Palo Alto Weekly

News - June 6, 2014

Two more announce bids for City Council seats

Land-use watcher Tom DuBois looks to impact Palo Alto's debate about growth

by Gennady Sheyner

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, said 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 Altans 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, joining Claude Ezran, a former chairman of the city's Human Relations Commission.

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, illuminated 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."

Palo Alto mayor looks to continue community conversation about growth

by Gennady Sheyner

Mayor Nancy Shepherd has decided to run for a second term on the Palo Alto City Council.

Shepherd, a former school board volunteer who has emerged as a strong proponent for regional cooperation and an advocate for improvements to Caltrain, is the second incumbent council member to seek a new term. Councilman Greg Scharff, who, like Shepherd, was elected in 2009, also plans to run again, while Councilwoman Karen Holman has yet to declare her intention. Councilwoman Gail Price has said she will not run for a second term, while Councilman Larry Klein will complete his second and final term this year.

A resident of Palo Alto's Southgate neighborhood, Shepherd became heavily involved in civic affairs in 2008, with tensions at the time running high over California's proposed high-speed-rail program. During her five-year term, she has served as chair of the Finance Committee and, last year, as vice mayor, before her colleagues elected her to the council's highest position.

Shepherd's entry into the race brings the total number of council candidates to four, with five seats up for grabs. In addition to her and Scharff, former Human Relations Commissioner Claude Ezran and Midtown resident Tom DuBois have declared in the past week their decisions to seek council seats.

Shepherd said in a statement that her priorities for the second term include solving Palo Alto's growing parking and traffic problems. This includes adopting a residential parking-permit program and advancing the city's efforts to get drivers to switch to other modes of transportation, known as transportation-demand management.

"I want to continue the work I started to protect our quality of life and help shape the future of Palo Alto," Shepherd stated in a press release. "That's why I'm running."

She also said she wants to focus on controlling density and growth, completing the bicycle and pedestrian master plan, continuing the city's commitment to environmental sustainability and "maintaining vigilance over city revenues and expenses."

One big challenge, she told the Weekly, will be making sure Palo Alto is protected against state mandates. One consistent source of community anxiety is a requirement by the Association of Bay Area Governments that the city zone for more housing — a mandate that further exacerbates the city's traffic and parking challenges. It's important, she said, to "fight the good fight for cities and municipalities."

"It's important to make sure that Palo Alto continues to have options and opportunities and that the state doesn't take away more and more and give us more mandates to live under," Shepherd said.

In an interview Wednesday, she said she was particularly proud of her efforts to engage the community in a conversation about the city's future. Though such discussion is messy, she said it's important to her that Palo Alto is perceived more as a personable community and less as a big government imposing decisions.

"It's a real passion of mine that we don't forget what it is to have a habitat," Shepherd said. "I am trying to put a face to Palo Alto on many levels, both at the local community level but also at regional, county and state levels, so that Palo Alto has a seat at the table."

Shepherd's re-election campaign has already received endorsements from the top officials in Palo Alto's Democratic establishment, including Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian, Assemblyman Rich Gordon and State Senator Jerry Hill.

Vice Mayor Liz Kniss is also backing Shepherd's re-election bid.

"She is smart, thoughtful and truly cares about the issues facing our city," Kniss said.

Comments

Posted by History Buff, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 7, 2014 at 2:57 pm

"I want to continue the work I started to protect our quality of life and help shape the future of Palo Alto," Shepherd stated in a press release.

Would this be the same Nancy Shepherd

- Who claimed that an office building is a public benefit? Web Link

- Who complained that she was "bullied" when residents asked her to vote against a building that exceeded the 50-foot limit?

- Who said of the VTA plan to remove car lanes from El Camino, "The VTA presentation with their buses and everything is really quote enchanting just really captivating, because it shows just how sophisticated this will be. It will be a fascinating way to get people out of their cars and onto buses."? (Daily Post, May 21, 2012)

"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." George Santayana


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