Tom DuBois, a Midtown resident who jumped into Palo Alto's land-use politics during last year's heated battle over a housing development on Maybell Avenue, announced Monday that he will seek a seat on the City Council in November.
A technology executive who currently works in the video-game industry, DuBois became engaged in civic issues as part of a citizens referendum in opposition to Measure D. The referendum succeeded in shooting down an approved housing development on Maybell, which included 60 apartments for low-income seniors and 12 single-family homes. The referendum also gave birth to a new residents' group, Palo Alto for Sensible Zoning, which includes DuBois and leading Measure D opponents Cheryl Lilienstein and Joe Hirsch.
DuBois became the second non-incumbent to announce his candidacy in the past week. Claude Ezran, a former chairman of the city's Human Relations Commission, announced last week that he plans to run for the council. The nine-member council will see five seats up for grabs in November. This includes two open seats, with Councilman Larry Klein termed out this year and Councilwoman Gail Price announcing that she will not be seeking a second term. Councilman Greg Scharff will run for a second term, while Mayor Nancy Shepherd and Councilwoman Karen Holman have yet to declare their plans.
While Ezran, as the founder of World Music Day and frequent advocate for human-rights issues, brings a cosmopolitan touch to the council race, DuBois' focus has been exclusively local. He doesn't live in the Barron Park neighborhood, which led opposition to Measure D, but he wrote on his campaign website that he worked on behalf of the referendum "because of the way that the city had approved high-density development in a residential neighborhood with 12-15 homes being packed in."
He emphasized in an interview with the Weekly on Monday that his opposition wasn't to affordable housing but to the city's decision to approve denser development in a residential neighborhood.
Since then, DuBois has been an advocate for city policies that maintain existing zoning and limit office construction. He currently serves on the community panel that is helping the city draft a new Housing Element. He has also made numerous appearances at meetings of the Planning and Transportation Commission and the Architectural Review Board to advocate for policies that protect residential neighborhoods from the impacts of commercial developments.
Last year, he appealed a proposal by Grocery Outlet to get sign exemptions -- allowing for a larger sign -- for its Alma Village location, arguing that other business owners would follow suit and seek exemptions. Though his appeal faltered, his prophesy has proven somewhat accurate, with Tesla Motors, Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati and the new "Lytton Gateway" building downtown all subsequently seeking exemptions.
On his campaign website, DuBois said he became "very concerned about what I saw happening to Palo Alto several years ago."
"I noticed lots of construction; often large projects which didn't fit the surrounding neighborhoods. Traffic had become noticeably worse," DuBois wrote. "Beloved retailers were closing their doors. It was clear to me that overdevelopment was having long-term adverse effects on our quality of life especially with respect to the roads, parks and schools."
In announcing his candidacy, he argued that Palo Alto is now "at a crossroads" and said his campaign "represents an opportunity to add an advocate for residents' concerns to the city council."
"How we grow is a choice," DuBois said in the statement. "I believe in evolution not wholesale redevelopment."
He said he plans to focus on "sensible development, transparent government and balanced growth that considers cumulative impacts to traffic, parks, schools and other infrastructure."
A native of Warren, Ohio, DuBois lived in Washington, D.C., and Southern California before settling in Palo Alto in 1995. An engineer by training, he worked for numerous technology companies and led various startups. He currently works at Humble Bundle, a video-game company that allows customers to set their own prices and raises money for charity. He lives in Midtown with his wife, Erina, and two children, who are attending Palo Alto schools.
In announcing his campaign, DuBois said he is "excited to have the chance to serve the people of Palo Alto."
"I look at it as public service," DuBois told the Weekly. "I'm interested in being involved in the future of Palo Alto."