Palo Alto low-income housing comes to a vote

November 9, 2009 7:04:21 PM PST
Years of debate in Palo Alto have come down to a vote Monday night that will decide if a low-income housing development will be built next to million dollar condo units.

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The city says it needs to provide more such housing, but not everyone believes the project should get the green light.

Two lots of prime Palo Alto real estate sit side by side. One is empty and one building is ready to be knocked down. Together they represent a decade long dream for Don Barr, Stanford University professor and president of the Community Housing Alliance.

Barr and many others want to transform the half acre site into 50 units of low-income family housing.

"If you are going to put urban housing into a place like Palo Alto, you do it in the urban center which is where we are right here; we are just a few blocks from the main downtown," Barr said.

The location is just blocks from a transit hub and would give families making $35,000 a year working in Palo Alto the ability to actually live in Palo Alto.

Next door are million dollar condo units. Condo owners say they welcome low-income families to the neighborhood, but some argue 50 units is simply too many.

"We want to see it be 40 to reduce impact to parking in the area and also more open space available," opponent Joe Mallon said.

Proponents of the project say they have made numerous concessions and literally cut the proposal in half, eliminating 50 senior housing units.

The current plan has been six years in the making and Palo Alto Mayor Peter Drekmeier says Monday's City Council vote will determine if the project moves forward.

"While the community is skeptical of housing in general it's fairly supportive of low income housing and we've had quite a bit of support on this project but the immediate impact on neighbors that will be at issue tonight," Drekmeier said.

Barr says Monday is a vote about supporting economic diversity. Those on the other side will be putting forth their own vision of a diverse, but less dense, neighborhood.

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