News

Editorial: Council repeal of downtown cap is set-back for housing

In repealing cap on non-residential development downtown, council chooses the wrong path

Monday night's 4-3 decision to repeal a decades-old downtown growth policy designed to trigger a one-year pause on non-residential development when a cap is reached, as it will be this year, is a setback for both housing advocates and those concerned about traffic congestion and parking.

The action only benefits commercial developers and property owners, whose profits are maximized when they develop uses other than housing. The council majority has bought into the idea, promoted by developers, that housing will only be built if the city allows a substantial office component that "subsidizes" a few housing units.

There is no evidence for this supposition. The so-called "mixed use" projects that combine ground floor retail, one or two floors of offices and one or two floors of housing have provided so little housing — and none of it remotely affordable — as to make it meaningless. The housing doesn't even provide a full offset to the employees that work in the offices below. With every such project, we actually lose ground in the fight to lessen our housing-jobs imbalance.

But even worse, repealing the downtown cap removes another barrier to the conversion of the President Hotel apartments back into a hotel, since the square footage of the conversion would have exceeded the cap. It is one of the actions that the new owner of the President, A.J. Capital, demanded of the city in secret communications last fall so it could proceed with its plans. By its vote Monday night, the council is enabling the elimination of 75 apartments that are among the most affordable on the rental market in downtown Palo Alto at a time when each council member has publicly advocated for more aggressive policies to encourage such housing. It would take 10 new mixed-use office buildings with five housing units each to simply replace these 75 apartments with high-priced condos or apartments.

Significant affordable housing will only be built in Palo Alto by nonprofit housing agencies or if the city offers density bonuses and height exceptions that create incentives for developers to pursue residential-only projects. Those options should be the focus of policymakers. But they won't work if the city doesn't close off the opportunity for developers to build office buildings with a few very expensive housing units that do nothing to address our housing needs.

The deciding vote to do away with the downtown non-residential development cap came from the council's new member, Alison Cormack, who along with Councilwoman Liz Kniss and Vice Mayor Adrian Fine characterized the one-year moratorium as an effort to "freeze downtown as it exists today." (Councilman Greg Tanaka, who didn't utter a word during the discussion, was the fourth vote to repeal the cap.)

Cormack's vote was especially disappointing because it contradicted the position she took just four months ago in the election campaign, when she told the Weekly that although she needed to do more study on the issue she "didn't see any reason to remove" the downtown cap and that growth caps "have served us well."

Proponents of repealing the downtown cap argued that another cap — which limits office development each year to 50,000 square feet in the downtown, California Avenue and El Camino corridor — effectively renders the downtown cap unnecessary. They ignore the fact that not covered by the 50,000-foot cap are any non-office uses, such as hotels, financial institutions, fitness centers, restaurants and others. Following the council's action on Monday, it's now open season for unlimited downtown development of anything other than offices, plus up to 50,000 square feet of office space each year.

Mayor Eric Filseth was right when he questioned how long the council majority could continue to ignore the majority view in the community that city policies should strongly discourage any new development other than affordable housing.

What the council majority did Monday is the opposite of smart pro-housing policy. The fact that the downtown cap will be reached later this year was a fortuitous opportunity because it offered a simple way to slam the door shut on the conversion of the 75 apartments at the President and reassess what new limits should be established going forward.

Instead of seizing that opportunity, the council put flexibility for property owners above the community's desire to tightly limit non-housing development in downtown Palo Alto.

Hear Weekly journalists discuss this topic on an episode of "Behind the Headlines" via video or podcast.

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Comments

80 people like this
Posted by Pro-Developer Council
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 15, 2019 at 5:03 am

This slim Council majority and the last one claimed they were for housing, but this vote by Kniss, Fine, Tanaka, and Cormack shows that they are really in favor of increasing property values and assisting developers.

Cormack's vote is disappointing but not surprising. How many Council candidates have we seen that promote themselves as moderate when they are running but then turn out to be strongly pro-developer once they are elected.

See Web Link
On Sept. 17, 2002, President Bush took the podium in Nashville to speak before a group of schoolchildren, parents and teachers. "There's an old saying in Tennessee," he began.

A series of awkward pauses followed. "I know it's in Texas, probably in Tennessee that says, 'Fool me once, shame on ... shame on you. Fool me... You can't get fooled again!'"

For the record, the correct rendering of the aphorism is: "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me." Or perhaps, as his critics might say, "Elect me once, shame on you. Elect me twice ... shame on you."


99 people like this
Posted by No Trust
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 15, 2019 at 8:15 am

This is absolutely right. Cormack, Fine, Kniss and Mr Silent, Greg Tanaka, had no rational reasons to offer for ending the Cap. None. And in doing so they have knowing decided to allow the loss of housing at the President Hotel. This was an anti- housing vote.

Kniss had pathetic photos of an old Black & White Ball she confused with data, telling the audience - See, see, it pretty much looks the same downtown then as now. She either doesn’t understand how the City’s 3 Develop Caps function, mistating thrm, or she simply lies to people about them. It’s a shame she’s on Council, but we knew that - she didn’t know we had traffic in town.

Fine, in his ever cocky way, tried to scare people by saying - You will have offices built on Cal Ave and on El Camino if we keep the Cap downtown. What? The Cap has been in place since 1986 so whatever may happen on Cal Ave and ECR will have little to do with keeping the Cap. And we have 2 other caps that apply to those areas. These scare tactics by Fine about the Downtown Cap were simply lies. His lack of integrity is stunning and he should not be re- elected.

Then there is Cormack - she tried to soften breaking her campaign promise to support the Cap by reassuring the many people speaking to keep the Cap and the huge number of emailers that she found them well informed. Condescending to residents by playing the civility card isn’t going to cut it. This was her political coming out party, and it was clear who her date was - AJ Capital, the Chamber of Commerce and commercial developers.

Did Tanaka’s think his sin of omission by remaining silent would make him less responsible? Hardly. He is responsible for his actions as grownups are. He voted to repeal the Cap for no good reason just like the others.

These four are now a majority on Council for 2 years. They will likely continue to make decisions against the interests of residents.including renters, and for developers and corporate interests to build big. We would be crazy to not vote out Fine and Tenaka when they are up for re-election in 2020.


54 people like this
Posted by NeilsonBuchanan
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 15, 2019 at 8:24 am

NeilsonBuchanan is a registered user.

Now is time to find a reset button and push it hard. Affordable housing can be created for various groups of citizens for whom market rate housing does not work. There is no quick, mass programs to "fix" housing deficits; but, Palo Alto citizens can selectively and deliberately promote better policy than the Council has chosen.

It is important to remember that there are three simultaneous problems. #1 Unfortunately housing is not a priority for council and staff. #2 Traffic, congestion and spillover traffic perist with no solution in sight. #3 Office development and dense occupancy escalate pressures on housing prices and traffic.

Votes from Cormack and Tanaka need an explantion. Kniss and Fine voted as expected.


8 people like this
Posted by Mark Weiss
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 15, 2019 at 8:26 am

Still assessing this, was not at meeting. I want to hear more about what her vote had to do with a performing arts venue (as in, in consultation with then councilmember Greg Schmid, the Yale- trained economist who has lived here longer than Fine has been alive, I have defended the Downtiwn Cap since 2011, but would switch or trade that for a PPP in the arts).

I know that’s a mouthful. Of sausage.

Meanwhile I wish to point out that your photo of Emerson and Hamilton (209 Hamilton, owned by Mullens’s) is emblematic in that the beautiful green leafy tree was removed last week by the City at request of landlord AND further irony and to my point, before being office space above retail was a performance space and art studio where Nathan Oliveira created his “stage paintings” some of which are in the Anderson collection and museum on campus ie not Palo Alto — Stanford does support the arts. When Nathan died in 2009 I wrote this very paper urging a museum space here in his honor, something Stanford later did on campus, called Windhover. We did however, thanks to Gail Price then councilmember issue a proclamation on this topic.


69 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 15, 2019 at 8:36 am

Annette is a registered user.

Former Mayor Pat Burt summed up Monday's vote perfectly: bad planning, bad policy, and bad politics all rolled into one. It was clear early on which way the wind was blowing on Monday. Big clue: who was there. Former mayor Kleinberg, who is NOT a member of the community spoke in favor of removing the cap as did at least one developer and a member of the community who frequently comes to meetings to speak convincingly (he's good!) in support of whatever position former mayor Kniss is promoting. I rather doubt his presence is coincidental. Not all that long ago he called housing THE existential issue of our time. I guess something changed since then b/c housing (at least the sort we sorely need) was indeed dealt a blow on Monday.

As for Cormack, while her vote is disappointing, it is not surprising. She's smart, she's tied to Kniss, and she artfully campaigned around the controversial issues that are raging in this city. She also had a huge feather in her cap that no doubt earned her most of the votes she got in the election. So we now have confirmation that there is no "swing vote" on CC and we have another pro-development CC. It may be a slightly smaller majority, but 4-3 is every bit as powerful as 5-4. One big advantage of the smaller council is held by those seeking to influence votes: fewer people to "convince".

Monday was a missed opportunity to buy some much needed planning time for Palo Alto. Our new CM is already echoing our former CM at Council meetings, telling us over and over how busy Staff is. To me, that was yet another argument in favor of retaining the cap. That CC voted as it did tells me that housing (the real kind, not the slick, high-end kind that targets the rich and lucky) is not really a priority. No doubt getting re-elected and keeping promises to $upporters is a real priority. I recall a 60 Minutes segment about the requirement that members of Congress dedicate an inordinate amount of time on getting re-elected. We have our own version of that going on right here in little ol' Palo Alto. I find this both disappointing and discouraging.

I suggest everyone read the book Lab Rats by Dan Lyons as it makes clear what happens to communities that are not human-centric. Palo Alto is making some bad moves.


65 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Feb 15, 2019 at 8:41 am

It is a particularity pernicious falsehood to link housing downtown only to mixed use buildings with an office component when one can and does have mixed use buildings with housing and other commercial uses such as retail, personal services ,restaurant ect....with no office

Sobrato, a large successful developer just had a mixed use building approved on El Camino near Fryes site with
60 units of housing and retail on the ground floor!
I’m sure they are planning on making money on the project.

Staff very correctly offered the council options to the absolute “no non residential” including the option the mayor pursued to allow non office commercial and residential mixed use.

The council majority showed their disdain for residents and their disdain for housing concerns in our community and region.

The vote is also continuing to make shops, restaurants and small neighborhood serving business compete agaibst VC backed tech companies for rental space.
More and more we will have to drive rather than walk or bike to find these services adding to pollution and congestion!!!

Thanks PA weekly for plainly stating the truth. We need more real leaders like kou Filseth and DuBois on council, not cynical self servers !


6 people like this
Posted by Anne
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 15, 2019 at 10:32 am

[Post removed.]


8 people like this
Posted by Guess I'm in the majority
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 15, 2019 at 11:10 am

I hear you vocal regulars on this forum all the time but here's the fact - the council majority represents the public majority. That's why we elected them. Sorry if you don't agree but that's democracy. I'm completely in favor of the action taken and appreciate the direction this council is moving in.


11 people like this
Posted by Gimmee
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 15, 2019 at 11:44 am

What a surprise. A pro- filsrth/dubois/kiosk editorial. Let's be honest the pasz 3 and other former officials ( i.e. pat burt karen Holman etc ) have done nothing to get housing built. Can you say may?bell


44 people like this
Posted by Thank you
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Feb 15, 2019 at 12:39 pm

Concise and accurate editorial conveying what occurred Monday night.


4 people like this
Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 15, 2019 at 1:26 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

The only way I see that this outcome might have been different is if Cory Wolbach had retained his council seat. He put himself very clearly on record as prioritizing affordable housing over office development when he surprised almost everyone by providing the swing vote in favor of applying petition-backed office development limits city-wide. Perhaps he would have been less likely to vote to remove the downtown development cap than was his successor, despite his earlier stance that the limits embedded in the Comprehension Plan removed the need to renew the Downtown cap.


15 people like this
Posted by Alice, Welcome to Wonderland
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 15, 2019 at 1:34 pm

[Post removed.]




22 people like this
Posted by Novelera
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 15, 2019 at 3:17 pm

Novelera is a registered user.

[Portion removed.] I can't remember when I've been more disappointed in a local officeholder.


27 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 15, 2019 at 3:34 pm

Posted by Alice, Welcome to Wonderland, a resident of Adobe-Meadow

>> and the Democratic party is a tool of real estate developers,

Less than 30% of Californians are registered Republicans, so, it isn't surprising that real estate developers and their political minions are often Democrats. I'm certain that in Nebraska, developers lean Republican. Developers always know which side their bread is buttered on.

In the meantime, those of use who prefer Palo Alto to not resemble lower Manhattan need to work the issues and work for representation that actually represents our interests and not those of developers.


30 people like this
Posted by so early
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 15, 2019 at 5:40 pm

Well, I tired to warn people about Cormack during the elections, she was an obvious risk not worth taking. The Weekly is part to blame with their endorsement.

Cormack's plan to rebuild trust in the community has at least ended very cleanly and early.

What bothers me most is that we now have two nannies.



13 people like this
Posted by Maurice McDonald
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 15, 2019 at 6:40 pm

@Anon,

It is not OK for the Democratic Party to be a corrupt tool of real-estate developers in California, just because the Republican Party is a corrupt tool of real-estate developers in Nebraska.

It is also not OK to pretend you can solve this problem by cutting the tip of the snake's tail off, over and over again. The snake just grows a new tail. Palo Alto Democrats don't set Party policy. Palo Alto Democrats follow policy set by the Party leadership in San Francisco, Sacramento, and Los Angeles.


41 people like this
Posted by
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Feb 15, 2019 at 8:16 pm

is a registered user.

"the council majority represents the public majority"

No, not if they switch positions after being elected. Before the election Cormack led people to believe she was for keeping the downtown cap. Then switched positions on Monday night. It's not taking long to reveal that she is yet another council member who does not represent the public majority.


24 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 15, 2019 at 9:25 pm

"... here's the fact - the council majority represents the public majority. That's why we elected them."

Um, the council majority represents the majority's perception of the candidates' truth in advertising. But as we all know, perception is not always reality. And the sorry Kniss-Fine-Tanaka-Cormack parade shows the public majority does not always learn from history.

"Every election is a sort of advance auction sale of stolen goods." - Mencken


17 people like this
Posted by eileen
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 15, 2019 at 10:32 pm

eileen is a registered user.

All the people advocating for more housing in Palo Alto should look in Mt View, East Menlo Park, or EPA for more affordable housing and rentals. It's unlikely that much, if any, housing will be built now that the office cap is gone. What's the incentive for developers since they make more money with office + luxury condos?


16 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 16, 2019 at 9:26 am

Annette is a registered user.

@Guess I'm in the majority who wrote " . . . here's the fact - the council majority represents the public majority. "

When only 1/3 of registered voters vote it doesn't necessarily follow that the election outcome represents the public majority. Rather, the outcome represents voter majority and that's a critical difference. Also, in Cormack's case, although her endorsers were a clue as to her leanings, voters were not directly informed about her position on development because she skirted that whilst campaigning. Even so, one can argue that a ballot cast is always a best guess action b/c we all know politicians pivot at will.

I doubt the current Council majority represents the public majority on this issue. Cormack joined 3 CC members who were elected in the 2016 election that obviously took place before the successful voter initiative to cap commercial growth. She may have gotten the most votes (~18k) in the last election, but DuBois and Filseth who voted in the minority on this got more than 30k votes (combined) in that election. That's a pretty heavy nod towards the minority position on this issue.

I think Mayor Filseth was right when he said this 4-3 vote did not represent what Palo Alto residents want. I also think it is worth keeping in mind that retaining the cap did not equal freezing development. That was a useful hoax. Retaining the cap meant only that reaching a certain development level triggered a brief moratorium during which some much needed analysis and planning would be done. I've lived here a few decades and I think it safe to say that Palo Altans like data and planning.

This time around 4 Council members exercised their ability to join forces and vote against what residents want. I think that is not good, but as you so rightly point out, that's democracy.


5 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 16, 2019 at 9:37 am

I think the last election was a farce, but then most local elections in Palo Alto seem to be in my opinion.

With so many larger issues on people's minds, I heard plenty of conversations about national and state politics, but these seemingly very informed and passionate people had no opinion on local politics. One person I know who is very involved in their Party events, didn't even seem to know who was running locally.

Cormack's biggest asset was her name recognition due to the library and being active in PTA. Many people knew who they did not like on Council and wanted that person out, but otherwise anyone else would have had a tough time. Pat Boone had very little money, no lawn signs, and it was inevitable that some had never heard the name until it was time to fill in the ballot.

The truth is, local politics are for many not important. They see very little other than junk mail coming in their mailboxes or left outside their door.

I don't know if there is a way around this. Many people are very interested, but a lot more just don't find local politics cross their radar.


2 people like this
Posted by CA Love
a resident of Atherton
on Feb 16, 2019 at 11:12 am

[Post removed.]


Like this comment
Posted by eileen
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 16, 2019 at 11:48 am

eileen is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


6 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 16, 2019 at 1:17 pm

Gale Johnson is a registered user.

I've been pretty quiet so far this year and will continue to be, for the most part, unless something really ruffles my feathers to the point they're starting to fall out. I’ve become convinced that posting online is not an effective way to get the attention of CC members. It might be a way to vent our opinions and spleens, however, and that might offer some relief, but it often turns out to be an online pissing contest between the 'fors' and 'againsts' on issues. And that doesn't necessarily equate to the most commonly referred to opponents, the 'pro-growthers' and the ‘residentialists'. Emails are probably better, and of course that torturous method is always available… going to CC meetings and getting your 3 minutes…sometimes only 2…at the podium to have your say. I just watch on TV at home and scream and shout at the walls and ceilings and sometimes engage in a soliloquy where I hear all the perfect answers to our city's many problems.

I did my part last year at election time. I did all I could to make sure Tom Dubois and Eric Filseth were re-elected. And yet we still have a pro-growth majority. It appears Alison Cormack has simply taken Cory Wolbach's seat on council to preserve that pro-growth majority. Pat Burt was the best centrist swing voting mayor we've ever had. His votes were almost always for the good of our community and us residents.

The article points out very well the fallacy of rushing to quick judgement and making a decision that should have been deferred for the one year moratorium. But it was convenient and necessary for the President Hotel transition to happen without litigation. The majority threw affordable housing under the bus. And those arguments they made were developer driven…that they would never build housing unless they were allowed to build offices first. It really exposed the true colors of the faux champions of housing. Asked a direct question “Is tax revenue more important to you than affordable housing for the masses?”, what do you think their answer would be and what do you think their honest answer should be? Forget about affordable housing for the masses…that’s a joke, a myth, and a bad dream in our town. Work force housing is the new great housing movement in PA and touted to be a great achievement. It serves one sector but leaves out so many workers who commute long distances to serve us every day. And let's hear about the results of the assumed success of the under-parked building.

Although I will probably remain quiet online…that could change. I plea with all posters to think ahead to the next election cycle. Liz will be gone (damage control was disabled during her terms) and it's time for Fine and Tanaka to go too, although I like Tanaka's spunk and his voting record, many times the single 'no' vote on holding the line on spending money. If we have
pro-growthers on CC it’s always good to have at least one of them that is fiscally/financially responsible.

Be alert, stay alert, and keep track. The next election cycle comes up in two years. Let’s see how the ideas by the developer friendly members on CC pan out. Keep track of how many offices were built vs how many housing units were built in the same time frame. They speak with assurance now, on how, and the only way, to get more housing. Let's all pretend we're from Missouri, the "Show Me State". Or in Sgt. Friday's words, "just the facts, maam!"

Destroying our town for the interests of developers isn’t the right way to get housing.


13 people like this
Posted by Make University Avenue A PA Business Center
a resident of University South
on Feb 16, 2019 at 1:33 pm

At this point in time, perhaps downtown PA should be devoted entirely to office buildings with some additional commercial outlets restaurant/bars & a few coffee shops.

No one wants to live downtown & no one shops there anymore.

Make University Avenue a major business complex leaving a few upscale hotels for business travelers.

Residents & shoppers can go elsewhere.


5 people like this
Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 16, 2019 at 1:52 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

If I recall correctly, the one issue that candidate Cormack did come out strongly on at the start of her campaign was opposition to the changes on Ross Road and, by extension, to similar changes on the Charleston/Arastradero corridor. That was a distinguisher between herself and Cory Wolbach, who had consistently supported city plans to alter streets and sidewalks to promote safe, shared use by bicyclists and pedestrians as well as drivers.

There was little doubt that Filseth and Dubois would take two of the three seats being contested. The only real question, in my mind, was whether Cormack or Wolbach, both identified as supported by Mayor Kniss, would capture the third seat. Whatever the determinative issues or perceptions were, the result was clear-Cormack was by far the top vote getter, drawing support from "residentialist" and "establishment" voters alike.

There is no way that contradictory expectations can be satisfied by Cormack, or any other council member for that matter. The downtown cap vote illustrates that very nicely. Staying informed is our best protection against disappointment. Thanks, Weekly, for helping us do that.


14 people like this
Posted by Abitarian
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 16, 2019 at 2:30 pm

For the 2018 city council election, the "resident-serving" caucus had only *one* incumbent -- Lydia Kou -- while the "business-serving" caucus had *three* incumbents -- Adrian Fine, Liz Kniss, and Greg Tanaka".

This meant that the resident-serving caucus needed *three* winning candidates to achieve a majority while the business-serving caucus needed only *one* winning candidate to achieve a majority.

Since the resident-serving caucus had only *two* strong candidates -- Tom DuBois and Eric Filseth -- but did not have the three they needed; there was simply no chance to achieve a majority.

The business-serving caucus had *two* strong candidates -- Alison Cormack and Cory Wolbach -- but needed only one win; therefore had every chance to win the majority.

All this is to say, we can't say the business-serving majority reflects the will of the voters because the voters did not have an opportunity to elect a resident-serving majority.

No disrespect to candidate Pat Boone, but there was no realistic chance for him to win a seat.

Finally, I am using the term "resident-serving" for the people who prefer growth to focus on daily living such as housing, shopping, and professional services, and the term "business-serving" for the people who prefer growth to focus on business needs such as office space, hotel rooms, etc.


9 people like this
Posted by @Abitarian
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 16, 2019 at 4:49 pm

There was an excellent candidate who ran with Lydia Kou, his name is Stewart Carl and he got about 5000 votes with literally no money. The people who got elected (when he ran) had maybe 1000 more votes with a ton more backing from the usual suspects, Chamber of Commerce types.

Stewart Carl lost because his platform was to have a moratorium on office growth, gasp!

Carl was an excellent candidate but the “resident serving” clan preferred the likes of Greer Stone (promoted heavily by Karen Holman) and Arthur Keller. Carl could have changed this whole dysfunction. I agree with you that Pat Boone had no chance but when a candidate as good as Carl is overlooked we can be sure we are getting what we paid for.

I keep asking Stewart Carl to run again and still hope the resident serving people will catch on to why he would be great (and win) but looks like they are stuck on the Greer Stone types and Karen Holman probably calls the resident serving shots which is a losing game IMHO.

People who care about this town and are willing to actually work for getting the right people (and who can win) should consider getting to know Stewart Carl.


6 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 16, 2019 at 6:43 pm

Annette is a registered user.

@Abitarian. I don't know that any one person on CC can fix the mess the Majority has made but I supported Stewart Carl (even though I had a devil of a time not calling him Carl Stewart) and agree with you that he would have served us well.


5 people like this
Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 16, 2019 at 9:13 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

From Santa Clara County 2016 election results

ELECTED
Kniss-10,677 ineligible (termed out) in 2020
Tanaka-8290 eligible to run
Fine-7877 eligible to run
Kou-7799 eligible to run
________________
ALSO RAN
Keller-6,854
McDougald-4,814
Stone-4,566
Carl-3,034
Martell-1,705
Fredrich-1,535
Ely-1,497


5 people like this
Posted by @abitarian
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 16, 2019 at 9:53 pm

I stand corrected on the final votes

From when the weekly announced the winners, the standings were

“Shortly after 11 p.m., with all 44 of Palo Alto's precincts reporting, Liz Kniss was enjoying a commanding lead over her 10 opponents, wining 9,714 votes, or 18.33 percent of the total vote. For Kniss, the sole incumbent in the race, the result marked her tenth successful election to public office.

Don McDougall, who ran alongside Kniss, Tanaka and Fine, was in sixth place, with 8.3 percent of the vote (4,397 votes). He was trailed by Greer Stone (7.65 percent, or 4,056 votes) and Stewart Carl (5.19 percent, or 2,752 votes), both of whom were affiliated with the residentialists. Danielle Martell, Leonard Ely, III, and John Fredrich trailed with 2.86 percent, 2.58 percent and 2.56 percent of the vote, respectively.

Slightly trailing the pack was Arthur Keller, a former planning commissioner whose campaign was jointly coordinated with Kou's. As of 11 p.m., Keller had 6,210 votes, or 11.7 percent. He was 801 votes behind Kou.“

Not sure why I thought Carl ended up higher or closer to Fine and Tanaka and am surprised Greer Stone was that high up there but Carl didn’t run with money; Kniss’ wings or the residentialists support, which was clearly with Greer Stone and Keller.

What the numbers show is that it doesn’t look like many people vote but the ones who do have a lot of idiots in love with Kniss and her crewS. Same crowd who elected Cormack.

Ok it’s probably not love. It’s that the folks who pay up to support Kniss and crewS *know what they are getting* and the residentialists take a lot of risks and don't pay up enough.

Sticking with my idea that more money (sad fact as this may be) and going all out for Carl could have made a difference. Greer Stone and Keller types are not the way to go. You can’t be nice in these elections. You just need to pretend to be.




8 people like this
Posted by Abitarian
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 17, 2019 at 8:48 am

@abitarian:

My comments were specific to the 2018 election when the resident-serving caucus failed to enlist three credible candidates.

Now, regarding the 2016 election in which I voted for Lydia Kou, Arthur Keller, Greer Stone, and Stewart Carl...

I had a long chat with Mr. Carl during a campaign event. In general, I agreed with his positions on office development but found his ideas about transportation completely unrealistic. Of course, I don't expect to find 100% accord with any candidate.

The bottom line, however, is that Mr. Carl was not a strong candidate. He entered the race late and failed to raise adequate funding or garner marquee endorsements. Like it or not, this is Palo Alto, and that is what it takes to win.

While I've done no formal research, I have talked to many friends, neighbors, co-workers, etc. who are highly educated but lack the time or interest to follow local politics closely, and therefore, almost invariably vote for the city council candidates endorsed by the Democratic party.

While that may be an effective strategy in other locations, the California Democratic party is not a reasonable proxy for Democratic party values at large.

In our state, and particularly in Palo Alto, a candidate without a "D" next to their name stands little-to-no chance of winning. Therefore, we have many "Dinos" in office, that is "Democrats In Name Only".

Liz Kniss, Gregg Scharff any many other Palo Alto city councilors past and present are demonstrative of this situation.

Since when do true Democrats support office development instead of affordable housing?


5 people like this
Posted by Val
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 17, 2019 at 8:57 am

There was a strategic problem last election - too many slow growth candidates running for too few seats, diluting our vote. There were 3 seats, not four, given Kniss would be re-elected. Stewart was a nice guy but a weak candidate and a spoiler. Lou, Keller and Stone were the 3 strong or stronger of the 4. And given there were only 3 seats left to fill after Kniss was assured, all the energy and resources should have been concentrated on these 3 only. Let’s never make such a mistake again. If a candidate of any stripe is an absolute shoo in, back fewer candidates and not dilute the vote.

I would hope no one would encourage Stewart, whom no one has heard from since, to run again. He won’t get funded, important endorsements and won’t be elected. But he could again screw things up. I have no doubt we will have strong qualified candidates running and we should back them and not dilute our strength again.


11 people like this
Posted by @Abitarian
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 17, 2019 at 9:20 am

@ Abitarian

“While I've done no formal research, I have talked to many friends, neighbors, co-workers, etc. who are highly educated but lack the time or interest to follow local politics closely, and therefore, almost invariably vote for the city council candidates endorsed by the Democratic party.”

that and the Weekly endorsements

The formula is money and strong candidates but obviously strong is relative - Tanaka got 8,290 votes

With such few people voting the Weekly can probably just decide and they probably want all the party credentials

thanks for Cormack Weekly, and tipping the balance to the developers every election


7 people like this
Posted by Abitarian
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 17, 2019 at 1:31 pm

On this forum, the Weekly has been accused of bias toward both pro-resident candidates and toward pro-business candidates. Below are the actual Weekly endorsements for the past 20 years.

By my count, in the five city council elections occurring during the past 10 years, the Weekly has endorsed 11 pro-resident candidates and 10 pro-business candidates; in other words, as close to a 50-50 split as you can get with an odd number of candidates.

2018
Alison Cormack - Business
Tom DuBois - Resident
Eric Filseth - Resident

2016
Arthur Keller - Resident
Lydia Kou - Resident
Liz Kniss - Business
Adrian Fine - Business

2014
Karen Holman - Resident
Gregg Scharff - Business
Tom DuBois - Resident
Eric Filseth - Resident
Cory Wolbach - Business

2012
Marc Berman - Business
Pat Burt - Resident
Liz Kniss - Business
Greg Schmidt - Resident

2009
Larry Klein - Business
Gail Price - Business
Karen Holman - Resident
Gregg Scharff - Business
Nancy Shepherd - Resident

2007
Sid Espinosa
Pat Burt
Yiaway Yeh
Dan Dykwel

2005
Peter Drekmeier
Yoriko Kishimoto
Larry Klein
Jack Morton

2003
Dena Mossar
Bern Beecham
Judy Kleinberg
LaDoris Cordell

2001
Jim Burch
Hillary Freeman
Pria Graves
Jack Morton
Vic Ojakian

1999
Bern Beecham
Judy Kleinberg
Nancy Lytle
Dena Mossar


6 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 17, 2019 at 1:56 pm

Gale Johnson is a registered user.

I've been pretty quiet so far this year and will continue to be, for the most part, unless something really ruffles my feathers to the point they're starting to fall out. I’ve become convinced that posting online is not an effective way to get the attention of CC members. It might be a way to vent our spleens, however, and that might offer some relief, but it often turns out to be an online pissing contest between the 'fors' and 'againsts' on issues. And that doesn't necessarily equate to the most commonly referred to opponents, the 'pro-growthers' and the ‘residentialists'. Emails are probably better, and of course that torturous method is always available…going to CC meetings and getting your 3 minutes…sometimes only 2…at the podium to have your say. I just watch on TV at home and scream and shout at the walls and ceilings and sometimes engage in a soliloquy where I hear all the perfect answers to our cities many problems.

I did my part last year at election time. I did all I could to make sure Tom Dubois and Eric Filseth were re-elected. And yet we still have a pro-growth majority. It appears Alison Cormack has simply taken Cory Wolbach's seat on council to preserve that pro-growth majority. Pat Burt was the best centrist swing voting mayor we've ever had. His votes were almost always for the good of our community and us residents.

The article points out very well the fallacy of rushing to quick judgement and making a decision that should have been deferred for the one year moratorium. But it was convenient and necessary for the President Hotel transition to happen without litigation. The majority threw affordable housing under the bus. And those arguments they made were developer friendly and driven…that they would will never build housing unless they are allowed to build offices first. It really exposed the true colors of the faux champions of housing. Asked a direct question “Is tax revenue more important to you than affordable housing for the masses?”, what do you think their answer would be and what do you think their honest answer should be? And forget about affordable for the masses. That’s a joke in our town. Work force housing is the new great housing movement in PA, meant primarily, I think, for the young techies populating those companies downtown. It serves one sector but leaves out so many workers who commute long distances to serve us every day...restaurant workers, gardeners, house cleaners, care givers, teachers, medical assistants, et al.

Although I will probably remain quiet online…that could change, however…I plea with all posters to think ahead to the next election cycle. Liz will be gone (damage control was disabled during her terms) and it's time for Fine and Tanaka to go too, although I like Tanaka's spunk and his voting record, many times the single 'no' vote on holding the line on spending money. If we have
pro-growthers it’s always good to have at least one of them that is fiscally/financially responsible.

Be alert, stay alert, and keep track. The next election cycle comes up in two years. Let’s see how the ideas by the developer friendly members on CC pan out. Keep track of how many offices were built vs how many housing units were built in the timeframe between now and then.They speak with assurance now, on how, and the only way, to get more housing.

Destroying our town for the interests of developers isn’t the right way.


30 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 17, 2019 at 4:39 pm

"Be alert, stay alert, and keep track."

And above all recognize the central role of money in local politics. We have to take our civic responsibility seriously and collectively outbid the developers in order to buy back our city council. Else we bear the blame for the outcome.

Donate to all viable candidates. Make them know you expect them to vote the residentialist view.


33 people like this
Posted by Is there ever an end to bad city council members?
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Feb 18, 2019 at 11:05 am

So very glad I did not vote for Cormack. Now, we need to unseat both Fine and Tanaka in 2020.


32 people like this
Posted by City Hall Corruption
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 18, 2019 at 6:29 pm

Our downtown is already destroyed. It is now nothing more than an office park with hideous, cheaply constructed and designed modern buildings. The restaurants are mostly lousy, too. They come and go. There is very little reason for Palo Alto residents to visit downtown. The city council is more interested in catering to developers and non residents who come into town each day to work. One day people will wake up and realize Palo Alto is not a family friendly town in which to live.


23 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 19, 2019 at 6:13 am

mauricio is a registered user.

Downtown has been pathetic for years. Overprices bad restaurants, ugly, tacky office buildings. An tasetless ugly office park that competes with the worse in this country. It is now visited by mostly tourists and other out of town visitors. This is the legacy Liz Kniss and her proteges are leaving for the next generations.


14 people like this
Posted by managing the commons
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 19, 2019 at 7:13 am

City Hall Corruption,

"The city council is more interested in catering to developers and non residents who come into town each day to work. One day people will wake up and realize Palo Alto is not a family friendly town in which to live."

You're on to something!

In Office vs Housing, offices are basically not real ownership (soulless), that's why Downtown gets uglier and uglier if there is no housing there.

The concept goes that when no one owns a common resource, everyone has an interest in exploiting it to extinction. Elen Ostrom won a Nobel prize for managing the commons (below) which requires sense of ownership to prevent vultures from taking advantage of scarce resources.

What Kniss, Fine, Tanaka, and Cormack are doing is to make Downtown open season for developers who profit from office space and they probably like the Downtown Palo Alto Office Park feel, cheap eateries, growing crime, etc.

A no soul downtown office park is pretty much that.


Web Link
"8 Principles for Managing a Commons

1. Define clear group boundaries.

2. Match rules governing use of common goods to local needs and conditions.

3. Ensure that those affected by the rules can participate in modifying the rules.

4. Make sure the rule-making rights of community members are respected by outside authorities.

5. Develop a system, carried out by community members, for monitoring members’ behavior.

6. Use graduated sanctions for rule violators.

7. Provide accessible, low-cost means for dispute resolution.

8. Build responsibility for governing the common resource in nested tiers from the lowest level up to the entire" interconnected system.


6 people like this
Posted by managing a commons
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 19, 2019 at 9:14 am

Abitarian,

"By my count, in the five city council elections occurring during the past 10 years, the Weekly has endorsed 11 pro-resident candidates and 10 pro-business candidates; in other words, as close to a 50-50 split as you can get with an odd number of candidates."

If the Weekly is calling business/residents 50-50 split, that spells vulture season, residents have no chance - expect soulless business parks to grow which will eventually decay but do their job of turning over profits for outsiders.

Now for the insanity - not even a business tax gets approved in this town.


4 people like this
Posted by Crescent Park Resident
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 19, 2019 at 10:07 am

The residentialists should really be called isolationists and they all need a lesson in basic economics. The city has changed dramatically in the last twenty years and not for the better. Basically, since Google, Facebook and other tech companies began, Palo Alto has said, "NO!" to these companies being in Palo Alto. So they went to adjacent cities. The impact on Palo Alto? All their employees moved here pricing our teachers and really, everyone else, out. But, since the commercial development was in another city, Palo Alto did not generate any housing impact fees to be able to build affordable housing. But, we do have good schools, so rents went way, way up. 44% of Palo Altons rent. Many of them in rundown homes that haven't been reassessed since Prop 13. We have become a city of predominantly people over 65 many of whom will propbably pass their homes to children, who in turn, will rent them out for a crazy amount of money, but with the same tax base their parents were paying. What does this all mean? No development = no tax income. Prop 13 = no increase in existing property taxes. The result? Twenty more years of the "residentialist" mindset and Palo Alto will just be a completely rundown suburb of the adjacent Mountain View and Menlo Park.


18 people like this
Posted by managing a commons
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 19, 2019 at 10:20 am

Crescent Park Resident,

Office development doesn't pay, plus the costs (traffic, parking etc) are passed along to residents.

Residents still pay the bills, retail helps

Increase in property taxes? For those who have paid a fortune to buy here, that would take the cake and to get what in return?


7 people like this
Posted by Abitarian
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 19, 2019 at 10:32 am

In my post above regarding Weekly endorsements, I made an error in marking Nancy Shepherd as pro-resident when she was clearly pro-business.

This makes the Weekly endorsement tally for the 5 city council elections occurring over the past 10 years 11 pro-business endorsements and 10 pro-resident endorsements, still a 50-50 split.


24 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 19, 2019 at 1:03 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

The poster from Crescent Park must not know that office development does not produce anywhere near the revenues he/she thinks it does, it is actually a clear net lose for residents who end up subsidizing the various costs involved. Office development is a win/win proposition for developers, a lose/lose proposition for residents. The fact that the CC has a solid majority of members who support developers, which in reality is destroying the town is tragic.


2 people like this
Posted by Crescent Park Resident
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 19, 2019 at 2:38 pm

@managing a commons & @maurico. I didn't say anything about office space, I said "development." Anything that reassesses a property to bring its property tax to current FMV is a huge win for the City and the schools. It really depends on how the property is managed. Some commercial roperties are reassessed when the tenant turns over. I don't know of one home rental that is managed that way. My friend rented a two bedroom home in college terrace where nothing had been updated since it was built in the 1920's. The landlord inherited it from his parents. Many of these rental homes pay very little property taxes, and are in no way, "green." Aging at home is great, but when landlords live in other towns and don't deal with the traffic and congestion here and pay very little in property taxes yet charge $5K + utilities for these rundown shacks, something is very wrong. How many of these homes are there? According to the City Comp Plan, 44% of Palo Altans rent. According to the Santa Clara Assessor Annual Report 30% of the parcels in Palo Alto account for only 7% of the total tax roll. No one's going to vote out Prop 13. We need to do something to keep some tax basis.


5 people like this
Posted by Gimmee
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 19, 2019 at 3:10 pm

For those of you singing the praises of kuo, I suggest you read the article in today's daily post about ms kuo. Got won't read about it in the weekly.


18 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 19, 2019 at 4:30 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

Using his own words, the poster from Crescent Park claimed that commercial developments generate taxes needed to build affordable housing, and that Palo Alto erred by pushing several tech companies to locate in neighboring towns. Nothing could be further from the truth, and the poster demonstrate a fundamental lack of understanding in where real revenues come from. As another poster has already pointed out correctly, commercial development don't generate real revenues, and it is the residents who end up paying their cost.

Removing the office vie the vote of the mega development block that absurdly claims they are pro housing was a mega million gift to developers, which would make affordable housing even more out of reach, and which would actually be financed by tax paying residents.


2 people like this
Posted by Crescent Park Resident
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 19, 2019 at 5:21 pm

@mauricio. why did the City Council approve a $30+/square foot housing impact fee (all of which goes to affordable housing) if new development does not contribute to affordable housing? 45% of property tax that each parcel pays goes to PAUSD. So newly assessed property (new tenant in commercial building) is a huge win for schools. Where does the Palo Alto Housing Corporation get its funding then? There are over 1700 "affordable" housing units in Palo Alto - from Webster Wood to Alma Place to Page Mill Court. How do you propose raising the funds to get the additional units the state is requiring the City to build in the next few years? A housing bond?


34 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 19, 2019 at 5:32 pm

Posted by Gimmee, a resident of Crescent Park

>> For those of you singing the praises of kuo, I suggest you read the article in today's daily post about ms kuo. Got won't read about it in the weekly.

So, some people on Twitter don't like her? :rolleyes: Because she isn't consistent enough for them wrt urban density and transportation policy? :doublerolleyes:

Kou's voting record is stellar compared to Kniss. And Fine and Tanaka. And, no, I'm not -surprised- by Cormack, but, I am still -disappointed-.


2 people like this
Posted by Gimmee
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 19, 2019 at 5:44 pm

[Post removed.]


19 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 20, 2019 at 6:48 am

mauricio is a registered user.

Let's dispense with the myth that any housing in Palo Alto can be affordable to all but very few. Affordable for whom? Well compensated techies, almost exclusively, basically subsidized by long term maligned residents, definitely not by commercial development.

No ultra expensive desirable area is ever affordable, and never will be. Affordable housing in Palo Alto, Beverley Hills or Manhattan's Upper West Side is just nonsensical talk, and a waste of time. Getting a date with a desirable gorgeous women is very difficult for all but few, perhaps unfair, but true.


10 people like this
Posted by Blor
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 20, 2019 at 8:52 am

Palo Alto could add 10k units of housing and it would hardly put downward pressure on rental prices. The demand so far outstrips the supply.

Office space is free money for the budget, every person who comes from out of town pays into our economy while we likely don't have to pay for their childrens education, or offer services and utilities for their residencies.

Now if we wanted to clear downtown out we'd implement a head tax on non service industry employees...


26 people like this
Posted by Allen Akin
a resident of Professorville
on Feb 20, 2019 at 9:05 am

Allen Akin is a registered user.

Here's another new development proposed in San Jose. 1.2M sq ft of offices and 332 housing units, for a jobs/housing imbalance of about 8 to 1: Web Link

Gennady's article on inequality quotes an average housing rental rate of $3.20 per sq ft per month for the San Jose metro area. A quick Google search turns up this study from October 2018 (Web Link) reporting an overall average office lease rate of $4.08 per sq ft per month (class A offices at $4.31).

So offices yield at least 28% more ongoing revenue than housing. It's no wonder that developers build way more offices, and banks provide way more financing for projects that are dominated by offices.

This difference in profitability, not overly-restrictive zoning, is the reason we have a jobs/housing imbalance. Lifting the office cap just allows that imbalance to get worse.

And perversely, if we were to succeed in lowering the average rental rate, the profitability difference would get larger, so there would be even more incentive to build offices rather than housing.

That's why any effective solution is going to have to target the demand side of the equation.


67 people like this
Posted by Sad
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 20, 2019 at 9:44 am

Lydia Kou campaigned one way and consistently votes that way - trust intact. Cormack "sorta" campaigned one way and voted the opposite - trust broken Even if she votes for an issue I support, I don’t trust…..she has broken trust. In today’s climate write a memo, ask forgiveness for a bad vote or doing the wrong thing and keep going the same way. This is not about forgive and forget. This is about trust and the future of Palo Alto I will listen to CC comments and the proof is in the vote. If Cormack means how she campaigned time will tell. Sadly her vote for removing the cap - showed her true colors, early in her tenure on the Council..

.


24 people like this
Posted by managing a commons
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 20, 2019 at 10:24 am

Crescent Park Resident,

The development impact fees don’t even begin to cover impacts of having a growing office park downtown - parking issues (they’ll need to park in your neighborhood), cut through traffic, speeding cars compromising safety, cheap eateries, soulless offices which make it uglier. Dirt and crime is to be expected.

PA downtown has never been the desirable part of Palo Alto or necessarily pretty but it’s become worse.

Something went wrong already years ago, downtown was given away to offices (for developers to make money to keep funding candidates who pay back) and it shows.


25 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 20, 2019 at 10:51 am

[Post removed.]


42 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 20, 2019 at 11:07 am

@Sad, I totally agree with you about trusting Lydia Kuo.


36 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 20, 2019 at 12:19 pm

Annette is a registered user.

I read the article about Kou; some of the comments and inferences struck me as being outside the sphere of a difference of opinion on the development issue. The term "digital pitchforks" came to mind.

I think Kou has been both consistent and, frankly, courageous in sticking to the principles upon which she campaigned. The "dynamic on the dais" can get pretty heated, making it more comfortable to either go along with something or remain quiet. Whether or not I agree with Kou on an issue, I fully appreciate that she owns what she says and does not pivot.

As for trust, the CC opted to NOT make that a priority. That single decision may well define what we see out of this new majority, with the vote on the downtown cap standing as Exhibit A.


41 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 20, 2019 at 2:26 pm

@Annette, I too read the article and totally agree with your post above. I'd only add that I've never seen Lydia resort to personal attacks against individuals or groups. She's civil, informed and responsive -- qualities we should expect from our officials whatever their views.

As for making the removal of the office cap a first priority for the new city council, I don't see how that can be anything but a total repudiation of community sentiment.


18 people like this
Posted by Pat Burt
a resident of Community Center
on Feb 22, 2019 at 11:45 am

Pat Burt is a registered user.

A good refutation to the claim that allowing additional offices downtown is needed for housing to be built there is the 100% housing project approved for the VTA lot. The original proposal for that location was an office project. Since the council had zoning discretion there, they were able to reject that proposal and state they desired housing there. As a result, the land was sold to a developer who is building an all housing project, including affordable housing and many TDM measures to reduce car trips.
In contrast, over the last 25 years, the only housing built downtown was in combination with offices and has been a very few large, luxury units.
Eliminating the option for office construction, along with recent up zoning for housing, would result in new housing and without the additional offices that would compound the housing deficit. The same needs to occur in the Cal Ave area to result in the hoped for new housing there.
This action was a failure of planning, policy and politics, all rolled together.


14 people like this
Posted by who said what
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 22, 2019 at 6:15 pm

I can recall two speakers who said that building offices would encourage housing construction, Judy Kleinberg, CEO of the Chamber of Commerce, who lives in Woodside, and business lawyer John Kelley.

Kleinberg is a good example of the revolving door. She was on our City Council but now advocates for private developers to the Council. As I recall she was a buddy of Liz Kniss, and since they share development interests, probably still is.
Kelley often advocates for developers,sometimes along with Palo Alto Forward.


7 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 22, 2019 at 7:31 pm

Annette is a registered user.

@who said what - my recollection of Ms. Kleinberg's comments aligns with yours. I think it was also she who said something along the lines of "ask any developer."

But for the seriousness of the issue, some of what happened on Feb. 11 would qualify as vintage Cirque de PA.


2 people like this
Posted by Larry kleins protege
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 23, 2019 at 1:32 pm

This action was a failure of planning, policy and politics, all rolled together."

As big a failure as your accomplishments in getting housing built during your tenure on the council. Pat. Can toy say maybell?


2 people like this
Posted by Pat Burt
a resident of Community Center
on Feb 23, 2019 at 2:31 pm

Pat Burt is a registered user.

@ Protege
Not sure the meaning of your reference to Maybell. I supported the project, although I had also tried to incorporate a couple of modest modifications to address some of the neighborhood concerns. Unfortunately, the council majority voted against those changes.
I continue to believe the referendum against that project was a loss for the community and our reputation. The constructive engagement between PA Housing and the Ventura neighborhood on the recently approved Wilton Ct affordable housing project showed that neighborhood support for affordable housing can occur through genuine collaboration.


4 people like this
Posted by managing a commons
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 23, 2019 at 2:52 pm

@ Pat Burt,

My recollection of Maybell is that the Housing Corp did not address the neighborhood concerns like the Ventura project.

this guest opinion at the time may refresh your memory

Web Link


"I don't agree with the editorial's observation that there were miscalculations by the neighborhood. Because the PAHC was not willing to meet with representatives of the neighborhood (they were, after all, going to soundly defeat the referendum), we were left with absolutely no other alternative but to file the referendum and see it through to the vote and the victory for us that ensued.

In doing so, we touched upon the very strong feelings that Palo Altans want to be more involved, and listened to, in what happens in their neighborhood. They still do.

What I do agree with is that it was "an avoidable controversy," which is the lesson that has to be learned from the Maybell controversy. If -- and that remains a very big if -- developers, city staff, the City Council and others take the time to meet with, listen to and appropriately consider the feelings and opinions of residents who will be affected by any proposed development, controversies such as what evolved over the Maybell site may very well be avoided. Current developer Golden Gate Homes did so with the project just approved by the council for that site.

One final point, and this also needs to be clearly understood by the people of Palo Alto, as some don't understand it even today: The neighborhood was never opposed to having senior housing on the Maybell site (although we thought it was not a good site for senior housing for many reasons). As Cheryl and I said in our Oct. 4, 2013, op-ed piece in the Weekly: "Our opposition to the ordinance is not about senior housing. We are not opposed to development of senior apartments on the Maybell site if developed within the current RM-15 zone. We are against the high-density rezoning in residential neighborhoods, particularly by the Planned Community process, which creates problems for all Palo Altans." (As an aside, it is interesting to note that the counter op-ed piece in favor of the proposed development with senior housing on the Maybell site was written by Scharff and placed next to the op-piece written by Cheryl and myself. So much for Scharff trying to position himself as a "neutral" mediator.)

We, and many others, still believe that residents need to be actively and genuinely consulted with regard to significant developments proposed to take place in their immediate neighborhood, maybe even more so now that our quality of life seems to be degrading as new developments are approved.

And with all of the above said, I agree with the concluding sentence in the Weekly's editorial: "Hopefully the cautionary lessons learned from the Maybell controversy will be long remembered by our political leaders and neighborhood activists so we can be more successful in handling and negotiating outcomes of future land-use decisions."


Like this comment
Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 23, 2019 at 5:17 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

@managing a commons

The last 5 comments in your web link were a colloquy among commentary author Joe Hersch, Cheryl Lillienstein and myself regarding the openness of PAHC to mediation discussions with opponents of the Marybelle project. If you read them you’ll encounter a different perspective on the matter.


3 people like this
Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 23, 2019 at 5:56 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

In 2020 there will be four council seats to fill. Maybe at least one of them will be skeptical about office development, supportive of housing, especially affordable housing, and on-board with completing the city-wide bicycle/pedestrian-friendly street improvement plan. I would vote for such a candidate (again) and believe many others would too.


1 person likes this
Posted by managing a commons
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 23, 2019 at 7:12 pm

@Jerry Underdal,

"If you read them you’ll encounter a different perspective on the matter."

Doesn't change the point that you don't end with giving communities a say - you start with that.

But the real issue is that some council members aren't even interested in what the community cares about. Palo Alto gets what it votes for.

Again, to prevent vultures from taking advantage of a common (downtown), have some principles

Web Link
"8 Principles for Managing a Commons

1. Define clear group boundaries.

2. Match rules governing use of common goods to local needs and conditions.

3. Ensure that those affected by the rules can participate in modifying the rules.

4. Make sure the rule-making rights of community members are respected by outside authorities.

5. Develop a system, carried out by community members, for monitoring members’ behavior.

6. Use graduated sanctions for rule violators.

7. Provide accessible, low-cost means for dispute resolution.

8. Build responsibility for governing the common resource in nested tiers from the lowest level up to the entire" interconnected system.


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

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