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Net-Zero Aggressive Growth with Maximal Mitigation

For the 2014 Palo Alto Comprehensive Plan Update, Cities21 recommends pursuing a net-zero aggressive growth scenario that:

  • maximally-mitigates adverse impacts like traffic
  • balances jobs-housing to reduce regional GHG/driving/VMT (Palo Alto provides too little housing to match all the jobs in the city, creating regional inefficiency)
  • complies with RHNA - the state-mandated Regional Housing Needs Allocation that asks cities to do their part to benefit their regions

Maximal mitigation requires innovation:

  • Maximize new low-child housing: market rate senior housing and micro-units (300 square foot apartments) to subsidize the school district's budget. 89% of recent school district enrollment increase stems from single family home turnover.
  • Maximize affordable-by-design housing (See SPUR's report).
  • Maximize 3 to 5-story walkable housing near train stations and retail. In Portland, miles driven per person is less than half of average Palo Alto driving. The Portland areas have the "convenience to walk to get a quart of milk."
  • For new housing of 10 or more units, require new residents to sign a Cool Cities Challenge behavior change pledge. Such green preference is legal under the Fair Housing act and creates a differentiated, green residential lifestyle with deeper human bonds.
  • For new housing of 10 or more units, follow the example of Stanford West, where preference is given to new residents who will drive less. Green preference is legal under the Fair Housing Act.
  • Taller buildings (there is currently a 50' height limit)
  • Unbundled parking for new multifamily residential (i.e. charge residents $60/month per parking space)
  • Implement workplace parking charges for single occupancy commuters to cut commute VMT/GHG by 23%. In 2014, there is finally political support for collaborative government action from Mtn View, Sunnyvale, San Jose, VTA, MTC, SVLG, Sierra Club, Transform, SamTrans, Association for Commuter Transportation, and the Governor.  Stanford's most effective trip reduction policy dwarfs all the others combined: charge $3.60 per day for parking.
  • Create microgrid areas maximizing commercial/government PV in SRP and in the East/West Bayshore area (The city could partner with Clean Coalition in Menlo Park). Upgrade electric substations accordingly.
  • Explore futuristic visions (personal rapid transit for Stanford Research Park that connects to Cal Ave Caltrain, with housing in-fill).  Self-driving transit is coming sooner than expected.
  • Increase public participation still further by leading design sprints, broadcasting interim results, and soliciting overnight vote-back. Consider bringing in the Stanford Urban Studies department in to lead an inexpensive, innovation-focused sketch plan effort.