Opinion: Yes on Measure D

Addie McNamara, Author

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In a liberal city, it is rare to find a group supporting efforts so blatantly excluding people of lower socioeconomic status. Surprisingly, those opposed to Measure D are doing just that.

If passed, Palo Alto’s Measure D would confirm City Council’s zone change made last June that approved the nonprofit Palo Alto Housing Corporation to build 60 affordable apartments for seniors and 12 market-rate homes. These zone changes would occur at the corner of Maybell and Clemo Avenues.

You might be wondering why a Palo Alto teenager such as myself would even bother to care about affordable senior housing. But in fact, there are several elements of Measure D that directly impact the city’s youth.

First and foremost, the idea behind affordable senior housing is something worth fighting for. If Measure D failed, it would send two main messages to Palo Alto youth: first, that seniors aren’t valued, and second, that people of lower socioeconomic status don’t belong in our community. Personally, I would hope that Palo Alto youth can grow up in an accepting environment where age and economic background do not determine a person’s worth. Although the specific details of the measure will be further examined in the remainder of this article, it is crucial to keep in mind the basic concepts of equality, diversity and openness that Measure D stands for.

Second, whether we recognize it or not, we are surrounded by people whose ages of retirement are fast approaching. Parents, grandparents, teachers and other adults in the community will soon face the daunting task of attempting to pay for Palo Alto housing while no longer working. In order to keep these valued community members from being forced to move elsewhere, the affordable senior housing provided by Measure D is necessary. It is hypocritical for Palo Altans to profess commitment to the community while also driving out some of its most important citizens because they are unable to afford the housing expenses of the area. Additionally, the seniors wishing to move to Palo Alto for retirement rather than staying in their current community ought to have the opportunity to do so regardless of their economic background, as different perspectives and diversity are important in creating a positive environment for children.

Third, the alternative to Measure D is much worse for Palo Alto youth in terms of the amount of traffic that the area will receive. Although Measure D’s opponents claim that the resolution will increase traffic in the area that could cause harm to children, the other options would actually have more of an impact on traffic. According to a Palo Alto Online article, the 2.46 acres under consideration could host up to 35 or 46 residential units based on whether or not they are made at below-the-market costs. The sum of the number of bedrooms if Measure D passes would be 103, whereas there would be 165 bedrooms if the measure were to fail, according to the same article. These residential homes would mean more bedrooms, more people and more active families in the area who are much more likely to cause traffic than the seniors who would reside there under Measure D. More people means more traffic and more danger to children.

Fourth, even if opponents of Measure D believe that affordable housing for seniors could exist in the area regardless of the passing of the measure, this is simply not true. The affordability of housing under current zoning could not meet the same level of cost-effectiveness as the units of senior housing under Measure D. It is unfeasible for 40 units to reach the same affordability as 60 units, according to Housing Corporation board member Jean McCown in a Mercury News article.

Fifth, having more housing open to seniors actually frees up existing housing for families, thus keeping the balance of the community intact. If Palo Alto seniors are willing to give up their houses for these more affordable apartments, the number of families in Palo Alto will also increase because they will have access to the recently-vacated houses. Any argument that the influx of so many seniors would disrupt the balance of the community then becomes invalid, as the number of families in the area should also increase as some seniors leave their homes for apartments.

Affordable senior housing in Palo Alto is a necessity, not only for the seniors themselves but also for the preservation of the community. Measure D has numerous benefits for the city, and if it were to fail, Palo Altans would be doing a great disservice to themselves and to their youth.

Full text of the resolution and ordinance can be found on the City of Palo Alto website. The measure will appear on the Nov. 5 ballot.