East Palo Alto has a long history of providing affordable housing to low-income residents who work on the Peninsula. In fact, they incorporated specifically to prevent Menlo Park and Palo Alto from annexing all the land thereby raising property values and housing prices beyond the reach of the existing residents. In doing all this, the City of East Palo Alto has also spent decades violating state housing and development laws all in the name of being fair. What the city council doesn't seem to understand is that their efforts to prevent ongoing development actually hurt the city in the long run.
I've tried to develop residential housing in East Palo Alto. I ran development of an 8-lot subdivision in 2005 and a 3-lot subdivision in 2008. In both cases, the city exceeded the state mandated deadlines for reviews and approvals, imposed Draconian fees to support non-existant parks/schools, and failed to inform us of critical missing infrastructure that made the cost of development substantially higher than it should have. The general policy of the city is that builders are not welcome. While there have been several major projects completed, they've taken many years to finish and much longer than any other city. The view of politicians and resident advocates is that building or improving housing means higher prices that the low-income residents can't afford.
What those people don't understand is that their low tax base, a result of low housing values, doesn't generate enough income to properly fund their schools, parks, roadway improvements, and other aspects of the city. The quality of life is lower because of their refusal to let developers build. Sure, it could cut the number of low-income housing units but the improvements for those that do live there would be huge. One developer owns a multi-acre lot that could have been a major shopping center with housing - ala Santana Row. However, the city's unreasonable demands on displaced tenants makes it cost prohibitive to develop.
Read this article in this San Jose Mercury News to get an idea of the issues facing developers in the city.
A new developer and landlord is coming to East Palo Alto. They have the experience and money needed to break cities and get them under control to allow development. I sincerely hope this company will get East Palo Alto under control so that developers can build and the city becomes a nice compliment to the surrounding towns.
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Bryan Robertson, CEO | T: 650.799.9951 | Email: firstname.lastname@example.org | Website: http://www.BryanRobertsonHomes.com |CA BRE# 01191946 | Catarra Real Estate, Inc | 171 Main St #220 | Los Altos, CA 94022