News


Lydia Kou announces bid for Palo Alto City Council

Barron Park resident becomes first candidate to enter race for four council seats

Lydia Kou, a longtime neighborhood volunteer who in recent years has emerged as a leading critic of Palo Alto's land-use policies, announced Friday that she will be seeking a seat on the City Council in November.

In declaring her bid for council, Kou became the first candidate to enter the race. A Barron Park resident with a long history of organizing emergency-preparedness exercises and events promoting cultural diversity, she is philosophically aligned with the city's slow-growth "residentialist" camp and has been deeply critical of recently approved commercial developments.

This will be Kou's second council bid in two years. In the 2014 election, which featured 14 candidates vying for five council seats, Cory Wolbach edged out Kou by 135 votes, or 0.18 percent, for fifth place. Since then, she has remained active in the political scene, regularly attending council meetings to voice her concerns about new developments and the city's long-term planning efforts.

Other slow-growth candidates performed well in the 2014 election, with Tom DuBois and Eric Filseth (who, like Kou, were endorsed by the citizens group Palo Altans for Sensible Zoning) each winning seats and residentialist standard-bearer Karen Holman leading the field in votes received. Now, the council's four staunchest residentialists -- DuBois, Filseth, Holman and Greg Schmid –- are the honorary chairs of Kou's council campaign.

Kou's engagement in Palo Alto's land-use debates deepened in 2013, when she became one of the leading opponents of a housing development that the council approved for a former orchard site at Maybell and Clemo avenues. She was also active in the citizen referendum that struck down the development (which included 12 single-family homes and 60 apartments for low-income seniors) and that shook up the composition of the council, handing the majority to the candidates favoring slower growth the following year.

Last month, Kou joined other Barron Park residents in supporting a starkly different housing project for the Maybell site: a 16-home development proposed by Golden Gate Homes. During a May public hearing in front of the Planning and Transportation Commission, she lauded the developer for "working diligently and transparently with the community" on designing a project that everyone can support. The commission and, ultimately, the council approved the project.

Her enthusiastic support for the new Maybell proposal was, in some ways, a departure from script for Kou, who has been generally skeptical about new developments, particularly ones largely composed of office space. In her view, recently approved commercial projects (including College Terrace Centre on El Camino Real and 101 Lytton in downtown Palo Alto) add traffic to local streets, put stress on local infrastructure and lower the city's quality of life. She is also skeptical of the city's projections of the potential traffic resulting from new development, which she believes understate the cumulative impacts.

In a statement announcing her candidacy, Kou argued that the current planning process "not only indulges flights of fancy, it encourages it.

"Much of the development that is approved doesn't take into account long-term side effects and consequences," Kou said in the statement. "Each project is reviewed in isolation. The result is too much development without much thought given to the cumulative negative impacts."

She struck a similar tone in March, when the council was discussing ways to increase the city's housing stock. Kou said her greatest concern is the kind of "schizophrenic approval of development" that the city is engaging in in the name of providing housing. While many speakers at that meeting touted the need for more housing, Kou warned that residential growth has its own impacts on schools, parks and community centers.

In announcing her candidacy, Kou called Palo Alto a "wonderful place to live" and lauded the city's arts community, schools and an "unparalleled" system of parks and open space. But living in this region, she said, comes with its own challenges.

"Housing, traffic, burdens on infrastructure and a decline in the quality of life are just a few of the issues that our city is facing today," Kou said in a statement. "That is why I am announcing that I am running for City Council."

Kou was born in Hong Kong and lived in Sudan and Guam before moving to Palo Alto in 1998 and opening a video store. A Realtor with Alain Pinel, Kou has been an enthusiastic participant in Palo Alto's civic scene for many years. In 2010, she coordinated Quakeville, an emergency-preparedness event in which a tent city was established at Juana Briones Park. Her leadership earned her an Achievement Award from the city. She has also been involved in organizing neighborhood events, including a Lunar New Year celebration and a Holi Festival.

Kou said in the candidacy statement that if elected, she will work to establish a "more robust" system for gathering data about local businesses and "work very hard at not only streamlining the planning process but also making sure that the final results are a good fit for our city."

Kou will be vying for one of four seats that will be up for grabs on Nov. 8. Mayor Pat Burt and Schmid are each terming out. Councilman Marc Berman, who is concluding his first term, is now running for a seat in the state Assembly, having prevailed in the June primary election. Councilwoman Liz Kniss is also concluding her first term (she had also served on the council between 1989 and 2000) and has not announced whether she will seek a second term.

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Comments

16 people like this
Posted by Disappointed
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 16, 2016 at 9:56 am

[Post removed.]


76 people like this
Posted by Carlos
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 16, 2016 at 10:16 am

Given the passion and drive she had in fighting for the neighborhood's priorities when the previous council tried to impose the Maybell project, I'm positive she would do a better job representing average residents like me than some of those opportunists supported by real estate developers who use a seat in the council as a stepping stone and/or push their hidden agendas.


90 people like this
Posted by john_alderman
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 16, 2016 at 10:18 am

john_alderman is a registered user.

If Lydia Kou had won in the last election, Palo Alto would be a better city today. Good luck Lydia!


80 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 16, 2016 at 10:50 am

mauricio is a registered user.

If Lydia Qou is elected to the Palo Alto City Council, this town just might regain its soul, which has been lost by decades of council members who basically sold their soul to the mindless and destrucctive development and urbanization devil. I will support her candidacy in anyway I possibly can.


67 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 16, 2016 at 12:10 pm

Great news! Go, Lydia. She does her homework. time to request a lawn sign.


36 people like this
Posted by CAC Watcher
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 16, 2016 at 1:17 pm

She has not impressed me on the CAC. Not very thoughtful and very ideological. [Portion removed.]


37 people like this
Posted by Wait a Minute
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 16, 2016 at 1:30 pm

Wait a Minute is a registered user.

Isn't Lydia Kou a real estate agent? Doesn't that disqualify her? [Portion removed.]
I would not to be able to vote for her, because I was so disappointed that Cory Wolbach (a phony, imo) edged her out in the last election. I think Palo Alto would be a better place today had Lydia Kou won [portion removed.]


18 people like this
Posted by Real Estate Agent
a resident of Community Center
on Jul 16, 2016 at 1:36 pm

[Post removed.]


66 people like this
Posted by Jim Colton
a resident of Green Acres
on Jul 16, 2016 at 2:01 pm

I worked with Lydia Kou in Palo Alto's Emergency Preparedness Program and saw firsthand how hard she has worked for residents of the City. She has shown her ongoing commitment to residents in her extensive involvement in fighting the original proposal for Maybell to cram 3-story homes in a one-story neighborhood. She ralleyed citizen support for the current 16-home plan that is not only consistent with the neighborhood but provides over $4M in funds to build below market-rate housing. I will vote for Lydia Kou because she will put the interests of residents first when she is on the Council.


39 people like this
Posted by Douglas Moran
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 16, 2016 at 2:14 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

RE: "Wait a Minute"
Being a real estate agent is not disqualifying. You may be thinking of "conflict of interest" where Council members are supposed to recuse themselves from votes that have significant benefits to them. For example, a Council member should recuse him/herself from a vote to improve the park across the street from their house (could affect their home value). However, they can, and should, vote on plans to improve parks throughout the city -- the benefits are similar to those for other residents.

The issues that affect a residential real estate agent such as Lydia Kou don't seem to be those where recusal becomes a question, especially since the time frame of Council decisions is so much longer than it takes to list and sell a property.


12 people like this
Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Jul 16, 2016 at 2:43 pm

[Post removed.]


17 people like this
Posted by Come on
a resident of Community Center
on Jul 16, 2016 at 2:53 pm

On the other hand, if there is more inventory to sell, there are more commissions. The voters know what her job is; they can decide for themselves if that's a general conflict.


72 people like this
Posted by Anne
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 16, 2016 at 3:12 pm

Lydia, I hope you're watching this thread. You have my wholehearted support. I voted for you last time and was disappointed when you didn't win. Thanks for all of your hard work on our behalf.


23 people like this
Posted by Inducing
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 16, 2016 at 3:22 pm

So lydia supports the violation of the rules with regard to the mayell site homes that her fellow travellers, holman, filseth and dubois supported? Doesn't sound to be that we can take her as a serious candidate given her selective enforcement of rules regarding building.


111 people like this
Posted by Voter
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 16, 2016 at 5:19 pm

Lydia is exactly who we need on the council.

The weekly screwed up in a huge way when they endorsed Wolbach during the last election cycle, based on a vague centrist, civility platform that he ejected the day after the election when he put on his Palo Alto Forward, pro development zealot hat for all to see.

Lydia is smart and her loyalties lie exactly where they should: with the citizens of Palo Alto, and not with the monied development interests that would buy her support in exchange for heavy financial backing in future elections (see Berman, Mark).

Thanks Lydia, for stepping up for he people of Palo Alto.


18 people like this
Posted by Facts Needed
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 16, 2016 at 5:46 pm

Facts Needed is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


58 people like this
Posted by Bill Ross
a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 16, 2016 at 5:49 pm

Through experience and hard work Lydia Kou has acquired a thorough understanding of how the City works. Whether as a member of a City committee or in appearing before City Commissions and the Council she comes prepared and makes a decision or offers a perspective that is based on the facts and legal constraints. These past actions demonstrate that she will make timely decisions that are in the best interests of the City's residents and businesses.


4 people like this
Posted by Douglas Moran
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 16, 2016 at 6:36 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

[Post removed due to deletion of referenced post.]


17 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 16, 2016 at 9:19 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

@Robert, the policies that drive up housing prices are those that create enable more development and more density in Palo Alto. Any new housing development drives up the price of housing, as it makes the same privileged few able to outbid all other potential buyers houses and set new and higher bench marks for housing.


54 people like this
Posted by Yay Lydia!
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 16, 2016 at 9:30 pm

Congratulations Lydia!
I salute your resilience and your determination to overcome that unwarranted defeat last time, by a very skillful two-timer. We need your voice on the Council.

Lots of people were behind you, and we will be again.


12 people like this
Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Jul 16, 2016 at 9:43 pm

@mauricio

I'm sorry, please elaborate on how that makes for less possibility of a conflict of interest?


10 people like this
Posted by Douglas Moran
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 16, 2016 at 9:56 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


4 people like this
Posted by Ralph
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 16, 2016 at 10:36 pm

[Post removed.]


50 people like this
Posted by Penny
a resident of Gunn High School
on Jul 17, 2016 at 9:41 am


I voted for her last time and I'll vote for her again. Palo Alto needs her.


40 people like this
Posted by maggie
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jul 17, 2016 at 5:38 pm

maggie is a registered user.

This is very good news. With her depth and breadth of knowledge about Palo Alto and the issues the council so often has on the agenda I will be volunteering to work on her campaign.


38 people like this
Posted by SEA_SEELAM REDDY
a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 17, 2016 at 7:53 pm

Congratulations Lydia

She had enough votes in 2014 to be a council member.
The county registrar of voters had a big crisis with their IT manager leaving his job. I am afraid some of the count was messed up in favor of other person that is on the council now.

I proposed about two months back for Marc Berman to resign his seat since he is running for 24th assembly.

I suggested in a city hall meeting Lydia to be appointed as an interim council member so she can gain 6 plus months of experience.

So, Lydia is well liked by many and she will do a fine job.

Please elect her.

Respectfully


33 people like this
Posted by change in tone needed
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 17, 2016 at 10:32 pm

The sudden shift in the vote count which put Lydia slightly behind in a close vote was difficult to understand and reconcile at the time. Her vote on the right side of the issues is not the only reason we need to elect her- she can provide the strong leadership and change in tone which is needed to actually confront the issues facing this City in a meaningful way. A blowout for her will be more than symbolic but also underpin these efforts for a resoluteness and resolve for real change.





23 people like this
Posted by True Colors
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 18, 2016 at 7:24 am

Here we go again. The Weekly showing your true colors and political bias deleting every post that is in any way negative toward Koo's run.

Those of us who truly care about the future of Palo Alto will just need to double our efforts to be sure we defeat her again.


17 people like this
Posted by Ahaaaaa
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 18, 2016 at 8:09 am

Ahaaaaa is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


12 people like this
Posted by What's Up?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 18, 2016 at 10:08 am

[Post removed.]


25 people like this
Posted by AY
a resident of Mountain View
on Jul 18, 2016 at 10:43 am

As a former long time resident of Palo Alto, I have seen and come to know Lydia as a community leader with tremendous energy, intelligence and good will. Lydia, wish you all the best and success!


26 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 18, 2016 at 11:09 am

Annette is a registered user.

Terrific news for the Palo Alto. I hope we will be smart this time around and give her more than enough votes to put her on the CC.


22 people like this
Posted by paul
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 18, 2016 at 11:22 am

I'm looking forward to vote for Lydia, a clear thinker and doer!

Cheers


23 people like this
Posted by Hamilton Hitchings
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 18, 2016 at 11:33 am

I am serving alongside Lydia Kou on the Citizen Advisory Committee for the Comprehensive Plan and have been impressed with her broad and deep understanding of the issues effecting Palo Alto's livability. She understands the causes of our parking, traffic and land use issues and how to fix them. She is very concerned with making sure the folks who live here are well represented on City Council. I will be supporting and voting for her.


22 people like this
Posted by Member
a resident of Green Acres
on Jul 18, 2016 at 12:08 pm

If you don't mind having on the City Council a person who feigns sympathy and understanding of your concerns and presents herself as willing to compromise and work together on a solution, but then who turns her back on you and pushes whatever solution favors her personal agenda, then Lydia is the candidate for you. I'd rather have a thoughtful, open minded, responsive person on the City Council, an honest person who looks to the greater good rather than just what serves her purposes.


22 people like this
Posted by jane_u
a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 18, 2016 at 1:33 pm

I personally do not believe someone like Lydia represents me as a current renter who also works in Palo Alto and plans to stay here and raise a family here. I do not think Lydia is progressive and I think she represents the zero-growth perspective, not the slow-growth perspective. It is disturbing to see that several members of the city council have already endorsed Lydia and how much opposition there is for any kind of growth and planning for the future here. We need to address the quality of life for ALL of Palo Alto and that includes young families, seniors, renters and workers.

I am also very disturbed by how many posts are deleted here and how much bias there is at Palo Alto Weekly/Online. I feel that it is not representing all of the community that it claims to represent.


13 people like this
Posted by Douglas Moran
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 18, 2016 at 1:50 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

To those "disturbed" by the number of deleted posts:
I saw many of them before they were deleted. There was outright obscenity directed against Kou and other aspects of the harassment against women that the Internet is so infamous for. Two of the deleted comments are mine - responses to the harassing comments because I know that there can be substantial delays by the moderators on the weekends in dealing with such (they have a life outside TSF).


22 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Community Center
on Jul 18, 2016 at 2:21 pm

@jane_u : Lydia and the council members endorsing her believe new developments should follow the zoning rules. I'd hardly consider that zero growth. The rules are there to protect neighboring properties and the community. It's the lack of planning that has resulted in downtown Palo Alto being under parked and the bad traffic throughout Palo Alto during rush hours. The Residential Parking Program exists because there were too many parking zoning exemptions granted so now employees park in residential neighborhoods to make up for that. There are people who are consider over developing Palo Alto as being progressive. Instead we need a thoughtful approach that realistically looks at the impacts on traffic, parking and housing, which Lydia brings.


25 people like this
Posted by Dick Evans
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 18, 2016 at 2:22 pm

Lydia is civic minded, thoughtful, open minded and capable. She has given much to the community, serving in in many volunteer roles. I support her City Council bid enthusiastically.


18 people like this
Posted by Sunshine
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 18, 2016 at 2:43 pm

Bravo, Lydia
I have worked with Lydia on nerghborhood disaster preparedness. I find her well prepared with clearly thought out ideas. She works hard in the right way. There is no one I know who would be better for PaloAlto council. She is the best. Ahe was my favorite last time and I will support her again
Thank you for joining the race again Lydia.
kaySs


13 people like this
Posted by Questions Remain
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jul 18, 2016 at 2:44 pm

[Post removed.]


2 people like this
Posted by eh?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 18, 2016 at 2:57 pm

@Questions Remain:

Can you spell out what the exact conflict of interest would be?

As the spouse of a real estate agent, I can tell you that you are wrong in your assessment of real estate agents. Maybe you were thinking of lawyers...


2 people like this
Posted by Mark Weiss
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 18, 2016 at 3:18 pm

Mark Weiss is a registered user.

Be kind rewind.


Like this comment
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 18, 2016 at 3:42 pm

Hi,

I became a 'johnny come lately' on the PA political scene until just 3 years ago when I became aware of all the issues confronting us. I was involved many years ago...anyone remember Mayor Ed Arnold? But then I took a 40 year hiatus. Maybe not surprisingly, we had some of the same issues back then. The 'D' Referendum, BV, and all the rest...rezoning, PC, developer issues, caught my attention and I really got involved again when my good friend, Cory Wolbach, ran for office. I supported him and voted for him. Now I know the candidate he eked out a win over is running for the the same office again. I will vote for Lydia this time around so they can both get to speak and vote before the CC. A great way for a rematch to happen. Speak out on issues and then take a vote at CC.


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

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