GreenTown Los Altos

Can We Make Affordable Housing A Reality?


Feb 2019


  A panel discussion January 31, Affordable Housing – Ideas for Los Altos, was a tremendous success.  With standing room only, it attracted 119 people and one dog! All five Los Altos council members were present and the two presenters, Randy Tsuda, President and CEO with Palo Alto Housing and Mitali Ganguly, Associate Planner with Opticos Design were both excellent.
GreenTown supports affordable workforce housing because it reduces commuting traffic, a huge source of greenhouse gas emissions, and affordable housing will necessarily be smaller housing, contributing less environmental impact in its construction as well as in the consumption necessary to fill the larger space.
The evening started with the nine minute video, Los Altos – A Place to Call Home? because it puts a face on the problem. It shows the very real problems of people who work in our town and finishes with Joe Simitian telling us why this matters. You can find the video at here.
Randy gave examples of successful projects in Palo Alto, Mountain View, Redwood City and elsewhere. These projects ranged in size and were designed to blend with the neighborhood by using outdoor space or patio areas at the back to offer a buffer to nearby neighbors. Randy also explained the kinds of financing that are available and that it typically takes a combination of financing, fee waivers and subsidies to make these projects viable.
Mitali talked about the “missing middle.” We have single-family homes on one side and large urban projects on the other, but not much in the middle. She showed examples of good looking duplex, four-plex and larger units that could fit in a residential neighborhood. She also showed examples that were unattractive – so good design is critical. She made an important observation that our demographics are changing. By 2035, it is possible that 85% of households will not have children. Seniors are part of that trend, and many would enjoy downsizing, and they don’t want to leave the area. Multiplex units would be a good answer if only the zoning allowed it.
A video of the discussion will be available in a couple of weeks. It will be on the website above, and also shown by KMVT.
What’s next? We need to track developments in other cities, follow State bills and regulations, and of course track anything happening in Los Altos. There is a lot to track so your help is needed. If you are interested, please email here.
It can be as little or as much as you like.

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