Former planning commission chair Eduardo Martinez dies


Eduardo Martinez, a soft-spoken architect who chaired Palo Alto's Planning and Transportation Commission before stepping down earlier this year, died last week after a battle with cancer.

Martinez, known for his sense of humor and passion for social justice and land-use transparency, served on the planning commission between 2009 and 2014. He had spent much of his tenure assisting the city with its update of the Comprehensive Plan and with reviewing some of the most contentious recent developments, including Lytton Gateway and the housing development proposed for Maybell Avenue. He co-authored a memo urging the city to reform its "planned community" process and was one of several commissioners who opposed changing a policy that discouraged commissioners from talking to developers (the policy was nevertheless changed).

He died on July 2, according to his niece Linda Martinez. He was 67.

Though invariably calm, Martinez was occasionally outspoken, as when he called Stanford University arrogant for not taking seriously enough the neighborhood's concerns about the traffic impacts of Stanford's housing complex on California Avenue.

He also frequently cited Comprehensive Plan policies in challenging development proposals. On April 21, in his final speech in the Council Chambers, Martinez told the City Council that it's time to "reinvent" the way the city reviews new developments and to solicit feedback on new proposals earlier in the process.

"As architects, we let the pendulum swing too far, where we're afraid to criticize the work of other architects so we let it go, or we make marginal comments," Martinez said.

Martinez also urged the council to truly listen to the public, rather than "have the attitude that we know what we're doing and if only the public understood this, they'd go along with us."

"I believe we do know what we're doing. But I think our inability to take a position where we suspend what we believe and look at a planning development in a different way without the preconception that we have, I think we would come a lot closer to reaching a consensus or coming up with better ideas for how we can come together as a community than we have shown in the past."

In honor of his service, the City Council passed a resolution of appreciation in April, lauding him for "raising awareness and understanding of 'public benefit,' social justice in land-use policies and supporting principles of good urban design and community planning."

"He was conscientious, diligent, thoughtful, patient, supportive and lighthearted," the resolution states. "Eduardo's sense of humor lightened up contentious and controversial issues of great potential importance to the city, and he welcomed contributions from the public, colleagues on the commission and the staff."

Palo Alto resident Fred Balin, a land-use watchdog, praised him at the April 21 meeting for his humility and wisdom and called him "someone you were compelled to listen to and to consider."

"He served with great humility and integrity, sensitivity to people, place and circumstance," Balin said. "He never became visibly upset. Was he unconsciously saying, 'People, get over your sense of specialness and think beyond yourself'?"

Councilwoman Karen Holman, who had served with Martinez on the planning commission before joining the council, said she had found him to be "intelligent, gracious, forthright and thoughtful."

"Whether we agreed or not on issues, and we often we did, we were able to laugh at and with each other and move on."

Planning commission Chair Mark Michael, who had served as vice chair under Martinez, praised him for his "wonderful sense of compassion."

"He had brought a sense of humility to discussions that were often contentious and controversial," Michael said Wednesday.

A Los Angeles native, Martinez moved to Berkeley in 1967 to earn a bachelor's degree in architecture and urban design from U.C. Berkeley. He then obtained a master's degree in urban design from Harvard University.

Martinez later moved back to Berkeley, where his architectural firm was based. He also lived in Campbell for eight years before moving to Palo Alto in 2008.

Linda Martinez said he became passionate about architecture in his childhood, when his father bought him books on the subject and took him on trips. He was also passionate about being involved in the community and, according to Palo Alto's resolution, specialized in public architecture, including public housing and buildings that housed community nonprofits.

"It was his life's work," Linda Martinez said.

In his parting comments, just before he received a standing ovation in the Council Chambers, Martinez thanked the council for the trust it has placed in the planning commission.

"Frankly, I love this job," Martinez said. "I loved the trust that you all gave us, the attention you gave to our comments and deliberations on matters of important land-use decisions ... the trust you gave us in our work on the Comp Plan. And really, the respect that the city has offered to all the Planning and Transportation commissioners."

A reception in his honor will be held on July 27 at the Kinsey James Couture Bridal, a building he helped renovate at 1623 Mt. Diablo Boulevard, Walnut Creek.

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Like this comment
Posted by jim baer
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 10, 2014 at 10:30 am

Eduardo was a thoughtful, humorous, connected leader who chose to spend his time with the Planning Commission to address specific projects and broader City land use issues. Eduardo was approachable and listened with his wise experience, and his ability to connect with others sincerely and as a friend.

I am sorry for our loss of Eduardo.

Like this comment
Posted by Jeff Rensch
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 10, 2014 at 11:03 am

Yes, this is a saddening loss. Hope his family is doing well.

Like this comment
Posted by Penny
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jul 10, 2014 at 11:17 am

This article captures Eduardo's spirit beautifully. Eduardo was very generous about taking time to listen and share ideas with citizens--treating everyone with the kindness one offers to friends. He tried to press the city toward defining a meaningful vision for Palo Alto's future through the Comprehensive Plan rather than piecemeal project approvals. I appreciated his gracious and thoughtful dedication to community service.

My deepest condolences to his family. May his memory be a blessing.

Like this comment
Posted by Sad
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jul 10, 2014 at 12:10 pm

Eduardo was an intelligent and gracious and well-spoken man. I am sad about his loss.
I kept wishing his votes would be in the same vein as his words. Alas, he consistently supported major developments.

Like this comment
Posted by Samir Tuma
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 10, 2014 at 12:10 pm

Eduardo, my friend, it was such an honor and pleasure to serve with you on the PTC. You pushed us all to approach our positions as Commissioners with a true sense of responsibility to the community we served. You challenged the staff, community, developers and fellow commissioners to think deeply about the policies we helped develop, and the individual projects we reviewed. It is no surprise that you spent the majority of your time on the commission in leadership roles. We are all better off because of you, and we are all at a loss with your departure.

Like this comment
Posted by Beverly Kenville
a resident of another community
on Jul 10, 2014 at 12:47 pm

Eduardo was my mentor, employer and friend for the past 11 years. We worked on many many projects during that time. He taught me so much, was gentle in his critique and encouraged my designs. Am finishing his last project in Santa Cruz...he will be missed.

Like this comment
Posted by Doria Summa
a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 10, 2014 at 6:34 pm

Dear Gennady,

Thank you very much for writing such a nice article about Eduardo and his service to the city of Palo Alto.

For those of you who are interested to hear the entirety of Eduardo's speech to the City Council on April, 21 st., there is no transcript, but… is available to Watch at the Mid Peninsula Media Center, in the Government Archive section; Item B. Special Orders of the Day, @ (link):

Web Link
time stamp; 1.30.30

The Policy and Services Committee of the Council will be discussing Eduardo's speech at some time in the future after Council returns in August.

It would be great for residents to attend the committee meeting.

Like this comment
Posted by Linda
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 13, 2014 at 7:27 pm

Dear Gennady,
Thank you for the article on Eduardo Martinez. He loved Palo Alto and was dedicated to making Palo Alto a better place for people who live and work here. He took his role as Chairman of the Planning & Transportation Commission very seriously and spent an incredible amount of time on the Comprehensive Plan and reviewing the development projects. He was also compassionate, generous and giving of his time and counsel. He mentored and counseled me, my brother and sister and so many others. He will always be in my heart. I am sure his children - Juliana, Eduardo and Anais - would agree that you did an amazing job with your profile and I thank you again for your diligence and for getting it right.
Thank you everyone for your warm thoughts and kind words. It means a lot to his family to know how that Eduardo left an indelible and lasting legacy.

Like this comment
Posted by Linda
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 13, 2014 at 7:30 pm

PS Thank you Jim Baer. Eduardo would have really liked your post.

Like this comment
Posted by Eduardo Martinez Jr.
a resident of another community
on Jul 24, 2014 at 4:39 pm

I wanted to write a quick note of thanks to Gennady, Palo Alto Online, the community, and everyone who wrote something about my dad. He was totally committed to the community and loved the work of the commission. We quickly learned why he didn't answer his cell phone on certain Wednesday nights! For a Berkeley transplant, the community and people of Palo Alto embraced my father as one of their own. As I struggle to cope, it's brought me great comfort to see this story and the wonderful comments about how my dad touched so many. From the bottom of my broken heart, thank you all so much.

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