News

Editorial: Making amends

Admitting its January 'irrationality,' council backtracks on Comp Plan

Faced with a strong backlash from residents across Palo Alto's political spectrum and angry colleagues who felt disrespected, the City Council majority that had in January abruptly voted to remove the implementing programs from the draft revision to the Comprehensive Plan reversed course with a do-over Monday night.

The mea culpa was offered by Councilman Cory Wolbach, who had authored the surprise Jan. 30 motion to remove the programs and place them in an appendix. After receiving much criticism from the community and members of the Comprehensive Plan's Community Advisory Committee, Wolbach said he wanted to clean up the "mess" he had created. The council unanimously agreed.

It was a welcome move by Wolbach and an attempt to re-establish a more congenial atmosphere on a new council that has been unable to find its bearings.

But unfortunately Wolbach, who ran for City Council in 2014 on a platform that emphasized improving civility in Council interactions, managed to undermine his own attempt at rehabilitation by unleashing needless pot shots at DuBois (for his "inaccurate op-ed" in the Weekly), a former mayor, presumably Pat Burt (for "misrepresentations"), and Board of Education member Todd Collins (for a "hyperbolic and inaccurate" letter to the council expressing concern about the impact on schools of the targeted growth in housing in the draft Comprehensive Plan).

Not exactly the way to re-build bridges.

Councilman Adrian Fine similarly didn't help himself by unapologetically saying that it was "democracy in action" for the council to have reversed its vote after a community outcry over the council's "irrationality." A better form of democracy would be to act more thoughtfully and rationally in the first place.

For his part, Mayor Greg Scharff thankfully pivoted away from the hard-edged leadership posture he has taken thus far and took a notably more constructive and inclusive approach as he effectively led the council through a series of Comprehensive Plan issues that could have ignited new antagonisms among members.

By the end of the evening, Scharff ended up crafting a compromise and joined the four slower-growth council members (DuBois, Filseth, Holman and Kou) in passing a reasonable "preferred" plan for housing and job growth to be used in the final environmental assessment of the revised Comp Plan. We hope to see more of this version of Scharff going forward.

Related content:

Behind the Headlines: Uproar over city land-use plan

Editorial: A reckless majority

Amid backlash, city to reconsider removal of program from Comprehensive Plan

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Comments

22 people like this
Posted by Leadership
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 24, 2017 at 5:33 am

This editorial strangely fails to mention that the vote at the end of the evening was 8-1. Mayor Scharff brought the Council together. He didn't just join with the 4 "slow growth" council members. This is probably the most contentious issue in Palo Alto witha very divided council. It is a shame that the editorial had to be so negative, when the council does come together and moves forward with a broad based consensus.


24 people like this
Posted by Ridiculous editorial
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 24, 2017 at 5:42 am

Another nasty, one sided editorial from the weekly. Clearly they have lost any sense of objectivity and ate squarely siding with the PASZ faction. And BTW, dubois editorial was inaccurate. Saying so is not a "pot shot". And Wallach does not need to rehabilitate anything.
Maybe the weekly should hire an independent consultant that will read and edit their editorials for the ridiculous comments they make.
I have considered the weekly a joke for years when it comes to independent journalism, but recently they have hit a new low.


36 people like this
Posted by Recall
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 24, 2017 at 5:45 am

I am more cynical about the sudden about face. I think it's no coincidence that it comes while Kniss and Tanaka are under investigation by the FPPC. Look for them to go back to working openly for developers when the alleged investigation blows over, as Kniss knows it will.


30 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 24, 2017 at 10:02 am

Good for the Weekly for their comments on the CC meeting and the impossibility of getting substantive responses from the city which only fuels our frustration.

Re the CC meeting, it wasn't "democracy in action" as Mr. Fine claims; it was outrage in action. If it were really "democracy in action," Mr. Fine would never have smugly proposed the highest possible number of jobs only make the housing / jobs imbalance worse and thus negate any claim they "care" about lowering rents and housing prices. He would have respected the calls to limit or stop office growth.

Ms. Kniss said during the meeting that she was surprised there were so few people at Monday's meeting. Maybe that's because they/we were all watching at home on the cable channel the uber-growth faction tried so hard to defund.

It's impossible to give accurate feedback on most of the city's poorly constructed online surveys that fail to warn in advance that you're limited to X choices so you max out before getting to you top concerns. They REALLY don't want your input. They don't track complaints and comments. They can't even find your emails based on location or date.

I'm STILL waiting for an answer to a polite email about one of my pet peeves. Our city government and many of our city council members consider themselves above responding to the people who pay their salaries and benefits and retirement.

In the storm drain topic here, someone noted that that the City proposes being allowed 85 YES votes for all of its buildings! What a farce. The vote must be close so they're looking for any way to inflate their coffers to pay for too many programs when the city's running a deficit.

If the city can vote for each of their buildings, why can't those of us with detached garages and/or playhouses get 2 or 3 votes??

At the CC meeting there was little or no attention given to quality of live issues or providing cost-effective services. Watching the Planning Director squirm when asked what was going to be done to mitigate the impact 300 homes would have on a neighborhood was truly disheartening. "Oh, it will be gradual so there will be no impact." Ms. Hollman had to follow up twice to note that of course there would be impact whether it was felt gradually or all at once before Ms. Gittelman said she'd might consider "mitigation."

The city obviously thinks we're like frogs in a pot of boiling water where you keep raising the temperature bit by bit until it's too late.


21 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 24, 2017 at 11:03 am

Another peeve, when the City does phone surveys, they ask by name for an 18 year old voter in our home who has little or no idea of what we pay in utilities. Yes they have to get someone from all demographics, but please tell me what experience an 18 year old living at home while a senior in high school has that tells them anything about utilities.


41 people like this
Posted by Pants on fire
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 24, 2017 at 11:51 am

Wolbach got elected on a platform of "civility" and "respect."
So much for that.
Many of us saw through his mask, and his unwillingness to answer questions, but now everyone can see the real development shill.


8 people like this
Posted by alternative facts
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Mar 24, 2017 at 12:05 pm

The motion that Mayor Scharff crafted brought together more than just the "four slower-growth council members" - the motion passed 8-1! @Weekly - quit misrepresenting the facts. Be responsible.


12 people like this
Posted by Ridiculous editorial
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 24, 2017 at 12:21 pm

Pants on fire- calling a hysterical opinion piece what it is is not uncivil. Of course it having been published in the weekly, they will attack any criticism of it

Alternative facts- the weekly has become the details facto voice for pasz. They can no longer be depended upon to provide unbiased coverage.


19 people like this
Posted by Palo Altan
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 24, 2017 at 12:35 pm

Palo Alto city staff have contempt for the residents of Palo Alto. Members of the city council are under investigation for corruption (Kniss and Tanaka), one member has been reprimanded (Fine) and the mayor is rude to his fellow council members and to the public. The School Board, on their own, decides to change the names of Jordan and Terman Middle Schools without the citizens of Palo Alto voting on it. How arrogant of them to think they can wipe away part of the history of our town.


19 people like this
Posted by Yeah!
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 24, 2017 at 12:54 pm

I agree -- how dare the School Board "on their own" make a decision that affects schools in Palo Alto! How did they get up there on that dais anyways?

Oh yeah -- they were elected.


24 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 24, 2017 at 1:49 pm

The “hyperbolic and inaccurate” letter from Todd Collins basically added color to the Draft EIR conclusion that Palo Alto’s school capacity is less than would be needed to support the 6,000 unit housing scenario. For an elected official to deny the letter as “hyperbolic and inaccurate,” you'd have to deny the EIR itself the same way.

There’s a commentary running on NPR about the tendency of governments not just to suppress dissenting opinions, but to malign science that might be used to justify dissenting opinions. The NPR piece is about the Trump administration and Climate Change of course, but it’s a concern that could apply in any political arena.


7 people like this
Posted by mj
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Mar 24, 2017 at 3:35 pm

Stanford is moving toward building housing in the industrial park as long as this doesn't impact their commercial development rights. Stanford are also building more housing on campus. Perhaps there will also be housing at the Stanford shopping center to help with the thousands of additional jobs when the hospital is completed. All of which feed into PAUSD. I wonder if that was taken into account when planning for PAUSD future enrollment? Although data shows that the average age of residents has been rising, there must be plenty of residents in the large cohort who bought houses here in the 1960's and 1970's who will be moving on one way or another in the next decade or two, the life of this next comp plan. Myself included. Even though families now have fewer children, a trend that will probably continue, just the expansion Stanford is planning will likely contribute some increased increase school enrollment.

Of course, campus comes under the county, so I doubt those housing units will count toward Palo Alto's ABAG requirement.


2 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 24, 2017 at 5:16 pm

Plunging ahead.

We have to move ahead because we can't go back...but the recent reports about people leaving the area, slower job growth, the reduction in rental prices (but still too high for many), and the reduced number of students in our schools, will obviously have an impact on PA, and, yes, even the scenario selected for growth by CC last Monday. Predictions made by expert consultants are fragile. A little turn in the economy and any of those factors I mentioned above, can make a difference in our planning for the future.

We'll get thru it tho. We are a resilient bunch of residents here in PA.


17 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 24, 2017 at 6:04 pm

Annette is a registered user.

People who opt for public office must accept that everything they do on the dais is observed and their comments and body language are essentially magnified in the public eye. The dais is a bad place to launch criticisms about your colleagues and former Council members. Wolbach's recent remarks are unfortunate and would have been better left unsaid.


Posted by Name hidden
a resident of Fairmeadow

on Sep 25, 2017 at 11:57 pm

Due to repeated violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are automatically removed. Why?


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

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