News

Council tries to narrow rift with planning commission

Palo Alto council members offer words of criticism, encouragement to their top land-use advisers

They are either the unsung heroes of Palo Alto's planning process or a rogue group of pro-growth advocates with a recent tendency to provoke, rather than support the City Council.

Whatever one's view is of the Planning and Transportation Commission, just about everyone on the council agreed that something isn't right with what has traditionally been the city's most influential advisory board, one whose purview includes everything from bike paths and housing policies to new developments and zoning reforms.

On Monday night, in a joint meeting between the council and the commission, the two sides had their chance to air their grievances, explain their positions and forge a path toward repairing the increasingly dysfunctional relationship.

Part annual review and part group therapy, the discussion featured words of gratitude and appreciation, constructive criticism, clarifications about the commission's role, and a few sharp rebukes.

On the latter-most front, Councilman Pat Burt led the charge. The planning commission, he argued, has traditionally enjoyed a range of perspectives. In some cases, Burt said, he had supported appointing a commissioners whom he disagreed with, just to add a new perspective to the board.

Today, however, that diversity of perspective doesn't exist, Burt argued. He pointed as examples the commission's recent recommendation to reform the "planned-community" zoning process (a recommendation that the council quickly rejected for not going far enough) and its vehement criticism of the council's proposal to adopt an annual cap on new office developments in main commercial areas.

"We've now seen the commission all too frequently feeling or expressing a real frustration with the policies and values of the majority of the council and taking a very much oppositional role, even when policy direction had been provided to the commission," Burt said.

He also took exception to Commissioner Kate Downing's comment at the Sept. 30 commission meeting, when the commission was considering a change in the zoning code that would remove density bonuses for developers who demolish seismically unsafe buildings and replace them with new developments.

"Is the council really saying that extra square footage and extra parking are more important than the lives of the people who live and die in these buildings?" Downing asked. "I really can't support this."

Burt said Monday that he found this comment offensive, echoing a sentiment that Councilman Tom DuBois expressed last month.

"I can't tell you how offensive and wrong that was," Burt said.

The comment, he argued, showed a misunderstanding of the council's direction. It seemed to be "oblivious" to the fact that the council is moving ahead with an ambitious new program in the Development Center to enhance the city's seismic program through both mandates and incentives, a program that will soon be returning to the council for approval, Burt said.

"In any event, if you disagree with a recommendation, make rational arguments that you think may be persuasive," Burt said. "But I can't imagine under what possible scenario that kind of statement would be viewed as constructive or of value, not only to the council but to the governance of the city."

Burt also observed that several commissioners (namely, Eric Rosenblum and Downing) have a strong financial tie to Palantir, one of downtown's largest employers (Rosenblum works at the firm, as does Downing's husband). Burt requested that the Office of the City Attorney take a fresh look as to whether these commissioners have been recusing themselves from discussions affecting downtown office development, which could have an impact on Palantir.

"These are as strong a comment as I've ever made about a body that serves the city," Burt said at the conclusion of his remarks. "I regret that I feel obliged to make them."

Other council members were far more generous toward the commission, a group of volunteers who are appointed by the council. Cory Wolbach was one of several council members to thank the commission for its work, even if its conclusions often don't jibe with his own.

"I certainly enjoy when they burst my ideological bubble or get me out of my cognitive bubble," Wolbach said.

Councilwoman Liz Kniss agreed.

"In so many ways, you're unsung," she said. "I'm not sure the public knows how much time and energy you put into this. Just know that we're all grateful and appreciate what you do."

Vice Mayor Greg Schmid, whose views tend to go toward the slow-growth side, nevertheless said he is a "big fan" of the commission and called verbatim minutes of its meetings a "must-read" for council members.

Yet he also questioned a recent vote by the planning commission to revise the boundaries of a proposed "single-story overlay" district in the Greer Park North neighborhood (the council approved the new zoning designation, which prohibits two-story homes, along the original boundaries on Tuesday morning).

In their deliberations in October, commissioners observed that numerous proponents of the ban already own two-story homes and argued that their votes should thus not hold as much weight. Schmid disagreed with the commission's logic. Nothing in the city's rules prohibits these property owners from voting for the overlay, he said.

"When you set up the rules for voting, you've got to respect every single vote," Schmid said. "You can disagree and say why, but it's hard for a council member to override a 70 percent majority."

Schmid urged the commission members to make a "clear statement" at the end of the meeting, explaining the vote. Mayor Karen Holman also recommended that the commission rely more on the city's "foundational documents" like the Comprehensive Plan when making decisions. She concurred with Burt that to effectively vet an issue, the commission needs to have a "balance of perspectives."

"I have some concerns that we don't have a balance of perspectives on the commission right now," Holman said.

Commissioners countered the criticism by characterizing their panel as an independent body that is more concerned with a thorough analysis than with any ideology. Commission Chair Greg Tanaka noted that members "serve at the pleasure of the council" and that their job is to "help the council."

"All the commission members have heard the feedback from the council and we're going to try our best to make sure we can serve in the best way possible," Tanaka said.

While acknowledging that they aren't always as coherent and articulate as they could be, several commissioners said they take their roles in the process very seriously.

Downing stressed that while the council can give the commission special directions, it is the commission's job to review new ordinances in their entirety.

"We're required to approve and disapprove an ordinance in totality," she said. "We can't ignore the rest of it. We can't not talk about the rest of it. I think that's part of the discord happening between us and the council."

Downing also offered an explanation of her Sept. 30 comment, which she said was meant to highlight her view that the removal of the seismic bonus should constitute a serious policy decision. The September meeting, she noted, focused mainly on trivial cleanup items in the zoning code. Her comment intended to make the point that this zoning change warrants more discussion.

"I'm sorry my comments were taken the wrong way about that, but I think there are a lot of things that need to be taken into account and they (parking exemptions) aren't the only one," Downing said.

Commissioner Michael Alcheck, a real estate attorney who often advocates for greater density in downtown and on El Camino Real, characterized the commission as an independent body that, unlike the council, is not beholden to popular sentiments from the public.

The council, Alcheck argued, is "subject to the popular whims of this community." The commission isn't, he said. This distinction is "fundamental" to the commission's work, he said, because a large part of the job is to "provide guidance that won't be popular."

"It's not surprising to me that in the past year, you've experienced a very significant change about how you feel about the commission," Alcheck said. "We didn't change that much."

Councilman Eric Filseth, who is affiliated with the council's slow-growth "residentialist" wing, rejected that logic.

"We, the council, report to the residents," Filseth said. "When you describe elections as 'popular whims,' that's our boss you're talking about."

The council's priority, he said, is to "execute the community's business" as efficiently as it can. The direction from the community, as evidenced in the recent election, is to pursue a "slow-growth" path.

"Not everyone agrees with that direction," Filseth said. "That's OK. But there's a variety of ways to act when that's the case."

Councilman Greg Scharff, meanwhile, joined those who praised the commission for its work. He thanked the commissioners for their hard work and for making significant contributions to the city's planning process. He also urged commissioners to more clearly spell out their areas of agreement and disagreement, possibly through issuance of minority opinions.

"I don't think we need to be on the same page at all," Scharff said. "But I think we need to be in the same book. That's the distinction we're looking at."

Comments

20 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 1, 2015 at 8:49 pm

" The council, Alcheck argued, is "subject to the popular whims of this community." The commission isn't, he said. This distinction is "fundamental" to the commission's work, he said, because a large part of the job is to "provide guidance that won't be popular." "


Instead of acting like repentant kids caught in the cookie jar, the commissioners acidly put the uppity city council in its place. Stay tuned, citizens, this is far from over.


Posted by Name hidden
a resident of University South

on Dec 1, 2015 at 9:14 pm

Due to repeated violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are automatically removed. Why?


30 people like this
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 1, 2015 at 9:18 pm

WOW - "guidance that won't be popular." That is amazing - it assumes that no one reads any papers that discuss architectural style. What a bad assumption. Everyone understands bad taste - or acceptance of architectural efforts that do not quality as anything except 'simply being there". We all know what bad taste is and what good taste is.


21 people like this
Posted by safety
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 1, 2015 at 10:08 pm

We have council members who are so desperate to make housing in Palo Alto impossible that they'll try and do an end run around our democratic process by sneaking policy change into a "code clean-up" instead of voting on it. This particular change would've struck down the incentive that's been in place for many years to keep our people safe by making buildings resistant to earthquakes.

You bet you're going to get called out on that, and thank you PTC for doing so.


125 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 2, 2015 at 6:50 am

There is a contingent of PAF members on the PTC, and they aggressively push an extreme growth and density agenda that would turn Palo Alto into a very dense and urban city. They were appointed by the outgoing council in a clear end around the last election result. The only solution is to dismiss the entire commission and appoint new members who don't adhere to the developers and Palantir vision.


27 people like this
Posted by Open
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 2, 2015 at 10:48 am

[Portion removed.] Why can't the PTC be seen as an independent board of hardworking individuals (volunteers!) who were vetted to be on the Commission just as other commissions are (by the City Councilmemebers by the way...)? I assume the Council members can accept criticism they do not agree with as well as what they agree with... no? The Council is made up of all kinds of "residentialist" members of our community including the those representing the self styled "residentialist" movement of people who don't want anything to change. There is no mandate by any minority of our community that I know of, even if some do like the title "residentialist" to the exclusion of others. Many of us, who are old residents of Palo Alto want to welcome new ideas and feel we are independent and strong enough to hear what all commissioners have to offer: the commissioners were appointed because they have expertise, have valuable differing life experience and supposedly could give advice without intimidating the Council Members. What's wrong with that? Most of the Council members are open to new ideas, some clearly are not and those who aren't seem to be irritated with the PTC for not " not towing THEIR (the council members' ) line...". This is Palo Alto: We are famous for allowing free exchange of ideas, and that is why I say: Kudo's to the PTC! and kudos to the Councilmembers who aren't reacting so negatively to independent, constructive criticism.


104 people like this
Posted by the_punnisher
a resident of Mountain View
on Dec 2, 2015 at 10:54 am

the_punnisher is a registered user.

Sorry, but anyone with a financial interest in key developers MUST recuse themselves or step down from the commission. Independence is a necessary condition for having a commission in the first place!


100 people like this
Posted by What wasn't discussed
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 2, 2015 at 11:17 am

Not discussed: Conflicts of interest in addition to Palantir. (thanks to P.Burt for the courage to raise this one) For example, Alcheck's declaration of his financial interests is almost empty. No mention of possible Trusts, or of possible spouse's income. Some council members do report these.
Where is the City Attorney? who should be checking these documents?


113 people like this
Posted by senor blogger
a resident of Palo Verde
on Dec 2, 2015 at 12:03 pm

Very simple: rosenblum and downing are in direct conflict of interest situations and have to go. Get on with it Council. Whose running the show here.

Maybe you should dissolve the entire Commission and start over.


65 people like this
Posted by Sylvia
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 2, 2015 at 12:41 pm

Thank you so much, Pat Burt, for looking out for RESIDENTS of this city as opposed to unchecked office building growth.


1 person likes this
Posted by Palo Alto
a resident of another community
on Dec 2, 2015 at 1:04 pm

[Post removed.]


2 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 2, 2015 at 1:26 pm

[Post removed.]


51 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 2, 2015 at 1:32 pm

Thank you Pat Burt for trying to protect the best interests of Palo Alto residents. The Planning Dept staff undermines the city council. The staff are obstructionists. They should be fired.


3 people like this
Posted by Get a clue
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 2, 2015 at 1:38 pm

[Post removed.]


21 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 2, 2015 at 2:47 pm

[Post removed.]


7 people like this
Posted by Kettle Black?
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 2, 2015 at 2:51 pm

How ironic to watch Burt call out others for what he believes to be a conflict. As a strong advocate for the plating industry, one who has worked in the industry and arguably still draws income from that industry, he clearly has a conflict of interest on the cpi matter. But his blinders do not allow him to see that. So Mr Burt, if you want to throw stones, you should make sure you are not living in a glass house!!


15 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 2, 2015 at 3:00 pm

[Post removed.]


70 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 2, 2015 at 3:18 pm

Alcheck said the Maybell vote wasn't real, too.


8 people like this
Posted by Conflict of interest?
a resident of another community
on Dec 2, 2015 at 3:49 pm

Is it a conflict of interest to be a homeowner, and to advocate for policies that continue to increase housing prices - even though this means that incoming residents of Palo Alto need to be wealthier and wealthier to be able to move in?

Or is it a perfectly reasonable financial interest to want one's home to increase in value?


80 people like this
Posted by Home ownership is not a conflict
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 2, 2015 at 4:18 pm

@Conflict of interest - Since many, many of the voters are also homeowners, having homeowners on the commission seems more like an alignment of interests than a conflict. It seems reasonable that renters would also be represented somehow. Having large-scale property owners or employers represented seems more like a conflict - they don't vote (at least not in their corporate capacity) and the town shouldn't be run for their benefit.


56 people like this
Posted by Abitarian
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 2, 2015 at 4:33 pm

Call it courage or call it chutzpah, I am glad Pat Burt spoke about issues that concern many of us. His attempt to open dialog will do far more to resolve conflicts than will the council members falling over one another to express their appreciation for the PTC.


10 people like this
Posted by Conflict of interest?
a resident of another community
on Dec 2, 2015 at 4:48 pm

So, the PTC should favor residents who commute to their jobs or who are retired, because working in town is bad for the community?

Also renter representation is important, why are there only one or two renters on the Citizens' Advisory Committee for the General Plan.


8 people like this
Posted by facts please
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Dec 2, 2015 at 4:58 pm

Re: "How ironic to watch Burt call out others for what he believes to be a conflict. As a strong advocate for the plating industry, one who has worked in the industry and arguably still draws income from that industry, he clearly has a conflict of interest on the cpi matter." I can't remember him ever "advocating for the plating industry", can you cite some example? He has experience in the industry, no involvement with CPI, but not sure how that is a conflict. Should Greg Scharff "Law Firm specializing in Litigation, Real Estate and Business Matters" or Michael Alcheck "He is a real estate and land use attorney", who work in real estate matters be barred from deciding any council real estate matters?


88 people like this
Posted by History Buff
a resident of another community
on Dec 2, 2015 at 5:48 pm

“Instead of acting like repentant kids caught in the cookie jar, the commissioners acidly put the uppity city council in its place.”

Why should they be repentant when council members Kniss, Wolbach and Scharff heap praise upon them?

How come Councilman DuBois has to recuse himself from certain matters because his wife works at Stanford, yet it’s OK for people with Palantir interests can serve on the PTC?

Alcheck’s Form 700 is missing financial interest information, yet no one has called him on it. Where’s the city attorney when you need her. Does she not care about the rules? Why doesn’t the mayor and the council care that a commissioner has been serving for over a year without filing the required paperwork? Complain to the FPPC Web Link


50 people like this
Posted by In support of Pat Burt
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 2, 2015 at 6:25 pm

I absolutely appreciate the comments that Pat Burt and the Council made to support the residents of Palo Alto.

Development alone is not progress and higher density without infrastructure does not make sense.


12 people like this
Posted by Kettle Black
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 2, 2015 at 10:43 pm

@facts please, Burt held several industry positions in which he was an advocate for the industry. Do your homework! And if he wants to say that commissioners should be conflicted out because they work for a downturn business (analogous to what you say about Scharff), then Burt should not be ruling on the plating shop. Also, Burt has said pulbically that he has advised CPI, so again, before you come to his rescue, know who the guy really is and what his agenda is!


37 people like this
Posted by Pat Burt
a resident of Community Center
on Dec 3, 2015 at 9:00 am

Just to clarify, over 15 years ago I was an active leader within the metal finishing industry focusing my efforts on promoting reductions in the use of hazardous materials. I am proud of my contributions in that area.
When CPI had their release 8 years ago, I advised them as a concerned community leader to work aggressively to reduce the amounts of hazardous materials they used. That is the limit of any advise I gave them. I have zero financial relationship with CPI.
These efforts did not and do not constitute a financial or ethical conflict of interest.


108 people like this
Posted by It's Easy
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 3, 2015 at 9:49 am

The only, and simplest, solution is to dismiss every single one of the Palantir employees and spouses. The violate the law by being on the PTC in the first place, and should not have been allowed in to begin with.

Dismissals should begin post-haste, and new members should be vetted more thoroughly.


8 people like this
Posted by Get a clue
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 3, 2015 at 10:25 am

Which PTC members work at palantir? What law are they breaking? Who should replace them? PASZ members? Holman, Dubois and filseth need to be replaced. They are idealogues who do not follow the rules


79 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 3, 2015 at 10:57 am

"PASZ members? Holman, Dubois and filseth need to be replaced. They are ideologues who do not follow the rules"

Sorry, but this is an upside down comment. It is the PAF members in the TPC and city council who need to be replaced. They have a nightmarish vision of Palo Alto which would turn it into another depressing dense and polluted American city, ignoring the fact that Palo Alto is one of the most unique towns in the entire world and deserves to be preserved as the jewel it once was and can still be again.

Unfortunately, pointing out the conflict of interest, and sometime dishonesty, of these people is usually subjected to a lighting quick deletion by the moderator, as is the way they coordinate their actions with Palantir.


74 people like this
Posted by Mark Weiss
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 3, 2015 at 11:02 am

expecting this group of Gen Y technocrats to regulate the building industry is like expecting the velociraptors to defeat Indominus in Jurassic world


8 people like this
Posted by Get A clue
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 3, 2015 at 11:11 am

Okay Mauricio, which PAF members are on the TPC? Why cannot PAF members be on the PTC? What dishonest things have they done? All I hear is accusations of dishonesty, breaking the law or working with palantir ( as if that is a crime) without any proof.


4 people like this
Posted by What wasn't discussed
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 3, 2015 at 4:42 pm

This thread about the PTC is in the SCHOOLS section. MISTAKE?


Moderator's Note: Thanks, we corrected this.


30 people like this
Posted by the_punnisher
a resident of Mountain View
on Dec 3, 2015 at 4:50 pm

the_punnisher is a registered user.

Another problem: Community is everyone, special interests serve some few of that community. That has always been a problem that good government tries to have solved for centuries.

That is where the saying " the fox guarding the hen house " comes from.


75 people like this
Posted by anon
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Dec 3, 2015 at 9:14 pm

to answer an earlier question…

Eric Rosenblum works at Palantir and Kate Downing's husband works at Palantir. Both Rosenblum and Downing are serving on the PTC and have not recused themselves always on "office issues" in the downtown zone.


88 people like this
Posted by What wasn't discussed
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 3, 2015 at 10:05 pm

Michael Alcheck's Form 700 Statement of Economic Interests is empty except for a mysterious number.Hard to believe a real estate attorney doesn't own anything.

Is it the job of the City Attorney to enforce the law? She may have a different view of her duties, which is *not* to enforce ethical lapses.

For that matter,Cory Wolbach's Statement also is blank.


68 people like this
Posted by Roger Overnaut
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Dec 3, 2015 at 10:50 pm

This thread about the PTC is in the SCHOOLS section. MISTAKE?

It's quite apt. The kids on the PTC were being schooled by their parents on the CC.


56 people like this
Posted by Previous thread
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 4, 2015 at 9:29 am

There was a previous thread from several weeks ago that named the names of the Palantir employees who work on the PTC.

There are a LOT of them, more than enough to be suspicious.


84 people like this
Posted by Previous Thread
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 4, 2015 at 9:43 am

The names are: Kate Downing, whose spouse works for Palantir
Eric Rosenblum, failed to disclose that he works for Palantir on his application
Mehdi Alhassani
Mila Zelkha
Bret Somers

[Portion removed.]

Until Palantir employees are dismissed, anything the PTC does or says should be regarded as non-legitimate.


63 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 4, 2015 at 3:24 pm

I believe that Palantir is guilty of influence peddling and of planting moles in the TPC. Because of their close association with PAF and coordination of crowd appearance before the city council, there is no real distinction between Palantir and PAF. They are basically lobbyists for the real estate development industry. Not being a lawyer, I don't know if there is legal remedy, but I believe strongly that all PAF members and Palantir employees on the TPC should be dismissed immediately and replaced. As far as the PAF members and sympathizers on the council, it's for the voters to decide, and I hope they will in the next council election.


15 people like this
Posted by I have a question
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 4, 2015 at 3:45 pm

Previous thread- alhassani, zekha and somers are not on the PTC. And I am not sure if being a US citizen is a requirement for serving on a voluntry position on a committee. But what are you trying to say.

Maurucio- enough already with the conspiracy theories and bogus accusations of criminal activity. If you have any real proof of some of the far fetched claims you make ( planting moles, crowd appearances etc) @and criminal activity you should provide them to the proper authorihties.and of course the question is why shouldn't PAF memyers be on the PTC or any other commissison. Don't their voices deserve to be heard? Or are you advocating a dictatorship were only those that follow your beliefs have a voice in the city. You propositions, frankly, are quite scary and chilling as far as the Democratic process goes.


73 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 4, 2015 at 4:57 pm

[Post removed.]


70 people like this
Posted by Better Off
a resident of Professorville
on Dec 4, 2015 at 6:06 pm

[Post removed.]


9 people like this
Posted by I have a question
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 4, 2015 at 6:37 pm

[Post removed.]


72 people like this
Posted by What wasn't discussed
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 5, 2015 at 12:08 pm

Palantir employees in Palo Alto City government:

Mehdi Alhassani on Human Relations Commission.

Kate Vershov Downing on PTC; husband Steve Downing works for Palantir; they have over a million dollars in Palantir stock and options.

Eric Rosenblum on PTC, works for Palantir;was hired after he was appointed to PTC.

Mila Zelkha, Palantirjob title "Community Ambassador". Public Art Commission. was on the Comprehensive Plan Advisory Committee but resigned from Comp Plan Committee after being hired by Palantir.

Will Griffin on RPP Stakeholder Group (replaced Brett Somers)

Bob McGrew on Traffic Management Committee

There may be others, these are just the public figures. It may be that Palantir wants representatives in many different places to head off anything they don't like, and to encourage what they do want, for example, more dense housing near their expanding downtown offices.


7 people like this
Posted by stephen levy
a resident of University South
on Dec 5, 2015 at 1:19 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

Or it could be that Palantir like many companies encourages employees to give back to their communities through public service.

I do not remember anyone complaining when H-P or Stanford had staff active in Palo Alto public service.


11 people like this
Posted by I have a question
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 5, 2015 at 1:23 pm

What wasnt discussed- or they may just be local citizens who feel that volunteering for city positions is the right thing to do. If you have proof of any ulterior motives by palantir please share them with everyone. Otherwise all we have is people who seem to feel the need to portray palantir as some evil entity and who seem to feel that only people that share their view should have any voice in the city. Sounds very undemocratic to me.


58 people like this
Posted by What wasn't discussed
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 6, 2015 at 12:40 pm

To I have a question:
Your [portion removed] suggestion that these are just community-minded folks who want to give back to the community for the wealth they have accumulated, caused me to look further at their government participation.

Addition to the list above
Mila Zelkha is also on the city's Traffic Management Committee in addition to Bob McGrew. She is also an experienced developer, and is, or was Director of Real Estate & Facilities for the InnVision Shelter Network, and is on the Board of the Palo Alto Housing Corp. This became interesting because when she was first appointed to the CAC the city just described her as a "south Palo Alto renter."

Another coincidence: Most of these Palantir employees are active members of Palo Alto Forward, as is Stephen Levy. PAF's Platform says "Add more housing clustered near services and transportation options in Downtown, El Camino, and California Avenue."

Perhaps you might understand this issue better if you looked into how many buildings Palantir occupies and plans to occupy in our downtown, instead of moving to an open area where they can build, like other big corporations do.
And take a look at who the corporation works for.


16 people like this
Posted by I have a question
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 6, 2015 at 12:55 pm

What wasnt discussed- so what you are basically telling us is that you really have no actual proof that palantir is " up to no good". We realize you feel that palantir is some evil empire, however that is not proof. You discount the suggestion that these employees are giving back to the community. You bring up PAF as if it is some evil organization and suggest that membership is somehow proof of evil doing. Then finally you make some kind of " guilt by association" connection because palantir does for corporate the DOD!!!
I find it quite chilling to our democratic process that certain people in our community want to prevent people from taking part in discussions on the city's future because of organizations they are associated with.
When you do have any proof for your claim please provide it to,all of us


49 people like this
Posted by More Importantly
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 6, 2015 at 1:29 pm

What I would like to know, and have asked on a different thread, is this: Do any of the Palantir employees and beneficiaries who are on the Planning Commission also actually LIVE in Palo Alto?

Considering the ruckus and protests that many of the Palantir employees have put up, in front of the City Council, no less, I have assumed that none of them actually live here.

And if they do not live in Palo Alto, Palantir employees legally have no say in Palo Alto city planning or politics.

Technically, it is highly possible that even if any Palantir employees live here, they may not legally be allowed to have any say in any city planning or politics regarding their employer. I know that Stanford employees who live here and also are involved in city government are required to recuse themselves from any vaguely Stanford-related business or planning decisions vis-a-vis Palo Alto!

Why are Palantir employees who live here excused from this legal requirement???


3 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 6, 2015 at 1:50 pm

[Post removed.]


4 people like this
Posted by I have a question
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 6, 2015 at 2:40 pm

[Post removed.]


2 people like this
Posted by stephen levy
a resident of University South
on Dec 6, 2015 at 2:58 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

@ More importantly

Eric Rosenblum and Kate Downing both live in Palo Alto and regularly recuse themselves from Palantir related decisions.

[Portion removed.]

Here let me help you out on the residency requirement from the PTC website.

"The Commission is composed of seven members who are current residents of the City of Palo Alto and are not Council Members, officers, or employees of the City. Terms are for four years and commence on November 1. See Palo Alto Municipal Code (PAMC) Sections 2.20 for more information. You may contact the City Clerk's Office at 650-329-2571 to be notified of vacancies and appointment procedures."


35 people like this
Posted by Margaret
a resident of South of Midtown
on Dec 6, 2015 at 3:09 pm

is Palo Alto a Village or a City… what do we want to be?


7 people like this
Posted by stephen levy
a resident of University South
on Dec 6, 2015 at 4:24 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

Hi Margaret,

I understand that some residents would like PA to be more like a village but don't you think even if growth slowed that it is hard for a Palo Alto to be a "village" given that we have a world class university, a regional research park, a regional shopping center and a regional medical center and are in the midst of cities to the north and south?


30 people like this
Posted by Margaret
a resident of South of Midtown
on Dec 6, 2015 at 5:13 pm

Stephen,
Yes, thanks for asking…

I think we could be a Village if we wanted to, this is California, where people are supposedly interested in having some control over the frame of their existence, and not simply passive monkeys responding to whatever structures the outside (or commercial) world imposes on us… our destiny is in our hands alone

So even with those entities you mention we still have a Choice in how we respond

So, I'm asking, what would we like to be, believe it and it comes true, everything else constructs around this

Village or City?


14 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 6, 2015 at 6:05 pm

Moderator: Why did you remove my call for a Grand Jury to get the facts regarding the allegations of conflicts of interest by Palantir associates? That is, after all, the proper objective legal process for settling such matters.

If you disagree, stand up and say so.


5 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 6, 2015 at 6:10 pm

"[Palo Alto is a city] in the midst of cities to the north and south?"

Um, no. We are the city in the midst of villages to the north and south. To be fair we should pause to let them catch up, if they have the civic recklessness to do so.


43 people like this
Posted by Ironic
a resident of another community
on Dec 6, 2015 at 6:11 pm

Leaving it to Palo Alto to resolve that spat but it's kind of ironic that one version of Palantir's platform seems to be called "Palantir Forward"


27 people like this
Posted by Margaret
a resident of South of Midtown
on Dec 7, 2015 at 4:29 pm

Ok.… according to wikipedia
Web Link

Palo Alto is a large town, not a village, not a city… I think that's about right

So we need Town structures and design

Most people come here from Cities, so we are always overbiased in favor of City structures. Then we always get to act shocked shocked when they don't work.


13 people like this
Posted by What wasn't discussed
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 7, 2015 at 10:12 pm

[Post removed.]


24 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 8, 2015 at 6:01 am

Palo Alto is not a village, but it is a small town, with a strong attempt to artificially inflate it into a large city.

The connection and coordination between Palantir and PAF is an undeniable fact. The agressive appearances of Palantir employees before the CC demanding housing, some whom are also PAF members, are coordinated. Whether this merits an investigation is something I would leave to the lawyers amongst us.


4 people like this
Posted by Get a clue
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 8, 2015 at 6:58 am

Actuall Mauricio, nothing that you say about Palantir and PAF is backed up with any facts whatsoever


20 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 8, 2015 at 11:30 am

Not only is the connection and corroboration between Palantir and PAF backed up may times over, I heard it from a former classmate of my daughter who now works for Palantir. He told me after the first mass appearance by Palantir employees before the CC, demanding housing, that the event was fully coordinated between Palantir and PAF, which has several members who work for Palantir, and that he was strongly encouraged to attend.


9 people like this
Posted by Get a clue
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 8, 2015 at 11:59 am

OH come on. This is hearsay and supposition. Part of a smear campaign against PAF and palantir, in order to exclude them from the democratic process in the city. I suggest you either provide real proof or stop these scurrilous attacks.


17 people like this
Posted by Jane
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 8, 2015 at 1:21 pm

A little googling will expose early articles about how PAF was originally a group of Palantir employees. Their original website and blog, which I was reading late spring/early summer, was quite revealing. Their "official launching" late last summer/early fall with a big party and new sanitized website was a stroke of political PR genius. PAF now appears to be a group that coalesced last summer made up of people representing diverse backgrounds with common goals.


15 people like this
Posted by Got the Clues
a resident of University South
on Dec 8, 2015 at 2:03 pm

" Part of a smear campaign against PAF and palantir, in order to exclude them from the democratic process in the city."

And what is your connection to Palantir, pray tell? Smearing the accuser is an old tactic.


16 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 8, 2015 at 4:13 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

@get a clue: even if the Plantir and PAF members, often one and the same, would admit to the truth, which is that they have been coordinating and collaborating since the formation of PAF (originally formed initially by Palantir employees), you would be denying it or claim there was nothing wrong.

It's sad that you support development with such zeal that you deny the obvious and irrefutable and attack the messangers.


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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