Hope Lancero, a medical researcher at Stanford University School of Medicine, has joined the race for a seat on the Palo Alto City Council with the goal of bringing more affordable housing to the city.
Lancero, a Long Beach native, moved to Palo Alto about 20 years ago and currently lives in the Evergreen Park neighborhood. She said that if elected, she would like to serve as the voice of the "disenfranchised," referring to people who feel priced out of the city. This extends to her Stanford colleagues and university students.
"I am surrounded by many people who tell me, 'We would live here but we just can't afford it. We could be just one step from being working homeless here,'" Lancero, 54, said in an interview.
Lancero is hoping to fill one of three seats that will open up at the end of the year. Council members Tom DuBois and Eric Filseth will both term out, while council member Alison Cormack has opted not to seek a second term on the seven-member council.
Lancero, whose job focuses on performing pediatric brain tumor research, acknowledges that she is new to politics. If elected, she said she would like to focus on constituent services and be the voice of people who aren't normally involved in politics. This could mean bringing attention to potholes that need to be repaired or areas that require cleanup.
She said she often hears from people who say they are dissatisfied by what their city is doing but don't believe that getting involved in local government would change anything. She is hoping to give these people a voice.
"I'm representing the people who don't vote but complain," Lancero said.
Lancero moved to the Bay Area to do her postdoctoral research at the University of California, San Francisco. After a stint at Stanford, she had spent four years working at numerous small biotech firms before returning to Stanford earlier this year.
She said she has grown to love Palo Alto's "small-town feel" and enjoys running into her neighbors when shopping for groceries. She believes that in approving housing, the city should focus on options that would be affordable to families with children. Most of the houses that are getting built, she said, are far too expensive for anyone not working in the tech sector.
"The developers are building for the sake of developers," she said. "If they could develop so that we can actually afford to live in their developments, that would be awesome."
Lancero is part of a growing field of candidates seeking a council seat in November. Planning and Transportation Commission Chair Ed Lauing has formally announced his candidacy for the council. Three other residents — author Julie Lythcott-Haims, Utilities Advisory Commissin member Lisa Forssell and Alex Comsa, a local realtor — filed papers indicating an intent to run for a council seat.
Candidates for the council have until Aug. 17 to file their nomination papers.