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Tanaka resurfaces false 2016 accusation against Burt: PA City Council election

Uploaded: Oct 5, 2020
Toward the end of the City Council Candidate Forum hosted by Palo Alto Neighborhoods, candidates were asked to direct a question to another candidate. Greg Tanaka's question to Pat Burt resurfaced a false accusation against Pat Burt, and I have been seeing that false accusation being repeated in other forums. So I am going to address it before it goes any further, or so that you, dear reader, can punch back at the people spreading this "falsehood".

Disclaimer & Disclosure: I have no connection to either the Burt or Tanaka campaigns, although I am working on the campaign of another candidate in that race. I have consulted with neither the Burt nor Tanaka campaign about this blog.

Briefly, Greg Tanaka contended that in 2016 Burt had advocated banning software development in Palo Alto. Pat Burt responded that he had been misquoted and explained. In summer 2016, it was still news that the New York Times was pumping out fake news, so there was lots of media coverage of the actual situation. Tanaka was a candidate for City Council at the time and should have been aware of those follow-ups. I am surprised that he doesn't at least remember that "ban software development" was shown to be nonsense.

In his question to Burt, Tanaka presents a contradiction: He can't see how Burt could have made such a statement, but he is not skeptical enough to have checked if he did. With a single, simple web search, I found the follow-up articles.

Basic context: In 2016, Pat Burt was mayor and a termed-out Councilmember. The issue of Palo Alto's development policy had become international headlines when a member of the Planning and Transportation Commission, Kate Downing, resigned and published a very partisan pro-development statement. The pro-developer advocacy group Palo Alto Forward, of which Kate Downing was a leader, was hostile to Burt, for example, equating him to Trump.

Google had started in offices in the University Avenue downtown and had gobbled up offices until it moved to Mountain View. Facebook followed the same pattern, with the move to the Stanford Research Park. In 2016, it was Palantir.

The problem was that a healthy downtown would have many categories of offices: small businesses and the small business that supported those small businesses. For example, accountants, insurance, marketing/graphic design, the venture capitalists. The past, and desired, pattern was that start-ups had small offices in downtown and moved into office parks when they got a bit larger.

During the consideration of how to keep large tech companies from further destroying the business ecosystem of downtown, it was discovered that software and hardware research and development was not allowed under the current zoning of University Avenue. Being explored was a change to the zoning code to allow small software companies (and others) in the University Avenue downtown. To the New York Times, this was a desire to ban software development everywhere in Palo Alto.

----Details - if you are that curious ----

Greg Tanaka question (full text):
Automated translation with some corrections and basic dysfluencies removed.
^Listen for yourself @1:40:19^.
"Back in, I think what, 2016 you made the cover of New York Times talking about how you want to ban software development in Palo Alto. I'd love to understand your view. You know tech has been kind of the center of our city for some time. HP started here, and for me to drive out innovation from our city seems so counter -- it doesn't seem like that's Palo Alto, the values of Palo Alto. So I'd like to see you know because if anyone Googles 'pat burt new york times' , you'll see this article that comes up about how the Mayor of Palo Alto is trying to drive out software development -- we're trying to ban software development and I don't understand that. So love for Pat Burt to explain why he was doing that, and why that makes sense for our city."

Pat Burt response (full text):
^Listen for yourself @1:41:05^.
"So first, that's not what I ever said and it was clarified in several other publications. That author actually took a and misrepresented and characterized what I said and put quotation marks around it. But I never said it. What I did say is that unrestrained office development was doing creating imbalance and harming our region more than anything else. And that if we were going to have a jobs and housing imbalance, that we needed to address that and I supported retaining the office cap in the downtown. So I disagreed with you on the amount of office development where you propose a triple the amount of office development that we now are allowing under our Comp Plan. And I supported retaining it a cap on the downtown so we would be able to actually build more housing downtown. And I supported a business tax so that we'd be able to fund that housing, contrary to your positions. Thank you."


"^Message to Tech Firms From Palo Alto Mayor: Go Away. Please.^" - The New York Times, 2016-08-30. (independent archived copy - fake news doesn't deserve ad revenue).
"...the mayor of Palo Alto has an unusual message for some of the cash-flush tech companies based here: Go away. Please.//'Big tech companies are choking off the downtown,' Mayor Patrick Burt said. 'It's not healthy.' ... the mayor is looking to enforce, in some form, an all-but-forgotten zoning regulation that bans companies whose primary business is research and development, including software coding. (To repeat: The mayor is considering enforcing a ban on coding at ground zero of Silicon Valley.)"

Example follow-on article: "^No, Palo Alto isn't going to ban coding^" by Devin Coldewey, TechCrunch, 2016-09-01.

An ^abbreviated index by topic and chronologically^ is available.

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----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.
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If you behave like a ^Troll^, do not waste your time protesting when you get treated like one.
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Posted by Midtown Resident, a resident of Midtown,
on Oct 5, 2020 at 9:24 am

Midtown Resident is a registered user.

Is the Palo Alto Online a local newspaper or a Lydia Kou campaign operation?

[[Blogger: Multiple readers have flagged this comment as "Objectional Content" and normally I too would see this as a violation of the guidelines.
However, since the blog is about false attacks, I'm going to make an exception.

Posted by mjh, a resident of College Terrace,
on Oct 5, 2020 at 12:55 pm

mjh is a registered user.

Doug, I too was struck by Greg Tanaka's inaccurate "question" to Pat Burt during the PAN candidate forum.

Since Greg Tanaka was on the Planning and Transport Commission and then on Council, it beggars belief that in 2016 Tanaka wasn't paying close attention to the very public debate in which, as mayor, Burt played a leading role as to whether Palo Alto should regulate the size of downtown companies. In particular, the transition to large companies monopolizing so much space was squeezing out more and more small companies and startups that played such a central role in downtown Palo Alto. The question being asked was, once software companies reached a certain size should they be better accommodated in the Stanford Research park rather than gutting the central role these small companies and startups played downtown?

Is Tanaka's attention span so short that he simply didn't remember what Pat Burt was advocating for in 2016, or was it more likely an attempt to use a public forum to smear Pat Burt with a falsehood?

Either way, the question then remains, is Tanaka inept or unethical?

Posted by rita vrhel, a resident of Crescent Park,
on Oct 5, 2020 at 6:19 pm

rita vrhel is a registered user.

Thanks Doug.....what Pat Burt said has come true. To my recollection he was concerned about a large company occupying so much of Palo Alto's commercial real estate that, if and when they ever moved, it would be a economic disaster.

I felt he was referring to Palantir who at one time occupied 14% of the commercial space downtown.

Oops! Then it happened;and at the worst possible time for downtown. Concern and prophecy came true.

Whatever Kate and Greg said against Pat must be weighted against the fact that, in my opinion, he was absolutely right! Thanks for the reminder.

Posted by Norman Beamer, a resident of Crescent Park,
on Oct 5, 2020 at 10:28 pm

Norman Beamer is a registered user.

Regardless of who said what, the fact remains that Palo Alto DOES NOT NEED A SINGLE NEW OFFICE. The office to housing ratio is already off the charts. New development should be restricted to housing.

Posted by WSJ on Pat, a resident of Downtown North,
on Oct 6, 2020 at 2:26 pm

WSJ on Pat is a registered user.

[[Blogger: The commenter has ignored/not read the information above -- blog and comments -- and misrepresents what was happening.
He also engages in the "Misleading Appeal to Authority" fallacy (Web Link he chooses to believe a reporter working from an interview over people who were involved in the events.
Normally, this qualifies the comment for deletion, but I am again making an exception.

Is Doug claiming his biased blog is more credible than the NY Times or the WSJ?

WSJ on Pat:
Web Link
"Even worse, there is a funny quirk in the zoning laws that limits what's allowed in so-called Pedestrian and Transit Oriented Development areas (downtown). This includes restrictions on research and development, a catchall for limited manufacturing, “storage or use of hazardous materials," and “computer software and hardware firms."

I can tell you outright that the only hazardous materials in an office of software coders are their high-test caffeine concoctions."

Posted by mjc, a resident of College Terrace,
on Oct 8, 2020 at 10:11 pm

mjc is a registered user.

"Is Doug claiming his biased blog is more credible than the NY Times or the WSJ?"

If you have ever read either of those newspaper sources reporting on local issues you are quite familiar with, you would be surprised at how they misrepresent the issues and how inaccurate their reporting can be!

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