News

Burt and Kou at front of crowded race for Palo Alto City Council seats

With Stone and Tanaka also poised for victory, results suggest power will be shifting toward the council's slow-growth camp

Pat Burt, Lydia Kou, Greer Stone and Greg Tanak are among the 10 candidates running for Palo Alto City Council this fall. Photos by Magali Gauthier.

UPDATE: As of Thursday, Nov. 19, at 4:15 p.m., Pat Burt remained in first place with 14,337 votes, or 13.4% of the votes counted; Lydia Kou held on to second place with 13,411 votes, or 12.5%. In third place, Greg Tanaka had 12,907 votes, 915 votes over Greer Stone, who received 11,992. Ed Lauing trailed with 11,156. So far, 99% of the county's ballots have been counted.

Former Palo Alto Mayor Pat Burt is poised to return to the City Council and Council member Lydia Kou appears set to win a second four-year term, early results from the Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters show.

The preliminary results show Burt with a 1,000-vote lead over the rest of the 10-candidate field. As of Thursday evening, with about 67% of Santa Clara County's votes counted, Burt had received 11,225 votes, while Kou received 10,238 votes. Incumbent Council member Greg Tanaka and teacher Greer Stone had 9,522 votes and 9,328 votes, respectively, according to early results.

Ed Lauing, a member of the Planning and Transportation Commission, was in fifth place as of 8 p.m. Tuesday, when the polls closed, trailing Tanaka by just 225 votes for the final seat. As of Thursday morning, Lauing received 8,717 votes.

Engineer Raven Malone and former Human Relations Commissioner Steven Lee were in sixth and seventh places, with 8,717 and 8,216 votes, respectively, according to results as of Thursday evening, which reflected 28,338 ballots counted in Palo Alto.

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The top four Palo Alto City Council candidates in each consolidated precinct, listed by descending order of votes, in the Nov. 3 election. Results as of Nov. 5, 9 a.m.

If the results hold, the outcome would reshape the council, handing a clear majority to those who favor slower city growth, often referred to as "residentialists." Stone, who also ran in 2016, has been aligned politically with Kou and other residentialist candidates, including Vice Mayor Tom DuBois and Council member Eric Filseth. They all support increasing housing impact fees for new developments, restricting office growth and maintaining ground-floor retail protections.

Burt, a former tech CEO and two-time mayor who concluded his last term in 2016, has long been a council swing vote. His current positions, however, tend to align more with the council's slow-growth members. He and Stone had both vehemently opposed state legislation that would have required cities to permit denser housing developments in single-family residential neighborhoods. They also both opposed the council's recent moves to scale back the city's police auditor's responsibilities by removing from his scope internal conflicts within the Police Department.

As things stand, the seven-member council would have four members that have been endorsed by Palo Altans for Sensible Zoning, a political action committee that favors slow-growth policies — Kou, Stone, Filseth and DuBois — with Burt as the sympathetic fifth member. With Councilwoman Liz Kniss terming out and Mayor Adrian Fine choosing not to seek a second term, the council's more pro-growth camp will now see its membership dwindle from four members to two: Council member Alison Cormack and Tanaka.

If Lauing, who was also endorsed by Palo Altans for Sensible Zoning, closes the gap and overtakes Tanaka, five of the seven council members would favor slow-growth policies.

The race was one of Palo Alto's most crowded and competitive political contests in recent years, with a diverse 10-candidate field that included a mix of City Hall veterans and newcomers. While all candidates expressed support for building more housing and better police oversight, they disagreed over specific policies, including on whether to support Sacramento legislation that would have increased density in residential areas.

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Burt downplayed the differences between the council's two camps and noted that just about every candidate expressed a commitment to boosting the city's housing supply. The main difference, he said, is that candidates such as himself, Lauing and Stone, are more concerned than others about curbing office growth.

"It's really about retaining that modest office growth and working to increase the housing," Burt said. "Frankly, almost all the candidates ended up with similar positions (on housing), and with a range of perspectives on how to do that.

"I think there's a community consensus now — not unanimity — around moderating the rate of office growth and increasing housing growth at all income levels, as well as investing in transportation."

Stone told the Weekly that if results hold, the city will have a council that is "truly responsive to the people."

"It'll be a council that's going to listen to Palo Altans and take their concerns and their hopes into consideration to be able to make a city that really works for the people and not for outside interests," Stone said. "I think we're really going to be able to make a difference on moving the needle on being able to create more housing and having a focused effort on affordable housing and trying to create a more diverse and equitable community."

The three candidates with the most progressive policies — Malone, Lee and Planning and Transportation Commission Chair Carolyn Templeton — fared less well on election night and were in sixth, seventh and eighth places in the early standings. All three supported more aggressive action on housing, including zone changes that would promote density in transit corridors.

Malone, who trailed Tanaka by about 700 votes on Tuesday night, said her campaign remains hopeful, as well as proud of its work.

"I think I gave it my all, and we're hoping for the best," Malone said.

Kou, meanwhile, was relieved by the early results, having barely missed in her first run for the council, in 2014, and having narrowly won in her second attempt, in 2016. She said she believes her track record and consistent positions helped her in her bid for reelection. She also said that she expects the new council to work well together to address the city's most significant challenges.

"I think there's an opportunity for more collaboration and for coming out with some policies that are more moderate so we can advance forward — in not only coming out of COVID in a rational manner, without deregulating everything — but also in dealing with housing and all the other issues," Kou said.

Attorney Rebecca Eisenberg and Ajit Varma, director of product management at WhatsUp, were in ninth and tenth places, respectively.

This story will be updated as more results come in.

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Burt and Kou at front of crowded race for Palo Alto City Council seats

With Stone and Tanaka also poised for victory, results suggest power will be shifting toward the council's slow-growth camp

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Tue, Nov 3, 2020, 9:39 pm
Updated: Thu, Nov 19, 2020, 5:24 pm

UPDATE: As of Thursday, Nov. 19, at 4:15 p.m., Pat Burt remained in first place with 14,337 votes, or 13.4% of the votes counted; Lydia Kou held on to second place with 13,411 votes, or 12.5%. In third place, Greg Tanaka had 12,907 votes, 915 votes over Greer Stone, who received 11,992. Ed Lauing trailed with 11,156. So far, 99% of the county's ballots have been counted.

Former Palo Alto Mayor Pat Burt is poised to return to the City Council and Council member Lydia Kou appears set to win a second four-year term, early results from the Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters show.

The preliminary results show Burt with a 1,000-vote lead over the rest of the 10-candidate field. As of Thursday evening, with about 67% of Santa Clara County's votes counted, Burt had received 11,225 votes, while Kou received 10,238 votes. Incumbent Council member Greg Tanaka and teacher Greer Stone had 9,522 votes and 9,328 votes, respectively, according to early results.

Ed Lauing, a member of the Planning and Transportation Commission, was in fifth place as of 8 p.m. Tuesday, when the polls closed, trailing Tanaka by just 225 votes for the final seat. As of Thursday morning, Lauing received 8,717 votes.

Engineer Raven Malone and former Human Relations Commissioner Steven Lee were in sixth and seventh places, with 8,717 and 8,216 votes, respectively, according to results as of Thursday evening, which reflected 28,338 ballots counted in Palo Alto.

If the results hold, the outcome would reshape the council, handing a clear majority to those who favor slower city growth, often referred to as "residentialists." Stone, who also ran in 2016, has been aligned politically with Kou and other residentialist candidates, including Vice Mayor Tom DuBois and Council member Eric Filseth. They all support increasing housing impact fees for new developments, restricting office growth and maintaining ground-floor retail protections.

Burt, a former tech CEO and two-time mayor who concluded his last term in 2016, has long been a council swing vote. His current positions, however, tend to align more with the council's slow-growth members. He and Stone had both vehemently opposed state legislation that would have required cities to permit denser housing developments in single-family residential neighborhoods. They also both opposed the council's recent moves to scale back the city's police auditor's responsibilities by removing from his scope internal conflicts within the Police Department.

As things stand, the seven-member council would have four members that have been endorsed by Palo Altans for Sensible Zoning, a political action committee that favors slow-growth policies — Kou, Stone, Filseth and DuBois — with Burt as the sympathetic fifth member. With Councilwoman Liz Kniss terming out and Mayor Adrian Fine choosing not to seek a second term, the council's more pro-growth camp will now see its membership dwindle from four members to two: Council member Alison Cormack and Tanaka.

If Lauing, who was also endorsed by Palo Altans for Sensible Zoning, closes the gap and overtakes Tanaka, five of the seven council members would favor slow-growth policies.

The race was one of Palo Alto's most crowded and competitive political contests in recent years, with a diverse 10-candidate field that included a mix of City Hall veterans and newcomers. While all candidates expressed support for building more housing and better police oversight, they disagreed over specific policies, including on whether to support Sacramento legislation that would have increased density in residential areas.

Burt downplayed the differences between the council's two camps and noted that just about every candidate expressed a commitment to boosting the city's housing supply. The main difference, he said, is that candidates such as himself, Lauing and Stone, are more concerned than others about curbing office growth.

"It's really about retaining that modest office growth and working to increase the housing," Burt said. "Frankly, almost all the candidates ended up with similar positions (on housing), and with a range of perspectives on how to do that.

"I think there's a community consensus now — not unanimity — around moderating the rate of office growth and increasing housing growth at all income levels, as well as investing in transportation."

Stone told the Weekly that if results hold, the city will have a council that is "truly responsive to the people."

"It'll be a council that's going to listen to Palo Altans and take their concerns and their hopes into consideration to be able to make a city that really works for the people and not for outside interests," Stone said. "I think we're really going to be able to make a difference on moving the needle on being able to create more housing and having a focused effort on affordable housing and trying to create a more diverse and equitable community."

The three candidates with the most progressive policies — Malone, Lee and Planning and Transportation Commission Chair Carolyn Templeton — fared less well on election night and were in sixth, seventh and eighth places in the early standings. All three supported more aggressive action on housing, including zone changes that would promote density in transit corridors.

Malone, who trailed Tanaka by about 700 votes on Tuesday night, said her campaign remains hopeful, as well as proud of its work.

"I think I gave it my all, and we're hoping for the best," Malone said.

Kou, meanwhile, was relieved by the early results, having barely missed in her first run for the council, in 2014, and having narrowly won in her second attempt, in 2016. She said she believes her track record and consistent positions helped her in her bid for reelection. She also said that she expects the new council to work well together to address the city's most significant challenges.

"I think there's an opportunity for more collaboration and for coming out with some policies that are more moderate so we can advance forward — in not only coming out of COVID in a rational manner, without deregulating everything — but also in dealing with housing and all the other issues," Kou said.

Attorney Rebecca Eisenberg and Ajit Varma, director of product management at WhatsUp, were in ninth and tenth places, respectively.

This story will be updated as more results come in.

Comments

Alex
Registered user
Barron Park
on Nov 4, 2020 at 12:06 am
Alex, Barron Park
Registered user
on Nov 4, 2020 at 12:06 am
18 people like this

I guess it helped that the Weekly gave Greer Stone a ton of free advertising in the guise of an example for a "local hero" piece. What a joke.


Name hidden
Downtown North

Registered user
on Nov 4, 2020 at 12:20 am
Name hidden, Downtown North

Registered user
on Nov 4, 2020 at 12:20 am

Due to repeated violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are automatically removed. Why?


Near Perfection
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 4, 2020 at 2:04 am
Near Perfection, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Nov 4, 2020 at 2:04 am
118 people like this

Congratulations Pat, Lydia and Greer. I only wish Ed Lauing were joining you as a much better choice for the forth seat, bringing to it his integrity and knowledge of land use. Along with Tom DuBois and Eric Filseth, our city will advance in a sensible, intelligent and progressive manner.

And congratulations to us, the residents of Palo Alto who voted for these knowledgeable, experienced candidates rather than being distracted by the trendy youth who ran but simply don't have these important qualities.

3 things I would like to see changed in the future -
1. For the Democratic Party and Clubs to butt out of our elections. City Council is non-partisan office, yet the losing candidates collected so many Democratic Club and the Central Committee endorsements that at times it seemed difficult to crowd them into campaign ads. One had 7. No one cares, nor should they - it didn't help any of them win.
2. Candidates stop using Council meetings as your own personal forums, speaking to every item whether you know anything about it or not, wasting the public's time and Council's.
3. Candidates must know what our town's ssues are, then tell us how you will address them with some actual specificity. This is important. If you only generalize, we assume you don't know much or want to be evasive and deceptive and we won't vote for you which happened to one losing candidate.
4. Don't make excuses for why you raised large amounts of campaign money from out of town. You are a candidate for this city and its residents. If you can't get their support, this should tell you - don't run. Instead, get to know people and the community and issues, volunteer for community service, watch commission and council meetings, read staff reports, understand the budget, THEN run for office and you will find Palo Altans will donate to your campaign.


AnnetteG
Registered user
Midtown
on Nov 4, 2020 at 7:46 am
AnnetteG, Midtown
Registered user
on Nov 4, 2020 at 7:46 am
54 people like this

To near perfection: well said


Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 4, 2020 at 9:52 am
Resident 1-Adobe Meadows, Adobe-Meadow
Registered user
on Nov 4, 2020 at 9:52 am
41 people like this

Yes - totally agree. And YEAH to the three winners noted.


A neighbor of Cal Ave
Registered user
Evergreen Park
on Nov 4, 2020 at 10:33 am
A neighbor of Cal Ave, Evergreen Park
Registered user
on Nov 4, 2020 at 10:33 am
65 people like this

I am looking forward to a City Council that can discuss the substantive issues in a productive and civil way. I am looking forward to the Council leading the City, rather than the City Manager. I am looking forward to a positive working relationship with the residents of Palo Alto rather than a antagonistic one. I am looking forward to a City Council that demand outreach efforts with residents as well as with business and developer interests on policy issues. All of this might be a lot to ask, but I am hopeful. I hope the outgoing members of the Council do not try to impose their views on the City on their way out. They are on their way out for a reason.


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Nov 4, 2020 at 10:40 am
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on Nov 4, 2020 at 10:40 am
45 people like this

"I am hopeful. I hope the outgoing members of the Council do not try to impose their views on the City on their way out."

Indeed! That reminds me: what is happening with the investigation in Ms. Kniss's campaign irregularities? It's been years.


Resident, born and raised Palo Alto
Registered user
Community Center
on Nov 4, 2020 at 11:31 am
Resident, born and raised Palo Alto , Community Center
Registered user
on Nov 4, 2020 at 11:31 am
23 people like this

Congratulations to the candidates-elect! I think we all hope that you work to deal with the outcomes of the pandemic appropriately and inclusively, as well as concern yourselves with the general longer term well-being of our City.

Also, a side note: For those of you who share the sentiments of @NearPerfection and are very satisfied with the outcome of the election, here's some food for thought:

From the way that our voting system works, 50.91 of the votes that were cast were for candidates who didn't win. Clearly, there is a significant portion of Palo Alto who, at least in part, disagree with your policies and vision for the City. To dismiss those people as "trendy youth" is quite unsophisticated (by the way, the youngest candidate was 28 so I feel aged by that language).

There were candidates who brought up serious issues in our City (i.e. police reform, lack of housing, failing businesses, green infrastructure), for which a significant portion of our City voted. These issue aren't disappearing simply because this election was a referendum on the pandemic.

4. I agree that once the donations from outside the City start growing up to 20%, it becomes suspicious. Although the 2 candidates with ~40 % outside donations (Varma, Lee) didn't win anyway.

**I think what is more important is that there is way too much money in our City Council race, and it keeps increasing from year to year.**

Our candidates raise about 1/2 of what SJ Council candidates raise, despite their population being x15 greater than ours (Web Link). I've volunteered for some of these campaigns before, and you'll find that the candidates court the same 100-200 citizens in Palo Alto, who are known to give big donations. And unfortunately this is true about ALL of the candidates elected, too. For example, look at Lydia Kou's most recent filing (Web Link)... on her most recent filing, there are easily 5-6 donors that are giving between $1000-6500 (!) to her campaign.

I sincerely ask you: Is this appropriate for elections in our City? Do we want the same handful of Palo Altans with thousands in disposable income determining our elections every couple of years? Are those financial contributions representative of the retirees and the big portion of people who don't make fat tech incomes? Should maybe one of our priorities should be to reform elections in a way that our candidates for a LOCAL CITY council aren't spending most of their time courting the same few people every couple of years?

3. The reality is that an overwhelming majority of people in PA are Democrats and some find it helpful to know which candidates are elected by local Democrat clubs -- some people do care. The good news for those who are upset about those endorsements is that, as @Near Perfection said, most Palo Altans don't really use those as a heuristic when voting (i.e. 2014 election and 2020 election).


Annette
Registered user
College Terrace
on Nov 4, 2020 at 11:41 am
Annette, College Terrace
Registered user
on Nov 4, 2020 at 11:41 am
38 people like this

The election results represent hope that Palo Alto can proceed and progress in a way that balances the interests of the residents with those who wish to be residents and the business community. The new group will, I think, be more inclined to listen to residents and factor what they hear into decisions that are made. I also think it will be more inclined than the present majority to fully assume the role of managing the City, including the City Manager and Senior Staff. The tail started wagging the dog several years ago; starting point may have been in the Benest years; it certainly continued throughout the Keene years, with little interference from various compositions of CC. I think it's time that changed and our elected officials call the shots. I am optimistic that the new CC can and will begin the process of changing this.

Congratulations to all who were elected!


;)
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 4, 2020 at 12:18 pm
;), Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Nov 4, 2020 at 12:18 pm
38 people like this

I'm really glad that the socialists didn't win.


Resident
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 4, 2020 at 4:47 pm
Resident, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Nov 4, 2020 at 4:47 pm
36 people like this

@Near Perfection is dead right, on the Regional Democratic Party and Clubs trying to meddle in nonpartisan elections.

Fortunately their attempts in Palo Alto have been spectacularly inept: over the last few elections they’ve almost exclusively supported candidates who don’t win. Evidently the kind of people the Regional Democratic Clubs think should run Palo Alto, and the kind of people Palo Altans think should run Palo Alto, are two different kinds of people.

The regional Democratic Party is no friend to Palo Alto, and a majority of Palo Altans apparently know it. And this is a town where nearly 60% of us register Blue.

So there may be image as well as mismatch issues. @Near Perfection’s call for the Democratic Clubs to butt out is spot on, but it may be academic anyway: as is likely with Union endorsements, it’s possible a CA DEM endorsement now actually loses more Palo Alto votes than it wins. A considerable achievement, in a town where most of those voters are Democrats.


Ardan Michael Blum
Registered user
Downtown North
on Nov 6, 2020 at 12:47 am
Ardan Michael Blum, Downtown North
Registered user
on Nov 6, 2020 at 12:47 am
27 people like this

As a centrist-Democrat I am extremely relieved that Mr Lee and Ms Eisenberg are not going to bring their anti-police views to City Hall. (Palo Alto needs a working and fully funded police force)!


Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 6, 2020 at 9:05 am
Resident 1-Adobe Meadows, Adobe-Meadow
Registered user
on Nov 6, 2020 at 9:05 am
15 people like this

I was a registered Democrat up until in this election they said you could only vote for the party you are registered in the preliminary voting. That is when I went down to the voting office in Santa Clara and changed my registration.

I have watched the D party "resist" for 4 years. I do not pay people to "resist" and sit on their hands to do nothing. Our local legislative people said DT was crazy and needed to be impeached the day he started the job. And one has written a book describing her traumatic life. She is chief accuser of other people being crazy.

Worse - people I have worked with are members of Occupy Democrat and have spewed hate for four years. Despite the fact that their 401K plans have been enriched by this president to a great degree. And the company and US government have been very good to these people.

My life has been better - except for the people who write opinions in the paper that just spew hate and discontent. I have to make sure that in the future my opinions have a valid point.

And that then brings us down to PA which has suffered from the same type of feverish determination to take this city apart.
Congratulations to the winners. We have a beautiful city, beautiful neighborhoods, and the ability to plan our future without destructing all of the good things in this city. Resistance takes on a different set of goals.


Not socialist
Registered user
Southgate
on Nov 7, 2020 at 8:49 pm
Not socialist, Southgate
Registered user
on Nov 7, 2020 at 8:49 pm
7 people like this

I’m surprised that Ed Lauing didn’t win, and that Greg Tanaka did. Also, I’m not too thrilled with going back to the future with Pat Burt.


Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 10, 2020 at 6:48 pm
Resident 1-Adobe Meadows, Adobe-Meadow
Registered user
on Nov 10, 2020 at 6:48 pm
Like this comment

I am a number's person. Greg Tanaka is a numbers person. He speaks that language I understand. We have huge combination of people who ran and are signed up to political programs at the state level. Some of which are counterproductive to a healthy city. There always has to be a numbers person to tell the people who have progressive foam coming out of their mouths that what they are proposing does not make sense.


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