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Our Palo Alto Discussion Moves to Housing Affordability

As rents and home prices continue to soar in Silicon Valley and the entire Bay Area, the issue of housing affordability is one that everyone is thinking about. It is also the second topic in a series of discussions sponsored by Our Palo Alto, the City's new initiative aimed at starting a community conversation about the future of Palo Alto.

Moderated by Director of Planning Hillary Gitelman, the roundtable discussion on April 28 featured presentations by Bena Chang, senior transportation director at the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, and Genevieve Sharrow, planner and project manager with MIG Consultants, as well as questions, thoughts and feedback on the issue by some of the more than 25 community members in attendance.

"It’s a giant issue regionally and for the city," Gitelman said. “And so we are going to talk big picture regional issues, but also little issues like how our planning process intersects with the larger questions on affordability.”

The City is currently updating the Housing Element to its General Plan, which is required by state law every eight years. The Housing Element is the City’s primary planning document to address its housing needs for the City. Through goals, policies and programs in the Housing Element, the City must demonstrate that it is providing housing opportunities to adequately meet its housing needs for all income levels.

As the City moves the process forward, input from residents is vital. The housing affordability discussion provided significant feedback and insight into the struggles by community members when it comes to finding housing Palo Alto.

Several community members said that with such limited land to build on in Palo Alto, the City must think creatively about redevelopment and look at existing sites and how they can better be used. Others felt that more housing should be built before any more jobs are created in Palo Alto.

“There is a global demand here,” Gitelman said. “A lot of jobs are being created and everyone wants to be here.”

Community members in attendance also had many ideas on solutions to the problem. Some of those solutions included more mixed-use housing, co-housing and subsidizing housing for teachers, firefighters and others in similar professions.

The discussion on Housing will continue on April 30, 6-8 p.m. at the Elks Lodge, 4249 El Camino Real. For more information on Our Palo Alto and upcoming events and discussions, visit www.cityofpaloalto.org/ourpaloalto.

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