progress downtown is an suitable strategy and worth our exertion,” Burt reported.
Stone, who also supported advancing the prepare, argued that a failure to do so would demonstrate to regional and condition organizations that the town is not producing the essential initiatives to satisfy its housing objectives.
“I believe it is really damning proof that we left $800,000 on the desk to be able to redevelop a housing do the job prepare,” Stone explained.