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Disputing a Council Endorsement on Attitude toward residents

Uploaded: Oct 25, 2016
I strongly disagree with one of the Weekly's endorsements for City Council. That derives from an aspect that they ignored, but that is crucially important to me: That of how the candidate regards the citizenry, and consequently how he would treat them upon being elected.

I was a member of Board of the Barron Park (Neighborhood) Association for 19 years, 11 of which were as President and Vice President. My activities included not only my going before Council and Commissions, but helping groups of residents make their own presentations. I have written about the problems and frustrations extensively in earlier blogs (see the Public Input section of my index). Despite the many times I have seen residents treated badly from the dais, I cannot remember once when a Council member or Commissioner stepped up and told the offender that he was wrong, much less that he needed to apologize to the member of the public. This includes conduct that in other organizations would have led to a formal admonition or censure.

It is not just that mistreated residents go away angry, even furious, about that one issue, but that that treatment often colors their attitude about the whole of City government for a long time. For example, in the Maybell upzoning issues, residents attempted to work within the system, but instead found their concerns dismissed, disparaged and derided. Even after the referendum, various members of the Council and Planning and Transportation Commission (PTC) still took the attitude of "We know best".(foot#1)

On these grounds alone, I think the Weekly was wrong to endorse Adrian Fine. He repeatedly expressed his hostility to a significant portion of the citizenry and to their priorities, and has strongly aligned himself with Palo Alto Forward (PAF) and related individuals and groups. Starting with the 2014 Council campaign of A. C. Johnson, "afraid of the future" has been used to disparage Residentialists. This has been a refrain in many places, including appearing in emails from the Fine campaign: "angry and fearful about the future". Another example is a Facebook comment by Council member Cory Wolbach that he "Liked".(foot#2) Remember, PAF leadership has been very publicly equating Residentialists and Mayor Pat Burt to Donald Trump(foot#3) and Fine gave a strong nod to this attack in his kickoff speech.(foot#4) Fine also promotes the theme that current homeowners are responsible for the jobs-housing balance.(foot#5) According to this theme, homeowners pushed for growth in office space to generate tax revenues to subsidize their lifestyle. This bears no relation to what actually happened in Palo Alto politics over the past decades: Those pushing the expansion of office space and the worsening of the jobs-housing imbalance are to be found among Fine's supporters.

An additional example of Fine's hostility to the "reality-based community" is his claim "This is a story that's shared by a lot of American cities: In the 1950s and 1960s we built tract homes and suburbs. Then we ceased building and increased regulation."(foot#6) He can't be that oblivious to all the housing that has recently been built--significant examples are prominently visible on El Camino at Charleston. Instead, he seems to be putting textbook dogma over observable facts.

A local elaboration of the theme blaming current homeowners has Palo Alto City Council having been dominated by Residentialists continuously since the 1970s. I first heard this from magazine essayist Kim-Mae Cutler when we were invited panelists at a Housing Forum sponsored by the Mountain View Human Relations Commission (2015-10-29), but she apparently got it from PAF because I also heard PAF leader Kate Downing making the same claim.

Millennials who are thinking of voting for Fine as a representative of their generation should pause and ask themselves whether they want to give prominence and standing to someone who will stoke generational animosity. The difference between voicing legitimate concerns and stoking animosity is that the latter involves heavy doses of falsehoods. In addition to the above, consider Fine's reported statement "Palo Alto residents who have been here since 1950 have told me, 'My generation screwed you.' " The implication that the typical homeowner has been here since 1950 is such a flagrant distortion that it is going to generate immediate animosity.(foot#7) Fine also engages in conversational tactics that antagonize people trying to have a serious discussion about serious issues.(foot#8)
Aside: I have several times (briefly) considered responding to outbursts of nonsense from PAF by writing a blog "What Palo Alto needs is LESS housing for Millennials". But the membership of PAF is more than Millennials, and the Millennials who belong to PAF are not representative of their generation (most media characterizations of a generation turn out to apply to only a small fraction when someone bothers to do actual research--10-15% seems to be common).

----Alternative Choices----
If I have convinced you that Fine is not a good choice for your vote, let me point out alternatives. If I had been considering Fine to have him as a representative of his generation, Greer Stone is the superior candidate (and younger). And if I were looking to choose someone from the pro-development / Chamber of Commerce / Palo Alto Forward "slate", I would pick Don McDougall (whom the Weekly did not endorse) or Liz Kniss, preferring the former.(foot#9)(foot#10)
Note: I disagree with both these criteria, but recognize that some readers may be using them. If these aren't your criteria, then there are other candidates that warrant your consideration.

----Considering the Weekly's Rationale----
Might the Weekly have identified countervailing attributes? One rationale given was "representative of a generation that will eventually assume leadership mantle for the city" This could also describe Greer Stone, but I judge Stone to have more of those attributes than Fine, except height, where Fine has a substantial advantage.(foot#11) However, for me this is irrelevant: City Council is not an internship program.

Another rationale given was "passionate and enthusiastic about ...", while expressing the reservations "young, relatively inexperienced and untested". Again, this could be Stone. But the differentiator again falls in Stone's favor: Fine's "two short years on the planning commission have been bumpy and his opposition to the temporary development cap (which he now says he supports) conveys some naivete." Also recognize that passion and enthusiasm as primary/independent attributes are worse than irrelevant--they can be major problems. They become positives only when combined with wisdom. Witness the admonitions "The road to hell is paved with good intentions" and "Fools rush in where angels fear to tread." I don't think either Fine or Stone have anywhere near enough experience in the relevant policy areas to have wisdom. So, if your choice comes down to being between these two, you would need to look at who their influences are. Fine is strongly aligned with Palo Alto Forward, and Stone is a protege of Council member Karen Holman.

Another rationale was Fine is "open to new ideas and strategies for the city's future." This is truly bizarre: Have you heard the City being criticized for not being open to the new? One problem the City has with new ideas is that it is too open to them, and winds up dissipating its energy over too many new ideas, and even when it chooses, execution of the idea is often a problem. Fine's blind belief in innovation suggests he has no experience with it--if he did, he would know that "innovation" merely means new ("nova") and not better, and that most innovations are failures.

Another rationale is that he has "a sincere desire to see the community he grew up in evolve in a way that preserves its character yet embraces change". If he is talking to a general audience during the campaign, yes. But for some other audiences, it is very different. In a Twitter discussion, he disparaged concerns about "compatibility" and "community character" as "an evil amoeba". He is quick to dismiss things he does agree with, for example dismissing the 50-foot height limit with "it's from the 1970s, and 50 feet is pretty arbitrary. It was just kind of chosen out of thin air at the time."(foot#12) Uh, no. It wasn't arbitrary, and it is not credible that Fine doesn't know this.(foot#13)(foot#14) Never let it be said that Fine let facts get in the way of his agenda.

----Keller-Kou video----
Advocates for Fine will likely bring up the Keller-Kou Facebook ad (video, you may need to un-mute it), so let me address it here rather than in a back-and-forth in the comments. The ad states "Developers and candidates like Adrian Fine want to push through many high-rise office and luxury condo projects. The result? More traffic and crowded schools. Lydia Kou and Arthur Keller are focused on growth that is smart and sustainable. ..." Before you condemn this as a negative ad, consider the first point from California' voluntary Code of Fair Campaign Practices: "I SHALL CONDUCT my campaign openly and publicly, discussing the issues as I see them, presenting my record and policies with sincerity and frankness, and criticizing without fear or favor the record and policies of my opponents or political parties that merit this criticism." You may want to read the remainder of the (short) Code to get a sense of what is regarded as unfair. So the ad falls into a category--comparative ad--that the Code regards as "fair" and which is encouraged in the Code's Intent section as part of a "vigorously contested" campaign.

This narrows the question to whether it was a fair characterization of Fine's position. My rule in these matters is to ignore the candidate's rationalization and to see if I myself can independently reach that conclusion from the public information. When a campaign has seen significant changes in the candidate's positions (as with Fine), I give substantially more weight to what he said earlier, including earlier in the campaign, unless he has provided a credible explanation for the change (which Fine hasn't). And I give little weight to what a candidate says during a campaign when it conflicts with what he has said in official meetings, especially when his participation was as an official representative.

Fine has talked repeatedly about "removing"--not just raising--the 50-foot height limit, and he has advocated for "tall buildings", for both office and housing. (foot#12) He has repeatedly said that we need to build more and he advocated doing that by building higher. Has Fine explicitly said that he wants that housing to be luxury condos? No. He hopes that it will be more affordable (less unaffordable?) housing, whereas extensive experience indicates much of it will be condos instead of apartments, and higher priced units rather than affordable ones. You should expect someone running for City Council to have long ago outgrown "magical thinking" and instead think in terms of the predictable consequences of the actions they are advocating. Consequently, I regard the ad's representation as passably fair, although with a quibble about the word "luxury" (I don't like it, but couldn't think of a better phrase). If I had been writing such an ad, I would have tried hard to squeeze in a few words to make the distinction.

Similarly for the claim "The result? More traffic and crowded schools." Fine's position has been to allow building now on the hope that future measures will mitigate traffic, despite the experiment with one of those being a failure.(foot#15) As to schools, I have heard no plausible mitigation.

That leaves us with the ad's claim that "...Fine want to push through many" such projects. Fine opposed the downtown office cap--although he subsequently flipped--with arguments that cumulatively amounted to "Since it isn't perfect, we should do nothing" and that it would be unfair to developers.(foot#16) And he rails against "regulations" that hamper building more. And he criticizes the city for not having built more already. I think the wording is a reasonable interpretation of what Fine has been advocating.

Please recognize that the question is now whether you or I would have put out that ad, or whether the ad is effective (or for whom). The issue is whether it is unfair.

The discussion of "negative ads" is continued + expanded in the subsequent blog: "Negative/Attack Ad? Wrong Question".

----Palo Alto Forward PAC----
"Palo Alto Forward claims 'impersonation' over PAC" (Palo Alto Online, 2016-10-24): Palo Alto Forward "members were distressed to learn that the name of their group was taken by Tim Gray, who until recently served as treasurer of their ideological rival, Palo Altans for Sensible Zoning (PASZ), and registered as a political action committee (PAC)."
First, Tim Gray should not have done this. Even though he seems to have done nothing with the PAC other than lock up its name, he definitely should have recognized the potential for mischief, and that simply registering the name would license such concerns.

Second, consider the fake outrage by Palo Alto Forward (PAF). They claim that they have no intention of ever having a PAC, but they are furious that someone has taken out of circulation for this election cycle a name that they claim they had no interest in using. While PAF has just cause to worry about future impersonation, its claim of current impersonation is completely and utterly false (no surprise for something coming from PAF): Impersonation requires an act of deception, and there are not even allegations of such.

1. Example of "We know best": Michael Alcheck (current member of the Planning Commission):
He is 32. Sees himself as member of "the next generation" and "the smallest constituency". "I don't think that the individuals that are over 55, and over 65, and over 75 always necessarily vote for what they really want. I think that they vote against change a lot because it's scary, but I don't know if they always make the same decisions in their private life that they are making on the ballot."
video, starting at 2:01:00
From my blog "Listen for Yourself: An index into 'A Conversation on the Future of the City' " (2013-12-13). This Council meeting was a follow-up to the Maybell referendum results.

2. Facebook comment by Council member Cory Wolbach that Fine "Liked":
"I find many Residentialists/NIMBYs purchased their homes around 10-20 years ago. And a lot of people can be convinced to vote Residentialist/NIMBY by appeals to fear, combined with ignorance. Fear of change, and ignorance about what causes the most frightful changes. E.g. 'More housing means more traffic,' when, in reality, smart housing policies and better transit policies could reduce the need to drive." (emphasis added)

3. Equating to Donald Trump: "A Wall Around My Country and a Moat Around My Hometown" by Mike Greenfield.
Part of larger discussion in my blog "The 'You're despicable' style of politics", 2016-09-22.

4. My blog "Candidate Kickoffs: Part 2", 2016-10-03.

5. In a recent interview "What it will take to make Silicon Valley affordable again" (Vox, 2016-08-23) he said "These regulations are at fault. As is frankly the attitude of folks who have their single family homes. They're happy with them; they don't want more people. Some folks are talking about reducing and limiting jobs."

6. Above interview in Vox.

7. Homeowners since 1950: Reality-check: There are over 70 houses in the third-mile stretch of my street. I can think of only one where the owner might have lived there since 1950. Most of the homeowners are like me--not old enough to have lived anywhere in 1950.

8. Example of Fine's discussion behavior: To a question on transportation policy during the candidate forum sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce (video), he said "solving it like we're still in the 1900s is not appropriate". Well, duh. A silly statement deserves a silly response: When Fine hears someone discussing "tailpipe emissions" does he think they mean horse manure, and that they are advocating replacing horses with automobiles, viewing them as non-polluting? When I encounter someone like Fine in a meeting, I strongly considering leaving because I expect that nothing will be accomplished.

9. The Weekly's explanation of its endorsement of Kniss indicates why I rank McDougall ahead of Kniss. First, "...lapses in homework on the issues" is an understatement of the situation--she often seems inattentive and makes far fewer contributions to the deliberations that other Council members. Second, "over-reliance on her extensive personal network of friends for input" which may be extensive but lacking in meaningful diversity. For example, at a coffee in the 2012 campaign, she showed she was unaware of all the virtually mandatory "voluntary contributions" expected of PAUSD families. And in a forum, her comment on the (low) tax burden on residents included the expectation that most of the audience (or electorate?) owned homes purchased before Prop 13. The issue isn't so much who is in the circle of personal friends, but rather whether the candidate/official understands the limitations and knows to reach outside. Contrary to the Weekly's assessment that Kniss "knows this community better than any other candidate" my experience is that she exists inside a relatively small bubble.

10. The fourth member of the pro-development / CoC / PAF "slate" is Greg Tanaka about whom the Weekly said "his reluctance to articulate his own views and values was, in our opinion, disqualifying." I fully agree, having seen nothing in this campaign to qualify him as a serious candidate other than the very serious donations he has received.

11. Leadership and height: Numerous psychology experiments have found that for males height is correlated with perceived leadership ability or status.

12. Draft minutes of the 2016-05-17 meeting of the Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) of the City's Comprehensive Plan Update, page 31.

13. Height limit: Compatible building heights are a standard part of urban design, starting with the visual character. The 50-foot limit was based on the expected configuration of buildings (feet per floor plus overhead).

14. Fine's knowledge: Fine has a Masters Degree in urban planning (U. of Pennsylvania). This should be regarded as at least a handicap. Urban planning programs are focused on a narrow range of dogma and fads that are irrelevant to most of the country, but leave their students with little appreciation of the limitations of what they are taught. This disconnect between academic theory/dogma and the real world routinely appears in Staff reports and recommendations.

15. Mitigation failure: The downtown Traffic (Demand) Management Association (TMA) is "eating its seed corn". Funding granted by the City to help get the program off the ground is instead being frittered away on subsidies to individual commuters (instead of employers being responsible for all such subsidies).

16. Unfair to developers: The interim downtown office cap of 50K sqft per year represents 70% of the average amount being built from 2008-2013 (500K sqft total). Make your own inferences from how loudly developers squawked.
"Planning commission slams Palo Alto's proposed office cap: Commissioners say proposal unfair to developers, ineffective in reining in city's pace of growth", Palo Alto Online, 2015-08-12.

An abbreviated index by topic and chronologically is available.

----Boilerplate on Commenting----
The Guidelines for comments on this blog are different from those on Town Square Forums. I am attempting to foster more civility and substantive comments by deleting violations of the guidelines.

I am particularly strict about misrepresenting what others have said (me or other commenters). If I judge your comment as likely to provoke a response of "That is not what was said", do not be surprised to have it deleted. My primary goal is to avoid unnecessary and undesirable back-and-forth, but such misrepresentations also indicate that the author is unwilling/unable to participate in a meaningful, respectful conversation on the topic.

If you behave like a Troll, do not waste your time protesting when you get treated like one.
What is it worth to you?


Posted by Spot On, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis,
on Oct 25, 2016 at 9:29 am

Spot On is a registered user.

This blog post is spot on and the best I've read so far. I was surprised at Adrian Fine attempting to run as pro-residentialist after making so many strong pro-fast-growth statements as a committee member on the PTC and CAC. That kind of deception, in my opinion, is unethical. He has also been very ineffective on the PTC. Look at his record, not what he says.

Posted by Gale Johnson, a resident of Adobe-Meadow,
on Oct 25, 2016 at 1:44 pm

Gale Johnson is a registered user.

Please stop it...on both sides. It reveals an immaturity of kids arguing on the playground. You're adults, so act like adults.

I would like all the back and forth accusations to stop and for all the candidates to focus back on the real big issues ahead. Donors, who they are, who they represent, and how much they give, isn't the really big issue. I think many of them might get a jolt and a surprise (if their candidates are elected) when candidates they supported don't vote the way they told them to or thought they would on issues. A balanced council is good. The current council has done a great job in my opinion, under Mayor Pat Burt's leadership, experience, and wisdom...and always available to be a swing vote on important issues. We'll miss him.

Posted by True Residentialist, a resident of Barron Park,
on Oct 25, 2016 at 4:26 pm

[[Blogger: "True Residentialist" is an established venomous presence on Palo Alto Online. I have not deleted this because it is illustrative of the thinking and tactics of those I have encountered surrounding Adrian Fine as supporters--ones that he seems to have made no effort to distance himself from.

Doug, let's be clear. When you say "residents' what you mean are long-time incumbent homeowners. Your favored people. There's a difference.
[[Blogger: This is a lie -- a falsehood that the speaker either knows or should know to be such that is intended to deceive.
For example, my long history with the Barron Park Association which is a Neighborhood/Residents association and explicitly includes renters.
BTW, how would I go about separating recent home buyers from longer term ones?

Remember when you said that apartments and condos were the equivalent of extended stay hotels? And argued that homeowners are just better citizens merely because they've been here longer?
[[Blogger: Two more lies.
The first sentence apparently refers to paragraph 3-4 in section "What is meant by Community" in my blog "Community or Extended-stay Hotel or ...? Part 1" (Web Link Read for yourself to see how malicious this interpretation is.
The second sentence refers to god-knows-what -- something from the fervid imagination of commenter.

You can't argue that your favored people (incumbent homeowners) are basically superior human beings and should enjoy more rights to this town, and then accuse the other side of name calling for pointing out that Palo Alto should be open to more types of people through a more open housing policy.
[[Blogger: Basic logic is that you can prove anything if you are allowed to start with false premises.

Posted by Anti-venom, a resident of Barron Park,
on Oct 25, 2016 at 6:59 pm

[[Deleted by blogger: non-specific accusation.]]

Posted by rita vrhel, a resident of Crescent Park,
on Oct 25, 2016 at 8:26 pm

Thank you Doug for a well written and referenced article.

I don't blame people for being tired of all the politics both on a national and local level.

BUT it is difficult to not speak when very pro-growth candidates suddenly start delivering a different message in an attempt to sound as if they have always favored slower growth, maintaining the 50' height limit and want to solve our horrible traffic congestion.

Supporting the above issues until the Comprehensive Plan comes before the CC (most likely mid-12017), is a very short term commitment. That seems to indicate a change in commitment, i.e. voting for faster growth, no traffic solutions and raising the 50' height limit.

I have attended several CAC meetings and know what I heard from several of the candidates regarding height limits, traffic and density. Their statements are a matter of public record. If anyone has a question as to who said what and when, look it up. Don't be fooled by a candidate's sudden change in direction.

We already have several City Council members who changed their views after their election. I will not be fooled again.

I urge all voters to check the candidate's previous statements on issues important to the voter.

I will be voting for Lydia Kou and Arthur Keller. I ask you to check their record and public statements.

You will find consistent support for affordable housing, intelligent growth, traffic solutions and maintaining the current 50' limit. You will also find a long record of community involvement and service to Palo Alto.

I will also be voting for Greer Stone. Because he is younger, his record is shorter but is rich in service to Palo Alto. Obviously someone to watch.

Thank you.

Posted by mauricio, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland,
on Oct 26, 2016 at 2:44 pm

One of the most ridiculous, and blatantly absurd argument of the limitless growth candidates such as Adrian Fine, which is the gist of the rather absurd letter he has been sending lately to voters, is that technological innovation will suffer greatly unless we allow massive housing development, densification and urbanization in Palo Alto. The PAF candidates have been repeating arguments along these lines for over two years now, supposedly using the rational that if you keep repeating a falsehood long enough, people will accept is as fact.

Posted by Douglas Moran, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Oct 26, 2016 at 3:06 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

@ Mauricio
I haven't received that letter (yet?) although I did receive the one from Fine dated 2016-10-12.

If you or anyone else would like to suggest me posting supportive materials, send them to me at the email address link at the top of the blog (apt-blog *at* dougmoran.org).

I can insert JPGs up to 600 pixels wide into the body of the blog and can put up other files on my personal website with a link from the comments. For something like a hardcopy letter, I would suggest scanning it into a PDF because readers browsers typically have better support of zooming in/out on PDFs than on JPGs.

I reserve the right to reject suggestions and to edit submissions (for example, if the submitter failed to remove his personal info from a scan of a letter, I would try to do so).

Posted by rita vrhel, a resident of Crescent Park,
on Oct 26, 2016 at 3:36 pm

@ Mauricio.. unfortunately the repeat until it is accepted as fact can be an effective strategy...it has worked wonders for Fox News...

Posted by mauricio, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland,
on Oct 26, 2016 at 5:19 pm

Adrian Fine is smart enough not so say directly in his letter that unless all those who want to live in Palo Alto must be be allowed to do so through massive urbanization and densification. In his letter he tells us he was born and raised here, is a renter and plans to start a family here with his fiancé. He tells us that PA remains a wonderful place to raise a family, serve residents of all generation, and leads the region in innovation. Than he tells us again a coupe of paragraphs later, this time in the following manner:"Palo Alto is both a WONDERFUL PLACE TO RAISE A FAMILY and a CENTER OF INNOVATION."

The conclusion is supposed to be that unless the PAF goal is achieved, Palo Alto will not be a wonderful place to raise a family and will cease to be a center of innovation. Innovators, according to this logic, must have a Palo Alto zip code. It's amazing to me that Einstein managed to developed the General Theory of Relativity without a Palo Alto zip code. This is classic, and very old subliminal propaganda, repeating an absurdity numerous times along with extreme demands, until some people start believing that unless those demands are met, all hell will break loose. His subliminal message is clear-without massive development and urbanization, both Palo Alto and technological innovation are doomed.

Posted by Resident, a resident of Old Palo Alto,
on Oct 26, 2016 at 6:42 pm

Thank you for writing this. I think the reason for the Weekly's endorsements is that they are playing it down the middle and don't want to take sides. Therefore, I look past their endorsements to the candidates that focus on what I care about, namely quality of life here in Palo Alto. I find many comments ageist and patronizing, and I am a millennial myself from Palo Alto. The developers are using the PAF folks to advance their agenda, other millennial seem entitled about living here, and the free market will not make this town an affordable place. We need to take care of firefighters and teachers, and low-income folks, but for everyone else, there is no reason to insist on living in Palo Alto. I'm not, and if I can afford a place nearby like in EPA I will be happy!

Posted by Curmudgeon, a resident of Downtown North,
on Oct 26, 2016 at 7:18 pm

"PAF leadership has been very publicly equating Residentialists and Mayor Pat Burt to Donald Trump..."

Residentialists have put themselves squarely between a big pile of money and the ruthless amoral interests who want it. They should expect exactly what they are getting. Hell hath no fury like wealth denied.

Posted by Curmudgeon, a resident of Downtown North,
on Oct 26, 2016 at 7:24 pm

"I think the reason for the Weekly's endorsements is that they are playing it down the middle and don't want to take sides."

I think the Weekly management is honestly torn. On the one side they see the truth of the Residentialist position; on the other they see their major revenue stream from the real estate industry. Do they take the high road and starve to death, or the low road and live in private shame, or do they split their bets?

Posted by Douglas Moran, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Oct 26, 2016 at 8:42 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

The appropriate focus of comments are the endorsement of Fine: the importance of the various attributes of his qualifications, the logic behind it, and/or relevant facts.

Speculation or attribution of motives behind the Weekly's endorsement are inappropriate here.

Posted by Curmudgeon, a resident of Downtown North,
on Oct 26, 2016 at 11:24 pm


You have exceeded the allowance for mutually exclusive admonitions within a single posting. Please rethink and try again.

Posted by Mike, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis,
on Oct 26, 2016 at 11:40 pm

Fine shouldn't try to dodge his own public statements and record. The fact that he is, just makes him look untrustworthy and duplicitous.

Posted by Abitarian, a resident of Downtown North,
on Oct 27, 2016 at 2:20 pm

In my opinion, the Weekly has failed to adequately consider Mr. Fine's previous *record* on the Planning and Transportation Commission (PTC).

Consider the events of little more than a year ago when City Council tasked the PTC with proposing reforms to the Planned Community (PC) zoning process.

PC projects offer developers zoning exemptions in exchange for community benefits. A fine idea in principle, but many officials and residents felt the program had been abused; specifically, in too many cases, developers were granted significant concessions without providing tangible benefits.

It was clear that City Council wanted to see guidelines and limits more clearly defined, leaving less opportunity for unrestrained wheeling and dealing.

When the PTC presented their recommendations, however, many citizens were shocked -- if anything, the proposal leaned toward removing restrictions, contrary to the Council's direction.

Most appalling was a PTC idea that would allow developers to offer cash payments to the city in exchange for zoning exceptions. Many saw the ability to "buy" zoning exemptions as rife for corruption; some even called it bribery, pure and simple.

Eric Rosenblum was reported to be the only member of the PTC to vote against the cash for exceptions plan, meaning Adrian Fine (and Greg Tanaka) supported the scheme.

See Web Link

Ultimately, City Council did not move ahead with the PTC suggestions, but the exercise gives voters valuable insight into the type of policies Mr. Fine (and Mr. Tanaka) might support if they are elected.

Given that a Palo Alto Weekly Editorial firmly urged the City Council to reject the PTC plan, it seems somewhat inconsistent that the same publication would endorse Mr. Fine, one of the proposal's architects.

See Web Link

Posted by Older Palo Altan: Agree with Gale: Stop the rants, a resident of Old Palo Alto,
on Oct 27, 2016 at 6:03 pm

[[Blogger: This commenter misuses basic words-- "tirade", "rant", and "bully"--and makes false accusations and claims about others and historic situations.

To all: As a reader, I am completely tired of this biased, unceasing tirade by the so called "residentialist" group: Doug Moran, "curmudgeon", "resident", "mauricio". Very biased for the so called "residentialists" who are the older homeowners. Gale (see above comments by Gale Johnson) is right: Stop it. It is like children on a playground. The Palo Alto Weekly attempted to be balanced. You cannot stand that as you are totally enveloped in a "separate reality" that equates your idea of "quality of life" as the desirable end for everyone. You completely ignore renters, young folk, seniors who don't have homes or support systems, people who want diversity of all kinds, people who weren't lucky enough to buy at a time when prices were affordable. You ignore the fact that you would probably not be able to purchase a home now and fault those who point that out as lazy. It's time to stop monopolizing this column. I don't always agree with Gale Johnson, but I admire her here: stop your childish rants (it is bullying behavior actually) please. You are adults, act like adults.

Posted by Gale Johnson, a resident of Adobe-Meadow,
on Oct 27, 2016 at 7:27 pm

Gale Johnson is a registered user.

For the record, I'm a male Gale.

Posted by chris, a resident of University South,
on Oct 27, 2016 at 10:22 pm

While it is likely that many older homeowners fall into the Residentialist camp, there is a signifcant group of seniors who are concerned about future housing options. It is not just millenials. The problem with residentialists is not their support of capping commercial development. The problem is they have no credible plan for aggressively creating housing and improving transportation. Across El Camino, Stanford has been doing both. It is not a matter of rocket science; it is a matter of will.

There are maybe a dozen buildings in Palo Alto taller than 50 feet (basically built before the early 70's). If Palo Alto were to double the number of buildings over 50 feet (and devote them almost entirely to housing), it would have little impact on the character of the city. Of course, it would require a transportation plan, which seems to baffle our civic leaders, particularly the Residentialists.

Posted by Curmudgeon, a resident of Downtown North,
on Oct 27, 2016 at 10:26 pm

"For the record, I'm a male Gale."

Couldn't make Hurricane grade?

Posted by Douglas Moran, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Oct 27, 2016 at 11:08 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.


> "It is not just millenials."
Disingenuous. It is not being argued that it is.

> "The problem is they have no credible plan for aggressively creating housing and improving transportation."
The pro-development group have no credible plan either.
For transportation, it comes down to:
1. Assume many people don't have cars.
2. Assume that people find housing near their jobs. Assume they don't change jobs or job locations. Assume their spouse/partner/... also works nearby.
3. Assume that the pattern of who buys/rents where is very different from existing patterns.

> "Across El Camino, Stanford has been doing both."
Stanford has a significantly worse jobs-housing imbalance than Palo Alto and has pursued policies of making it worse. Most notably was the Stanford Hospital Expansion where they successfully resisted building any housing for nurses and other support staff, instead getting City Hall agree to a plan Stanford to promote transit for those employees from rentals in the East Bay.

The new housing that Stanford has build has been largely on what were open fields. Some redeveloped complexes for more units. And Mayfield where office became housing in exchange for more office elsewhere. Notice any big open fields in the urbanized section of Palo Alto? Thought not. Or ...

> "It is not a matter of rocket science"
The battle cry of those who don't know how little they know, typically because they are unwilling to invest effort in learning the complexities of the issue.
As I said above "Fools rush in..." Or "When you can see two sides of an issue, you are just being to understand it".

> "Of course, it would require a transportation plan, which seems to baffle our civic leaders, particularly the Residentialists."
It is the Residentialists that have been pushing for transportation for decades, for example
1. grade-separation of Caltrain to support increased frequency from electrification.
2. Walkable neighborhoods
3. Neighborhood-serving retail: trip reduction, bicycle friendly
4. Bus routes: VTA and shuttle.
5. Valuing existing buildings because they provide more affordability: redevelopment raises prices.

And what about the purported pro-housing advocates?
1. Housing has routinely been the excuse to justify building more and more office space: They support giving a developer space for an additional 5, 10, ... jobs in "exchange" for one unit of housing in the building. Assuming that the housing unit isn't eliminated later in the approval process.
2. They support unrealistically low estimates of traffic and parking for a project to save the developer from paying for impacts.
3. Eliminating a neighborhood center serving many for houses for a very, very few.
4. ...

Posted by History Buff, a resident of another community,
on Oct 29, 2016 at 7:11 pm

Older Palo Altan wrote, " ... people who weren't lucky enough to buy at a time when prices were affordable."

When were prices affordable? Home prices twenty or thirty years ago might seem affordable now, but at the time -- given the fact that we weren't all billionaires with tech jobs -- they seemed pretty steep.

It's all relative. Maybe someday today's prices will seem "affordable."

Posted by Douglas Moran, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Oct 29, 2016 at 7:26 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

RE: "Older Palo Altan..." and "History Buff"

The fiction of past affordability has been beaten to death elsewhere. While it is OK for "History Buff" to not let the myth go unremarked, others should recognize that it is a matter of faith, not subject to facts or logic.

Posted by Curmudgeon, a resident of Downtown North,
on Oct 31, 2016 at 1:03 pm

"2. Assume that people find housing near their jobs. Assume they don't change jobs or job locations. Assume their spouse/partner/... also works nearby."

But doesn't this negate the holy mantra to build housing near train stations? The function of trains is to transport people out of the city, isn't it? How many mutually inconsistent things can the PAF gang advocate at a given time?

"1. grade-separation of Caltrain to support increased frequency from electrification."

Gradesep isn't gonna happen in our lifetimes. Nobody wants to pay the bill. Instead, our traffic engineers need to optimize the placement of signals and crosding gates, and their timing, to maximize safety, instead of chasing those shiny bike club award plaques to hang in city hall.

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