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Opposition to new office space unites Palo Alto's council candidates

While they split on housing policies, everyone agrees that office development should be capped or halted

Stewart Carl believes Palo Alto needs to immediately enact a moratorium on office construction, a view that is shared by several of his fellow candidates for the City Council.

Lydia Kou thinks that the city's recently instituted cap on office development should be expanded to Stanford Research Park.

Arthur Keller wants the office cap, which is set to expire when the city adopts its Comprehensive Plan, to be made permanent.

In a different year or a different city, such views could be outliers. But in Palo Alto, where the number of jobs is roughly three times the number of employed residents, and where traffic and parking continue to dominate political discussions, opposition to commercial growth is a mainstream position that has been embraced by just about every candidate seeking a seat on the City Council, including those generally seen as more amenable to growth and development.

The city's crusade against more commercial construction has made national headlines in recent months, with newspapers far and wide expressing shock at Mayor Pat Burt's comments that the creation of jobs should be moderated. Yet when one looks at the positions of the 11 candidates vying for a council seat in November, it is clear that some would go far further than Burt in limiting commercial expansion. Candidates' statements -- in recent interviews, at election forums and in questionnaires -- suggest that whomever the voters elect in November, commercial developers will have plenty of reasons for concern.

When asked in a questionnaire by the residents' group Palo Alto Neighborhoods (PAN) about the council's recently adopted office cap, all candidates but Leonard Ely said they support it (Ely, a commercial broker, didn't elaborate on why he opposes the cap. Candidate Danielle Martell did not respond to the questionnaire, but her position statement begins with the words "Stop citywide overdevelopment").

Even Adrian Fine and Greg Tanaka, who both serve on the city's Planning and Transportation Commission and who took a skeptical stance toward the office cap when they were reviewing it last year, now say they support the constraint on commercial growth. Fine last August called the office cap a "blunt instrument to address quality of life issues," but wrote in the PAN questionnaire he would like to limit office growth to 50,000 square feet per year until the city adopts its updated Comprehensive Plan (consistent with the council's current policy). Fine, who currently chairs the commission, also suggested that it may be appropriate to approve only those office projects that reduce the city's jobs-housing imbalance, presumably by also including new housing.

Fine doesn't favor a moratorium on all office growth, however, noting in the questionnaire that most problems come from existing office projects and that such a moratorium would be a "serious threat to our economy."

"Additionally, the office and traffic problems are regional, so even if we do pass a moratorium, office growth will occur in Menlo Park or Mountain View, and then Palo Alto will suffer from cut-through traffic," Fine wrote.

Tanaka, who chaired the commission last year, favors a moratorium on office development, at least until the city completes its Comprehensive Plan update. And when it comes to office development in general, Tanaka indicated that he prefers small startup spaces over large corporate headquarters. In the PAN questionnaire, Tanaka said he favored limiting "Class A" office space and maintaining height limits of 35 to 50 feet for commercial development in the city's main commercial areas. This, he said, would help protect Palo Alto's heritage as a "renowned hub for incubating new economic sectors in startup spaces like bedrooms, garages, coffee shops, plug & play suites."

On Palo Alto's political spectrum, both Tanaka and Fine are generally associated with the wing of the council that is more amenable to growth. Each has been endorsed by Marc Berman, Greg Scharff and Cory Wolbach, council members who often find themselves clashing with the council's slow-growth "residentialist" wing.

But distinctions between adherents to the two competing philosophies are almost imperceptible on the matter of office space. Greer Stone, a candidate who has the endorsement of the four "residentialist" council members, shares Tanaka's belief that small startups should be given preference to high-tech giants. In fact, the city should change its zoning code to limit research-and-development downtown to companies with 50 employees or fewer, Stone argued in the PAN questionnaire, "to facilitate more startups and (fewer) large companies."

While Stone does not advocate for a moratorium, some of the policies he proposes would create new obstacles for commercial developers. Stone suggests conditioning approval of every new development on the developer's ability to cut down by 30 percent the anticipated traffic that the new building would bring. The developer would have to come back to council within a year to prove that his traffic-reduction plan worked or face a penalty.

"Too often developers promise mitigated, or no impact, from their developments, and then we are left with more clogged streets and dearth of parking after it is built," Stone wrote. "I would require the developer to pay for, and conduct, a study on the various impacts their development will have. After the study is complete, they will have to sign an affidavit swearing to its accuracy."

Others in the "residentialist" camp share Stone's suspicions when it comes to developers. A central plank in Lydia Kou's council campaign is the need to protect residents from the cumulative impacts of commercial development. She wants to expand the annual office cap -- which today only applies to downtown, California Avenue and El Camino Real -- to Stanford Research Park. And in forums and public comments, she has often talked about the negative consequences of growth -- both commercial and residential -- on the quality of life of residents. In the past decade, she wrote in the PAN survey, "rampant building of office space without regard for road capacity or parking has created the problems we're dealing with today."

While proponents of growth maintain that the traffic problems from new developments can be eased through "transportation demand management" plans (which typically rely on a mix of transit subsidies, rideshare services and bike amenities so that commuters don't drive solo to work), Kou isn't convinced that these programs are the solution.

"Part of our traffic and parking problems are the result of the City approving projects based on assumptions that many of the employees would use transit," Kou wrote. "But these claims were simply 'aspirational' -- there was no enforcement mechanism and thus the landlord and occupant put little if any effort into promoting transit."

In another case of meeting in the philosophical middle, Don McDougall -- who has the support of Scharff, Berman and several members of the pro-housing group Palo Alto Forward -- and Keller, who is firmly in the residentialist camp, both favor limiting office growth and, as McDougall wrote in his PAN survey, "actively control(ling) development impacts."

Former planning commissioner Keller advocates for linking future growth at Stanford Research Park to "binding targets for reducing traffic on Page Mill Road, Oregon Expressway, and the Charleston-Arastradero Road corridor." In other words, commercial growth would only be allowed at Stanford Research Park if Stanford comes up with a way to reduce traffic on some of the city's most crowded thoroughfares.

"By tying the rate of growth to a requirement to address the impact of growth, landowners can be motivated to work with commercial tenants to minimize project impacts," Keller wrote.

For some candidates, commercial growth is just one of many factors that must be balanced for Palo Alto to remain vibrant while retaining its family-friendly, residential character. Liz Kniss, the only incumbent in the race, cites the city's transportation problems as a top priority (housing, health and safety are others) and says she supports downtown's new Transportation Management Association, a new nonprofit charged with reducing traffic. She voted to institute the office cap and said she would support expanding it, though limiting commercial growth is not a major part of her platform.

For Carl, on the other hand, stopping office growth is a top priority. During a candidate forum earlier this month, he noted that an office worker today can occupy as little as 75 feet of space. To house this worker, however, the city would need to build about 750 square feet of new development. This, Carl wrote in the PAN questionnaire, creates a tremendous opportunity for housing developers while placing a "tremendous burden on our infrastructure of schools, roads, retail, parks, trees water, our unique quality of life, our seniors, and our residents of moderate means." The city, he argued, needs to immediately create a moratorium on all new office construction.

"The moratorium needs to stay in place until the city can determine how much growth our infrastructure can really support," Carl wrote.

The 11th candidate, John Fredrich, aligned with nearly all other candidates in his PAN survey response: He said he supports the office cap and also a moratorium.

The Weekly has created a Storify page for its coverage on the Palo Alto City Council election.

Related content:

Eleven candidates to square off in Palo Alto council race

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Comments

9 people like this
Posted by NeilsonBuchanan
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 30, 2016 at 9:03 am

NeilsonBuchanan is a registered user.

These are strange times. And our Council candidates are not yet talking about the Federal housing tool kit and loss of local decision-making. I am proud supporter of President Obama, but I am disappointed with his housing toolkit.

Pandering California politicians consistently rely on hammer solutions; other politicians suggest greater attention to carrots...

Silicon Valley is land of creative thinking and business leadership. Top down solutions seldom work well or deliver on time. Nevertheless, central control has been idealized for the Bay Area as long as I can remember. If you like PG&E and PUC, then central planning and and its efficiency makes sense. Politically dominated PUC and its results are well known.

We have accelerating, massive local, regional and national alignment of business interests and those interests are narrowly focused on immediate economic and job growth. We are considering tired solutions to fund responses to job growth. Sales taxes are regressive. Parcel taxes are inverse to size of property.

There must be a better way to fund infrastructure for problems directly created by business growth.

For example, our new City Council needs to push reset button for our poorly conceived TMA. The TMA needs "start-up" qualified Board of Directors who have courage for Ready, Fire, Aim. It needs seed funding from City of Palo Alto. Our local business community within 2-3 years must assume full responsibility for TMA funding and management with performance standards (ie, carrots) set by City Council.

Our TMA is self-limiting with its narrow, naive focus on University Avenue. As a minimum, the TMA responsibility must be expanded to California Avenue and neighborhoods adjacent to both commercial cores. If Palo Alto can demonstrate a viable, early stage TMA, I am convinced that at least one or two neighboring cities will suggest collaboration on common interests.

And I never read Forbes magazine, but here is one result from Google search. At least debate has started and solutions may evolve.

"Obama's Housing Tool Kit Only Comes With The Hammer"

By Roger Valdez
Has the idea that the solution to rising housing prices is building more housing taken hold? The latest recommen...


49 people like this
Posted by Sincere Candidates
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 30, 2016 at 9:15 am

Sincere Candidates is a registered user.

While almost all candidates claim to be for an annual office development cap, some of them were against it until campaign season started and cannot be counted on to implement it and if they do, may water it down, like the current one. The candidates who are truly putting the residents first are Arthur Keller, Lydia Kou, Carl Stewart and Greer Stone.


4 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 30, 2016 at 9:24 am

Gale Johnson is a registered user.

Gennady, please share the PAN questionnaire you're referring to and candidates responses to the questions.

Thanks


8 people like this
Posted by Gennady Sheyner
Palo Alto Weekly staff writer
on Sep 30, 2016 at 9:36 am

Gennady Sheyner is a registered user.

Gale Johnson,

The questionnaire and all the responses can be found at www.paneighborhoods.org.

Thanks,

Gennady


38 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 30, 2016 at 9:48 am

Don't be fooled. Do your homework. The true "residentialists" for reasonable growth and restoring quality of life are Arthur Keller, Lydia Kou, Greer Stone, and Carl Stewart.


57 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 30, 2016 at 10:22 am

All those people are saying a lot of the same things. The difference is that once on council, some of them will do more or less what they said last night, and others will do something totally different from what they said last night (see: 2 candidates from the 2014 election). We get to guess which ones are which.

One way might be to follow the money. Campaign finance reports came out today, and here’s who the Developers donated political money to:


Roxy Rapp (Rapp Development) – Fine, Tanaka, Kniss
Boyd Smith (WSJ Properties) – Tanaka
Lund Smith (WSJ Properties) – Tanaka
Jon Goldman (Premier Properties) – Tanaka
Brittany Davis (King Asset Management, Commercial Property) – Tanaka
Stephen Reller (NorthWall Builders) – Fine
Greg Scharff – Fine, Tanaka, McDougall
Dan Garber – Fine, Tanaka, McDougall, Kniss


It’s curious that people who tell you they’re in favor of managing commercial growth would get so much campaign money from the Commercial Development sector.

This money trail almost seems more compatible with alternate positions that some of them have held in the past (Planning commissioners Fine and Tanaka fighting City Council on office growth-rate limits), as well as things they have said in the past. Such as:

--

“On the one hand you can think of managing growth as limiting it. On the other hand, you can think of managing growth as making sure our growth supports the future development of the city … I’m a bit worried about some of the new regulations proposed for growth management here.”

- Adrian Fine Web Link

“I’m in support of removing the cap … 50 feet is pretty arbitrary. It was just chosen out of thin air.”
“In terms of growth management, I'm kind of on the pro development spectrum”

- Adrian Fine Web Link

--

“Palo Alto is losing its ability to be an environment of innovation and useful growth and it's not surprising entrepreneurs are moving to San Francisco and San Jose. Eventually as Palo Alto loses its vitality and declines (and the tax base declines) the city will not just stop growing but die as I expect is the desired outcome.”

- Don McDougall Web Link


6 people like this
Posted by Records
a resident of University South
on Sep 30, 2016 at 10:34 am

Tanaka is running as an independent, not one of the four PASZ candidates. He's not running against all office construction - although it sounds like he supports a pause until the Comp Plan is done - but he did vote against Maybell and Lytton Gateway while on the PTC.

I think he's thoughtful and moderate, not an ideologue on either side. It depends on what you are looking for, I guess.


20 people like this
Posted by Raj
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 30, 2016 at 10:45 am

I think this article and some of the comments oversimplify the issue. Yes, we have traffic problems, and yes we have a lot offices.. but moratorium is too broad. The candidates who say "no more office" must not understand economics.

Listening last night, I liked Liz Kniss's point that there are NO new office developments in the works.. that is a strong message. And Mr. Fine and Mr. Tanaka made the point that you also have to LISTEN to the business community. They pay taxes too.


31 people like this
Posted by john_alderman
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 30, 2016 at 10:55 am

john_alderman is a registered user.

@ Raj - what does that mean when Kniss says " that there are NO new office developments in the works" ? She helped push through numerous projects that are currently being built that have office space. And She opposed the office space moratorium. Palo Alto now sure has a heck of lot more office space than Palo Alto before Liz Kniss.


33 people like this
Posted by Sylvia
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 30, 2016 at 11:09 am

@Resident. Thanks SO much for your list of campaign contributors and quotes by candidates who say one thing before election season and another to get elected.


38 people like this
Posted by Lots to say
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Sep 30, 2016 at 11:33 am

Four things:

1. For decades, Liz Kniss and good friends of hers like John Arrillage have been getting very, very rich building commercial space. Honestly, if you think there is too much office space in Palo Alto, she is one of the people uoi can put the blame on.

2. Companies do not have a right to be in Palo Alto any more than people have a right to live in Palo Alto. (And for the record, I was born and raised in PA and am now among the many that are struggling with housing despite a very nice household income. I do not think the city needs to compromise it's quality of like to accommodate me or anyone else.) There are a lot of lovely places that are desperate for jobs that would be great places to live. Companies absolutely should take some of their jobs elsewhere.

3. Related, please don't say reducing office space is the same as getting rid of jobs. There is absolutely no reason all of these jobs need to be in Palo Alto (or MP, MV, etc). In fact, many people who work in Palo Alto WISH their jobs would be somewhere else so they wouldn't have to commute so far and/or could live in a place they could actually afford. Almost everyone I know (elementary age parent cohort) wants to leave but this is where the jobs are for their skills and education. Jobs are too concentrated in too few places.

4. To the idea that we should preserve office space for "start ups": what are you going to tell Palantir, which has literally taken over downtown PA and pushed out many of the actual start-ups? Are you going to force them to leave?


25 people like this
Posted by Richard
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 30, 2016 at 11:40 am

I continue to be amazed at how candidates are willing to say/do anything to get elected. [Portion removed.]

I'm supporting Kou, Stone, and Kniss. They understand what's important to Palo Alto and seem to be valued-driven, rather than politically motivated.


24 people like this
Posted by Candidates
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 30, 2016 at 11:41 am

I like what Kniss and Fine had to say, and I like that they both have deep roots in Palo Alto. Not as keen on any of the other candidates yet.


14 people like this
Posted by Check the facts
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Sep 30, 2016 at 12:22 pm

@Resident

I just checked the filings. What you post is not the whole story. It actually looks like Kniss and Tanaka actually received donations from both sides of the growth debate. The other candidates only received support from one side or the other.

Personally, I like candidates that have a broad base of support and so I will be voting for both of those candidates. I wish there were more candidates like them.


35 people like this
Posted by margaret heath
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Sep 30, 2016 at 12:33 pm

margaret heath is a registered user.

The city purposefully has a specific zoning for research and development. It is Stanford Research Park. Downtown does not include research and development as an allowed use.

Palantir is a research and development company and says it intends to use the downtown for its research and development campus as this gives Palantir an edge recruiting new employees, especially Stanford graduates.

Because this company is actively taking over downtown office space, outbidding everyone else, (and for security reasons has no problem with it's different divisions being in separate buildings) this happens one at a time. So no one noticed or thought of enforcing the downtown zoning code. As leases expire for other small businesses, they can't compete with a company that will pay whatever it takes.

Businesses do not do not bring in money unless they produce a taxable product. Palantir has it's own restaurant (employees only) so that even limits how much they patronize the cafes and restaurants.


11 people like this
Posted by resources
a resident of Mayfield
on Sep 30, 2016 at 1:07 pm

Can our grid even handle more offices with more power usage and water usage. We are paying the taxes on higher rates with resources that are mostly being used by commuters into town.


45 people like this
Posted by anon evergreen park
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 30, 2016 at 1:34 pm

anon evergreen park is a registered user.

How can anyone trust candidates like Fine and Tanaka that do a complete "about face" on issues such as office cap, to confuse and mislead the public.
Time and time again from the dais as planing commissioners they were against restrictions on Office growth! As a member of the Comp plan Group (CAC, whose minutes are available on the city website) Fine was for no cap!

He even objected to mixed use buildings in commercial zones that were retail and housing only!!! He has supported all growth and office projects, doesn't even support the College Terrace RPPP, something his neighborhood desperately needed!

[Portion removed.]

No surprise the Windy Hill developer-cofounders donated to his campaign....Oh yea, they are the developers that would like the city to create a new tailor-made zone just to profit from buying the old VTA lot (corner of Page Mill and ECR) which is currently zoned PF, Public Facility. Also among his donors are many other developers and Palantir employees and a surprising number of non Palo Alto folks!

Both Tanaka and Fine are misrepresenting themselves; Like Cory Wolbach if they get into office they will vote for projects and policies to make $$$$$$$ for their developer and business friends turning palo alto into a large overcrowded metropolis with overused parks overcrowded schools and unfriendly transient neighborhoods.


3 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 30, 2016 at 1:54 pm

What? Stone, Keller and Carl have no association with PASZ. Never. Those above who lump them together, and as PASZ (palo altans for sensible zoning) candidates, are wrong and spreading misinformation.


5 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 30, 2016 at 1:57 pm

Sounds like there was a forum yesterday that I missed, based on the comments. Sorry I missed it.

@Sincere Candidates: I noticed the same thing...candidates with very hard line positions just a few months ago, seem to be softening their positions now. Hmmm...I wonder why? Ah yes, it's campaign season. Dummy me! After the election it will be back to business as usual to support those previous strong positions.

@Richard, good post.

@john_alderman: You seem to know Liz's voting record better than I do, but I would like to know how she voted in the past for all the new office developments. That would be very telling and revealing.

All in all, she has done a good job for our community and county...and she is a master at testing the winds and waters. She can change course accordingly. If the wind is directly at her back, she puts up the jib. If it isn't, she knows how to tack. A very skilled politician. As a lame duck, to be a termed out CC member in 4 years, she couldn't do much damage or good...I think. I hope she proves me wrong on the 'good' part.


14 people like this
Posted by Records
a resident of University South
on Sep 30, 2016 at 2:31 pm

@Anon - Lydia Kou's campaign manager (Pat Markevitch) is also managing Keller's campaign. PASZ also hosted a joint event for Arthur Keller and Lydia Kou on August 18th.

Stewart Carl doesn't say who his campaign manager is, but his website features an introduction by Fred Balin, who is part of the PASZ leadership team, and who is the only person named as a contributor on the website other than Carl.

To be fair, perhaps Greer Stone's campaign is not associated with PASZ. If he is not, I regret the error.


22 people like this
Posted by margaret heath
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Sep 30, 2016 at 2:44 pm

margaret heath is a registered user.

When the council was voted for candidates for the Planning and Transport Commission two years ago, Kniss tried to call in her vote (from Hawaii) in favor of Kate Downing and Adrian Fine. So if you know what positions they support you know what Kniss is in favor of.

Who donates to the candidate is most illuminating, although many of the glossy mailings funded by PAC's have names that obscure their political affinity.


4 people like this
Posted by anon evergreen park
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 30, 2016 at 2:50 pm

anon evergreen park is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


14 people like this
Posted by Ellen K
a resident of South of Midtown
on Sep 30, 2016 at 4:04 pm

Gosh, so little talk about ideas in these comments! I watched on public TV last night and found Tanaka and Fine to be dynamic, creative and knowledgable. They answered the questions (on water, growth, traffic, schools), but also made me think "hmm.. it's nice to hear new solutions we haven't considered before". That's important because it shows they've studied the various issues, and thought about how solutions might work here in PA


25 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 30, 2016 at 4:30 pm

So Liz "Developers-Best-Friend" Kniss has converted to residentialism, just like Greg Scharff did for the 2014 campaign. Gotta love her flexibility.


27 people like this
Posted by Sincere Candidates
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 30, 2016 at 4:35 pm

Sincere Candidates is a registered user.

Tanaka and Fine have done a complete about face on issues such as office cap and raising the height limit for the campaign season. They both opposed the office cap while on the PTC. They both have received large donations from developers. What counts is how they will vote if elected to council and I cannot trust them given the above.


4 people like this
Posted by Long Time Resident of Palo Alto
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 30, 2016 at 5:43 pm

Having been a long standing citizen of Palo Alto, I have seen a lot of council members com and go with little positive impact on our city.
[Portion removed.] When the election is over few candidates will follow through on their promises during the campaign.
I have attended both debates and read the different platforms of each of the candidates and believe anyone serious about voting should do the same. After my research I am backing Greer Stone, his message is clear and his passion for the city is undeniable. His ideas are the fresh boost this city needs to return to greatness and leave the city better for the future of our children and grandchildren.
We have four votes and as of now the jury is still out on the other three I will be backing but my first vote will definitely be for Greer Stone


Like this comment
Posted by Help We Are Drowing
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Sep 30, 2016 at 6:24 pm

For the first time in 30 years, I have decided not to vote for any of the PA City Council candidates. At the end of the day, none of them ever answer your emails; your phone calls; or even engage with you on the street, or in the community. The people who get these positions are in general very dismissive of residents, unless you happen to be a very wealthy, power broker resident. These people are referred to a the stake holders in the community. After 30 years, I now realize, it is not worth the effort to even vote in the community elections. Once these folks get elected, they rarely support the ideas for which they campaigned. So, thankfully, Liz Kniss got the PACC elections changed to even years, so now, when we go to the polls, we do not even need to vote for PACC candidates. We can focus on the general election candidates. Local government simply is dismissive of its residents, as most of these elected council members simply want to be big fish, in a small pound. Enough is enough. And finally, I often wonder when those who have held these offices look back at their respective legacies in the future, if they will like the results of what they created. Palo Alto has become a not so pleasant place. And, it appears, it will not get any better.


4 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 30, 2016 at 6:39 pm

Records - Oh my - You are over- thinking this. Surely because an org invites candidates to speak (PASZ, Kiwanis, Realtors) doesn't indicate the invitees are now card carrying members of the org? I hope to host a coffee or two for some candidates - if they come does that indicate they are now Methodists, belong to the League of Women Voters and Rotary as I do? If they speak to an environmental group are they assumed to be part of that group? And if a friend who belongs to all sorts of community and neighborhood groups and helps with a campaign, it's a little weird to cherry pick one from the many and assign membership to that one by you for a candidate who isn't a member. Pretty presumptuous.


10 people like this
Posted by Sean Biederman
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 30, 2016 at 6:56 pm

Fine answered a couple of questions during the Q&A portion about the water supply as well as what's reported here. Seems to have a well-rounded understanding of the vartiety of issues related to new and existing development.


4 people like this
Posted by SEA_SEELAM REDDY
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 1, 2016 at 4:14 am

SEA_SEELAM REDDY is a registered user.

This time we have a good number of candidates.

I like all:

- I like Liz for her experience and eloquence.
- I like Adrian Fine for his desire to serve and his involvement
- I like Greg Tanaka for being brilliant as he is a graduate of CALTECH
- I like John Fredrich for his rich background
- I like Leonard Ely with Stanford heritage
- I like Lydia Kou as she deserved to be a council member since 2014
- I like Arthur Keller for being smart engineer
- I like the remaining as they seem to be sincere.

What do I do?

Respectfully


19 people like this
Posted by About Kniss
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 1, 2016 at 11:00 am

"When the council was voted for candidates for the Planning and Transport Commission two years ago, Kniss tried to call in her vote (from Hawaii) in favor of Kate Downing and Adrian Fine. So if you know what positions they support you know what Kniss is in favor of."
Kniss also is the council member who encouraged developer supporter Wolbach to run, he proudly says. Wolbach isn't running this year but his total support of developers has disappointed many who were fooled by his vacuous politeness campaign.


25 people like this
Posted by Mary
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 1, 2016 at 11:20 am

@SEA_SEELAM REDDY...Your choice of for whom to vote in the City Council Election really isn't as difficult as you make it seem. The single most salient issue in this election is growth and therefor what kind of town do you want Palo Alto to be.

Here's a simple way of deciding how to vote: drive by the apartment development at the corner of San Antonio Road and El Camino in Mt. View. (Do this preferably on a weekend, since the weekday traffic attendant to this development is nightmarish.) Take a look at the monolithic blocky apartment buildings there. If you want Palo Alto to be run by people who are open to building 33,000 apartments like this in our city, then vote for Fine, Tanaka and Kniss. If you kind of like Palo Alto the way it is, then vote for Kou, Keller, Stone and Stuart Carl.

There you have it: problem solved.


15 people like this
Posted by Joseph
a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 1, 2016 at 12:33 pm

@Mary - I think you are vastly oversimplifying things. Listen to Tanaka, Kniss, and Fine and you'll learn that they understand the City cannot push off growth to other cities because we have regional problems. We also cannot keep "Palo Alto the way it is" - because change happens, and you might as well take control of it. I think that's their point: change happens, and we need to manage it in an way that benefits our community.

Frankly, the folks who want to "keep Palo Alto the way it is" aren't owning up to reality, and it's also an "I've got mine" message. I don't think that's smart or a good community message.


25 people like this
Posted by Mary
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 1, 2016 at 1:00 pm

The change that rich real estate developers, PAF, and their supported candidates want isn't the kind of change that most residents think will benefit Palo Alto or that they desire.

Contrary to what Joseph implies, it is exactly the current out of control development that Kou, Keller, Stone and Greer want to throttle. They, and the residents who support them are aghast at the sheer audacity of PAF types who think they can come into our city and change it to a hip, urban enclave that's unrecognizable from the suburban town they - often at great sacrifice - bought into when they moved here.

Joseph accuses those who don't want a much larger urban Palo Alto of "oversimplifying". Maybe that's why PAF types inundate these forums with complicated and specious arguments about densifying being good and moral and portray those who don't agree with them as "selfish" - or even being akin to Trump supporters.

PAF supporters tell us it's really a choice about "what kind of growth" we want. But that's a false choice: the choice is really about "how much" growth we want. If Palo Altans wanted to live in a city of 100,000 or more people or a dense hip urban city with good sushi bars, there are plenty of choices available to them in the Bay Area. (And that's the choice PAF supporters should by rights make: they shouldn't have the nerve to tell us they're here to help us manage our growth by changing Palo Alto into a city which suits their cramped urban vision.)

By choosing to live here, Palo Altan's implicitly have voted on the kind of place they want to live: and it isn't the PAF kind of place. They can ratify their vote in the coming City Council Election. I think they will.


17 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 1, 2016 at 1:16 pm

[Post removed.]


14 people like this
Posted by Very Long Term Resident of Palo Alto
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 1, 2016 at 1:37 pm

This is largely a "residentialist" site. The audience is that already convinced by groups that say Palo Alto should not change. What Palo Alto needs is to encourage business (who doesn't want jobs to flourish in our area?) an not to put long term "caps" on business. Our homes have value because of increased business. Why put limits such as "start ups"?

Not once did the panel intelligently address President Obama's directive that cities consider planned density and his "toolkit" to do so. Barely did anyone talk about Governor Brown' directive to local government to loosen the rules on "Nanny Unit" or what are called "Accessory Dwelling Units" It was embarrassing to watch how the candidate just talked in generalities... generalities that thy think will attract voters, and particularly those entrenched in keeping Palo Alto frozen in time, a "small town" instead of the epicenter of innovation that it has become. Generalities is politics, not policy oriented thinking. They were appealing to what they knew was the so-called "residentialists" who are the major contributors to this column. Linda Kuo spoke in vague generalities. Greer Stone... worse. He is, as the article says, the product of residentialist city council members: a 26 year old, just graduated from law school young man who had no experience in government until he was elected to the Human Rights Commission from what I can tell. Talks a good line like young lawyers do. Karl Stewart is one note ("sky posse" and don't change Palo Alto)..... Len Ely was surprisingly and refreshingly honest and open to new ideas.

You could tell, in contrast, who had carefully thought out their positions: Fine, Kniss, Tanaka and McDougall. Keller and others are smart but still too mired in the past. Try to put yourself in the shoes of people who live in our city and contribute (but are not "residentialists", most of whom who don't want to imagine change). Imagine good change, that benefits seniors, teachers, renters, our second responders (police for example), students and renters.

We need what President Obama and Governor Brown have asked for: isions and policy that allow for more, carefully planned, people friendly and transportation-wise density. Palo Alto has benefited from outsiders not just from "residents". Try to think outside of the box.


22 people like this
Posted by Balance
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 1, 2016 at 1:53 pm

Very long term resident,

A federal or state directive needs to translate to the conditions of each community. Clearly there is more pressure here for both business development and housing but unless residents are willing to pay for the infrastructure necessary to accept all the demands, there are real costs involved to sustain growth in every direction.

First of all, Palo Alto will never be Detroit - check the weather for that.

Yet we are losing young families who would want to have their kids attend Palo Alto schools which is even better for the City than noo-descript offices or worse a campus for an oversized company. So, instead of families we are getting "bunk bed" rentals for Palantir which is a REAL cost to our community.

Not safe at all for the neighborhoods.

If you have to chose, housing is obviously a bigger issue and businesses are not a priority.

A moratorium on office construction sounds about right.





1 person likes this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 1, 2016 at 3:21 pm

A good article which gave some candidates' responses to the PAN questionnaire, and a much better questionnaire than the previous PAF multiple choice questionnaire with shades of gray differences (nuances) in the answers. That was an obvious setup.

Gennady, I got on the PAN website and read the questions on the questionnaire but when I tried to get responses from candidates only a few popped up and then only a few of the answers showed up. Any idea why? I would like to see each candidates answers to all of the questions. So far I haven't been able to do that.

It sounds like this is a strong field of candidates but a lot of the responses just recited/repeated what the problems are and what needs to be done, with no details/specifics of how to accomplish that. I know the deal...elect us and then we'll reveal that information later, once we're in office.

I was encouraged by Liz' response that transit/transportation is the most important issue. Housing comes in second. Of course infrastructure is mentioned a lot, but again, not much meat on the suggestions offered on how to accomplish it, both within our own community and regionally. I've seen some very big numbers tossed out about the costs, but don't know the basis for them.

PA shouldn't try to appear to be all knowing and capable of fixing all the problems alone, altho many, with big ego's, think we can. There is no limit to fantasism.

Affordable housing: A favorite topic, but I pose these questions to all the candidates. Define what affordable housing means in your minds? Define the range of rental rates, and also what income it would take to be able to afford those rates, taking into account all the other expenses...food, clothing, dental, doctors, car payments, car maintenance and repair, insurance, and for some who need home care or child care. It would be nice if you could take off for a weekend of fun someplace, go to movies, plays, maybe even an opera, and have a pizza night once a week. Please, all you affordable housing proponents, take these into consideration before you answer my question.

Another good question to pose to the candidates...would you approve of the developers proposal for the former VTA site on the corner of Page Mill Road and El Camino? They must be familiar with it. Under parked and with mostly market rate small units. How do they stand on that.

I liked the responses of many of the candidates, but will hold off in making my decision on who to vote for. Right now I would tend to side with the more residentialist minded candidates, only because I think those others could/might switch positions again once they got into office.

Adrian Fine impressed me with his answers...except one...support for ADU's, secondary units, 'granny units', whatever you want to call them. That could be the deal breaker for me in my voting. I still don't understand how that could possibly help our housing problem. If the 3,000+ homeowners that had lots big enough under current ordinances, to add a cottage in their back yard, and only 4 of them did so on average over a ten year period...what are the proponents expecting? And Adrian's big slip was in saying it could help the homeowners with extra income. ADU's should never be thought of as income producing sources. The original intent was for real living breathing 'grannies' or family members. It should stay that way.

In the end, candidates will be playing softball, not taking big chances of offering far out ideas, but holding close to the centrist line of thinking. It's safe.


43 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 1, 2016 at 4:01 pm

"Listen to Tanaka, Kniss, and Fine and you'll learn that they understand the City cannot push off growth to other cities..."

I have listened, especially to Kniss over her many years in office. I await the fabled day when such "regionalism" includes the privileged enclaves where their developer friends dwell, like Atherton, Woodside, Portola Valley, Los Altos Hills, ... . When I'm in a particularly puckish mood I might include the wealthy Palo Alto enclave where Kniss herself dwells.

Meantime, I'll ignore the gauzy residentialist mask these politicians have put on for the campaign. It doesn't fit them, they are obviously not comfortable in it, and they cannot wait to remove it on Nov 9.


15 people like this
Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Oct 1, 2016 at 5:22 pm

Considering that preventing new office construction really is the only way to slow local planned (and unplanned) growth, it will be interesting to see if the council is willing to commit to that goal, knowing there will be drawbacks to the descision as well.


15 people like this
Posted by Fred Balin
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 1, 2016 at 9:41 pm

Fred Balin is a registered user.

Records writes:
"Stewart Carl doesn't say who his campaign manager is, but his website features an introduction by Fred Balin, who is part of the PASZ leadership team …”

I was on the PASZ leadership team during the period leading up to the 2014 election, but have not been involved with the organization since then, although I support the work they do and as personified by the words that make make up their acronym.

Following Records' post, I checked online and saw that my change of status had not been reflected on the PASZ site. I contacted them today, and my name has since been removed.


19 people like this
Posted by TuppenceT
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 2, 2016 at 9:50 am

TuppenceT is a registered user.

There is a vast difference between "controlling development impacts" - traffic for example, and actually controlling office growth.

Controlling impacts (AKA performance measures)is a good idea in theory, and its important to require green building standards - but control of actual amount of office growth is critical if we are to seriously address cost of housing and the jobs/housing imbalance.

Also, the more office is developed, the more housing ABAG will require of Palo Alto, so the jobs/housing ratio will continue to grow, and this is a serious impact that cannot be addressed by standards, requirements, and performance measures. We need to catch up before we permit office growth.

Arthur Keller and Lydia Kou understand this. Those who focus on reducing the impacts of office development are dangling a humongous red herring in front us.


27 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Oct 2, 2016 at 12:14 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

It's interesting that the developers foo friendly to the PAF candidates running in this election, including Lis Kniss, have no interest in actually living in Palo Alto. They live in Woodside, Portola Valley and Los Altos Hills, communities entirely disinterested in density, urbanization and in contributing to ease the housing crunch in the Bay area. They don't want to live with density, traffic and urban blight, but are very eager to enrich themselves by inflicting it on Palo Alto.


1 person likes this
Posted by Resident1
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Oct 2, 2016 at 1:15 pm

Resident1 is a registered user.

Wait, you can run for City Council without living in Palo Alto? Who does not live here? Kniss and who else?


12 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Oct 2, 2016 at 1:23 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

The developers who support and contribute to Kniss, Tanaka, Fine and the other PAF candidates don't live in Palo Alto, they know better.


27 people like this
Posted by Resident1
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Oct 2, 2016 at 1:28 pm

Resident1 is a registered user.

Ah, okay, thanks, makes sense -- the candidates live here, their developer-endorsers do not.

I am so angry with Kniss for over-developing Palo Alto. And I do not like the way Fine has changed his positions prior to the election. [Portion removed.]


4 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 3, 2016 at 12:24 pm

@Raj

"Listening last night, I liked Liz Kniss's point that there are NO new office developments in the works.. that is a strong message. And Mr. Fine and Mr. Tanaka made the point that you also have to LISTEN to the business community. They pay taxes too."

"NO new"? What does that mean? How many developments (sizes and number of expected employees please) are in the pipeline? How many are pre-cap with no size limit, and how many fall under the cap? So, what is the total? It sounds like there could be a lot more employees coming here, I'm assuming many car commuters, that will just add to the traffic congestion and parking problems we already have.

Of course businesses pay taxes, but what does it mean that we have to LISTEN to them? That we need more of them for their taxes to balance our city budget? That business/office growth has to keep up with the increase in our budget? If that's the case then we are in trouble.


3 people like this
Posted by Residentialists or Parochialists?
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 3, 2016 at 4:32 pm

Residentialists or Parochialists? is a registered user.


Residentialists or Parochialists? And just how narrowly parochial are these candidates?


Like this comment
Posted by To Gale Johnson
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 3, 2016 at 4:38 pm

To Gale Johnson is a registered user.

Legally speaking, business owners, like residents, are property owners. They have property rights just as you and I do. The Council is legally required to consider their rights. To do that, they have to listen to and consider their applications to develop their land, just as they are required to listen to our residential requests.



29 people like this
Posted by CM
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 3, 2016 at 6:43 pm

I'm tired of hearing how we have to help out with "regional" problems by over crowding and overdeveloping. How about we set an example by saying NO! The entire bay area "region" is massively overcrowded and far exceeds the carrying capacity for this environment. I would like Palo Alto to continue to fight the over-development trend and push for maintaining itself as a livable community with a focus on residents, parks, open spaces and protecting the environment. We should have a slogan like - We are full, go to Detroit where there is plenty of office space, the homes are cheap and the streets are not gridlocked. Perhaps if Palo Alto sets an example other cities will follow and one day the state will come to its senses and establish a limit to this unsustainable environment destroying growth. This election is about fighting for quality of life and Kou, Keller and Carl know that. The growthers just want to make money for themselves (down the line) or their friends.


18 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 3, 2016 at 8:41 pm

"Residentialists or Parochialists? And just how narrowly parochial are these candidates?"

You nailed it, good buddy. Some are Residentialists; others, like PAF with its narrow focus on enriching its developer patrons, are exemplary Parochialists. I think their parochialism is razor sharp on the narrow money trail.


2 people like this
Posted by We need Kniss
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 4, 2016 at 12:05 pm

Kniss platform is about maintaining quality of life, reducing traffic and congestion - she has the vision, the plan, and the regional influence to make it happen. "limiting commercial growth is not a major part of her platform"...because it's a non-issue. There's a moratorium on commercial growth. We all want what's best for PA and saying "NO" to everything by the POLITICAL ACTION COMMITTEE candidates is not the solution. Say NO to PASZ, Kou, Keller and Greer. These folks are beholden to a PAC. All the other candidates are independent.
Go to the forums. There's one this Wed. Listen for yourself who's the best choice. Make your own independent decisions.


16 people like this
Posted by Like A Hole In The Head
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Oct 4, 2016 at 12:09 pm

Like A Hole In The Head is a registered user.

We do not need developer-friendly people on the Palo Alto City Council. We need people who represent and prioritize the interest of residents, not developers. And people who aren't shifting their positions with the prevailing winds. Kniss is noe of the key folks responsible for getting us in this mess. Let's not reward her with another term.


13 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Oct 4, 2016 at 12:53 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

Liz Kniss is responsible more than any other Palo Alto politician for diminishing the quality of life and the massive increase in traffic and congestion. She has been remarkebly developer friendly. Rewarding her with anther term will guarantee that the demise of Palo Alto and the collapse of the quality of life here will continue and will accelerate.


3 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 4, 2016 at 4:03 pm

@Robert

"Considering that preventing new office construction really is the only way to slow local planned (and unplanned) growth, it will be interesting to see if the council is willing to commit to that goal, knowing there will be drawbacks to the descision as well."

What are the drawbacks?

@Posted by Gale Johnson

"Legally speaking, business owners, like residents, are property owners. They have property rights just as you and I do. The Council is legally required to consider their rights. To do that, they have to listen to and consider their applications to develop their land, just as they are required to listen to our residential requests."

To whomever you really are...I guess you're assuming the business owners also own the property and aren't renting. I think those are very few and far between. But sure, CC should also listen to business owners, not as property owners, but just to hear their dilemma of trying to stay in business with the increasing high rents.

@We need Kniss

"Kniss platform is about maintaining quality of life, reducing traffic and congestion - she has the vision, the plan, and the regional influence to make it happen. "limiting commercial growth is not a major part of her platform"...because it's a non-issue. There's a moratorium on commercial growth. We all want what's best for PA and saying "NO" to everything by the POLITICAL ACTION COMMITTEE candidates is not the solution. Say NO to PASZ, Kou, Keller and Greer. These folks are beholden to a PAC. All the other candidates are independent.
Go to the forums. There's one this Wed. Listen for yourself who's the best choice. Make your own independent decisions."

Wow, "maintaining quality of life, reducing traffic and congestion", did she suddenly become a residentialist? That sounds a lot like their platform.

"There's a moratorium on commercial growth." Really? Tell us more about that. I know about the cap but haven't heard about the moratorium yet.

"Say NO to PASZ, Kou, Keller and Greer. These folks are beholden to a PAC. All the other candidates are independent."

Nice try on that one. That horrible PAC. Independent? You gotta be kidding. Anybody who reads newspapers or PAO articles aren't fooled by that. They have been very clever this year...PAF isn't endorsing candidates. They don't have to. Everybody knows who they're supporting...and it's all those...wink wink "independents".


Like this comment
Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Oct 4, 2016 at 4:28 pm

@Gale Johnson

I suppose you're right, "drawbacks" does seem to have some negative connotations associated with it; I might have said there is a "natural consequence" in not allowing new office development in that the existing office space will end up in the hands of the highest bidder.


4 people like this
Posted by JC Palo Alto
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 5, 2016 at 1:00 am

This is a great city and we are lucky that these are the biggest problems facing us today.

My take:
1) Limiting Downtown Palo Alto to companies less than 50 employees is a bad idea. Most of the start-ups have moved to San Francisco due to unaffordable housing and a desire for the urbanization/culture of San Francisco. There is a lot more vacant space in downtown Palo Alto now and it's not being digested as quickly a years prior. Many young people want nothing to do with this city if it wasn't for great companies being here.

2) Limiting growth is a good idea and Kuo is right. Alternative Transportation Solutions don't work and should have never been agreed to. (Many "closed door" meetings were had to get the last batch of parking deficient buildings completed.) It's harder than ever for Palo Alto companies to hire SF Talent and the train is only used by a handful of employees typically.

3) Office Densities in downtown for Tech are 6 employees per 1,000 SF. With many buildings having no parking and others only some, you do the math.

4) We should celebrate the companies that stay here. We have a long tradition of being progressive and innovative and should support the start-ups that have organically grown here...some of them have great ties to our community.

5) Amazon is slowly becoming the biggest tenant in downtown Palo Alto. Don't blame Palantir for all the problems--this Seattle based company with a 300B+ market cap is occupying 7-8% of the market.

6) Agree, that Stanford should do more to reduce traffic etc. They are making lots of $$ on their ground leases.

7) We need to build an environment where smart growth and and progressive land use ideas are heard and possibly implemented. This growth/no growth argument reminds me of Trump/Clinton. As a city of smart people we should not fall into an emotional trap but put forth a general plan that focuses the growth on the areas we want with checks and balances in place. We won't all love it...but I'm sure there is a better way.....

8) Traffic is bad not only because of Palo Alto development but because you have 3 of the fastest growing companies in the world as neighbors; Facebook, Google & Apple that have made 101 & 280 parking lots so drivers transcend Page Mill/Bayshore and El Camino looking for a faster way.....

9) Affordable housing and residential building is all good but only if infrastructure (schools, gov't services) can support it.

10) Palo Alto is not the same and will never be. Once a sleepy community for defense contractors, electrical engineers and nutty West Coast professors we have become a haven for the elite, the destination of over-seas investment dollars and the beacon for tech entrepreneurs following in the footsteps like google and facebook.

11) It could be worse...we could all live in Los Altos :)


6 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Oct 5, 2016 at 9:59 am

If you really believe the headline -- that "Opposition to New Office Space Unites Council Candidates" -- just check out the Palo Alto Chamber of Commerce's "recommended" candidates.


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

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