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Candidate profile: The Engineer — Seelam Reddy

 

Seelam Reddy is a retired aerospace engineer who believes Palo Alto is "heaven on earth" but who nevertheless hopes to make the city work 10 times better.

Since moving here from Newport Beach in 2012, the College Terrace resident has been thinking about ways to get involved in his new home town. When he announced his candidacy in early July, Reddy acknowledged that he is still brushing up on the issues and doesn't have any immediate solutions, aside from a commitment to improving the dialogue between residents and City Hall. Since then, Reddy has been a regular fixture at City Council meetings, making his opinions known on a hodgepodge of local issues: downtown's new residential parking-permit program; the grocery store proposed for the College Terrace Centre development; YMCA's locally unpopular decision to shutter its Page Mill Road branch.

Reddy has repeatedly advocated for more government transparency, which to him means "no backroom deals." He views development as being out of control and says the council needs to "'fess up and stop deals with big builders and businesses."

He has also expressed an eclectic set of positions that range from the benign ("good child care" and "aim for low crime") to the radical ("make 'big builders' leave town,'" and "lower taxes for businesses that are innovative").

His responses to a recent Palo Alto Neighborhoods questionnaire show that Reddy supports a moratorium on new buildings "until we assess and absorb what we have." But he also thinks the city should cut out unnecessary consultants and studies that take too long.

His view of what constitutes Palo Alto's strong quality of life includes having plenty of jobs/opportunities and being inviting to startups. At the same time, he asserts in the questionnaire that the city should neither grow nor change, although, when it comes to transportation, he calls for "innovative people-mover solutions like the Tube in London."

In discussing the current development growth climate at the Aug. 4 meeting of the City Council, Reddy cited the free market and told the council, "Let's not have more rules." Then he argued that the city should not let developers build tall buildings and that it should, in fact, "get rid of them."

Born in India, Reddy moved to the United States about 40 years ago, first to attend Texas Tech University and later to take on a series of jobs in the aerospace field. After a stint in Sweetwater, Texas, he lived in Newport Beach before moving to Palo Alto.

His resume includes stretches at McDonnell Douglas, Ludlum Measurements, Hughes Electronics and Boeing Company, from which he retired in 2010. Recently, he has been consulting for VMWare on mergers and acquisitions.

It is from the aerospace industry that Reddy draws some of his terminology.

"I am for making Palo Alto 10x; means 10 times better than yesteryears and days," Reddy wrote in a posting on PaloAltoOnline.com's Town Square in late July.

Reddy is also adamant that he has no hidden agenda and does not represent a special interest group. He has criticized the council for its undisclosed negotiations with developer John Arrillaga in 2012, negotiations that were a subject of a scathing June audit by the Santa Clara County Grand Jury. In addressing the council about the report, Reddy called the city's conduct "the biggest boondoggle I've ever seen" and called on council members to disclose their actions to the public.

"Explain, that's all you can do," Reddy said. "Confess, that's all I say."

In the three months since he announced his candidacy, Reddy revised a few of his positions, all the while retaining his stance that city officials need to be more responsive to residents and transparent. But while criticizing Palo Alto's political establishment, he has also kept his distance from the residentialist candidates, whose focus is primarily on land-use issues. When the citizens group Palo Altans for Sensible Zoning (which promotes slow growth and opposes increasing zoning density of existing sites) released a scorecard last week that graded each incumbent's "residentialist" bona fides, Reddy argued on Town Square that the very concept of "residentialists" is dividing the community, which he said isn't healthy.

"We are all striving to 'live a happy life' in beautiful Palo Alto," Reddy wrote. "Keep it the way it is; no growth, small growth with sense; solve traffic issues; and live a life! Let us not make it complicated."

• To read about where Seelam Reddy stands on issues including development, transportation and housing, see the Weekly's PDF edition.

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