Citizens Should Get Involved To Help Mold The Future Of Palo Alto Growth
The massive overhaul to Palo Alto’s Comprehensive Plan is not expected to be completed for a couple more years, but several city council members would like to implement zoning changes right away because of all the development that is currently occurring and is on the drawing board.
The changes to the Comprehensive Plan began in 2006 but stalled for the last seven years due to all sorts of issues common to city government. The city council began to restart the process in 2013 – even going so far to develop an outreach campaign called “Our Palo Alto” which is designed to encourage public engagement and facilitate completion of the plan by 2015.
Some of the primary arguments to accelerate the changes to the zoning codes include the fact that the city is missing out on opportunities for developers to contribute more to the development of local schools parks and public facilities. The argument continues that we an upgraded zoning ordinance/code the developers will be paying and offering more to the city in a few months, not a few years. Even if new rules are adopted it will take several months to get them approved and adopted where they will affect the developments in the current pipeline.
Another almost consistent concern is the public opposition to almost anything proposed to change the current zoning. Most recently the city proposed changes along El Camino Real which would have impacted sidewalks and allowed developers to build 20 units per acre in accordance with a new state law. The owners along El Camino almost rioted in response to these proposed changes.
A quote which emphasizes this fact is found in the most recent planning report as follows, “[T]hose familiar with Palo Alto’s planning process will realize that even relatively simple initiatives can be controversial and time consuming.”
The next few council sessions will continue dealing with this issue along with the extensive diet of local anxieties about growth, traffic and parking, planned community zoning reform, a downtown development cap study, exploration of new parking garages, and the formation of a ‘Transportation Management Association’ that would provide incentives for solo drivers to switch to other forms of transportation.
Concerned Palo Alto residents should get involved and start attending meetings, contact their councilmembers and start being heard. There are lots of changes ahead which will affect your life, your real estate, and your city so please get involved.