News

Commissioner's ethics questioned

Palo Alto resident files complaint with city over planning commissioner's new residential garages

Last fall, while serving as chair of Palo Alto's Planning and Transportation Commission, Michael Alcheck found himself at loggerheads with the city's senior planning staff.

The bone of contention wasn't a proposed development or a zoning change -- areas where the Alcheck, the commission's most pro-development member, has often found himself in the minority. It was something much closer to home: garages that the real estate attorney was looking to build at two newly constructed homes in the Duveneck-St. Francis neighborhood.

In early October, the city rejected both proposals, arguing that they violate zoning regulations pertaining to garage placement. The following month, his attorney sent the city a letter demanding approval, which he ultimately received.

In considering his request for garages in front of the two homes -- one on Madison Way and the other on Phillips Road -- planning staff concluded that the proposal failed to meet a zoning code provision on "contextual garage placement." That is, the garage should be oriented in a manner consistent with the "predominant neighborhood pattern" of garages at more than half of the homes on the same side of the block as the subject property (excluding flag lots, corner lots and multifamily projects of three units or more).

Thus, for example, if more than half of the homes on the block have garages in the rear, the new home should as well.

In Alcheck's case, the Philips home is one of four on that side of the block, and only one of the other homes has a garage. The house developed by Alcheck Investments LLC has a carport. The Madison block includes six homes: two homes with front-facing garages, one with a front-facing garage that is set back from the main residence, and two without a garage. Alcheck's home has a carport.

The dispute between the city and one of its own planning commissioners was particularly unusual because he had already been forbidden by the city in 2015 from building garages at his two new homes and instead opted to build carports. Then in 2017, he submitted another application to the city to convert those carports into garages.

In denying Alcheck's 2017 garage proposal, Assistant Planning Director Jonathan Lait -- who serves as liaison to the Planning and Transportation Commission (and who in this role worked with Alcheck in setting the commission's agenda) -- noted in an Oct. 2 memo that when the city issued in summer of 2015 the permits for constructing the single-family homes with carports, "the contextual garage placement regulations prohibited the development of a front-facing garage."

The request to now enclose the carports so that they would become garages just two years after city had approved the carports would be a violation of the city's zoning code, Lait concluded.

Alcheck pushed back. In late November, attorney David Lanferman of the firm Rutan & Tucker sent a letter to the city demanding an "immediate issuance of building permit" for each of the two properties. The letter from Lanferman argued that the language of the code does not support Lait's opinion that the application should be denied.

According to Planning Director Hillary Gitelman, Alcheck's attorney argued that the newly constructed carports have "changed the predominant neighborhood pattern so that a garage on the front of the parcel would be allowed under a strict reading of the code." In other words, the new carports that Alcheck constructed on the two properties where front-facing garages were deemed illegal, Alcheck effectively made these garages legal.

Gitelman told the Weekly that while staff's initial denial was consistent with the intent of the code, the actual language considers existing carports without any reference to when they were constructed.

"When the code was drafted, the city did not anticipate applications to replace a newly constructed carport with a garage, so there was no language speaking to this situation," Gitelman told the Weekly in an email. "Accordingly, staff acknowledged that under the explicit terms of the code, the construction of the new carports effectively altered the neighborhood context and allowed garages in the front half of site."

On Dec. 5, staff issued permits for garages at both properties. But in doing so, it specified that Alcheck cannot start construction until March 15. Gitelman said that in issuing the permit, staff still had concerns that the timing of the conversion from carport to garage "was effectively subverting the intent of the code related to garage placement."

"To address this concern, staff believed it was appropriate to approve the garage conversions effective after a reasonable period of time has passed since the carports' construction," Gitelman said.

The dispute between Alcheck and planning staff came at an awkward time: On Nov. 29, the commission was considering revising the city's zoning code, including to clarify that the provision on "contextual placement" of garages apply to carports as well.

This wasn't the first time the commission took up the issue. In September and October 2015, the commission had considered this very same change but declined to move ahead with it, arguing that the change is a significant policy direction rather than a minor revision.

At the Sept. 9, 2015 meeting, Alcheck was the prime proponent for not changing the "contextual placement" provision, which he said will have "really significant impacts on the way people lay out their homes." He proposed including it on a list of "Tier 2" items that the commission deems significant enough to warrant further discussion.

He reiterated that point at the Oct. 28, 2015 meeting, when the commission approved the omnibus zoning bill without making any changes to this provision.

"The way it's written allows certain projects to proceed in a way different than how they would be able to proceed after these changes, and that is going to affect people who are building homes," Alcheck said at the meeting. "Unless council said to you, 'We want you to correct this garage-placement problem' ... I don't see why our planning staff is making a decision on how a project that could have happened before should not be able to happen anymore. It just doesn't make sense to me."

Planning staff disagreed and made its case in a report last November. Allowing carports in the front portion of the lot where a garage was precluded "is anomalous to the historical application of the code," the report stated.

"Moreover, staff has found only a limited number of examples where building permits were issued that allowed carports in the front half of the lot when the neighborhood pattern clearly shows parking in the rear half," the report states. "To avoid any future misinterpretations, staff recommends adding text to clearly indicate that carports must also comply with the contextual placement requirement that apply to garages."

Alcheck participated in the Nov. 29 discussion without disclosing his pending projects and recent conflicts with city planners over this very issue. This failure to disclose caught the attention of College Terrace resident Fred Balin, who on March 5 filed a formal complaint with the city alleging that Alcheck had a conflict of interest by participating in the Nov. 29 discussion.

"Commissioner Alcheck's failure to disclose his material interest in these items constitutes a violation of the California Political Reform Act, including such instances as the item could have a substantial and material effect on his financial interest in the two properties and it also could be considered as a common law 'appearance of impropriety' forbidding his participation," Balin wrote in the March 5 complaint.

This wasn't the first time Balin took issue with Alcheck's conduct. In February, he attended a commission meeting to lodge a complaint about Alcheck's behavior during a January hearing on a new zoning district to encourage "workforce housing." Over the course of the discussion, Balin alleged, Alcheck repeatedly interrupted his colleagues and objected to the structure of the discussion. In addressing the commission on Feb. 14, Balin recapped the January meeting and concluded his remarks by asking Alcheck to resign.

Resident Jeff Levinsky also brought up the issue during the March 5 council meeting, when he argued that Alcheck's Duveneck-St. Francis neighbors are losing out because of his actions.

"They are being harmed because they bought into a neighborhood where the garages and carports are supposed to be in the back and instead the city has let them be in front," Levinsky said.

He argued that the city should prevent the carports from being enclosed or, at the very least, should specify that other homes should not place carports or garages in the front.

Gitelman said that to her knowledge, Alcheck did not use his position as a commissioner to influence the staff decision on his garage applications. And Alcheck, in response to the Weekly inquiry, said he was cleared to participate by the city's legal staff.

"With respect to the proposed code changes, I conferred with the City Attorney, prior to this item's review at the PTC level in November, to confirm that there was no impact to any of my property interests and no financial conflict," Alcheck said in an email.

But Balin's complaint raised concerns for Councilman Tom DuBois, who has requested a legal opinion on the matter.

DuBois told the Weekly that he will reserve his judgment on the legal issues. On the ethical front, Alcheck's behavior raises some concerns, DuBois said. He said he was particularly concerned about the 2015 meetings, when the commission elected not to revise the zoning code, as it pertains to "contextual garage placement" to treat carports like garages.

"Council members and commissioners and board members have to take ethical training every two years about recusal issues and not using their position for personal gain," DuBois told the Weekly. "That's my concern -- the ethical behavior. Was it done with the intent to gain financially, personally, by adding value to the home by adding garages where no garages were previously allowed?"

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Comments

130 people like this
Posted by He Built Garages!!
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 12, 2018 at 10:20 am

Our city's code defines a garage as being enclosed on two or more sides. What Alcheck built originally in the front of his two houses are enclosed on two or more sides. So they were garages! They weren't legal there -- they were supposed to be in the back like the majority of the others on those blocks.

Why did he get to build illegal garages in the first place? Why didn't he have to follow the law? It doesn't matter if these garages might also be considered carports .. they were and are garages and that makes them illegal.

Are Planning Commissioners exempt from the very laws they vote on?


123 people like this
Posted by JCP
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 12, 2018 at 10:45 am

JCP is a registered user.

Might be a good idea to not allow real estate investors/developers to be on the Planning/Transportion Committee. Inherit conflict of interest.

[Portion removed.]


13 people like this
Posted by House in order?
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 12, 2018 at 10:54 am

“Gitelman told the Weekly that while staff's initial denial was consistent with the intent of the code, the actual language considers existing carports without any reference to when they were constructed.”

Sounds like the city has work to do in regards to the clarity and specificity of their codes. If the language of the current code doesn’t prohibit the building of garages, then let the garages be built. Change the code if you want to. Until then, stop the madness.


52 people like this
Posted by Stop wasting everyone's time
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 12, 2018 at 11:29 am

Balin, Levinsky and DuBois are just wasting everyone's time and tax money here.

"Gitelman said that to her knowledge, Alcheck did not use his position as a commissioner to influence the staff decision on his garage applications. And Alcheck, in response to the Weekly inquiry, said he was cleared to participate by the city's legal staff."

City planning and legal staff said there was no issue - Sure, maybe we need to clarify the language but there are applications submitted daily where HOMEOWNERS, not just developers, take advantage of the language for their benefit. That's the way the system works.

The self-proclaimed watchdogs need to keep their disdain of Alcheck under control. The fact that these three are at the root of the concern tells me there is nothing to see here and we can all just move on.


103 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 12, 2018 at 11:40 am

Unbelievable. A conflict of interest and he is on the same planning commission?

What happened to leadership with integrity? What happened to acting as a leader should?

When one has power and leadership roles they fill, they should also surround themselves with people who will keep them accountable and acting full of integrity.

There should also be a system of checks and balances to ensure corruption doesn't ensue.

There should be consequences to corruption and conflict of interest behaviors. This should NOT be tolerated at any level.


105 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 12, 2018 at 11:46 am

Commissioner should resign.

This type of corruption at the city level should not be tolerated. This is not the type of city we want. Corrupt self serving behavior, at tax payer's expense while padding one's wallet is not what our tax payer's dollars should go towards.


6 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 12, 2018 at 11:54 am

Won’t an enclosed garage count against his total square footage?


22 people like this
Posted by Harry Merkin
a resident of Ventura
on Mar 12, 2018 at 12:01 pm

[Post removed.]


99 people like this
Posted by Wow
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 12, 2018 at 12:18 pm

That carport looks like it was only intended to ever be a garage. This is potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars of value that he actively argued for on the PTC, that he influenced other PTC commissioners to support. Seems way over the line from an ethical perspective. Does anyone remember the ARB member who thought she was rescuing an abandoned flower pot and resigned over the appearance of an ethics issue?

This appears to be clear lobbying for personal gain. Mr Balin mentioned that Alcheck's sister, who's probably an investor in these properties wrote a letter to the PTC on the issue and Sue Monk highlighted it, saying we should consider this carefully. It all seems shady. Council need to clean up starting with Alcheck's resignation.

Beyond this clear corruption he has been highly disrespectful on the PTC as well. [Portion removed.]


29 people like this
Posted by Bogus
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 12, 2018 at 12:20 pm

Another hysterical attack piece from the weekly. Stop wasting everyone's time summed it up quite nicely. Nothing to see here except the weekly trying to stir the pot.
Harry merkin- no corruption. [Portion removed.]


27 people like this
Posted by Stop wasting everyone's time
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 12, 2018 at 12:21 pm

Resident - He absolutely should not resign. That's a ridiculous suggestion. Just look at the facts. [Portion removed.]

Alcheck may not promote a perspective you agree with but I, along with what appears to be most of Palo Alto and the majority of the Council, appreciate the well educated and more progressive direction he supports. You may dislike him because of his opinions but this transparent attack [portion removed] will fall short. Staff and legal from the City have already confirmed there was no issue.

[Portion removed.]


82 people like this
Posted by Michael Morganstern
a resident of Professorville
on Mar 12, 2018 at 12:24 pm

[Portion removed due to removal of referenced post.]

Alcheck needs to resign, and Kniss and Greg Scharff need to be voted out of office.

Anyone with personal real estate interests (other than their personal residence) should not be on the council nor the planning commission.


64 people like this
Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 12, 2018 at 12:34 pm

Mr Alcheck has a history of pushing development and offending the surrounding area:
Web Link

[Portion removed.]
Commissioner Susan Monk supports him. Need to observe her votes.


18 people like this
Posted by Bogus
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 12, 2018 at 12:48 pm

Michael morgasnstern-- what you are suggesting, re personal real estate interest is probably illegal. But go ahead and push the council for new rules excluding non pasz supporters. Also get a recall started for kniss and scharff. It seems that these days the rallying cry for the anti- progress people is to try to ban people from serving


78 people like this
Posted by Values
a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 12, 2018 at 12:50 pm

Look the other direction? Ignore watchdogs who work for nothing to better our city, and fawn over a real estate lawyer on the planning commission who is clearly in a position to benefit his clients from his post on a this powerful board, and doing so for himself as well?

Does that look like a carport?

Pro-development is not the same as progressive.


62 people like this
Posted by Kya
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 12, 2018 at 1:01 pm

Thank you Tom, where are the rest of the CC, and our City Manager. Thank you to Jonathon Lait for holding the line. I feel that this commissioner should be fired. [Portion removed.] It’s so sad we live in a town that has been completely taken over by development interests. Difficult to ignore prevailing mentality of homes only value is how much equity/profit one can make on the sale price.


34 people like this
Posted by Samuel L.
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 12, 2018 at 1:07 pm

Samuel L. is a registered user.

Isn´t this the house on Phillips?

Web Link

Sure looks like a garage.

Here it is in construction phase.
Web Link


95 people like this
Posted by anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 12, 2018 at 1:31 pm

This is about ethics not politics. If you think it is about politics, then I suggest you need an ethics check yourself.

The article states: "Alcheck participated in the Nov. 29 discussion without disclosing his pending projects and recent conflicts with city planners over this very issue."

Gennady's article is persuasive as to Alcheck's crossing the ehthica line as a Planning Commissioner, engaging = in self-dealing to enrich himself. He clearly did this given the timing of the permitting process for his garages and the code clean-up Item he considered as a Commissioner who didn't recuse himself. He didn't need anyone to tell him he was compromised - his training as a Commissioner and as an attorney would have told him that. He chose to ignore that.

He should resign immediately. If he does not, the city council should remove him - they have that power. He serves at the pleasure of the council who appointed him. Otherwise, he has years left on his current term. [Portion removed.]

Furthermore, we apparently need to find out if our Director of Planning Gitelman and City Attorney Stump did enable his unethical behavior as he states as quoted here:

"Gitelman [Dir. of Planning] said that to her knowledge, Alcheck did not use his position as a commissioner to influence the staff decision on his garage applications."
"And Alcheck, in response to the Weekly inquiry, said he was cleared to participate by the city's legal staff."

If they did give Alcheck a flyer on this as he says, they too need to be disciplined by the City Council who has that power. We cannot have senior staff enabling unethical behavior in City Hall.


21 people like this
Posted by Bogus
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 12, 2018 at 1:48 pm

Anon- you claim that he should resign, yet you ignore that the city attorney cleared him to participate. So help realized that he may have a problem, checked on if it was, found out it was. Sounds like the system worked.
If you have a problem still then get the rules changed. [Portion removed.]


54 people like this
Posted by Stew Pid
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 12, 2018 at 2:10 pm

Alcheck needs to:
a) Apologize
b) Resign
[Portion removed.]


47 people like this
Posted by Novelera
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 12, 2018 at 2:17 pm

Novelera is a registered user.

This sure looks like the same old, same old carport game. Developer A builds a house at the very limits of the FAR allowed for the lot size. Our screwy building code allows him to build a carport, which does not count in the FAR limit. Later on the owner, presumably with the "wink, wink" assistance of the original developer, converts that carport into a garage and exceeds the original limit on the FAR ratio for the property.


40 people like this
Posted by Bill
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 12, 2018 at 2:26 pm

> the city attorney cleared him to participate

You misunderstand the role of the City Attorney. The City Attorney does not police City Council or the Council's appointed officers. Furthermore, the City Attorney does not act as a local court, doling out decisions which are legally binding.

The City Attorney provides legal advice. Council members and others can disagree with the City Attorney's legal opinion. In fact, council members have an obligation to do so under their oath of office.

So, Mr Alcheck's actions and behavior and not "bogus". The issues indicate a serious violation of ethics by Mr Alcheck.


2 people like this
Posted by Harry Merkin
a resident of Ventura
on Mar 12, 2018 at 2:30 pm

[Post removed.]


26 people like this
Posted by Bogus
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 12, 2018 at 2:41 pm

Here is the usual progression of events:

1. The Weekly publishes another biased, one-sided articles designed to punish those not marching in lockstep with the anti-everything faction of the council
2. PASZ mobilizes its followers who flood the TSF with calls for said person (alchemy/kniss/wolbach/scharff/anyone else that has disagreed with PASZ) to resign
3. said posters flood TSF with claims of corruption.
4. repeat as necessary

Remember the story of the little boy that cried wolf???


39 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 12, 2018 at 2:42 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

@Resident, thanks for posting that 4-year-old article entitled "Los Altos official blasts Palo Alto planning commissioner" and what's been happening in Palo Alto re development in spite of our protests:

"They hear the word 'developer' and they start picketing,'" Alcheck said.

In response, Commissioner Ken Lorell said it was "really amusing to me that a member of the Palo Alto planning commission would come here and lecture us on how we should build our buildings when the stuff that has been going on in Palo Alto is absolutely amazing." The commission ultimately turned the project down."


55 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 12, 2018 at 2:45 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

@Bogus, I haven't gotten anything from PASZ or any other organization although I sure wish there were groups that did send out something about the continued ethical abuses.

By the way, what's happening with the investigation into election abuses?


16 people like this
Posted by What ever it takes!
a resident of Ventura
on Mar 12, 2018 at 2:45 pm

[Post removed.]


6 people like this
Posted by Justice will be served...
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 12, 2018 at 3:09 pm

Either he did something wrong or he didn't. There's no sense in calling for his resignation until we know for sure. If he didn't do anything wrong then the suggestion that he did or the effort to call for his resignation regardless of the truth is also unethical!!!


23 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 12, 2018 at 3:59 pm

Potential financial conflicts of interest are supposed to be apparent under state law by viewing the Form 700 disclosure forms that all officials are required to provide annually. Does anyone know what Alcheck’s forms show?


58 people like this
Posted by Fair is fair
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 12, 2018 at 4:17 pm

Three years ago, a pro-resident commissioner was hounded into resigning because she took a pot from the front of a house that looked abandoned and had a demolition notice out front for weeks, and loaded it onto her "getaway" BICYCLE on video. She was salvaging a pot and made an understandable mistake, but you would have thought from the pro-development crowd that she had robbed a bank.

By the commissioner-shoukd-have-known-better standard exhibited in that case, Alcheck should resign and be subject of an ethics investigation. [Portion removed.]

Thanks to Fred Balin for his time as a citizen watchdog - please consider starting a recall on the failure to disclose during the election.

[Portion removed.]


11 people like this
Posted by Stop wasting everyone's time
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 12, 2018 at 5:27 pm

Novelera

Sorry but you are wrong - Carports count in FAR just as a garage does. Please get your facts straight. See paragraph (b) Web Link


15 people like this
Posted by Stop wasting everyone's time
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 12, 2018 at 5:38 pm

Fair is fair

The ARB member walked onto a person's porch and took their property without asking. Whether you call that stealing or not she was clearly trespassing and taking something that belonged to someone else. There was no bias or politics involved. Calling the momentum for her to resign as a pro-development effort is just #fakenews.

How can you even compare these? Alcheck obeyed the rules, got the required clearance and moved forward with construction as the process dictates. He did not break any laws and has the support of the City on this.


41 people like this
Posted by margaret heath
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 12, 2018 at 6:29 pm

According to the Post. "City Attorney Molly Stump didn't return a request to confirm whether she had signed off on Alcheck's participation in the discussion."


39 people like this
Posted by Fred Balin
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 12, 2018 at 7:10 pm

Fred Balin is a registered user.

Resident,
Completed Palo Form 700s can be accessed via Web Link .

Planning & Transportation Commissioner Michael Alcheck's 6th yearly form was filed last week. For the past four years, he lists the Phillips Road property, the one up for sale, on a Schedule B form ('Interests in Real Property").

He owns the Madison Way property, but is not required to list that on his Form 700.

He has listed no other sources of economic interest on any of his filings.


14 people like this
Posted by Honestly
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 12, 2018 at 9:03 pm

I think there are many residents (like a couple hundred) who desperately want this to be true. And I completely understand why they feel that way. Mr. Alcheck has promoted the idea that Palo Alto should allow, nay encourage, greater residential development nearly every time he opens his mouth.

When he first suggested that California Ave. was an appropriate place for high-density residential development, I winced. I thought who is this guy and why does he want to ruin our town. And I would be lying if I told you that I wasn’t emboldened by many of the comments on this forum that attacked him by alleging he was in it for himself or for his developer friends or for whatever else someone could accuse him of.

Then the day of reckoning came. The day my daughter, a grown woman, and her husband began their search for housing in Palo Alto. They make more than double what my husband and I made at their age and as you can easily guess, their search was a short one. Slowly at first and then quickly they expanded there search city by city, first to Menlo Park and Los Altos, then to Mountain View and Redwood City, and then to Sunnyvale and Belmont, ultimately buying a small townhome in Pleasanton - I realized, too late, that this crisis is personal. And I know what your thinking, Pleasanton isn’t so far and isn’t bad. You’re right, but my daughter and her husband do very well. Where would those less fortunate go? How much farther away?

I don’t know why Mr. Alcheck believes so strongly in supporting more housing development but I have no reason to believe its for nefarious reasons. In fact, after the experience my daughter had in 2014 looking for a home, I realized that there was far more at risk in opposing housing development than in supporting it.

I don’t always find his approach appropriate but I also wonder sometimes if he’s simply angry. The way my daughter is angry. And now, the way I’m angry. To read about these relatively small projects that meet near complete resistance by those who believe they are supporting sensible zoning policy, it is not hard to imagine his frustration.

So I accept Mr. Alcheck’s rough approach and give him a pass. For he has been doing all the heavy lifting for me and my daughter and the many individuals who feel like they have no voice, or the requisite muscle and stamina to contend with the opposition day in and day out.

It is in this context that I try to understand the events recounted in this article and in Fred Balin’s accusations. It took me nearly the entire day to find it but under the Political Reform Act, the financial effect on a parcel of real property by a government action is deemed “material” whenever the decision would “cause a reasonable prudent person, using due care and consideration under the circumstances, to believe that the governmental decision was of such nature that its reasonably foreseeable effect would influence the market value of the official’s property.”

With that in mind, I ask those responsible for investigating:
1) Did the meetings Mr. Alcheck participated in relate to something that changed the value of the projects he had already begun? And if so, how?

2) And if his projects were approved prior to the meetings then how could he have benefited from the discussions in a way that would be any different from any of the other commissioners participating? Don’t the discussions affect their properties too?

After reading this article, its impossible to know if this investigation is a waste of time, but I am confident that there are answers to these questions and they will either exonerate Mr. Alcheck or implicate him.

Until that happens, I will not only reserve judgment, I will give him the benefit of the doubt. Mr. Alcheck, I hope you will cooperate with any investigation and more importantly I hope you clear your name because the work you have done on our commission deserves a fighter like you.


13 people like this
Posted by Joe
a resident of another community
on Mar 12, 2018 at 9:31 pm

[Post removed.]


41 people like this
Posted by Fred Balin
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 12, 2018 at 10:34 pm

Fred Balin is a registered user.

Honestly,

Re: Your #1 above:
What is the incremental value of a home with attached garage in the front as opposed to a carport?

Re: Your #2 above:
The building plans, which included the placement of "carports" in the front, were indeed approved prior to the 2015 Planning Commission meetings related to the topic.

However, in 2017, no permits for the applications for conversion of each "carport" to a garage had been issued when the Planning Commission met at the end of November, when carports and garages were again discussed and Commissioner Alcheck again did not disclose or recuse.

And FYI, in addition, and for what it's worth:
Two months earlier (and therefore also prior to the issuance of any permit for conversion), the "carports" were, in fact, converted into full garages, and remained that way temporarily until neighbors complained to the city. Shortly after, the garage doors were taken off their railings and stored inside the structures, where they now sit, patiently awaiting the end of the city's current "hold" on the permits, which is slated to end on Thursday.


46 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 12, 2018 at 10:57 pm

@Fred Balin
That is interesting information about the garage doors having been installed illegally. If true, that would mean that the front faces of the garages were constructed to accommodate future garage doors. Carport rules only allow construction of two walls, so it appears that the garage front was constructed illegally and with the intention from the outset to manipulate what he thought was a loophole in the code.
Also, the current Google Streetview image appears to show the “carports” are attached to a wall of the house, giving them three side rather than the two legally allowed. There is also a door visible through the rear of the “carport” into the house which is not permitted for carports.
Whether one agrees with these rules or not, it is looking like a Commissioner has deliberately violated the zoning rules for his personal financial gain.


12 people like this
Posted by Stop wasting everyone's time
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 12, 2018 at 11:05 pm

Honestly - I'm with you - my kids are never going to be able to live here because of all the NIMBY'ism we are struggling with. I'm hoping to build an ADU to help solve the little bit of the problem I can.

Fred Balin -

*What is the incremental value of a home with attached garage in the front as opposed to a carport?

It's certainly a lot less than all the money our city is going to waste on addressing your complaint...but I understand the projects had not yet begun so this is not even relevant.

*The building plans, which included the placement of "carports" in the front, were indeed approved prior to the 2015 Planning Commission meetings related to the topic.

Right - no error or reach or inappropriate behavior here - again, this is a non-issue (but sure seems personal somehow...)

*However, in 2017, no permits for the applications for conversion of each "carport" to a garage had been issued when the Planning Commission met at the end of November, when carports and garages were again discussed and Commissioner Alcheck again did not disclose or recuse.

When these issues were being discussed, my recollection is that with the exception of Rosenblum, all were in favor so creating an issue out of Alcheck's position seems misplaced. If permits had not yet been filed, where is the need to disclose? Does he also need to disclose, 4 years from now, he *might* develop another property? That's just not how it works.


13 people like this
Posted by Stop wasting everyone's time
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 12, 2018 at 11:25 pm

Resident -

Please get your facts straight -

Here is the requirement for carport design from the definitions:
"(24.5) "Carport" means a portion of a principal residential building or an accessory building to a residential use designed to be utilized for the shelter of one or more motor vehicles, which is open (unenclosed) on two or more sides including on the vehicular entry side, and which is covered with a solid roof."

"Open (unenclosed) on two or more sides" is exactly what this was. It had openings on the front and the side yard side. The municipal code does not describe 'walls' but rather just areas where the structure is not enclosed. There is flexibility here in the language meant to facilitate design and character. The wording is not specific so as not to have just posts on corners supporting a roof. In all the photos I have seen there were 2 locations which were open to the elements. This meets the requirements, and many carport structures similar to this have been approved all over Palo Alto. He's not 'getting away' with something. He's doing what any clever and thoughtful builder would do within the constraints of the code.


8 people like this
Posted by Stop wasting everyone's time
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 12, 2018 at 11:38 pm

Joe - OF COURSE *Honestly* supports someone who supports her agenda. Do you vote for people who forward agendas that will cause you to lose your job? limit your ability to save money or increase your wealth? cause regulations and laws that offend or upset you?

There's the paradoxical element.


48 people like this
Posted by Ethics
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 13, 2018 at 12:05 am

There seems to be a lot of focus on legality in this discussion. The issue is ethics and whether one ought to recuse oneself where the appearance of a conflict exists. Disclosure is also prudent.

There was no disclosure that he was using a loophole in the very code he was revising.

There was no disclosure that his family invested in property taking advantage of the loophole

There is no disclosure of a source of income which is required for a commissioner.

There is no disclosure of any investments other than one. Stock ownership for example must be revealed and is by all other commissioners and board members in the city. His filings are shockingly blank

Ethically he does not appear to be complying with our standards.


2 people like this
Posted by Took the bait...
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 13, 2018 at 12:22 am

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


46 people like this
Posted by Facts
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 13, 2018 at 8:25 am

He never applied for a permit to put the garage doors on until AFTER he had put them on and the neighbors complained. For his 'spec' house, the first day it was on the market (August?) his realtor was telling potential buyers that asked about why such a house didn't have a garage "don't worry, the garage doors are on order and they'll be installed shortly." [Content removed] For a person that helps write the rules, that's unethical. And if you get caught breaking the rules you helped write, you at least be honest about your intent.


31 people like this
Posted by Ethics
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 13, 2018 at 9:28 am

Standards From the FPPC web site. The City should investigate whether he talked to and influenced other commissioners as well as city staff which is the agency he supports. Conflict includes contacting the city to influence the process.


The City of Palo Alto has its own policies which outline a higher ethical standard.

Recusal Requirements

An official with a disqualifying conflict of interest may not make, participate in making, or use his or her position to influence a governmental decision. When appearing before his or her own agency or an agency subject to the authority or budgetary control of his or her agency, an official is making, participating in making, or using his or her position to influence a decision any time the official takes any action to influence the decision including directing a decision, voting, providing information or a recommendation, or contacting or appearing before any other agency official. When appearing before any other agency, the official must not act or purport to act in his or her official capacity or on behalf of his or her agency.

Certain officials (including city council members, planning commissioners, and members of the boards of supervisors) have a mandated manner in which they must disqualify from decisions made at a public meeting (including closed session decisions) and must publicly identify a conflict of interest and leave the room before the item is discussed.


9 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 13, 2018 at 9:46 am

Public employees, and, elected officials, have (different) standards of behavior, legal as well as ethical, that apply in situations like this. What standards apply to planning commissioners?


60 people like this
Posted by Fred Balin
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 13, 2018 at 10:04 am

Fred Balin is a registered user.

Resident writes:
"That is interesting information about the garage doors having been installed illegally. If true, that would mean that the front faces of the garages were constructed to accommodate future garage doors. Carport rules only allow construction of two walls, so it appears that the garage front was constructed illegally and with the intention from the outset to manipulate what he thought was a loophole in the code."

You are right on the money on at least one and arguably both points:

1.) As the very first commenter on this thread stated, what the city (somehow and for some reason) allowed in approving these plans were, in fact, garages by the city's own definition, and illegal on those lots.

2.) With regard to "intent from the outset to manipulate," below I have updated my capsule summary to the city council on March 5 to include new information from Palo Alto Online's investigative piece and the item I stated above and that you reference. You all be the judges.


He employs a loophole in the (contextual garage placement) code to build a carport in the front half of each property, but the city-approved plans (of June 2015), instead, show garages that are illegal on those lots.

He does not recuse nor disclose, but instead works to table discussion of this code when it comes before him as a commissioner (Sept - Nov 2015).

After construction, he files applications to convert the "carports" into garages (Aug 2017). Prior to the issuance of any permit, the conversion is completed. Neighbors subsequently complain, the city intervenes, and the garage doors are taken off and stored within each structure (Sept). The city then denies the application (Oct).

He then engages an attorney who demands that the city allow the conversion under the argument that the allowance of carports in the front of his two R-1 lots two years prior, has changed the context of the neighborhood, and therefore garages are now allowed in the front (Nov). In other words, use of the first loophole, creates a new context to directly contradict what the code did not allow when he submitted his building plans in 2015.

When the topic of contextual placement and definitions of carport and garages return to him and the commission, and with no permit yet issued, again he does recuse or disclose (Nov).

The city gives in, allows the permit, but places it on hold on hold until Mach 15 as "staff believed it was appropriate to approve the garage conversions effective after a reasonable period of time has passed since the carports' construction."


Conclusion:
Michael Alcheck needs to leave the Planning & Transportation Commission, and the public needs to know how and why the garages masking as carports were approved. The only thing that can prevent this from happening is a repetition of the timidity that the city has exhibited during this shenanigan. Do not let that happen to you. Write directly to the council ( city.council@cityofpaloalto.org ), planning director ( hillary.gitelman@cityofpaloalto.org ), city attorney ( molly.stump@cityofpaloalto.org ), and city manager ( james.keene@cityofpaloalto.org ), and tell them what you think, and also contact your respected friends to do the same.

Thank you.


9 people like this
Posted by Stop wasting everyone's time
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 13, 2018 at 10:46 am

Fred Balin -

Let's all just be plain about this...Maybe the code is written in a vague, and perhaps even sloppy manner but this guy followed the code. Nothing devious in that, just a smart builder and something any other homeowner could do. Sounds like when the door installer was notified, they took off the doors, applied for the correct permit and got it. There are thousands of projects going on in Palo Alto today without permit that are much more concerning than adding a garage door. We've had entire ADU's constructed without permit. Again, a door permit was immediately approved. You have created an issue out of nothing to service your agenda of limiting growth. It's totally transparent. You are not helping our city in any way with this nonsense.


38 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 13, 2018 at 11:01 am

Posted by Stop wasting everyone's time, a resident of Downtown North

>> Let's all just be plain about this...Maybe the code is written in a vague, and perhaps even sloppy manner but this guy followed the code.

Not everyone agrees with you. But, the real question at hand is not the building code, it is the ethics code. Does the following (from above) apply to planning commissioners?

"An official with a disqualifying conflict of interest may not make, participate in making, or use his or her position to influence a governmental decision. (etc)"


40 people like this
Posted by Fred Balin
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 13, 2018 at 11:26 am

Fred Balin is a registered user.

Here's what the FPPC states: Web Link

Next is the latest document I can find from the city (from Sept 2016); looks like you need to contact the city clerk's office for specifics. Web Link

State mandated (AB1234) ethics training is also required for local officials: Web Link


19 people like this
Posted by Novelera
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 13, 2018 at 12:50 pm

Novelera is a registered user.

[Portion removed.]


27 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 13, 2018 at 2:34 pm

@Stop Wasting...
I was confused by your claim that that the so called “carports” were unenclosed on two sides and that they were compliant to the code. Upon review of the Google Streetview photo, it is clear that there is a wall constructed on the side yard side. It does appear to have a framed window opening without the window installed.
You claim that the code “does not describe walls but just rather areas where the structure is not enclosed”. It is now clear that you are arguing that the presence of a window frame opening in a solid wall makes it not a wall and not enclosed. Wow, good luck with that claim.
[Portion removed]


50 people like this
Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 13, 2018 at 3:20 pm

Ethics, what a novel concept! Let's talk more about ETHICS in this city. We seldom refer to ethical behavior, perhaps because some think it is "a waste of time."

Mr. Alcheck is a great example. In his Form 700 filed 3/5/18 - just a few days ago - after questions about his ethics were raised.
He doesn't list his home address, only the Parcel number, and no other assets.
NO ASSETS? NO INCOME?

He worked at Goodwin Proctor LLP, national law firm specializing in real estate. He now works for a Bay Area property management firm.
NO ASSETS? NO INCOME? ONLY a 3 million dollar home?
Pants on fire.


5 people like this
Posted by Stop wasting everyone's time
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 13, 2018 at 3:52 pm

Novelera - not that I owe an explanation, since so many here are equally passionate about tearing Alcheck down before any proof is given or decision made, but I'm just a resident. I appreciate his stance and don't want him to alter his approach or opinions. [Portion removed.]

Resident - I understand your confusion - the language is not specific enough - but I understand the way the Planning Department interprets the carport rules is to define "open (unenclosed)" as being more than 50% open. That's the fact. No need for me repeat it even one more time.


9 people like this
Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 13, 2018 at 4:04 pm

[Post removed.]


44 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 13, 2018 at 4:40 pm

Annette is a registered user.

Excerpt from article:
On Dec. 5, staff issued permits for garages at both properties. But in doing so, it specified that Alcheck cannot start construction until March 15. Gitelman said that in issuing the permit, staff still had concerns that the timing of the conversion from carport to garage "was effectively subverting the intent of the code related to garage placement."

To address this concern, staff believed it was appropriate to approve the garage conversions effective after a reasonable period of time has passed since the carports' construction," Gitelman said. [end of excerpt]

I do not understand the reasoning for the imposed delay. Either something is okay to build or it is not. Similarly, plans either comply or they do not. If Staff was concerned in December that the timing of the conversion was "effectively subverting the intent of the code" what about that did they expect to change by March 15???


6 people like this
Posted by jh
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Mar 13, 2018 at 5:52 pm

jh is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


44 people like this
Posted by Fred Balin
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 13, 2018 at 5:56 pm

Fred Balin is a registered user.

Stop Wasting ...,

Do you have any comment or insight regarding Alcheck's hiring of attorney David Lanferman to compel the city to allow the “carport” to garage conversions during the period when he is also representing Sand Hill Property Co. against the city in efforts to rescind fines assessed to the developer for leaving Edgewood Plaza void of a grocer for three years, in contravention of the Planned Community ordinance?


27 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 13, 2018 at 8:40 pm

@Stop Wasting...
Thanks for clarifying that your claim of how staff defines a garage is based your understanding that the Planning Dept interprets the Code as that “walls” must be at least 50% open. It’s interesting how you evolved in one sentence from saying “I understand the way the Planning Dept interprets the carport rules” to claiming in the following sentence that your understanding is “a fact”. Either way, I will assume you have very firsthand knowledge of this specific issue. However, I finally went by the house today and the long window opening on the side yard facing side is clearly less than 50% of the wall area so the wall makes the structure a garage despite claims by you and Alcheck.
Also, anyone can see that the front of the structure was clearly designed and constructed with the intention to accommodate a garage door, which an earlier poster explained had been installed illegally and then removed. It looks like a garage and quacks like a garage. I think it’s a garage.


23 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 13, 2018 at 9:41 pm

Anybody who has paid attention to Michael Alcheck's actions on the PTC understands exactly what they're getting. That includes all the city council, both those who voted to reappoint him and those who voted against.

To those who felt the PTC should have had a different makeup: a 5-4 council majority disagreed with you.

To those who would give power to chaotic individuals because they think they share some views: the chaos may outlast the views.


74 people like this
Posted by Teddie
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 13, 2018 at 10:32 pm

Teddie is a registered user.

I have walked my dog by both of the properties on Madison and Phillips for years now and have witnessed the construction process first hand. It is clear as to what Mr Allcheck did and you really have to ask yourself a simple question ...why did he do it ? Real estate selling for $1,500 to $2,000 dollars a square foot is why.

He first constructed the "carports" as approved by the City which allowed them to be placed in the front of the homes which in turn gave him more lot space in the rear of the properties to build more house square footage or in the case of the Phillips property more yard space and perhaps more square footage.

I noticed that the "open" wall as required by the City carport rules on the home on Madison was filled in almost immediately upon his family moving in and within a week or so a garage door magically appeared and what had been technically a "carport" was now a garage. He know exactly what he was doing. Ask yourself how long did it take him to order a custom garage door ? A month, three months? By his actions alone he subverted the Cities requirements not even waiting a month before boldly installing a garage door on a carport. To be honest if he had waited a couple of months perhaps a year I could see him maybe getting away with it. But a month after putting us neighbors through years of construction. Bold indeed.

How much do you think a carport is worth in real estate value? Not $1,5000 a square foot as a non enclosed space maybe say half that value. But by installing a $1,500.00 garage door he then pushes the value back up to $1,500.00 per square foot for a typical garage of 400 square feet. He has just added $300,000.00 of value to the home. Quite a return on your investment... except what he did was illegal according to the Cities Planning codes. Codes he knew quite wall; being a developer, apparently a former Real Estate lawyer, and a member of the Cities planning commission.

He has the lawyers and means to battle the City and will eventually get what he wanted along. The City has no "teeth" in their law and punishment for such offensives is what? [Portion removed.]




65 people like this
Posted by Rebecca Eisenberg
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 14, 2018 at 12:24 am

My father, a retired federal judge, always insisted -- and taught us -- that ethics is all about perception. It does not matter if an act is technically legal or technically illegal if it creates a perception of the possibility of conflict of interest. We need to trust our leaders, he said, and there cannot be trust without the highest level of integrity. When my father was appointed to the Bench, for that reason he cut many ties with his closest friends -- former colleagues and clients -- in order to achieve the perception of fairness, whether cutting those ties was fully necessary or not.

Given this is how I was raised -- and what I believe myself -- I don't think this is a close call. Not only does Alcheck have the *perception* of conflict of interest, he has a *genuine* conflict of interest. Whether or not he was technically in violation of the rules, or whether or not he obtained permission from the City Attorney or any other source is irrelevant. His decisions to conceal his property interests and to vote on matters that impact him directly creates a perception of possible conflict. Having applied to serve on this Commission myself 4 times over the past 4 years, I am baffled and dismayed to read this news. Is integrity a quality that the City Council desires in a Commissioner? Couldn't they do better?


7 people like this
Posted by Justice will be served...
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 14, 2018 at 12:58 am

If you are correct in your assertions Rebecca than the investigation Fred has requested will demonstrate that. But I was raised (as I suspect you were) to respect an accused's right to due process. So I intend to make my demand for resignation once the investigation is completed. That seems like the more ethical response.


60 people like this
Posted by Leslie
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 14, 2018 at 2:24 am

@Justice, I think you missed the point of Rebecca's post. Mr Alcheck's actions demonstrate poor ethical judgement. He's compromised himself. And, his presence on the Planning and Transportation Commission taints the group's actions. While there's probably value in completing an investigation by an outside party, the determination of any legal or illegal actions is mostly irrelevant. Everyone understands that Mr Alcheck is not going to jail for buying a garage door.

[Portion removed.]

Pro-development members of the City Council might laughingly try claim that is all politics. [Portion removed.]


6 people like this
Posted by Justice will be served...
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 14, 2018 at 7:24 am

I think you miss my point. What Mr. Alcheck is accused of demonstrates poor ethical judgment. However I do not for one moment believe everything I read in the paper and especially not in these comment sections. Being accused and being guilty are not the same. Your rush to adjudicate on this forum is very problematic to me.


69 people like this
Posted by Crescent Park Mom
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 14, 2018 at 10:28 am

On Jul 16, 2017, I went to an open house for the Phillips property. At the open house, the realtor said the garage doors were on order and would be installed any day. Days later, the garage door tracks were installed. This is long before the approvals and planning discussions. This proves that he intended all along to put those doors up and was “gaming” the system. Given he is on the planning commission, this crosses the line for me.


64 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 14, 2018 at 11:06 am

Online Name is a registered user.

@Justice, let's not forget that several of the CC members who voted for Alcheck are / were themselves under investigation. Leslie and Rebecca are absolutely right that appearance of conflict of interest counts almost as much as actual conflict of interest. People on the media used to get fired for accepting freebies and other acts that could be seen as conflicts because they felt that credibility matters.

Speaking of which, when will the organization overseeing Santa Clara elections finally rule on the Mayor's campaign irregularities?

Why does Tom Dubois have to recuse himself on votes because his wife works at Stanford in some unknown position but not council members and commissioners who are themselves developers and real estate lawyers?


55 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 14, 2018 at 3:19 pm

Annette is a registered user.

One sure way to stop development shenanigans would be to require that anything gained by gaming the system be demolished. There's waste associated with that, sure, but it would only have to happen once or twice for developers of all sizes to realize that they need to straighten up and fly right.


29 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 14, 2018 at 3:39 pm

Posted by Annette, a resident of College Terrace

>> One sure way to stop development shenanigans would be to require that anything gained by gaming the system be demolished. There's waste associated with that, sure, but it would only have to happen once or twice for developers of all sizes to realize that they need to straighten up and fly right.

Over the years, I've heard many stories from people who lived in places with strict code enforcement about agencies actually doing this. That was in the old days, though; I don't see it happening today. The -zeitgeist- is "the cult of the real estate developer".


66 people like this
Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 14, 2018 at 6:47 pm

If Teddie's timeline (see above) is correct, Mr. Alcheck's actions show not just a willingness to bend the regulations for financial gain, but contempt for the regulations as well.


8 people like this
Posted by AP
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Mar 14, 2018 at 6:58 pm

[Post removed.]


58 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 14, 2018 at 11:39 pm

Hopefully, the city attorney will interview Susan Monk to determine if her strong advocacy in support of the comments made by Alcheck’s sister were done at the behest of Alcheck. If so, did Alcheck encourage Monk to act as his surrogate to conceal his conflict of interest and did Monk willingly collaborate with him to conceal those conflicts?


52 people like this
Posted by Ethics
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 15, 2018 at 9:53 am

Someone told me recently that Sue Monk was Liz's campaign manager during the hiding/misreporting of developer donations to the campaign. Does anyone know if this is true?


37 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 15, 2018 at 10:01 am

Online Name is a registered user.

And the CC continues to pack all of the commissions and new bureaucracies with their uber-growth buddies. [Portion removed.]


41 people like this
Posted by anon
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Mar 15, 2018 at 10:38 am

@ ethics,

Yes, Sue Monk was campaign manager for the Kniss campaign


32 people like this
Posted by Crescent Park Mom
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 15, 2018 at 12:37 pm

I just happened to drive by and there are guys there now installing the garage door. Comedy!


32 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 15, 2018 at 1:29 pm

[Portion removed.] Does anyone know of Monk having any prior civic service or planning and transportation expertise prior to her appointment?


34 people like this
Posted by Lol
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 15, 2018 at 8:38 pm

No. She doesn’t even seem familiar with Roberts rules of Order


31 people like this
Posted by Teddie
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 15, 2018 at 9:09 pm

Teddie is a registered user.

There you go !. He got what he wanted all along and the City does nothing about it. The City Planning Department develops a policy to "protect" the established feel of a neighborhood, in this case maintaining garage locations in the back of lots. He pretends to play by the rules; planning, developing and building TWO homes with Carports... enough said. Low and behold both homes in less than six months upon completion have garages in front. Whoa how did that happen... I thought that wasn't allowed? I thought that was illegal. Apparently not.


30 people like this
Posted by Teddie
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 15, 2018 at 9:16 pm

Teddie is a registered user.

He got away with it... spending $20,000 in attorneys fees to establish hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of real estate. How he is going to step into that next planning meeting with any creditability? Apparently he missed the ethics seminar required by the City.


3 people like this
Posted by Justice will be served...
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 15, 2018 at 11:05 pm

I drove by the home pictured in the article today. Out of the 11 homes on the street, 10 of them had front facing garages. Seriously, what rule out there would have forbid him from having a garage. Over 90% of the homes on this street have garages. Anyone who suggests that’s he’s messed with the established feel of the neighborhood is gravely misinformed.


55 people like this
Posted by Fred Balin
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 15, 2018 at 11:10 pm

Fred Balin is a registered user.

Crescent Park Mom writes earlier today:
"I just happened to drive by and there are guys there now installing the garage door. Comedy!”

Thank you for the on-the-scene, up-to-minute update, but the closing I would append is “Scandal!”


Teddie writes just above:
"How he is going to step into that next planning meeting with any creditability?”

The incredible answer, Teddie, is that not only did he attend last night's Planning & Transportation Commission meeting, and not only did he display aspects of the inappropriate behavior he is well-known for (e.g., interrupting; dissing, discrediting, and tangling with other commissioners and staff), he took his act to a new level of arrogance and insolence by:

1) trashing a member of the public after he had addressed the commission
2) and are your ready for this — Lecturing the Planning Director!
Taking the place of her beleaguered assistant director, Jonathan Lait, near the end of first item, Alcheck directly addressed Planning Director Hillary Gitelman. Upset by the majority vote on the dais, he told her to disregard it, that she doesn’t answer to the P&TC, that she reports to the city manager, not the P&TC, and should take her cues from the city manager, correct the council as need be, as apparently the city manager did on some occasion he referenced.

He concluded by posing questions to the planning director, including for her to comment on the the quality of the preparatory work of the commissioners (the ad hoc committee) who brought forth the motion he disagreed with.

(And this is only what I recollect and others had provided me as the video is not up yet and I mistakenly did not record the meeting)

In response, the director did the right thing and said nothing, and then the chair moved the meeting along. Outrageous! is the subject line I used in my quick email to the council right after.

I called for Alcheck's resignation on Feb 14 at the P&TC, where folks allowed me their time so I could detail his bad conduct at the previous meeting. I knew there was still more to say, but then I was informed of The Case of the Properties and the Carports and shifted from process and conduct to ethics. After press coverage and this healthy blog, I thought as you did, Teddie, that there would most likely be some moderation of his manner if he indeed even showed up at last night's, next meeting. His shocking behavior followed by today's "hold-time's up" enclosure of the carport/garages speaks volumes about who he is and the desirability of his continued presence on the commission.



40 people like this
Posted by margaret heath
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Mar 16, 2018 at 12:29 am

margaret heath is a registered user.

Reading comments written by some of the unidentified posters above, especially “Stop wasting everyone’s time,” “Bogus,” and “Honestly,” is most informative. Between them they appear surprisingly familiar with the history, sequence of events, and details of Mr. Alcheck’s situation. They argue his case with such insight and so eloquently that it's almost as if they know him personally.

Because of their knowledge, I would like to ask these posters if they could share with us what information Mr. Alcheck provided the city attorney with in order to obtain a ruling that he did not have a conflict of interest? What information did the city attorney use to decide Mr. Alcheck could go ahead and participate in the P&TC code revisions intended to relax the regulations for front yard carports and garages? Or could anyone else share this information?


55 people like this
Posted by Let's Clean Up City Hall
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 16, 2018 at 8:31 am

Let's Clean Up City Hall is a registered user.

Officials who serve on our Planning Commission and other bodies should observe high ethical standards. [Portion removed] He should not have participated and voted in Planning Commissions hearing [Portion removed]

Serving on a city commission is a privilege and honor, not a way to manipulate laws so that you can benefit personally. It's time for better ethical standards in our city government. [Portion removed]


27 people like this
Posted by State Complaint
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Mar 16, 2018 at 9:03 am

Has anyone filed an FPPCcomplaint with the state of California?


40 people like this
Posted by margaret heath
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Mar 16, 2018 at 2:14 pm

margaret heath is a registered user.

Filing an FPPC complaint? According to Mr. Alcheck he was advised by the city attorney that he did not have a conflict of interest. Apparently not even the appearance of a conflict of interest, because that alone would be enough to disqualify him from participating. Perhaps this will hinge on what information Mr. Alcheck did or did not give the city attorney.

However, my question is, can the FPPC hold Mr. Alcheck responsible because he, not the city attorney, is ultimately responsible for judging whether or not a conflict of interest could be perceived?

In addition, was there an earlier P&TC meeting on code revision to allow the placement of front yard carports which Mr. Alcheck participated in after he had bought his property? Given how this situation has unfolded, does it appear that Mr. Alcheck participated in and voted at that earlier P&TC meeting in favor of allowing front yard carports while, in hindsight, perhaps planning to do just that himself? And then participated in and voted at the P&TC meeting last fall in favor of revising the code again to allow the conversion of those carports to garages?


41 people like this
Posted by Fred Balin
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 16, 2018 at 8:18 pm

Fred Balin is a registered user.

State Complaint asks:
"Has anyone filed an FPPC complaint with the state of California?”

Not yet, from this end at least. Am waiting various public records and city needed an extension until later this month.
My formal complaint to the city can be read on Pages 226 and 227 at Web Link


33 people like this
Posted by Computer Guy
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 16, 2018 at 9:43 pm

"They argue his case with such insight and so eloquently that it's almost as if they know him personally."

The could be Mr. Alcheck himself, using a mix of computers and/or VPNs to dodge the Weekly's same poster multiple names filter.


31 people like this
Posted by Fred Balin
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 17, 2018 at 8:30 am

Fred Balin is a registered user.

I wrote (above), the day before yesterday:
“ and are your ready for this — Lecturing the Planning Director!”

Pardon me, while I digress once more from the specifics of the article above and so many excellent comments and very relevant, new pieces of information:

In a near, knee-jerk reaction after viewing Item 1 of last Wednesday’s P&TC meeting (covered elsewhere on PA Weekly/Online), I wrote a brief email to the council about, what I took in as, the latest above-and-beyond "Alcheck Moment” at the dais.

The video of the meeting has been posted.
The start of a 3-minute section I am referring to can be accessed via the link below
Web Link
It begins with the words: "My last comment is directed to staff ...

Consider integrating your reaction to this in your overall email comments to the city council this weekend (city.council@cityofpaloalto.org), if it has not been sent already. The timing is crucial. (More on that later).

Thank you.


2 people like this
Posted by Bogus
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 17, 2018 at 8:59 am

[Post removed.]


21 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 17, 2018 at 1:01 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

1) "PA's direction is a 3-legged stool" -- Whatever happened to the residents / taxpayers?

2) He likes bringing things to a vote. Great. How about city-wide votes on housing, zoning, costly and dangerous traffic diets and road barriers and other controversial issues.

3) Commissions are important. Great. Let the community vote on who gets to be appointed.


5 people like this
Posted by Pasz owns
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 17, 2018 at 1:20 pm

[Post removed.]


11 people like this
Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 17, 2018 at 6:32 pm

To be helpful to Mr. Alcheck, perhaps this Bar Association
meeting might be useful:

Twenty-Second Annual Statewide Ethics Symposium
Presented by the State Bar of California Committee on
Professional Responsibility and Conduct

Friday, April 6, 2018 - 9:30 a.m. to 4:15 p.m.

State Bar of California
180 Howard St. San Francisco, CA 94105

3.75 hours of MCLE credit in Legal Ethics and 1.25 hours of MCLE credit in Recognition and Elimination of Bias! This program has been approved for legal malpractice legal specialization credit by the State Bar of California.
The registration deadline is Friday, March 30.
Further information:
Web Link


2 people like this
Posted by The calls are coming in
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 17, 2018 at 7:52 pm

[Post removed.]


36 people like this
Posted by Fred Balin
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 17, 2018 at 7:57 pm

Fred Balin is a registered user.

Thank you, Neighbor,

For starters and somewhat closer to home is a 2016 presentation (link below) from the Institute for Local Government, in which one of the two speakers was Ed Shikada, Palo Alto Assistant City Manager and member of the Cal-ICMA Ethics Committee.

For example, Slide 6, "Duty of Public Officials and Employees” lists the following two bullet points:
- To be personally disinterested in contracts, financial matters, or hearing processes in which he or she is officially responsible.
- Avoid even the appearance or possibility of a conflict.

Web Link


51 people like this
Posted by Fred Balin
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 18, 2018 at 4:36 pm

Fred Balin is a registered user.

Thank you to all of you who provided productive input into this discussion as well as new information, and a special shoutout to those who are reading this post, now over 6 days after initial publication of the article online.

Tomorrow (Monday) evening, the city council returns to consideration of the “Annual Planning Code Update,” which they began late in the evening two weeks ago (March 5), and which includes revisions to two municipal code items related to the Alcheck properties:

Item 6: Clarify that the Contextual Garage Placement Applies to Carports
Item 7: Clarification of Carport and Garage Definitions
[Summary on Staff Report page 5 at Web Link ]
[The item is scheduled to start at 8:15 pm and 2 hours and 15 minutes has been allotted. It is not clear whether the council will allow additional public comment from the podium, but you can certainly write to them via city.council@cityofpaloalto.org , so do not hesitate to do so.]

All this may be water under the bridge for residents near the Alcheck properties and the attorney acting on their behalf, who sent a letter to the city attorney on the 14th, requesting a block to any further enclosures of the vehicle-related structures at each of the two properties.

However it is still important that the matter related to the code revision be handled properly, as well as that city investigate and report how they allowed him to build what was an attached garage without a door rather than a carport, after he was able to use a loophole in the code to allow him a carport in the front where no attached garage was allowed.

In my formal complaint filed with the city at the meeting on the 5th, I wrote that Commissioner Alcheck’s presence at the Nov 29, 2017 planning commission meeting constituted a conflict of interest and the related items before the council “be tabled until it is assured that it receives a fair hearing by disinterested members of the Planning and Transportation Commission not including Commissioner Alcheck.”

That is still part of the appropriate actions that council should undertake tomorrow.

Both the article above and the one in the Daily Post provide the same response from Commissioner Alcheck regarding my assertion of conflict of interest:

"With respect to the proposed code changes, I conferred with the City Attorney, prior to this item's review at the PTC level in November, to confirm that there was no impact to any of my property interests and no financial conflict."

Since then I have received additional information that I believe confirms that he did have a conflict of interest. I have submitted it to both the city council and the press today.

Beyond the issue of FPPC violation, and the manipulative nature of this whole affair, I also refer once again to Alcheck’s inappropriate behavior at recent planning commission meetings, the matter that first brought me to complain about him in front of the commission (on 2/14) and then subsequently led to information I received regarding his property interests and the related zoning code that came before him on the commission.

So again, I ask that you draw your conclusions from all of this and submit them to the city council (city.council@cityofpaloalto.org ). They have the power to appoint, and so logically they have the power to un-appoint; and you have the power to help make sure they make the right decision.


43 people like this
Posted by A stain on the City
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 18, 2018 at 10:45 pm

Commissioner Alcheck clearly has at least the appearance of a conflict of interest and should have recused himself. Consequently, the decisions that stem from his lack of recusal are tainted.
This is similar to the legal doctrine of the fruit of a poisonous tree, which is for exclusion of evidence wrongfully obtained.


52 people like this
Posted by Becky Sanders
a resident of Ventura
on Mar 19, 2018 at 7:52 am

Becky Sanders is a registered user.

I have had my hands full over here in Ventura with NVCAP and Wilton Court, plus the half dozen or so proposed projects along El Camino and Park Boulevard that will impact our neighborhood as well as all of Palo Alto, so I haven't been following "Garagegate" as carefully as I would like so I can't comment as to all the details.

However, I have attended the last several PTC meetings to speak about NVCAP and Wilton Court, so I happened to be there both times when Mr. Balin spoke.. My jaw dropped as Mr. Balin outlined the possible ethics violations and then Mr. Levinisky stepped up at the end of one of the comment periods and flashed the two garages up on the big screen in City Hall. This is a most serious situation in that, well, to be honest if this is what's uncovered when one peeks under the stone, what else is going on down there?

For long I have been aghast at Mr. Alcheck's pompous attitude on the dais, but okay, lots of people in public office are pompous. But his recent bullying, upbraiding and abuse of colleagues and staff in public from the dais is appalling. I was hoping that someone like the City Council would give him a "time out", but with Garagegate, I believe it's time to give Mr. Alcheck "time off" from public service. Mr. Alcheck, should step down. He is a distraction to the work of the Planning Department and of the PTC and of the Council.

Thanks to Mr. Balin. He is bearing much excoriation and abuse himself for his plunge into the public arena. So much easier and safer to not get involved. At some point we have to speak out. Silence is assent and paves the road for more degradation until our democracy becomes unrecognizable, window dressing for the self-serving using political power, position and influence for personal gain.

Local politics is our best hope of influencing state and federal policies. This is where it starts. That's why it's so important to care. Great work everybody!


25 people like this
Posted by Becky Sanders
a resident of Ventura
on Mar 19, 2018 at 9:42 am

Becky Sanders is a registered user.

Oh boy I pressed submit too fast. Mr. Balin spoke before City Council when I was there to ask Council for more "residents" on the NVCAP working group. While I was there Mr. Balin presented his jaw dropping Garagegate timeline This was at the March 5 City Council Meeting:
Web Link - Outline of the events
Web Link - Pictures of the garages, presented by resident of Edgewood

The Feb 14 PTC meeting where Mr. Balin raises concerns about PTC decorum:
Web Link

The March 14 PTC meeting where staff was lectured from the dais is here:
Web Link

Thanks to everyone. Sorry for the confusion I caused by mixing up dates, meetings and who spoke to whom and said what.


24 people like this
Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 19, 2018 at 3:30 pm

Alcheck was appointed to the PTC in July 2012.

Web Link

Voting For Michael Alcheck:
Burt, Espinosa, Klein, Price, Scharff, Shepherd

Belated Thank you Mr.Scharff for yet another developer supporter.


15 people like this
Posted by Votes
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Mar 20, 2018 at 1:28 pm

He was recently reappointed. Who voted for him most recently?


27 people like this
Posted by margaret heath
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 21, 2018 at 10:48 am

Michael Alkcheck basis his claim he had no financial benefit in voting to his attached carports to become enclosed garages, including doors into the houses. S

So this is the question is. Does an enclosed attached garage, protected from the elements and with an interior door leading directly into the house, which could be used either for completely secure storage or converted into unofficial extra living space, add value when a house is sold? As opposed to having a carport open to the elements facing the street with contents visible so cannot be used either for safe storage or converted into extra unofficial living space?


20 people like this
Posted by margaret heath
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 21, 2018 at 10:54 am

correction.

Michael Alkcheck claims there would be no financial benefit to him in voting to change the code which would allow conversion of his newly constructed attached street facing carports into secure enclosed garages. Which include doors leading directly into the house.


25 people like this
Posted by Mordant deWitte
a resident of Mayfield
on Mar 21, 2018 at 12:10 pm

"Commissioner's ethics questioned"

It is impossible to question what does not exist.


26 people like this
Posted by Fred Balin
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 21, 2018 at 12:54 pm

Fred Balin is a registered user.

Votes (above) asks:
"He was recently reappointed. Who voted for him most recently?”

Fine, Kniss, Scharff, Tanaka, Wolbach ...

…on Nov. 13, 2017, ...

... after, and as Chair of the P&TC, he converted his carports to garages without a permit, neighbors complained; the city made him take the retractable doors down; he filed an application for the conversion; the assistant planning director denied it; his attorney David Lanferman moved from suing the city to roll back or eliminate fines for failure to provide a grocery store at Edgewood Plaza, to appeal the conversion denial, ...

... and then after the council’s 5-4 vote to reappoint, ...

... his attorney issued a demand for immediate issuance of a permit for the conversions, and still with no permit in hand, the commissioner participated and without disclosures in the Nov. 29, 2017 P&TC agenda item that included discussion of garages and carports.


36 people like this
Posted by Abitarian
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 21, 2018 at 7:18 pm

I agree with Fred Balin and others that Mr. Alcheck's words and behavior constitute a complete breach of ethics and justify his removal from the PTC.

Additionally, I feel that further investigation of decisions made by City Attorney Molly Stump and Planning Director Hilary Gitelman is warranted.

Mr. Alcheck claims that his participation in the relevant discussions was approved by Ms. Stump. Clearly, it would be highly inappropriate for a PTC member to engage in matters concerning zoning for carports and garages when that member is soliciting city approval for construction of same on properties in which he has a financial stake. If Ms. Stump did approve such involvement, she needs to receive some kind of admonishment, training, etc.

Assistant City Planning Director Jonathan Lait denied Mr. Alcheck building permits to convert his carports into garages as a violation of city code. Yet, after Mr. Alcheck hired an attorney to fight these denials, Ms. Gitelman reversed Mr. Lait's decision, issuing the permits subject to an arbitrary three-month waiting period. This gives the impression that people can freely subvert city code if they sic an attorney on the city or merely wait a few months.

If this is true, Ms. Stump and Ms. Gitelman's behavior are unfair and suggest a preferences for people who are connected to city government or have the means to hire an attorney, neither or which are OK.


34 people like this
Posted by margaret heath
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 21, 2018 at 8:04 pm

At the conclusion of Monday night's council meeting, when asked by Karen Holman and Tom Dubois what steps the city could take with regard to investigating Mr. Alcheck's behaviour, city attorney, Molly Stump, made it very clear that as far as her office was concerned the decision had been made that there was nothing more to investigate. However, she was quite helpful in advising Holman and Dubois that their next step would be a colleagues memo to the council requesting further investigation. It was almost as if she had been instructed by the person she reports to that her office was not go any further in this matter.


19 people like this
Posted by Vasche LaMou
a resident of Green Acres
on Mar 21, 2018 at 9:21 pm

"It was almost as if she had been instructed by the person she reports to that her office was not go any further in this matter."

Stump reports directly to the Council. It sounds like she is challenging them to issue directions, if they dare.


17 people like this
Posted by Stu
a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on Mar 22, 2018 at 11:21 am

Was a Code Enforcement case filed when the unpermitted garage doors were installed?


22 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 22, 2018 at 11:27 am

Online Name is a registered user.

"It was almost as if she had been instructed by the person she reports to that her office was not go any further in this matter."

It was reminiscent of Ms. Stump's recent statement that there was no record that someone had been hired as a city employee when in fact the controversy was over whether the person would be paid by the city as a consultant / contractor.


13 people like this
Posted by margaret heath
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 22, 2018 at 12:10 pm

Does Molly Stump also report to the city manager?


16 people like this
Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 22, 2018 at 2:25 pm

She reports to the City Council but her office is very near to the City Manager's office so it is easy for them to talk at any time.


27 people like this
Posted by Fred Balin
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 23, 2018 at 8:52 pm

Fred Balin is a registered user.

Stu asks:
"Was a Code Enforcement case filed when the unpermitted garage doors were installed?”

Yes, and the city's Lead Code Enforcement Officer issued two Notices of Violation (8/11/17 and 8/17/17). The latter is inclusive of the former, and you can access it via the link that follows. It does not mince words. Web Link


25 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 24, 2018 at 8:56 am

Thanks to Fred Balin for providing a link to the actual Violation Notices from the Code Enforcement Officer. They provide clarity and refute a bunch of false claims by Alcheck and his defenders on this thread. The facts are that he acted with deliberate intent to violate the code to obtain significant financial gain from the sale of the property. Also, this a spec investment where he was the developer, not his residence.
Whether or not the city attorney had all the facts and responded correctly on his recusal for conflict of interest, this was a major ethical violation that should disqualify him from serving on the commission.


28 people like this
Posted by margaret heath
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 24, 2018 at 2:17 pm

Thank you for the code violation link. Mr. Alcheck has been caught red handed. Not only misrepresenting the facts but doubling down on what appear to be outright lies.

Those who represent Palo Alto on boards and commissions (and council for that matter), in a position to influence the outcome of actions by those bodies, need to be held to the highest ethical standards. It's not enough to say everyone else does it so what's the big deal.

The question is why Molly Stump, in her position as the city attorney, thinks it is okay NOT to hold Mr. Alcheck to the highest standards. Is this poor judgement on her behalf? Or does this judgement reflect her own ethical standards? And could it also represent the ethical standards of those she works most closely with in city hall?


30 people like this
Posted by Fred Balin
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 24, 2018 at 10:39 pm

Fred Balin is a registered user.

Thank you to those who continue to monitor these posts as additional information is reported.

There are two additional items I would like to introduce at this time. The first is new information revealed at the city council meeting last Monday nite (3/19), and the other, possible connections to ponder based on that new information and its relation to sections of the PA Online / Weekly article that precedes all comments above:

During the continuation of the Code Update agenda item last Monday (the previous, 3/12, meeting having been halted late at night after public comment) and which included discussion of two sections of the zoning code with relevance to the Alcheck properties, and during a convoluted yet revealing inquiry initiated by Councilmember Karen Holman, trying to find a way to prevent a repetition of the "Alcheck two-step subversion" of the contextual garage placement code, Assistant Planing Director Jonathan Lait stated that in staff’s memory, the exception/loophole to allow a carport in the front part of a lot where no garage is allowed has only happened twice!

In other words, as far as staff knows, the Alcheck properties are the only ones to be granted that exception/loophole.

Second, is a fortuitous scenario and subsequent logic detailed by Alcheck properties’ attorney David Lanferman in his ultimately winning demand for immediate issuance of carport-conversion-to-garage permits. That is, that on each of the two properties, the 2015 allowance of the carport exception/loophole in the front part of the lot, altered the neighborhood context and therefore, after final inspection in 2017, now allowed garages in the front half of the site. An optimal setup leads to a desired result.

Now some questions posed, but still to be answered definitively, if possible.

1. Did Commissioner Michael Alcheck know, when applications were submitted in Feb and March of 2015 for developing two, rear facing, single family homes in which he had a financial interest, that once the “carport-in-front” exceptions were approved, that Step 2, the post-construction conversion from carport to garage, would be a fait accompli?

2. Why was Commissioner Alcheck so eager to move the discussion of the contextual garage placement code off the agenda when the code cleanup first came to the Planning & Transportation in September and October of 2015 when the item came to the commission as part of the first code cleanup? (See related quotes in the PA Online / Weekly article above)

3. At those 2015 Planning & Transportation Commission meetings, why did planning staff not mention that the only two properties they knew to have employed those loopholes, were tied financially to Commissioner Alcheck.

4. At those meetings, why did Commissioner Alcheck neither disclose his interest in those properties nor recuse himself from the discussion?

The citizen, and hopefully press, investigations continue, at least until proper action by the city is taken.


30 people like this
Posted by Nomo
a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on Mar 25, 2018 at 3:09 am

Alcheck and those that put him in office should be terminated immediately.


13 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 25, 2018 at 11:35 am

Do Commissioners receive ethics training? If so, did Alcheck receive training and what was the content of it?


31 people like this
Posted by margaret heath
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 25, 2018 at 1:20 pm

As a lawyer, it's hard to argue that Mr. Alcheck is unfamiliar with what constitutes ethical and unethical standards for someone appointed to be in a position of public trust. Rather, Mr. Alcheck appears to have a blatant disrespect for ethical standards as they apply to him.

It is not creditable to argue that a fully enclosed and directly attached garage that has the possibility of being used as an extension of the house and extra room a variety of uses, such as a laundry room, a pantry, exercise room, playroom, studio, or refinished as so many people do to use as a family room or guest bedroom, does not add perceived value to a house for sale. As oppose to a carport fronting the street and open to the elements which can't even be used for secure storage.



30 people like this
Posted by margaret heath
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 25, 2018 at 1:22 pm

It almost makes me wonder what Koolaid the city attorney has been drinking.


31 people like this
Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 25, 2018 at 7:44 pm

Prior to becoming the Palo Alto City Attorney Molly Stump was chief council for San Francisco's cash-cow SFO. I would imagine that is a pretty hard job to get without the right connections and/or trusted political loyalties.


28 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Greater Miranda
on Mar 28, 2018 at 11:40 pm

Commissioner Michael Alcheck clearly intended the carports to be enclosed and become garages from the earliest design stages of these two spec homes. What really speaks volumes is that he attempted to pull a fast one by doing the carport to garage conversion without permits before/while the property was actively listed for sale. If the property had of sold at the inflated price he was asking before the unpermitted conversion was discovered the new owner would have been stuck dealing with his mess.


19 people like this
Posted by margaret heath
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 29, 2018 at 10:33 am

Do you have any links showing what the listing price was with the first listing when the garage was assumed and the price drop without the garage after Alcheck was caught red handed? When Molly Stump claims there was no financial conflict of interest I think the "before" price and "after" price would reflect the financial gain that he planned with his carport to garage conversions.

In fact, after the houses are sold the new owners at some point will reinstall the garage doors he was required to remove. Unless the neighbors are vigilant in reporting the code violation. Which they might be reluctant to do to new neighbors they hope to get on with.


8 people like this
Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 29, 2018 at 8:55 pm

I believe the garage doors are currently installed as the permits were issued after the City imposed permit issuance delay has now expired.


7 people like this
Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 5, 2018 at 8:57 am

Is there any update on this issue?


9 people like this
Posted by Fred Balin
a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 5, 2018 at 7:09 pm

Fred Balin is a registered user.

Will provide an update from this end over the weekend.


20 people like this
Posted by Fred Balin
a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 8, 2018 at 4:55 pm

Fred Balin is a registered user.

I have re-read the article and all the helpful, additional information and comments that followed. Thank you all.

Tomorrow (Monday, 4/8) will be three weeks since the Code Update continuation hearing at the city council on March 19, and the item will be on the Consent Calendar for a “2d Reading,” at which time I will speak to the ongoing citizens’ investigation.

I would be less than 100% honest with you, if I did not report my disappointment at the meeting three weeks ago when the city attorney stated that she saw no conflict of interest with Commissioner Alcheck’s participation at the P&TC hearings last year.

A day prior to that council meeting, I submitted a communication from the planning director to the city council that contained a Section (#3) that I felt was definitive proof of that conflict of interest. You can access my cover email and the attached communication from the planning director via the following link: Web Link .

I retain my belief that Commissioner Alcheck's failure to disclose and recuse at the P&TC meetings last year was both a legal and ethical violation as stated in my formal complaint to the city.

And with additional information that citizens have obtained via public records and other sources, I now believe the same violations also applied two years earlier, at the 2015 P&TC meetings.

At this stage, i.e., after all the investigation, discussion and reporting to date, kindly understand (and feel free to comment on) what I believe to be the crux of the matter as it relates to Commissioner Alcheck.

As bad as it may seem:

- It is not, that in 2015, he was able to convince the city to allow him an exception to the contextual garage placement rule on two properties in which he had a material financial interest.

- It is not, that the city permitted him to build, what the existing code and any reasonable person could see, were garages without a door, and not carports,

- It is not, that city staff failed to prevent the carport-to-garage conversion, or fine him when he made his initial conversion without even filing an application.

But rather that:

Commissioner Alcheck knew in 2015, when applications were submitted to redevelop the two R-1 lots in which he had an economic interest, and that he would not reveal for over two years, until the city rejected his application for carport-to-garage conversion and he hired a powerful attorney to make his case, was that with city permission in hand in 2015 to demolish each garage in the rear of the lot and build a “carport” in the front, the predominant context of covered parking on the block of each property would flip from rear to front, …

… I repeat, the predominant context of covered parking on the block of each property would flip from rear to front, …

...and therefore, after final inspection, give him legal cover to convert each parking structure into a completed garage.

It was this secret he was required to disclose and disqualify him from any participation at the P&TC in 2015 and 2017 when the items related to the contextual placement and carport and garage definitions came before the commission so that the public, other commissioners and staff would know of the circumstances, and speak to the matter if they chose, including whether corrective action was warranted to prevent the conversion or further enclosure of parking structures built under such circumstances.


2 people like this
Posted by Bailin’ On balin
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 8, 2018 at 5:09 pm

[Post removed.]


19 people like this
Posted by Abitarian
a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 8, 2018 at 6:44 pm

Thank you, Fred Balin, for presenting your arguments so clearly and supporting them with documented facts.

Council Member Tom DuBois' wife works as a lab manager in the mechanical engineering department at Stanford. In this position, she is immensely distant from any Stanford-related matters that might come before City Council and from any benefits City Council might award to Stanford.

Still, Mr. DuBois recuses himself from all Stanford-related discussions and votes, even though the chance that he, his wife, or his family would have a conflict-of-interest is infinitesimal.

Yet, City Attorney Molly Stump approved Commissioner Michael Alcheck's participation in the establishment of zoning code when he has concealed his activities *and* collaborated with city staff to subvert the same code.

Unfortunately, this case adds one more example to many others that demonstrate corruption at City Hall. These so-called "leaders" bring shame to our community.


24 people like this
Posted by BP
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 10, 2018 at 3:30 pm

Why is Michael Alcheck still planning commissioner?

[Portion removed.]


3 people like this
Posted by Kool aid
a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 10, 2018 at 9:55 pm

[Post removed.]


16 people like this
Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 12, 2018 at 2:57 pm

Thanks for staying on top of this Fred.


8 people like this
Posted by Good Enough for Government
a resident of Mayfield
on Apr 26, 2018 at 12:18 pm

The Council must believe that Alcheck's ethics are good enough for government work.


7 people like this
Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 8, 2018 at 10:17 pm

Newspaper of June 4, 2018 lists this Real Estate transaction:

11 Phillips Road, 94303,
Alcheck Investments to Ko Trust for $8,000,000,
closed April 30 (last sale $2,900,000 02-14-14)

That's 8 million dollars.


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

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