Frequently Asked Questions
What is Measure D?
Measure D is a measure on the November 5, 2013 ballot in Palo Alto that would allow the creation of 60 affordable senior apartments and 12 single-family homes on a 2.46 acre parcel at the corner of Maybell & Clemo Avenues in South Palo Alto. Measure D confirms the unanimous decision of the Palo Alto City Council to allow the project, which they made after over 9 months of public hearings, voluntary community meetings, discussions and negotiations.
The text of the measure reads:
Shall the Palo Alto Municipal Code be amended to rezone the property located at 567-595 Maybell Avenue from R-2 Low Density Residential and RM-15 Multiple Family Residential to Planned Community Overlay Zone to include 12 single family units and 60 units of affordable senior housing?
What is the Maybell project?
It is a proposed affordable senior housing project on 2.46 acres of land on Maybell and Clemo Avenues in South Palo Alto. The project was unanimously passed by the City Council after several months of review and consideration, and would create 60 low-income senior apartments owned and operated by PAHC and 12 single-family homes that will be sold to help fund the affordable senior housing.
The project is a high-quality project that is carefully designed to have as little impact as possible on the surrounding neighborhood, fit in with existing homes and apartments in the area and will be well set back from the street.
Preference for residence in the senior apartments would go to seniors who either live or work in Palo Alto and earn between roughly $21,000 to $43,000 per year, or 30-60% of the area median income.
Why does Palo Alto need affordable senior housing?
Over the past 10 years, housing costs in Palo Alto have doubled, making it increasingly difficult for many lower-income seniors to remain in our community after they retire, and to live near their families. PAHC and the City of Palo Alto are committed to providing opportunities for all of our citizens to live and thrive in Palo Alto, and projects like this are a large part of those efforts.
There are already hundreds of lower-income seniors in Palo Alto on waiting lists for existing properties, and hundreds more who are looking for safe, affordable, independent living that a project like this provides.
What would happen to the land if the project doesn’t happen?
Currently, PAHC owns the land and has made investments to provide affordable senior housing on the property. If the affordable housing project is stopped, PAHC would need to sell the site to recoup its costs and expenses, and pay back all lenders.
In the most likely scenario, based on current zoning, the property would be sold to a private developer. Any development built per the underlying R2 & RM-15 zoning would likely have more total bedrooms than the approved development. The approved development includes 60 senior units, all of which are one-bedroom, except for the two-bedroom manager’s unit. A development constructed under R2 and RM-15 zoning would likely contain 46 residences, all which could be 3 to 4 bedroom homes.
Why was this site chosen for the project?
The site on Clemo and Maybell Avenues is an excellent choice for local seniors – it is adjacent to Juana Briones Park, public transportation and close to businesses and services, including just blocks from Walgreens and less than a quarter mile from El Camino Real. It is also adjacent to Arastradero Park Apartments, a PAHC multi-family apartment community, where PAHC provides services to its residents, which could also serve the residents of this development. This site was always meant to serve as a transition site from the taller, larger apartments to the single-family neighborhood. PAHC respected this concept in its site plan.
PAHC acknowledges that the site is not perfect, but no site is. In fact, in their analysis, City of Palo Alto staff noted that obtaining and financing low income senior housing in Palo Alto and the greater Bay Area is arduous and extremely challenging. Sites are not readily available for PAHC or other affordable housing developers to choose from.
How does the planned density for the Maybell project compare to the homes in the Barron Park and Green Acres neighborhoods?
Opponents maintain that increased density would be inconsistent with the surrounding density and would deteriorate the quality of life in the area. However, the project is adjacent to the Tan Plaza Apartments, which by comparison is a 61 unit development on 2 acres, with a height of approximately 100 feet. The project is also adjacent to the Arastradero Park Apartments, a 66-unit affordable housing family development with 1-4 bedroom units, also owned by the PAHC. Only one side of the project (across Maybell) is characterized by single-family development. The “high density” senior portion of the site is set well back (more than 100 feet) from homes along Maybell, abutting the 8-story Tan Plaza. The result is a logical step-down and transition from Arastradero Road and the Tan Apartments, to the new senior project and the adjacent Arastradero Park Apartments to the new single-family homes, then across Maybell to the existing homes in the neighborhoods.
Would the project have an impact on local traffic?
During the planning process with the City, an independent study was undertaken to determine the impact on local traffic from the project. The study recognized that this project would have an insignificant impact on neighborhood traffic – and this impact would be much less than what would occur with any other realistic development under the current R-2 and RM-15 zoning.
The study analyzed the addition of vehicles belonging to the senior residents (many of whom would not drive or own cars) and residents of the 12 single-family homes, concluding they would not have a significant impact on local traffic. The project will generate only about 9 new morning peak hour trips on Maybell, and all but two of those are expected to turn right onto Maybell, away from school traffic – hardly enough to cause additional gridlock on neighborhood streets.
That being said, PAHC and the City Council acknowledge the continuing concerns about traffic from the project, especially morning traffic during the school year. That is why PAHC will continue to proactively participate in a process that addresses these issues in a comprehensive way, and PAHC agreed to spend up to $200k on expedited improvements on Maybell for bike and pedestrian safety.
Were pedestrians and bicycles included in the traffic study?
Yes. The traffic study looked at qualitative measures of safety of the project for pedestrian/bicyclists. The development already includes safety features for bicycles/pedestrians, like adding a sidewalk and removing driveway aprons on Maybell. The traffic study did not find a need for additional mitigation measures to address safety because sufficient measures are already incorporated in the project.
What process did the City Council use to review and pass the project?
Between the initial application date of November 6, 2012, and final City Council approval on June 17, 2013, the project was reviewed numerous times by the City Council, Planning and Transportation Commission, Architectural Review Board and the public was able to make comments. Before final City Council approval, PAHC held at least three voluntary community meetings in the neighborhood, allowing residents to ask questions and provide input. PAHC also had numerous one-on-one meetings with neighbors. In response to feedback received, PAHC made numerous site and design changes to address traffic, safety and aesthetic concerns while still maintaining a viable project.
After considerable public review and public comment, City Council unanimously approved the project for 60 affordable senior apartments and 12 market rate homes on June 17, 2013, with a second reading of the ordinance on June 28th.
How do a majority of Palo Alto residents feel about the project?
A recent scientific public opinion survey commissioned by PAHC and conducted by Goodwin Simon Strategic Research showed that Palo Alto voters support the project by a 2-to-1 margin. Palo Alto residents recognize the need for affordable senior housing in the community and understand that this project is the right thing to do for local seniors. The survey showed that a strong majority of voters in every part of Palo Alto support the project.
Is the project funded by taxpayer funds?
No. None of the money to fund the project comes from the City’s General Fund. The loan provided to PAHC by the City comes only from the City’s Affordable Housing Fund, which is compromised entirely of fees paid to the City by housing and commercial developers, and designed to fund affordable housing projects.