Inspite of normal consensus that downtown Palo Alto is the excellent area to increase residential improvement, the Metropolis Council clashed on Monday above whether to shift ahead with a housing strategy for the transit-welcoming location just east of the University Avenue Caltrain station.
The discussion was prompted by an $800,000 grant that the metropolis gained very last yr from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission to develop a downtown housing strategy, a vision document that would take a look at procedures and procedures for incorporating housing. Although the grant would support facilitate the preparing procedure, Town Manager Ed Shikada warned that it would not be ample to steer it to completion and approximated that the metropolis would require to spend about $150,000 in neighborhood cash each year above the 3-year setting up period of time.
The effort and hard work bought off to a shaky get started on Monday, with just 4 council members — Mayor Pat Burt and council members Alison Cormack, Greer Stone and Greg Tanaka — voting to accept the grant funding to shift ahead with the approach. A few of their colleagues — Vice Mayor Lydia Kou and council users Tom DuBois and Eric Filseth — dissented and argued that the housing approach would serve as a distraction from other ongoing setting up attempts.
Although the 4-3 vote allows the town to trudge ahead with accepting the MTC money, it casts a cloud above a organizing effort and hard work that staff was planning to kick off in the coming months. Crucially, the vote does not deliver organizing staff with the funding it had asked for to launch the system — money that would be reimbursed by the MTC as part of the grant. That’s mainly because altering the council’s funds calls for a two-thirds council vote, a threshold that the council failed to meet up with.
The vote does, having said that, set the council up for one more debate around the downtown strategy in the coming months, as associates kick off community hearings for upcoming year’s spending budget. The scheduling work could hinge on regardless of whether council members opt for at that time to authorize the funding.
Some council members strongly supported going in advance with the approach, which targets a 76-acre portion of downtown that is about bounded by Alma Road on the west and Cowper Avenue on the east, among Lytton and Hamilton avenues. Council member Alison Cormack advised that the timing of the program is significantly acceptable provided the lots of modifications that the region has skilled above the past two years, with the range of workers diminishing, the vacancy level escalating and parklets becoming a permanent fixture of the streetscape.
“To me this program will be one of the cornerstones of our new downtown,” Cormack said. “And our downtown is going to have to improve based on the pandemic. It can be heading to be distinctive than it truly is been.”
Other individuals, even so, argued that the downtown strategy would get consideration and sources absent from the several setting up attempts now underway. These consist of the drafting of Palo Alto’s new Housing Factor, a condition-mandated doc that lays out techniques for residential advancement and probable housing internet sites to accommodate the 6,086 residences that the city should approach for amongst 2023 and 2031. Palo Alto is also proceeding with perform on streetscape improvements on University Avenue, crafting a lasting parklet ordinance and putting alongside one another an place plan for a portion of the Ventura community.
Kou recommended that the metropolis ought to emphasis on the ongoing endeavours and on “carrying out them well,” instead than incorporating additional to the workload. Filseth concurred.
“I just be concerned the entire thing is heading to be a huge distraction,” Filseth stated. “There is a whole lot of approaches this can go completely wrong. I consider it can be heading to consider on a existence of its individual and it really is going to suck bandwidth, consideration and sources absent from what we truly need to have to get the Housing Ingredient finished.”
The idea of putting collectively a coordinated program for downtown Palo Alto is much from new. The city’s Detailed Program features a coverage that explicitly phone calls for these types of an work. And when the council debated its alternatives for redesigning its rail crossing at Palo Alto Avenue in 2019, members agreed to defer the dialogue so that the dilemma can be considered as aspect of the broader scheduling method.
The downtown housing plan that the council debated Monday would not consist of thing to consider of rail crossings or transportation improvements. Its main aim would be housing and the boundaries of the planning area notably exclude the transit center at 27 University Ave., which features a Caltrain station, several bus stops and the MacArthur Park cafe. Arranging Director Jonathan Lait stated workers had proposed a comparatively narrow scope — with a very clear emphasis on housing — so that the effort and hard work could be aligned with MTC’s funding proposal.
“This appears to be like a really timely grant so we are hoping to peel off the housing piece and definitely focus on that and we will occur again to the council when the time is right for the coordinated spot prepare,” Lait mentioned.
The Monday dialogue indicates that the approach could nevertheless progress, even though some of the aspects remained unresolved. DuBois took concern with staff’s program to hire consultants to shepherd the downtown work and instructed that it would be a lot more effective to use a lengthy-expression planner who could work on the numerous efforts pertaining to downtown. He also proposed that the downtown system is “out of buy” specified all the other arranging attempts already in the will work.
Supporters of the downtown system taken care of that the effort, though time-consuming, aligns well with the city’s efforts to develop extra housing and to transform some of the professional homes in transit-helpful parts to household use.
“I think that seeking at housing possibilities and specially ones that would potentially regulate us from greater workplace development to bigger housing growth downtown is an suitable approach and really worth our work,” Burt reported.
Stone, who also supported advancing the approach, argued that a failure to do so would demonstrate to regional and point out companies that the city is not producing the necessary attempts to satisfy its housing aims.
“I imagine it is really damning proof that we remaining $800,000 on the table to be ready to redevelop a housing get the job done strategy,” Stone reported.