Inspite of normal consensus that downtown Palo Alto is the ideal place to include household growth, the Metropolis Council clashed on Monday more than no matter whether to shift ahead with a housing program for the transit-welcoming area just east of the University Avenue Caltrain station.
The discussion was prompted by an $800,000 grant that the city acquired previous year from the Metropolitan Transportation Fee to create a downtown housing plan, a vision document that would examine tactics and policies for incorporating housing. Though the grant would assistance facilitate the arranging procedure, City Supervisor Ed Shikada warned that it would not be plenty of to steer it to completion and believed that the city would have to have to invest about $150,000 in community money yearly about the 3-year arranging time period.
The effort and hard work acquired off to a shaky commence on Monday, with just four council users — Mayor Pat Burt and council customers Alison Cormack, Greer Stone and Greg Tanaka — voting to take the grant funding to go in advance with the approach. 3 of their colleagues — Vice Mayor Lydia Kou and council members Tom DuBois and Eric Filseth — dissented and argued that the housing prepare would serve as a distraction from other ongoing setting up endeavours.
While the 4-3 vote will allow the city to trudge in advance with accepting the MTC funds, it casts a cloud above a preparing effort and hard work that personnel was preparing to kick off in the coming months. Crucially, the vote does not supply organizing workers with the funding it experienced asked for to start the prepare — money that would be reimbursed by the MTC as element of the grant. Which is due to the fact altering the council’s finances needs a two-thirds council vote, a threshold that the council failed to meet up with.
The vote does, on the other hand, established the council up for another discussion around the downtown plan in the coming months, as members kick off general public hearings for next year’s finances. The organizing effort and hard work could hinge on whether or not council customers decide on at that time to authorize the funding.
Some council users strongly supported relocating forward with the prepare, which targets a 76-acre part of downtown that is roughly bounded by Alma Street on the west and Cowper Road on the east, among Lytton and Hamilton avenues. Council member Alison Cormack advised that the timing of the strategy is specifically suited specified the quite a few alterations that the spot has professional about the previous two years, with the selection of staff diminishing, the emptiness level expanding and parklets becoming a everlasting fixture of the streetscape.
“To me this prepare will be a single of the cornerstones of our new downtown,” Cormack explained. “And our downtown is likely to have to transform based on the pandemic. It is really going to be different than it really is been.”
Other folks, having said that, argued that the downtown approach would just take awareness and resources away from the quite a few setting up attempts by now underway. These incorporate the drafting of Palo Alto’s new Housing Component, a point out-mandated document that lays out approaches for household improvement and probable housing web sites to accommodate the 6,086 residences that the city must system for among 2023 and 2031. Palo Alto is also proceeding with perform on streetscape advancements on College Avenue, crafting a long-lasting parklet ordinance and placing collectively an place strategy for a part of the Ventura neighborhood.
Kou advised that the city should really concentration on the ongoing attempts and on “executing them effectively,” rather than introducing extra to the workload. Filseth concurred.
“I just get worried the total factor is likely to be a giant distraction,” Filseth claimed. “There is certainly a whole lot of techniques this can go mistaken. I feel it is really likely to consider on a life of its personal and it truly is going to suck bandwidth, interest and resources away from what we truly have to have to get the Housing Ingredient done.”
The concept of putting together a coordinated program for downtown Palo Alto is far from new. The city’s Detailed Strategy consists of a plan that explicitly calls for this sort of an effort and hard work. And when the council debated its selections for redesigning its rail crossing at Palo Alto Avenue in 2019, users agreed to defer the dialogue so that the problem can be regarded as aspect of the broader scheduling process.
The downtown housing system that the council debated Monday would not contain thing to consider of rail crossings or transportation improvements. Its major concentration would be housing and the boundaries of the arranging location notably exclude the transit heart at 27 University Ave., which consists of a Caltrain station, several bus stops and the MacArthur Park restaurant. Organizing Director Jonathan Lait stated staff members experienced proposed a rather slim scope — with a distinct target on housing — so that the hard work could be aligned with MTC’s funding proposal.
“This appears to be like a very timely grant so we are hoping to peel off the housing piece and seriously target on that and we’ll appear again to the council when the time is ideal for the coordinated space system,” Lait said.
The Monday discussion indicates that the strategy could nevertheless advance, though some of the information remained unresolved. DuBois took difficulty with staff’s system to use consultants to shepherd the downtown exertion and advised that it would be much more useful to retain the services of a prolonged-term planner who could operate on the different efforts pertaining to downtown. He also prompt that the downtown plan is “out of purchase” supplied all the other organizing endeavours previously in the operates.
Supporters of the downtown strategy taken care of that the work, when time-consuming, aligns well with the city’s endeavours to build far more housing and to convert some of the commercial houses in transit-helpful regions to household use.
“I think that on the lookout at housing chances and specifically ones that would possibly regulate us from greater business advancement to higher housing expansion downtown is an suitable solution and worthy of our energy,” Burt reported.
Stone, who also supported advancing the strategy, argued that a failure to do so would exhibit to regional and point out companies that the metropolis is not making the important attempts to meet its housing aims.
“I consider it is damning evidence that we still left $800,000 on the desk to be in a position to redevelop a housing function program,” Stone claimed.