Click photo to enlarge
The 2.5-acre site at Maybell and Clemo avenues where the Palo Alto... ( Jason Green / Daily News )
Measure D may be settled, but the fate of the 2.5-acre property at the center of the bitterly contested Palo Alto election remains unresolved.

If it had passed Tuesday, the measure would have given the nonprofit Palo Alto Housing Corporation the go-ahead to build a 60-unit apartment complex for seniors who make 30 to 60 percent of area median income and 12 single-family homes at 567-595 Maybell Ave.
More than 56 percent of the 14,540 people who voted in the election cast ballots against Measure D, according to updated results posted Wednesday afternoon by the Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters.

The Housing Corporation is already exploring a potential sale of the property, Executive Director Candice Gonzalez said in an email interview. There are loans to repay, including one for $5.8 million from the city of Palo Alto, as well as land and project costs to recover.

But even the staunchest opponents of Measure D say they don't want to see the Housing Corporation abandon the idea of building affordable senior housing on the site. Speaking at Monday's city council meeting on behalf of Palo Altans to Preserve Neighborhood Zoning, Joseph Hirsch encouraged the nonprofit organization to pitch a less dense project.
"The onus will be on PAHC to decide whether they want to meet with us," he said. "We believe that they are committed to having good senior housing in Palo Alto and hope that they will not completely back away from that goal with regard to the Maybell site if Measure D is defeated."

Hirsch said opponents of Measure D want a project that is more consistent with the single-family homes that make up the majority of the Barron Bark and Green Acres neighborhoods. Concerns about spillover parking, cut-through traffic and safety for children who walk or bike to the area's four schools also need to be addressed, he told the city council.

The Housing Corporation could potentially sell the property to a private developer, who could build between 34 and 46 homes under the existing zoning, according to city officials. The actual number would depend on the size of the homes, affordability, site layout and roadway configurations.

During the campaign, Palo Altans for Affordable Senior Housing argued that the Housing Corporation project was a better bet. Through a type of zoning called planned community, the city council was able to reduce the number of homes from 15 to 12, eliminate driveways on Maybell and Clemo and require wider lots than were initially proposed.
The project would also result in fewer traffic impacts while helping meet a local demand for affordable senior housing, they said.

For her part, Gonzalez expressed disappointment in the outcome of the election.
"Sadly, the Maybell project became a referendum on citywide development in Palo Alto," she said.

"The Measure D campaign snowballed into a dispute fueled by negative hyperbole, inaccurate media coverage and voter confusion. The city planning process worked very well here, producing a project with excellent public benefits. Unfortunately, our lower-income seniors were used as a scapegoat for other frustrations that this project should not have been compared to."

Gonzalez said the nonprofit organization would continue its 43-year-old mission to build affordable housing in Palo Alto. But she wasn't certain whether it would use a similar approach. In the case of the Maybell project, lots for the single-family homes would have been sold at market rates to help fund the senior apartments.

"What I know for certain is that financing affordable housing will only get more difficult and continue to require complex and creative funding models," she said.
Hirsch, meanwhile, wasn't the only resident who called for the two sides to hammer out a mutually agreeable project.

"I think it would be the biggest mistake in the world if you were to sell any part of that property, because from the facts that you have laid out and that the PAHC has laid out, and I see no reason to disbelieve you, this is the last piece of property in town that can be built on," Stephanie Munoz told the city council.

"There just aren't any other undeveloped places where you can put low-income housing -- none!"
Email Jason Green at; follow him at