No coding in Palo Alto? City takes on Silicon Valley growth

The birthplace of Hewlett Packard and Xerox Parc and founding place of Facebook is now considering whether to enforce a zoning regulation banning firms whose “primary business is research and development, including software coding,” according to the New York Times.

As the Times wrote, “To repeat: The mayor is considering enforcing a ban on coding at ground zero of Silicon Valley.”

Palo Alto Mayor Patrick Burt told the Times:

Big tech companies are choking off the downtown. It’s not healthy.

Palo Alto is a software capital. It has also become a company town, with Palantir Technologies renting 20 downtown buildings, as Marisa Kendall wrote.

Other notable tech firms there include Tesla, SAP, Flipboard, VMware and many others. It has become a center for automation and cars and is home to Ford’s research and development center.

Some of these firms are in the outer regions of the city and presumably wouldn’t be affected by the zoning regulation, which appears to be directed to the downtown.

For many of the 66,000 residents of Palo Alto, all this coding and innovation may be a bit too much.

Already the city has been under pressure to increase its housing. A planning commissioner recently resigned in part out of frustration with the city’s anti-growth politics.

And last year, the city limited growth to less than 1 percent in three industrial areas, as the Palo Alto Daily News reported.

The city’s reluctance to build more housing has led to criticisms that the city is being irresponsible, wanting tech jobs, and the tax money that comes with it, without expanding housing.

But Palo Alto may not want the jobs either. Making coding off-limits in certain sections, however that is enforced, sends that message.

Photo: People line up to have their identities verified before entering the Palantir cafeteria in Palo Alto, Calif., April 23, 2016. (Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group)


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  • Donald Dumptruck

    Don’t bite the hand that feeds, Palo Alto.

    Where the F do you think your town’s wealth comes from? This seems to be a 21st-century type of NIMBYism–let’s dub it Socioeconomic NIMBYism.

    The irony would be if the code hipsters head east to East Palo Alto and gentrify that town.

    • Bopper

      Nobody is suggesting that Palo Alto evict their high-tech tenants, as you would have realized if you’d read the article. They’re simply doing what other communities will begin doing and that’s putting restrictions on unlimited growth of the tech sector. Personally I think it’s the right thing to do.

      • Dathan

        The article specifically said “The mayor is considering enforcing a ban on coding at ground zero of Silicon Valley.”, and makes no mention of allowing existing coding-centric tenants to remain in downtown. That sounds a lot like eviction to me. Or did we read a different article?

    • John Doe II

      There are plenty of places that don’t have tech, let alone an alarmingly high concentration of it, that have a lot of wealth.

      I for one hope the code hipsters go over to EPA and gentrify it, on the condition they leave the other side of 101.

    • Sarah M

      Give me a break Touchie Techie. The headline is misleading. They’re talking about enforcing an existing ban in the immediate downtown area, a ban that was put into place to encourage a downtown with real small businesses, arts, insurance companies, dry cleaners, real estate companies etc.

      Palantir has flaunted the ban and has turned downtown into millennial bro-ville. It shouldn’t be that way, it doesn’t have to be that way, and indeed it’s not allowed to be that way. Palantir knew this and didn’t think anyone would say anything. But there are a lot of people in PA richer than rich, people who enjoy a downtown that’s a little bit more…adult.

      • oley

        Yeah, right, turn Palo Alto into sister city of Saratoga and Los Gatos with their dilapidating downtowns… those two look adult enough.

        • Sarah M

          Your comment makes no sense. Saratoga and Los Gatos have lovely downtowns.

  • David Theil

    The article has a somewhat misleading spin in two places.

    ” A planning commissioner recently resigned in part out of frustration with the city’s anti-growth politics.”

    In her letter of resignation, she resigned because the city has not taken more action on creating more housing and she cannot afford housing for a family. Non expansion of the housing supply could be called “anti-growth” but in the context of the article, it sounds like the commissioner resigned because the city is considering anti-R&D zoning.

    Also, while I am not knowledgeable the zoning proposal details, I did see an article that the Mayor’s concern is a few major companies dominating downtown and turning into a couple of corporate campuses, rather than a place where many dozens of startups incubate.

    With both of these incomplete descriptions, I wonder Ms. Quinn is deliberately slanting the article.

  • kevinish

    Still the Peninsula cautionary tale.

  • Dathan

    Seems like there’s a little bit of a conflict of interest with the mayor being the CEO of a tech company headquartered in downtown Palo Alto also wanting to enforce an all-but-defunct zoning regulation against his competitors for office space.

    • …Although I could understand zoning against a size of a business being located in the downtown area.

  • GonzoG

    Is it April First?
    Or did the Mayor get sold some bad crack? We TOLD him to use ONLY “REPUTABLE DEALERS” but he’s been getting that cut rate stuff lately.

  • BillStewart2012

    They’ve at least been talking about the need to have more housing, and have new construction go for housing rather than office space. Since Palo Alto housing is pretty much unaffordable, that makes sense.

  • 1976boy

    Prop 13 has distorted the market. You’re seeing its results after 40 years of artificially depressing tax rates and rewarding unproductive property owners receiving windfall profits with no corresponding responsibilites to the community. Ironic that SV gets this practically Stalinist governance; what happened to the famous libertarian free market ethos?