Eleven candidates, including planning commissioners, past contenders and a few political newcomers, will square off for four seats in the race for Palo Alto City Council.
The list of candidates includes several familiar names and one incumbent: Liz Kniss, a two-time mayor who is running in her 10th political race. It also includes several past and present members of the city's influential Planning and Transportation Commission, a traditional stepping stone to the council dais. Commission Chair Adrian Fine and its longest-serving current member, Greg Tanaka, will be squaring off in November, as is Arthur Keller, who had served on the commission for two terms.
They aren't the only veterans of Palo Alto's land-use debate. Lydia Kou, a longtime neighborhood activist who was heavily active in the slow-growth "residentialist" movement that struck down a housing development on Maybell Avenue in 2013, and helped elect a slow-growth council two years ago, is once again running, having been narrowly edged out for a council seat in 2014.
The planning commission isn't the only body with members looking for a grander stage. Greer Stone, who chairs the Human Relations Commission, is running for a seat on the council. So is Don McDougall, who sits on the Library Advisory Commission and serves on the Citizens Advisory Committee that is working on the Comprehensive Plan update.
The committee, which has been meeting for a year and debating the city's long-term growth strategies, will be particularly well represented in the race. Keller is its co-chair and Kou is also a member. Fine also participates on the committee, though his seat is a non-voting one.
The race will also have plenty of familiar faces. John Karl Fredrich, who identifies himself as a residentialist and ran in 2014, is once again seeking a seat. The retired Gunn High School civics teacher had also run in 1975, 1977, 1981 and 2003. He has been concerned about the pace of commercial development in Palo Alto and, during Monday's council meeting, requested that the city more carefully track cumulative growth in the city's primary commercial areas.
Another candidate looking for a better showing this time around is Danielle Martell, who ran for council in 2005. She was the first resident to file her candidacy papers.
Other candidates are planning their first run. One is Stewart Carl, an engineer who helped co-found the group Sky Posse, which is trying to reduce airplane noise. Also running is Leonard Ely III, a commercial broker who sits on the board of the Palo Alto Community Fund, and was the last candidate to file his candidacy papers before the Wednesday deadline.
Unlike the 2014 race, which included a slate of residentialist candidates who were endorsed by the citizens group Palo Altans for Sensible Zoning, the current group appears to be less divided by ideology. Kou is the only member affiliated with the group (though Keller is expected to draw support from its members), as well as the only candidate in the race who actively opposed the Maybell project in 2013. The pro-growth group Palo Alto Forward has no candidates running in the race.
Most candidates have told the Weekly that they are hoping to get past the 2014 division and get buy-in from both sides of the debate. Tanaka, who worked for several startups and is now CEO of software company Percolata, is among the more recent entrants into the suddenly crowded race. A consummate moderate who is currently in his seventh year on the city's planning commission, Tanaka told the Weekly that he looks to bridge the divide in the community.
"Just having a strong ideology one way or another is not productive," said Tanaka, who filed his papers earlier this week. "It's going to have to be a true dialogue, making sure people are truly heard and trying to figure out solutions."
McDougall, a retired CEO whose background is also in data analytics, similarly said that he would like to bring both sides to a consensus in solving the city's housing challenges.
McDougall, who filed his papers Tuesday, said in a statement that housing issues, in particular are "complex and urgent."
"Cost, density, location and diversity are important citizen considerations," he said. "Palo Alto citizens have the character, commitment and ideas to take on these challenges."
Meanwhile, Michelle Kraus has decided not to run this year. The downtown resident is heavily involved in the national Democratic Party. Though she had considered running for council, she said Thursday that she has decided that getting Hillary Clinton elected president is "the most important thing we can work on."