Ventura Neighborhood Association minutes
March 12, 2017 at 1:30pm
Neera N. – family life
Ken J. – emergency prep and the Oak @ Ventura School
Sean – dev on El Camino next to Zen Hotel
Penny and Mark B. – development issues, jet noise
Anne W. – emergency prep, density issues
Greg and Judy G. – new Compadres development
Rangu – bike traffic issues, traffic on Meadow, increased housing density
Lisa – getting involved with community
Karolyn B. – speeding on Park since stop sign removed
Jonathan B. – parks
Bill M. brought donuts
Pearlin Y.- today’s secretary
Survey and Emergency Prep update: Ken
Ken passed out a survey based on the Cool Block initiative.
There is a drill for volunteers next Saturday March 18 in 4 neighborhoods, including Ventura.
Office of Emergency Services, volunteers needed – for example, a victim who needs to be rescued.
Coupa Café update: Becky
Backstory: The kitchen supply store run by Coupa Café on El Camino is supposed to be a community-serving business based on zoning as opposed to a warehouse. Multiple attempts to shop there by members of our community have found the store to be closed during its “open” hours.
Becky called them. After explaining that we were interested in quality of life and businesses serving our community, the person on the phone (Jovie)responded that they do party rentals. Becky filled out their online form and has yet to receive a response. Palo Alto code enforcement is not responding to the situation.
Andrea – Regarding city response, the house next door to hers was being used as an airbnb. When she reported the situation to the city’s planning department, the city responded immediately
Becky – There is a mixed response from 311; for example, responses to safety issues are quickly taken care of but others are not.
Judy – Would the neighborhood like to work with Coupa to figure something out?
Becky – Brian Reynolds contacted about this issue and is not responsive.
Park Acquisition: Jonathan
No updates from City, issue has not been brought up to City Council yet.
Cal Ave study group: Ken
City has a Cal Ave Area Concept Plan which includes Fry’s site. Ken has heard from a similar group that worked on the SOFA (South of Forest Ave) area and that they can help us think about this the right way. Contact Ken to join.
Becky – would like to see someone take charge of each development
ADU meeting summary: Brandon
ADU = accessory dwelling unit
State passed a bill in January to make it easier for cities to build ADUs and junior ADUs. 31 people at meeting who came forward to speak; there was about 10:1 in favor of ADUS compared to those against ADUs. Traffic impact was the biggest concern by those opposed because more people=more cars. Council Member Cory Wolbach proposed a motion that would eliminate the lot size requirement for R1 properties. Also, there would be an elimination of the parking requirements – previously, 2 extra spots were needed for an ADU. If an ADU is built near a public transit center, extra parking is now not required.
Compadres Development: Judy and Greg
Deadline of March 27, 2017 for community input regarding the Compadres development project.
Project proposes 65 underground parking spots, of which 41 are for residents who would enter and exit on Curtner. Judy and Greg are concerned about the extra traffic on Curtner (an already congested street) and future construction traffic and the blocking of El Camino lanes, due to an enter only driveway there, right next to the Starbuck’s drive-through driveway. They would like to rally the community as this project is being fast-tracked to council.
Guest Speaker: newly elected Council Member Greg Tanaka and Walter (legislative aide)
Walter is currently a sophomore at Gunn who is interest in government in general and scoping it out.
[Greg Tanaka will now be referred to as Tanaka as there is another Greg at the meeting to avoid confusion.]
Tanaka’s background: Living in Palo Alto since 2004 and currently living in College Terrace. He has two kids at Escondido and Jordan. Very involved in community. Former President of College Terrace Neighborhood Association and served two terms on Planning & Transpotation Commission.
Becky – VNA started because of impacts on our quality of life such as the Park Blvd speedway and developments that seem outsized for our neighborhood. Our goal is to get out in front to lead as well so that we can work with developers to address our concerns.
Sean – comment to Tanaka about the zoned R15 property – Shawn would appreciate more respect for current zoning. He doesn’t think upzoning is a good choice most of the time. Currently, the developer wants a R30 zoning to put 21 units in (referring to the vacant lot across on the opposite side of ECR. However, the infratsturcture is not there to support all the development even though we need housing.
Tanaka – No City Council action yet. The developer is looking for upzoning. Tanaka strongly believes that you need community buy-in to do upzoning. Tanaka will be holding office hours every Sunday for community members to come in with concerns and issues. Upzoning would just need a majority vote by Council to pass.
Tanaka – There is what is called the “Palo Alto 500” which are a group of people who are super engaged with the government. However, most of us fall in the silent majority and the city consists of ~40% renters but they generally do not vote. Outreach activities are important.
When Tanaka knocked around doors during campaign, only about 20% of the people he encountered actually cared about development. Most things they care about are smaller, like getting a response from the utility department, getting kids to school safely, bumpy roads in front of their homes, etc.
We pointed out the 441 Page Mill project where the developer threw in last minute changes right before the vote in front of the City Council such that community members attending the meeting had no time or chance to respond. Most people don’t care until it is right in their backyard.
Penny – our neighborhood is more affected right now [by development].
Lisa – Are there more effective ways to get our community voices heard by other council members? Tanaka – On idealogical votes, it would be very hard to change their minds about development. No matter what you say, their mind is already made up. You can try meeting with them or writing to them. For most council members, it is a philosophical issue.
Jonathan – There should be a requirement that no upzoning occurs until Council has heard from the community in the area. Possibly require community buy-in for zoning changes.
Neera – The mailings about development are very localized. People who are a mile away are being affected but not being notified.
Tanaka – We are trying to figure out how to get people better informed, not just through snail mail which usually gets thrown away as junk mail, but through social media tools.
Becky – A few months ago, Becky, (possibly due to inadequate research, she admits) could not find any permit or applications regarding this property. All of a sudden, new development plan is in place.
Ken – Is there a way to have projects like this publicized to neighborhoods beforehand??
Tanaka – City sends a lot of physical notices like ads in newspapers and mailings.
Judy – We went to meeting last Tuesday night, and this project was in a Planning & Transportation meeting.
Tanaka – No idea about this project prior to this meeting because it has not come to council yet. Judy – The project blew through historic resources board and made it to Planning. Historic report was not revealed and not presented until it was called out by Planning Commissioner Doria Summa. Project is going to ARB and all community input is due March 27. Housing is within zoning compliance.
Becky – What would we like to see there instead of this project? How do we position ourselves to be positive? There should be something.
Judy – The project added two low-income residences (BMR) so City likes it.
Greg Gatwood – We are portrayed as a “neighborhood in transition”. There are single family homes right next to this development which are going to be dwarfed by this new development.
Tanaka – If the project is in compliance with zoning, then it is lawfully done. The developer must be going for something else, otherwise it would not go to Planning Commission.
Becky – Looking at the project, zoning requires 10 feet setback and Zinj (the developer) wants 6’2” setback of basement garage from property line. The project also qualifies for a density bonus because of the two BMR units. They can request 2596 sq ft added to the project.
Tanaka – For zoning exceptions, Planning Commission votes on it. In terms of architectural feel, ARB needs approval. Then it goes to City Council.
Andrea – What kind of overall view does the City Council have?
Tanaka – We do have a Comp Plan that has been severely delayed.
Andrea – Where is the impetus to have a deadline to approve the Comp Plan? There are so many developments being approved while there is no larger plan. Master plan might look very different from what is happening now, i.e. the projects being approved right now.
Tanaka – EIR is the parking study. One of the problems is the traffic analysis. City is currently $6 million in debt. More money is spent on pensions than salaries right now. When someone is asking for an exception, you need to have an EIR (traffic, environment impact studies around the area). Traffic study already done for this project. Josh Mello is the Chief Transportation Official (i.e. chief traffic guy) of the city. Talk to him to see if the study factored in your concerns.
Tanaka – There is tremendous turnover in the planning staff – lots of contractors, lots of new people.
Jonathan – He had received a notice that the house next door to his was planning to build a two story house on a substandard lot. This is not even legal. Firstly, he found it hard to even get a hold of the plans. Second, he was surprised that the plan had gotten so far even though it was not allowed. Currently there is no feedback for the public sector. They are doing their jobs but there may not be passion.
Tanaka wants to put a feedback system for these public services like in the private sector called “net promoter score”.
Penny – What is your advice for this March 27 deadline?
Tanaka – Legally, you cannot push for the deadline to be pushed back. Study the EIR. Have a study group where each person takes a chapter and reads it. Figure out where the deficiencies are. First talk to Josh Mello about the deficiencies. You must be very specific what the problem is.
Jonathan – When submitting feedback about this project, mention that you did not have enough time to review the documents thoroughly so that this is just some initial objections.
Andrea – Regarding city staff, as a management person, their attitude comes from leadership and it trickles down. They don’t feel vested in this community and they get this from their leaders.
Tanaka – City Manager is CEO of the city and the council is more of a board of directors. City Council cannot hire and fire staff.
Ken – As a council member, you can say that you went to a neighborhood meeting and that you have gotten feedback that staff is not motivated to serve. No tangible feedback system of staff performance.
Tanaka – It would help if the neighborhood association asks for a feedback system to be put in place. A net promoter score where you can ask “Would you be likely to recommend this service to someone else? How would you rate your experience?” Only government does not have this type of feedback mechanism.
Tanaka – It would be most effective to read the EIR and put together a report to address the specific points.
Rangu made a motion that the neighborhood association will study the EIR and put together a report. Jonathan seconds this motion. Vote: All ayes, no nays.
Jonathan – Asked Tanaka to be in touch with Becky if he wanted community feedback from Ventura.
Tanaka – Council voted to be compliant with state law regarding ADUs.
Becky – New Cal Ave garage and public safety building. City wants it but needs the funding.
Meeting adjourned due to going over time.