Public Benefits Not Worth Density to Palo Alto Residents

Palo Alto’s planned community zoning has existed since 1951. As the real estate market in the Silicon Valley heats up, residents are questioning whether developers are abusing the density and height benefits they receive from the zoning code.
February 4, 2014, 2pm PST | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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Palo Alto, home to Stanford University and located in the heart of the Silicon Valley tech boom, has temporarily suspended its planned community zoning—an incentive mechanism that allows developers to apply for additional height and density allowances in exchange for public benefits.

Jason Green reports that the city will suspend all projects, including one in the pipeline, that are seeking planned community zoning allowances, until the system can be studied in more detail.

Planning community zoning has been implemented to substantial effect since its inception: “More than 100 projects have been built with planned community zoning since 1951. It hasn't been substantively modified since 1978, when the city began requiring developers to provide public benefits.”

As for what reform might look like: “According to a city staff report, potential reforms could include establishing a minimum distance between a planned community zoning project and existing low-density residential neighborhoods, reserving the zoning for only certain types of projects and creating a fixed menu of public benefits.”

Planned community zoning has been under fire in Palo Alto since a political kerfluffle in November, “when 56 percent of 14,540 voters overturned the Palo Alto Housing Corporation's council-approved plans to build a 60-unit apartment complex for low-income seniors and 12 market-rate, single-family homes on 2.5 acres at 567-595 Maybell Ave,” according to an earlier report from Green.

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Published on Tuesday, February 4, 2014 in San Jose Mercury News
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