The Shame of Palo Alto: an Interview with Kate Downing on Affordable Housing
Andrew Granato

Appreciate SPJ’s effort to take the time to interview Downing and give her a chance to respond to the overwhelming comments, support, and criticism she got from her resignation letter.

What bothers me about these arguments, however, is the complete lack of data that seems to support anything on either side:

  1. In an urbanized city, would there actually be less traffic? People get new jobs often. What percent of people without dependents are willing to move for a new job? What percent of people with children are?
  2. For each neighborhood, what is the target rental and ownership prices? How many housing and rental units need to be added in each neighborhood to hit target prices? The ABAG recommends the number of units that should be built, but what’s the objective behind those recommendations? Would rent/ownership prices drop by 25? 50%? 75? Would home value growth rate drop from 33%/year to 2–3% (roughly income growth rate)? What would silicon valley need to look like to be affordable? Manhattan? Would cheaper housing encourage a LOT more people to actually move here, and thereby creating a demand shortage all over again? It doesn’t seem like pro-builders would be happy with more units unless there are *enough* more units to significantly lower prices, but no numbers or math is used to describe what *enough* is.
  3. Can a city go back to being walkable/bikeable without redoing zoning laws and reconstructing the city from the ground up? Is this a pipe dream?
    Reminds me of this article on Japan’s zoning law built around the concept of minimizing “nuisance”:

I‘d love links to resources to help answer these questions. Just trying to educate myself so I can take an informed stance.

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