ADUs are only a first step for Palo Alto

Letter to the editor of Palo Alto Weekly

We have a housing shortage in the entire Bay Area, and it’s not going to blow over unless we change some things. Palo Alto’s recent lifting of restrictions on in-law units is a great step in the right direction. Accessory Dwelling Units, as they are officially known, are an effective and minimally disruptive way to add some more housing capacity to an existing residential neighborhood.

This won’t be enough, though. In the absence of abundant vacant land within commuting distance of job centers, new townhouse and apartment developments are going to be needed within each Bay Area community, lest all but the rich and famous be forced to commute from Stockton, or give up altogether and move to Texas.

Solving the housing crisis is not helped by pointing fingers at other communities. Reform has to start at home. Palo Alto should take a cue from Redwood City, where the recently approved Greystar IV project will have 350 units on a lot one tenth the size of the still stagnant Fry’s site project in Palo Alto.

When I first started work in Palo Alto in 2011, I moved to a $1400 apartment in Menlo Park that is now $2200. A home where you can live with kids will cost you twice that, and buying one is out of the question for many young people. Even tech workers have started to move into places like East Palo Alto; I lived there myself for three years. And I saw first hand how much people in tight knit immigrant communities are being forced to crowd into existing space just to avoid seeing their community and support network dispersed.

Part of any solution to the housing shortage is to make it not illegal to create more housing. Let’s continue to make that happen.


This letter was published in the 3/17/2017 print edition of Palo Alto Weekly: