When I moved to Palo Alto I knew a lot about the place I was going to live. I knew about Stanford where I was going to graduate school. I knew PA was a university town, that Stanford had a great medical complex and that the area was known for innovation -- at that time in defense electronics. I knew that I was not moving to a quiet suburb.
I think most people know what they are getting when they move to PA or a neighboring community. And if you think about it, most people should know that the world-class university town, school, medical center, shopping center and industrial park are on the cutting edge of change.
So no one should be surprised when these institutions and our area feels the pressure to "keep up with the competition" in our medical center, university, hospital and high-tech private businesses. When you are on the cutting edge of change, things will change. And in the world we live in change often means growth.
People get that when they write about grocery stores on Town Square. We know that over time the size of a competitive grocery store has increased and that grocery stores now compete with new institutions like Wal-Mart and Cosco.
Universities, medical centers and shopping centers also need to keep up with the competition. And if companies wanted to build larger space in downtown Palo Alto, are we supposed to say "sorry, it's too much traffic -- what kind of town did you think this was, the old cutting edge Palo Alto or the new only if it doesn't increase traffic or inconvenience the existing residents Palo Alto."
Does it matter that the institutions driving our growth were here first; that they were here when we moved in?
And on another matter, does it make any difference that businesses pay more than 50 percent of the city's revenues?
And, finally, should we think about future residents and businesses or only our families and our time in Palo Alto?
One of the first columns I wrote in the Weekly was about living next to the then potential site of the new public-safety building. If the building was appropriate for right outside our living room window, what right did we have to put our personal convenience ahead of the city's need?
Who says that every new development has to cause no more traffic or inconvenience or that every new development has to pay more in taxes than the associated public service costs? That wasn't the rule when Palo Alto was developing 50 years ago.
I know I don't live in a quiet suburb. I came to an exciting university town in an exciting and growing technological center. And I know that I am passing through. The university, the city and the technology center will be here when I have gone.
All developments go through a public process to balance public benefits and costs. I spend most of my professional life working for public institutions, in part trying to balance public good with private development. I will vote for a business license tax to help raise funds for city services. I do not believe that everything businesses or Stanford wants are automatically good.
But I am also willing to take a little more traffic and growth to keep up with the competition and to keep faith with those institutions that were here first and made Palo Alto great. There is a difference between "inconvenient for me" and "bad for the city."
Often I think Palo Alto residents come across as wanting all the goodies with being on the cutting edge of change and innovation but are unwilling to take the "what comes with."