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Editorial: A reckless majority

In stunning surprise, new council majority upends planning process

The five members who make up the new, more development-friendly majority on the Palo Alto City Council blatantly stuck it to their four colleagues and the community Monday night with what appeared to be a carefully orchestrated take-over of the critical land-use portion of the new Comprehensive Plan.

The four-member minority group on the council, which held a shaky majority before the November election results tipped the balance the other way, was as helpless as Democrats in Congress or Republicans in Sacramento. It was only the third meeting of the council since newbies Adrian Fine, Greg Tanaka and Lydia Kou were sworn in and Greg Scharff was unanimously elected mayor, and the new majority made clear they had no intention of seeking compromise or middle ground.

Surprise attacks like what occurred Monday night are not our expectation for how our non-partisan City Council should work and are certain to perpetuate political animosities from the last election. It was done with an arrogance that will further divide and anger rather than help unify the community around common goals.

The council meeting was supposed to be devoted to giving direction to the city staff and a 25-member citizens committee on key land-use and transportation strategy options that had been carefully teed up by the city staff. Nearing a scheduled completion of the Comprehensive Plan revision later this year after nine years of problems and delays, achieving council agreement on these sections of the plan was a tall order under any circumstances due to the complexity of the issues and the sharp divisions within the community.

It was also a huge opportunity for Mayor Scharff to use his influence as the presiding officer to show humility and respect for those with opposing views and to ensure a thoughtful, collaborative discussion that led to something other than 5-4 votes. That's what we all want leaders to do: find ways to craft solutions that can win more than a bare majority vote of approval.

Instead, it quickly became clear that Scharff, Vice Mayor Liz Kniss and Councilmen Cory Wolbach, Fine and Tanaka had every intention of ramming through their agenda to jettison elements that might limit the council's future flexibility. The action stripped the plan of all but the most general and visionary goals around which there is little or no disagreement.

The minority group of Tom DuBois, Eric Filseth, Karen Holman and Kou were stunned by the surprise proposals, put forth by Wolbach but quickly supported by the others in the majority, designed to move through a series of motions that culminated in a 5-4 vote to remove all the detailed implementing programs that support the broader policies in the land-use plan.

It was an in-your-face move to substantially change a process that has been underway for years and that has cost millions of dollars, consumed immense staff and consulting time and subverted the dedicated and diverse volunteer citizens committee.

Wolbach, who took the lead, said he wanted to "trim the plan substantially" and keep it high level and not prescriptive, the opposite of what the committee has been working hard on for the last two years.

Similarly, on a motion by Fine, the council voted to remove development requirements and various measures to determine the effectiveness of those requirements that he considered in need of more work.

In addition to setting aside all the concrete implementing programs in the plan, the 5-4 majority also voted to remove the existing overall downtown development cap and to retain the current temporary 50,000 square feet per year limit on new commercial development in downtown, on El Camino Real and around California Avenue, but to allow a roll-over of unused footage to subsequent years.

The majority also voted to remove from the plan all reference to the city's current 50-foot height limit, signaling an intention to reconsider down the road changes to the current ordinance that includes the limit.

It was an inauspicious start to Scharff's year as mayor, and eerily reminiscent of 2013 when in his first stint as mayor he presided over a similarly divided council during a tumultuous year that climaxed with the successful Measure D Maybell referendum.

Wolbach's pre-emptive move to gut the critical land-use plan was ill-timed and executed in a way that fuels conflict rather than seeks to build consensus. His ideas for a different structure and process would have been appropriate and potentially well-received if offered a year or even six months ago. But to spring it on his colleagues at the last minute, with obvious pre-arranged support from others, he undercut all his previous political rhetoric about consensus-building and respectful debate.

Elections do matter, and a solid new council majority now rules. This week we witnessed its unsettling debut and discovered how the loss of a swing vote, former Councilman Pat Burt, can dramatically change the tenor of the council for the worse.

Related content:

VIDEO: Behind the Headlines -- Uproar over city land-use plan

Palo Alto council members spar over land-use vision

Guest Opinion: When democracy is hijacked


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79 people like this
Posted by Douglas Moran
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 3, 2017 at 2:22 am

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

Given the amount of coordination and agreement within the "reckless majority", it is difficult to imagine that they hadn't conducted a "serial meeting" as defined and prohibited by the Brown Act (Opening Meetings Law).

The Faithless Five each have more than enough experience in government to know what an illegal meeting is and to avoid the appearance of one.

Shades of the 27 University (the Arrillaga towers proposal) events that were the subject of a Civil Grand Jury. Some references to PA Online articles:

Palo Alto slammed for lack of transparency on Arrillaga proposals (2014-06-20): Web Link)

Palo Alto admits mistakes in negotiations with developer (2014-09-04): Web Link

Editorial: A half-hearted mea culpa (2014-09-05): Web Link

80 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 3, 2017 at 7:23 am

First Kniss and Tenaka hid developer money from voters that was poured into their election campaigns after the election, now they do this. Shame on them - residents deserve council members with integrity. They, along with council members Wolbach, Fine, and Scharff have harmed Palo Alto with their hubris and reveal a lack of judgement that is breathtaking.

Unfortunately with this vote it seems that Fine will be welded to Wolbach in believing the ends justifies the means to achieve whatever goals their shared ideological zeal demands - to build big, dense and unaffordable to placate lobbyists for Silicon Valley corporations such as Palintir, too often with the support of many well meaning but naive followers of Palo Alto Forward. Wolbach lives to achieve higher political office and will do anything to achieve it and lacks integrity. Just what we don't need. His actions verify he should not be elected for a second term to city council in 2018.

Now as we wait for the results of FPPC investigations of Kniss and Tenaka's potential campaign contribution violations, we are left with a Citizen Advisory Committee's work having been trashed, 4 council members treated badly by their colleagues, and any regard for a fair and reasonable Comp Plan process in ruins. This is unprecedented and will resonate in distrust and cynicism for a long time in Palo Alto. And good luck getting CAC volunteers in the future.

67 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Community Center
on Feb 3, 2017 at 7:32 am

The Citizens Advisory Committee has spent 1 1/2 years working hard to provide a Comprehensive Plan that is a consensus document that represents the communities views towards how we retain what is great about this city and grow smartly. The programs in the Comp Plan tell the staff how to implement the policies listed. The motion that stripped all programs from the land use plan results in removing many meaningful programs on land use, including historic preservation, environmental preservation and minimizing growth impacts. In the statistical valid Citizen's Survey residents have stated that housing, traffic and parking remain their top concerns. The vast majority of the community has made it very clear that they want a strong focus and prioritization on housing and the 5-4 removal of a limitation on the long-term growth of office space in downtown is not representative of the voters/residents but rather the personal agendas of the pro-growth majority council members. In addition, there were numerous motions that differed substantially from the options listed in the Land Use Element, such as Adrian Fine's proposal to add 800,000 square feet of office space outside of Stanford Research Park, that were not agendized or included in the packet, nor was any reference made to that before the public spoke. The meeting was not an example of open and transparent government for the people.

25 people like this
Posted by Kettle is black
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Feb 3, 2017 at 7:53 am

Me thinks the weekly does protest too much. But this editorial is not surprising given that the "unbiased" weekly has marched in lockstep with the no growth PASZ faction for years. The weekly had no problem with the PASZ faction blatantly overturning decisions based on the complaints of a single resident. It was clear from the last election that residents were feed up with pasz council members obstruction and promotion of another growth policy. The weekly had long ago forfeited is voice as a representative of the whole community with its biased and one sided editorials, reporting and editing of TSF.

24 people like this
Posted by Kettle is black
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Feb 3, 2017 at 7:57 am

Doug- I suggest that you provide some evidence for your claims about violations of the law or ate you providing us with alternative facts? I think the obstructionist for were just given a taste of their own medicine.

51 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 3, 2017 at 8:04 am

We desperately needed Arthur Keller on our CC. Things would have been very different if he had been elected.

11 people like this
Posted by Kettle is black
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Feb 3, 2017 at 8:23 am

Resident- except that the vast majority of voters did not feel that way. And your comment on a different thread calling the voters that did not support Keller uneducated does you no favors either. Funny how the weekly, you and dubois complain about democracy hijacked, but refuse to accept the results of the vote.

51 people like this
Posted by anon
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Feb 3, 2017 at 8:36 am

The fix was in Monday night ! it was clear that a well orchestrated attack on citizens of Palo Alto, the Comp Plan volunteers and the city Staff, that have worked so hard over years to implement an ever changing direction from the Council on a REVISION ( not rewrite) of the most important governing document was underway.

Every Palo Alto resident should watch this meeting here:
Web Link

The Mayor and council members Kniss, Tanaka , Wolbach and Fine, did recklessly and thoughtlessly rush through what should have been a thoughtful discussion of key issues to address Palo Alto's future. The Citizens survey ( taken last summer and recently released )showed a diminishing belief in elected officials effectiveness in solving problems and a welling concern about ever growing traffic and parking issues , infrastructure deficits and the continuing rise of
incompatible office structures in the city.

The 4 council members and Mayor Scharff clearly orchestrated this betrayal. Tanaka & Fine ran their elections claiming to support reasonable growth,the needs of residents and protecting neighborhoods.
Wolbach was elected two years ago because he claimed he would reduce housing cost...yet he has consistently voted with the mayor and others mentioned, to approve office structures that benefit private property owners and grow the jobs housing imbalance that has been the very source of the jobs/housing imbalance and the traffic/parking/ ugly building problems that most concern us all!

Fine tried to get an even sweeter deal for Stanford Monday night despite the fact that in the past as a Planning Commissioner he had to recuse himself from Stanford related issues due to his step mothers recent position high up in
Assest Management team at Stanford ( she recently retired but....)
Tanaka received massive amounts of cash from developers well after the election; sure its legal but clearly not ethical!
He paid himself back them 20K he loaned his campaign from the 48K he received after the election from big developer $$$
He received 5K from the developer's son of 429 University, and had an illegal sign high atop the (most recent ) 429 architect's penthouse apartment downtown.

Palo Alto is looking a lot like the nations Capital with irresponsible politicians making rash decisions and reversals with little regard for the consequences!

15 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 3, 2017 at 8:37 am

I said many of the middle of the road voters were uneducated. In any election there are those who go with the flow, go with what they see in headlines and if they have heard a name (for reasons they don't know) vote accordingly.

Names that are thrown around for either good reasons or bad reasons often get more votes just because of that. Of course there were a lot of uneducated voters, there always are.

8 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 3, 2017 at 8:42 am

Of course I am talking about uneducated on the issues in the election, not that they were uneducated themselves. [Portion removed.]d

People do vote impulsively at the last minute without looking beyond their instincts. You know that but your jabs at me and others about not accepting the results of an election are funny when you see at all those in the country who are unhappy with the results of another election. [Portion removed.]

12 people like this
Posted by Kettle is black
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Feb 3, 2017 at 8:48 am

Resident- spun your comment all you want- you called the people that did not vote for Keller " uneducated". And this discussion is about people comparing about democracy in Pali alto, but refusing to accept the will of the people, not about trump.

7 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of University South
on Feb 3, 2017 at 9:20 am

[Post removed.]

9 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 3, 2017 at 9:34 am

The word "spin" is overused, and telling someone that is what they are doing is getting tiring. In a discussion you have to go with context and of course typing "uneducated voters" is shorter than typing "voters who are uneducated on the relevant issues in a particular election".

33 people like this
Posted by Citizen
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 3, 2017 at 9:41 am

Residents need to stop complaining and stop waiting for someone else to do the heavy lifting. If you want to save Palo Alto from being turned into a full on office park with worse traffic it's necessary for each citizen to act, get together with others, and figure out where your power to change things rests.

Kniss and Tanaka should be recalled over the deceptive election practices, and at the very least, a recall effort will shed light on the deception.

Organize and figure out what recourse you have to stop this. You have recourse, but you have to understand the law and act. The state will not do it for you, even though this probably grossly violates the law. Citizens can throw out the comp plan the Council has just made because there are requirements around citizen involvement, traffic circulation, etc, but you have to learn what your rights are.

I cannot help, I wish I could. Just realize residents are not powerless unless each one decides someone else will do something, then no one does.

Perhaps the Weekly will at least outline the state requirements of the comp plan development, the rights and responsibilies, etc.

20 people like this
Posted by Both sides
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 3, 2017 at 9:54 am

In October, it was revealed that Kou and Keller received a slew of very large donations from rich Palo Altans, many of whom had close ties with Castilleja--which is in the middle of lobbying for an expansion plan that City Council support would surely expedite.

Yes, I'm sure that the developers did not donate to Tanaka, Fine, etc. without expecting anything in return (the developer quote in the other article saying that their donation had absolutely nothing to do with influencing development policy is laughable).

But let's not forget that Keller and Kuo also received massive donations from moneyed interests who had a specific agenda that was not necessarily in the best interests of a majority of Palo Altans. Neither side is totally clean here.

47 people like this
Posted by Get real
a resident of Palo Verde
on Feb 3, 2017 at 10:03 am

[Portion removed.]

This article and the outrage of commenters is not about invalidating the election, its about duly elected officials abusing their power: Fast track voting that precludes debate and clear collusion to undermine transparency and impose radical changes without public notice or opportunity to comment.

The facts that Kniss brazenly flouted campaign finance disclosure rules to hide pre-election donors from public view until after the election, (then lied about it) and failed to return prohibited contributions and that Tanaka reaped well over $40k in donations AFTER the election is just frosting on the cake of shame.

Honest, open and inclusive government matters to all of us, irregardless of our positions on growth and development. I resent that I'll forever have to second guess my trust in local government.

30 people like this
Posted by The Real Issue
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 3, 2017 at 10:05 am

It's great to see our new city council dealing with the issue that our residents have overwhelmingly stated is most important: the lack of new housing and our city's high housing costs.

Yes, that means a change from a block-everything council -- and that should be applauded! Thank you to councilmembers Scharff, Kniss, Tanaka, Fine, and Wolbach for leading!

35 people like this
Posted by Council Watcher
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 3, 2017 at 10:28 am

As Anon referenced, expect to see a similar power play on Monday night's Council meeting, when 429 University project will be considered. According to the agenda at Web Link Vice Mayor Kniss will be participating remotely. But according to the rules at Web Link

"Telephonic Attendance Of Council Members At Council Meetings
The City Council Procedures provisions concerning Telephonic Attendance shall apply to all Boards and Commissions as well as the City Council. Requests by Council Members to attend a Council meeting via telephonic appearance are actively discouraged. Telephonic attendance shall only be permitted in the event of extraordinary events such as a medical, family or similar emergency requiring a Council Member’s absence. In addition, at least a quorum of the Council must participate from a location within the City (Government Code Section 54953(b)(3))."

Greg Tanaka received $4,500 from Andrew Wong, son of the developer of 429 University, on November 12, after the election. He used this money to repay part of the $20,000 loan to his campaign. So there is a direct line from this donation to cash going into Councilmember Tanaka's pocket. See Web Link for the campaign finance reports. He should recuse himself from 429 University agenda item.

Like this comment
Posted by Hulkamania
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 3, 2017 at 11:37 am

The pendulum swings both ways.

28 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 3, 2017 at 1:25 pm

Annette is a registered user.

A block everything council? When has there been a CC that was comprised of a slow growth or residentialist majority? I think the closest Palo Alto came to that was the last CC when there were 4 members labeled as such (Holman, Schmid, DuBois, Filseth). Our CC has consistently had 5 members who, if they voted as a block (as happened on Monday with the new Council), could easily pass any project. Perhaps you are thinking of the vote on Measure D - that was a citizen vote, not a Council vote.

41 people like this
Posted by RECALL
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 3, 2017 at 3:49 pm

Back to the days of back room deals, forwarding the interest of development industry interests and disparaging residents.

Greg Scharff will leave a legacy of egotistical self boosting interests.

- 27 University back room negotiations
- [portion removed due to factual inaccuracy]
- Grand Jury investigation
- approving a loan to PAHC even before their proposal for rezoning Maybell was brought before council
- approving spot zoning
- caused of the Maybell referendum because he went into mediation to check box he did it

Let's add traffic congestion and parking wars to the list.

Will there be another referendum on Greg Scharff's watch?

Recall Scharff, Kniss, Wolbach, Tanaka and Fine. Who's with me???

23 people like this
Posted by History Buff
a resident of another community
on Feb 3, 2017 at 4:04 pm

Don't forget Scharff's comment on the 355 Alma project back in 2012: "I think this is a prime site and having an office building -- a Gateway project -- is itself a public benefit."
Web Link

40 people like this
Posted by Why?
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 3, 2017 at 4:07 pm

Why would the CC decide at the very end of the process to tear out all of the citizen input? The entire purpose of a City Council is to act as citizens' representatives to help shape their city as the citizens wish it to be. The arrogance and hubris it takes to not only willfully ignore citizen input, but to effectively consign it to the trash heap in lieu of their own personal agendas is horrifying.

While I understand Palo Altans love to be busy and can't be bothered with such trivial affairs such as local elections, this is what happens when you abdicate your responsibility to vote in a knowledgable fashion. All the signs of developer-owned candidates were there if you spent the time - sadly now we're reaping what we sowed.

[Portion removed.]

29 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 3, 2017 at 4:15 pm

Anyone who's been paying attention to the issues over the years shouldn't be surprised by this. [Portion removed.]

The "huge" donations to Kuo and Keller merely offset the developer money. The "horror" of a former school trustee is laughable and doesn't even comeclose to the donations from organized groups of developers.

To equate PASZ with the lobbying might of Palo Alto Forward, Palantir and the Chamber of Commerce is equally absurd.

I'm all for a recall.

6 people like this
Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Feb 3, 2017 at 4:15 pm


Interesting that you seem to find it easier to believe that Palo Altans weren't paying attention and didn't "vote in a knowledgable fashion" rather than voting for the canditates they mostly agree with. [Portion removed.]

10 people like this
Posted by Voters wanted it
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 3, 2017 at 4:29 pm

Recall- how conveniently your forget that PASZ buddy Karen Holman was involved in those same interests you tar scharff with, as well as throwing in derogatory name calling of mr scharff.
I second me Roberts comments. This is what the voters wanted. The tiny minority that post on this forum, spurred on by one sided "journalism " from the weekly, do not represent Palo Alto at all.

27 people like this
Posted by RECALL
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 3, 2017 at 5:40 pm

@voters wanted it

Karen Holman is not a member of PASZ, get it right. PASZ just endorsed her. And yo, it was not on her watch as Mayor when all this happened, but it was under the mayorship and leadership of Greg Scharff.

[Portion removed.]

7 people like this
Posted by Kettle is black
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Feb 3, 2017 at 6:03 pm

Recal- holman was on the council. She knowingly took part in those incidents you mention. She may have not been mayor but she was on the council.
[Portion removed.]

23 people like this
Posted by Agree recall!
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 3, 2017 at 7:14 pm

If a citizen with enough time to go pull paperwork for a recall kicks off the process, I'm in for a few weekends of signature gathering. I'll also donate money.

Enough is enough. [Portion removed.]

21 people like this
Posted by Thanks to the new council
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 3, 2017 at 7:14 pm

The op-ed by Mr. Dubois is really absurd. He complains about the "undermining of democracy?"

-- He, Ms. Holman, Mr. Filseth and Ms. Kou upturned decades of precedent by campaigning as a "slate", which led to this year's polarizing election (where that same gang-- using the same campaign manager-- received $130K from 5 local families, further undermining our democratic process).
-- After personally complaining about the composition of the PTC and CAC, he and his erstwhile majority packed both bodies with their allies.
-- After Citizens Survey after survey indicated that Palo Alto's most pressing problem is the cost of housing, he and his "slate" kept housing off the agenda for two years
-- Now, he writes a misleading op-ed complaining about being on the losing side of several land-use related votes

14 people like this
Posted by Another Palo Alto Residentialis
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 3, 2017 at 10:21 pm

Thank you Mayor Scharff, Vice Mayor and Council members who don't engage in the kind of personal attacks that Councilman Dubois just engaged in in his opinion piece. I'm relieved you have been elected. I'm tired of a small group of self-named "residentialists" trying to polarize us Palo Altans. Use your time constructively instead of casting aspersion and attacking those who don't agree with you. I am relieved that we have a City Council with members, elected officials, who now listen to more than one portion of the electorate, the so called "residentialists". I am a resident, owner, long time Palo Altan and a "residentialist" if that means I love Palo Alto and I am glad we now have Council members who listen to the interests of all of us, and try to work with a plurality of interests, work with the regional as well as the local concerns. Thank you Mayor Scharff, new council members and old who work together positively and not negatively. I thought Councilman DuBois' article was provocative and polarizing for no good reason except to vent and get attention to himself. One could call this whining but it is time to stop personal insults and ad hominem (and feminism) attacks, no?

18 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 3, 2017 at 10:40 pm

Let's remember that the previous lame duck City Council under Mayor Shepherd set the groundwork for all this when they reduced the number of council members to "streamline debate."

The organized manufactured outrage is typical of those who get caught with their hand in the cookie jar and then blame everyone else for calling them on it.

Shame on the Gang of 5 of A) wasting everyone's time working on the Comp Plan, B for wasting money on the flawed online survey that was going to be ignored and C) for wasting all our MONEY on this fiasco.

It shows how little respect they have for the residents.

36 people like this
Posted by Carol
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Feb 4, 2017 at 10:38 am

Thank you to Councilman Dubois for telling it like it is. The citizens group has worked long and hard to find common ground. The City Council - or 5 of its members - washed away all of that effort in a heartbeat to further their own interests. Too bad they are instituting the same disregard for other points of view that has the country in a very divisive battle.

Liz Kniss, Greg Tanaka, and now Adrian Fine have joined the current mayor in campaigning one way to allay everyone's concerns, and then immediately turning back to their pro developer ways. Kniss has said that she feels sorry for developers because they are so maligned - really? Most of those developers do not live in Palo Alto, and they have made, and will now continue to make, a lot of money from their under-parked, right to the curb and ugly developments in Palo Alto. Just look at the College Terrace Center and the buildings just south of it on El Camino. What monstrosities. The huge complex on Park Blvd near the underpass to Oregon Expressway is just barely tolerable - no landscaping, just a huge ugly hulk. At least it has parking.

Kniss proposed and her alliance took out a survey question about 'build quality', claiming that it was too vague. She could have made it more explicit, but I'm sure she would not have liked the answer.

None of the housing developments this group has approved have been 'affordable' except to highly paid tech workers. The rents for the apartments above the office buildings around California Ave bear this out. Many are still vacant, by the way. All we have gotten is more class A office spaces that small retailers and other small businesses cannot afford and a lot of traffic. The recent complaints of dentists that they cannot find parking on residential streets is a direct result of the City allowing building full of office workers with inadequate parking spaces. The promise was that they would all 'take the train'. Then why such demand for parking?

Start listening to Palo Alto residents on both sides of the issue and try to work toward some sensible programs that actually solve the problems all residents noted in the recent survey.

25 people like this
Posted by Ray B
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 4, 2017 at 11:05 am

[Post removed.]

38 people like this
Posted by Thank you Tom
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 4, 2017 at 11:23 am

Thank you Tom for representing the Palo Alto residents well, and calling out developer backed council members that have vested interests. I wish there were more people like you on the council that fought for our needs, and not for the developers or those that want cheap housing just to get into Palo Alto (and mess up quality of life here in the process)

9 people like this
Posted by CW
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 4, 2017 at 11:39 am

I'm not in favor of skyscrapers, so don't label me. But I think this outrage PASZ and the Weekly are trying to foment is phony. We have ordinances that enforce the height limit and FARs for new development, etc. However, the losers in the November election, led by the Weekly, feel we need to have double regulations -- with all of those restrictions stated in both city law and the comp plan. I got news for your guys: Council can, with a 5-4 vote, change the comp plan just as easily as it can change an ordinance. Quit trying to trick people into thinking the new majority did something drastic. That's just not the case. (Is the Weekly hyping this just to increase page views?)

21 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 4, 2017 at 11:59 am

@CW -- Remember that the Weekly endorsed Kniss, Fine, [Keller] and Kuo for this election. I think they endorsed Corey Wollbach [and Sharff] for the last one.

If you want to blame them for anything, blame them for that.

It's their job to report the news although may be tough to remember in these days of alternative facts.

And this IS an editorial.

3 people like this
Posted by Council Agenda for Feb 6
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 4, 2017 at 12:19 pm

Item 11 Scheduled for 7:40 PM

7:40-9:40 PM
11. PUBLIC HEARING: 429 University Avenue [14PLN-00222]: To Consider a Continued Appeal of the Director of Planning and Community Environment’s Architectural Review Approval of a 31,407 Square-foot, Four Story, Mixed use Building With Parking Facilities on two Subterranean Levels on an 11,000 Square-foot Site. Environmental Assessment: the Mitigated Negative Declaration was Circulated on November 17, 2014 to December 12, 2014. Zoning District: CD-C (GF)(P).
The Council Previously Considered This Appeal on November 30, 2015 and Remanded it to the Architectural Review Board for Redesign and Further Review Based on Council’s Direction

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 4, 2017 at 1:12 pm

[Post removed.]

30 people like this
Posted by Money buys support
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 4, 2017 at 5:54 pm

The point isn't which candidates *received* money -- it's which candidates are now acting beholden to their supporters. Not Kou (or Keller)... but the pro-developer crowd.

18 people like this
Posted by PhotoOp
a resident of Palo Verde
on Feb 5, 2017 at 12:23 pm

So disappointing..... change a process two years in..... toss out the hard work of citizens who gave their time to help improve the quality of life of our city.... coordinated sneak attack to your neighbors and peers.... $$$$$$s rules over integrity in PA CC.

17 people like this
Posted by Suzanne Keehn
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 5, 2017 at 3:37 pm

i am saddened and very disappointed at what happened to our Comp plan, a volunteer and citizen effort for many years last Monday. I believe that the Council serves us, the people of Palo Alto not the developers. The people and their work were totally ignored and the building codes that had been agreed upon eviscerated.

The last I read the CC is at the service of our citizens, we are at the head of the list. Especially disturbing is that there was no discussion before the vote. How does that work for us???

These actions suggest strongly that developers , as we know by the size of donations to the candidates, have had their way. Someone on this link said there should be a recall, and that should be discussed and decided by our residents.

Instead of causing more polarity we need to be inclusive, inspired and empowered to make a difference in our community and our country. .

14 people like this
Posted by Mary
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 5, 2017 at 3:43 pm

There are a number of us discussing the possibility of recall on another thread. If there seems to be enough interest, I think we should move forward. This whole episode really disgusts. Other thread here: Web Link

2 people like this
Posted by DoneDone
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 6, 2017 at 9:39 pm

During the council election, there were numerous profiles describing the inclinations of candidates. I remember clearly that PAOL in their background checks of candidates stated that the current majority was pro development. So, by majority vote the people have decided that they want some more development in PA, perhaps to reduce the housing crisis in the city. People who don't like this direction should wait until the next election and exercise their preference instead of keep whining (which seems to be the national norm these days).

14 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 6, 2017 at 10:31 pm

"So, by majority vote the people have decided that they want some more development in PA..."

They voted for what the candidates represented themselves as. The voluminous literature mailed to our homes touted these as residentialists. Voters liked that representation, but they didn't know it was actually an alternate fact until after they voted.

8 people like this
Posted by Citizen
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 6, 2017 at 11:11 pm

Perhaps you did not pay attention to the capaign and how vociferously these officials slammed their opponents for describing them as pro-developer. Also maybe you missed these recent articles showing the three took around $100,000 total from development interests after the election ir when it was too late to disclose (accirding to them). Liz Kniss made a show of returning a check from a developer during the race and has admitted she knew taking money from developers would look bad. In fact, she painted a picture of developers as pretty reviled, so she didn't want to be seen taking money from them. That's hardly a mandate.

The comprehensive plan is all that protects our town's character. The state requires a high level of citizen involvement. They won't do anything, but this thwarting of the state rules gives citizens the right to go to court or complain to the state - residents should figure it out! Between this egregious behavior and the election ethical lapses, the citizens should pressure their resignation, and if they don't, recall. I didn't see any of them give all the money back.

4 people like this
Posted by DoneDone
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 6, 2017 at 11:20 pm

I looked at my notes regarding the five members majority. They have all stated their positions to in favor of reasonable growth. Here are some quotes from articles about them from last year:

Wolbach: "But Wolbach also said he would like to add concerns about the city's jobs-housing imbalance to the debate. Specifically, the city should focus on reducing this imbalance by adding housing, he said."

"Adrian Fine, Don McDougall and Greg Tanaka -- favor a less restrictive approach to development and a wider range of housing options."

"Known as a moderate on land-use issues, the political veteran has often found herself on the opposite side of the debate from the council's slow-growth "residentialist" wing."

Scharff has been a long timer in the city council and a centrist.

I don't believe any of the members of the current majority did a bait and switch trick on voters. So, presumably, they are aligned with the majority of Palo Altan.

17 people like this
Posted by Citizen
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 6, 2017 at 11:54 pm

No, Scharff specifically heavily flogged a photo of Bob Moss during his re-election campaign and called hinself a residentialist.

Kniss, Tanaka, and Fine went hard after their opponents for saying on Facebook that they would be pro-development. All of them ran from the label during the election. You cannot ignore that Kniss made a show of returning developer money when it had to be disclosed, then asked for money when it didn't. Tanaka took almost $50,000 in developer cash after he no longer had to disclose it. No, you may be able to parse words, but you are ignoring the entire campaign season we just went through.

Dumping the comp plan with no public debate and after lengthy work by a citizen commission is hardly the act of a "moderate".

For the deception with the developer cash alone, citizens should demand they resign. And if not, recall.

19 people like this
Posted by Citizen
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 7, 2017 at 3:38 pm

It is the residentialists who are for reasonable growth, it is Fine Tanaka and Kniss who are apprently for selling out Palo Alto to developers.

Here is apone of the many instances of Adrian Fine claiming that he wasn't taking money from developers:
He specifically says that claims that he got a third of his money from developers are false:

Web Link

He did in fact get almost $30,000 from development special interests, mostly after he didn't have to report it.

Dumping the housing element of the comp plan after a citizens commission worked on it for years is radical pro-overdevelopment stuff, and forgetting any civic responsibility such as to traffic circulation, safety, schools, etc.

Fine, Kniss, and Tanaka should resign

5 people like this
Posted by Me 2
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 8, 2017 at 10:03 pm

With all this teeth gnashing, you'd think that Palo Alto Online was hosted on Facebook.

The hyperbole and misrepresentation of actions is completely out of control.

Fake news isn't our problem. It's people in their own little bubbles trading ridiculous statements riling themselves up through confirmation bias.

Yes, even the self-proclaimed education population in Palo Alto is not immune from it.

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Posted by What a pity
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 9, 2017 at 3:55 am

[Post removed.]

10 people like this
Posted by Blackbeard
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 11, 2017 at 10:52 pm

Blackbeard is a registered user.

Forgive me, but am I the only one who sees things differently: The comp plan wasn't "dumped". If you listened to the mayors speech, you would have heard him explain that NO programs have been discarded or cancelled, no final actions have been taken and much discussion will need to take place before its adoption, hopefully by year's end. All of which sounds reasonable to me.

It is incredibly disheartening that so many in this forum feel so comfortable bashing our leadership. [Portion removed.]

Hard as it may be for you to believe, there are those that fully SUPPORT our mayor (Yes, there are MANY of us) and we tend to keep our peace. [Portion removed.]

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