In candidate forums, endorsement interviews and questionnaires sponsored by the resident groups Palo Alto Forward (PAF) and Palo Alto Neighborhoods (PAN), candidates have opined on significant issues facing the city. Below are their answers to five key questions.
Note: Candidate Danielle Martell did not participate in any of these activities and thus is absent from this story.
STEWART CARL: Supports very limited housing growth, solely focused on low-income employees. "We cannot possibly build that much living space (to accommodate the city's workforce) in Palo Alto without compromising our quality of life." (Chamber of Commerce (CoC) forum)
LEN ELY: Believes downtown Palo Alto can accommodate more housing and favors making an exception to the 50-foot height limit for new buildings near the downtown transit center. "This is a place that we could make denser and have affordable housing, possibly even housing that first-responders can live in."
ADRIAN FINE: "We need to build more housing to address the (jobs-to-housing) imbalance, but also because it is the moral thing to do." Favors increasing density of units, enabling more housing types and allowing denser buildings near transit and services. (PAF)
JOHN FREDRICH: Supports redeveloping the Buena Vista Mobile Home Park as an apartment building for low-income residents; would also like to see the construction of more accessory-dwelling or "granny" units. "Housing can be greatly facilitated by prioritizing the creation of new and smaller and affordable units." (PAN).
ARTHUR KELLER: Supports more housing focused on seniors, teachers, first-responders and utility workers and believes the city should encourage more small units to accommodate one- and two-person households. "Let's take a look at what type of housing we need most." (PAN)
LIZ KNISS: Supports a more diverse housing stock and use of zoning to incentivize more housing construction in the downtown and California Avenue areas, where public transportation is available and retail is within walking distance. "I would like to see new housing proposed that is aimed at younger Palo Alto workers and ... for those older residents who want to downsize and yet stay in the city." (PAF)
LYDIA KOU: Believes the city should carefully pace housing growth, focus policies on service workers and monitor the impacts of new housing on traffic, parking and other "quality of life" indicators.
"Palo Alto does have to be careful about its growth rate and building housing. We cannot outpace the ability to keep up with services and schools, parks and other amenities." (League of Women Voters (LWV) forum)
DON MCDOUGALL: Supports exploring various types of affordable housing, including accessory-dwelling units, cluster housing and transit-oriented one-bedroom and studio apartments. "We must provide a spectrum of housing and availability across all levels. We have to look at every different kind of housing that can be made available." (Palo Alto Neighborhoods forum)
GREER STONE: Supports new housing for teachers, first-responders and low-income residents. Does not believe the city should breach the 50-foot height limit or encourage new accessory-dwelling units. "If we ever build enough new housing units to make Palo Alto affordable, we will by then (have) altered the very fabric of our city to the point where it is no longer recognizable." (PAN)
GREG TANAKA: Supports exploring construction of microunits and accessory-dwelling units. Opposes increased density in single-family neighborhoods. "Palo Alto should hold a housing summit to explore the success or failure from other communities with microunits and community housing complexes." (PAN)
CARL: Supports residential parking-permit programs like the one in College Terrace, where permits are only provided to residents. Adjustments to complex programs like the one downtown will require "ongoing work" and should be informed by "feedback from affected residents who have intimate knowledge concerning how Residential Preferential Parking (RPP) is working in their neighborhood." (PAN)
ELY: Believes the city made a mistake when it created the downtown RPP program because officials failed to predict the spillover of cars into areas just outside the permit district. Would consider broader areas for future parking districts to ensure adjacent blocks aren't impacted.
FINE: Believes the downtown RPP program has been fairly successful but would like to see better monitoring of employees' parking habits. Supports exploring similar programs elsewhere and wants new efforts to involve surrounding neighborhoods and be linked to transportation improvements to ensure that service workers can get to Palo Alto. "If we just say folks cannot drive to get to Palo Alto, that's a problem." (Weekly interview)
FREDRICH: Believes the rates in the existing RPP program should be modified so that residents would have greater incentives to park cars off the street. Prefers the downtown model, where a share of permits is allotted for employees, to the College Terrace model, where permits are only given to residents. "Each party needs to negotiate a common solution." (Weekly interview)
KELLER: Supports eliminating worker permits from areas that the city added in the second phase of the downtown RPP program. Believes neighborhoods should be able to choose College Terrace-style programs, where no worker permits are issued. "Businesses and residents located in new buildings, which are supposed to be fully parked, should not be eligible for RPP permits." (PAN)
KNISS: Supported the expansion of the downtown RPP program to Crescent Park and looks to take a similar approach, with employees getting some permits, in the California Avenue area. Supports exploring satellite parking lots and shuttles for additional parking options.
KOU: Supports phasing out permit parking for non-residents in the downtown RPP district and allowing College Terrace-style parking-permit programs, in which permits are only provided to residents, in other neighborhoods.
MCDOUGALL: Supports the downtown parking program and expansions initiated by other neighborhoods. Would like to see more programs that provide alternatives to driving downtown. (PAN)
STONE: Supports the expanded downtown RPP program and promotes reducing the number of worker permits by 200 each year. For those employee permits, priority should go to retail, restaurant and other service-industry workers. (PAN)
TANAKA: As president of the College Terrace Residents Association, worked to establish his neighborhood's parking-permit program. Believes neighborhoods should be involved in program designs. "We must see how the process works, as well as understanding any unintended consequences, before changing the process."
CARL: Believes Palo Alto should focus less on public transit and biking and more on preparing for advances in ride-sharing networks and self-driving cars. "Cars don't cause traffic. ... Traffic is caused by the overbuilding of office in our community." (LWV forum)
ELY: Supports having developers participate in traffic-mitigation measures and asking the VTA to use smaller buses in Palo Alto as an alternative to the agency's proposal to cut some routes. "Vibrancy is what causes a lot of traffic issues." (LWV forum)
FINE: Supports Measure B, the countywide tax measure to fund transportation improvements. Advocates for expanding the city's shuttle program and making it more demand-based; favors a "trench and cover" alignment for the railroad tracks; and supports exploring dynamic pricing for downtown parking. "We need to fight more creatively and actively for county and regional funds." (CoC forum)
FREDRICH: Opposes the Measure B tax for transportation improvements. Believes the best way to ease congestion on local streets is to "enforce all traffic laws." "Traffic and parking problems are driven by overdevelopment." (LWV forum)
KELLER: Supports tying approvals of new development at Stanford Research Park to Stanford's ability to reduce its traffic impacts. Calls for more enforcement of "transportation demand management" requirements and supports a "transportation impact fee" that companies would pay to fund efforts to reduce traffic. "Rapid growth in jobs is the root cause of our housing and traffic problems." (PAN)
KNISS: Supports the electrification of Caltrain, supports Measure B to fund transportation improvements and helped lead the effort to form city's new Transportation Management Association. Voted to install new garage technology that indicates the number of vacant parking spots. "We're not an island. We have to interact with all the cities around us." (LWV forum)
KOU: Is skeptical about "transportation demand management" policies that assume employees won't use cars. Supports better coordination between the city's shuttle program and Stanford's Marguerite Shuttle. "Traffic has absolutely gone out of control. This problem must be addressed, and to do so, it's imperative that the office-development annual limit be extended." (LWV forum).
MCDOUGALL: Supports the VTA tax measure and improving the city's ride-share programs, electrifying Caltrain and "reimagining" the city's shuttle system. "We need to work hard on alternatives to single-occupancy vehicles." (LWV forum)
STONE: Wants to condition the approval of new developments on the developer's ability to reduce anticipated traffic by 30 percent and impose penalties if the developer fails. Supports expanding the city shuttle system, promoting ride-sharing apps and encouraging employee carpools. "There is almost nothing that inhibits our quality of life more than traffic on our clogged streets." (PAN)
TANAKA: Supports having Palo Alto join with neighboring cities to ensure north-county cities' voices are heard at the county level. Also supports working with other cities to create "park-and-ride services" that he believes could dramatically decrease the amount of parking and traffic in the city. "Really, the solution isn't within our boundaries; it's working with other cities." (LWV forum)
CARL: "Palo Alto needs an immediate moratorium on new office development. The moratorium should stay in place until we have a realistic and quantifiable understanding of how much growth our infrastructure can support." (PAN)
ELY: Does not support the city's annual office cap and opposes a moratorium on new commercial development. Does not support the city's new "retail protection" ordinance, which prohibits conversion of ground-floor retail to office use, and believes the ordinance should be replaced with a more flexible law. "Anytime you draw arbitrary lines you will have problems." (PAN)
FINE: Criticized the city's new cap on office space for being too "blunt" a tool but favors keeping it until the city updates its Comprehensive Plan. Wants to "flip" the prioritization of development in the city's zoning code so that housing is preferred over offices. "Palo Alto has the nation's worst jobs/housing imbalance, and it's because we have spent decades overbuilding office space instead of housing." (PAN)
FREDRICH: Supports a moratorium on new office development and believes the annual cap on commercial projects should be expanded citywide. "We need to ... not create more commercial footage until we make some progress on housing." (PAN)
KELLER: Supports making permanent the city's annual cap on new office development and tying future construction in Stanford Research Park to Stanford's ability to reduce traffic. Does not support a moratorium on office development. "Not all growth is good. I am in favor of maintaining the annual growth limit on office space a 'speed limit' on growth." (PAN)
KNISS: Voted in favor of the city's annual office cap. Supported several mixed-use projects with commercial components, including 441 Page Mill Road and 2515 El Camino Real. "We have sent a message. We may want performance measures for the future but, at the moment, I don't think we will see any developments for awhile in office space."
KOU: Supports extending the cap on commercial development beyond its current expiration date, when the updated Comprehensive Plan is adopted. Also believes the cap should apply citywide and include Stanford Research Park. "Growth cannot outstrip what our community can accommodate." (PAN)
MCDOUGALL: Opposes a moratorium on new office space but favors extending the annual office cap, setting new development requirements and measuring the impacts of new commercial developments. "Over time we need to continue to measure community livability and quality with available metrics such as air quality, congestion, canopy coverage." (PAN)
STONE: Supports creating a limit of 50 employees for downtown companies to encourage more startups and fewer large companies (existing companies would be grandfathered). Supports retaining the existent office cap and requiring Stanford Research Park to reduce traffic to retain its current exemption from the cap. "We added so much office space and so many jobs over several years that our housing (supply) can't possibly keep up." (LWV forum)
TANAKA: Criticizes the city's office cap as a "blunt" instrument but is in favor of keeping it or even adopting a full moratorium until the update of the Comprehensive Plan is completed. Supports limiting Class A office space and maintaining height limits on commercial development in the city's main commercial areas. "Palo Alto is a renowned hub for incubating new economic sectors in startup space like bedrooms, garages, coffee shops, plug & play suites. I support maintaining this heritage." (PAN)
CARL: Supports the city's 50-foot height limit and believes the city can do a better job recruiting qualified members to serve on Architectural Review Board. "We must improve the independence and professionalism of architects practicing in Palo Alto, and that must begin with improving the independence and professionalism of the Architectural Review Board." (PAN)
ELY: Supports going past the city's 50-foot height limit in the downtown core. Believes neighborhood design guidelines should only be adopted if there is a clear consensus among residents. "If everyone in the neighborhood understands that and is willing to place a deed restriction on their properties then I would be OK with that." (PAN)
FINE: Voted to support single-story overlay districts for Los Arboles and Greer Park North. Believes the Individual Review guidelines (for multi-story homes) work well but says the city should help improve the "single-story overlay" process by creating a "kit" neighborhoods can use for their applications.
FREDRICH: Wants to demote the Architectural Review Board to make it a purely "advisory" panel and give more decision-making power to an expanded Planning and Transportation Commission. "I do not think the Planning Department is fulfilling its charge in protecting community environment." (Weekly interview)
KELLER: Believes the city's Individual Review guidelines are "ambiguous and not sufficiently clear" and supports changing them from "guidelines" to enforceable rules. "When the plans do indicate that textured glass or opaque windows are required, the building Inspectors sometimes fail to enforce the rules. (PAN)
KNISS: Opposed a citizen appeal of the proposed development at 429 University Ave. because she believes the modern design was compatible with downtown's variety of architectural styles. She opposed appeals of developments at 240 Hamilton Ave. and 636 Waverley Ave. but supported the recent appeal of a new building at 411 Lytton Ave. Opposed a new automobile dealership in the Baylands because she felt the building was too big for the area. Supported single-story overlays in Greer Park North and Los Arboles, which ban two-story homes. Supports the establishment of Eichler design guidelines.
KOU: Supports strictly adhering to the city's 50-foot height limit for new buildings and promoting construction that is compatible with existing neighborhoods. Supports the emergence of "new neighborhood design patterns that reflect awareness of each property's effect upon neighboring properties." (PAN forum)
MCDOUGALL: Favors exploring exceptions to the city's 50-foot height limit near transit hubs to support affordable housing. Supports design guidelines for Eichler neighborhoods, possibly with collaboration of a task force of neighborhood residents. "Eichler design guidelines should be comparable with the unique characteristics of the homes and responsible to the privacy concerns of residents." (PAN)
STONE: Supports policies to preserve Eichler neighborhoods and the city's Individual Review process for reviewing new homes. Opposes exceeding the city's 50-foot height limit for new buildings. "A lot of times, I look around Palo Alto, and some of our greatest eyesores are the high-rises we have." (CoC forum)
TANAKA: Supported a single-story overlay in Greer Park North (with revised boundaries) but recommended denying it in Faircourt because of insufficient support. Believes the city's design-review process needs to be "better outlined, better defined and with more upfront assistance in the process fro the city." (PAN)