Scott Carey, former Palo Alto mayor, dies at 82


Scott T. Carey, a former Palo Alto mayor and a well-known figure in Silicon Valley real estate, died on Aug. 11 at his home in Portola Valley surrounded by his family, following a brief illness. He was 82.

He was born on March 11, 1933, to Paul T. and Stanleigh Carey, who were an artist and pianist, respectively. He grew up in Berkeley, graduated from Berkeley High School and earned a bachelor's degree from the University of California, Berkeley. He later studied at the School of Law there at Boalt Hall, receiving his law degree in 1961.

From 1955 to 1957, he served as a pilot in the U.S. Air Force and attained the rank of captain. When graduating law school, he began practicing in San Francisco and continued in Palo Alto from 1962 to 1968. In 1976, he was admitted to practice before the Supreme Court.

In 1968, he joined the residential real estate brokerage of Cornish & Carey, which had a small commercial practice in Palo Alto. During his many years at the company -- for which he served as president, CEO and later chairman -- it grew into one of the area's most prominent commercial real estate brokerages. Now based in Santa Clara under the name Newmark Cornish & Carey, it has more than 280 agents and 12 offices in Northern California.

From 1975 to 1979, Carey served on the Palo Alto City Council, including a term as mayor. Considered an "establishment" member of the council, he was instrumental in winning council support for the $7.5 million acquisition of 500 acres in the lower foothills which is now the core of the Arastradero Open Space Preserve.

In addition, he served as an organizer and attorney for the Economic Opportunity Council of Northern Santa Clara County, a member of the Santa Clara County Land Use Commission, a member of the board of Woodside Priory School and, more recently, as an advisory board member to the Berkeley Center for Law, Business and the Economy.

According to his family, Carey was known as a strong public speaker, who could win over audiences with his humor. His many passions included family, law, politics, Bay Area sports and cars, and he enjoyed ending the day with a book, the news and a glass of wine. He belonged to the Sharon Heights Golf and Country Club and the Vintage Club in Indian Wells, California, and he played golf avidly until he lost his sight in January.

"He made the best of his life, learning and coping, keeping his wit and sense of humor," his wife, Susan, said of his last months.

He is survived by wife of 38 years, Susan Carey of Portola Valley, and his children, Michael T. Carey of San Mateo; Dennis Carey of Hanoi, Vietnam; Jeff Beaty of Concord; Cynthia (Michael Phillips) Carey of Napa Valley; Kimberly Corso of Menlo Park; Christopher Corso of Portland, Oregon; Lisa (Randy) Lamb of Atherton; and Mike E. Carey of Santa Barbara.

He is also survived by six grandchildren, Tyler Woods; Cole T. Carey; Zachary, William and Alexandra Lamb; Sophia Phillips; and Benjamin Carey as well as his brother, Peter (Joanne) Carey of Palo Alto; nephew, Brendan Carey; and niece, Nadia Carey.

A celebration of his life will be held at a later date. Memorial donations can be made to the UC Berkeley School of Law; Eastside College Preparatory School, 1041 Myrtle St., East Palo Alto, CA 94303; and the Scott Carey Scholarship Fund, Woodside Priory, 302 Portola Road, Portola Valley, CA 94028.

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Posted by Jay Thorwaldson
editor emeritus
on Aug 12, 2015 at 9:25 pm

Jay Thorwaldson is a registered user.

In my experience as a reporter for the Palo Alto Times covering Palo Alto during the late 1960s and 1970s, Scott Carey was a conscientious member of the City Council who ran meetings efficiently during his term as mayor, despite a 5-4 philosophical split on the council between so-called "establishment" and "residentialist" members.

When a Southern California firm proposed building hundreds of housing units on well over 500 acres in the lower foothills (west of Arastradero Road)), the council downzoned the region to restrict sharply the number of houses possible to build, then lost a federal-court lawsuit the firm filed against the city and its new zone -- leaving just the value of the land to be determined in a separate trial and judgment. Some estimates of the "lost value" pegged the land at nearly $16 million, or more.

Scott initiated negotiations while at same time talking with then-councilman Alan Henderson, who joined Scott in winning council-wide support for the settlement. The land is now called the Enid Pearson Arastradero Open Space Preserve, a naming that rankled both Carey and Henderson. Naming the preserve for Enid was a recognition of her broader contributions to environmental and growth-control moves, according to then-council member Yoriko Kishimoto, primary sponsor of the move.

Scott in his real estate/developer role also proposed a twin-tower high-rise office development across from the Avenidas senior center in the 400 block of Bryant Street, dubbed "Superblock" and rejected by a citywide vote. Tumultuous times, those.

Like this comment
Posted by Old Times
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 14, 2015 at 11:09 pm


I'm confused. You said the developer won the lawsuit, so how did the proposed hundreds of housing units instead become the Enid Pearson Preserve?

I don't know why I remember this, but I played on the same Palo Alto Girls Softball team with Lisa Carey in 1974 or 1975. I think I remember because her dad was running for office at the time and I was awed by his "celebrity status" when I visited their home.

Condolences to the entire Carey family, and God bless.

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Posted by Jay Thorwaldson
editor emeritus
on Aug 18, 2015 at 4:10 pm

Jay Thorwaldson is a registered user.

Hi Old Times --

Sorry if it was confusing. The developer/landowner (not Scott) sued the city in federal court, claiming that the city's "downzoning" of the lower foothills deprived it of a fair return on its investment. The judge agreed, leaving only a value-setting trial to come. Estimates of the value of the land ran between $15 and $20 million, a huge uncertainty and potential liability for the city. The settlement obviated the need for a value-setting phase of the trial.

Scott initiated negotiations that ultimately pegged the settlement price at $7.5 million for more than 500 acres, and the Palo Alto Times broke the story on the settlement the afternoon of the council meeting that would approve the settlement. Carey, an "establishment" member of the council, also connected with "residentialist" Alan Henderson and won his support, which led to council approval.

As a reporter for the Palo Alto Times, I'd gotten a hint of the settlement talks, but both sides had sworn to secrecy to avoid "negotiating in the press." Very challenging to figure out what was happening, and in one instance I did a technique later echoed by Woodward and Bernstein: I said if I was wrong about the $7.5 million estimate for the settlement the person should hang up. Silence. After a moment a soft voice said, "I'm still here." Bingo. But the person never told me the amount.

Scott made one more contribution to getting the story. A new reporter for the Times and I were having breakfast at Sergio's, in downtown Palo Alto, sitting at some tables just off the sidewalk. Scott was walking by and stopped just outside a small planter box and was chatting, when he said something -- I can't now remember just what, but it was an indirect, veiled comment -- that clued me that a settlement was breaking. When he casually walked on, I shouted, "Come on!" to my young colleague and jumped up. He later recounted how we literally ran through the restaurant, as I tossed money toward the owner, and the block back to the Times building on Lytton Avenue -- for about three hours of telephone calls. (That's what makes journalism fun.)

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