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About this blog: I grew up in Los Angeles and moved to the area in 1963 when I started graduate school at Stanford. Nancy and I were married in 1977 and we lived for nearly 30 years in the Duveneck school area. Our children went to Paly. We moved ...  (More)

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Property rights and the will of the people

Uploaded: Sep 2, 2014
"Why would property rights trump the will of the people?"

Mark Weiss posted this question on my blog before he announced his candidacy for city council.

My answer is yes property rights go first with two important clarifications. One, property rights do not include the right to an automatic increase in zoning or waiver or exception unless reviewed and approved by the city council. Two, property rights do not include the right to promise public benefits and not follow through.

"Why" is the question Mark Weiss posed.

To me rights are really, really important. Nowhere in the Constitution does it say that rights are only in force if the group in question is currently popular.

The rights of African Americans to vote and participate in our country without segregation would have been and would still be an even longer struggle without the concept of rights. The rights of gay Americans to marry and avoid discrimination would have been and still would be an even longer struggle if the "will of the people" prevailed in every local community. The same goes for women's reproductive rights. When my mom and dad bought their home 65 years ago, the covenant against selling to Jews was just ending. Now where they live is a vibrant community with Jews, Koreans and gay residents all living together with others in harmony. That's why rights are important.

I know some residents are angry with some property owners in Palo Alto. But that does not mean their rights are subject to the will or whim of the current residents.

Palo Alto and America would be worse places if basic rights were up for a vote every time some group became unpopular.

That's my answer to Mark's question.

Comments

Posted by Mark Weiss, a resident of Downtown North,
on Sep 2, 2014 at 12:59 pm

I will read this soon enough and comment.
Thanks, Steve.
Also: what is Palo Alto Forward? They are using your name, or you are using theirs.
Re the 15-acre site I did speak to the representative from Sobrato to feel them out about selling us the site which they are into for a purported $80 million.

The precedents are Greer Park, Heritage Park and others.

We are 25 acres behind in parks per capita per our General Plan.

(I would read above more carefully but have to move my car before I get a ticket for over-use of Green Zone, or Coral)


Posted by stephen levy, a resident of University South,
on Sep 2, 2014 at 1:12 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

Thanks Mark

If there are plans for residents to put up our money to fund more park acquisition, could me as a supporter as I am for infrastructure generally. There is money for recreation in the infrastructure plan that needs the hotel tax increase to get fully funded.

I think we will need more parks as well as other public facilities as we grow.

We are just back from Europe and there was MUSIC EVERYWHERE!!

It is a public tradition and also there are street musicians all around. Every time they close Univ Ave and have musicians we come and enjoy. Glad you are comfortable that good things can happen at the old Borders site.


Posted by CrescentParkAnon., a resident of Crescent Park,
on Sep 2, 2014 at 2:12 pm

To put property rights above the will of the people is wrong.
The property rights "nuts" and I call them nuts apparently do not
realize, care to realize, care to think about or even have the patience
to think about anything that goes against their world view ... in short
most of them are dogmatic Republican ... and rich.

One problem is defining the will of the people. The paradox here
is something like does a democratic system have the right to vote
itself into a tyranny. There are problems with just saying the will
of the people, and in that problem lies the definition also of
property rights.

Property rights is another way of saying "the status quo" politically,
or in other words most of the people who talk about property rights
are only concerned with their own lives, right now, and not losing
anything they own, or any franchise that yields them more ... so it
is a political question.

So a mind experience and within property rights is the same
conundrum of democracy. That is, say Bill Gates or his nth
descendent, works his fortune into a monopoly over the entire
planet so that he or she owns everything on the entire planet.
That is a contradiction that should never be allowed to happen,
and nor should we waste our time arguing for a system that
would conceivably lead to such a condition.

I don't think there is anything more to say about this, and at
its root is defined the problem with this particular blogger
and his every posting is a variation on this question where he
does not ever really get to the root of the question.


Posted by Michael, a resident of University South,
on Sep 2, 2014 at 2:25 pm

"The precedents are Greer Park, Heritage Park and others."

Expect a very stiff headwind from City Hall regarding your enterprise. Even after the City had full title to the land for Heritage Park, it dragged its feet about dedicating and developing it as a park until the neighbors credibly threatened an initiative to dedicate it. The City then grudgingly dedicated it and planted grass. It is noticeably still unfinished. The children's play area was donated by another neighborhood group.

That said, best wishes.


Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park,
on Sep 2, 2014 at 8:21 pm

Actually (and I don't think Steve will disagree here), the will of the people does prevail over private property rights --- through legislation, regulations, zoning, code requirements, etc.

And the will of the people can prevail even after the laws are written. An example would be PA considering a no "chain store/restaurant" restriction for future California Avenue retail projects. Similar to what SF has done in some neighborhoods or districts.

Where private property rights (should) prevail are under the circumstances of developing a property (residential or commercial) --- where the owner or developer follows the rules and doesn't ask for any waivers.

For example, a local Eichler neighborhood has a 1-story overlay. An Eichler on Channing was torn down and a new home is going up. It will be 1-story...but the framing certainly indicates that it is not an Eichler lookalike. Should the will of the people suddenly be able to stop the project? If the owners followed all of the established rules, codes, etc. when they submitted their plans for approval - I'd say "no".

But in the case of Measure D - the will of the people did prevail (very glad it did). That's because the CC waived established regulations and codes for the project. The people have the right to say to the CC that their decision to waive requirements was unacceptable and must not stand.

The interesting project is the one proposed for Sherman Avenue. By what has been written in the PA Online - it appears that the owners/developer are proposing a project that doesn't exceed any of the city zoning/code requirements (i.e., no waivers) for the neighborhood. Yet the condo residents on Birch want to stop the project. IMHO - I don't think the "will of the condo residents" should prevail. The project is following all of the rules...and I don't think it's right to change the rules after a project has entered the planning process.






Posted by CrescentParkAnon., a resident of Crescent Park,
on Sep 2, 2014 at 9:35 pm

CPD >> For example, a local Eichler neighborhood has a 1-story overlay.
>> An Eichler on Channing was torn down and a new home is going up. It
>> will be 1-story...but the framing certainly indicates that it is not an Eichler
>> lookalike. Should the will of the people suddenly be able to stop the project?
>> If the owners followed all of the established rules, codes, etc. when they
>> submitted their plans for approval - I'd say "no".

Ideally it is the "right thing" that should be aimed for, with the understanding and realization that the law or the legal process sometimes makes mistakes - that is, you cannot do the "right thing", and follow blindly the legal codification. Any adult, any educated person must understand that any legal system, or any system at all is going to be inconsistent.

Must of what happens in our country now, and the reason we get so many decisions and actions that are so confusing is that everything is legalistic now, and getting more so, because putting power in the hands of lawyers who manipulate the law and cost lots of money to hire is just another way of "inequality" expressing itself. Power deriving from the lawyers ensures average people have none.

The main objective of this is to keep freedom of action away from the "masses" while making it look trivially like there is still freedom and thing called the will of the people. Bypassing the will of the people, and doing things that enervate and disempower people so that the elites can do what they want. This is what happens when you show contempt for the people and the will of the people.

BUT, back to the point, say this house in question was in historic Jamestown, or in Venice, or whatever, and the stopping of the project, even if it had progressed past the point where money would be lost, was necessary for a greater good. Do we recognize the legal statutes even if it leads to a bad outcome? Do we want a billboard next to the Grand Canyon because some bureaucrat mistakenly signed a permit, or perhaps was even bribed or did it as a favor working within the nominal legal system?

What is the importance of architectural consistency in that Palo Alto Eichler neighborhood? Is it really that critical that all the houses look the same ... what is the issue? I'm just saying that the law can really be an ass, or a snake, in certain cases. It may be all we have to go by, but that doesn't mean a clear, unbiased, objective review of things and critical assessment should not be done if the system does not seem to work. Patterns will eventually emerge and new ideas will develop on how to manage these decisions.

I think we have to see that everything is set up now, almost 90+% to be controlled by money, and even if that works, it is not the system that most people think we live under, and that needs to be discussed.


Posted by CrescentParkAnon., a resident of Crescent Park,
on Sep 2, 2014 at 9:38 pm

>> Yet the condo residents on Birch want to stop the project. IMHO - I don't think the "will of the condo residents" should prevail. The project is following all of the rules...and I don't think it's right to change the rules after a project has entered the planning process.

Sometimes it might be ... ascribing magical justice to the law is not always right. That's why we were supposed to have wise judges and judicial review. Sometimes the law does not address certain issues, and if those issues can be defined and agreed on why not have the law able to be changed or over-ridden.


Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park,
on Sep 3, 2014 at 6:38 am

To your point, the battle over access to Martins Beach is a great example of a private property owner trying to use arcane and relatively ancient Spanish law to subvert current California coastal regulations.

I think the best way to summarize is that there is the law as written and then there is the "spirit of the law".


Posted by Property Owner, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Sep 3, 2014 at 11:20 am

> To put property rights above the will of the people is wrong.

To some extent, this is true. The current role of "property rights" originates in the US Constitution (US property rights, that is). The Constitution was approved by a popular vote, and hence—is "the will of the people".

Unfortunately, the Constitution is a pretty bare-bones document, and the word "property" does appear that many times. Certainly, the term "property rights" can not be found (just like the word "privacy" can not be found).

Given the vehement claims that the concept of "privacy" is in the Constitution (thanks to American heroes like Teddy Kennedy), one would wonder why the same adamancy for the existence of "property rights" is not exhibited by the same people? (Maybe it's because anyone who believes that owning property is a right under the Constitution is a "nut", but not so for believing in "privacy"?)

> The property rights "nuts" and I call them nuts apparently do not
> realize, care to realize, care to think about or even have the patience
> to think about anything that goes against their world view ... in short
> most of them are dogmatic Republican ... and rich.

The word "property rights" is generally not well defined. For the most part, "the will of the people" suffers the same fate. But it would be interesting for those who believe that if you own property, and want to build on it—exactly why "the people" should have the last word? And what about the future. If a "nut" is granted the right to own, and develop, a bit of his property, and at some time in the future a new group of people show up and are "offended" by the use of this "nut's" property—presumably we are going to hear that this new group of people have a right to revoke any development rights previously assigned to this "nut"? Perhaps, the "will of the people" should trump his "property rights" to the point that he could be charged retroactively with some sort of "environmental crime"?

Historically, there have been far more people in the US who were Democrats, than Republicans—such as the holders of slaves (property) during the first 250 years of the development of the English colonies, and the fledging US Republic. Then those pesky Republicans came along (1856) and went to war against the "property rights" of all those Democrats owning slaves.

Really annoying—the reality of the situation, isn't it?


Posted by stephen levy, a resident of University South,
on Sep 3, 2014 at 4:06 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

@ crescent park anon

Is putting the rights of African Americans, gay residents and women above the will of the people wrong? Or do rights not matter only when dealing with property owners?

This post is not about the law per se but about the law with regard to rights.

In regard to Martins Beach, the court is dealing with dual rights and will probably come down on the side of the rights of residents for coastal action.

As crescent park dad said, there are discretionary zoning actions where council has choices because the owner is acting for a change or variance or exception as with Maybell.

But most applications as with Sherman and the changes on Waverley are within the law and I am arguing that property rights should be protected against current popularity just as I argue (hardly as a dogmatic rich Republican--how could you read that from my posts) for the rights of African Americans, gay residents and women.


Posted by CrescentParkAnon., a resident of Crescent Park,
on Sep 4, 2014 at 1:45 pm

@stephen levy

> Is putting the rights of African Americans, gay residents and women above the will of the people wrong?

I am not sure what you mean by that?

The things we have far too little of is intelligence, morality and justice. The law is written to protect property and I don't mean to take property lightly, but what I was trying to express is the idea of people's rights before property, ultimately.

What we call property that seems so simple in our day and time has a history to it that goes back hundreds if not thousands of years. There is a documentary called "The End Of Poverty" where this is really well explained and framed and worded this issue in a way I had not seen before.

Things are interwoven in complexity to such a degree as to make investigation and analysis extremely difficult, but what has happened is that the political system has evolved around wealth and violence that is masked by a lot of high falootin nonsense over property rights and other slogans, but these are really almost totally rationalizations for the way things are because those with the power have the control.

Within our law there is ZERO recognition that 1) the law can be wrong and 2) there are things the law misses. Without that the legal system is putting the hands of monetary and political power. The law is not about rights, the rights are static, and interpreted by those who must make practical and pragmatic decisions that they believe affect the survival of the republic. In short it is a farce, and when it gets too far out of balance it does not work and often breaks down in catastrophic ways after long periods of stress and injustice.


Posted by Not so fast, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Sep 4, 2014 at 3:08 pm

Real estate law in the US is derived from English common law (except Louisiana which is based on the Napoleonic Code). Property rights may precede civil rights in time, but they don't trump civil rights, which is why courts refused to enforce negative covenants on what kind of people could live in a certain neighborhood (I.e., no blacks, no Jews).

To equate the civil rights of minorities with property rights of the developers is ludicrous. It's one thing to be discriminated against for reasons of race or creed and quite another to be prevented from extracting every possible dollar out of a project and leaving their poorly planned and badly architected buildings for others to live with.

Steve, your analogy just doesn't work.


Posted by David, a resident of Midtown,
on Sep 4, 2014 at 4:28 pm

"The things we have far too little of is intelligence, morality and justice"

Of course you do have those qualities, CPA, right?

The greater the property rights, the better the human rights. Just think about those societies that ignore property rights. And don't forget contract law.

You are frightening, CPA. Have you ever considered where your righteousness might lead to?


Posted by resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Sep 5, 2014 at 8:41 am

It's not that complicated folks. The Eichler overlay zone on Channing does
not incorporate design review (a failure of the ordinance), so the height limitation which is standard one-story height throughout PA, which is inappropriate as applied to an Eichler streetscape (another failure of the ordinance), is the only restriction. Secondly the minimal far too narrow setbacks which prevail throughout the City also apply here. I don't know what this new house on Channing will ultimately look like, but the issue is the minimal and inadequate zoning control in PA, as well as the staff's failure to enforce the criteria in the Single-Family Individual Review process for new two-story and remodels throughout the City. As for property rights in general, an owner is not entitled to even existing zoning, and can be subject to downzoning as long as the owner is left with an economic use and has not already entered into a development project under existing zoning. There are many other related issues of course, like parking for example and dewatering for basements, but what we have in PA is a massive failure of government which combined with a strong market is leading to a disastrous decline in the quality of life and character of the City. That is the issue in PA, it's not property rights or human rights as <Not so fast> said.


Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park,
on Sep 5, 2014 at 2:19 pm

The one-story height limit in PA is 17-ft (at least I think so...).

Typical slant roof Eichlers are 14-ft (not including chimney). Atrium Eichlers are taller than that. I don't agree that the height limitation of 17-ft is out of whack at all.

The Channing project probably has a 20-ft setback for the front and back and a 6-ft setback on each side. The lot is probably no more than 8000 sqft. If 8000sqft, then the FAR is 3200sqft including the garage (400sqft min.)...approx. 2800sqft max living space.

Again, I don't see a problem with any of the city restrictions here.

My friend's Eichler remodel involved building a new garage with a parapet roof. The walls are 15ft and the roof height is 14ft. Net the roof and floor/ceiling framing, they built a 5ft loft/attic for storage inside the garage. His neighbors tried to stop him twice with BS accusations of either encroaching on the side setback or exceeding the height that was set on the plans. The city came out twice to remeasure what they had already verified during the inspections --- the inspector wasn't very happy after the second time. After having to re-measure the side setback, he duly noted that the next door neighbor had violated code by building a pond up against the fence (and without a permit --- permanent water features have to be 6ft away from the boundary line on any side of your property). What a waste of city resources. One of those neighbors had the huevos to leave a letter and accuse my friends of "ruining the neighborhood" for the color they chose for the garage...before they had finished putting on the new cedar siding, new trim and landscaping.

To me this is an example of where the "will of the people" was correctly dismissed by private property rights.


Posted by stephen levy, a resident of University South,
on Sep 5, 2014 at 3:38 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

Not so fast actually makes MY point--that people who are currently unpopular like non residential property owners need to have their rights protected from angry residents.

It is actually not different from the rights of minority groups.

I am tired of this rhetoric of greedy developers and "extracting every possible dollar out of a project".

Most property owners here and elsewhere are not developers. They, like single family home owners are often managing their main asset or source of income. This true whether they have a piece of an office building like my mom or sell a piece of land to a developer. They are entitled to the same rights as to their property as single family home owners, who are correctly rarely criticized here for doing exactly the same thing, managing their property for maximum value at time of sale.

Nor are all property owners "greedy" or "exacting every possible dollar". All of us I am sure know property owners here in PA that have gone the extra step for their tenants.

The language in Not so Fast's post IS prejudiced and without merit. It is exactly the kind of rhetoric where people do need to have their rights protected.

Re architectural standards we do have a process for evaluating projects. If particular posters do not like those decisions, they have rights of appeal. If they lose, I want to protect property owners from architectural mob rule just as I would for a single family home owner who has a legal remodel that a group of neighbors don't like.

As to the wild accusation above that property rights advocates are dogmatic rich Republican nuts, that is not me and I suspect not most of the posters favoring here favoring those rights.

It is possible and persuasive to me to favor the rights of African Americans and property owners from the same logical reasoning.

The whole point is that rights don't depend on who is popular today or what political parties want.


Posted by stephen levy, a resident of University South,
on Sep 5, 2014 at 3:40 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

Thanks Crescent Park Dad--good to know we can agree on some things if not about growth/


Posted by CrescentParkAnon., a resident of Crescent Park,
on Sep 6, 2014 at 11:02 am

resident: >> but what we have in PA is a massive failure of government which combined with a strong market is leading to a disastrous decline in the quality of life and character of the City.

As much as I think the City is incompetent, I do not think this problem is of the City's making, it is the natural evolution of this land towards development.

Think 30-50 years ahead and I think it is ludicrous to tell people they cannot have two story houses on Channing or in an Eichler area. That is not protecting their property rights. There is just no logical, reasonable, graceful and fair way to do this, and to let everyone go crazy is not an option either. Already our streets are starting to look like the poor neighborhoods of EPA with cars packed along every parable area.

To blame this on the City, or make it an issue of property rights, alone anyway doesn't quite hit the mark. Why shouldn't I be able to rebuild my house as a multi-story dwelling if I want to. They are doing it downtown on Hamilton, and they will be doing it all over the place eventually.

Twenty years ago I rented an Eichler off Greer in one of those circles that will remain unnamed. It was right adjacent to a two-story rebuild ... which looked like an Eichler dropped on another Eichler ... i.e. to me, fairly unattractive. That one got to rebuild. Wouldn't it be unfair or disrespectful of everyone else's property rights not to allow them to do the same, or is it better to accept a mistake and let this single house go, and restrain everyone else from following it?

I don't think there is an answer to this, other than some people get lucky and get to do what they want to do, and some people don't. There is no sense, no rhyme or reason for it that I can see. Maybe I've missed something. Meanwhile all up and down Channing and elsewhere the McMansions are getting bigger and bigger, with more but still insufficient parking and more cars parked outside and less street space.

This town does not make sense anymore, and it seems odd that people are running for City Council saying they want to maintain the quaint village aspect of Palo Alto. It's gone, except possible for some small areas of town, but those will go too at some point.


Posted by CrescentParkAnon., a resident of Crescent Park,
on Sep 6, 2014 at 11:23 am

Posted by David, a resident of Midtown,
>>> "The things we have far too little of is intelligence, morality and justice"

> Of course you do have those qualities, CPA, right? *

> The greater the property rights, the better the human rights. Just think
> about those societies that ignore property rights. And don't forget contract law.

> You are frightening, CPA. Have you ever considered where your righteousness might lead to?

(sentence deleted)

David, I think you are slipping on a slippery slope of your own imagination.
So, just think of where that might lead.

Property rights over human rights at one time changed the title to
most of the land on the globe. When Western Europeans moved into
some place and they claimed they had property rights, all nice and legal
to whole continents because native ownership was not registered in a
nice tidy piece of paper with the Queen most of the world became
homeless, beginning a cycle of those people having to work for a living
at very very very low if not slave wages because they had to live
somewhere, on someone else's land.


* So, yes, while I don't think I am perfect, but I am quite willing to try to
listen to other people's points of view and experiences and not
just wipe them all away by slinging slogans of property rights around
like I know what that means. Trying to scare myself and others by
pointing at a danger that does not exist doesn't seem very honest.


Posted by David, a resident of Midtown,
on Sep 6, 2014 at 12:03 pm

(sentence deleted) I am talking about 'Life, Liberty and Property'...yes, from English law (hard won).

Property rights have been the driving force of much wealth creation, innovation, individual rights and resistance to government tyranny. Indeed, property rights are at the center of "pursuit of happiness".

Your trivialization of property rights is, indeed, frightening.


Posted by Mark Weiss, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Sep 6, 2014 at 1:24 pm

Not to be baited too easily, and I do note that my relationship with Dr. Levy is experiencing a type of glasnost, I worry that when people say "property rights" they are somehow commingled with the "corporations are people" crowd, which I admit, includes the majority of the Roberts court.

Do you mean that a pile of gold, for example, which weighs 10 ounces has a "right" to grow to be a pile of gold someday weighing, for instance 20 ounces?

I spoke to a Tim Steele of The Sobrato Organization the other day on the instant matter of the 15-acre parcel in Ventura and he seemed to be in that exact camp, that the purported $80 million his firm spent on that land -- and the lease of Fry's -- seems to have its own right to become, for instance, a $500 million property if he or they build 500 homes there, such that he seemed taken aback that a mere citizen, one of only 60,000 such entities, would imply that it is not inevitable, this growth or alchemy. But I say the opposite, that if enough voters (maybe 20,000 of us here) choose via the Democratic process a pro-resident and in the instant case a pro-Parks council, with five of nine seats at play, so to speak, that indeed we could have some input and maybe if not 15 acres than how about 8 acres of park and maybe something the size of Via Torino in St. James Park (Sobrato built and manages or owns)?

As it stands and in the current real estate rout they are probably figuring on 500 homes and a patch a grass suitable for one dog to pee on, by appointment. (sentence deleted)

Did I mention I am running for Palo Alto City Council, and this discussion came out of Our Palo Alto scoping meeting at Elks Lodge some months ago, Dr. Levy and I in same "scope"?


Posted by Mark Weiss, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Sep 6, 2014 at 1:47 pm

Interestingly, Tim Steele I reference, senior development for Sobrato, in 2000 was in outreach for City of San Jose and worked on a Sobrato project there, for the public sector (sort of like our Steve Emslie revolving door to a land use lobbyist). As Hunter S. Thomsons said, when the going gets tough, the weird turn pro:

From SJ Business Journals archive, 2000:

Cisco will build its 6.6 million square feet across the street; and once they get started, then I'm sure the market pressures will be in [John Sobrato's] favor," said Tim Steele, manager of corporate outreach for the San Jose Office of Economic Development.

And this fits perfectly in my blog's coverage of these types of things, if not in Levy's or Bill Johnson's wheel-house.


Posted by David, a resident of Midtown,
on Sep 6, 2014 at 2:28 pm

"Do you mean that a pile of gold, for example, which weighs 10 ounces has a "right" to grow to be a pile of gold someday weighing, for instance 20 ounces? "

Very strange analogy. The gold will still be 10 ounces (it is an element, not a living thing). Its value may either grow or diminish, according to supply and demand.

Sobrato is allowed to build, according to current zoning. If the PA city council saw fit to upgrade the zoning, then that was its responsibility. Given the environmental alarmism and ABAG mandates, it would not be surprising to see that area upzoned. Even more density will be greatly appreciated by Sobrato.


Posted by stephen levy, a resident of University South,
on Sep 6, 2014 at 4:11 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

Mark, you are running for council so I am sure readers will be interested in your answers following up on your 10 ounces of gold analogy.

So a single family home owner is looking to sell (or rent) their home. They paid 10 ounces of gold and it is now worth 20 ounces. Would you impose a rule on their right to sell at any price a buyer is willing to pay?

Suppose they sell to a developer. Should they be forced to take less because the buyer is a developer? Now the developer sees an opportunity under current zoning to improve the property so it is worth 30 ounces of gold. Would you as a PA council member intervene in any of these decisions?

Now the home owner needs to move-perhaps he or she is getting older and does not want to live in a single family home any more. Would you impose a limit on what they can rent the home for? In general as a council member would you vote to impose rent control and on what basis/criterion?

It sounds (please clarify) that you have strong feelings against people making money on property transactions in PA that are legal.

To me discrimination against people who have high incomes is no different from discrimination against Jews, African Americans or gay residents. Rights are rights.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood,
on Sep 6, 2014 at 4:25 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

What makes a civilized society civilized is that it operates under a system of mutually accepted laws. Those laws are not designed to make winners or losers but to set the rules of behavior. One of the types of laws that is necessary in a civilized society are laws that define property rights. There is no democracy in the world that does not define property rights of its citizens.

We live in a special form of democracy called a republic (check your dollar bills to confirm that) in which it is not simply majority rules but also that the rights of minorities are respected and protected.

Think very carefully before you propose that property rights of others should be taken away because your property rights are dependent on the property rights of others.

If government wants to"take" property for its own use then that government MUST pay fair market value for that property via eminent domain.


Posted by resident 3, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Sep 6, 2014 at 6:51 pm

stephen levy.

"To me discrimination against people who have high incomes is no different from discrimination against Jews, African Americans or gay residents. Rights are rights."

I thought religion, and race, and sexual orientation have a protected status by law. Protected minorities, which is different from what anyone may want to think personally about discrimination.






Posted by Mark Weiss, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Sep 7, 2014 at 12:25 pm

I am suggesting we look into a large park in Ventura District, on land that Sobrato reportedly bought for $80M.

My gold piles story was rhetorical. But yes elements are elements, people are people, and neither piles of gold nor corporations should have the rights of people.

I think equating the rights of the 1 Percent to make the greatest profit with the Civil Rights of blacks is pretty insulting, to all of us.

I've also said and will continue to say that leadership here should be brokering a deal with the owners of Buena Vista mobile home park, despite a gag order issued by city attorney Molly Stump, telling us to not talk about it.

Other than that, thanks, Stev,e for this week's Talmud lesson and good luck next week, Shavuah tov.

(sentence deleted)


Posted by David, a resident of Midtown,
on Sep 7, 2014 at 2:29 pm

"I am suggesting we look into a large park in Ventura District, on land that Sobrato reportedly bought for $80M."

So Mark, who will pay for that property, if Sobrato already owns it? Or will this become one of those PC deals where a large increase in density is given for a public benefit? Or is your view that the city of PA should just take the land, without paying for it, because property rights don't matter?


Posted by Steve Levy, a Almanac Online blogger,
on Sep 7, 2014 at 2:49 pm

Steve Levy is a registered user.

Mark and Res 3

I agree with Mark that people are people. Property owners (not all of whom by any stretch of the imagination are rich or in the 1%) are people.

And it does feel to me like you are both arguing that it is ok to treat people differently under the law depending on their income or assets.

We are talking about the rights of people and should no more make distinctions based on income than on race or sexual orientation or religion.

Res 3, what are you proposing--that a use of property is ok if the owner's income or wealth is under a certain level but not ok if not so. Does this apply also to single family home owners?


Posted by resident 3, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Sep 7, 2014 at 4:11 pm

Steve Levy,

"Res 3, what are you proposing--that a use of property is ok if the owner's income or wealth is under a certain level but not ok if not so. Does this apply also to single family home owners?"

I had posted about your comment

"To me discrimination against people who have high incomes is no different from discrimination against Jews, African Americans or gay residents. Rights are rights."

You may have assumed I digested the entire thread, I didn't - I was just pointing out a difference between general discrimination and discriminating against groups which I think are officially considered protected under civil rights laws.

Generally, as far as use of property, I believe that within agreed upon legal boundaries, it's always good for people to work together so that there is some give and take for the long term benefit of a community. LIke a condo.


Posted by CrescentParkAnon., a resident of Crescent Park,
on Sep 8, 2014 at 10:50 am

>>>>>>> David, a resident of Midtown,
on Sep 6, 2014 at 12:03 pm
>>>>>>>>

Why are my posts being edited and deleted while David's whose posts have been nothing but pointless personal attacks against my opinions being allowed to stay up?

Is David's phrasing somehow more acceptable, the "if - some ridiculous straw argument I did not make" format is less offensive or more productive?

My point was exactly the opposite in fact, but when allowed to distort with impunity the point and discussion are muddied.


Posted by CrescentParkAnon., a resident of Crescent Park,
on Sep 8, 2014 at 10:59 am

>> stephen levy.
>> "To me discrimination against people who have high incomes is no
>> different from discrimination against Jews, African Americans or gay
>> residents. Rights are rights."

To me trying to equate the word discrimination in both cases is dishonest
and repugnant. The word in these separate cases means entirely different
things, (portion deleted) This kind of dishonesty at its core is just
another attempt to turn back the clock with technology and gibberish
because that is result of allowing money and power to trump the
will and rights of the people.


Posted by CrescentParkAnon., a resident of Crescent Park,
on Sep 8, 2014 at 11:05 am

David said "Your trivialization of property rights is, indeed, frightening."

Your trivialization of human rights is far more frightening, and real; whereas your attempt to frame me as trivializing property rights is a figment of your imagination. As a property owner, citizen, capitalist in good standing, I am all for property rights, but in a construct that does not respect human rights, property rights are just a license to violate human rights.

If property rights do not serve human rights, and that includes the rights of the minority, opulent or not, then human rights do not exist, not the other way around.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood,
on Sep 8, 2014 at 11:10 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Discrimination -"treatment or consideration of, or making a distinction in favor of or against, a person or thing based on the group, class, or category to which that person or thing belongs rather than on individual merit"

A sub type of discrimination is " is action that denies social participation or human rights to categories of people based on prejudice."

Levy quite properly deplores discrimination against certain types/classes of property owners. His position on property rights in no way alters or impacts the sub type of discrimination that denies social participation or human rights to categories of people based on prejudice.


Posted by stephen levy, a resident of University South,
on Sep 8, 2014 at 11:14 am

stephen levy is a registered user.

David and Crescent Park Anon

I will delete any more personal back and forth between you two.

Crescent Park Anon

This blog is written by a lifelong liberal Democrat who support gay rights, voting rights, the rights of women to choose their reproductive future AND property rights.

I am neither rich nor a Republican nor a developer or own any property besides my home and a one week vacation time share.

All of these rights should be protected from the so-called "will of the people" especially when fueled by hatred hateful language about people with high incomes or wealth.


Posted by resident 3, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Sep 8, 2014 at 12:27 pm

Steve Levy,

"This blog is written by a lifelong liberal Democrat who support gay rights, voting rights, the rights of women to choose their reproductive future AND property rights.

I am neither rich nor a Republican nor a developer or own any property besides my home and a one week vacation time share.

All of these rights should be protected from the so-called "will of the people" especially when fueled by hatred hateful language about people with high incomes or wealth."

I would say this has come full circle.

Practices in real life end up being a negotiation.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood,
on Sep 8, 2014 at 2:48 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Sadly there is a Gresham's Law regarding dialogue in the Almanac and Weekly Forums in that thoughtful posters and their posting are driven out by mean, cruel and thoughtless postings by some other posters. And I do not think it a coincidence that such mean, cruel and thoughtless postings invariably are made by unregistered users.

Levy works quite hard to generate the basis for a thoughtful conversation and his efforts are usually hijacked by unregistered users who have no interest in either dialogue or truth.


Posted by CrescentParkAnon., a resident of Crescent Park,
on Sep 9, 2014 at 12:25 pm

Steve, here is what I said:

> The property rights "nuts" and I call them nuts apparently do not
> realize, care to realize, care to think about or even have the patience
> to think about anything that goes against their world view ... in short
> most of them are dogmatic Republican ... and rich.

Maybe you are justified to react to the word "rich" and maybe it was the
wrong word to use. I confess I don't spend a long time on posts because
they don't really justify lots of time to think. See below.

Maybe "influential", "politically connected", "status quo", "the 1%" is
be a better way to express that. I do notice that folks who want to
disagree with find a way to get worked up by and word rather than take
a moment to try to figure out what the motive behind the statement is.

When debates get complicated by the facts clever tactics often take
precedence.

I notice for example you prefer to go after the "word" rather than what
I expressed as the larger and more important idea behind the abuse
of property rights when they take priority to human rights.

It fits with the sort of rhetorical and "Orwellian" tactic of trying to make
the word "discrimination" the same in both the context of a historically
discriminated and abused class of people versus something that, well,
let's face it, is a rarity - which is wealthy and powerful people losing
their property by a loss of property rights.

In fact the framing of your article was in the abstract, Constitutional,
philosophical tone, yet most are arguing around the specific issue of
zoning, which seems to indicate to me that this is a sort of flag-waving
tactic, rally the propertied to defend against a danger, when that is not
really what is going on except in the most distant abstract way of
looking at this. In the US right now there is no slippery slope where
propertied are being assailed unfairly, - in fact quite the opposite when
you take into account what is happening in the broader context of
the discussion of inequality in the last years.

I see the oblique way Peter Carpenter is attacking me, and currying
favor without at all responding to the subject you wrote your article about.
Carpenter implies that I, or perhaps others are not thoughtful posters,
but of course. That's the way it works, subtly, so the point is hard to
make and easy to attack or dismiss when mixed with a bit of
arbitrariness in editing.

I suppose our basic disagreement is that you think it is fine debate form
to post partisan out of frame arguments for political points you support,
and edit and attack with flak to persuade with a kind of reality bending
mode rather than by driving some consensus. Make the zoning issue
about property rights and American values.

To me that makes the majority of your posts unAmeican in that they are not
Town Hall Forum posts they are propaganda pieces. You say you are not
rich, but apparently you do have some power or a "bully" pulpit in one
of the most affluent areas of the world - what do you call that?

I can't normally devote much time to these posts because you make it
a waste or time for me ... another kind of bullying, you have edited and
deleted the majority of my posts, by what is mostly arbitrary reasoning,
and you allow others to post attacks and disparaging remarks about
my comments. Now ... those remarks may be true or false, but they are
pointless to the discussion and personal in nature, which means by the
terms of service they should be deleted.

So, to me, participating in your blog is very much about problems of
human rights. From my perspective you maintain a heavy-handed control
of what ideas you allow here which is contrary to the spirit of a community,
democracy, the marketplace of ideas, and yet you are allowed and given
this platform to do that. Your mode of editorializing has a chilling effect
on the ideas allowed here, and that is my main reason to post here ... not
just to bug you or disagree with you, though it may seem like that.

--

I believe if you want to write an article discussing ( and this is called a forum )
zoning, that you should set up the discussion for zoning with specific facts
or examples and principles, including property rights, to frame that discussion
for broader participation.

The lack of that here seems to point to caring more about propagandizing
your point of view than establishing a basis to inform or discuss about
zoning. How is it you get to do that under the official aegis of the Palo
Alto online if you are not "privileged". Does that privilege derive from your
human rights or your property rights?


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood,
on Sep 10, 2014 at 5:45 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Anon states -"I see the oblique way Peter Carpenter is attacking me, and currying
favor without at all responding to the subject you wrote your article about."

It is useful to actually READ what people post before stating what they posted:
Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood,
on Sep 8, 2014 at 11:10 am
Peter Carpenter is a registered user.
Discrimination -"treatment or consideration of, or making a distinction in favor of or against, a person or thing based on the group, class, or category to which that person or thing belongs rather than on individual merit"

A sub type of discrimination is " is action that denies social participation or human rights to categories of people based on prejudice."

Levy quite properly deplores discrimination against certain types/classes of property owners. His position on property rights in no way alters or impacts the sub type of discrimination that denies social participation or human rights to categories of people based on prejudice.


Posted by CrescentParkAnon., a resident of Crescent Park,
on Sep 18, 2014 at 2:56 am

> What makes a civilized society civilized is that it operates under a system of mutually accepted laws

Mutually accepted? By whom?

Peter, actually, tell me when you have ever had a say to accept of reject any of the laws we "operator under"?

(Portion deleted)

The blind spots in the law are of this nature, and that is why, again, from another direction, it is proven that people's rights much trump property rights.


Posted by CrescentParkAnon., a resident of Crescent Park,
on Sep 18, 2014 at 3:01 am

>> His position on property rights in no way alters or impacts the sub type of discrimination that denies social participation or human rights to categories of people based on prejudice.

Because that is not the argument he is making.

The fallacy he is making is one of innocence by association ... that is, kind of the opposite of guilt by association.

That is, as someone else said ...

> To equate the civil rights of minorities with property rights of the developers is ludicrous.

Or in this attempt to associate property rights with civil rights is an attempt to equate them or put them on the same level, in other words - a syllogism, the argument is its own proof. This is why it's ludicrous. Property rights derive from human rights, not the other way around.

(Portion deleted)


Posted by stephen levy, a resident of University South,
on Sep 18, 2014 at 10:36 am

stephen levy is a registered user.

@crescentparkanon

I think the point you dismiss is that property owners ARE people.

Their rights deserve protecting just as those of other PEOPLE.

Calling them "developers" (all are not) or rich or Republicans (many are not) seems to indicate that you do not consider property owners (do you own any property( as people when it comes to talking about peoples' rights.


Posted by CrescentParkAnon., a resident of Crescent Park,
on Sep 21, 2014 at 11:52 pm

>> I think the point you dismiss is that property owners ARE people.

You just go on and on saying the same thing.
Yes, Property Owners are people, how perceptive of you to state that for everyone.
What you seem unable to grasp is that they are people first and property owners second.

How long are you going to drag on that comment about rich Republicans, it is not
central to the point and where there is a problem with rich Republicans subverting the
country is another issue, but it does explain why property owners in general have
always gotten special treatment ... another reason why human rights supersede
property rights.


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