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Software engineer Brian Hamachek joins Palo Alto City Council race

Candidate wants to reduce developers' sway over land-use decisions

Brian Hamachek has strong feelings about Palo Alto's land-use policies.

Brian Hamachek is running for a seat on the Palo Alto City Council in the November 2022 election. Courtesy Brian Hamachek.

The software engineer and Palo Alto's newest City Council candidate opposed Castilleja School's redevelopment application, which the city approved earlier this year, and he believes developers in general have way too much sway over city leaders, he said Monday.

He hopes to change that by joining the council, which will have three seats open at the end of this year.

Though he hasn't served on any local boards or commissions, Hamachek said he's been following local politics for about 15 years, ever since he emailed council members with concerns about the traffic impacts of a Trader Joe's store that was getting built in Town & Country Village. The responses he received demonstrated to him the many nuances and variables that go into planning decisions and prompted him to apply to serve on the Planning and Transportation Commission.

Though he didn't win an appointment, Hamachek said he remained engaged in local issues, including the Castilleja project a few blocks from his home in Old Palo Alto. The council, he argued, was spurred to approve the project by threats of a lawsuit.

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"I think that overall, developers have gotten a little too much power," Hamachek, 36, told this news organization. "We just kind of accepted the fact that projects will get approved."

On his campaign website, Hamachek argues that residents do not need to accept the "San Jose-ification of Palo Alto." It's up to the residents, not developers, to decide where housing should happen and how it looks.

"We need housing that is affordable for our firefighters, teachers and the other lower-income families that have always been an integral part of the fabric of Palo Alto," he wrote. "We do not need Santana Row style cookie-cutter 'luxury' apartment complexes, which prioritize density and profit over well-established aesthetics and community values."

As a tech professional who has worked for numerous startups before joining HP, Hamachek strongly believes in the power of technology to enhance civic life. In 2014, he was one of the judges who evaluated apps at the city's hackathon. Today, he supports the city's move to expand its small but profitable fiber network citywide, a project that the city has been exploring for two decades and will gradually unfold over the next few years.

"I really think that should be pursued," Hamachek said. "I think it's expensive but it's one of those projects that we don't even know the benefits of until it's built. And I think there will be tremendous benefits."

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He feels the same way about grade separation at the rail tracks, particularly if it involves building a tunnel for trains — an alternative that the council had considered but ultimately rejected because of high costs.

Hamachek is less enthusiastic about a potential business tax, which the council is preparing to place on the November ballot. A new tax, he said, could hurt local businesses.

"I think in general, we need to be doing everything we can to support local businesses and not increase the burden on them," Hamachek said.

Hamachek is the seventh candidate to enter the council race. Joining him on the ballot will be 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; Alex Comsa, a Realtor at Coldwell Banker; and Julie Lythcott-Haims, an author and former dean of freshmen at Stanford University.

Council members Tom DuBois and Eric Filseth are both terming out at the end of the year, while council member Alison Cormack is concluding her term and has opted not to see a second term.

Gennady Sheyner
 
Gennady Sheyner covers the City Hall beat in Palo Alto as well as regional politics, with a special focus on housing and transportation. Before joining the Palo Alto Weekly/PaloAltoOnline.com in 2008, he covered breaking news and local politics for the Waterbury Republican-American, a daily newspaper in Connecticut. Read more >>

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Software engineer Brian Hamachek joins Palo Alto City Council race

Candidate wants to reduce developers' sway over land-use decisions

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Mon, Aug 1, 2022, 5:24 pm

Brian Hamachek has strong feelings about Palo Alto's land-use policies.

The software engineer and Palo Alto's newest City Council candidate opposed Castilleja School's redevelopment application, which the city approved earlier this year, and he believes developers in general have way too much sway over city leaders, he said Monday.

He hopes to change that by joining the council, which will have three seats open at the end of this year.

Though he hasn't served on any local boards or commissions, Hamachek said he's been following local politics for about 15 years, ever since he emailed council members with concerns about the traffic impacts of a Trader Joe's store that was getting built in Town & Country Village. The responses he received demonstrated to him the many nuances and variables that go into planning decisions and prompted him to apply to serve on the Planning and Transportation Commission.

Though he didn't win an appointment, Hamachek said he remained engaged in local issues, including the Castilleja project a few blocks from his home in Old Palo Alto. The council, he argued, was spurred to approve the project by threats of a lawsuit.

"I think that overall, developers have gotten a little too much power," Hamachek, 36, told this news organization. "We just kind of accepted the fact that projects will get approved."

On his campaign website, Hamachek argues that residents do not need to accept the "San Jose-ification of Palo Alto." It's up to the residents, not developers, to decide where housing should happen and how it looks.

"We need housing that is affordable for our firefighters, teachers and the other lower-income families that have always been an integral part of the fabric of Palo Alto," he wrote. "We do not need Santana Row style cookie-cutter 'luxury' apartment complexes, which prioritize density and profit over well-established aesthetics and community values."

As a tech professional who has worked for numerous startups before joining HP, Hamachek strongly believes in the power of technology to enhance civic life. In 2014, he was one of the judges who evaluated apps at the city's hackathon. Today, he supports the city's move to expand its small but profitable fiber network citywide, a project that the city has been exploring for two decades and will gradually unfold over the next few years.

"I really think that should be pursued," Hamachek said. "I think it's expensive but it's one of those projects that we don't even know the benefits of until it's built. And I think there will be tremendous benefits."

He feels the same way about grade separation at the rail tracks, particularly if it involves building a tunnel for trains — an alternative that the council had considered but ultimately rejected because of high costs.

Hamachek is less enthusiastic about a potential business tax, which the council is preparing to place on the November ballot. A new tax, he said, could hurt local businesses.

"I think in general, we need to be doing everything we can to support local businesses and not increase the burden on them," Hamachek said.

Hamachek is the seventh candidate to enter the council race. Joining him on the ballot will be 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; Alex Comsa, a Realtor at Coldwell Banker; and Julie Lythcott-Haims, an author and former dean of freshmen at Stanford University.

Council members Tom DuBois and Eric Filseth are both terming out at the end of the year, while council member Alison Cormack is concluding her term and has opted not to see a second term.

Comments

Bystander
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 2, 2022 at 7:27 am
Bystander, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Aug 2, 2022 at 7:27 am

Now this sounds more like it! Thank you.


ALB
Registered user
College Terrace
on Aug 2, 2022 at 9:11 am
ALB, College Terrace
Registered user
on Aug 2, 2022 at 9:11 am

This candidate may hold an opinion re: the expansion of Castilleja’s footprint but he never spoke/wrote to the council opposing the proposal. He is also flat out wrong re: business tax harming small businesses. [Portion removed.]


Consider Your Options.
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 2, 2022 at 12:13 pm
Consider Your Options. , Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Aug 2, 2022 at 12:13 pm

What do you know about the tunnel, Mr. Hamachek? Why would you have supported it? What would it have taken to build it? Where would the money have come from? What are the physical, fiscal, and jurisdictional constraints that drove Council's decision on this issue? I don't recall hearing you speak on this subject in public meetings when it mattered. Who are you? Where did you come from? Have you ever served on any city committee, like the Rail Committee, for instance, since you say this issue matters to you? Have you read the Comprehensive Plan or the complete city budget or the City Charter? What do you know about city operations? You may know lots about software, but I want to know what you understand about city governance--what a city council legally can and cannot do. I don't want you to learn this on the job.

I am tired of people running for office who think they know it all, but have never bothered to do any previous public service to learn the system. Start on committees and commissions. There are lots of rules staff, electeds, and appointees have to follow--for the public's protection. Do you know what they are? Inexperienced electeds (and staff) have become a problem. I'm looking for experience and a track record of public action that indicates knowledge, thoughtful values and integrity. Council is an extremely time-consuming volunteer job. I honor and am grateful to all of those who serve, even those with whom I disagree. Start by volunteering for a committee, rather than armchair quarterbacking. Help me understand what you have done in the public sphere that would give me reason to vote for you.


Annette
Registered user
College Terrace
on Aug 2, 2022 at 3:44 pm
Annette, College Terrace
Registered user
on Aug 2, 2022 at 3:44 pm

Consider Your Options makes a very good point. City Council is supposed to direct the City Manager and Senior Staff, but as we often see here, the opposite happens. The Castilleja application and how it was handled revealed how out of whack things have gotten. This reversed dynamic will persist as long as we elect people unfamiliar with how government works - or is supposed to work. Because they will defer to the City Manager and Senior Staff. People with some City experience are far more likely to understand what the roles are, what they are expected to do, what can and should be expected from the City Manager and Senior Staff, and what should not be allowed to persist.


Chris
Registered user
Charleston Meadows
on Aug 3, 2022 at 7:39 am
Chris, Charleston Meadows
Registered user
on Aug 3, 2022 at 7:39 am

Developers having power is the number one issue in Palo Alto right now. I would've liked to hear something about environmentalism


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 3, 2022 at 8:12 am
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on Aug 3, 2022 at 8:12 am

Echoing the points made above. We need CC members who will do their jobs of policing staff and the city manager so we avoid long and costly fiascos like Casti and short absurd attempts to cater to greedy landlords like Ms Cormack pushing to convert Town & Country Shopping Center to "medical/research" without A) defining the term, B) acknowledging that the pandemic was ending, C) considering the lack of sales tax revenue and D) depriving residents of a community resource that's ALWAYS packed with shoppers and diners.

When will we start seeing candidates who represent US and not the big-money backers who care more about providing more MARKET RATE housing for techies?

Palo Alto has the 2d highest rents in the country (after Jersey City, NJ). What's CC doing about that?? Offices and stores have been empty for years because the greedy landlords won't reduce rents and thus killed long-time businesses.

Where's the Chamber of Commerce? Isn't retail "commerce" or do only the big-dollar huge companies count to them??


lex22
Registered user
Greater Miranda
on Aug 4, 2022 at 12:10 pm
lex22, Greater Miranda
Registered user
on Aug 4, 2022 at 12:10 pm

How can we say that developers have all the power when nothing ever get's built. We need housing and we need a lot of it. Let's get start building now.


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 4, 2022 at 12:56 pm
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on Aug 4, 2022 at 12:56 pm

Lots of empty buildings now. What's being done to bring rents down now the the City Manager's office has yet another assistant manager, this time in charge of housing issues and renter protections. W

hat's happening with that? I don't recall hearing anything about renter protection since the city allowed 85 people paying moderate rents to be evicted from the President Hotel lo these many years ago.


Gale Johnson
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 4, 2022 at 2:12 pm
Gale Johnson, Adobe-Meadow
Registered user
on Aug 4, 2022 at 2:12 pm

Well, well, well! It's good to know there are others who share my same thoughts... okay, they are just opinions...about what we should be looking for in candidates for CC. Brian isn't the only candidate running for office that has no background in working as a volunteer citizen on committees, commissions, et al, to get a better feel of all the needs of our city, how/why past attempts failed, and to learn how a collaborative effort, unencumbered by the pervasiveness of politics, is sorely needed and the best way to make progress. I too, say my hat is off to anyone who runs for office. It's like taking a full load of college courses to learn so much in such a short period of time so you can make an impact. I've commented many times on the main issues: loss of the mom and pop stores that I remember, affordable housing, homelessness, and the untold truth of what the state is doing, mandating untested housing ideas, that I opine, will destroy our neighborhoods. If I said any more I would sound like a broken record. Oh my god, I forgot that very few people even understand what a broken record means anymore. Come to my house and I'll spin a few LP vinyl records and then you'll understand. Today's Palo Alto is not the same Palo Alto I remember when we moved here in 1961, bought our house in South Palo Alto in 1963, and raised our three kids here, where they got the best education possible in the PAUSD schools, to prepare them for college and future careers. For the most part I like the makeup of our current CC very much. Maybe that's because I gave substantial financial support to the campaigns of Tom and Eric. They may not remember that and that's okay. And as much as I like to poke fun and criticize Liz Kniss for grooming so many of her super progressive groupies, and being so supportive of big developers proposals, I do have to thank her (she's still going and active) for all the good things she supported to make Palo Alto and Santa Clara County a good place to live.


PA Community Advocate
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 4, 2022 at 8:17 pm
PA Community Advocate, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Aug 4, 2022 at 8:17 pm

We need outsiders like this!

There’s an inverse relationship between years of political experience at any level and integrity and productivity.

Term limits please!!


Curious
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Aug 5, 2022 at 4:59 pm
Curious, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Aug 5, 2022 at 4:59 pm

@Curious - you ‘seem’ to be very well informed about dynamics of CC… are you involved in PA politics? Do you have any affiliations with current council members? Or potential candidates?
Who are you supporting/think voters should do due diligence on?

Re: who/where - Pretty sure Brian is a Palo Alto native.


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 5, 2022 at 5:02 pm
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on Aug 5, 2022 at 5:02 pm

Why does it say the last post was made mere minutes ago in the article list but above it says 20 HOURS. Please fix your clock. This problem has been going on for MONTHS. Unless it's an intentional ploy to boost usage by having people check NEW posts that are really OLD posts.


WilliamR
Registered user
another community
on Aug 5, 2022 at 7:47 pm
WilliamR, another community
Registered user
on Aug 5, 2022 at 7:47 pm

@ Online Name--

I've noticed that issue with the timestamps for some time now. My guess is that if the original poster reopens the item and closes it, even if they don't make any changes, the system resets the timestamp.


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