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By Sherry Listgarten

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About this blog: Climate change, despite its outsized impact on the planet, is still an abstract concept to many of us. That needs to change. My hope is that readers of this blog will develop a better understanding of how our climate is evolving a...  (More)

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Which City Council candidates "get" climate change?

Uploaded: Oct 25, 2020
A few weeks ago 350 Silicon Valley and 18 other non-profits sponsored a two hour forum to solicit Palo Alto City Council candidates’ views on climate change. You can find a video of the event here. I’ve watched it a number of times and based on what candidates said in that 2-hour forum, I think I have a pretty good idea of who gets climate change and who doesn’t. The City Council election is about many things, but if climate change is important to you and you haven’t already voted, then consider these recommendations. (1)

The candidates who “get” climate change are: Pat Burt, Ajit Varma, Ed Lauing, Steven Lee, and Greer Stone. They understand the problems and are serious about finding ways to help Palo Alto and its residents reduce their emissions.

The candidates who do not get climate change are: Cari Templeton, Raven Malone, and Greg Tanaka. They surely care about it to some degree, but they are not well informed, do not have meaningful policy ideas, and are very unlikely to steer Palo Alto to hit its emissions goals.

Rebecca Eisenberg remains something of a mystery to me. She seems to care and shows a willingness to make tough decisions, but she does not appear to be well informed. So I put her somewhere in the middle.

Lydia Kou did not attend. Whether she was unable to or whether it’s not a priority for her, I don’t know.

I have more information on each candidate’s views, but first will give some high-level thoughts on the discussion.

Most of the time was spent on transportation emissions, with biking, transit, EVs, and especially housing mentioned often. (2) There was general agreement on the need to try to extend working-from-home, to encourage biking with safer lanes and safer bike storage, to build EV charging infrastructure, and to encourage dense housing near transit. But there was also a shared understanding that not everyone can bike, that transit doesn’t work well, and that working from home won’t last to the degree we see it today. So the candidates’ priorities among these differed. There was a sense that a business tax would help to pay for climate initiatives, but there were relatively few ideas on how to make the “green transition” available to all residents, and there was a lack of agreement on how much to prioritize emissions reductions during the pandemic.

The most interesting question to me was an audience-submitted question that asked whether candidates support mandates to hit the city’s 80x30 goal (3) and if so, which one(s). The candidates had unanimously expressed their enthusiasm for this goal early in the forum, but the question addressed how serious they are about it. You can watch their answers here. If you have been following the city’s sustainability work, you know that our progress towards this goal is badly lagging, with almost none in the years since we cleaned up our power. In the country, in our state, and in our city, regulations have proven to be the single most effective way to reduce emissions. You cannot be serious about our 80x30 goal and not be willing to consider mandates. This is one of the key reasons that Malone, Tanaka, and Templeton do not meet my “gets climate” bar. Tanaka continues to believe that carrots will suffice, despite years of their failing. He refers to mandates as “punitive measures”. Templeton says that her leadership style is not compatible with enforcing mandates, and she is oddly confident that it will not be “a major lift” to hit the goal with voluntary actions. Malone rules out mandates due to cost concerns, apparently unaware that regulations have many ways to control for cost. In contrast, Lee comes out guns blazing for mandates; Burt knows the city’s history on this very well and cogently explains why they are needed; and Lauing, Stone, Varma, and Eisenberg all expressed some support for additional climate regulations. (4)

Here are some more specific notes on the candidates and where they stand. I encourage you to watch some of the short answers linked to below as they give a sense of the candidates.

Pat Burt. Burt not only has conviction on the topic of emissions reductions, he has the most knowledge and the most well thought-out policies. When asked how he would approach the city’s 80x30 goal, he was the only one to state the baseline for the goal (1990) before going on to explain the need for electrification mandates and how he’d roll them out, followed by his approach to vehicle emissions, specifically prioritizing EV infrastructure over biking and commute reduction. You can listen to his outline here. I appreciate his approach to transportation as it’s often easier to change technology than to change behavior, though he does make room for both. Burt is the only candidate who offered any sort of detailed response to the critical question of how to make effective but more costly (up front) solutions like EVs, insulation, and heat pumps available to lower-income households.

Ajit Varma. Varma understands the problem of climate change very well. He was the only person to bring up the impact of diet and consumerism on climate. He is passionate about walkable communities and practices what he preaches. He falls short on the policy side, though. He acknowledges that ten years “isn’t much time” to hit the 80% reduction, and seems eager to make cars more expensive, but it’s not clear how he would do that equitably, and then he falls back to touting mixed-use development. He also doesn’t seem to know that Palo Alto has already passed an ordinance requiring new development to be all-electric. But I think Varma will be an effective candidate on climate if elected.

Ed Lauing. Like Varma, Lauing practices what he preaches, biking everywhere and keeping the heat down in winter to use less gas. To reduce transmission emissions, he wants to first try to get people out of their cars by promoting telecommuting and making biking safer and more fun. Then he will electrify “what’s left”. Lauing is aware of the city’s work on how to approach 80x30, and the range of options from strict and impactful to relaxed but lower impact. His preference is to start with the moderate approaches the city has outlined, like requiring electrification on home sale, and see how far that gets us before considering tougher measures. His passion is tempered by pragmatism.

Steven Lee. Lee is almost the opposite of Lauing in that regard. He is extremely passionate about climate change and gives a very pointed answer to the question of whether mandates are needed. He does not agree with city staff’s recommendation to back off on climate actions because of the pandemic, and he is not afraid to take aggressive measures like rolling out mandates or taxing carbon-emitting activities. But it wasn’t clear in this forum that he has a good understanding of what the city has done to date, what has failed and why, or how to be more successful the next time around, particularly given he endorses such aggressive policies. Lee’s main policy interest seems to be around housing, which is only one part of this issue. If his governing expertise can catch up with his passion, he will be effective as a council member on climate.

Greer Stone. Stone’s father was a ranger in Yosemite, and he seems to have a genuine love of the environment and interest in addressing climate change. His ideas around transportation focused primarily on inbound commuters, which represent the majority of our transportation emissions. He wants to see more ride sharing and more effective transit, as well as meaningful efforts by local businesses to reduce vehicle miles, with consequences if they don’t hit their goals. He has a nuanced view on housing, expressing interest in workforce housing while at the same time cautioning that since only 25% of Palo Alto workers have jobs in Palo Alto, more general local housing may not get people out of cars. He lacks familiarity with our reach codes (like Varma, he didn’t seem to know that we already require new construction to be fully electric), and like Lee his main policy interest seems to be around housing. But I think he will help our city achieve its climate goals if elected.

Rebecca Eisenberg. Eisenberg has been a vegetarian for most of her life, drives an older EV, and seems interested in addressing climate change, particularly for the social justice impacts. However, I didn’t get a clear sense of her priorities outside of wanting to tax businesses and make them pay their “fair share”. How would she get people out of cars? How would she support EVs? How would she reduce home energy use? She thinks we can do much better than the 80x30 goal, but doesn’t seem to have a clear idea of what’s already been done or what the difficulties have been. Eisenberg has a lot of energy, but her knowledge of and attention to climate change did not stand out.

Greg Tanaka. Tanaka loves to bike, and he sees bikes and e-bikes as an important way to get people out of cars, touting e-bike subsidies as a way to make the green transition available to lower-income households. Although many of the candidates are regular bikers, Tanaka relies on biking the most to address vehicle emissions. He also supports several more expensive policies, such as underground housing and parking and free Uber/Lyft rides. He is enthusiastic about climate offsets, and expresses concern that green policies make development more expensive. He is opposed to mandates. It was very hard to discern real priorities from the long list of things that Tanaka expressed enthusiasm about. I got the sense he was trying to say things that people like to hear, but without a real framework, without a sense of priorities or how to accomplish meaningful emissions reductions. This does not bode well for his leading a course correction on our 80x30 progress.

Raven Malone. When asked to list the main policies she would advocate for in the next two years to reduce emissions, Malone suggested working with school kids and sponsoring contests. She added that rebates on things like thermostats and discounts on EV registration would be helpful. She doesn’t seem to understand how policies are crafted or what will move the needle, and her only additional suggestion outside of affordable housing was to improve bike safety. From this I can’t help but conclude that she has little interest in designing effective policies to achieve our climate goals. Her overriding interest seems to be in creating more affordable housing in Palo Alto. That is an important and challenging goal, but I cannot recommend her as someone who will help the city make progress on climate change.

Cari Templeton. Templeton, like Tanaka and Malone, shies away from using mandates to help achieve the city’s goals. In general, she has few concrete proposals. For example, she cautions that some people can’t bike and expresses interest in shuttles for families with kids, but doesn’t seem to acknowledge the time commitment that taking that type of transit would entail for busy families. Her answers were generally non-committal, expressing interest primarily in lightweight initiatives like shared streets. She seems to believe that she will come up with policies by listening to people, but apparently she hasn’t done that enough at this point. Nor has she acquired much familiarity with existing climate initiatives. I cannot recommend Templeton as an effective council member on the topics discussed in this forum.

Notes and References
0. Thank you to 350 Silicon Valley and others who organized this forum, and to Reverend Kaloma Smith for moderating it. You elicited a good amount of information from nine(!) candidates in a relatively short period of time. Special thanks to the audience member who posed, and those who voted for, the question about mandates.

1. I want to thank all of the candidates who participated. It is no easy feat to answer difficult questions in 90 seconds or so. I also want to acknowledge that my opinions are largely based on the discussion captured in this forum. Certainly someone(s) may have had an off night and there may be things I misunderstood. The nine candidates who participated all care to some degree about climate change, and that is a good thing.

2. Several questions in the forum were directed at housing and zoning. Although co-locating housing with offices is just one of many ways to reduce emissions, increasing Palo Alto’s housing stock is a topic of considerable interest to many of the event's sponsors and candidates and so a good deal of time was devoted to discussing this. Given this was a forum on climate change, I wish there had been more discussion about the role of dense housing in an emissions-reductions portfolio; the relative challenges with cost, scale, and timelines; the demographic targets for relocation; and more generally what is needed for this to lead to a sizable emissions reduction in the next ten years or twenty years. For example, what would it take to get the commuters living in homes in the East Bay or as far as Tracy to live in small apartments in Palo Alto instead? Who are we moving, from where, to what? I was also disappointed there wasn’t a parallel discussion around encouraging businesses to expand where there is ample housing as opposed to choosing sites that prevent many of their employees from living near work.

3. Palo Alto has a goal to reduce its emissions by 80% from a 1990 baseline by 2030. You can read more about our progress on that in an earlier blog post.

4. Ironically, the candidates unanimously agreed to require electrification when gas appliances fail, which is an example of a mandate. But that was a yes/no question, so I am not sure what to make of the inconsistencies. I am giving more weight to their longer answers.

Current Climate Data (September 2020)
Global impacts, US impacts, CO2 metric, Climate dashboard (updated annually)

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Comments

 +   25 people like this
Posted by KOhlson, a resident of Old Palo Alto,
on Oct 25, 2020 at 10:50 am

KOhlson is a registered user.

Nice to see this good writeup from the environmental perspective. Thanks for this.


 +   18 people like this
Posted by Victor Bishop, a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood,
on Oct 25, 2020 at 11:47 am

Victor Bishop is a registered user.

Noticed also that Kou refused to be interviewed by the mercury news. I wonder what she is hiding. Maybe the Daily Post was correct in their analysis of her


 +   21 people like this
Posted by David Coale, a resident of Barron Park,
on Oct 25, 2020 at 12:27 pm

David Coale is a registered user.

Hi Sherry,

Thanks for your thoughtful and comprehensive assessment of the council candidate with respect to climate change. This is the biggest issue for me and the solutions to it encompass almost all other issues as well, so I think this is a very good way to evaluate the candidates.

I agreed with your listing of who “gets" it about climate change, and will add a few comments and one exception. For me, Pat Burt really stands out in this area. While all the candidates are concerned about it, Pat's experience and leadership in this area (which I think is lacking in the current council) is paramount for me. His previous time on the council and as mayor are critical for this. While other council members and candidates are all for the environment, we really need strong leadership to move this effort forward as it has been stalled out for the last five years or more.

My one exception to your listing is Ajit Varma. While he may get it, I see him as taking a more market approach to the problem which I think will not be enough for us to meet our goals. I also think we need to have people with experience in city government so that they can hit the ground running and I think the other candidates you listed; Ed Lauing, Steve Lee and Greer Stone have that advantage.

Thanks for you assessment on this as voting in this next election for climate change candidates is critical for the human race to move forward.


 +   15 people like this
Posted by neighbor, a resident of Midtown,
on Oct 25, 2020 at 1:42 pm

neighbor is a registered user.

Hi Sherry,

I listened to the entire forum and took notes, but I don't know too much about the candidates other than what I heard that night. However, i m o, there was only one who stood out as a clearly better choice than the rest: Rebecca Eisenberg, and that's who I voted for.

As you noted, she lives her life in a way which compliments her stated intentions re ghg reductions, and she seemed knowledgeable about where ghg pollution comes from.

As you also noted, Palo Alto (city council, residents, city manager, utility director, et al) has done next-to-nothing to decrease greenhouse gas output in recent years. Ms Eisenberg was only candidate who said she's in favor of major changes - and I believe that type of enthusiasm is what's needed to get Palo Alto "unstuck" from its business-as-usual pollution-emissions pattern.

The other candidates were pleasant, but their "small" ideas are way too late to make any significant difference with this dilemma.

The others spoke about bike lanes, for example, which are GOOD; but where's the urgency for convincing our fellow residents of the need for a dramatic transformation? Where's the appreciation of a moral imperative to make tough decisions?

I hope you'll reconsider your recommendation regarding Ms Eisenberg.

And thanks for your on-going blog.


 +   10 people like this
Posted by Mark Weiss, a resident of Downtown North,
on Oct 25, 2020 at 3:36 pm

Mark Weiss is a registered user.

Post removed, please provide reputable references to back up your attack on a candidate.


 +   10 people like this
Posted by Mark Weiss, a resident of Downtown North,
on Oct 25, 2020 at 3:41 pm

Mark Weiss is a registered user.

Post removed


 +   10 people like this
Posted by Mark Weiss, a resident of Downtown North,
on Oct 25, 2020 at 4:17 pm

Mark Weiss is a registered user.

Mark, if you are going to accuse a candidate of something on this blog, I ask that you be specific about their role and provide some kind of reference.


 +   9 people like this
Posted by Mark Weiss, a resident of Downtown North,
on Oct 25, 2020 at 6:33 pm

Mark Weiss is a registered user.

Mark sent me information that I will review.

This is Sherry, sorry it's taken a while to get back on this. My concern is that Mark or someone he knows has a personal vendetta, which doesn't belong here. Mark's posts and emails are also hard for me to follow and violate our guidelines in places, making it hard and time-consuming to edit them. Luckily he has written his own post on this, which you can read here: Web Link

In general, Mark is concerned that Pat Burt's old company (1990-2010 or so) was a big polluter, and as mayor he helped to prosecute a similar polluting company (CPI, located in Palo Alto). Mark is concerned there could have been a conflict of interest and/or a better outcome for Palo Alto.

"Pat Burt has a history as a corporate polluter.... Pat Burt worked for Acteron .... There is a cluster of people in Barron Park especially it's north border who truly despise Pat Burt for neither recusing himself nor taking the lead when We The People confronted CPI for its toxic airborne releases. ... CPI is water under the bridge but if you check the transcript or the public records many people would say he should've recused or delivered a better outcome."


 +   13 people like this
Posted by Rebecca Eisenberg, a resident of Old Palo Alto,
on Oct 25, 2020 at 8:08 pm

Rebecca Eisenberg is a registered user.

Hi Sherry,

I have a robust and diversified plan for making Palo Alto more green. I have been a practicing attorney for almost 30 years, and during that time have spent considerable time handling transactions involving energy provision, and have managed the creation of a industry-standard green building for a large company's operations center. I am well-versed in renewable energy and excellent scientific fluency for a non-scientist. Having spent the bulk of my career at early stage (through public) technology companies, I also have been involved in the earliest stages of technological innovation, including having been one of the earliest employees at PayPal, Trulia, Flip Video, and Reddit. Those professional accomplishments plus my experience as an attorney well-position me to make positive change for our community in Palo Alto!

Below is my answer from Carbon Neutral Palo Alto's Questionnaire. I am not sure if they posted the questionnaires. Please feel to reach out directly if you have questions. My email is rebecca at winwithrebecca dot com. I am happy to provide my cell number as well.

Here are some plans I have to make Palo Alto more green:

1- Reduction of single occupancy vehicles. To reduce use of SOVs, we need to provide safe and convenient alternatives to driving. Those alternatives should include: (a) a robust, convenient, affordable (ideally free) system of local transit, including electric shuttles; (b) investments into safe, separate, well-lit bike lanes to incentivize cycling by all ages capable of biking; (c) the provision of low-cost shared bicycles to make biking convenient and affordable for more people; and (d) safer pedestrian passageways, including bike/walk bridges and/or tunnels.

2 - Park and ride points: We should take a stronger stand against allowing our largest employers encouraging SOV commuting by providing large parking lots rather than providing shuttles from transit and off-site lots (ironically, Tesla has one of the largest parking lots of all Palo Alto-based companies!). Rather, we should work with our largest employers and require them to provide transit passes for their employees, shuttles to and from transit, and daytime shuttles to encourage employees to take advantage of local retail and restaurants. Tesla is a perfect example of a company who could benefit from helping Palo Alto become more green. Tesla-branded electric shuttles could create good will and marketing for their company, while also helping Tesla start to pay their fair share in Palo Alto.

3 - Switch to renewable energy sources. I was disappointed in the City Council's decision last month to divert the utilities funds they had set aside to invest in renewable energy, redirecting those funds to assist utilities customers pay their energy bills. What was particularly troubling about that decision was that it appeared that the financial assistance may have extended to large businesses, who do not need assistance - and who should be required to reduce their energy consumption - and residents and small businesses, who do need assistance. On City Council, I would work to reset financial incentives so that the large corporate users of non-renewable energy sources are required to pay for the full cost of their usage, including externalities - and also to provide strong incentives that mandate a reduction of energy use, especially when offices currently are not supposed to be (partly or fully) staffed. At that same City Council meeting that diverted the renewable energy funds, the City Council also approved an energy swap strategy that potentially raised our carbon production by many levels. I do not think we can afford to take any risks in our greenhouse gas creation, given our climate crisis. We must keep pushing to reduce CO2 production.

4 - Invest heavily in solar electricity. Palo Alto has no shortage of sun! No time has been more urgent than now to invest in solar infrastructure on behalf of our residents and businesses.

P.S. Guess which Palo Alto-based multi-billion-dollar publicly-traded technology company also makes SOLAR PANELS? Answer: TESLA! Let's ask Tesla for solar panels in lieu of the taxes I have mentioned often.

5 - HOUSING near jobs: Due to City Council's short-sighted policy decisions, Palo Alto faces a jobs-to-homes ratio of nearly 4-to-1, and that rate grows to 7-to-1 when it comes to lowest income workers and homes they can afford. This egregious imbalance creates climate damage by requiring workers to commute long distances to and from work. Creating housing near jobs needs to be top priority for City Council (it is anything but that right now). Also, importantly, existing housing stock must be preserved and not allowed to convert to commercial use (like the City Council did with Hotel President earlier this year). Finally, tenants also must be protected so that they are not converted from non-commuters to commuters.

6 - Regional transport. Palo Alto has to start playing nice with our neighbors. Time after time, Palo Alto chooses to pick fights with regional organizations and even with the state, rather than working collaboratively with them. Our town is deservedly gaining a bad reputation. I plan to turn that around, reaching out to the regional transit organizations, and getting involved in the improvement and coordination of our regional transit system.

7 - Green New Deal - I plan to work with fellow council members, residents, and community groups to kick off a local Green New Deal, to put people to work creating green solutions.

8 - Undergrounding Caltrain. We need to re-open the option of running Caltrain underground. No thorough study was done on the actual costs, and with direct instructions not to cause residents to lose their homes. Also, we need to be sure to coordinate with Menlo Park to the north (who shut down their undergrounding project after hearing Palo Alto chose to shut down ours) and Mountain view to the south. According to sources from 10 years ago, when the idea was initially introduced, undergrounding Caltrain also potentially has the benefit of creating 50 acres of Palo Alto land that can be used for green space and housing!! That alone, if true, makes it a worthwhile project.

P.P.Ss: Guess which same technology company that just broke its lifetime records for profit since the pandemic also owns a company that makes large drills to bore underground tunnels for cars and trains? Answer: Tesla! It's called "The Boring Company" (pun!)

9- Protecting trees!! We cannot reduce CO2 if we continue to allow wealthy property owners to destroy our tree canopy. Every week it seems that the City Council gives another private property owner permission to harm or destroy ancient trees - even protected trees! Last week, a 300-year-old tree on Bryant Street just north of Oregon was put in danger that it likely won't survive. Even worse, the City Council is getting closer to approving Castilleja's oversized project that includes a huge underground bunker and the destruction of as many as 200 trees, many of which are protected trees. We cannot stand for this. We need our trees to protect our atmosphere. We do not need underground bunkers.

Sherry, I hope that helps. Sorry for the long answer, but as you see, I have a lot of plans! If you have any follow up questions, please ask me. I'm here standing by. Thanks again!

Best,
Rebecca


 +   8 people like this
Posted by StarSpring, a resident of Adobe-Meadow,
on Oct 26, 2020 at 1:07 pm

StarSpring is a registered user.

You cannot affect Climate Change on a city-by-city basis. We have allowed industry to make a shell game out of Climate Change and push their responsibility down to individuals like you and I. Why should I have to carefully sort out recycling (though I do!) when it is product manufacturers who create the wasteful product packaging in the first place. I just replaced my Nest smoke detector and Nest will send me a box (at no additional charge) to pick up and recycle the old one in a facility that is designed to do just that. Build the environmental remediation into the cost of the product. If that makes the product too expensive to be produced, so be it.

I'll bet the greenhouse gas emissions created by the Ross Road Bike Boulevard construction will never be repaid by whatever additional bicycles may use it.

When do we get a Nuclear Free zone?


 +   12 people like this
Posted by Paly Student, a resident of Midtown,
on Oct 26, 2020 at 9:44 pm

Paly Student is a registered user.

It should be noted that Carbon Free Palo Alto endorsed Cari Templeton due to her stances on housing and transportation which would significantly reduce car use and sprawl, some of our city's largest culprits in terms of emissions.


 +   10 people like this
Posted by Housing, a resident of North Bayshore,
on Oct 27, 2020 at 6:13 am

Housing is a registered user.

It seems this author doesn't "get" climate change if she's ignoring the lack of density for housing in a jobs rich area. Also, pushing cost via mandate down to the individual is a terrible idea. Climate change should be fought from a top down approach.


 +   9 people like this
Posted by Citizen PA, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Oct 27, 2020 at 2:49 pm

Citizen PA is a registered user.

I think these kinds of conversations, while well-meaning, can end up being counterproductive as people remain stuck on their proxies for environmentalism. For example, density isn't a good proxy for good for the environment if you look over the life cycle. Any reasoning that treats people like coral who attach to a place a don't move is unrealistic and often wrong.

Density itself is the reason people are fleeing cities now in the pandemic. Pandemics tend to be really bad for the environment. Density creates urban heat sinks, and a disconnect from the natural world for its dwellers. It creates incentives for displacement of low-income people, and when things get old and horrible, terrible living conditions. Cities built on tech jobs are no longer better opportunities for low-income people, that has changed, too. The opposite of density isn't necessarily sprawl, either. Density necessitates bringing goods and services from further and further afield, which is also energy inefficient. People always assumed high-rises were more efficient but when studied for how they are actually used, they turned out to be less efficient.

Density can make it harder for an area to rebound if an event like a natural disaster or pandemic cause people to move away -- for, let's face it, a better less dense place which means higher quality of life.

Assuming that "ride share" is more efficient was also wrong, because "ride share" turned out not to be what people were doing, the companies actually became unregulated taxis that cause congestion and increased emissions. The same goes for internet package delivery. Thank God we still had brick and mortar when the pandemic hit.

Anyone who would want a thoughtful discussion with the goal of climate change under current conditions and realities would, in my humble opinion, avoid a discussion like this, sadly, because it's too hard to focus on the actual desired outcomes with all the assumptions and proxies for environmental protection that turn out not to be so environmentally friendly.

Locally, unfortunately, attacks occur against people trying to talk about what's really going on when big moneyed interests get involved, and they do. Michael Moore just aired a documentary by another filmmaker that looked at how easy it can be to get renewable energy wrong and make things worse than doing nothing. While I disagree with many of the film's conclusions, I think it's a point well taken that you can't just set any effort like this and forget it, i.e., you can't rely on proxies for the goals and expect those not to be corrupted by moneyed interests.

I am not speaking for Lydia Kou here, but knowing her thoughtful and thorough approach to every issue, I would expect it would be difficult to see anything positive to come from something like this. She has a record of thoughtfully considering issues and governing holistically. The devil is in the details in these things, and I would expect her to put a lot of thought and time into any action related to the environment, which, after all, is essential for quality of life for residents.

The first time she ran for office, this thoughtful approach was held against her, because people making endorsements expected to see the usual political bluster and undeliverable promises. Kou (like a lot of women) doesn't engage in that. After she won and had served, the very same people who hadn't endorsed her before, endorsed her because of how thoughtful and effective she is.

She is an incumbent, and if you want to do the work, you can look at her record. But if you judge based only on these proxies for the goal, that could give you a misimpression. My observation of Kou is that she is highly insightful when it comes to people's actual motivations, and the unintended outcomes of actions, because she does do due diligence on tough issues.


 +   11 people like this
Posted by Citizen PA, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Oct 27, 2020 at 2:56 pm

Citizen PA is a registered user.

"Any reasoning that treats people like coral who attach to a place a don't move is unrealistic and often wrong. "

Analyses of job/commuting patterns in Hong Kong, where they have the best transit in the world, used by the vast majority of commuters, and they've been trying to get people to live near their jobs for a really long time, finds that a large percentage of people don't live near their jobs and average commute times are similar to urban Los Angeles. They conclude that assumptions made by planners about people living near their jobs if the housing is there are simply unrealistic and wrong.

Another problem is that when you have too much density, there gets to be a real divide between the richest and everyone else in terms of their ability to use their own time. Commuting on transit is time consuming, and the richest in Hong Kong still use cars. Silicon Valley is a place where people value their time, but the densification is hardest on the quality of life AND opportunities of people on the lowest rungs.

Any effort that has to FORCE people to do things that are really hard on their lives for very little benefit will not sustain. If you want people out of their cars, at some point, the densification runs counter because you can only ever make things so safe. Biking to work, by the way, and especially walking, began to disappear from Hong Kong because at some point it just becomes too dangerous and unpleasant.


 +   4 people like this
Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows, a resident of Adobe-Meadow,
on Oct 29, 2020 at 10:21 pm

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

I keep seeing the comment that we are a "job-rich" area. FB is in Menlo Park. Google is in MV. The companies that are in the Stanford Research Park are specific to SU's goals. Palantir has left for Colorado. Tesla has only a skeleton crew in the PA location - The majority of his effort are in SOCAL. By any measure the cities surrounding us are more fitting of the "jobs rich area" designation.
I am concerned that the use of that nomenclature construes more than is actually here. We keep hyping ourselves but reality says that as soon as a company grow it leaves. The only company that we are attached to is SU.


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Palo Alto Weekly Holiday Fund

For the last 26 years, the Palo Alto Weekly Holiday Fund has given away more than $7 million to local nonprofits serving children and families. When you make a donation, every dollar is automatically doubled, and 100% of the funds go directly to local programs. It’s a great way to ensure your charitable donations are working at home.

DONATE HERE