My first vote for a Palo Alto City Council member went to an artist and denture technician who billed himself as the reincarnation of the Egyptian god Ptah.
Why throw away my vote? The sameness of the candidates, their backgrounds and positions almost demanded I vote for the Pan-pipe playing Ptah. With rare exceptions, I've continued that practice.
My desire for a more diverse leadership is why I cringed when the Weekly bemoaned the lack of "qualified candidates" for the City Council and school board.
In Palo Alto a candidate is generally considered "qualified" if he or she has served on several of the city's umpteen commissions, been a leader of one of its amorphous neighborhood associations or risen through the ranks of some other civic organization.
That commonly accepted definition builds a leadership cadre of people with a good grasp of community issues. But it also guarantees a sameness of thinking that stifles the creativity required to solve difficult problems.
Palo Alto is homogenous demographically but not necessarily in the opinions and knowledge needed to make it a better place to live. Fresh approaches to issues, even if impractical right now, can stimulate thinking that produces new solutions.
In the 1980s, Ptah (aka Ronald Bennett) proposed building a tunnel between Palo Alto and Half Moon Bay to ease traffic congestion. Like his candidacy, the idea went nowhere. To me, though, the ability to conjure up even fanciful solutions such as that is more important than service on a dozen boards.
La Selva Drive
Is this right?
I recently returned to find a Weekly article referring to my appeal of the conversion of Casa Olga into an 85-room hotel and restaurant and the developer's attorney basically calling me a self-serving crackpot. Yes, I support residential permit parking.
Here are facts; make your own decision.
1. Less than one-third of the more than 6,000 downtown employees are provided with parking in private or public lots/structures. Maybe 15-20 percent use transit; the rest park on residential streets.
2. Casa Olga generated few cars and little need for parking. The hotel-restaurant conversion eliminates six existing spaces but generates the need for more than 100 parking spaces for employees and guests. (Although a developer-generated report says that only 25 percent of the guests and employees will drive. Is that believable?)
3. City approval says this is OK, but in truth there is no space for any of these added vehicles. Short-term parking is for shoppers, and permits are unavailable for employees.
4. The attorney says the hotel will valet park, but where? Will they displace other already spoken-for parking in private lots or in structures with no net gain in parking?
5. Casa Olga is one of 12 approved but as yet unoccupied downtown projects in the pipeline, none of which meet their real parking needs, uses that will force 400 or more cars further into neighborhoods spreading commercial parking intrusion into another 25-plus residential blocks, diminishing the livability and values of yet more of Palo Alto's residential areas.
Is this right?