BY EMILY MIBACH
Daily Post Staff Writer
Palo Alto Mayor Eric Filseth, in his State of the City address last night (March 5), came out with guns blazing against Senate Bill 50, which would give the state the right to pre-empt city zoning to allow developers to build high-density housing projects near transit or in areas with high performing school districts.
Filseth said the bill by state Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, would take control from local governments.
When the state is in charge, he said, you get projects like the redevelopment of the Cupertino Vallco Mall into a housing and office project. Cupertino had to allow that project to go through under SB 35, an earlier bill authored by Weiner. He said it would add some 9,000 jobs in 2.4 million square feet of office space, but it will only have 2,400 homes.
That exacerbates the housing-jobs imbalance, which is responsible for driving up rents.
He pointed to Mountain View as an example of how local control can benefit residents.
He said Mountain View’s North Bayshore plan calls for up to 3.5 million square feet of office space and up to 9,850 homes. (Google has since said it will only build 5,760 homes).
Filseth also said the county’s civil grand jury found that it would take $30 billion to fix the county’s housing crunch.
He also mentioned that Mountain View, San Francisco and East Palo Alto’s recently passed business taxes, and said that Palo Alto is considering a business tax for 2020. Filseth did not state his opinion on whether the city ought to go forward with the tax.
He then commented that he doesn’t want to ask Apple for a chunk of change — which prompted a brief response from the audience, with one woman agreeing with Filseth saying “nope!” Another said “But I do.”
SB 50, introduced by Wiener in December, has raised the hackles of the Palo Alto faction called the “Residentialists” or slow-growthers, who typically come out against large multi-unit projects.
Filseth is part of the Residentialist group, being one of the two candidates elected in 2014 after the Maybell development — slated to have 60 low-income senior apartments — was killed by a citizens initiative to stop the project.
Filseth in his speech also pointed out the accomplishments that the council has made in the past year — including the approval of the Wilton Court project — the first affordable housing project the city has approved in eight years. He also talked about the completion of the golf course and the city having a budget plan where the year’s unfunded pension liability would be covered.
All of the city council was there except for Greg Tanaka. Also present in the El Palo Alto room at Mitchell Park was Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian, Palo Alto School Board member Shounak Dharap and former mayors Karen Holman, Greg Scharff, Peter Drekmeier and Pat Burt.
The event was catered by donations from local businesses — Oren’s Hummus Shop, The Annex, Pizz’a Chicago, Gott’s Roadside, Curry Up Now, Coupa Cafe, Terun, Spice Kit, PF Chang’s, the Prolific Oven, Tacolicious, Teaquation and Tonic and Fleming’s.