Palo Alto’s regional influence grows; Mayor elected vice president of ABAG

BY ALLISON LEVITSKY : padailypost – excerpt

Palo Alto’s regional voice on housing matters has been amplified with the election of Mayor Greg Scharff as vice president of the Association of Bay Area Governments, or ABAG. “We’re actually a regional player at the moment,” Scharff told the Post Thursday (Nov. 16).

Scharff pulled in 123 votes from Bay Area City Council members and county supervisors, more than his two opponents combined…

Scharff also chairs the enforcement committee of the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission and serves on the San Francisco Bay Restoration Authority…

Housing quotas

ABAG administers the Regional Housing Needs Allocation, quotas for cities to zone new housing that are set by the state’s Department of Housing and Community Development.
“I think the system is a little bit broken, frankly,” Scharff said.

Scharff said there’s some movement toward forming a Santa Clara County subregion committee, in which cities could redistribute housing allocations among themselves.

That way, cities could trade, for example, a certain number of affordable units for a certain number of moderately priced units with neighboring cities.

Currently, Napa, San Mateo and Solano counties have subregion committees…

“I think you want cities to want to build housing, and I think when you have the state say, ‘you must build ‘x’ amount of housing, you build up a lot of resentment,” Scharff said.

In 2013, Scharff was one of a handful of local officials to vote against the ABAG-Metropolitan Transportation Commission One Bay Area Plan, which required the region’s 101 cities to pave the way for 600,000 new apartments...

Protecting single-family homes

Scharff said he still stood behind the vote. Any push for more housing doesn’t have to be met with high-rise buildings, either.

“I don’t think you just want a wall of apartments along El Camino Real,” he said. Scharff said new apartments don’t have to jut into single-family residential neighborhoods, citing the recent update of the Comprehensive Plan’s support for these areas…

“I think we obviously need to build more housing as a region, but I think there’s a lot of local issues that should be taken into account,” Scharff said… (more)

 

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Palo Alto set to extend cap on office space and look to make it permanent

: bizjournals – excerpt

Hot startups and established tech companies have long flocked to Palo Alto, but the city said two years ago that it had enough office growth.. (more)

Knowing when to stop is as important. Some of our most stressed metropolitan areas are ready to put the breaks  development. Palo Alto is attempting to preserve housing and make resident happy by limiting job growth. Some San Jose citizens are demanding a housing jobs balance tech expands there. If it works for them. Maybe other cities will try it.

Palo Alto considers legal options against Caltrain

By Gennady Sheyner : PaloAltoWeekly – excerpt

City irked by train agency’s decision to seek exemption from state environmental law: Weeks after learning about Caltrain’s plan to seek an exemption from California’s environmental law for its proposed electrification project in the event of a lawsuit, Palo Alto officials are preparing to consider their legal options.

The City Council has set a special closed-session meeting for this evening to consider potential litigation against the Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board. The session, which was placed on the agenda last week, comes two weeks after the council heard a presentation about Caltrain’s staff about the recently completed Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the long-planned project, which seeks to replace diesel trains with electric ones starting in 2019. In addition to enabling an increase in trains, the electrification project also intends to set the stage for the ultimate construction of high-speed rail…The document also asserted for the first time Caltrain’s intention to claim exemption from the California Environmental Quality Act, the very law that makes the EIR mandatory, should the project face a lawsuit. While Caltrain officials said they plan to go along with the mitigations laid out in the report regardless of the law’s applicability, they also said they reserve the right to declare themselves exempt from the law if the document faces a legal challenge… (more)

 

Bullet train: Calif. enviro law does not apply

By JULIET WILLIAMS, Associated Press : greenwichtime.com – excerpt

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California’s high-speed rail project is no longer subject to the state’s rigorous environmental laws after a federal transportation board ruled that it has oversight of the project, the state attorney general’s office argues in a brief filed Friday.
The June decision by the federal Surface Transportation Board — which was sought by opponents of the bullet train — pre-empts the authority of the California Environmental Quality Act, the state argued in the filing made on behalf of the California High-Speed Rail Authority.
“The STB’s decision concluding it has jurisdiction over the entire high-speed train system fundamentally affects the regulatory environment for the project going forward,” the state said in the brief submitted to the Third District Court of Appeals, which was obtained by The Associated Press.
Opponents of the project could lose one of their most significant legal tools if a federal judge agrees with the state’s argument. Critics of the rail line have repeatedly sued the state alleging violations of Environmental Quality Act.
The state asked the court to dismiss a five-year-old lawsuit filed by the San Francisco Bay Area cities of Atherton, Menlo Park and Palo Alto seeking to block the bullet train through the Pacheco Pass south of San Francisco. They argued that the route would harm the environment.
A Sacramento County Superior Court judge dismissed their suit in February but they appealed to the federal court, which last month ordered both sides to answer the question “Does federal law pre-empt state environmental law with respect to California’s high-speed rail system?”.
The $68 billion project will have to comply with stringent environmental laws regardless of the court’s decision in the Atherton lawsuit. But if the court sides with the state, it would mean complying only with the National Environmental Policy Act, and any lawsuits would have to be filed in federal court… (more)

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