Julie Lythcott-Haims, an author, educator, public speaker and former dean of freshmen at Stanford University, is now pursuing her next position: a seat on the Palo Alto City Council.
Lythcott-Haims announced on Thursday that she is running for council, becoming the sixth candidate in the race for three open seats. A renowned lecturer on the subjects of race, identity and parenting, Lythcott-Haims has authored three books: "How to Raise an Adult," "Real American: A Memoir" and, most recently, "Your Turn: How to be an Adult."
In a statement announcing her candidacy, Lythcott-Haims said her priorities will include building more housing, taking bold climate action and championing youth mental health and wellness. She noted that while Palo Alto once led the state in building affordable housing, the city is now lagging behind others in that effort.
"If we don't act with intentionality and urgency, I fear we will exacerbate our local housing crisis, making Palo Alto unattainable not just for teachers, nurses, civil servants, and small business workers across the spectrum, but for seniors, our children, and our grandchildren as well. How we act today is a reflection of our values," she said in a statement. "So for me, acting locally means helping to ensure that Palo Alto is doing its part to meet the housing needs of the region and to build a thriving, vibrant city with room for all."
She also said she wants to focus her campaign on strengthening community bonds and "creating a sense of belonging among neighbors." As the city has grown more diverse, residents have lost a sense of "we" and have sometimes fallen into an "us/them" mindset.
"I am a Black biracial queer resident of the South side of Palo Alto and I'm running to invite us to be better neighbors to and for each other, here on the streets of Palo Alto, as well as within our region and in our nation," Lythcott-Haims said. "When we walk down the streets of Palo Alto we all want to be treated with dignity and kindness whether by neighbors, store clerks, law enforcement officers, or strangers; all too often many of us are met with the presumption that we don't belong based upon how we look.
"We have our own reckoning to do. Stronger interpersonal relationships make all the difference."
Born in Nigeria, Lythcott-Haims grew up in the Midwest and on the East Coast before moving to California. She earned her bachelor's degree at Stanford University and later spent 14 years at Stanford, 10 of which she served as freshmen dean.
Lythcott-Haims has already secured the endorsement of numerous Democratic leaders, including state Sen. Josh Becker and state Assembly member Marc Berman, who has served on the Palo Alto council before getting elected to the state Legislature in 2016. In a statement, Berman touted Lythcott-Haims' "deep commitment to championing housing, improving mental health and fostering a greater sense of belonging in our city."
"Throughout her career, she has found even more ways to give back and strengthen the community," Berman said. "She will be a tireless advocate for residents across Palo Alto, and we would be lucky to have her on the City Council working for us."
Her list of local supporters also includes former mayors Larry Klein and Betsy Bechtel and former council members LaDoris Cordell, Gail Price, Hillary Freeman and John Barton.
With her announcement, Lythcott-Haims became the sixth candidate to enter the race. The pool of candidates also includes Ed Lauing, chair of the Planning and Transportation Commission; Lisa Forssell, a member of the Utilities Advisory Commission and producer at the design studio at Apple; Hope Lancero, a medical researcher at Stanford University; Vicki Veenker, a patent attorney and mediator; and Alex Comsa, a Realtor at Coldwell Banker.
The candidates are vying for three open seats, with council members Tom DuBois Eric Filseth and Tom DuBois both terming out at the end of this year. Council member Alison Cormack announced that she will not to run for a second term and has endorsed Lythcott-Haims.