In Larry Moody's words, the East Palo Alto City Council's work over the past eight years wasn't very "sexy," but it was necessary.
Having served as mayor and vice mayor since his election to the council in 2012, Moody points to a list of critical, but mundane tasks completed during his tenure — accomplishments he says have helped build the city's foundation: appointing new city staff, such as a new city attorney and a city manager, addressing East Palo Alto's water issues — "Oh we're good with water," he exclaims — and completing the city's general and specific plans, which guide development.
"As a city, we've agreed upon what the future is going to look like for us," Moody said.
Now, the father of four and employment specialist at JobTrain is seeking a third term on the council in order to build out an East Palo Alto that is every bit a Silicon Valley city. For Moody, part of that means creating a community with amenities that can attract local residents and surrounding neighbors, specifically eyeing the Ravenswood Business District — a 200-acre mix of existing businesses and land primed for redevelopment.
"I'm so opposed to anyone that thinks we need to revisit that plan," Moody said, referring to the 2013 Ravenswood/Four Corners TOD Specific Plan. "We know we want mixed-use; we want retail; we want food and entertainment options; (and) maybe a small grocery store."
It's not only an opportunity to keep dollars in the city — especially from young adults who might prefer to spend their disposable income in San Francisco or Oakland — and to create more jobs in the service sector but also a reason for companies to invest in East Palo Alto, he said.
Moody believes that companies, specifically in the tech sector, should treat East Palo Alto the same way Facebook has treated Menlo Park or Google has Mountain View: They should provide community benefits and help build up the city's infrastructure, he said. But Moody qualified his statement by suggesting that it's incumbent upon the city to give these companies a reason to come to East Palo Alto in the first place.
"We haven't created an environment for them to invest into East Palo Alto," he said.
It's similar to his sentiment on why the city's first-source hiring ordinance, which mandates new businesses in East Palo Alto to hire local residents as 30% of its workforce, had no "teeth" when Amazon moved into the city.
Instead of depending on the city ordinance, Moody hopes to lean on Measure HH, a $2.50-per-square-foot parcel tax on office developments that passed in 2018, which creates revenue for low-income housing and job training programs for local residents to enter into science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields.
"That's Larry's language," he said. "That's Larry's writing on HH."
Moody's push for East Palo Alto to embrace its Silicon Valley identity is different, however, from becoming "Silicon Valley's dormitory," as he put it during a recent candidate forum when asked about affordable housing.
Affordable housing remains a priority in the councilman's campaign for reelection, as it does for all the council candidates.
Moody said, for example, he has spent the last two years talking with faith-based organizations about the idea of building affordable housing on top of the city's many less-frequented church properties. "It's a tough subject to raise to churches," he said. He hopes to follow through with existing affordable housing projects on the agenda such as the 965 Weeks St. development, for which Moody said he helped secure funding from Facebook in 2017.
But East Palo Alto shouldn't be the only one bearing the responsibility for creating below-market-rate housing, he said, claiming the city is already leading the affordable housing front in the Bay Area.
"The goal for me … is to find other pathways to develop affordable housing in East Palo Alto but also to encourage our neighboring cities to do their fair share," he said.
The youth community is also on top of Moody's mind — third on his priority list to be exact, according to the councilman, who says he was one of the first directors of the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Peninsula.
With many youth recreational programs in the city, Moody sees a need and opportunity for East Palo Alto to "get back into the parks and recreation business." One of the main ways he plans to do this is by seeking a joint-use facility agreement with Ravenswood City School District.
"The city's school district is the largest landowner in the community," Moody said. "They have great athletic fields, but they're struggling with declining enrollment in the district."
Youth programs would help fill those empty fields, he said.
The plan would generate facility-use revenue for the district, create jobs for more coaches and mentors, and possibly start a collaboration with the city's Public Works Department, which would take care of maintenance, Moody said.
Moody added that the district has a chance to get involved in the housing industry, especially to create housing for its workforce. One of the key issues being discussed by the district's Board of Trustees is where to build housing for its teachers.
Moody enters the race with an extensive resume of community service, dating as far back as 1993 when he directed East Palo Alto's Midnight Basketball League for at-risk youth, according to his campaign website. He also served as a board member of Ravenswood City School District and the EPA Sanitary District and directed the city's Parks and Recreation Department.
"What happens for us right now is (a) critical opportunity to move forward … to move forward with these relationships," Moody said. "If we make the mistake of placing first-time individuals in those (council) seats, their learning curve is going to be so high."
Read profiles of the other six candidates: