News


Abrica, Wallace-Jones lead in East Palo Alto Council race

Also, Measure HH — the tech tax — passes handily

East Palo Alto Mayor Ruben Abrica and tech executive Regina Wallace-Jones have won the two open seats on East Palo Alto's city council, according to unofficial election results released Tuesday.

With 14 of 14 precincts reporting, Wallace-Jones garnered 795 votes, or 24.63 percent of the total, while Abrica had 780 votes, or 24.16 percent. Incumbent Donna Rutherford came in third, with 523 votes, or 16.20 percent.

The race for City Council brought out a diverse group of candidates, including Court Skinner, a former planning commissioner, Bernardo Huerta, a current public works and transportation commissioner, third-generation resident Patricia Ape Finau Lopez, and businessman Randal Fields.

Abrica, who has been involved in the city's politics since before its incorporation in 1983, said he was grateful for the voters' confidence in him.

"I've been addressing both historical issues and challenges like housing and the things we have to do: traffic, parking and new development. We have to make it work for the community," he said.

"As a city council, we have new people moving in. We have to come together with them," he added, referring to high-tech workers who are increasingly populating the city.

Vice Mayor Lisa Gauthier said that looking at multiple elections on Nov. 6, it was clear the voters wanted a change. The election had generated much excitement, which was good to see.

"I can work with anybody. If there's something new, let's talk about it. The voters have spoken. Let's move forward with it," she said.

William Webster, a longtime community activist and leading affordable-housing advocate in East Palo Alto, said he is not surprised by the results thus far in the multiracial city.

Abrica would win if Latino voters turned out to vote, he said.

"They love him," he said.

Webster campaigned for Skinner, but he said he was sure that Wallace-Jones would win.

"She's had the best or second-best campaign ever organized in East Palo Alto," he said, commenting that only Nevida Butler had a better-organized campaign in the last century.

"She was able to capitalize on that she is a high-tech person. East Palo Alto is gentrifying with high-tech people moving in," he said.

Rutherford, the incumbent who lost her seat to Wallace-Jones, could not be reached for comment. But Skinner and Huerta indicated the upset likely indicates a change in the city's political direction. For Skinner, it's not enough; for Huerta, it might represent a crucial change.

A longtime public servant, Huerta said he sees the emergence of Wallace-Jones as a test of the impact that tech residents will have on city's politics, culture and demographic.

"Are we still the community we once were? It's a test of the community identity," he said.

Looking forward, he said he hopes the city will ramp up the Parks and Recreation master plan and amenities that will improve residents' quality of life.

Skinner, who contributed to Wallace-Jones' campaign even as he was her competitor, said he supports her because she will ask many more questions while on the council. He sees her election as a beginning. But he isn't sure she will have enough clout to make effective change.

He faulted a sort of cultural NIMBYism that seeks to keep the city as a place that is reserved for the "serfs" and where some people want "only affordable housing" to be built. He is frustrated that not enough people see a broader vision that could usher in educational and economic change. The city needs a better mix of housing and small businesses that can serve the community, he said.

"We are far too dependent on nonprofits and other people's money," he added.

Tameeka Bennett, executive director of Youth United for Community Action, which has worked to protect residents being displaced, is cautious about Wallace-Jones.

"I'm really concerned that she has the support of Sandhill and Woodland Park, some of the biggest predatory landlords in this community. She represents, certainly, the newcomers, and one of our biggest problems in East Palo Alto is tech," she said.

Wallace-Jones did not return a request for comment. But she has said in online postings that she represents all of the people in the city and denies implications she can be "bought" by tech firms.

Also on the ballot, Measure HH, the so-called "tech tax," passed easily, with 1,423 votes, or 76.92 percent. The tax on large office properties needs two-thirds of voters' approval to succeed.

Abrica said he strongly supported the tax beginning in January when it came up during the council's retreat.

"It's a new page in our history where we're taking charge of our development. The voters are insisting that high-tech companies and offices, if they are doing well, share with us and help create affordable housing. These days, with the new economy, more city governments will have to do the same thing," he said.

Bennett said the measure brought out many volunteers, particularly young people who contributed much time and energy to support the measure.

"They wanted to pass this. They were phenomenal and helped people to get to vote at the polls. It was a huge team effort," she said.

In the past, residents passed supportive measures such as Measure J, the revised Rent Stabilization and Just Cause for Eviction ordinance; Measure O, a residential business license tax; and Measure P, a vital city services measure that funded neighborhood law enforcement. But now the city's demographics, and its priorities, could be changing.

"It's a different atmosphere -- it's a different East Palo Alto," she said.

"Before, we knew who we were and who our community was," she said, noting the solid support for the previous measures.

But with the changing population due to recent gentrification, she said, she wasn't sure if Measure HH would pass.

Voter approval of Measure HH "is extraordinary," she said. "We're coming after tech companies because they are coming after our community. HH is a tool in our arsenal. Gentrification is violence. It rips families apart and takes you out of being able to live in your community. That has so much trauma. Tech isn't the whole cause, but they play a big role. We need accountability," she said.

Jeffrey Poetsch, president of the Ravenswood Shores Business District, who authored the ballot rebuttal to Measure HH, said if the measure passes, then "that's the decision of the voters."

He said he would "seek to craft a cooperative way going forward with the City Council."

"There are a lot of infrastructure needs out there. My concern is there are only a certain amount of dollars," and if earmarked for affordable housing, then infrastructure improvements needed to develop the business district, such as for roads, sewer and water, might not get funded, he said.

But "everybody is here for the long term," he said.

In the semi-official final report for election night, the San Mateo County Elections Office had reported the results from 1,942 ballots, according to the elections website. The city has 10,276 voters in 14 precincts.

However, ballot counting continues: Vote-by-mail ballots postmarked on or before Election Day that are received by county elections officials by Nov. 9 will be counted.

Election results will be certified by Dec. 6, 2018, the Elections Office website states.

Weekly journalists discuss the election results on an episode of Behind the Headlines. Watch the show on YouTube or listen to the podcast version, available through Apple or Google Play.

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

Comments

8 people like this
Posted by Pastor Hollie
a resident of another community
on Nov 6, 2018 at 10:14 pm

Go Regina Wallace-Jones!!!


9 people like this
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Nov 6, 2018 at 10:41 pm

Go Ruben Abrica! Go HH!


51 people like this
Posted by TT
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Nov 7, 2018 at 2:32 pm

"Gentrification is violence": are you frickin serious?!! While I empathize with folks who are driven out of the area due to rising rents, the issue is not unique to EPA. I think attitude like this is what'd kept EPA in the dump for so long. As a long time resident of EPA, I welcome the gentrification that brought us a vibrant shopping center, a world-class hotel and business parks that has helped EPA shed (albeit slowly) the "Murder Capital" reputation of its past.


5 people like this
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Nov 7, 2018 at 2:53 pm

As a voter, I'd like to know more about the sneaky, secret meeting only African American candidates in EPA were invited to. I believe one of the organizers was a former councilman who was both divisive and ineffective. Can The Weekly look into that?


6 people like this
Posted by Inquiring Minds
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Nov 7, 2018 at 3:22 pm

@Hmmmm:

Please elaborate further!

How do you know this? What information do you have?

I wonder the type of reaction the "African American candidates" would
have if there was Hispanics only meeting.


3 people like this
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Nov 7, 2018 at 3:31 pm

Inquiring - that really is all I know. I don't know if the meeting violated election rules or not. Was the mysterious candidate Mr. Fields at the meeting? I hope The Weekly investigates and reports about it. I'd also like to know if there were any poll violations committed by candidates or their representatives, since there are some rumors about that.


49 people like this
Posted by Willie Sutton
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Nov 7, 2018 at 6:29 pm

> As a long time resident of EPA, I welcome the gentrification that brought us a vibrant shopping center, a world-class hotel and business parks that has helped EPA shed (albeit slowly) the "Murder Capital" reputation of its past.

I concur. I would like to see the further gentrification of EPA myself as it would increase my property value after decades of stagnation.

Redevelopment of EPA is paramount to increasing the city's tax revenue base. Though some lower-income individuals and families may get displaced in the process, it is a natural occurrence whenever neighborhood upgrades are in progress. It would also be prudent to gradually eliminate most of the welfare-recipient residents as they contribute very little to the improvement or upkeep of the city.

Rezoning should also be a priority. Mixed residential-commercial streets cheapen the overall appearance of a community and keep property values down. A visionary developer would be welcomed...one with the means to purchase and tear down all of the older dwellings, replacing them with modern tract homes, apartments and condos.

In time, EPA could raise the bar and finally become a city its residents can be proud to call their own. Cities like Palo Alto are good role models to emulate.


8 people like this
Posted by Bravo
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Nov 7, 2018 at 8:03 pm

@willie sutton
BRAVO!!!! My hat is off to your opinion!
Let us see how long it will take the editor to "remove portions" of your comment. I have in the past made
comments very similar to yours to see them get removed.
People today cannot accept that gentrification is not a bad thing. Google it...
gen·tri·fi·ca·tion
/ˌjentrəfəˈkāSH(ə)n/
noun
-the process of renovating and improving a house or district so that it conforms to middle-class taste.
"an area undergoing rapid gentrification"
-the process of making a person or activity more refined or polite.
"soccer has undergone gentrification"


15 people like this
Posted by Willie Sutton
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Nov 7, 2018 at 8:20 pm

> gen·tri·fi·ca·tion
/ˌjentrəfəˈkāSH(ə)n/

@Bravo
I am in favor of redevelopment in various parts of EPA and quite often, gentrification is a natural extension of the process as the intent is to rejuvenate the local economy by attracting new businesses and residents.

This often involves the construction of new buildings and residences. And to do so, usually requires the demolition of older buildings. The preservation and restoration of historically relevant buildings/homes should always be taken into consideration and if there are any in EPA worthy of note, they should be saved.
To date, I cannot think of any but those decisions will rest with local government leaders, city historians and city planners.


3 people like this
Posted by Concerned Citizen
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Nov 8, 2018 at 11:23 am

Is Wallace-Jones even the right person to be part of city council. Does she relate with the people of East Palo Alto. I think not, she works for a tech company and do most residents of East Palo Work for Tech Companies... I don't think so. To me it idiotic that we have someone in charge of a town when she cannot relate with any of the residents.


10 people like this
Posted by Leaving EPA
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Nov 8, 2018 at 2:06 pm

>> Does she relate with the people of East Palo Alto. I think not, she works for a tech company and do most residents of East Palo Work for Tech Companies... I don't think so. To me it idiotic that we have someone in charge of a town when she cannot relate with any of the residents.

Interesting point. Should an EPACC member ideally come from a working-class background in order to better understand the needs of its residents and the community?

The % of highly-educated professional tech employees in EPA is relatively low compared to other cities in the SF Bay Area and those that do reside in EPA probably have little interest in running for local government elected office.
For the majority of them, EPA is a residential stopgap.

A city cannot be run like a corporation and vice versa. On the other hand, R. Wallace-Jones could bring some valuable insights to the council table...ones which could improve EPA as a whole.

For EPA to shed its less than stellar image (to outsiders), further residential and commercial development will be requisite. Until then, it will remain a city where few wish to live or visit.


6 people like this
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Nov 8, 2018 at 2:59 pm

The majority of the current council members are professionals, not working class. Some of them may not be highly compensated compared to other professions, but they are classified as professionals. Our city has had a number of residents who work in tech, but the overall employment categories are more diverse than in other local SV cities. The difference with Wallace-Jones isn't that she's a professional, it's that she's a gentrifier. It remains to be seen if she has the knowledge and ability to help run a city, and the clout, as Skinner said, to do so. So far she comes across as too defensive and reactive, using trendy verbiage and not offering concrete solutions. She also seems to be all about herself, with a pretense of harmony and community. Remember that she aims for higher office and East Palo Alto is a stepping stone.


Like this comment
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Nov 8, 2018 at 3:47 pm

Hmmm is a registered user.

Leaving EPA - property in East Palo Alto is selling like hotcakes. It remains to be seen how long new residents will stay.


15 people like this
Posted by Willie Sutton
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Nov 8, 2018 at 6:08 pm

> It remains to be seen how long new residents will stay.

It also remains to be seen how long OLD residents will stay.

If I can get $1M for a house I once paid $8K... I'm seriously out of here and headed back to Tennessee. For the last 50 years, I couldn't even get a junkyard dog interested in it. The new owners can have the place...barred windows and all.
I'll even throw-in a roll of chain link fencing I haven't got around to installing.


10 people like this
Posted by Cecily Vargas
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Nov 9, 2018 at 2:13 pm

> As a long time resident of EPA, I welcome the gentrification...
>> For EPA to shed its less than stellar image (to outsiders), further residential and commercial development will be requisite. Until then, it will remain a city where few wish to live or visit.

True. An EPA upgrade would do wonders for the community and improves its poor image.
Nobody wants to venture into EPA unless they absolutely have to.


8 people like this
Posted by R.Davis
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 9, 2018 at 6:08 pm

R.Davis is a registered user.

QUOTE: Nobody wants to venture into EPA unless they absolutely have to.

Once knew a guy who would motor over to the Whiskey Gulch area for barbecue take-out on a semi-regular basis. I think it was a place called Goldies...really good Q.

One day while waiting for his order to be filled, his car got stolen. Now he goes to Armadillo Willy's.


Like this comment
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Nov 9, 2018 at 6:55 pm

R. David Goldie's has been closed for DECADES. People "venture" safely into EPA all the time. My family and I do it every day.


8 people like this
Posted by R.Davis
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 10, 2018 at 8:47 am

R.Davis is a registered user.

QUOTE: David Goldie's has been closed for DECADES.

Yes. And the aforementioned individual has been going to Armadillo Willy's (in Los Altos) for decades now as well. To date, his car is still in the parking lot when he gets back to it.

Then again and in retrospect, he probably shouldn't have driven one of his better cars to EPA when he went to Goldies.


2 people like this
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Nov 10, 2018 at 11:16 am

It's disgusting how discussions about EPA descend into insulting hyperbole and old news. I could whinge away about the bad stuff I experienced when I lived in PA. I've had friends sexually assaulted in PA, I was stalked, and I won't even go into detail about how many kids I knew killed themselves. None of that is relevant to this article, and neither are the suspicious comments from supposed residents and snotty outsiders. We all know property values have skyrocketed and most long time owners who want to get out of here has a good opportunity to do so now.

I'd still like to know about the secret meeting with black candidates and I also wish an updated vote count was available.


6 people like this
Posted by Old EPA Resident
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Nov 10, 2018 at 1:48 pm

> We all know property values have skyrocketed and most long time owners who want to get out of here has a good opportunity to do so now.

CSNY's 'Wooden Ships' was playing in the background and the lyrics, "We are leaving now. You don't need us." just came on a moment ago.

That about sums up the sentiments among some of the older and current EPA residents. Sell and exit 'stage left' as the residential properties are finally appreciating in value.

Make way for the new as the further development of EPA will provide additional options towards assisting in the current housing issues now plaguing Palo Alto and other adjacent communities.

We'll stop by and visit occasionally...just to see how much EPA has changed.


2 people like this
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Nov 10, 2018 at 2:29 pm

Assisting Palo Alto? LOL! We're thinking of our own people and other county residents when it comes to housing. Our purpose is not to to help Palo Alto. It'll be great to have Mayor Abrica continue with this, and help from Measure HH.


8 people like this
Posted by Old EPA Resident
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Nov 10, 2018 at 2:47 pm

> Assisting Palo Alto? LOL! We're thinking of our own people and other county residents when it comes to housing.

Larger salaries always trump lower income capabilities. The overflowing housing needs from PA will eventually shift to EPA once the city has rebuilt itself to certain acceptable standards...upwardly mobile expectations with a certain air of sophistication and good taste.

The lower income EPA residents will gradually be forced out making way for a more affluent population. That's how it works in Silicon Valley.


Like this comment
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Nov 10, 2018 at 3:54 pm

Again, it has *nothing* to do with Palo Alto. These market forces are greater than PA (although probably but grater than its collective ego). The entire state's metro regions are experiencing a sustained housing crisis.


20 people like this
Posted by R.Davis
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 11, 2018 at 9:59 am

R.Davis is a registered user.

QUOTE: Assisting Palo Alto? LOL! We're thinking of our own people and other county residents when it comes to housing. Our purpose is not to to help Palo Alto.
QUOTE: Again, it has *nothing* to do with Palo Alto. These market forces are greater than PA (although probably but grater than its collective ego).

As much as I admire and respect your sense of civic pride and 'protectionist' nature, even you are aware of the eventual consequences as EPA further redevelops and becomes a community and neighborhood that outsiders begin to take even more notice of.

Your city will then become deluged with countless opportunistic carpetbaggers (i.e. developers, investment property speculators and RE agents) + people from 'out of town' seeking attractive housing opportunities in the newer tracts and multi-use dwellings. And as a result, a number of existing EPA residents will gradually be forced out due to supply/demand criteria and the subsequent increases in rental costs and home ownership.

Though the city coffers will increase due to the added tax revenues, EPA will eventually be facing the same kind of crap Palo Alto is always dealing with. Welcome to the new world that community enhancement brings...it's a natural progression and one that will probably aggravate the old time EPA residents who wanted to see some local improvements initiated but are now having to deal with the inevitable changes in neighborhood demographics and socio-economics.


26 people like this
Posted by Fair Enough
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 12, 2018 at 5:53 pm

> We're thinking of our own people and other county residents when it comes to housing. Our purpose is not to help Palo Alto.

And along the same lines, Palo Altans really shouldn't be all that concerned or bothered about EPA's issues and problems unless they affect PA residents and businesses directly. Fair enough.

Reminds me of that old Dylan song, "Most Likely You'll Go Your Way and I'll Go Mine".

Two cities...two different worlds.


12 people like this
Posted by Some Distance At Last
a resident of Community Center
on Nov 13, 2018 at 3:37 pm

" We're thinking of our own people and other county residents when it comes to housing. Our purpose is not to help Palo Alto."

So much for communities working together in a concerted effort to solve their shared problems and issues.

[Portion removed.]


8 people like this
Posted by EPA & PA Separatism
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 14, 2018 at 2:39 pm

"We're thinking of our own people and other county residents when it comes to housing. Our purpose is not to help Palo Alto."

>>A reflection of the EPA Way?

"And along the same lines, Palo Altans really shouldn't be all that concerned or bothered about EPA's issues and problems unless they affect PA residents and businesses directly. Fair enough."

>> And rightly so. I try not to concern myself to much with EPA let alone traveling there.

"So much for communities working together in a concerted effort to solve their shared problems and issues."

"Two cities...two different worlds."

>>This apparently sums things up. Besides, EPA is in an entirely different county. The only thing in common between EPA and PA is the 101 and perhaps Woodland Drive.


Like this comment
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Nov 14, 2018 at 10:14 pm

LOL, you can't even get the street name correct. It's Woodland Avenue, and it's not between the two cities.

All of you PA-centric commenters are laughably narcissistic. This article, once again, is about our city, not yours. You - the collective you - can't stand it when the focus isn't on you, which is sad, so you try to relate it to you. Meanwhile, speaking of the self-involved...when the gentrifying and appeasing candidate, Regina Wallace-Jones, spends many thousands of dollars on her campaign, she's not even half a point ahead of Mayor Abrica at this juncture. She'll continue to be controversial, and not in a good way.


8 people like this
Posted by Fair Enough
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 15, 2018 at 9:23 am

>> All of you PA-centric commenters are laughably narcissistic. This article, once again, is about our city, not yours. You - the collective you - can't stand it when the focus isn't on you, which is sad, so you try to relate it to you.

I seriously doubt your over-generalized assessment. If anything and based on your current sentiments, there will probably be some PA residents further distancing themselves from EPA...with the possible exception of neighborhood concerns regarding residential burlglary and street assaults emanating from other areas.

The 'gentrification' of EPA will be a step in the right direction as your city has a lot of potential to grow (in terms of residency opportunities and office developments) with the rest of Silicon Valley.



6 people like this
Posted by EPA & PA Separatism
a resident of Downtown North
23 hours ago

"...you can't even get the street name correct. It's Woodland Avenue, and it's not between the two cities."

Not a big deal as to whether Woodland is a designated street or avenue. The zip code is all that matters. We never cross the small Newell Road bridge as there's no reason for us to do so.


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