The "You're despicable" style of politics | A Pragmatist's Take | Douglas Moran | Palo Alto Online |


https://paloaltoonline.com/blogs/p/print/2016/09/22/the-youre-despicable-style-of-politics


Local Blogs

By Douglas Moran

The "You're despicable" style of politics

Uploaded: Sep 22, 2016

No I am not talking about the presidential campaign. Nor about Congress. Rather about local politics, as practiced by certain elected and appointed officials, and a prominent group of local activists. They are openly and vocally antagonistic and contemptuous of those that don't agree with their agenda, they demonize those with other perspectives, and they characterize attempts to consider-the-consequences and work-the-details as obstructionism.

When you see your opponents as despicable, the strong inclination is to dominate and defeat them--compromise and problem-solving are a betrayal of your principles. Similarly, when you know that your opponents regard you as despicable, you would be foolish to engage in compromise and problem-solving because you have to expect that they will not behave honorably.(foot#1)

The immediate motivation for this post is the blog posting that equates Mayor Pat Burt and Council candidate Lydia Kou to Donald Trump: "A Wall Around My Country and a Moat Around My Hometown" by Mike Greenfield. He promoted it on Facebook, which Eric Rosenblum, among others, then shared on his Facebook page with the endorsement "Wow. Mike Greenfield connects the dots. I wish I could write like this". Greenfield is husband of Palo Alto Forward (PAF) founder Elaine Uang and has at times described himself as a PAF member; Rosenblum is on the PAF Steering Committee and a member of Palo Alto's Planning and Transportation Commission (PTC)--an appointed official on what is routinely called "the second most powerful body in the City government". I expect that Greenfield's article will be widely discussed elsewhere, so I am going to focus on its background and precursors.

This is not simply an academic exercise--rather it is something I urge you to consider in evaluating the candidates for City Council: One candidate endorsed this attitude in his kickoff speech (opposing building "a wall") and another embraced one of PAF's false dichotomies (details on both planned for subsequent blog). Some of the false dichotomies were topics in my previous blog "A manipulative candidate questionnaire" (2016-09-08).

----Thinking about the candidates----
The attitudes of the people around the candidates are important to voters because they are predictive of how those candidates would govern. First, a candidate's basic attitudes are strongly reflected by whom he has attracted as supporters and by whom he chooses to encourage as supporters. But more importantly, these are likely to be the people who will have disproportionate access and interactions with the candidate should he be elected. For some officials, this is their circle of friends--the people they interact with daily. Others have advisors that they consult individually or as a group, although the existence of such a group and who they are is typically not for public discussion.(foot#2) Over the years, I have been dismayed by the number Council members who couldn't recognize that they are operating within "echo chambers" or "bubbles"--they assume that their friends represent the (silent) majority and that the citizens coming before them are an unrepresentative, vocal minority, or "The Usual Suspects".(foot#3) For example, in the 2014 Council campaign, one (unsuccessful) candidate so closely associated himself with PAF that a prominent part of his campaign literature was PAF's dismissive and derogatory characterization of those that disagreed with them as being "afraid of the future".(foot#4)

Important note: Be careful about making inferences from who has endorsed a candidate, both organizations and individuals. Who a candidate chooses to highlight in their campaign materials and on their website is a strong statement, but not those listed in the portion of the website automatically built from those who filled out the endorsement form. But there is a notable exception: When an endorsee's position is prominent enough that "Silence implies consent", the candidate needs to repudiate the endorsement. Failure to repudiate carries implications (this can, and has, made news at the national level).

----Kate Downing's Resignation Letter----
On August 10 Kate Vershov Downing--a member of PAF's Steering Committee--published "Letter of Resignation from the Palo Alto Planning and Transportation Commission"(foot#5) which generated international coverage from largely credulous "journalists" and interviewers--the media is so ravenous for content that it largely dispenses with niceties such checking facts or providing more than a minimal pro forma mention of other perspectives (Long-standing dictate: "Sensationalism sells. Don't let facts get in the way of a good story!").(foot#6)(foot#7)(foot#8) Although, after a bit, the media figured out how to generate more content by sensationalizing another perspective (by Mayor Pat Burt).(foot#9)

There are already good, albeit scattered, critiques of the Downing letter.(foot#10) Consequently, I will reference its points only when they are relevant to the subsequent explanations. I found the letter to be unsurprising--both in its tone and its misinformation--based upon what PAF, and especially Downing, have been producing.

----Cory Wolbach's Facebook Post: Part 1----
Cory Wolbach wrote a supporting statement on this Facebook page the same day that Downing published her letter. That comment and his responses to replies to that comment are illustrative of the very common attitudes within PAF. I am using Wolbach's comments because of his standing: He is not just a member of PAF, but a City Council member.

==B Wolbach (OP = Original Post):== "I ran for office in 2014 at a time of ascendancy for the local conservative political movement known as 'Residentialism,' which openly opposes housing growth and which thrives on the politics of fear, anger, and false blame ." (emphasis added)
Wolbach (@Elizabeth Lasky): "... 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)

Me: Notice the precursor to Greenfield's equating Burt and Kou to Trump (Aside: Burt is commonly regarded as a swing vote on Council, not as a Residentialist). Notice the switch from labeling opponents as "afraid of the future" (and variants) to seemingly implying that they have been manipulated into irrational positions.(foot#11)
The "opposes housing growth" is an example of the false dichotomies routinely promulgated by PAF: You either agree with PAF's position on X or you are entirely opposed to X. PAF's misrepresentations of the positions and perspectives of others was a major topic of my previous blog posting on their candidate questionnaire (cited in the introduction).

Wolbach @Elizabeth Lasky: (repeating for different point) "... 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."

Me: Notice that what he calls "fear" most people would call "prudence". They don't want to plunge into making a large, irreversible commitment without reasonable confidence and due diligence that it will actually work ("could" acknowledges the substantial uncertainty). And they want enforcement mechanisms, especially when there are large incentives for abuse.
Wolbach has faith in the Smart Growth dogma, despite the many known problems and limitations.(foot#12)
I read this as disparaging those who don't agree with him as fools, fooled, ignorant or manipulators. Not a good attitude for a public official.

Wolbach (OP): "My platform focused on addressing our jobs-housing imbalance by prioritizing housing options for diverse incomes, coupled with significant investment in transportation improvements. Alongside my policy platform, I emphasized a civil approach to civic affairs. "

Me: He may remember it that way, but "civility" was his primary focus for most of his campaign. For example, see the section on him in my blog "Early Campaign Notes: City Council", 2014-09-18.
In endorsing him, the Palo Alto Weekly stated "While we were frustrated by his overly vague policy statements early in the campaign, he has now articulated strong support for limiting new commercial development , focusing on how the city can create more affordable and subsidized housing options and implementing additional protections of retail businesses." (emphasis added) However, you should read "support" as being only for general principles: I found him unable to discuss the details or the tradeoffs (In the above blog, I wrote "As with A. C. Johnston, I haven't heard him engage in the discussion of an issue of his choice that got to the level of sophistication that I would expect of a candidate at this stage in the campaign.")
Aside: Wolbach won the fifth (last) seat by a margin of 135 votes over Kou.

Wolbach (OP): "The shameful failure of Palo Alto to address the former (housing) strains my commitment to the latter (civility). I have become very good at biting my tongue when I hear 'Residentialist' colleagues on Council, new and repeat 'Residentialist' candidates for office, and the vocal minority of hard-line 'Residentialist' voters say that we should not add more housing at some or any income levels. But my patience wears thin. When we hear people say they oppose housing growth in our area, perhaps we should simply ask them, 'Do you not accept reality, or do you not care?' "

Me: Using an alternate reality fabricated to suit his ideology to rationalize actions in the real world.

Yonatan Bryant @Elizabeth Lasky: "They are also the ones who say 'well tech companies should stop creating so many jobs' ".
Wolbach @Bryant: "After they retire from their tech companies."

Me: Wolbach knows very well that this is not true--many Residentialists are still working, and many of them are in tech. That he would write this says a lot about his (lack of) credibility.

----Cory Wolbach's Facebook Post: Part 2----
A header to assist those readers who read this blog in chunks.

Wolbach @Sheri Furman: "Also, I should note for those less familiar with Palo Alto's politics, that the 'residentialist' movement led by the PAC Palo Altans for Sensible Zoning, their members of council, and their candidates, is quite more extreme than the residentialism of decades past. This wave was launched with the conscious choice of finding a project to fight (a search which resulted in the successful overturn of the Maybell affordable senior housing project), which could be used to rally unrelated grievances from across the community, and to launch campaigns for council. That's essentially the story I heard from Tom DuBois."

Me: False, false, false ... I was personally involved in many of the events. First, DuBois has assured me that not only did he not say that but that he doesn't believe it.

Background: Maybell and Wolbach: In my blog cited above ("Early Campaign Notes: City Council"), I wrote of Wolbach "In his kick-off speech, restoring civility was a top priority. He mentioned how Measure D (Maybell project) had split the community and that he had friends who were on different sides who still weren't speaking. I asked what I thought would be a softball question: What had gone wrong? He had no explanation. I told him that I was familiar with the events from the earliest days, and gave him a thumbnail account of both sides, but it seemed new to him. While I could understand him not following up on the day of his kick-off (exhaustion), he didn't ask when we met at subsequent events. I eventually initiated a discussion, but he didn't seem to have done anything to learned the circumstances, which is essential to understanding the dynamics, which in turn is essential to understand how not to have a repeat." Two years later, Wolbach still doesn't seem to understand the facts and perspectives of this dispute,(foot#13) and instead reflects a view derived from ideology. Please remember that this essay is not about Wolbach per se, but rather him as a prominent representative of a group. Wolbach's partisanship is revealed by how he refers to the dispute--"Maybell affordable senior housing project"--when that was less than half of the project, and almost all the controversies were about the other portion.

Background: Maybell and me: My involvement in the Maybell dispute was as a leader of the neighborhood association (Barron Park) where the project was located. As such, I viewed my primary duties as keeping residents informed of meetings and issues and encouraging a fair process. I decided to not take a position on the project, partly because I saw it was going to be highly contentious and being an advocate would compromise my primary duties and partly because the project was on the opposite side of the neighborhood from my house and I had little feel for the facts (for example, traffic levels).

The discussions of the Maybell project started on the neighborhood's discussion group, of which I was the primary moderator--and were later joined by largely overlapping discussions on Town Square Forum. I saw the demonization of the opponents of the project begin long before they became opponents, but rather when they were just asking questions and pointing out problems. I'll discuss this in the section "Exclusionary Zoning" below.

The opposition: I saw an opposition that grew organically and incrementally. Most of the people were new to the Palo Alto process, as evidenced by their naive expectation that they would be treated fairly, respectfully and honestly by the Planning and Transportation Commission and by City Council. The outrage at how they were actually treated provided much of the energy and determination of the opposition.

Far from the conniving group that Wolbach claims, the opposition was disorganized and badly underfunded. It had multiple leadership changes and organizational confusion. A significant portion of the funding to qualify the referendum for the ballot came from the Barron Park (Neighborhood) Association as a result of a poll of the full membership.

Residentialist Movement: Wolbach's comment about the leadership is dead wrong because this movement has no leadership--it might be more influential if it did, but that is a separate issue (not here). Instead there are many "individual contributors" and a few small groups, most focused on their own very specific issues. As to the supposed leadership by Palo Altans for Sensible Zoning (PASZ), go to their website and ask yourself whether anyone would think that this group is leading a large, broad movement.

As to Wolbach's claim about the origins of the current Residentialist movement, Wolbach is again fundamentally wrong (by this point is anyone surprised?). The current movement gradually emerged in the late 1990s and early 2000s and might best be marked by the creation of Palo Alto Neighborhoods (PAN). Its rise can be seen in the 2003 State of the City speech by then-Mayor Dena Mossar: "Neighborhood associations have banded together to create large and small e-mail communication networks that have changed the lobbying landscape significantly from the days--but six years ago--when a neighborhood typically fought its battles in solo mode. The business community, in an attempt to level the playing field, is trying to find an effective way to respond." (Note: "business community" translates to developers and their allies). The efforts of various individual neighborhood associations to protect retail from conversion to offices during the DotCom boom led to a PAN forum on retail (held 2003-07-31) that has had a lasting influence on this issue, although not as much as was hoped for. PAN also held a forum on balancing development (2005-09-29) that had some influence on framing the issues for that Council election, but was then largely forgotten. (Aside: I was a co-chair of PAN during that period). PAN has declined into a group that primarily facilitates information exchange between the leaders of neighborhood associations.

So who was the group that Wolbach claims used the Maybell project for their nefarious purposes? PASZ wasn't created until after the election--its organizing meeting was 2013-11-14.(foot#14) And PAN had long ceased being active in such matters.

As to Wolbach's claim "more extreme than the residentialism of decades past", the original Residentialists movement was highly controversial and contentious.(foot#15) I attempted to revive the "Residentialist" brand for the 2005 City Council election.(foot#16) However, it was rejected by the long-term Palo Altans who said that the bruising battles of the late 1960s and the 1970s were still too fresh in the minds of influential people (over 3 decades later!). However, Wolbach said "extreme", not "controversial", and that is a matter of his personal perspective.

----Cory Wolbach's Facebook Post: Part 3----

Wolbach @Sheri Furman (continued): "Among the central arguments used to oppose housing is the fear of 'unavoidable impacts.' In private, the leading proponent of this argument, Eric Filseth, admitted to me nearly two years ago that it is entirely a ruse (though, no, he did not use that word). The hardline 'residentialists' don't oppose housing because of their fears of impacts. They start from the position of opposing housing and manufacture fear of impacts in order to frighten others into opposing housing and to help them win elections."

Me: Yet another excursion into an alternate reality. As with the earlier purported statement by DuBois, Filseth assures me he said no such thing, and from my many interactions with Filseth on the issues, I know Wolbach's claim is nonsense. But do your own sanity check: Filseth became involved in Palo Alto issues because of overflow parking into his Downtown North neighborhood from office workers. And how does this relates to "unavoidable impacts" of housing?

But the key takeaway from this statement is that those of whom Wolbach is representative have created a rationale to ignore the issues and perspectives of others. They can ignore the stated concerns because they are simply lies.(foot#17) As for the concerns that Wolbach et al claim their opponents have? That they need to be hidden behind lies indicates they are indefensible and thus need to be ignored/opposed. Simply put, those that disagree with them are delegitimized.

There are two basic reasons offered for why their opponents are supposedly lying: support for contrived scarcity (selfishness) and for exclusionary zoning (racism, ...)

----Contrived Scarcity----
"And a city council controlled by wealthy homeowners don't want new housing bringing down their property values." Kate Downing in interview already cited. (foot#7)
Ask yourself, how would the building of 10, 100, 1000 ... studio apartments affect the value of the houses of the richest people in Palo Alto (for example, Mark Zuckerberg)? Remember, the claim by Downing, Wolbach, Palo Alto Forward et al that building these studio apartments could be done without negative impacts on the city or existing residents. The statement by Downing is representative of the sort of economic illiteracy is rampant among such advocates.(foot#18)(foot#19)
Note: In one interview, Downing went off-script and stated the opposite "it is a financial burden for cities to go out and build the infrastructure necessary for housing. There's much greater incentive to build out office space or hotels or things like that that actually get you tax revenue." (foot#6)

Aside: A potential influence or origin of this comes from the academic literature where one finds assertions of a "cartel" of rich homeowners blocking housing for lower income people (the term "cartel theory" seems to be mostly used by critics). First, recognize that a "cartel" is not individuals or corporations acting in a similar manner, but having agreed to act in concert. Many of these authors are professors at prestigious universities (e.g., UC Berkeley, Harvard).

Kim-Mai Cutler is a writer on Bay Area development policy who is much praised by Downing, Wolbach and other leaders and members of PAF. She writes that Palo Alto has "42 percent of its land under conservation protections against development."(foot#20) What she doesn't tell the reader is that this is the Baylands, Foothills Park, Pearson-Arastradero Preserve and the city parks. In an already cited interview, Downing makes a related claim "Only something like three percent of the city is zoned for any sort of multi-family use." (foot#7) Potential statistical trick: There are many parcels whose official zoning is one category, but the zoning ordinance allows multi-family housing. For details, see the Bronstein article already cited.(foot#10)

So, ask the people who praise the analyses condemning Palo Alto (indirectly) for not using its parks and open space for more housing whether they advocate such development. Don't be surprised if they reject the logical consequences of the analyses they praise and support.

----Exclusionary Zoning----
Claims of "exclusionary zoning" is a leading part of attacks on zoning for single-family housing, both here in Palo Alto and elsewhere.(foot#21) The term means zoning that is designed (the "-ary" suffix) to exclude certain groups, and the phrase has a long established usage of the target groups being minorities, immigrants, and miscellaneous other "undesirable" groups.(foot#22)
Note: The federal Fair Housing Act of 1965, outlawed the range of official and semi-official measures that had produced many highly segregated neighborhoods. Cutler, in an argument typical of the ideology she espouses, claims that the patterns established pre-1965 persist to this day: Exclusion of Asians, including her parents, and other minorities back then is why there are so few non-whites living in Palo Alto today. Who you gonna believe? Her (and her ideology) or your own lyin' eyes?(foot#23) And the facts are much more complicated: There were large exceptions to the pre-1965 picture. The developer Joseph Eichler who built large swaths of houses in Palo Alto famously refused to discriminate, including refusing to cancel sales to several buyers who objected to having African-American neighbors.(foot#24) The Ventura Neighborhood, which was annexed to Palo Alto in 1925, had a substantial African-American population. One of my neighbors recounts that when she bought her house in Barron Park (annexed 1975), the real estate agent attempted to dissuade her with "They let anybody live there!"

Another example, from the kickoff event for one of the City Council candidates supported by PAF (Adrian Fine). During the casual discussions among attendees, one of them responded to the innocuous opening question of "What do you do?" by saying that he taught Political Science at Stanford and then volunteered (unbidden) that Palo Alto had "exclusionary zoning". When I objected, he momentarily backed off the definition that such was driven by racism, but then praised the work of Kim-Mai Cutler--for whom the claim of racism is central--and then resorted to the standard argument paraphrased "Racial minorities are disproportionately poor. Therefore anything that disadvantages the poor is intended to discriminate against those minorities."(foot#25) I then asked the professor to cite a local, recent instance of exclusionary zoning, and he cited the defeat of the Maybell project. I responded that I was very familiar with the controversy and knew many of the people who (eventually) led the opposition to the project. I told him that they were primarily concerned about the market-rate portion of the project and traffic issues. The professor told me that I was wrong: That the opponents were using those purported claims to exclude minorities and the poor from their exclusive neighborhood. I pointed out to him that after the project's defeat--actually the defeat of the referendum to upzone the property to maximize profit from the market-rate housing component--the leaders of the opposition had called upon Palo Alto Housing Corp (project sponsor) and the City to try again with a project that recognized the problems. I asked him why they would do this if their intent was to block the project. He said he was unaware of that fact. However, it didn't change his explanation (of opponents being (despicable) racists concealing their true motivations). I gave up and didn't supply any more of the inconvenient facts.(foot#26)(foot#27)

The pattern started very early in the discussions of the Maybell project, with characterizations such as wanting "to maintain an exclusive neighborhood". Except that the neighborhood never had been that.(foot#28) And this was not attributable to ignorance: Many of those casting aspersions were well aware of the actual circumstances, some were living just down the street from what they would have had you believe wasn't there.

----The Wall/Moat----
The wall/moat analogy to being exclusionary breaks down the moment you look at pages upon pages of real estate ads: There is substantial turnover of the households. They characterize Palo Alto as deciding to "repel newcomers" because it won't build housing for everyone who wants to live here.(foot#29) In one interview, Downing took a less unlimited position "And I think it's a misconception that you can never build up to demand. We have a pretty good idea what demand is: Every day, the effective population of the city doubles from the number of people who come in just for work. That tells us something about how much housing we need. It's not infinite." (foot#7) Ignore her apparent assumption that demand will not increase (contrary to her opposition to limits on office growth). Let's consider what is being advocated. First, recognize that there is no way to restrict who lives in any new housing to being those employed within Palo Alto. The current pattern is that about two-thirds of employed Palo Altans work outside the city. So is she advocating quadrupling the number of employed people living in Palo Alto? Second, recognize that Palo Alto would not be providing housing just for those employees, but also their families. The most conservative interpretation of Downing's position would have Palo Alto needing to more than double the capacity of its schools, parks, ...

Again, the false dichotomy that is a staple of PAF arguments: If you aren't willing to support unlimited housing growth, you are not only opposed to any housing growth, but also opposed to having newcomers buy existing houses (however that would be accomplished). It is so, so much easier to impugn the motivations and morality of those attempting to deal with the very difficult issues of growth in a built-out city than to have a realistic approach yourself.

----Wolbach: The Sequel----
Just as I was starting final edits, Wolbach doubled down with a now-deleted Facebook post ((update: Wolbach comment below states that the page was not deleted but changed to "Friends Only" -- FB message is "removed"/"link broken")) (approx 7:45 pm on Weds 2016-09-21): "Palo Alto's leading 'Residentialists' may not as individuals support Trump, and they may even be Democrats. But, on local issues, they are deeply conservative. They exploit the vague (and increasingly dog whistle) term 'quality of life' to exclude new residents. 'Allowing newcomers to Palo Alto would damage our quality of life,' they say. They also talk of 'inevitably' increased crime if we allow our population to grow. Trump uses the same fear-mongering to oppose Mexican immigrants and Syrian refugees. It's sad that so many people can't recognize the dissonance between their national and local values." And in a comment, he added Council candidate Arthur Keller to those being equated to Trump. ((update: Error in my notes: I am told by a third party that it was Kate Downing that equated Keller to Trump as a comment to Wolbach's post and that Wolbach was silent (implies consent)-- he was actively responding to other comments))
Aside: At the City Council candidate forum sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce (2016-09-15), the first mention of "quality of life" came from Liz Kniss--who Wolbach supports--as one of her top three priorities.

As before, this posting quickly received supporting comments and Likes from like-minded advocates.

----Summary----
I would have hoped that this year's Presidential campaigns would have sensitized people to the danger of allowing themselves to become desensitized to politics that is mostly insults, posturing and fabricated facts. Cory Wolbach and Kate Downing are not anonymous Internet trolls, but public officials. And notice that they and Mike Greenfield haven't "gone rogue": From others in their faction (PAF and allies) you see praise and redistribution of their claims rather than repudiation, or at the very least shunning.

People inclined to support PAF and the candidates they support should ask themselves if that isn't counterproductive. It starts with the obvious animosities being generated. It extends to all the time wasted dealing with nonsensical claims and demands--witness the effort expended by many to counter them--and the wasted opportunities to actually do something. Look at the abysmal output of the recent Planning and Transportation Commission with its two PAF members (Eric Rosenblum and the now-departed Kate Downing) and two allies (Adrian Fine and Michael Alcheck).(foot#30) It has been a major departure from the highly regarded PTCs served on by Mayor Pat Burt, former Mayor Karen Holman and Council candidate Arthur Keller.

I hope that residents will make it clear that "This needs to stop now". You can start by letting you friends and neighbors know that you don't accept this as "politics as usual". The watershed moment against McCarthyism was Joseph Welch's "You've done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?"

----Footnotes----
1. If "You're despicable" seems familiar, it is the catchphrase of Daffy Duck, most memorably in the cartoon "Rabbit Seasoning" where Daffy utters this in exasperation after Bugs Bunny repeatedly thwarts Daffy's attempts to convince Elmer Fudd that it is rabbit season, not duck season, and aggressively encourages Elmer to shoot Bugs.

2. Aside: The unofficial advisors to an official are routinely referred to as the "Kitchen Cabinet". This term originated in 1831 for President Andrew Jackson influential advisors who were not part of his official cabinet.

3. Example earlier misperceptions of official who didn't recognize their "bubble":
(a) Many officials from northern Palo Alto lived in such a bubble that they would forget that southern and western parts of the city even existed: They talked as if all of Palo Alto was within easy walking distance of the University Avenue downtown. A common joke in southern Palo Alto was that many in City Hall believe that they needed a passport to cross Oregon Expressway.
(b) The assumption that all Palo Altans were very wealthy, with large amounts of discretionary income.
(c) The assumption that most Palo Altans had bought their homes before Proposition 13 (1978) and thus had a very low tax burden.
(d) The assumption that virtually all Palo Alto residents are homeowners, when it is only somewhat over half (for various reasons, rentals have dropped from roughly 55% circa 2000 to roughly 44% today). People tend to underestimate the number of rental properties because they think only of apartment buildings, whereas many of the rental properties in Palo Alto are single family houses.

4. Candidate: A. C. Johnson who had been recruited to run by Liz Kniss.

5. The link in the main text is the initial publication of the letter. However, other sites replicated it and some have substantial sequences of comments. For example: Letter + comments at Shift.newco.co.

6. "The Shame of Palo Alto: an Interview with Kate Downing on Affordable Housing" - Stanford Politics

7. "Former planning commissioner says Palo Alto has worst housing policy in U.S." - Curbed SF

8. "A Palo Alto Planning Commissioner Leaves Town--and Starts a Furor", CityLab, 2016-08-16.

9. Some examples of coverage of Mayor Burt's response to Downing:
- Palo Alto's Mayor on Kate Downing, Housing, and the Bay Area's "Gluttony for Job Growth" - Stanford Politics
- "Exclusive interview: Palo Alto mayor Patrick Burt fires back at housing critics" - Curbed SF
- "Palo Alto Mayor Fed Up -- Too Much Tech Is Hurting His City" - CBS San Francisco
- "Palo Alto decides it has too much of a good thing" - San Francisco Chronicle
- "No, Palo Alto isn't going to ban coding" - TechCrunch

10. "Behind the story of the Peninsula planning commissioner who left town to buy a house" - Zelda Bronstein. I highly recommend this article. It is very readable, although maybe not in one sitting. Its length was necessitated by the many topics in the Downing article that needed to be addressed.
Also, critiques are scattered throughout the comments of:
- " In parting shot, planning commissioner slams Palo Alto council", Palo Alto Online, 2016-08-10
- "In parting shot, planning commissioner slams Palo Alto council over housing", Palo Alto Online, 2016-08-12

11. Others in PAF are claiming "fearmongering". For example, PAF founder Elaine Uang in her reply to Brendan Walsh under the Greenfield article.

12. Critiques of Smart Growth relative to Palo Alto from earlier blogs:
- "Stupid Growth: So-called 'Smart Growth' is a cancer on the community", 2014-06-07.
- "The Law of Supply and XXXXXX", 2014-06-10.
- "Shills and Charlatans of 'Smart Growth' ", 2014-06-16.
- "Should Palo Alto really aspire to be more like a Chinese factory city?", 2014-06-22.
- "Public Transit Follies", 2014-07-01.

13. Maybell dispute: Understanding the specific issues of the Maybell dispute is unimportant here. However, in case you want a summary, may I suggest as a starting point my blog entry "Measure D (Maybell Rezoning): Cutting through the noise", 2013-10-11.

14. Creation of PASZ: I was at the initial meeting and several of the early meetings. I decided against becoming a member because I thought its focus was too narrow--doing research to present to the PTC and City Council. I saw no evidence that PASZ was created to launch campaigns for Council, again contrary to Wolbach's claim. Quite the contrary: I was worried about the seeming absence of Residentialist candidates, and tried to spark some sense of urgency with two blogs:
- "Supporting a candidate for Council: Not too early to start", 2014-01-06
- "Candidate Slates for City Council: Time to reconsider?", 2014-01-18.

15. That original Residentialist movement arose in response to the Palo Alto establishment engaging in a spree of massive development. According to the historical accounts--I wasn't here at the time--among the things the establishment want to do were turn the Baylands into a large industrial park and sell off many of the parks to become housing developments.
I thought that that was a brand to be proudly embraced, but was over-ruled by people who saw it as an unnecessary distraction.
A starting point: "They wanted to turn the baylands into a huge industrial park and build housing all (over) the city..." from The tumultuous 60's, Palo Alto Weekly, 1994-04-13.
"Off Deadline: Kirke Comstock survived rough-and-tumble politics, and a bomb", Palo Alto Online, 2016-09-03.

16. I registered the residentialists.com domain on 2005-08-01.

17. Another example of delegitimatizing opponents: "These people will say anything, but they don't really care about congestion or water use. They care about keeping the town looking exactly the way it is. These are people who view suburbia as the ideal and they look at urbanization as the death of the American Dream. They think public transit is for the poor and apartments are for people on welfare." -- The Shame of Palo Alto: an Interview with Kate Downing on Affordable Housing

18. Example economic illiteracy: From the "Balanced Mountain View" list (circa 2014H1): "...Which of the following scenarios would you rather deal with? 10 wealthy residents, 20 low income residents and 10 houses available. 10 wealthy residents, 20 low income residents and 50 houses available? The owners of the 50 units will have to compete with each other to attract the limited supply of buyers, wealthy or not because 20 of those 50 units will sit there in the market with no one interested. That's how supply and demand works."
Notice that the author--identified as a Google software engineer with a Master's Degree--makes two incredibly basic mistakes. First, she treats housing as a commodity, such as a gallon of tap water, that is the same for the billionaire and the minimum wage worker. Second, the second scenario presumes a 40% vacancy rate (20 of the 50 houses)--no one would intentionally build that much excess capacity.

19. You might hope for better economic analysis from PAF given that one member of its Steering Committee received a Ph.D. in economics (Steve Levy).

20. "conservation protections against development": "East Of Palo Alto's Eden: Race And The Formation Of Silicon Valley" by Kim-Mai Cutler, TechCrunch, 2015-01-10.

21. "Get rid of single-family zoning? These conversations shouldn't be secret" by Danny Westneat (columnist), Seattle Times, 2015-07-07.

22. More on the definition of "exclusionary zoning": Because Kim-Mai Cutler's writing is so widely cited and praised by PAF and similar advocates, her citation of the Wikipedia article makes it a reasonable basis for understanding the usage of that term by these advocates (however, notice the very partisan wording of that article). When I sampled the academic papers ranked highly by web search on this term, the definitions I encountered had only minor variations from this.

23. The question is a variant of famous line in the Marx Brothers movie "Duck Soup".

24. Joseph Eichler non-discriminatory: example account toward end of "They like Eich").

25. "disproportionately poor": I knew from long experience not to try to bother with the distinction between the claims "Minorities are disproportionately poor" and "The poor are disproportionately minorities".
Since Kim-Mai Cutler uses her own Asian-American background as being a minority, I used that group in a question. The professor's response had him excluding from the category of "minority" those Asian-Americans and Asians who could afford to buy housing units in Palo Alto.
Yes, another example of the ideology being resilient in the face of data.

26. Maybell "inconvenient facts:" In their testimony before the City and in their emails to the community, most of the eventual opponents focused on fixing what they saw as problems with the project. There were a few opponents who argued for adding the site to Juana Briones Park given the local and city-wide deficits in park land (relative to population).

27. The late Eduardo Martinez was a member of the Planning and Transportation Commission during these events and a supporter of the Maybell project. In his farewell speech before City Council on 2014-04-21, he said "We had a project recently, really important to the city, in which I believe 12 inappropriate, not very attractive, houses really were the issue. And they were almost like set in stone. And I believe that we would have had the opportunity to just brush them aside and look at that space differently, perhaps the outcome would have been different. My second thought, and that it's related in a way, is that I believe that we still have the attitude that we know what we are doing, and if only the public understood this, they would go along with us. And I believe that we do know what we are doing, but I think that our inability to take a position where we suspend what we believe and look at a planning development in a different way without the preconceptions that we have, I think we would have come a lot closer to reaching a consensus, or coming up with better ideas, or how we can come together as a community than we has shown in the past. But it's hard work to suspend what we believe in, and to try to understand what others believe. And I think in an infamous recent project, that may have helped us to a better outcome."
Video: speech starts at 1:38:53, and the quote occurs at 1:41:56.

28. Immediately next to the Maybell project was a long-established affordable housing complex managed by Palo Alto Housing Corp (PAHC). And there were other affordable housing complexes in the neighborhood (Barron Park). And the Buena Vista Mobile Home Park. And apartment complexes that have some of the more affordable rents in the city. And a declining presence of the blue- and pink-collar homeowners from before Barron Park was annexed to Palo Alto.

29. everyone who wants to live here: In the second debate of the State Assembly primary, (successful) candidate Marc Berman took the position that we must accommodate everyone.

30. PTC member Michael Alcheck in testimony before City Council on 2013-12-02 in a session on "A Conversation on the Future of the City":
"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 at 2:01:00
My blog on the whole discussion: "Listen for Yourself: An index into 'A Conversation on the Future of the City' ", 2013-12-13.


----
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.

Comments