Palo Alto, Mountain View advance discussion of transportation funding

On Monday, April 30, Palo Alto City Council will take the next step in considering funding for transportation and other infrastructure – but is taking consideration of funding for Caltrain grade separations off the table while the city grapples with its grade separation options.

At its Finance Committee meeting on April 17, the committee recommended doing additional polling on a 2% increase in the city’s hotel tax, possibly consider a real estate transfer tax, and refrain from considering a sales tax increase.

The Palo Alto projects with funding shortfalls included public safety buildings, the Highway 101 Pedestrian/Bicycle bridge and other bike/ped improvements, and two parking garages.

Palo Alto City Council will review the set of options for grade separations on May 14. The city faces serious conversation about whether it wishes to take on the funding challenges of more expensive trench or tunnel options which could require hundreds of millions in local match funding – and is sensibly putting off the discussion about how to fund the projects until further decisions about what designs it may seek to fund.

If you are interested in Palo Alto transportation funding, the agenda item is penciled for 8:30pm – but the time may change.  The item before it is a proposal to extend the city’s office cap for the downtown, California Avenue, and El Camino areas, which is scheduled for 7:30-8:30 but may well take longer. The proposal is to extend the current cap, in advance of a resident-proposed ballot measure to further reduce the amount of allowable office development between now and 2030.


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Meanwhile, Mountain View staff is doing further analysis of a hotel tax, cannabis tax, and/or business license tax, following discussion on April 17. 

Stay tuned for the city council discussion to consider the tax options with more information from staff’s analysis. The Council created a subcommittee with Mayor Siegel and Council Members Clark and McAlister to discuss the recommendations.

Mountain View is seeking funding for transportation projects including:

* Automated Guideway Transit from MV Transit Center to North Bayshore
* Transit center improvements
* Connecting the NASA light rail station to North Bayshore
* Two rail/road grade separations (Rengstorff Avenue and Castro Street).
* New Charleston Road undercrossing
* Bike/pedestrian improvements.
* Community shuttle

An important question for policy, and for further polling, is whether to have a general tax (which requires 50% to pass), or a tax for specific projects, which requires 2/3 to pass, which is a high hurdle but sometimes can attract more voters with a committed project list.