Realtor Alex Comsa announced Wednesday that he will seek a seat on the Palo Alto City Council, joining a growing roster of candidates for the three open seats.
A native of Romania, Comsa moved to the Bay Area 25 years ago and had lived in Fremont and San Jose before moving to Palo Alto in 2010. Prior to his current job at Coldwell Banker, he has worked at various startups and small businesses in operations, finance and marketing.
In announcing his candidacy, Comsa said he wants to keep housing and economic recovery on top of the council's agenda.
Though new to politics, Comsa, 49, believes his professional experience will help him manage the city budget and negotiate with developers to increase affordable housing, he wrote on his campaign website. In an interview, he touted his experience in negotiating more than $500 million in contracts.
He said he looks forward to working with other council members "to reach a consensus on issues and achieve better outcomes from which our community would benefit, to ensure the future we all want." He does not view his lack of City Hall experience as a liability.
"I have a fresh perspective and I see it as a positive in terms of having the energy, the commitment and a nonpartisan focus. It would lead to a more united, decisive and efficient City Council," Comsa said in an interview.
Comsa said he particularly wants to focus on below-market-rate residences and on adding housing to high-traffic corridors, which he said will allow the city to meet state mandates while preserving the charm and character of Palo Alto.
He believes having citywide limits on density and heights is generally good for Palo Alto, and wants to see city leaders negotiate with developers to build the needed housing.
"It's so critical to maintain the zoning control at city level and meet the Housing Element mandated by the state so that we can actually make decisions at the city level," Comsa said.
He also said he would like to focus more on public safety and to adopt technology such as smart street lighting systems and predictive modeling, the use of analytics and historic crime data to improve efficiency in the Police Department.
And he generally supports the city's push toward a business tax, particularly given that the proposals currently on the table would exempt most small businesses (his own business, he noted, would not be affected by any of the tax proposals currently under consideration).
He also said in a statement that he wants to prioritize climate change and help the city reach its "80x30" goal, which calls for reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2030, with 1990 as the baseline. He wants to do that by enforcing performance standards and providing incentives for development of green technology, according to his campaign website.
Comsa is vying for one of three seats that will open up on the seven-member council at the end of the year, with council members Tom DuBois and Eric Filseth both terming out and council member Alison Cormack opting not to seek another term.
Mayor Pat Burt, while stopping short of endorsing Comsa, said in a statement that he is "pleased that Alex brings us another candidate for city council with a thoughtful and balanced approach to meeting our challenges."
Comsa is joining a growing candidate field that 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 Julie Lythcott-Haims, an author and educator.
With Cormack opting not to seek a fresh term, candidates have until Aug. 17 to file their papers.