News

Editorial: A council adrift

Bizarre and poorly conceived 'symbolic' proposals are wasting time and disrespecting the public process

The erratic behavior of three Palo Alto city council members is beginning to become a tiring pattern seemingly more designed to stir up controversy and stake out a political philosophy than seek genuine solutions to real problems.

In an absurd discussion prompted by two proposals offered by Councilman Greg Tanaka, the City Council devoted substantial time Monday night to discussing whether software companies should be allowed in downtown Palo Alto (as if there was any question about it) and whether start-up businesses should be permitted in residential neighborhoods.

Neither idea had been under consideration, been evaluated by staff or been publicly proposed prior to the late-night motions made by Tanaka and seconded by Councilman Adrian Fine. It was yet another example of what has become an almost regular practice of significant and sometimes ill-conceived policy proposals getting made only after all opportunity for public comment had passed.

These proposals undermine the long tradition of public participation and debate over significant policy matters, disrespect the city's professional staff by throwing it unexpected curve-balls in the middle of a carefully designed decision-making process, ignore advisory groups and make the entire council appear dysfunctional.

Both Mayor Greg Scharff and City Manager Jim Keene attempted unsuccessfully to steer the council away from spending valuable time on Tanaka's motions, but all council members needed to weigh in.

The Tanaka proposals came during the latest discussion of the city's Comprehensive Plan, which a citizens' advisory committee and the city staff have been working on for years and the update of which Scharff is determined to bring to conclusion by the end of this year.

In urging the addition of a statement that software companies are welcome in downtown Palo Alto (where, of course, they already proliferate) Tanaka was trying to counteract what he falsely portrayed as an attempt by former Mayor Pat Burt to push such companies out. Had Tanaka done even the slightest amount of homework, he would have discovered that Burt made no such proposal and that he had been inaccurately quoted in press accounts that ultimately received national exposure.

Fine jumped on the bandwagon by saying the stories had given the city a "black eye" and Scharff complained that people all over the country were "laughing" at Palo Alto. Councilman Cory Wolbach joined in the false narrative about Burt's comments, saying that Palo Altans do "not support the idea that software developers in downtown Palo Alto is outside the allowable business practices."

"We should be proud of who we are in Palo Alto," Scharff said proudly. "And we're the center of Silicon Valley and the center of tech."

What Burt actually said in an interview last August was that he was concerned that outdated city rules did not include research and development as permitted uses and needed to be reviewed and updated given the degree to which these businesses were already operating. And he raised concern over the large and growing footprint of Palantir, downtown's largest employer which occupies about two dozen buildings totaling a quarter-million square feet and whether having such a dominate single employer was good for downtown. He never suggested prohibiting software firms.

But even more disturbing was Tanaka's casual proposal to add a new provision making it legal for companies to operate out of single family homes, stating that "it's important for the lifeblood of Palo Alto that nascent startups are able to start" as is portrayed in the HBO "Silicon Valley" show.

While most of his colleagues quickly distanced themselves from the proposal, both Fine and Wolbach supported Tanaka on a 3-6 vote. Fine said it was important to "send a signal" that startups are important. Wolbach called it a "symbolic" vote.

At one level, it is harmless to declare the obvious in a document like the Comprehensive Plan — that the city welcomes software companies and likes startups. But at another level Tanaka, Fine and Wolbach's approach is becoming a pattern: deliberate surprise proposals from the dais that have not been vetted by staff or city commissions or been disclosed to the public. It leaves everyone, including their colleagues, off-balance and unprepared.

Wolbach's attempt to distance himself from his own vote by calling it "symbolic" rather than a policy position reinforces the gamesmanship that is going on.

We had hoped that the early undisciplined behavior of this council would self-correct after public feedback. Regrettably, each meeting seems to bring a new controversy that perpetuates disarray and division, all to the detriment of the community and good governance.

---

Follow the Palo Alto Weekly/Palo Alto Online on Twitter @PaloAltoWeekly and Facebook for breaking news, local events, photos, videos and more.

Comments

109 people like this
Posted by Hear Hear!
a resident of Midtown
on May 5, 2017 at 12:54 am

Early missteps might generously have been chalked up to naiveté and inexperience (at least on the part of Fine and Tanaka).

However, now that we're almost halfway through the year, these three (often at Wolbach's initiative and with complicit support from others in the majority) continue to employ bait and switch tactics that both devalue the time and expertise of staff and avoid, undermine or jettison informed public input. Compounding the negative community impact of those tactics, they also engage in unseemly and inappropriate chastising of current and former Council colleagues from the dais. One can't but conclude that such actions reflect a calculated, cynical strategy to serve not the voters or the City, but a disruptive agenda driven by outside interests.

Their actions are indeed a detriment to the community. Waning public trust in all three of these Councilmembers is well earned. We can only hope their colleagues rise to the challenge of restoring good governance, thoughtful and informed decisionmaking and respect to our City Council.


94 people like this
Posted by AnonYJjjj
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 5, 2017 at 1:44 am

Thank you for this. It has been many years since our city council has been governed so badly to the detriment of residents, politics aside. And thanks you for clarifying what Pat Burt actually said. This should end the misstatements - but I doubt it, because misstatements are how these people got elected as residentialists while taking large amounts of secret developer money hidden from voters - some likely illegally.

Tenaka, Fine and Wolbach continue their antics unabated,
abandoning the legitimate process of governance in favor of ends justifying means no matter how nonsensical or unsustainable. If they have a constiuancy that supports them in their smug zealotry, then our town is headed for trouble.

The editorial missed one cog in our collapsing machinery of governance - Mayor Scharff who routinely undermines good process at every meeting, having abandoned his role as Chair and facilitator, and instead monopolizes the discussion after making nearly all the motions - both virtually unheard of from any other Mayor.

Fine, Wolbach, Scarff and Tenaka - you need to do your job better. That means not playing games and petty politics for narrow interests. You govern for us all and represent us all. You must be honest, above board, not misstate what others say. Govern with integrity - we've been misding that. You too Liz.



80 people like this
Posted by Ironic
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 5, 2017 at 2:13 am

It is ironic that Tanaka, Fine, and Wolbach are supporting startups in our single family residential neighborhoods. Startups are being squeezed out of downtown, where they have been traditionally by the unprecedented growth of Palantir, which bids up the prices of office space downtown. It's a way of saying they are FOR startups when their actions in supporting Palantir (it's even taken over Cubberley fields for several weeks) show otherwise.

It is not like Tanaka, Fine, and Wolbach care about single family residential neighborhoods. After all, they pushed through changes in the Accessory Dwelling Unit ordinance that gets rid of required covered parking, minimizes setbacks, and increases allowable floor area when a second dwelling unit is built.

Councilmember Wolbach will be up for re-election next year. Will he run on his record? Or will he once again run on the platform of civility? Web Link How does Wolbach's platform of "encouraging diversity" fit with his vote to reduce the PTC and Council-approved increase of affordable housing impact fees from $60 per square foot to $35 per square foot in a second reading? Web Link


6 people like this
Posted by Sea Seelam Reddy
a resident of College Terrace
on May 5, 2017 at 5:46 am

Imagine if David Packard and Bill Hewlett were alive and starting a company that became HP.

Nobody wants industries in single family neighborhoods. No city council member need to say much about software development.

It is a laughing stock when the national media incorrectly depicts that software development is not allowed in downtown.

It is better say nothing than make it a big deal.

Let the innovation continue. We are good at that. Today it is software tomorrow it might be AI and Robotics. City hall cannot dictate that by rules. Only society can.

Respectfully.


31 people like this
Posted by Real tiring pattern
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 5, 2017 at 6:14 am

Actually the Tiring pattern is that of the Weekly attacking certain city council members in order to stir up their base of followers that flood the TSF with constant complaints and falsehoods aimed at 4 of the council members. The Weekly for a number of years has worked hand in glove with a certain anti everything local organization that was trounced in the last election. The weekly should return to bring(off they ever were) a news source instead of a propoganda tool.
As for burt and his comment. He should have issued his clarifications at the time he made his ridiculous statement.


100 people like this
Posted by Ursula Robertson
a resident of Fairmeadow
on May 5, 2017 at 7:34 am

We need to recall Fine, Tanaka, Wolbach, Scharff, and Kniss ASAP. They are destroying Palo Alto.


106 people like this
Posted by Recall needed
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 5, 2017 at 7:48 am

Absolutely agree. Wolbach and Fine in particular are vapid and inexperienced, with egos that prevent them from listening or learning anything outside their narrow worldviews. Throw in Tanaka's flat out violation of campaign finance laws,and a triple recall is just what this city needs.

I have a 60 hour week and 3 kids under 6, so I will not be filing recall paperwork, but once somebody does I will mail a big check to the effort. Palo Alto deserves better than this mess.


53 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on May 5, 2017 at 7:56 am

I watch the PACC meetings on TV rather than driving down there - no parking. If the PACC thinks no one is watching at 10:30 at night because no one is in the building they are very wrong. And we are all going to remember who is who when the next time to vote comes up. We are keeping score. If anyone there thinks this is a launching pad for future political gain then you are very wrong.
And as to the rest of the council you are there to challenge and correct disruptive behavior - you are suppose to be the adults in the room. As is the city staff who is suppose to make sure that any amendments have been cleared through the city staff first to make sure there are no conflicting agendas. That is what you are hired to do. So do it.


1 person likes this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 5, 2017 at 9:55 am

Is @Recall really saying he cares about more than Symbolism, national adoration of Palo Alto, and how we measure up against an HBO sitcom? Say it ain't so!


67 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Evergreen Park
on May 5, 2017 at 10:08 am

Greg Tanaka is never prepared for any discussion. His comments are ill-informed and off the wall. It's like he comes to council meetings and just speaks off the cuff about whatever last thought he has. The Weekly was right not to endorse him in the election. I disagree with Wohbach and Fine, but Tanaka just can't seem to express a rational thought.


79 people like this
Posted by Tanaka Does Not Read the Staff Packet
a resident of Community Center
on May 5, 2017 at 10:40 am

I noticed Tanaka does not do his homework and read the staff packet asking questions that are clearly explained in early pages of the packet. He is already the least informed and knowledgeable on Council and he does not do his homework either.


65 people like this
Posted by Anne
a resident of Midtown
on May 5, 2017 at 10:46 am

Re: recall of Scharff, Wolbach, Fine and Tanaka: Sign me up! Fine in particular seems to have a "stick in your eye" approach.


20 people like this
Posted by Real tiring patternR
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 5, 2017 at 10:50 am

Now if someone was not familiar with the Weekly and their MO, one would think that the people of palo alto hate cerrtain city council members and that these same members are incompetent dolts. Obviously not the case in reality. However with the weekly printing these kind of " editorials " on a regular basis - it is like thrusting raw meat to a bunch of hungry lions. The weekly then allows an endless series of postings that denigrate and belittle these members without any factual basis.
I hope most people realize that the comments onTSF do not reflect the sentiments of palo alto and that the weekly is not a newspaper.


10 people like this
Posted by True Residentialist
a resident of Barron Park
on May 5, 2017 at 10:50 am

I disagree with this sentiment that every proposal that goes through the Council has to go through a 10-step staff and citizens advisory committee filter before a duly elected council takes up the issue.

And what's the problem with symbolic legislation? It happens all the time in city councils.

We've been seeing recall threats from the same list of 5 people on this site for months, possibly years. So much huffing and puffing. I can see why PASZ would want to do this, as they really don't like having to compete in big general elections when more people turn out to vote.

That said, Tanaka needs to stop embarrassing himself. He asks many questions that show he really hasn't done his homework. After a long night debating ADUs, he asked a really basic question about the huge sewage plant project that was probably answered in his packet. His discussion of car elevators as a solution to neighborhood parking problems was just laughable. He picks up on silly little ideas that really impede the council's business. No matter what direction you think policy should be heading, Tanaka's naivete really stands out.


17 people like this
Posted by Real tiring pattern
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 5, 2017 at 10:55 am

I agree, true, it is a lot of huffing and puffing without any action. What is funny is that these recall comments have been appearing since the first day the new council took office. I agree it is an orchestrated attempt by a local organization with the help of their local "newspaper"


57 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 5, 2017 at 11:13 am

Thank you, Palo Alto Weekly, for saying what's obvious and long over-due.

@Real Tiring Pattern, do you know what an editorial is? It represents the publisher's viewpoint just as Steven Levy's OPED blog represents the viewpoint of a single person or organization.

Anyone who reads the NEWS knows what Pat Burt said originally but which Ms. Downing dishonestly presented and kept repeating in her laughable well-funded national pr campaign. Anyone who reads the news HONESTLY that is.

Fine, Tanaka and Wolbach kept -- and keep -- repeating and twisting the misstatement ad nauseum as did -- and DO -- their followers. While attacking those who quote the FACTUAL statement.

As Mr. Burt said in a post here, "This article captured my concerns accurately, Web Link. It was odd to hear several council members make false claims on Monday night. Based on my previous discussions with them, most of those members knew that they were making false assertions, but in our new "post truth" era it appears that local politics is taking a similar turn."

The Gang of 3 should start doing their homework and stop twisting and shouting and attacking.


24 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 5, 2017 at 11:23 am

@Real Tiring Pattern, the Weekly is definitely NOT helping those trying to organize a recall. In FACT, it's hurting that effort because it keeps deleting the contact info of those trying to do so.

On the one hand, people decry the fact that people aren't using their real names here but when people do use their real names and post their contact info people can connect on community issues, they're deleted unless you grab them before the moderator deletes.

I'd love to connect to some of the people here. Fortunately a few of us grabbed one person's contacts but we'll never be able to counter PAF when it sends in the drones with their fact-free IDENTICAL unimaginative fact-free email blasts to CC. That's n


6 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on May 5, 2017 at 11:36 am

We seem to be stuck on "symbolic" actions. The trouble with symbolic actions is that no one is responsible for the fall-out when reality sets in - the finer points of the law. Since we have another stream on pensions I will remind you of the Symbolic vote to divest from fossil-fuel stocks. The Inter=faith Council headed up this adventure - assume that their pension fund is not tied to the Calpers fund. The end result is that the stock market went up and fossil fuels are doing just fine thank you. And one of the main drivers for this event in their yearly meeting decided this was not a good idea as they were putting people out of work. Note that the corporate offices of many fossil-fuel companies are located in major cities in which these churches have buildings. So much for mucking in other people's pension funds or corporate decisions.
For the sake of Palo Alto please keep out of symbolic items, and company business - the people who squawk have no direct impact when things go bad.


3 people like this
Posted by Real tiring pattern
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 5, 2017 at 11:36 am

Thank you online name
I rest my case. BTW, if you read the parmani hotel thread on this forum. Randy popp makes some excellent comments about this forum. Very applicable to this situation as well.


21 people like this
Posted by Recall_v.2.0
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on May 5, 2017 at 11:53 am

Recall_v.2.0 is a registered user.

"I hope most people realize that the comments onTSF do not reflect the sentiments of palo alto and that the weekly is not a newspaper." --- Did you poll Palo Alto and know what their sentiments are? The number of likes on these comments is not in favor of your statement.

Can somebody post any link, or e-mail, or something that I could use to join the recall effort?


4 people like this
Posted by Real tiring pattern
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 5, 2017 at 12:03 pm

Well recall 2.0- the recall Talk has been going on since January and yet not a single petition has been circulated. I assume from your question that you have polled residents and there is sentiment for a recall. Please make this poll available for all to see. Many of these postings, i suspect are from people using multiple devices to post , making it seem that many are in favor. But are you suggesting that having 20+ likes on a comment Is indicative of a consensus.


54 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on May 5, 2017 at 12:06 pm

Curmudgeon is a registered user.

"Fine, Tanaka and Wolbach kept -- and keep -- repeating and twisting the misstatement ad nauseum as did -- and DO -- their followers. While attacking those who quote the FACTUAL statement."

It's the latest political fad: Trump Chic.


19 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Community Center
on May 5, 2017 at 12:13 pm

Remember when the school board were the dysfunctional ones? They seem to be at least trying to avoid drama, while the Council has veered in the other direction.


19 people like this
Posted by Post-Truthiness Era
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 5, 2017 at 12:13 pm

If the Weekly won't let us connect with each other re a recall and/or other community matters, maybe we should take similar discussions to Nextdoor.com.

We'll so how long these efforts and discussions last since Mr. Fine happens to work there.


65 people like this
Posted by Marie
a resident of Midtown
on May 5, 2017 at 12:13 pm

Marie is a registered user.

I met with Mr. Tanaka on Easter Sunday to provide public feedback on the amendments to eliminate all parking requirements for ADU's and JADU's, rather than follow the state's requirements that eliminated parking only when close to mass transit, which made sense. All five members of the public objected to eliminating any additional parking and some of the other amendments. He also denied that the ordinance would approve all garage conversions, eliminating existing parking without requiring any replacement off-street parking, until one of us read the actual wording of the amendments (which he had proposed).

He refused to tell us his position - he was there only to hear us.

Nevertheless, he voted in favor of every amendment creating an even deeper parking deficit for the future, ignoring all of our feedback (and eliminating any design review where neighbors can express an opinion of any new construction). We all supported some version of ADU's - our objections were to the last-minute unvetted amendments.

Perhaps he paid more attention to the Palo Alto Forward member who arrived for a meeting "coincidentally" after his office hours were over as we were leaving.

The last council meeting discussed above was just more of the same.


9 people like this
Posted by Recall_v.2.0
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on May 5, 2017 at 1:18 pm

Recall_v.2.0 is a registered user.

"I assume from your question that you have polled residents and there is sentiment for a recall. Please make this poll available for all to see."

-- Read before replying. I am not making assumptions as far as what the PA sentiments are without any data.

"Many of these postings, i suspect are from people using multiple devices to post , making it seem that many are in favor." --- Right, people have the time and 40+ devices. Conspiracy theory; what's new.

"But are you suggesting that having 20+ likes on a comment Is indicative of a consensus." --- I am not suggesting anything. All I am saying is that 43 is greater than 18, that kind of stuff. Called arithmetic.

I do not have the time for the nonsense.
Again, when I see a link/e-mail, I will get in touch.


Like this comment
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 5, 2017 at 1:26 pm

What is the problem?


63 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on May 5, 2017 at 1:41 pm

Annette is a registered user.

I agree w/much of this editorial. We have a rogue Council that disregards established practice and follows whatever procedure it chooses. First example was the Comp Plan Programs debacle, followed by the ADU amendments vote. Reasonable adults accept that there will be votes not to ones liking. But that is predicated on the assumption that established procedures have been followed. Said differently, decisions must be arrived at fairly. When Council goes rogue, the community erupts and there's all sorts of distrust and divisiveness that needn't have been. Resident is right; more people are watching than Council might think by looking at how many people are in Council chambers.

I think it also worth noting that the gamesmanship has many facets - from setting the agenda, to use of the Consent Calendar, to the order of speakers, to the on-the-spot decisions about how much time speakers have - there are many ways to impact and limit public participation. It would be tidy to ascribe all this to inexperience, but not one of the majority on Council falls into that category. And the mayor was on Council when the critical Grand Jury report was published. Unfortunately, this leads me to the conclusion that what is happening is deliberate.

Even if you happen to support the outcome of recent votes, the approach taken is concerning. I suspect calls for recall are mostly just expressions of frustration. That said I have never heard the word used as often as it is being used with regard to this Council.

It's time for Council to straighten up and fly right!


77 people like this
Posted by 6Djockey
a resident of Green Acres
on May 5, 2017 at 2:11 pm

I have been thinking that Fine, Wolbach and Tanaka have been lacking in decorum, maturity and downright manners for some time. I'm glad the Weekly has expressed it so well. I have not heard a well-thought-out idea from one of them for quite some time. The idea of throwing out the programs from the Comp Plan was bad enough, but then we have two-story ADUs proposed. And who can forget Tanaka suggesting we dig basements for single family homes for more parking space.

Shame on us for voting them in. Let's not make the same mistake twice.


35 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Evergreen Park
on May 5, 2017 at 2:31 pm

well sorry, but actually the PA Weekly is, without a doubt a newspaper.

To argue otherwise is absurd.
The comments of those who make such claims are to be automatically discredited.

If the PA Weekly is not a newspaper what is it ???? a pipe?


87 people like this
Posted by Sandrine A.
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 5, 2017 at 2:44 pm

"The Incompetent Three", as I like to call them, have had plenty of time to educate themselves on the workings of the CC, and get themselves up to speed--especially in Wolbach's case.

Their flippant, snarky, rude and often nonsensical ( in the case of Tanaka) answers and comments have absolutely no place in a public forum.

If they aren't recalled, they will definitely be one-term council members. Due to their misrepresentations of themselves, voters will not make the same mistakes twice!


47 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on May 5, 2017 at 2:51 pm

Ceci n'est pas une pipe. (re:@Anon)

I agree with this editorial. The Weekly has excellent coverage of council meetings.


25 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 5, 2017 at 4:09 pm

A well written and factual editorial, I think, even tho some of the posters disagree and feel that viewpoint is only shared by a few of us citizens. Wrong! We may seem like the minority because we don't traipse down to City Hall and speak at those very long meetings, but we're watching and listening. And we vote. You might call us the silent majority.

I share the comments re Tanaka. When he speaks I just shake my head, wondering what's going to come out of his mouth. But, he was duly elected to council in the last election. I didn't vote for him. I voted for Doug McDougall who would have been a much better choice I think.

I won't repeat my comments like Sea Reddy just did his above, but you can go back and read my comments re the last CC meeting and my thoughts about the meeting in general, the outcome, and the members participation in it. We have some good clear thinking new council members. Dubois and Filseth do their homework and think things thru. Karen Holman is always steady but very predictable. The '3 musketeers' are so far into themselves and think they have the answers to all of PA's problems and the best way forward for our town. There is often a smugness, haughtiness, when they speak.

No recall needed. It would be too much of an effort and a waste of time. Let our regular voting cycle process work it out. And I've learned that things that were approved (ordinances, et al), many of which are bad for our community, and don't improve the quality of life here, take so long to get implemented that little damage can be done in a couple years. Just think about it. For all the effort to retain retail, get more housing, and oh, don't forget the word 'affordable', and solve the traffic and parking problems, what has actually been accomplished. How far have we progressed in the last few years. Retail as I remember it is gone forever.

I think I could look all of the musketeers in the face and challenge them to answer.."How will any of your proposals improve the quality of our lives in PA?"

Okay, so we'll get two new parking garages. Good for council on that!


Like this comment
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 5, 2017 at 4:37 pm

Correction: Don McDougall, not Doug.


73 people like this
Posted by Tom DuBois
a resident of Midtown
on May 5, 2017 at 4:51 pm

Tom DuBois is a registered user.

Thanks to the Weekly for commenting on this. Last Monday night’s meeting was a bit surreal. While the motion merely said “We allow software development in Palo Alto” the actual debate was about a healthy mix of businesses downtown. Council discussed the issue of large scale companies downtown a couple of times last year and it was clear that our concern was on pricing startups / small business out of downtown and becoming overly dependent on a few large companies. Our downtown is zoned to have locally serving businesses, administrative offices, prototyping, and some other uses. As several of us have pointed out, downtown is not zoned for large, global companies to do major product development. If such a company moves out of downtown, it has the potential to leave a devastating void. Office parks exist for these kinds of companies.

I understand why a few of my colleagues voted against the motion - because they are concerned about this scale issue. I too am personally very concerned about allowing large scale companies to rent all the commercial space downtown. But while the debate was healthy, the motion itself was trivial and a waste of time, stating only that software development is allowed downtown, which is now memorialized in our Comprehensive Plan. It did not talk about the size of a company - so I voted for it.

The main issue here is that the nature of work has changed. Our zoning codes describe uses that have become dated - hardware manufacturing and software development are lumped together. In a world where knowledge workers often work in front of a computer, the issue has shifted to be about company size and office use density then whether manufacturing is occurring. Last year when the topic was discussed at Council, the City Attorney said that Cities can legislate the size and encourage a variety of uses. Council has already agreed to have a discussion about zoning definitions and appropriate uses which will be the time to discuss this issue.

I’d like to give my colleagues the benefit of the doubt that they really didn’t understand the issue and only read the sensationalistic press that suggested Palo Alto wanted to outlaw software development - a ludicrous headline designed to get readers. TechCrunch and others correctly reported the issue.

I suspect my colleagues are brighter than that however and this was purely a politically motivated move, designed to avoid having meaningful discussion. As a Council, we need to focus on what is needed in order to have a robust downtown that serves both Palo Alto voters and commuters, and is not overly dependent on the success of one or two private corporations.

The proposal to allow companies to operate out of residential neighborhoods, regardless of size, was simply reckless. Last Monday, the council majority surprisingly also voted against protecting schools by assessing impacts of development projects that require legislative acts as well as voting against avoiding land uses that are overwhelming and unacceptable due to their size and scale. Thoughtful proposals are being ignored.

The Weekly is correct that irresponsible motions are being made, without either opportunity for comment by the public or vetting by Staff. Each time it happens, we waste time and money revisiting and correcting the issue. It has now happened three times since the beginning of the year, requiring us to use 25% of our meetings re-discussing the same issue. It happened on the Comprehensive plan, on ADUs, and a third time on the Land use element of the Comp plan. I will continue to work hard to make reasonable proposals that a large majority of Council and the City can support. A democracy is a compromise by its nature.


23 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on May 5, 2017 at 4:58 pm

"Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by incompetence"


8 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 5, 2017 at 5:21 pm

If the end result is the same, does it matter?


30 people like this
Posted by Richard
a resident of another community
on May 5, 2017 at 5:52 pm

Post-Truthiness Era:

Forget about Nextdoor, it won't work.

Nextdoor kicked a lot of Cupertino residents off. Shills for developers complained about totally innocuous posts. Besides Adrian Fine, Nextdoor has one of the YIMBY movement leaders on their staff, and he assisted developers in their effort to silence the opposition. The nephew of Sand Hill's Vallco architect is an executive at Nextdoor, and he might have assisted with removing Nextdoor users that said anything negative about Vallco. Cupertino's newly elected City Council member was a Nextdoor lead, and the developers got him kicked off too. I know him well and he told me that he has no time for Nextdoor anyway since being elected, but he was upset that his wife and college age children were also banned. Pretty bad when Nextdoor kicks off elected leaders that they don't like.

Town Square is MUCH better than Nextdoor, especially because it covers the whole city. Nextdoor is good for finding lost dogs and finding a handyman, but it's not for the discussion of serious issues.




58 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 5, 2017 at 5:54 pm

Thank you very much, Tom. Much-needed background and perspective.

Not only has the nature of the work changed but the space in which it's done has changed from offices to cubicles to rows of tables of shoulder-to-shoulder workers crammed into the same space. Bingo Density Shock.

Tom's right there's a big difference between small startups and huge companies like Palantir that dominate our downtown and most PA commissions most notably the big-money political power they wield here as they big-foot their agenda with little or no regard to the voters, community needs and consequences

I was shocked to read today that the same Palantir employee Bob McGrew who heads PA's TMA also sits on Imagine Menlo where he's pushing the same agenda. Who's Imagine Menlo? According to the Daily News today, it's a member-funded business-friendly group formed AFTER Menlo Park voters rejected against massive office development! Don't like the vote? Throw big money at it!

Web Link See article on Page 6.

Why is Palantir allowed to control these committes, over-rule the residents and shift the financial burdens of increased density to the residents from the businesses that are creating the whole mess??!! Enough!

Ton wonders if his colleagues don't understand the issue or whether they irresponsible and cynically repeat the same ludicrous lies to a sensationalist press. I'd love to hear them respond without attacking the messengers

Tom's last paragraph deserves a standing ovation. I'm tired of them wasting our time and our money while they grandstand and waste our time and taxpayer $$$$.


76 people like this
Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 5, 2017 at 6:13 pm

It is important to remember that Fine, Tanaka, and Wolbach were swept into office on a wave of endorsements by Democratic Party establishment heavyweights, after being shepherded through the endorsement process by ex-Supervisor Kniss and Mayor Scharff.

Did establishment Democrats make a big mistake by endorsing Fine, Tanaka, and Wolbach, or do their intemperate statements actually reflect a broader land-use policy direction for the Peninsula set by Democratic Party leaders with more political experience and better control of their tongues?


52 people like this
Posted by audit needed
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 5, 2017 at 6:19 pm

The Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters is
being audited by the State for mistakes,errors,
lax management.The State should be notified to include in its investigation the Council elections in Palo Alto in 2014 and 2016 in which these three Council members were elected.


64 people like this
Posted by Seriously!
a resident of Barron Park
on May 5, 2017 at 6:31 pm

I agree 110% with the comments above.

Many of my neighbors, myself included, can't figure out how Fine and Tanaka ever got elected, because none of us know of anyone who voted for them, especially for Tanaka in particular!

Wolbach tricked us by misrepresenting himself as a residentialist. That seems like a form of perjury to me.
Still, we should have been suspicious of someone who, at the time, worked for the controversial and much mistrusted Jerry Hill!


40 people like this
Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 5, 2017 at 7:33 pm

"Now if someone was not familiar with the Weekly and their MO, one would think that the people of palo alto hate cerrtain city council members and that these same members are incompetent dolts. Obviously not the case in reality. "

How so? Fine and Tanaka (and Kniss) attacked their opposition in the race for presenting Fine/TanakaKniss's true destroy-palo-alto-quality-of-life through palantir favoratism and hypergrowth natures. The three instead portrayed themselves as moderates, while they were (somehow all simultaneously) loaning themselves campaign funds that they made up for with tens of thousands in developer contributions that they never disclosed publicly before the election.

No Councilmember enjoyed a huge percentage of voters voting for them in an absolute sense except Holman. Someone please file the recall paperwork and give us a chance yo show how we really feel about Councilmembers who mislead the public about their donations and act like this.


56 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 5, 2017 at 9:05 pm

"Did establishment Democrats make a big mistake by endorsing Fine, Tanaka, and Wolbach, or do their intemperate statements actually reflect a broader land-use policy direction for the Peninsula set by Democratic Party leaders with more political experience and better control of their tongues?"


No mistake. The second one.


57 people like this
Posted by Local heros
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 5, 2017 at 9:15 pm

Since land developers are the big money special interest in our area, of course they are going to buy political influence. If you are going to buy political influence, might as well buy the dominant party wholesale, so you can elect whole slates, not just single candidates. Meet your local Democratic party!


68 people like this
Posted by Authoritarian Mayor
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 5, 2017 at 11:01 pm

I wonder how Liz Kniss feels about two of her proteges behaving so badly. She encouraged Wolbach to run, and she accompanied Tanaka to the Democrats meeting where he subsequently got their endorsement. Tanaka of course, as is well known, was a Republican until shortly before the endorsements. Her judgement of character seems flawed.

Scharff is violating the norms of how a chairman should behave. The chair is supposed to allow members to speak before he does. Scharff violates this rule again and again, by expressing his opinions first when a subject is introduced, and more egregious, he opens with a MOTION so others have to address his views and he can reject anything he doesn't like. His authoritarian behavior is that of an aggressive lawyer, not a professional chairman.


30 people like this
Posted by You've Got Mail
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 6, 2017 at 9:43 am

@Richard -- Thanks for explaining why moving the recall discussion to Next Door where our contact info is shown won't work. Interesting.

Oddly, scanning my ND email digest today and yesterday, I saw 2 notifications for Palo Alto Forward events and followed the links to PAF's incredibly professional web site.

Seeing the slick web site made me wonder how Palo Alto Forward got started and who funded it and why?


41 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on May 6, 2017 at 10:22 am

I am in agreement with the statements above that I know no one who voted for these three yet they won by a big margin. South PA was heavily into candidates that support residential interests. I am very suspicious of voting by mail and the ability of the city and county to run a verifiable voting process. We all know that hacking is the game of the day. Something is very wrong here. I can envision whole boxes of ballots being tossed or the voting system being hacked.


24 people like this
Posted by Dreaming
a resident of Stanford
on May 6, 2017 at 11:17 am

What we seem to need is an additional branch of city government that limits or provides a counterweight to the personal and political ambitions of the city council.

Is anyone aware of a city that has successfully used an approach to sort the unbridled interests of their government personalities from the needs of the city?


9 people like this
Posted by Irresponsible posts
a resident of College Terrace
on May 6, 2017 at 11:23 am

Disagree with this editorial. Also amazed at the amount of vitriol, negativity And insults hurled at these council members, which the staff of the weekly have no problem with. And now we have claims of voter fraud as well!
The only 2 posters to give reasoned views of their problems with these members are gale Johnson and Tom Dubois. The rest will be ignored by reasonable residents ( and I am not aware of anyone that voted for these members that read TSF)


33 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on May 6, 2017 at 11:49 am

The PACC meetings are available on your TV set - or whatever form you are using to view same. If many people are viewing the activities and actions as they progress then assume that said viewers are competent enough and knowledgeable in what is considered "normal" conduction of business. The majority of complaints are relative to the way business is being conducted and the way that actions are approved. From where I am sitting the complaints are well stated and concerns valid. If any one has a vested interests in decisions made at 10:30 at night that have not been cleared through staff and are not well stated then I will call you out on that. You are just one opinion that has not stated your case on the complaints. And no one voted for you. Claiming that others are irresponsible can be construed as self-serving.


60 people like this
Posted by Stan
a resident of Esther Clark Park
on May 6, 2017 at 11:50 am

Long past time for Wolbach to be voted out.


4 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 6, 2017 at 2:29 pm

@Irresponsible posts

Thanks for your kind words. Let the recall idea, and the idea to pursue voter fraud, die on the vine. CC has a lot of work to do and adding those into the mix would be a total distraction and ensure nothing will get done. Council members can rediscover themselves, I think, and hope, and begin to understand their constituencies better, who they represent, and who voted for them. Just putting forward and supporting their personal ideas, well beyond the thinking and understanding of the greater community, doesn't serve our town very well. Some of them just sound like personal interests. Of course Adrian is in favor of ADU's. It's his way to afford to stay and live in PA. That's fine (didn't mean that as a pun) but is he speaking for the majority of PA residents?

I understand the ADU issue is on the consent calendar for the upcoming Monday night CC meeting. That will be interesting to watch. Will it be another long night of debate or will it sail thru on the consent calendar? I have started to lose interest and am not so upset about it anymore. I think that many of those in favor, that showed up at the CC meeting wearing YIMBY tags, have no plans of their own to add an ADU, and no understanding of the potential consequences. And the serious ones, wanting ADU's for the right reasons, should be respected. It's the scofflaws I worry about. But when it really gets down to the doing, I think many will have second thoughts after they learn about the costs of building a cottage in their backyard, additional taxes, and other unknown costs. Autonomous brakes will slow it down. And, although this might be a nice gesture for 'granny', or your mother or parents, but how long, how many years, will they be able to live safely and independently in that cottage. They too will die and then what happens to the cottage? Or how attractive will it be if you decide to sell your property? There is so much long term thinking missing in this proposal. It's a very near term "Damn the torpedoes...full speed ahead" idea for instant gratification for a few.

I don't like personal attacks either, and my friend, Cory, seems to get the brunt of them. He is still my friend, altho I disagree with him on some things, maybe make that many things. He, at least, is willing to come to my home and discuss them. A personal one-on-one visit from a CC member is a rare treat.


39 people like this
Posted by audit needed
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 6, 2017 at 3:20 pm

Calling for an audit of results here is not frivolous or just in spite. The State is already undertaking an audit of the Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters. The vote counts in Palo Alto by precinct for Wohlbach, Tanaka and Fine are surprising on the face of it. Back in 2014 Wohlbach trailed Kou by 150 votes all evening then it reversed in the night to a 150 vote in his favor. And the votes were coming in from Barron Park, as I
recall, Kou's presumed stronghold. The IT Manager at the Registrar of Voters had abruptly resigned on the eve of the 2014 election putting a cloud over the whole process. In 2016 the Weekly reported that Tanaka and Fine received strong votes in the residential areas surrounding the Downtown which appeared surprising to many. Considering
how this is all playing out now, an in-depth
look at this seems appropriate to whatever extent
is possible.



10 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 6, 2017 at 4:29 pm

Yes, endorsements are very important in elections. If you get Joe Simitian and Anna Eshoo's support, people take notice and assume that you must be the best candidate for the CC seat. Fuzzy thinking, but it works.


22 people like this
Posted by Post-Truthiness Era
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 6, 2017 at 4:44 pm

@Irresponsible posts --you can't simultaneously agree with Tom Dubois' post while attacking us as "irresponsible" when we're saying the same thing as Tom! Tom was being diplomatic asking if the 3 CC members are merely clueless or flagrantly dishonest.

Using your phrase, that's "unreasonable" and just another tired old attack.

Still waiting for responses to the points Tom and others made about the 3 sneaky midnight motions, the repetition of facts "known to be wrong" -- aka LIES -- and the waste of our time and money?



11 people like this
Posted by Post-Truthiness Era
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 6, 2017 at 4:48 pm

Sorry. I mistyped.

Make that CLAIMS "known to be wrong" for "facts "known to be wrong" because they're clearly not facts.


70 people like this
Posted by Disgusted and will NOT forget
a resident of University South
on May 6, 2017 at 7:48 pm

Greg Tanaka, Adrian Fine, Liz Kniss and Greg Scharff all ran as Residentialists during their campaigns. Residentialist do not vote the way they are voting.

Liz Kniss declared she would not take developer donations and then after the election, developer monies pour in.

Cory Wolbach ran on civility but has been one of the most vitriolic.

As for Joe Simitian and Anna Eshoo, shame on them for selling out on their constituents and giving their endorsements to people in their inner circle and the people their bring along. Liz Kniss opened the door for Fine, Wolbach and Tanaka to get Simitian and Eschoo's endorsements.


34 people like this
Posted by mj
a resident of Evergreen Park
on May 8, 2017 at 11:26 am

Let's not forget that all this occurs because Greg Scharff, as mayor, aides and abets council members Fine, Tanaka, and Wolbach. A master politician, he conducts (manipulates) council meetings in a way that furthers his agenda while letting these three do the dirty work.


Like this comment
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 8, 2017 at 1:27 pm

@mj

I don't necessarily agree with you on that. I think he gives all CC members their fair share of time to speak. He does run the meetings a little differently than other recent mayors, tho...often speaks first to get his viewpoint out on the table on an issue, and then makes motions or substitute motions. I don't see anything wrong with either of those. And he draws the line on how he votes at times, opposing the 'three musketeers' when he thinks they've gone overboard on procedure and proposals that are not in the best interests of the community. I think he respects Tom Dubois for his diligent work and they've worked well together to get the right wording on motions and amendments, before the board lights up.

He is very enthusiastic and adds energy to the meetings, and has a sense of humor. I like his optimism of completing the Comprehensive Plan before year end. I will be so happy to see it happen and all the discussion about it end.

On the other hand, I have my doubts about it being followed religiously on issues that come before council that are addressed in the Plan. That didn't happen with the old Plan and I have no reason to believe it will happen with the new one. I would like to be proven wrong.

@Disgusted and will NOT forget

I believe getting an endorsement from very important, influential, and 'familiar name' politicians isn't that hard to do. Just let it be known you are a strong liberal Democrat...and that's good enough, without knowing the person well at all...maybe meeting and talking to them once or twice in political venues.

And what candidates say during campaign season often doesn't translate to how they behave, what they speak up for, and vote for, once on council. A strange transmogrification seems to occur. It's kinda like Calvin and Hobbes.

They all favored more housing and "affordable" housing. Hardly a dent made and no good ideas on how to make it happen. Traffic and transit. I see the TMA is contracting for a company to do another survey of businesses to find out about computers' patterns and what it would take for solo drivers to break the habit. And the subsidies already offered to low income people? One hundred are taking advantage of it at taxpayers expense, a compensation of $110 for each of them. That is not a success story considering how many solo drivers haven't taken advantage of it.


45 people like this
Posted by Just Me!
a resident of Professorville
on May 8, 2017 at 3:05 pm

I can't figure out how in the world Arthur Keller did not get elected! Personally, I don't know anyone in my circle of local friends who did NOT vote for him. My local friends claim that they don't know of anyone who didn't vote for Keller, either!

Arthur Keller was the only person on the Planning Commission with realistic and sane thinking! The PC has been a mess without him to add balance.

Something smells fishy here, and we are nowhere near a fish market... I agree there needs to be an audit of the Registrar of Voters in general and Palo Alto in particular!

I will gladly sign any recall petition that includes Wolbach, Tanaka, Fine and Kniss!


33 people like this
Posted by Sylvia
a resident of Midtown
on May 8, 2017 at 3:28 pm

Thanks to the Weekly for this editorial. I feel completely helpless and at the mercy of a city council majority that stands for everything I dislike about the changes in Palo Alto since I moved here in 1982. The post-election contributions by developers to three of these council members is very disturbing. I don't get the impression that these "Young Turks" have any respect for the residents who have lived here, paid our property taxes for many years, and volunteered in the community.


25 people like this
Posted by Steve Dabrowski
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 8, 2017 at 4:29 pm

Next year Scarff and Wolbach are up for reelection so if voters want they can give them the boot. I voted against both of these individuals and all of the others mentioned above, but apparently the majority of residents believed they were the best candidates. Why that was is anyone's guess, I don't understand it. As for Ms. Kniss, she has been on the CC so many times I cannot recall when she was elected originally, nor can I recall any positive benefit from her time in service. I do remember her desire to create a wall of commemorative plates in city hall honoring all council members past and future, and also her suggestion that one of the motels (which in her opinion was not real classy) on El Camino be used to house the homeless, which got a retort from the owner that it was not for sale. Both ideas went nowhere.
But she keeps on trucking!


10 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on May 8, 2017 at 6:06 pm

Uh, Scharff was elected in 2009 and re-elected in 2014. I believe he is termed out, as is Holman.

Kniss, Fine, Tanaka and Kou will probably stay put in 2018 (speculating here), leaving 3 seats up for the highest bidder, er, I mean democracy in action. If DuBois, Filseth and Wolbach are enjoying themselves, they could each run for a 2nd term with advantage as incumbents. Any other hopefuls??

Kniss was elected in 2012 and re-elected in 2016, with three previous terms 1989-2000.

Looks like Council is still in closed session right now. I'll tune in around 7pm.


12 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on May 8, 2017 at 6:28 pm

The advantage of incumbency is a myth - we now have everyone's number and generally know what to expect out the individuals. Even the so-called advantage of "big money" may be meaningless since the funding of candidates in this last go around clearly shows that "the end justifies the means", aka lie, lie, lie became evident when all of the results came in and now we can see the performance on the job.


12 people like this
Posted by Agenda
a resident of Downtown North
on May 8, 2017 at 6:40 pm

Tonight's council meeting will provide the next test of their values and commitment to their campaign rhetoric. A late item on the agenda is whether to postpone or just drop the formation of a stakeholder committee on local transportation funding. Last year the council unanimously (I think) voted to postpone a business license tax devoted to addressing local transportation and to create a stakeholder committee early this year. The intent was have enough time to vet the primary needs that could be funded and come up with an equitable tax structure in time to potentially place a measure on the fall 2018 ballot. Now the plan is to delay formation of the group until 2018 or beyond.
If this council majority is serious about meaningful traffic and parking improvement, then they will move forward with the stakeholder process this year. If they just believe in lip service to these problems, they will kick the can down the road.


16 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 8, 2017 at 7:35 pm

See the 5/2 article on how the city is thinking of rejecting the business tax to fund transit so they can shift the burden others and instead fund it from revenue from varous parking fees, parking permits, etc.

Web Link

At the same time we're paying for carpooling and public transit for commuters.


23 people like this
Posted by Train neighbor
a resident of Ventura
on May 8, 2017 at 10:10 pm

Don't forget Council size is reduced to 7 in the November 2018 election, so only 3 spots will open up.

Fine, Kniss, Kou and Tanaka terms end 12/31/2020.

DuBois, Filseth, Wolbach up for reelection.
Scharff and Holman will be termed out.


32 people like this
Posted by anon
a resident of Evergreen Park
on May 9, 2017 at 7:34 am

Another chink in the thin wall of democracy in palo alto......except this time it is a gaping hole.

The Council majority voted the second reading of the "ADU" ordinance in to law. Once again there were many more public speakers on the side of the original staff recommendation to meet but not grossly exceed the state law.

Speakers on the side of staff's recommendation were 12, with 5 supporting the outrageous April night Wolbach-Fine amendments. A majority of council members deceived the public by saying that ADUs would help provide affordable housing in Palo Alto.

There is no guarantee that these units will be affordable or in fact that they will be rented as housing, they could easily be used for companies.
There is an existing appalling lack of code enforcement in PA and with more potential violations, the efficiency of the 3 code enforcement officers ( for the entire city !) is unlikely to get better!

ADUs are legal for short term renters; 30 days - a minimum 1 month stay does not create neighbors or community. They could easily become Air B and B, B and Bs; paying no hotel tax! And with no real mechanism for enforcement.

Our residential streets will even more become crowded with cars as ADUs require no off street parking!

This is a huge zone change that did not go through the proper public process and despite what the Majority of Council members say it is NOT an affordable housing program.








32 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 9, 2017 at 9:00 am

"people take notice and assume that you must be the best candidate for the CC seat."

"getting an endorsement from very important, influential, and 'familiar name' politicians isn't that hard to do. Just let it be known you are a strong liberal Democrat..."


Every political party endorsement, without exception, is the result of a negotiated political deal, and not about anyone's capability or benefit to the community. Every. Single. One.


6 people like this
Posted by Me 2
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 9, 2017 at 9:58 am

This thread is pretty funny. Lots of little complaints that don't amount to much. Now there's paranoia about "hacking" the voting. Really. You guys really must have an inflated sense of what Palo Alto means to the world (or even the Bay Area). No one cares about Palo Alto city council elections to "hack" them. There's not enough money at stake -- even the $$ that developers could make is no more than a bunch of wooden nickels in the grand scheme of things.

Next we'll hear about PTA elections at Addison were not valid or something silly like that.

[Portion removed.]


25 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on May 9, 2017 at 5:55 pm

Annette is a registered user.

The young woman who spoke at or near the end of the public comment on ADUs gave eloquent voice to a legitimate concern: how will ADUs be affordable?

Embedded in support for the ordinance is support for allowing homeowners to build small units on their property for uses that I think everyone agrees are beneficial to our community: seniors, young family members, the disabled, community-serving employees. Sadly, there's nothing in the ordinance to guarantee affordability and I don't see how a city can, realistically, control that anyway. If the market says a 1200sf brand new dwelling can rent for $3,500/mo (or more)how likely is it that the owner will charge significantly less than that so that it is affordable to a community-serving employee earning a modest income?

I think earnest people have been duped into supporting something for a reason that will prove elusive. Last night's vote guarantees satisfaction for owners who build an ADU for purposes of augmenting their income but it holds no such promise for people hoping to find affordable housing here.


23 people like this
Posted by "Greed is Good"
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 9, 2017 at 6:51 pm

So true. So long as there's no occupancy limit, there's no assurance that each tenant won't be charged $3,000 person or $3,000 per BEDROOM or more unless it really is for granny or someone's disabled child. Just check out comparable rents.

1200 sq feet is quite large, as large as some small houses, as large as multi-bedroom apartments and condos, and certainly large enough for several bedrooms and quite a few convertible sofas and other creative measures.

Allowing second stories adds insult to injury for this hastily rushed invasion of our privacy that will do nothing to bring down rents.

Anyone who's tried to help a friend, relative etc. find rentals know that small houses for rent surpassed $8,000 four years ago. A house down the street from me was renting for $11,000 2 weeks ago.

Do we really think people are going to willingly lose money renting affordable after investing $100,000 or so to a build /adapt an ADU while paying additional property taxes??


24 people like this
Posted by My Back Fence
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 10, 2017 at 8:52 am

Just one long time Palo Alto home owner's story

My small back yard is backed by two long narrow lots. It frightens me that potentially I could now have two granny units built, one in each lot, both six feet behind my yard. The threat of two groups of renters living feet away will drastically change my quality of life. The quiet in my small back yard will be threatened. My home is just feet away from that back fence with many windows facing it. I will certainly hear any renters noise inside my home.

I am sure there are many other home owners are now faced with similar concerns about the impact of these new ADU changes. We have basically had our residential neighborhood threatened by increased density. Our future quality of life is now threatened by the change that allows their neighbors to build structures and rent out living spaces just six feet behind our back or side fence. In addition our property value will also impacted by this unrestricted relaxation of ADU rules.

I feel it was extremely irresponsible for our City Council to approve such a sweeping change in our neighborhoods and in the life of individual home owners without fully considering the impact. This brazen use of power is dangerous to our community.


7 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on May 10, 2017 at 10:09 am

No decision made by the PACC is lasting and binding. I believe that a community group can assemble a list of reasonable tweaks to this decision - which remains to be clarified. Once the guidelines are published in full the options are open to clarify and redefine the finer points as to distance from fence line. I do know in my area that people have those sheds from Home Depot to store their gardening tools and bikes and those look to be about 6 feet high. Those are usually in the side area near the fence as opposed to in the more large gathering area - or are in the area for garbage cans.


26 people like this
Posted by Fighting PACC and Ciity Hall
a resident of Community Center
on May 10, 2017 at 10:25 am

We shouldn't have to fight City Hall and watch the PACC all the time to try to ensure they don't keep selling us out to the business interests at every turn with this ADU nonsense, with the TMA where WE pay the commuters to over-run us, where they keep raising Utility rates to use our money to fund outrageous million-dollar programs to supply commuters with $3,000 bikes.

It's ludicrous and will get worse at the next election where the previous lame-duck mayor ensured the PACC will shrink even more to ensure their business-friendly, resident-soaking agenda.


13 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on May 10, 2017 at 11:52 am

Since Palo Alto seems to get reported in the NYT on a regular basis maybe it is time that we all vote on the Mayor and Vice Mayor - as opposed to them voting on who that will be.


3 people like this
Posted by Real tiring pattern
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 10, 2017 at 11:56 am

People seem to have forgotten that there is a state law regarding Asus. even palo alto Is not above the law


Like this comment
Posted by Real tiring pattern
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 10, 2017 at 11:57 am

Should read " ADUs"


19 people like this
Posted by Resident11
a resident of Fairmeadow
on May 10, 2017 at 12:42 pm

@real tiring pattern

This may be hard to understand. But the people who are upset are generally fine with ADUs, and supportive of the new California law that supports them. In fact the Palo Alto law proposed prior to this one was compliant with the new California law requiring ADUs, and everyone was supportive. But with little process, the City Council changed that law to one that is much more invasive for neighbors of properties that build ADUs. The issue is not support for ADUs. Most everyone is supportive of ADUs, because they can provide more needed housing for elderly and more (assuming they stay affordable). The issue is that it was not done with the interest of existing residents in mind. As Karen Holman noted, it would have been more prudent to roll this out gradually -- starting with the state law -- rather than jumping to something much more aggressive from the get-go.


20 people like this
Posted by 2d Story Privacy Invasion
a resident of Greenmeadow
on May 10, 2017 at 12:47 pm

@Real tiring patten, here's the current state of the ADU requirements here in Santa Clara County which they say are constantly being reviewed.

Web Link

Palo Alto has gone way beyond both current state law and the county requirements re parking limits, inspections, permitting, etc. in their rush to get this through without sufficient review and public comment.

Remember when Cory Wollbach actually advised owners and tenants to park on the front lawns a la Appalachia as a solution to the parking problem??

I urge everyone to write to Bill Shoe bill.shoe@pln.sccgov.org with your comments, esp. regarding permitting 2-story ADUs that will severely reduce our privacy.


14 people like this
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 10, 2017 at 1:41 pm

As someone who has endured years of near endless re-building, remodelling, and scraping and new home construction in the immediate vicinity, I fear the construction this may bring! The quality of life has been reduced by excessive lengthy construction and work trucks always parked in front of my home for the benefit of others' construction.


12 people like this
Posted by Authoritarian Mayor
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 11, 2017 at 3:58 pm

Scharff may have read the criticism of his inappropriate grabbing control (as in next paragraph) because Liz Kniss did it for him last Monday. She OPENED discussion with a motion. Yes, Grabbing control. Seems to be a new developer-support style.

"Scharff is violating the norms of how a chairman should behave. The chair is supposed to allow members to speak before he does. Scharff violates this rule again and again, by expressing his opinions first when a subject is introduced, and more egregious, he opens with a MOTION so others have to address his views and he can reject anything he doesn't like. His authoritarian behavior is that of an aggressive lawyer, not a professional chairman."


3 people like this
Posted by To: resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 11, 2017 at 5:34 pm

Actually, when installed on a proper platform to keep the level and dry, those sheds can be taller than six feet.... many are six feet high on the inside, so on a platform that may be over 7'4"!


5 people like this
Posted by Lay on the Table
a resident of another community
on May 13, 2017 at 11:25 am

Look, it can't be the case that a minority can force an un-vetted motion upon a majority without the majority having the formal power to clear the floor of the motion.

Palo Alto's formal system is here: Web Link

Move to Lay the motion on the table.

"This motion is used to interrupt business for more urgent business. A motion to lay on the table requires a second, is not amendable and is not debatable. It shall preclude all amendments or debate of the subject under consideration. ..."

Learn Palo Alto's Rules. Sit down with the City Attorney before the meeting to understand who is the arbiter of the rules for the Palo Alto CC, and, if its the City Attorney, ask him or her how to use them properly. Clear majorities can put an end to the theatrics of minorities.

I'm sure cc members are skilled enough to exercise good judgment about when to use the motion, and to be artful introducing it. "This is a really interesting issue, and I think it does deserve a really lengthy discussion as only we in Palo Alto can do; however, there has been no prior staff work to establish the fact base for the issue, I was not expecting to vote on this motion, there has been no opportunity for the public to provide prior comment, and therefore I fear the discussion will be uninformed and unripe, therefore I'm going to move to lay it on the table."

Whereafter, the Mayor must ask for a second, which will be forthcoming or not. Being not debatable, it goes to immediate vote.

This will happen only once or twice. I promise you. Thereafter, it will be easy to return to the informalism that is more normal for Palo Alto.


12 people like this
Posted by Midnight Motions
a resident of Esther Clark Park
on May 13, 2017 at 12:25 pm

@Lay on the Table, I don't think the concern is with the 4-person "minority" ramrodding motions through but with the 5-person majority ramrodding through midnight motions in the hopes that community won't notice and/or care.

What you're suggesting will only reduce the amount of debate and public comment. Then maybe they can force through 5-story ADUs and front-lawn parking and 500% hikes in parking permit fees and limo service for commuters that WE pay for instead just making us pay for carpooling, public transit and LYFT.


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

Populism: A response to the failure of the elites: Palo Alto edition
By Douglas Moran | 12 comments | 1,781 views

Mountain View's Hangen Szechuan to close after 25 years
By Elena Kadvany | 0 comments | 1,662 views

Let's Talk Internships
By John Raftrey and Lori McCormick | 1 comment | 1,433 views

Couples: Sex and Connection (Chicken or Egg?)
By Chandrama Anderson | 1 comment | 1,231 views

Zucchini Takeover
By Laura Stec | 4 comments | 974 views