Stop the Development at 565 Hamilton in Palo Alto

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Katharine Crane
Katharine Crane signed this petition

Another massive development project is on deck in downtown Palo Alto at 565 Hamilton, corner of Webster. If approved, it will demolish a parcel of three buildings, which includes over a dozen units of existing affordable housing, and build 19 luxury rentals and up to 7,450 square feet of office space.

This is on the heels of the President Hotel proposed conversion, which has also eliminated affordable housing and forced out longtime residents from downtown. Two (2) units of, in their own words, ‘ultra modern luxury high-end’ housing are still in progress around the corner at 515 Webster, a year past initial construction estimate.

This project will disrupt local residents for years. Many will move. There is no affordable housing planned in this development. The proposed parking is insufficient and will further burden a neighborhood where residents struggle to park. It’s massive, too close to the curb, and establishes a vast amount of office space that the neighborhood does not want or need.

-Please add your name and let the City Council and Mayor Filseth know that Palo Alto does not want this project

-Please come to the public hearing. Thursday, April 18, at 8:30 AM. Council Chambers, Civic Center, 250 Hamilton Avenue, Ground Floor

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This is a personal note from me, Kate, the author of the petition. I spoke to an urban planner friend earlier today, who looked at the text above and told me I sound like a NIMBY. He also told me to brace myself for hostility, saying that I have inadvertently wound up in ground zero of the Bay Area housing-crisis debate.

It was definitely inadvertent. I moved here from NYC four years ago for a startup job, a chance to transform my life and my career. I did not even consider living in Palo Alto because of the reputation for over-the-top wealth / inaccessibility. After a month of fruitless rental hunting, however, I wound up finding a cute apartment that I could kind of afford. I have since moved again, but I stayed in Palo Alto, because I love the small-town feel and the proximity to the Midpen open space preserves.

I have a full-time job and a book that is due in two years. I had not planned to move before my deadline, and I love my current apartment, which is very close to this proposed development. My own core selfish reason for opposing this development: The noise will be deafening. The air pollution will make open windows impossible. I will have to move, no question.

That said, I find this proposed development offensive on a moral and ethical level. I would still have to move if this project were for a school, or community center, or some kind of fantastical Palo Alto Botanical Garden or science center. But I would admire those projects.

My urban planner friend talked to me about market forces, the stability of the real estate market, and the unintended consequences of excessive tenant protection. I am not an expert on this stuff. I also do not think tenant protection in Palo Alto is sufficient, much less excessive.

Why is it OK to keep forcing longtime Palo Alto residents out of affordable housing, as in the President Hotel, and now 565 Hamilton? Longtime and sometimes elderly residents, too. I think it is vile.

My bottom-line question: What does this proposed development do to contribute to a healthy future Palo Alto, one that honors the city’s history and moves us honorably into the future?

Shouldn’t owners have some degree of autonomy over their property? Yes, but where should the lines be drawn? I don’t have the answers. I adamantly do not think this development contributes to the answers — or my adopted home of Palo Alto — in any positive way.