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Council tackles housing issues

The Palo Alto City Council enacted a new policy that will address the Bay Area housing shortage, relaxing the rules around parking rules and “accessory” housing districts.

The City Council approved reforms on the night of March 7, encouraging more “granny units,” a second “dwelling” space on the same grounds as the house such as an apartment over a garage.

The positive aspects of a granny unit are that families get to stay together, share funds and help with child care. Some negative aspects are that they will have a negative effect on property values, a sentiment that was expressed by resident Kristian Meisling.

Two bills were recently passed to encourage accessory dwelling units, which will allow residents to transform parts of homes into accessory dwelling units.

Despite some backlash, responses to the decision were mostly positive. There was a large turnout at the City Council meeting on March 7. This is a big improvement from the lack of initiative seen by the Council in previous years to effectively address the shortage that has plagued the Bay Area for years. Former Planning Commissioner Kate Downing released her letter of resignation online about a year ago heavily criticized the City Council for failing to address the housing shortage. Downing expanded on why the Council has not made an effort to the address the problem.

“We have a ton of innovation, and yet there’s no innovation in government,” Downing said. “There’s no ‘let’s try,’ there’s no ‘let’s look at something new, let’s borrow ideas from around the world,’ there’s none of it. It’s just a big fat no to everything.”

She also discussed some of the consequences that come when the absence of residences is not properly addressed.

“I feel like there’s this really big lack of conscientiousness and a big lack of concern,” Downing said. “Because at the very end of this, we’re saying ‘you’re a worker and you can’t afford to live in Palo Alto’, [so] you move to San Jose, but you just displaced someone in San Jose, so where does that person move? At the end of that domino effect, is always homelessness.”

Voting on improvements that break down barriers to granny units is an action that many local community members are applauding the Palo Alto City Council for, as it directly confronts the prevailing and pressing issue of the housing shortage in this area.

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