Palo Alto Mayor Adrian Fine, a staunch housing advocate who has frequently clashed with his City Council's colleagues on issues pertaining to growth, will not seek another council term.
Fine, a former member of the Planning and Transportation Commission whose mayoral term coincided with one of the most turbulent years in Palo Alto's recent history, told the Weekly on Thursday that he will not seek reelection. His decision not to run means that the Aug. 7 deadline for filing candidacy papers will be extended for another week.
Barring any late entries into the race, Fine's decision means that voters will choose between nine candidates vying for four seats. Incumbent council members Lydia Kou and Greg Tanaka are both seeking new four-year terms, while Councilwoman Liz Kniss is terming out this year. Joining Kou and Tanaka on the ballot will be former Mayor Pat Burt, planning commissioners Cari Templeton and Ed Lauing, attorney Rebecca Eisenberg, teacher Greer Stone, Human Relations Commissioner Steven Lee and activist Raven Malone.
Fine said his decision not to seek a new term was based on both personal and political factors. The main reason has to do with family. He and his wife, Jane, are expecting their first child in October, he said.
"That's so much more of a priority and life event than any campaign or election," Fine told this news organization.
At the same time, Fine said that he has concerns about the direction in which Palo Alto is going. The city, he said, has become more "inward focused" and less concerned about diversity and inclusiveness. He said he doesn't see a future for growing a young family in Palo Alto and he does not believe the community is prepared to take serious action on equity, inclusion and affordability.
"I really feel Palo Alto has lost a lot of its mojo and it's increasingly becoming a wealthy retirement town," Fine said. "That's not the Palo Alto that raised me."
Elected in 2016, Fine has been the council's leading proponent of dramatically expanding the city's housing supply. He was the lead author of a colleague's memo that led to the creation of the city's Housing Work Plan, a broad framework for revising zoning policies to ease the process for residential construction.
In contrast to Kou and other colleagues on the more slow-growth "residentialist" wing, who favor focusing exclusively on below-market-rate housing, Fine has supported building housing for all income levels, including market-rate housing. He is the only council member who supported Senate Bill 50, a contentious proposal by state Sen. Scott Wiener to loosen density and height restrictions near transit and in jobs-rich areas.
Fine also opposed efforts by Vice Mayor Tom DuBois and Kou to institute rent stabilization in Palo Alto, a proposal that failed to advance.
His positions have occasionally drawn intense opposition from his political opponents. Last year, some of his council colleagues bristled as his decision to submit a letter in favor of Senate Bill 50 without specifying that he is speaking for himself, and not for the entire city (Fine later clarified that he was writing as an individual). During his "State of the City" speech in March, he made a case for ramping up residential construction, which he says is critical to also addressing the city's traffic problems.
"We've effectively externalized our housing demand to other communities, and the result is traffic," Fine said.
Fine also encountered pushback from some of his colleagues last month, when he submitted a letter to various transit agencies and the boards of supervisors of San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties, in support of a one-eighth of a cent sales tax for Caltrain operations. His letter prompted DuBois to send his own letter to the various agencies arguing that Fine did not have the authority to speak on behalf of the entire council, which up to that point had not discussed the ballot measure.
Despite this spat, the council voted unanimously on Aug. 3 to approve a letter urging the placement of the measure on the ballot.
After getting unanimously elected as mayor by his colleagues in January, Fine found himself presiding over the council at one of the most challenging times in Palo Alto's recent history. With the COVID-19 pandemic prompting an economic shutdown in March and all meetings switching to a virtual format, Fine has led the council in adopting a business-assistance program and passing a budget with more than $40 million in cuts. In response to growing demands across the nation to address police brutality and racial inequity, Fine appointed numerous committees to delve deeper into these topics and issue recommendations for policy changes.
Fine, who works as director of marketing and communications at Autonomic, a company that makes software for connected vehicles, said he will continue to focus on the city's response to COVID-19 and on issues pertaining to social injustice for the remainder of the year before his term ends.
"I'm 100% focused on keeping Palo Alto safe during COVID, responding to the economic recession in the community and making durable long-term changes in regard to systemic racism in local government. That's what I'm focused on for the rest of the year," Fine said. "Beyond this year, I'm open to serving Palo Alto in any way it needs me."