News

Gail Price not to seek second council term

After 13 years of public service, councilwoman says she is ready to pursue other interests

Palo Alto City Councilwoman Gail Price announced today that she will not seek a second term on the council in November.

Price, who joined the council in 2009 and last year was appointed to the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority, told the Weekly that she decided last week not to run again. Her decision means the council will have at least two new members next year. Councilman Larry Klein will be termed out after completing his second consecutive term, leaving an open seat. Mayor Nancy Shepherd, Councilman Greg Scharff and Councilwoman Karen Holman are eligible to seek a second term, though Scharff is the only one of the three who has said he plans to run again.

Price, a former transportation planner, has been one of the council's leading proponents of collaborating with regional groups on transportation and development issues. She has been a passionate advocate, on both the local and regional level, for allocating more resources for social services and mental-health issues.

At times, her advocacy of regional cooperation has put her at odds with her colleagues, as when she voted along with the VTA board in February to support a brief in favor of the California High-Speed Rail Authority.

At other times, her council decisions have pitted her against the majority of her Barron Park neighbors. She joined the rest of the council last June in supporting a proposed housing development on Maybell Avenue, which included 60 units for low-income seniors. The project, which was unpopular in her neighborhood, ultimately fell in a November referendum.

Price said the Measure D vote and the political climate had some influence in her decision, though her main motivation was pursuing other endeavors, including visual art, traveling and spending more time with her family.

"I think the discourse now is very contentious and I don't think we do our best thinking and and our best decision-making in that environment," Price said. "I'm still very concerned about the implications regarding the loss of Measure D and the issues of affordable housing in the community. It's a critical issue and we have a responsibility to be more comprehensive in our thinking when we look at the future of our community."

She cited as her proudest achievements her work on Project Safety Net, a community effort to promote youth well-being; her contributions on the issues of mobility and transportation; and her commitment to cultural and public-arts programs, which included a major expansion on the city's "percent for art program" for new developments.

Price said she wanted to announce her decision early to give people in the community more time to decide about running. She added that she wanted to leave at a time when she feels "positive and productive."

"There are many things I'm interested in and I look forward to having time to pursue these other activities," Price said. "When you're working and deliberating as a City Council member, you have to let a lot of other things go or you have to somehow be able to pull them into your life, which I've done. I want to have more flexibility and more freedom, in terms of time and my intellectual and creative energy."

She said she plans to remain engaged in Palo Alto civic life.

"Frankly, community engagement in Palo Alto is very addictive," Price said. "People in this community get very engaged and I think it's important to remember what are the things one can do that are rewarding and can make a difference. There are lot of ways it can be done."

Comments

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Ellie
a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 25, 2014 at 11:04 am

Her intelligence and experience will be missed on council. Any replacements will likely have a steep learning curve. I hope new council members will not have loud voices and rigid positions = a la Tea Party, but will work well with all, effectively and without hubris. A new majority on council but a reasonable majority. We could really get some positive things done. Less commercial development that creates need for more housing for instance - build affordable housing, not office buildings.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Good news
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 25, 2014 at 11:19 am

She is intelligent but I won't miss her predictable pro-big-development votes. She even praised 27 University Ave.
The atmosphere is contentious because the council does not properly represent the people who live here. Here's hoping for a more resident-centered council.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Palo Alto Voter
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 25, 2014 at 11:30 am

Gail has been a thoughtful contributor. I will miss her measured voice and her willingness to listen.

I am sad to see one of only two south Palo Alto residents on the current Council departing. Too many decisions are made for south PA by people who spend very little time at this end of town. I think our north PA reps try to do right by us, but they really don't have a frame of reference and experience to understand our perspective. They are good people, and they mean well, but they live in the north. City Hall is in the north, and they are heavily influenced by the voices of their friends and neighbors in the north. The impacts on the south are largely a product of benign neglect. They are simply ignorant of the accumulative effects of their decisions down here because they don't experience them day-to-day.

Staff, because they "reside" at City Hall in the north, also visits here less frequently than they should (with a some exceptions when we insist or a few individuals who make the effort). With all due respect, they suffer from the same myopic handicap.

I think we should have representation by parts of the city. No small portion of the city (northeast) should have a majority hold for decades on city government. We should also have an elected mayor. With so many seats open, this would be a good time for change.

We should have seven Council Members: one from the southeast, one northeast, one west. One elected mayor from any portion of the city.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Community Center
on Apr 25, 2014 at 11:43 am

Very happy to hear that Price will not run again. She was more of a representative of the unions and developers than the residents. Hope somebody with independence and integrity will decide to run.

Would be great news if Shepherd also decided not to tun.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Barron Park dad
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 25, 2014 at 11:44 am

Great comment: "The atmosphere is contentious because the council does not properly represent the people who live here. Here's hoping for a more resident-centered council."

How can you say otherwise when the City Council passed the Barron Park senior housing development so overwhelmingly, and yet the voters passed Measure D so decisively?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Palo Alto Voter
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 25, 2014 at 11:44 am

I meant two from southeast, two from northeast, two from west. One elected mayor from any portion.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Barron Park dad
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 25, 2014 at 11:44 am

Great comment: "The atmosphere is contentious because the council does not properly represent the people who live here. Here's hoping for a more resident-centered council."

How can you say otherwise when the City Council passed the Barron Park senior housing development so overwhelmingly, and yet the voters passed Measure D so decisively?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Timothy Gray
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Apr 25, 2014 at 11:46 am

Thank you Gail for your service. Agree with her or not, serving on the Council is a big donation to the City of Palo Alto.

It is clear that representation should be by district so that the residents can receive representation without being call "bullies" by Nancy Shepherd.

The residents asking that the needs of their neighborhoods be represented in the Council's decision making is only reasonable.

Let's decentralize, de-politicize, and return our council to the good old-fashioned values of community service.

Respectfully,

Tim (I'm not running for City Council) Gray


 +   Like this comment
Posted by JerryL
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Apr 25, 2014 at 11:55 am


Price said. "I'm still very concerned about the implications regarding the loss of Measure D and the issues of affordable housing in the community...."

We wouldn't have fought it if the development stuck to the existing height limits. Council could have assisted by making up any so-called "losses" caused by reducing the building height and the project could have be built.
It was the "my way or the highway" attitude of the PAHC that fired me up.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 25, 2014 at 12:55 pm

Ms. Price has provided us with a couple of nice sound-bytes:

> "I think the discourse now is very contentious and I don't think
> we do our best thinking and and our best decision-making in
> that environment

> Price said. "I'm still very concerned about the implications
> regarding the loss of Measure D and the issues of
> affordable housing in the community.

But, sadly, there is no "there there". What does she really mean to say?

Given Ms. Price's concern with various "social" issues, which are clearly outside the purview of the City's providing certain services (streets, police, fire, etc)—it's not likely that those who don't think like she does are likely to be supportive of her ideas and energies.

Too many people in this town have come to see the City government as their toy, or at least a vehicle to advance their personal ideas and agendas. If Ms. Price believes that the discourse is contentious, she has to be seen more as part of the problem than part of the solution.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by BP Resident
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 25, 2014 at 1:16 pm

As a citizen/taxpayer, I'm happy to see this. Gail's pro-union, pro-development positions have contributed to a fractious political environment, a deteriorating quality of life, and an ever worsening pension bill that my children will have to pay to her union allies.

I should note that during the interactions I've had with Gail, I've always been impressed with her as a person. She's engaging and open and an all around pleasant person. I wish her the best of luck in her future endeavors.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Hooray
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 25, 2014 at 3:29 pm

I'll drink to that!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 25, 2014 at 4:05 pm

BP Resident has it precisely right. Gail Price's passions brought her into direct opposition with the residents who elected her to council. I hope she finds a meaningful role more aligned with those passions.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Kathleen
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 25, 2014 at 4:42 pm

Thank goodness Gail Price is out. We need to elect city council members that represent the interests of the citizens of Palo Alto. Gail Price was in the pocket of developers. She betrayed Palo Altans. Now if we can just get rid of Nancy Sheppard. It's hard to believe that Nancy Sheppard is the best we could come up with for mayor of Palo Alto.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Craig Laughtom
a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 25, 2014 at 6:17 pm

I think times are changing. Gail Price came from a cohort that was reflexively pro public union (including public school teachers and city workers), which came out of the 60s/70s social mandates. Her positions were rigid, unless she was forced to contend with those who opposed her in mass (e.g. the Cubberley car camping issue). Those days are coming to an end, with good reason.

She is not a bad person, and her service commitment is appreciated by me. However, she is just wrong on the issues, at this time. I wish her a good life, as she moves on.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 25, 2014 at 7:41 pm

@Kathleen,
I do think we need to finally have a full-time Council in Palo Alto. We aren't a sleepy little burg anymore and need to have people working for us. Perhaps their first job would be to cut the staff that become redudant by full-time Councilmembers. Then, we wouldn't be stuck only with those who are independently wealthy or beholden to big money around town.

If Gayle is concerned about affordable housing, I strongly urge her to consider how she could have and still can support the residents of Buena Vista Mobile home park in a way that will allow them to remain as Palo Alto residents.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Residents
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 25, 2014 at 7:43 pm

So, Greg "the fix is not in" at Maybell Scharff is running again. He's got a lot of work to overcome the many soundbites that can be used against him.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 27, 2014 at 8:11 am

The Council majority,a block vote which put Palo Alto on its present course is crumbling. This coincides with community discussions about dealing with
the impacts,questions about whose city is this,fairness,quality of life,
city character,neighborhood preservation,congestion and gridlock, environment,ugliness,safety.The City has been oblivious to all of this.
The question now is how do we deal with all this to achieve a better outcome. The City put itself in a deep hole and keeps digging. This is not just a metaphor- and if you go Downtown today you will see the digging is still going on. And the impacts keep spreading.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Bob
a resident of Community Center
on Apr 27, 2014 at 9:35 am

Price not running again? THAT is the best news I've heard in a long time. Now if only the current mayor, Nancy Shepherd, would announce that, it would really make my day. I also think Palo Alto should be divided into
"sections", the old Ward system, and have a councilmember from each district.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Residents
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 27, 2014 at 10:42 am

@ Bob,
I used to think that, too, about the sections, but I've heard some warnings about that from a friend whose opinion I trust.

I think just reducing the number of Councilmembers to 5 or 7, and making them full-time, paid positions, so that people in the South who are not independently wealthy can afford to serve, will make as big a difference. And then we can choose from a bigger pool. (We could pay for it by having the new Councilmembers' first act to be eliminating redundant City positions from having full-time Council.) This will also make city govt more transparent.

I mean, look whose from the south, Gail, and she was one of the worst ones. Granted, Greg Scharff (the best one, whom I wish we could clone) is also from the South.

Don't worry too much about the election, it seems that Nancy Shepherd didn't learn the lessons of Measure D too well, and has been busy continuing to antagonize the residents, who are now so interconnected because of that election. Unfortunately, she can do a huge amount of damage to our town between now and then, especially in the Comp Plan. Please be involved and be vigilant.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Citizen PA
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 27, 2014 at 10:45 am

Ack, sorry, there are a bunch of us posting as "Resident" "resident" "Residents" --I just realized the problem, and myself posted accidentally as 2 variants.

If I post more on this thread, will post as Citizen PA.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 27, 2014 at 11:48 am

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

So funny. Anonymous posters can't keep themselves straight. How about the rest of us?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Kay
a resident of Palo Verde
on Apr 27, 2014 at 3:26 pm

Good news! Gail has always voted as if she was in the pocket of the City workers Union and big developers. She has not been representing the citizenry of this town. Now if only Nancy Shepard would step down too.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 27, 2014 at 4:35 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

[Portion removed.] I'm very sorry that Gail Price has decided not to run in the fall. Hers is a voice of political reason in our neighborhood (Barron Park) that should be competing with others who have usurped the role of spokeswomen/men for the community, while often remaining anonymous. Thanks, Gail, for your service to Palo Alto on the school board and on the city council.



 +   Like this comment
Posted by SJL
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 28, 2014 at 8:37 am

Bob - great idea!

"have a council member from each district."


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 28, 2014 at 10:21 am

Annette is a registered user.

I join those who have expressed an interest in a smaller council and in district elections. I have a vague recollection that CC (perhaps an effort led by Kniss?)was also considering this, though coupled with a change to term length (that does have a Kniss ring to it). Perhaps Gennady can direct readers to the report on that (if there was one).

Proposal: have a meeting of all who want to see some effective changes at City Hall. Are there 10 of us or 2000? Are we organized? Can we be? Can we identify and promote viable candidates? I'm not sure what the next steps need to be but I am sure that blogging isn't going to help much.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 28, 2014 at 12:24 pm

The problem with the district concept is that there would need to be a way to modify district boundaries on a pre-determined basis and timeline.

The density of each neighborhood differs.

For example, neighborhood A may have large properties and thus has fewer people. Neighborhood B may have all apartment buildings. Neighborhood C could be mixed between apartments and small lot homes.

Using a familiar example, Barron Park may have (example) 200 adults, while Old Palo Alto has 100 adults. I don't think OPA should have the same weight of a council member as would BP, when BP has more residents.

In summary, district representation would not be as simple as you would like it to be.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 28, 2014 at 12:48 pm

I posted this previously in another thread"

>Ward politics is not a good way to run a democracy, because it does not represent the people...it mostly ends up representing activist/special interest politics. A better way is to have binding secret elections in neighborhoods that are faced with major issues. For example, which neighborhood wants welfare housing projects built in its backyard? The results of such votes will tell us what the people really want...then the laws will follow.

I prefer city-wide elections, where it is clear what each neighborhood really wants. Only a secret ballot/survey in each neighborhood can achieve that goal. If Gail Price, and her fellow councilmembers had received the results of such a secret ballot, they could not possibly claim that Barron Park wanted that PAHC fiasco in BP.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 28, 2014 at 1:00 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

District representation would mean district by district politicking, with candidates competing to convince district voters that they could bring home the bacon. City-wide interests risk taking a back seat in this situation.

I don't think it would "de-politicize" city government, as suggested in an early post here. I think the effect would be just the opposite. It would make for livelier politics, but I'm not convinced that it would mean better government in Palo Alto.



 +   Like this comment
Posted by Change needed
a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 28, 2014 at 1:46 pm

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 28, 2014 at 2:10 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

Palo Altans for Sensible Zoning can be reached at the Paloaltoville website, where you'll see the link to PASZ's own new website. While at Paloaltoville you'll see notice of a March 26 presentation in Barron Park by Mimi Steel of Citizen's Aliance for Property Rights. She addressed the Bay Area Tea Party Patriots rally in San Francisco on April 14, 2012. Video is available on YouTube.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 28, 2014 at 2:41 pm

>Mimi Steel of Citizen's Aliance for Property Rights. She addressed the Bay Area Tea Party Patriots rally in San Francisco on April 14, 2012. Video is available on YouTube.

A woman dares to support private property rights...So, what is your point?

Very strange on your part, Jerry. I just don't get it. Care to explain?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Apr 28, 2014 at 3:07 pm

Craig Laughton, you keep bringing up this "secret ballot" thing to decide what you want in your neighborhood, I don't know if you're just ignorant of, or specifically trying to invoke, a fairly recent and ugly part of history where Palo Altans used this type of voting for what they thought would "preserve neighborhood character".


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 28, 2014 at 4:19 pm

>Craig Laughton, you keep bringing up this "secret ballot" thing...

And I shall continue to do so. The results of such ballots will be made public, as soon as they are tallied. It is the only way to understand what the true sense is of a major issue in a particular neighborhood.

Preserving neighborhood character can be both good and bad. For example, CT was forced to react to those who insisted on historical housing mandates...which was a bad thing. Some of us organized, and it was defeated. On the other hand, CT organized to inhibit cut through traffic and spill over parking...that was a good thing. Either way, a secret ballot would have provided some real insight as to what CT really wanted. It is very important that a CC member be stopped from saying, "CT approves of X", without any proof. Gail Price could have been better informed, in her own narrative, if she had such information. Times change, and she was no longer with the times.

Hard to know where you are coming from, Robert, except that you claim to be not from PA.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Eric F
a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 28, 2014 at 4:46 pm

Not sure what some of the above posters are asking re Mimi Steel.

I attended Ms. Steel's standing-room-only talk at PASZ last month. I felt she raised some thought-provoking questions around the proper relationship between municipal zoning laws and mandates from unelected state bodies like ABAG. She also argued convincingly that that the interests of small cities like Palo Alto tend to be underrepresented in regional initiatives.

I am not personally a Tea Party member, but if Ms. Steel wants to talk to the Tea Party it does not bother me.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Palo Alto Native
a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 28, 2014 at 6:06 pm

I wish Gail well in her future endeavors and thank her for her community service. Being a City Council member can be a thankless task. At the same time, I also see her decision not to run for reelection as an endorsement of our growing Palo Altan movement to prevent further commercial real estate development (office space for high techs) and its corresponding demand for more dense housing via ABAG. Excellent. We can still save what's left of Palo Alto.

To ensure a more equal vote for all neighborhoods (especially South Palo Alto), I too would embrace moving toward zone candidates (based on near equal populations - like congressional districts) running for one of four parts in Palo Alto. Moreover, I like the idea of a Mayor elected for all of Palo Alto as compared to one elected by the City Council. This would also place the City Council at 5 members as compared to 9 members.

We may want to explore the concept of a full-time city council members at 80-90K per year. They would do the work that many of the "recommendation committees" now do and it will allow others to run for office that can not afford to volunteer their time. If this seems too costly (would rather have spent this on a professional council than 7 million to make California Avenue with two less lanes), then I also support keeping the City Council a volunteer position (their stipend makes this in effect a volunteer position) but explore reducing to 7 instead of 9 and thereby divide Palo Alto into 6 population zones with one mayor.

In the meantime, the focus (I hope), remains on electing anti-development NEW city council members and use of the referendum vote to overturn future votes that allow more commercial and housing developments in our city.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by please no clones
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 28, 2014 at 9:13 pm

Residents,

"Granted, Greg Scharff (the best one, whom I wish we could clone) is also from the South."

Lytton Gateway? Scharff's comment about how the building itself was a public benefit. I would not want to clone that thinking.

Am I missing something?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 28, 2014 at 9:39 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

I wish I had been here to attend Ms. Steel's presentation at the Barron Square Community Room last month. I would like to know more about the origin of some of the ideas and practices that came to the fore in the Against D campaign to overturn the Maybell/Clemo project, and I suspect her talk would have been very informative.

I found an article on the meeting in the Daily Post, but no mention in the Weekly. In addition to attacking Plan Bay Area, she also laid out ways to oppose the Grand Boulevard plan for El Camino Real.

What PAHC and the City Council failed to realize until it was too late last year, was that the campaign against the Maybell/Clemo project had less to do with the details of that project than with an overall plan to take control of city government.

There'll be no excuse for being surprised again in this election cycle. Potential candidates and the public should familiarize themselves with Citizens Alliance for Property Rights so they'll recognize their off-the-shelf arguments even when they appear to be tailor-made for Palo Alto.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Henry
a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 28, 2014 at 9:56 pm

You guys are confusing the two Greg's on Council. Scharff made comments about Lyton Gateway.

Greg Schmid lives in South Palo Alto and is awesome! He and Holman are the only two that consistently represent those of us that live and vote here.

Greg Scharff is not at all who he claims to be. He lives in North Palo. He is a wealthy real estate attorney and manages multiple large real estate investment trusts. He is former Director of Acquisitions for Prometheus Group (redeveloping Buena Vista) and served on the Board of Directors for the Political Action Group that represents Office Park Owners. He talks one way but lobbies and votes another way. If you want lots of dense development and all the costs paid for by the residents, then he's your man.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Henry
a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 28, 2014 at 10:07 pm

@ Jerry Underdal - Is there anything wrong with the majority of Palo Alto citizens wanting to "take control of city government" away from well financed business interests that do not represent our best interest. Isn't that the fundamental value of democracy. Are we really any better off being so narrow minded and bigoted that we can not live and learn from others, even if they are in the Tea Party?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by businessdecision
a resident of Menlo Park
on Apr 29, 2014 at 7:00 am

Once again, I have to wonder what value the Weekly is adding, providing an opportunity for people to waste their time making comments that are cut off if things get too nasty and censored from the start. My vote, take it away.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by ohgood
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Apr 29, 2014 at 7:47 am

[Post removed.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by please no clones
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 29, 2014 at 8:01 am

Henry,

Thank you for clarifying. Residents did say he wanted to clone the Greg Scharff, but he apparently meant Schimdt He/she mixed it up.

I would not mind cloning Greg SCHIMD if he was from North or South.

To clone Greg Scharff, we'd anyway have to see which one, as he frequently has opposing views within himself.

In general though, clones would not be a good idea because that's what we've had a majority of - cloned politicians in favor of developers.



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