Even with general consensus that downtown Palo Alto is the great place to incorporate household enhancement, the City Council clashed on Monday above regardless of whether to shift in advance with a housing plan for the transit-friendly spot just east of the University Avenue Caltrain station.
The discussion was prompted by an $800,000 grant that the city gained previous yr from the Metropolitan Transportation Fee to acquire a downtown housing strategy, a eyesight doc that would discover strategies and policies for introducing housing. Even though the grant would assistance aid the planning method, Town Manager Ed Shikada warned that it would not be ample to steer it to completion and approximated that the town would will need to expend about $150,000 in area cash yearly about the a few-12 months setting up period of time.
The exertion bought off to a shaky start on Monday, with just 4 council members — Mayor Pat Burt and council users Alison Cormack, Greer Stone and Greg Tanaka — voting to acknowledge the grant funding to move forward with the strategy. Three of their colleagues — Vice Mayor Lydia Kou and council users Tom DuBois and Eric Filseth — dissented and argued that the housing strategy would provide as a distraction from other ongoing scheduling attempts.
While the 4-3 vote lets the town to trudge ahead with accepting the MTC resources, it casts a cloud in excess of a scheduling energy that workers was preparing to kick off in the coming months. Crucially, the vote does not give organizing employees with the funding it experienced requested to launch the approach — funds that would be reimbursed by the MTC as section of the grant. That is mainly because altering the council’s price range demands 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 approach in the coming months, as users kick off general public hearings for future year’s funds. The arranging work could hinge on whether council users pick out at that time to authorize the funding.
Some council users strongly supported shifting ahead with the plan, which targets a 76-acre portion of downtown that is around bounded by Alma Avenue on the west and Cowper Road on the east, among Lytton and Hamilton avenues. Council member Alison Cormack recommended that the timing of the prepare is notably acceptable given the lots of variations that the location has experienced in excess of the past two decades, with the selection of employees diminishing, the vacancy fee growing and parklets getting a long-lasting fixture of the streetscape.
“To me this approach will be a person of the cornerstones of our new downtown,” Cormack said. “And our downtown is heading to have to transform centered on the pandemic. It really is going to be distinct than it is been.”
Other people, having said that, argued that the downtown prepare would take interest and means away from the numerous setting up attempts already underway. These include the drafting of Palo Alto’s new Housing Aspect, a state-mandated document that lays out tactics for residential development and prospective housing sites to accommodate the 6,086 residences that the city should strategy for concerning 2023 and 2031. Palo Alto is also continuing with operate on streetscape advancements on College Avenue, crafting a long term parklet ordinance and putting with each other an place plan for a portion of the Ventura neighborhood.
Kou prompt that the town should target on the ongoing attempts and on “executing them very well,” rather than adding much more to the workload. Filseth concurred.
“I just be concerned the full matter is likely to be a large distraction,” Filseth explained. “There is a whole lot of approaches this can go incorrect. I assume it can be likely to just take on a everyday living of its personal and it really is heading to suck bandwidth, interest and sources absent from what we definitely need to have to get the Housing Ingredient carried out.”
The plan of putting collectively a coordinated prepare for downtown Palo Alto is far from new. The city’s Detailed Program contains a plan that explicitly calls for this kind of an effort. And when the council debated its selections for redesigning its rail crossing at Palo Alto Avenue in 2019, customers agreed to defer the dialogue so that the concern can be viewed as as component of the broader arranging process.
The downtown housing plan that the council debated Monday would not involve consideration of rail crossings or transportation improvements. Its key target would be housing and the boundaries of the planning space notably exclude the transit center at 27 College Ave., which incorporates a Caltrain station, various bus stops and the MacArthur Park restaurant. Setting up Director Jonathan Lait claimed personnel experienced proposed a reasonably slender scope — with a very clear focus on housing — so that the energy could be aligned with MTC’s funding proposal.
“This looks like a incredibly well timed grant so we are hoping to peel off the housing piece and actually aim on that and we’ll occur again to the council when the time is appropriate for the coordinated place prepare,” Lait reported.
The Monday dialogue indicates that the approach could still progress, nevertheless some of the aspects remained unresolved. DuBois took situation with staff’s plan to use consultants to shepherd the downtown work and advised that it would be far more helpful to use a prolonged-term planner who could do the job on the numerous endeavours pertaining to downtown. He also recommended that the downtown strategy is “out of order” supplied all the other organizing attempts previously in the will work.
Supporters of the downtown prepare preserved that the exertion, while time-consuming, aligns properly with the city’s initiatives to develop a lot more housing and to change some of the business houses in transit-welcoming regions to residential use.
“I consider that seeking at housing options and particularly types that would likely regulate us from larger workplace growth to higher housing expansion downtown is an correct strategy and well worth our effort,” Burt stated.
Stone, who also supported advancing the program, argued that a failure to do so would demonstrate to regional and condition businesses that the city is not producing the necessary efforts to satisfy its housing objectives.
“I imagine it’s damning proof that we left $800,000 on the desk to be in a position to redevelop a housing function strategy,” Stone claimed.