News

Palo Alto's pivotal year

Big accomplishments, looming challenges mark the year at City Hall

Ross Road residents know all too well that change, however well-intentioned, can be a jarring experience.

In the fall, as the city kicked off its long-planned redesign of Ross and other busy streets in the Midtown area, residents woke up in a strange new world of roundabouts, traffic islands and speed humps. Some welcomed the changes, which are part of an $8.6 million bike-and-pedestrian project that the City Council approved in the summer. Many others found them confusing, hazardous and, above all, shocking.

Like many of her neighbors, Alison Cormack said she was unaware that the "traffic calming" project involved narrowing the road and putting bicyclists in the same lanes as cars, shoulder to shoulder with oncoming traffic.

"I have since learned it's a great idea, but when a bulb-out shows up unannounced in front of your house, it doesn't seem that way," she said.

The dramatic changes on Ross Road and the divergent reactions to them epitomized in many ways 2017 in Palo Alto, a year in which the council made giant strides on some of its most pressing priorities and began to pivot from plans to action -- drawing mixed reactions for its efforts.

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The new network of bike-friendly routes in Midtown, which comprises about half of the projects in the city's 2012 bike master plan, is just one example of this pivot from the abstract to the tangible. The Palo Alto Transportation Management Authority, which the council formed in 2015 to help discourage driving solo, began to see promising results and increased investment from the city. New parking-permit programs sprung up in the Evergreen Park and Southgate neighborhoods to offer long-sought relief to residents from perpetually parked-up blocks. The city's yearslong push to save Buena Vista Mobile Home Park from redevelopment concluded on a victorious note in May, when the El Camino Real mobile-home park was officially purchased by the Housing Authority of Santa Clara County. And after a prolonged period of stagnation on housing production, the council approved a development with 50 apartments at the former site of Mike's Bikes, also on El Camino.

Yet even in this year of action, the council's most significant achievement in 2017 came on the planning front. In November, the council finally adopted an updated Comprehensive Plan, a land-use vision document that was more than a decade in the making and that sets the stage for future zoning revisions and development decisions. But getting there wasn't a smooth ride. Just weeks after the swearing in of two new council members -- former planning commissioners Adrian Fine and Greg Tanaka -- and one incumbent, Liz Kniss, the newly established pro-development majority stripped all policies out of the Comprehensive Plan that would have spelled out how the city would implement the vision. The decision was ultimately reversed after a community backlash, but it was only one of a series of tense 5-4 votes over issues ranging from a downtown cap for commercial construction to "community indicators" that would track impacts of new projects. But in the end, a year that began with vitriolic accusations flying between the council's two factions concluded with hard-fought consensus and a Champagne toast in the Council Chambers in November, when the council finally approved the plan.

For some Palo Altans, the changes are too big and coming too soon and too fast. In January, the council discussed a citizen survey indicating growing angst about traffic congestion, housing costs and the city's overall "quality of life." These themes would emerge throughout the year during public hearings on everything from "grade separation" on the rail tracks (an expensive project that aims to, among other things, address increased traffic at grade crossings) to Stanford University's application to build more than 2 million square feet of academic space and 3,000 housing units by 2035.

Palo Alto's traffic problems, critics say, will not be solved by new developments and city-designed "road diets." Many remain unconvinced by the council's new reliance on "transportation demand management" strategies -- which incentivize commuters to switch from cars to other modes -- to really curb traffic. For them, projects that offer less parking than is normally required -- such as the "car-light" 60-apartment development proposed for the busy corner of El Camino Real and Page Mill Road -- will not actually result in fewer drivers; they will just lead more people to park their cars in other areas.

Similarly, some decried the city's September decision to loosen its cap on office development -- which now no longer includes a "beauty contest" and which now allows developers to carry over "unused" square footage to future years -- and opposed the city's moves to encourage more accessory-dwelling (or "granny") units and to promote market-rate residential development (below-market-rate housing, by contrast, remains relatively popular).

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But it was the housing advocates who had the most to celebrate in 2017, a year that repeatedly reminded us that local elections have serious consequences. With Fine, Tanaka and Kniss winning seats (along with residentialist Lydia Kou), the council's pro-development camp won a 5-4 majority. In early March, the council decided to relax regulations for construction of accessory-dwelling units, a move that Fine said will leave "the choice of growth up to each resident in Palo Alto."

As the year wound down, the council's focus on housing sharpened, reflecting both its political makeup and the severe nature of the regional housing crisis. In November, just after the council signed off on the new Comprehensive Plan, it set its differences aside to unanimously support an ambitious memo from Fine, Wolbach and Kniss that calls on the city to consider a host of zoning revisions to encourage housing -- changes that could impact everything from parking rules to building heights.

"We've heard loud and clear from the community that housing is a top priority," Fine told his colleagues at the Nov. 6 meeting, in explaining his memo. "These proposals are focused on creating more BMR and market rate housing in the least impactful area."

While traffic and housing remained hot-button issues throughout the year, council members marched largely in lockstep on other critical decisions that will change Palo Alto for decades to come. They advanced plans for new garages in downtown and near California Avenue; a new public-safety building on Sherman Avenue and a bike bridge over U.S. Highway 101 -- projects that have been mulled about for years and that are now creeping closer to construction. They embraced in August a proposed partnership with Pets In Need to build a state-of-the-art animal-services facility. They united in September behind a new master plan for the local park system, which proposes (among many other things) new dog parks, more park restrooms and pickle-ball courts. And in December, they unanimously approved a long-awaited reconstruction and expansion of the beloved Palo Alto Junior Museum and Zoo, which is set to be completed in 2019 and re-opened to the public the following year.

"There are few moments in life where you can sit back and say, 'This is great, the community is moving forward and we should be proud of our community,'" Mayor Greg Scharff said during the Dec. 4 meeting, just before the vote on the zoo expansion. "This is one of them."

Yet for all the jubilation, the year had its share of foibles, slip-ups and challenges, some of which will extend to 2018 and beyond. Three council members -- Kniss, Fine and Tanaka -- faced investigations this year from the Fair Political Practices Commission. While Fine and Tanaka got off with a warning and a small penalty, respectively, the Kniss probe has been ongoing since March. As of late December, state investigators were still looking at alleged improprieties in her reporting of developers' contributions to her 2016 campaign. This means she will likely remain under the cloud of the FPPC investigation in early 2018, when the council is set to choose its next mayor (as vice mayor, she is the odds-on favorite).

More significantly for the average resident, the city continues to face fiscal challenges, with pension obligations ballooning to nearly $1 billion, according to one councilman's estimates, and the costs of infrastructure projects spiraling out of control. For all of its progress in 2017 in building new bike boulevards, nudging its infrastructure plan forward and upping its recreational dreams, it will be the city's management of the uncertain budget picture that will help shape the year to come and determine whether the council can maintain its late-year momentum as it advances into 2018.

Related content:

Webcast: Year in Review

2017: From behind the camera lens

Quotes to remember from 2017

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Palo Alto's pivotal year

Big accomplishments, looming challenges mark the year at City Hall

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Fri, Dec 29, 2017, 7:00 am

Ross Road residents know all too well that change, however well-intentioned, can be a jarring experience.

In the fall, as the city kicked off its long-planned redesign of Ross and other busy streets in the Midtown area, residents woke up in a strange new world of roundabouts, traffic islands and speed humps. Some welcomed the changes, which are part of an $8.6 million bike-and-pedestrian project that the City Council approved in the summer. Many others found them confusing, hazardous and, above all, shocking.

Like many of her neighbors, Alison Cormack said she was unaware that the "traffic calming" project involved narrowing the road and putting bicyclists in the same lanes as cars, shoulder to shoulder with oncoming traffic.

"I have since learned it's a great idea, but when a bulb-out shows up unannounced in front of your house, it doesn't seem that way," she said.

The dramatic changes on Ross Road and the divergent reactions to them epitomized in many ways 2017 in Palo Alto, a year in which the council made giant strides on some of its most pressing priorities and began to pivot from plans to action -- drawing mixed reactions for its efforts.

The new network of bike-friendly routes in Midtown, which comprises about half of the projects in the city's 2012 bike master plan, is just one example of this pivot from the abstract to the tangible. The Palo Alto Transportation Management Authority, which the council formed in 2015 to help discourage driving solo, began to see promising results and increased investment from the city. New parking-permit programs sprung up in the Evergreen Park and Southgate neighborhoods to offer long-sought relief to residents from perpetually parked-up blocks. The city's yearslong push to save Buena Vista Mobile Home Park from redevelopment concluded on a victorious note in May, when the El Camino Real mobile-home park was officially purchased by the Housing Authority of Santa Clara County. And after a prolonged period of stagnation on housing production, the council approved a development with 50 apartments at the former site of Mike's Bikes, also on El Camino.

Yet even in this year of action, the council's most significant achievement in 2017 came on the planning front. In November, the council finally adopted an updated Comprehensive Plan, a land-use vision document that was more than a decade in the making and that sets the stage for future zoning revisions and development decisions. But getting there wasn't a smooth ride. Just weeks after the swearing in of two new council members -- former planning commissioners Adrian Fine and Greg Tanaka -- and one incumbent, Liz Kniss, the newly established pro-development majority stripped all policies out of the Comprehensive Plan that would have spelled out how the city would implement the vision. The decision was ultimately reversed after a community backlash, but it was only one of a series of tense 5-4 votes over issues ranging from a downtown cap for commercial construction to "community indicators" that would track impacts of new projects. But in the end, a year that began with vitriolic accusations flying between the council's two factions concluded with hard-fought consensus and a Champagne toast in the Council Chambers in November, when the council finally approved the plan.

For some Palo Altans, the changes are too big and coming too soon and too fast. In January, the council discussed a citizen survey indicating growing angst about traffic congestion, housing costs and the city's overall "quality of life." These themes would emerge throughout the year during public hearings on everything from "grade separation" on the rail tracks (an expensive project that aims to, among other things, address increased traffic at grade crossings) to Stanford University's application to build more than 2 million square feet of academic space and 3,000 housing units by 2035.

Palo Alto's traffic problems, critics say, will not be solved by new developments and city-designed "road diets." Many remain unconvinced by the council's new reliance on "transportation demand management" strategies -- which incentivize commuters to switch from cars to other modes -- to really curb traffic. For them, projects that offer less parking than is normally required -- such as the "car-light" 60-apartment development proposed for the busy corner of El Camino Real and Page Mill Road -- will not actually result in fewer drivers; they will just lead more people to park their cars in other areas.

Similarly, some decried the city's September decision to loosen its cap on office development -- which now no longer includes a "beauty contest" and which now allows developers to carry over "unused" square footage to future years -- and opposed the city's moves to encourage more accessory-dwelling (or "granny") units and to promote market-rate residential development (below-market-rate housing, by contrast, remains relatively popular).

But it was the housing advocates who had the most to celebrate in 2017, a year that repeatedly reminded us that local elections have serious consequences. With Fine, Tanaka and Kniss winning seats (along with residentialist Lydia Kou), the council's pro-development camp won a 5-4 majority. In early March, the council decided to relax regulations for construction of accessory-dwelling units, a move that Fine said will leave "the choice of growth up to each resident in Palo Alto."

As the year wound down, the council's focus on housing sharpened, reflecting both its political makeup and the severe nature of the regional housing crisis. In November, just after the council signed off on the new Comprehensive Plan, it set its differences aside to unanimously support an ambitious memo from Fine, Wolbach and Kniss that calls on the city to consider a host of zoning revisions to encourage housing -- changes that could impact everything from parking rules to building heights.

"We've heard loud and clear from the community that housing is a top priority," Fine told his colleagues at the Nov. 6 meeting, in explaining his memo. "These proposals are focused on creating more BMR and market rate housing in the least impactful area."

While traffic and housing remained hot-button issues throughout the year, council members marched largely in lockstep on other critical decisions that will change Palo Alto for decades to come. They advanced plans for new garages in downtown and near California Avenue; a new public-safety building on Sherman Avenue and a bike bridge over U.S. Highway 101 -- projects that have been mulled about for years and that are now creeping closer to construction. They embraced in August a proposed partnership with Pets In Need to build a state-of-the-art animal-services facility. They united in September behind a new master plan for the local park system, which proposes (among many other things) new dog parks, more park restrooms and pickle-ball courts. And in December, they unanimously approved a long-awaited reconstruction and expansion of the beloved Palo Alto Junior Museum and Zoo, which is set to be completed in 2019 and re-opened to the public the following year.

"There are few moments in life where you can sit back and say, 'This is great, the community is moving forward and we should be proud of our community,'" Mayor Greg Scharff said during the Dec. 4 meeting, just before the vote on the zoo expansion. "This is one of them."

Yet for all the jubilation, the year had its share of foibles, slip-ups and challenges, some of which will extend to 2018 and beyond. Three council members -- Kniss, Fine and Tanaka -- faced investigations this year from the Fair Political Practices Commission. While Fine and Tanaka got off with a warning and a small penalty, respectively, the Kniss probe has been ongoing since March. As of late December, state investigators were still looking at alleged improprieties in her reporting of developers' contributions to her 2016 campaign. This means she will likely remain under the cloud of the FPPC investigation in early 2018, when the council is set to choose its next mayor (as vice mayor, she is the odds-on favorite).

More significantly for the average resident, the city continues to face fiscal challenges, with pension obligations ballooning to nearly $1 billion, according to one councilman's estimates, and the costs of infrastructure projects spiraling out of control. For all of its progress in 2017 in building new bike boulevards, nudging its infrastructure plan forward and upping its recreational dreams, it will be the city's management of the uncertain budget picture that will help shape the year to come and determine whether the council can maintain its late-year momentum as it advances into 2018.

Related content:

Webcast: Year in Review

2017: From behind the camera lens

Quotes to remember from 2017

Comments

Resident
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 29, 2017 at 8:24 am
Resident, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 29, 2017 at 8:24 am
10 people like this

I would still like to know how the traffic counts on Louis compare to what they were before the work on Ross Road started. I suspect that the Louis residents are not impressed with the extra traffic and that traffic outside Palo Verde school at school commute times is no longer mainly school traffic.


resident
Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 29, 2017 at 9:08 am
resident, Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 29, 2017 at 9:08 am
27 people like this

I live off of Louis and think this whole traffic effort from one end of the city to the other is counterproductive. Somehow a few people have been appointed road manager as though the rest of the city has lost any voice in this matter. The money being spent for this was never vetted before it started so that is a pivot we can make in 2018 - no major projects unless the total cost is advertised before the project starts. The citizens need to get some grip on this.


parent
Midtown
on Dec 29, 2017 at 9:56 am
parent, Midtown
on Dec 29, 2017 at 9:56 am
6 people like this

We love the Ross Road safety improvements. We finally have a child-safe north-south bicycle route to school. We just hope the city follows this up with a safe east-west bicycle route from Midtown to the California Ave train station and business district.


Barron Parker
Barron Park
on Dec 29, 2017 at 12:07 pm
Barron Parker, Barron Park
on Dec 29, 2017 at 12:07 pm
17 people like this

The last paragraph is the key one:

"More significantly for the average resident, the city continues to face fiscal challenges, with pension obligations ballooning to nearly $1 billion, according to one councilman's estimates, and the costs of infrastructure projects spiraling out of control."

$1 billion pension unfunded liability! That's over $30K for each household. In 10 years it will be $2 billion and the financing will consume a considerable fraction of the total Palo Alto budget.

My advice for 2018:

(1) Quick, before the next downturn, obtain the funding for the public safety building! We wouldn't have the new Mitchell Park library if we hadn't funded it by initiative before the subprime mortgage-based crash in 2009.

(2) End the defined-benefit pension ponzi scheme going forward, replacing it with a standard 401K pension. Do that in 2018 and you might yet save Palo Alto.


Jh
Registered user
Evergreen Park
on Dec 29, 2017 at 12:50 pm
Jh, Evergreen Park
Registered user
on Dec 29, 2017 at 12:50 pm
36 people like this

A pivotal year during which the council majority pushed through a comprehensive plan which included wording pushed through at the last minute by councilmember Adrian Fine, strongly supported by vice mayor Kniss, which deliberately de-emphasises residential neighborhood protection from adverse commercial development.

Those that want to brush this aside say, no one pays any interest to what the comprehensive plan says anyway. But this last minute wording tweak WILL be used to justify future development and actions that WILL impact residential neighborhoods negatively, and serve those whose principal interests do not align with preserving the quality of life residents have enjoyed up to now.


Resident
Midtown
on Dec 29, 2017 at 1:03 pm
Resident, Midtown
on Dec 29, 2017 at 1:03 pm
40 people like this

Its funny because Adrian had the luxury of growing up in Palo Alto decades ago when it was a quiet and peaceful town, and now he wants to turn into a crowded, dense, city with higher traffic and a lower quality of life.


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 29, 2017 at 1:49 pm
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on Dec 29, 2017 at 1:49 pm
44 people like this

Ms. Kniss should not be allowed to become mayor until the investigation into her campaign improprieties where she took campaign contributions from developers is completed.


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 29, 2017 at 2:20 pm
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on Dec 29, 2017 at 2:20 pm
29 people like this

PS: The photo of the child biking epitomizes the very odd, costly and dangerous "traffic planning" going on here.


@ JH
Charleston Gardens
on Dec 29, 2017 at 5:33 pm
@ JH, Charleston Gardens
on Dec 29, 2017 at 5:33 pm
7 people like this

@JH what wording are you referring to? I just re-watched the final meeting and councilman Fine supported the motion to reinsert the phrasing about neighborhoods being the central part of Palo Alto. Please point us to "wording pushed through". I'm really tired of anonymous PA Online comments/attacks. (and do it myself!)


Abitarian
Downtown North
on Dec 29, 2017 at 5:41 pm
Abitarian, Downtown North
on Dec 29, 2017 at 5:41 pm
5 people like this

Once again, I am deeply offended by Gennady Sheyner's continued use of the phrase "beauty contest" to describe the never-used and now-defunct design competition intended to improve the quality of Palo Alto office developments.

The phrase is not only inaccurate -- aesthetics were only one of the qualities to be evaluated, along with environmental concerns, parking capacity, etc. -- it is also demeaning. Many, perhaps even most, Palo Altans consider a "beauty contest" to be something trivial, at best.

When certain City Council members used the phrase "beauty contest", it is quite possible, perhaps even probable, that they were doing so in order to convey disrespect for the process. After all, this is 2017, this is Palo Alto; we all know a beauty contest is not something to be taken seriously.

The print edition of today's Weekly further ridicules the concept by defining the "beauty contest" as "Palo Alto's short-lived idea to treat proposed office developments like 'Star Search' contestants."

This mockery is pure nonsense. Architectural contests have been practiced for more than 2500 years, going back to the Acropolis in ancient Athens.

Throughout the world, winning such a contest is considered a prestigious honor. Here in America, the design of cultural landmarks such as the White House as well as office buildings such as One World Trade Center are the result of design competitions.

At one time, Mr. Sheyner may have been ignorant of the meaning communicated by the phrase "beauty contest". This is no longer possible, as I have written multiple times asking him to use a more accurate and neutral phrase such as "design competition".

Mr. Sheyner has again ignored my feedback. Apparently, Editor Jocelyn Dong and Publisher Bill Johnson have no problem with Mr. Sheyner's choice of language.

But I do have a problem. Mr. Sheyner is listed as a Staff Writer, not an Opinion Columnist. As such, he should be required to use non-judgmental language, and if he fails to do so, his supervisors should make the necessary corrections.


Hausable ADUs
another community
on Dec 29, 2017 at 7:43 pm
Hausable ADUs, another community
on Dec 29, 2017 at 7:43 pm
7 people like this

[Post removed.]


Kniss under investigation
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 30, 2017 at 2:30 pm
Kniss under investigation , Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Dec 30, 2017 at 2:30 pm
28 people like this

Online name,

"Ms. Kniss should not be allowed to become mayor until the investigation into her campaign improprieties where she took campaign contributions from developers is completed."

It would be an EMBARRASSMENT to have Kniss as Mayor after election shennanigans

Another year of Pro-developer pockets and anti-Palo Alto is bad enough, am already wondering what tricks will be used to lie to people to get the pro-developer pockets elected.


Gale Johnson
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 30, 2017 at 4:28 pm
Gale Johnson, Adobe-Meadow
Registered user
on Dec 30, 2017 at 4:28 pm
20 people like this

I see more looming challenges than accomplishments.

Of course Liz will be our next mayor! It's her turn...again. That's how it works. The 'in' majority decides. Check the record to see what was accomplished during her first two terms.

Hooray! for this year's accomplishments? Now let's see, what were they? Traffic is worse, parking is worse (but will get better with new lots), microscopic gains on housing (ADU's aren't the solution hoped for), new proposed developments, always benefitting developers the most with underparked and over promised benefits to our 'town'. Oh, and the Comprehensive Plan that will be bookshelf material, little used except when needed to promote more overdevelopment of offices in the wrong places.

The Buena Vista saga isn't over. The tough work hasn't even begun. Please CC members, stop talking about affordable housing that isn't affordable except for a few tech rich and foreign buyers.

I credit the good work we've done on environmental issues. The earth is a little cooler because of it.

The effort to wean everyone from driving cars is going nowhere. We can rightfully brag about the number of our cycling workers, but the latest effort to push it further with the Ross Rd Bike Boulevard, is a big mistake, possibly with fatal consequences.

Nice try on saving retail, but give up on that mantra as well.

I don't appreciate being called a NIMBY or being lectured to that Palo Alto isn't a town anymore, but has become part of the urban environment surrounding us. I say, let's decide what we want to be and not be dictated by others. We can be a town if we want to be. Consider that at the next election cycle. Why can't it be possible to retain what's left of our quality of life?



To any of you long time residents, like I am, check your 'quality of life' meter!


Abitarian
Downtown North
on Dec 30, 2017 at 5:31 pm
Abitarian, Downtown North
on Dec 30, 2017 at 5:31 pm
23 people like this

FWIW, today's Palo Alto Daily Post published a front-page article concerning the possibility of Liz Kniss becoming Mayor. The Post reports Ms. Kniss has support from council members including her big growth colleagues Greg Scharff and Cory Woolbach, as well as the more moderate Lydia Kou. Sorry, no web link available.

I agree with Kniss Under Investigation above. It would be disgraceful for Liz Kniss to be selected as Mayor while her campaign is under investigation for campaign finance violations by California's Fair Political Practices Commission.

Regardless of whether or not the CFPPC decides to punish Ms. Kniss, the facts -- which are not in dispute -- demonstrate that her behavior has breached an ethical divide and should disqualify her from serving as the face and voice of Palo Alto.

Furthermore, I question the moral integrity of any council member who would support Ms. Kniss as a potential Mayor under these circumstances.

Seriously, besides advocating for unmitigated development and advancing her own political visibility, I challenge anyone to name one significant accomplishment for which Ms. Kniss can credibly claim ownership, over the past year, or ever, for that matter.

Finally, I agree with Gale Johnson. The past year has been dismal in terms of addressing city problems and improving resident quality of life. I believe we can congratulate the Gang-of-Five council majority (Adrian Fine, Liz Kniss, Greg Scharff, Greg Tanaka, and Cory Woolbach), as well as city manager Jim Keene, for their truly remarkable lack of accomplishment.


Kniss under investigation
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 30, 2017 at 5:31 pm
Kniss under investigation , Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Dec 30, 2017 at 5:31 pm
9 people like this

Gale Johnson

" I say, let's decide what we want to be and not be dictated by others. We can be a town if we want to be. Consider that at the next election cycle. Why can't it be possible to retain what's left of our quality of life?"

That should be the election decision: "Palo Alto - Town vs City"

The name is City of Palo Alto - Reality is that there is no way it can be a city with the current pressure.

I vote for college town in between three three other cities (San Francisco, San Jose, and Oakland) which is where the city type growth should happen.

Totally odd that San Jose complains that we are putting pressure on them for housing. What? Can someone splain that please?


Kniss violations disqualify her
Old Palo Alto
on Dec 31, 2017 at 10:11 am
Kniss violations disqualify her, Old Palo Alto
on Dec 31, 2017 at 10:11 am
18 people like this

Well put, Arbitarian:
It would be disgraceful for Liz Kniss to be selected as Mayor while her campaign is under investigation for campaign finance violations by California's Fair Political Practices Commission.

Regardless of whether or not the CFPPC decides to punish Ms. Kniss, the facts -- which are not in dispute -- demonstrate that her behavior has breached an ethical divide and should disqualify her from serving as the face and voice of Palo Alto.

Furthermore, I question the moral integrity of any council member who would support Ms. Kniss as a potential Mayor under these circumstances.


Seriously, besides advocating for unmitigated development and advancing her own political visibility, I challenge anyone to name one significant accomplishment for which Ms. Kniss can credibly claim ownership, over the past year, or ever, for that matter


Gale Johnson
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 31, 2017 at 1:29 pm
Gale Johnson, Adobe-Meadow
Registered user
on Dec 31, 2017 at 1:29 pm
7 people like this

I didn't mean to dismiss or demean all the hard work that went into the Comprehensive Plan Update. A lot of my fellow Palo Alto citizens, more dedicated than me, put in many hours working on it. I thank them for that effort. My point was that the update was long overdue, it didn't seem to be a priority for years, and that drifting away from it never seemed to be a problem before either. So, what will be different about this one? And some of those 11th hour shenanigans to push bad amendments through and into it, that worked against the residentialist's goals, shouldn't go unnoticed. They came from a very smug and arrogant newbie on council.

I didn't mention the financial issues/crises in my previous post. I give credit to the manager, staff, and CC for dealing with the pension problem/obligation as best they can. Some of it is out of their control. They were dealt/inherited a bad hand, and had to play with it. A pair of deuces isn't a good hand...an opener maybe...but not a good hand. They didn't even get a pair of deuces.

I know I'm prone to criticize, but my hat goes off to all those I criticize, for their long hours of service, and trying to make our 'town' and quality of life better. It doesn't always work out, but we are the ones who elected them, so in the end, shame on us!


Wolbach worse
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 31, 2017 at 2:09 pm
Wolbach worse, Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 31, 2017 at 2:09 pm
17 people like this

Perhaps even worse than Kniss as mayor would be Wolbach who, the article indicates, would also be more than happy to accept the position.


not Wolbach
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 31, 2017 at 7:22 pm
not Wolbach, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 31, 2017 at 7:22 pm
11 people like this

Wolbach like Kniss also should be ruled out as a Mayoral candidate for the reason that his election
over Kou in 2014 was not clear-cut,really defied
probabilities and should have been subject to a recount and wasn't. Kou held a lead of about 150 votes all evening and then in the middle of the night it suddenly reversed and Wolbach had a 150 vote lead over Kou. Votes from Barron Park were coming in - Kou's stronghold. The IT Manager at the County Registrar of Voters had suddenly resigned the night before the election. Under these circumstances Wohlbach should not be considered for
Mayor until and if he runs again and is re-elected.
The symbolism attached to the mayor is too
important - Kniss and Wolbach should be ruled out.





Pat Burt
Registered user
Community Center
on Jan 1, 2018 at 10:49 am
Pat Burt, Community Center
Registered user
on Jan 1, 2018 at 10:49 am
13 people like this

A noted above, it is a shame that the Weekly continues to use the misleading and derogatory term of "beauty contest" to describe the design competition that the Planning Director resisted implementing. Council member Scharff used the term to deride and miss represent the program. The Weekly then followed Scharff's lead and has refused to abandon the snarky name calling. The White House has showed us that this tactic works to undermine legitimate public discourse and get the press to parrot the name calling, but we expect better locally.
Rather than focusing primarily on aesthetics, the criteria would have awarded office development rights under the Office Cap to projects that scored best on reducing car trips/parking, were the best environmentally and that had the best architecture/compatibility.
It would have been more informative if The Weekly had noted that the proposed design competition appears to have discouraged new office development applications over the past two years which makes housing better able to compete.
The article also failed to note the important council action in 2017 that now allows unused office construction in one year to be rolled over into increased construction the following year, thereby undermining the impact of the Office Cap.


You got what you deserved
Community Center
on Jan 1, 2018 at 11:13 am
You got what you deserved, Community Center
on Jan 1, 2018 at 11:13 am
10 people like this

I love reading about embittered former council members, who accomplished little during their tenure, composition about the weekly. Now, don't get me wrong, the weekly is a poor excuse for a news outlet. The editor and publisher have an agenda, dictated to them by certain members of the community, which involves writing biased, one sided stories and editorials, while not covering certain news stories that are not complemeentary to their masters.
And that is the reason burt should stop complaining and own up to his failed legacy.
Oh and by the way, these childish complaints about wolbach are so ridiculous.


Desert
Downtown North
on Jan 1, 2018 at 3:04 pm
Desert, Downtown North
on Jan 1, 2018 at 3:04 pm
9 people like this

City council and government are servants, not masters. The question is, are they servants of the city residents, or of campaign funding developers?

From this perspective, criticism of wolbach is both mature and warranted.


Kniss under investigation
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 1, 2018 at 3:12 pm
Kniss under investigation , Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Jan 1, 2018 at 3:12 pm
3 people like this

You got what you deserved,

You got ....Accurate handle

Residents spend energy getting grocery justice but spend nothing on electing decent Council people.

It's an overall swindle which works off some unspoken rules about Palo Alto values, like bicycles, ABAG housing quotas or some other similar item that makes someone look good or feel important but results in nothing for "the City" itself.

When does this joke end? With a round of Wolbach and Kniss as Mayor?



Gale Johnson
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on Jan 1, 2018 at 3:35 pm
Gale Johnson, Adobe-Meadow
Registered user
on Jan 1, 2018 at 3:35 pm
Like this comment

@You got what you deserved...'complemeentary', and @Pat Burt...'miss represent'

I would be happy to edit your posts for a small fee. lol! Actually, I know I abuse our language and grammar in my posts, so I'll just shut up. And the people all said...'Amen'!

Now, getting serious. The rollover on office space makes sense because CC approved a yearly cap, which would have added up to total capped space over a period of years. Below yearly cap development years could be offset by over cap years. The end result would be the same. I'm not a math whiz, but I know how to add and subtract.

Now, on to our local political scene news! Pat Burt served us well, on council and as mayor. He was the deciding vote on many issues and he was, thankfully, unpredictable. He made national news at one point. He worked hard, analyzed both sides of an issue, before casting his vote. We could use a lot more of that kind of thinking currently.

And now back [email protected] got what you deserved...Those nasty and cruel comments about my friend, Cory Wolbach, aren't warranted. Yes, he made some missteps, as a novice/newbie, but was always willing to fess up to them. He's learned a lot, and has always kept the best interests of us citizens in mind, although supporting projects that seem to benefit office space developers more than the housing element.

Lets all be open and honest. When we hear the candidates running for office speak about their goals when campaigning for office, do we really believe they can accomplish them or do anything about making major changes in our 'town'? We should be smart enough to know that campaigning rhetoric is just that. Once they get in office, the problems that seemed so simple to solve, all of a sudden become overwhelming.

But, life goes on. Happy New Year everybody!



not Wolbach
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 1, 2018 at 3:36 pm
not Wolbach, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 1, 2018 at 3:36 pm
3 people like this

@You got what you deserved - "these childish complaints about Wolbach are so ridiculous".
Don't know if you are referring to the election
results in 2014 but perhaps you don't know that early in 2017 Assemblyman Evan Low of Campbell requested and got an audit of the Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters "citing a litany of errors since 2010 from erroneous ballots to counting mishaps that could raise doubts about the validity of election results" according to the
Mercury News. Shannon Bushey, Registrar of Voters, did not deny there were problems and responded saying her office has implemented various measures in the wake of past mistakes and "we continue to do our best to look at ways to improve all of our processes". "Childish complaints" - the facts
and circumstances dictate otherwise.



Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 1, 2018 at 4:16 pm
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on Jan 1, 2018 at 4:16 pm
16 people like this

At the infamous CC meeting where ADUs were rushed through, someone asked the logical question about where all the new ADU parking would go in neighborhoods already crowded with commuters and other renters,

Wollbach at first seemed genuinely perplexed at the question. pondered s bit and redponded that the parking problems could solved by parking on front lawns!

If this is the type deep thinking and leadership predominant here, we're in serious trouble,


You got what you deserved
Community Center
on Jan 1, 2018 at 4:29 pm
You got what you deserved, Community Center
on Jan 1, 2018 at 4:29 pm
5 people like this

Not wolbach- nice try. But bushey made no mention of wolbach. She made a general statement. Unless you have any real proof of voter fraud, your comments are just childish complaints because your candidate lost and that is what the facts and circumstances dictate.


Abitarian
Downtown North
on Jan 1, 2018 at 4:33 pm
Abitarian, Downtown North
on Jan 1, 2018 at 4:33 pm
6 people like this

Gale Johnson --

Sorry, but you are incorrect that the office cap with the rollover would have the same result as the office cap without the rollover. Adding the rollover does, indeed, lead to opportunity for double growth.

Let's say in one year, no offices are built.

If there is *no* rollover, the next year, developers could build no more than 50K, so the grand total for the two year period would be no more than 50K.

If there *is* a rollover, the next year, developers could build 50K + 50K, so the grand total for the two year period would be as much as 100K.

BTW, your "friend" Cory Wolbach, voted along with the other Gang-of-Five council majority (Adrian Fine, Liz Kniss, Greg Scharf, and Greg Tanaka) to weaken the office cap by adding the rollover and eliminating the design competition.

And as a side-note, your fervent support for Mr. Wolbach seems curious to me. Of course, you are entitled to support and promote anyone you wish. It just seems his votes are quite frequently contrary to the opinions you write here on Town Square.


not Wolbach
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 1, 2018 at 6:29 pm
not Wolbach, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 1, 2018 at 6:29 pm
5 people like this

@You got what you deserved has some kind of axe to
grind about Wolbach. Of course the Registrar of Voters didn't say anything about Wolbach. The question is whether Kniss and Wolbach should be
ruled out as Mayoral candidates and the answer is
yes.

@Pat Burt- in regards to the "office cap" while it
can slow down or phase development the final outcome is the same. The fundamental problem in
Palo Alto is the underlying zoning. Until that is
addressed the destruction of the City goes on.






You got what you deserved
Community Center
on Jan 1, 2018 at 6:34 pm
You got what you deserved, Community Center
on Jan 1, 2018 at 6:34 pm
3 people like this

Not wolbach- LOL. I have An axe to grind about wolbach? LOL. That coming from the person who is making bogus claims about wolbach. You have been making cause claims about wolbach. Now when you ate called on it, you make bogus claims about me. LOL.


not Wolbach
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 1, 2018 at 9:16 pm
not Wolbach, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 1, 2018 at 9:16 pm
4 people like this

@You got what you deserved. You say I made
"bogus claims about Wolbach". I have made no claims- I am asking legitimate questions which overhang that election based on the facts we know. That's it. By the way - if I had made "claims"
as you say how do you know they are "bogus"
as you say with such certainty?




Kniss violations disqualify her
Old Palo Alto
on Jan 3, 2018 at 10:41 pm
Kniss violations disqualify her, Old Palo Alto
on Jan 3, 2018 at 10:41 pm
14 people like this

Reasons not to want Wolbach:
he often sneaks in amendments that weaken a reasonably good motion to help the developers at the very end of the discussion after all have committed themselves. If I were on the council I would dump a pail of water on his head when he does that.
It is dishonest and manipulative.
He needs to be called out on it.
He is one of the gang of 5 who give exceptions and permissions and zone changes to any developer who asks.

Note to Gale, your repeated and repeated PR for your "friend" marks you as very naive. You need to pay closer attention to how he votes and not get lost in his rambling, smoke-blowing, long speeches.


Resident
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 5, 2018 at 8:38 am
Resident, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 5, 2018 at 8:38 am
Like this comment

Most people pay no attention to this. Of those who do:

Some people vote for who somebody says they are, instead of who they really are.

Some people vote for who they want somebody to be, instead of who they really are.

Some people say it doesn’t matter, “they’re all the same, they all say stuff nobody should believe.”


All these things appear in the thread above. The result is we get the government, country, state and city we have, from the White House on down.


the_punnisher
Registered user
Mountain View
on Jan 5, 2018 at 4:30 pm
the_punnisher, Mountain View
Registered user
on Jan 5, 2018 at 4:30 pm
7 people like this

" Unless you have any real proof of voter fraud, your comments are just childish complaints because your candidate lost and that is what the facts and circumstances dictate. "

That is truly amusing. Doesn't that also apply to our new President?

By the comments and behaviors, Palo Alto appears to have a double standard here.

Some advice: a leopard cannot change its spots. If a person exhibits bad behavior and actions in the past, do not expect that to change in the future.....


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