BY ALLISON LEVITSKY
Daily Post Staff Writer
Hoping to wait for a new Palo Alto City Council in January, three Residentialist council members tried to thwart a controversial discussion on housing development last night (Nov. 26) — and while they failed, the vote is far from over.
Council wrapped up the meeting around 11:50 p.m. after listening to dozens of public commenters, quibbling over process and questioning a transportation consultant about how he collected parking data.
The still-pending proposal seeks to encourage housing development by relaxing restrictions on density, parking and building heights.
It would exempt 100% affordable housing developments from the ground-floor retail preservation ordinance, allowing those developers to more easily secure financing.
Ordinance to ease construction of new homes
Supporters say the proposal would ease the process of building needed apartments in Palo Alto, hopefully bringing prices down by adding supply, while opponents say it would worsen traffic and parking issues and cater to high-end developers without promising any affordable housing.
Council members Lydia Kou, Karen Holman and Tom DuBois unsuccessfully sought to delay the vote until next year, after the council is reduced from nine members to seven, and Councilman Cory Wolbach is replaced with Councilwoman-elect Alison Cormack.
Kou said that discussing the proposal last night would “breed further mistrust from the public” and that an unnamed downtown developer whose project had deadlines in December and would be affected by a delay in the ordinance’s approval.
Vice Mayor Eric Filseth, who frequently votes with Residentialists Kou, Holman and DuBois, opposed the motion to delay.
“Next year’s council is going to be pretty close to the current council. There’s not going to be huge changes,” Filseth said.
‘Delay, delay, delay’
Councilman Adrian Fine, who criticized the attempt at “obstructionism” in a text message to the Post, said at the meeting that there was “no backdoor stuff happening in this” and that he saw it as “exceptionally important for us not to delay, delay, delay.”
The proposal proved as divisive as any in Palo Alto, touching on most of the city’s most contentious issues.
Longtime council observer Bob Moss said he was “impressed” by the proposal, and not in a good way.
“This proposal impresses me because it’s one of the worst I’ve ever seen,” Moss said. “Why do we want to increase the (building) height next to single-family homes? Terrible proposals.”
Others, particularly housing advocates, urged the council to accept the proposal.
Deb Goldeen said the city had been “criminally negligent” in meeting its housing needs and recalled seeing double-parked cars at a rest stop on the way back from Oregon and realizing that people were sleeping in their cars to get to work in the Bay Area.
“I am incensed that we obsess over trivialities when the level of suffering that is being inflicted on people who need to work, but can’t afford to live anywhere near it, is not really being considered,” Goldeen said.