News

Palo Alto admits mistakes in negotiations with developer

City agrees it followed a 'flawed' process in 2012 talks with John Arrillaga over property sale, proposed development

Faced with a stinging audit from the Santa Clara County Grand Jury, Palo Alto officials this week acknowledged that they followed a "flawed" process when they privately negotiated with billionaire John Arrillaga in 2012 over a parcel of public parkland while at the same time considering his ambitious and ill-fated plan to build four office towers and a theater downtown.

However, staff took some issue with the Grand Jury's criticism of the way the city responds to public records requests, even while noting that the process can use some improvements.

The city's explanations came as part of staff's response to a June audit from the Grand Jury, which concluded that the city had "failed to meet expectations of transparency" in discussing the sale of a 7.7-acre property to Arrillaga and in failing to engage the public in its initial discussions of 27 University Ave., a proposed "arts and innovation district" near the downtown Caltrain station. The panel also criticized the city for failing to "consistently respond to requests for public records in a timely manner" and for having "operational deficiencies" in how it tracks public record requests.

Entitled "The City of Palo Alto's Actions Reduced Transparency and Inhibited Public Input and Scrutiny on Important Land Issues," the Grand Jury report also found that the city disregarded its own policies by considering the sale of what's known as the "Lee Gift Deed property" -- a parcel of parkland near Foothills Park -- without first publicly declaring it a "surplus property" and soliciting community feedback. Furthermore, it found that the city's talks with Arrillaga about 27 University Ave. were "done in a manner that was permissible but undertaken in a way to avoid public scrutiny unlike other similar large-scale projects."

In the response that was released Wednesday, city officials acknowledged early missteps in the process for 27 University Ave., a proposal that included four office towers, a new performing-arts theater and various road improvements around the transit center. Officials had briefly considered bringing this concept to a public vote but the council scrapped that plan on Dec. 3, 2012 after intense community opposition and widespread criticism about the city's lack of transparency. Sheri Furman, chair of Palo Alto Neighborhoods, was one of many to argue at that meeting that "what we gain is not worth the price." Former Mayor Dena Mossar said the public deserved to have more information about the project.

"It is wrong to continue private negotiations with a developer who has never submitted a project application," Mossar told the council. "You are spending the public's money as if you are the developer."

In a report to the City Council this week, City Manager James Keene characterized the project as one that "got off to a bad start, and certainly off on the wrong foot." Despite its proposed size and density, the Arrillaga proposal was introduced abruptly in March 2012 and designs quickly evolved with little opportunity for the public to comment. The fact that council members received private briefings from Arrillaga only made people more cynical about the process. Given the "dramatic change the concept presented for the area, it is natural that many folks would take the concept as a surprise and for many, out of character with the city," Keene wrote.

"More importantly, the scale of the potential project, particularly building heights, far overshadowed potential public benefits related to a new regional theater, significant parking, and improvements to the intermodal transit center and surrounding road network," Keene wrote.

Accepting the Grand Jury's conclusion, Keene concluded in his report that "there was a lack of clarity of objective and transparency at the start of the consideration of 27 University."

"Council changed that mid-course but much damage had been done to the project's possibilities and to confidence in the process," Keene wrote.

Staff largely concurred with the Grand Jury's recommendation that the city should "obtain early input from its constituency about significant development proposals before allocating City funds to the proposals," a reference to the city's $250,000 allocation for design work on the Arrillaga concept.

"Early input from constituents is critically important," the city's response states. "City staff is placing an increased emphasis on early and effective public engagement in planning efforts."

At the same time, the city's response maintains that it is "sometimes true that complex concepts require preparation in order for the public to have significant substantive material to react to and provide input on."

Officials were less accepting of the Grand Jury's findings that the city "does not consistently respond to requests for public records in a timely manner." This determination was based on the Grand Jury's review of the city's log of public records requests, which in some cases omitted entries or did not include a response date. The panel also submitted two public records requests of its own. In one case, it received a request within the statutory 10-day limit. Another request, made by email, received a response from the city 19 days later.

Palo Alto officials acknowledged in their response Wednesday that when it comes to public-records requests, the city's practices "are not perfect in every case and could be improved." They also agreed that the city's tracking system "does not capture all requests and responses and could be improved." But they disagreed with the notion that these practices "fall outside reasonable customary and even best practices in the area."

"The City receives many requests for routine information eery single day and does a good job of responding promptly to the public," the response states.

The response noted that the city has recently made some improvements to the process, including a FAQ section on the city's website and an online form that people can fill out. Officials are also "exploring additional software solutions to automate tracking and responses to Public Records Requests" and planning more training for city staff.

Much of the Grand Jury report focused on the city's process for negotiating with Arrillaga on the 7.7-acre parcel of undeveloped land next to Foothills Park, a parcel that the council last month officially dedicated as "parkland." The land was donated to the city by the family of Russell Lee in 1981, with a stipulation that the "property shall be used for conservation, including park and recreation purposes." It is located next to Arrillaga's property and the developer at one point leased it from the city to store construction materials while making renovations on his own property.

The Grand Jury report criticizes the city for not following its own policies in discussing the land sale. The policies require the city to notify appropriate departments and other public agencies about the availability of "potential surplus city property," prepare a report for the City Council and then obtain an independent appraisal and go through a formal bid process. When the council negotiated privately with Arrillaga, it did not follow these policies, the Grand Jury found. The property was never declared "surplus" and public agencies were not notified about its availability.

Palo Alto officials wrote in the response that the city has "implemented procedures to ensure public debate about disposition of real property well before transactions are finalized, and also understands that greater attention must be paid to open public process early and in any potential transaction." At the same time, the response noted, "a recommendation to always seek public input before meeting lawfully in private to discuss a parcel of City-owned real property exceeds the requirements of local and state law and should not be implemented in a manner that may injure the public interest."

The city also disagreed that the deed restrictions requiring the property to be used for parks precludes the city from selling the land.

"A private party, non-profit entity or other governmental entity could comply with this deed restriction," the city's response states. "There are many such parcels of land throughout the Bay Area and the state. Thus the deed restriction did not prevent the City from selling the property. The new owner would have been obligated to meet the deed restriction."

Related content:

Editorial: A half-hearted mea culpa

Comments

 +   9 people like this
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 4, 2014 at 7:28 am

The City willfully and deliberately subverted public disclosure requirements regarding the sale of the 7.7 acre parcel next to Foothill Park. The meetings and negotiations were held in locations and with numbers which were designed to avoid disclosure requirements. The entire process was a disgusting abuse by City officials.


 +   8 people like this
Posted by Voter
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 4, 2014 at 8:50 am

Apologies are nice, but who has been fired, demoted, or reassigned as a result of this abuse of the public trust?

I'm disappointed but not surprised. The public sector needs to shape up, because a sorry pattern is emerging. Abuse power illegally -- get caught -- say sorry -- implement bogus, ineffective procedures to give the appearance of caring, repeat. We should not allow James Keene and company to call fouls on himself.

This starts at the top unfortunately. It reeks of Greg Scharff trying to run as a "residentialist" in this coming election. First he spearheaded an effort to upzone a residential neighborhood to RM-60, then after getting spanked at the ballot box, he touts the fact that he supported a temporary moratorium on the very bad behavior he perpetrated.


 +   8 people like this
Posted by Veritas
a resident of another community
on Sep 4, 2014 at 8:55 am

This latest City of Palo Alto scandal combines the typical lack of transparency in City Hall with the typical insider dealings by City officials, at least one of these officials later leaving the public payroll to become a front man for big-time developers. A perfect storm of shoddy municipal government ethics. Time to clean out City Hall! Time to make government transparency and high ethical standards the norm rather than the exception at Palo Alto City Hall. Time to clean up the organization culture at 240 Hamilton Avenue!


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Silly
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Sep 4, 2014 at 10:09 am

The city says it "will seek input" but it sure doesn't say it will listen any more than it currently does to the outrage of its community about growth, traffic, planning, etc.

Voter's comments above are worth repeating, especially since Scharff wants to reduce the size of the City Council while unilaterally deciding to lengthen the terms of incumbents, a clear power grab.

"This starts at the top unfortunately. It reeks of Greg Scharff trying to run as a "residentialist" in this coming election. First he spearheaded an effort to upzone a residential neighborhood to RM-60, then after getting spanked at the ballot box, he touts the fact that he supported a temporary moratorium on the very bad behavior he perpetrated."

Vote out Scharff and Shepherd! Tell your friends & neighbors.


 +   14 people like this
Posted by Bob
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 4, 2014 at 10:24 am

The time has come for Jim Keene to go. Too much bad government has happened on his watch, too many of his friends hired for six-figure jobs, too many "mistakes". After Benest we had hoped for something better.At the same time Scharff and Shepherd have to be retired. If these kinds of mistakes happen at THE Silicon Valley leaders, top management would not last long.
The ARB needs a total housecleaning as well as the Planning Commission. This city is a civic Roman candle about to go off. How do we get rid of the present commission members who appear to be clueless to what the RESIDENTS want and what is BEST for Palo ALto.


 +   2 people like this
Posted by The Shadow knows...........
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 4, 2014 at 10:36 am

Is any one taking odds on whether Jim Keene will make it to the 10 year longevity employment goal he expressed when he was hired by the then City Council in September 2008?


 +   10 people like this
Posted by boscoli
a resident of Monroe Park
on Sep 4, 2014 at 10:56 am

The ties between the city council, its staff and big developers like Arrillga is so scandalous that should be investigated by the police and perhaps the FBI. Council and stuff members have been acting as front people for the big developers and betraying the residents. I believe that every single current council members should not run for reelection and /or resign if their term is not up. The city staff needs profound overhaul.


 +   10 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 4, 2014 at 10:57 am

The Manager's relationship with billion dollar corporation Palantir is also problematic.
Lots going on there, including seven (7) mid morning coffee shop "chats" June 19 run by the City Manager and his staff. Lots of staff time devoted to this. The the tech workers who showed up at the Council didn't just happen by accident.
The Grand Jury Report is just the tip of the iceberg.


 +   9 people like this
Posted by Resident of PA
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 4, 2014 at 10:59 am

City Manager Keene needs to be investigated for corruption. The city council and others at city hall also need to be investigated for corruption.
Keene needs to be fired now.


 +   6 people like this
Posted by Reminder
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 4, 2014 at 11:46 am

Please keep these reports in mind if you may have any inclination to vote for Greg Sharff or Nancy Sheppard in November.


 +   9 people like this
Posted by Mama
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 4, 2014 at 11:58 am

The way I see it Arrillaga owes Palo Alto taxpayers the $250,000 the city idiots spent on his project.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Chuck Jagoda
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 4, 2014 at 12:09 pm

Chuck Jagoda is a registered user.

Does this report and the comments already made help shed any light on why and how developers and the City have so successfully and for so long avoided building affordable housing and everyone but the very richest of the 1% are being driven out of the City by ever-rising and astronomical housing costs?

Do the rich realize that the present course will inevitably lead to the end of diversity and the subsequent economic collapse of the golden goose they've been so carefully grooming for so long?

If we poor don't save them from themselves the rich will surely tear the whole golden structure down.

The UN just condemned the US's criminalization of homelessness. If those who favor criminalizing homelessness in Palo Alto would pay some of that attention and resources to building affordable housing-- the great place Palo Alto used to be can still be saved.

Anyone for giving up on and condemning wanton greed?


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Concerned Retiree
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 4, 2014 at 12:15 pm

And, let us not forget Karen Holman, championed by many neighborhood leaders as being pro-neighborhood, who took thousands of dollars from developer Steve Pierce. She is running on a protect the neighborhoods platform, but is far more suspect, despite being cleared by the CA Attorney General.

A vote for Karen is a vote for a large, non-zoning compliant project, if not this year, than next.


 +   7 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 4, 2014 at 12:18 pm

If the City hadn't been "caught" would the behavior continue? I think the answer is YES. The report exposed the City Manager's style and approach as well as some flaws at the Council level. As the saying goes, zebras don't change their stripes; I think the behavior is likely to continue unless there's a new Council majority.


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Rupert of Henzau
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 4, 2014 at 12:22 pm

Well said, concerned retiree. Holman voted for maybell. She was part of the secret meetings on the arillaga project. She tried to get some up zoning for her finder fee buddy. Yet she gets a pass from the people here that blame scharff and shepherd. I wonder why?


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Resident A
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 4, 2014 at 12:31 pm

Thought something fishy with that foothill parcel. If I remember it correctly, a previous article says the parcel was sold for $100-200k. Does it sound reasonable in the palo alto market?
We certainly don't want city managers selling our city at a deep discount to developer.
Someone needs to take responsibilty of such missteps,(intentional or unintentional).


 +   7 people like this
Posted by David Pepperdine
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 4, 2014 at 12:37 pm

This city is suffering from an intestinal obstruction, consisting of its cerebral organ.


 +   7 people like this
Posted by pissed off
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Sep 4, 2014 at 12:39 pm

First, in the city where land and real estate cost like gold, the public needs a laser-sharp focus on how these issues are being handled. There is a fertile ground for corruption, obviously.

Second, to make our rumbling here meaningful there has to be a citizens' movement with the focus on the council election. Something like the group at Maybell that made the Prop D (?) happen.

Does anyone know of any such group, or movement? If no, it has to be created. We need to be standing at all crossings and stores with flyers and posters. Otherwise, the public will vote the same individuals in all over again and we'll continue downwards into chaos.


 +   7 people like this
Posted by pissed off
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Sep 4, 2014 at 12:41 pm

If $100-200k for a 7 acre parcel is true, that has to be investigated. That is pocket change for people like Arillaga.


 +   3 people like this
Posted by Silly
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Sep 4, 2014 at 12:43 pm

Rupert, I believe Holman gets a pass because she was exonerated when it was proved she was accused on trumped up charges by political opponents. At least that's what was being reported.

Others may have more background on this than I do.


 +   8 people like this
Posted by RT
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 4, 2014 at 12:47 pm

There is so much to be proud of in Palo Alto, but city governance is not one of them. I would like to see pressure on Jim Keene to resign, and, very importantly a clean sweep of City Council. Too many wrong approaches, too much hubris, never an admission of wrong doing and all the while our wonderful city is being destroyed by developers and out of control growth. In the Arrillaga matter the grand jury had no axe to grind or reason to favor one side, and yet,clearly found profound wrong doing on the part of the City and City Council. We deserve better. The elections are coming.


 +   4 people like this
Posted by John
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 4, 2014 at 12:50 pm

"Palo Alto officials acknowledged in their response Wednesday that when it comes to public-records requests, the city's practices 'are not perfect in every case and could be improved.' They also agreed that the city's tracking system 'does not capture all requests and responses and could be improved.'"

Did you notice that they said "could be improved," but they never said "would be improved?"


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Rupert of Henzau
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 4, 2014 at 12:50 pm

Silly- her " exoneration" deals only with the conflict of,interest claim. And actually, the charges were not " trumped up" and we do not know wether it was a " political opponent" that filed the complaint. It could have been a concerned citizen made the complaint. I know the narrative by Holman and her acolytes plays better for them when you claim " trumped up charges by political opponents" then she can play the victim card.
She still voted for maybell she still was part of the secret meetings and she still tried to,push through some up zoning for her buddy. Why does she get a pass, while others are taken to task for the same actions? I wonder why


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Resident of PA
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 4, 2014 at 12:55 pm

[Post removed.]


 +   5 people like this
Posted by Ellie
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 4, 2014 at 12:56 pm

All you have to do is actually compare Holmans voting record to Shephard and Scharff and you see why Holman is light years better than the other two. And as good if not better than anyone else on Council. She is the definition of a real residentialist.You shoot yourself in the foot if you don't vote for her. And you are in denial if you don't know that Scarff and Kniss were behind the complaint about her - as I remember both were linked in news articles. Kniss is scared she won't be mayor (the reason she ran again last time). And Scharff is just scared.


 +   5 people like this
Posted by Kathy
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 4, 2014 at 1:06 pm

Palo Alto council and Mr. Arrillaga---You have changed Palo Alto for the worse! Too bad you couldn't continue to make your town residents proud of you instead of the route of political corruption. You should all be embarrassed!


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Maybell Watcher
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 4, 2014 at 1:51 pm

Karen not only voted for the Maybell project she coauthored and signed the ballot statement in favor of it. She also voted the same way and acted in the same manner as Scharff and shepherd on Arriaga and the 7 acres


 +   3 people like this
Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 4, 2014 at 1:54 pm

I am unimpressed with this type of "dealings" - repeatedly found out about our elected city officials as well as some city staff who are well compensated and given public trust to operate for the best interests of Palo Alto residents. It is too bad. It is important to remember this behavior, questionable, unethical. I particularly feel it is important for these persons to be honest and follow the law and also be ethical. I do not support voting for such persons or having such persons in positions of authority at high salaries paid by taxpayers. I hope when these persons move on to their next professional positions, these episodes of their behavior will be publicized. Perhaps linking all this to...LinkedIn or similar. Wider knowledge will prevent them from pulling this kind of stuff elsewhere.


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Good for the goose
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 4, 2014 at 2:00 pm

". And you are in denial if you don't know that Scarff and Kniss were behind the complaint about her"
Ellie--you are engaging in the same behavior that Holman and her supporters claim is so abhorrent--making anonymous, trumped up claims about council members. Are you on Holman's re-election committee??


 +   2 people like this
Posted by My Take
a resident of Greendell/Walnut Grove
on Sep 4, 2014 at 2:00 pm

Yeah, not mistakes. Corruption.


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 4, 2014 at 2:37 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

Maybell Watcher and others,

Do you not see the difference between support for the affordable housing project at Maybell for very low- and low -income seniors and the other matters that you are exercised over in your assessment of Karen Holman?


 +   3 people like this
Posted by Ronna Devincenzi
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 4, 2014 at 2:56 pm

I believe it's wrong to assume bad motivations about anyone, preferring to give the benefit of the doubt. If an assumption were made, it could just as easily be an official was interested in putting their ducks in order, prior to bringing it to the public.

Corruption is a strong word when used for any city official, and regarding whoever made the complaint, if a person is anonymous, he/she ought to remain that way. It's counterproductive to make unsubstantiated allegations, based on little more than speculation about having read newspaper articles.

But with all that said, one would think by now, 5 years after the 2009 Cal Ave tree clear-cut & the subsequent stopping of Phase Two of the Streetscape Project due to outrage by the general public after not being properly engaged by the city, an oversight about which the city agreed & remedied when that project recommenced in 2010, Palo Alto city officials would by now have the processes of initiating new projects and Civic Engagement down pat.

Like John, from Barron Park, I find this quote troubling, "Palo Alto officials acknowledged in their response Wednesday that when it comes to public-records requests, the city's practices 'are not perfect in every case and could be improved.'"

If this Grand Jury report does not serve as a huge wake-up call to City Hall, I don't know what will. Everyone involved is wise to heed what Dena Mossar voiced in this article.

If things continue as they have been, good intentions will never be enough. Actions must be altered, policies changed, ensuring transparency, accountability and real collaboration among all interested residents and stakeholders.

No more hollow apologies should come out of City Hall from any direction, for matters such as this type. There needs to be substance behind all the words. The first thing to admit is that not only is the process not "perfect", but it's not even good. No more spin. Time to call a spade, a spade.


 +   6 people like this
Posted by Oh My
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 4, 2014 at 3:10 pm

Why is Keene still Palo Alto's city manager? Does he possess information incriminating current city council members or do Arrilliaga and other developers simply benefit and keep Keene in office to keep the "open door" anything goes policy intact? The comments made by Keene in this article and other local media outlets shows he has little respect for residents and little if any vision for our city. Keene's continued hiring of his unemployed friends to fill senior management positions ( many with no official duties or responsibilities), only further shows his contempt and disrespect for city funds and resources. What a pity!


 +   6 people like this
Posted by Marcie
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 4, 2014 at 3:12 pm

Jim Keene definitely needs to go.

I've been wondering what happened to the city planners that jumped ship to work for Arrillaga? Did they come back to the city? Hopefully not!


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Sylvia
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 4, 2014 at 5:26 pm

Ronna, I appreciated your thoughtful, well written comment. Many citizens are concerned about the level of growth in our city. I think it's a far cry from being concerned to use the word "corruption".


 +   5 people like this
Posted by pat
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 4, 2014 at 5:30 pm

> there has to be a citizens' movement with the focus on the council election. Something like the group at Maybell that made the Prop D (?) happen.

The Against Measure D group morphed into Palo Altans for Sensible Zoning: Web Link Three of their members are running for council: Eric Filseth, Tom DuBois, Lydia Kou.

Keene is a Teflon kind of guy. Nothing sticks to him. Remember, the council gave him not one but TWO big raises this year. "Keene, was the city's highest paid employee last year with a base salary of $247,187 and total compensation of $264,488 (including benefits), will see two salary bumps. 'merit pay,' would raise his base salary to $254,603, . The other pay bump would push it to $262,241, He would also receive one extra vacation week per year, raising his vacation hours from 200 to 240."

City Attorney Molly Stump also got a big raise: " Stump will see the largest increase. Her salary will jump from $214,635 to $234,936, a 9 percent increase." Web Link

If you want real irony, go to the 2014 approved operating budget at Web Link

Look at the City Attorney's goals and objectives (page 82):

Objective: Create user‐friendly tools to assist new and existing employees to comply with public service requirements, such as ethics, conflicts of interest, open meeting and public records laws

This measure is important because timely processing of claims demonstrates responsiveness to residents' concerns

In the fall of 2013, the Office will conduct an annual training on the Brown Act as well as identify other areas where training may be useful and relevant to staff.

City Clerk's goals and objectives (page 99):

Goal 1: Lead the agenda managment process and records management program promoting transparency, accountability and effective service delivery.

Goal 2: Respond to the legislative needs of the City Council, Staff, and the community in a timely and effective manner

City Manager's pages (107 – 111):

- Facilitate citizen involvement, innovation, and transparency in the City's operations

Citywide Administrative Oversight: ensures City operations demonstrate transparency and fiduciary responsibility to the public; .

Public Communication: Fosters an informed and engaged community; develops mutual understanding and support between City government and the community by proactively communicating public information, creating and supporting community partnerships and facilitating citizen involvement.

Key Accomplishment: Enhanced transparency and civic engagement via a re‐design of the City's website and deployment of an open data platform which provides a wealth of easily consumable data about City operations

Goal 4: Promote and sustain citizen participation and engagement in public matters

Objectives:
- Expand outreach efforts to broaden citizen participation in local government and community matters
- Ensure timely and responsive resolution to citizens' inquiries
- Preserve transparency and enhance communication with the public


 +   3 people like this
Posted by Larry
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 4, 2014 at 6:00 pm

Everyday I walk out onto the streets of Palo Alto and am sickened by what it has become. The entire city council and city manager should be dismissed.


 +   3 people like this
Posted by Longtime citizen
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 4, 2014 at 6:33 pm

I have lived in Palo Alto since I was a child. I, too, am sickened with what Palo Alto has become.
1) Filthy streets
2) Massive, hideous development
3) Traffic jams
4) No parking
5) Corrupt city government
[Portion removed.]
7) The tearing down of lovely Birge Clark homes and other classic structures
8) Techies working in Palo Alto, showing no respect for the residents of PA, who pay the high taxes for infrastructure
9) A potentially corrupt city council that bows to the wishes of developers
10)Greedy developers building oversized buildings with inadequate parking

At some point, Palo Alto will not be a desirable town. [Portion removed.]


 +   5 people like this
Posted by No mistakes here...
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 4, 2014 at 6:38 pm

Mistakes are UNintentional, and are forgiveable. Corruption is quite the opposite.

What we have here in Palo Alto is bald-faced corruption on the part of the city manager, some of the city council members, the planning commission, the ARB, and the developers--one in particular.

Now it is visible enough, and severe enough, to warrant an investigation. Hopefully, those involved will lose their jobs, pay big fines, maybe even do some jail time when found guilty.

If you can't do the time, don't do the crime!


 +   4 people like this
Posted by Eric F
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 4, 2014 at 11:19 pm

>> there has to be a citizens' movement with the focus on the council election. Something like the group at Maybell that made the Prop D (?) happen.

> The Against Measure D group morphed into Palo Altans for Sensible Zoning: Web Link Three of their members are running for council: Eric Filseth, Tom DuBois, Lydia Kou.

--------------------------------

Measure D is history now, and I want to point out that Tom, Lydia and I are not specifically running as a "slate," but we share a common concern that there's a growing disconnect between City practices and resident values, particularly where development is involved; and that there's a real need for a "resident-centric," not politics-centric, profile on Council this cycle. Like most people on this board, we're displeased with the actions documented in this article, and would drive different practices.

The fact is, it's an uphill challenge. The other side is well organized, well-funded and well connected, and many people in town are simply too busy to spend a lot of time studying the nuances of City business (that's why you hire a city government, to take care of this stuff for you).

Nevertheless, this is a critical election. City Hall reports to the Council. What you can do is:

- Learn as much as you can about all 12 candidates, especially their voting record where there is one.

- Make sure everybody you know is aware as well

- Cast a thoughtful vote on November 4

Regards, Eric

(And post a lawn sign, if you can, for the people you believe best)


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by My Take
a resident of Greendell/Walnut Grove
on Sep 5, 2014 at 8:34 am

Corruption defined in the OED.
1 Dishonest or fraudulent conduct by those in power, typically involving bribery:
the journalist who wants to expose corruption in high places

1.1 The action of making someone or something morally depraved or the state of being so,

1.2 ARCHAIC Decay; putrefaction:
the potato turned black and rotten with corruption

2 The process by which something, typically a word or expression, is changed from its original use or meaning to one that is regarded as erroneous or debased.


 +   4 people like this
Posted by Need another Grand Jury
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 5, 2014 at 10:20 am

We need another Grand Jury investigation even though we know a lot of what is going on. We need independent confirmation for those who want to see no evil.
Investigation should include what is going on between the Manager and Palantir.


 +   2 people like this
Posted by The Shadow Knows....
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 5, 2014 at 10:38 am

I am told by former City employees that preliminary conceptual discussions with Arrillaga actually began in 2010, not 2011. It is said that then Deputy City Manger Steve Emslie was involved, among others. It appears that the City has not yet provided full disclosure and transparency.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Ballots not Bullets
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 5, 2014 at 12:26 pm

To the city council members who criticize the PAUSD Board for lack of transparency: seriously?


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Wondering?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 5, 2014 at 1:06 pm

Wonder if anyone really cares about what goes on at City Hall, as long as they get the goodies that they have been promised?

Do the people who are library lovers really care if there is corruption, or mismanagement, at City Hall—as long as they continue to get an endless supply of free books?

Of the supporters of the Children's Theater? How many of them care about waste in government, as long as they get their subsidies?

And then there are all of the people who now have an airport that is heavily subsidized by the Palo Alto taxpayers (no rent for the land). Same is true of the golf course. And given the high number of non-residents using these facilities—why would any of them give two hoots and a holler—as long as the money keeps flowing their way?

The City Council has almost never had anything bad to say about any of the Staff. June Fleming was a disaster—and she was not fired. Benest sort of got the boot, but he was not fired. And Keene seems to be almost invisible—so it would be hard to even find him to tell him to pack up and move out.

The Council was silent when the Utility came under scrutiny over the moon-lighting employees. No one was ever really fired, although some of the management did sort of "disappear".

The Auditor never really seems to see anything of import in her reviews, and the Civil Grand Jury doesn't really have any teeth.

It's hard to believe that the Council will spend much time on this when they get around to discussing the City Manager's response. None of them seem to have had much to say about the Report so far.

It's kind of instructive to review James Keene's arrival to Palo Alto, and see just how close to the mark his performance has been—

Web Link

The comments are interesting, as always.

In the long run, does anyone really care?


 +   5 people like this
Posted by Clean Up City Hall!
a resident of another community
on Sep 5, 2014 at 2:58 pm

The former Deputy City Manager was up to his eyeballs in these insider negotiations. He worked under Keene' direction. He "retired" when the scandal was about to break but landed a cushy job npromoting big money developers plans. "Corruption", not "mistake", is the most appropriate term for this behavior.


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Posted by Cur Mudgeon
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Sep 5, 2014 at 4:50 pm

Why am I not shocked and dismayed at all of this? BAU in the Palo Alto of today.


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Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 6, 2014 at 11:34 am

"Voter" above got it exactly right -

>> The public sector needs to shape up, because a sorry pattern is emerging.

>> Abuse power illegally -- get caught -- say sorry -- implement bogus, ineffective procedures to give the appearance of caring, repeat.


Talk is cheap and profitable and lies can be especially profitable. Well said "Voter". White collar criminals steal enough so that they still profit bit time even after they pay their fines .... that is, if they ever get caught and then convicted.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 7, 2014 at 10:12 pm

Annette is a registered user.

Thank you, Shadow, for providing the link to the Tucson article about Keene. I had read it previously and it caused me to to wonder what sort of due diligence is done prior to filling high level mgmt positions. Responsibility for wise hiring is yet another reason why we need to elect good, smart, ethical people to City Council this time around. To my way of thinking, this excludes voting for any candidate who finds it necessary to re-brand him/her self so as to garner votes. I think this town would be best served by having a non-political Council comprised of good citizens willing to serve the community rather than politically-minded people keen on their own self interests and/or inclined towards cronyism.


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Posted by disgusted
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 1, 2014 at 9:10 pm

Is it true Arrillaga is involved with the city on pushing the super bridge located at Edgewood/Newell? I've heard they want to develop a commercial center where the EPA apartments are. A super bridge would allow for the increase in traffic needed to sustain the new development. EPA residents would lose their housing. Are residents of both cities being lied to?


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Posted by Jo Ann
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Oct 1, 2014 at 10:32 pm

I'd love to hear the answer to disgusted's question above. What we do know is that he's very involved with the proposed big office development on El Camino in Menlo Park where the empty car dealers are.

See all the articles on Measure M and their estimates of increased traffic from this development. Again, this is a regional issue.


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