News

Here's how this year's Palo Alto City Council candidates want to serve you if elected

Learn about the 7 contenders seeking your vote this fall

Seven candidates are vying for three open seats on the Palo Alto City Council this fall. Embarcadero Media file photo.

Election season is in full swing across Palo Alto, where campaign signs are becoming more noticeable across town.

To assist local voters in their decision at the ballot box, the Weekly asked this year's seven City Council candidates to fill out questionnaires about their qualifications, vision for the city and priorities if elected. They also explained where they stand on housing, climate change, rail crossings and policing and crime, among other topics.

The candidates' answers on all these topics will be published as separate articles, one per day, through Sept. 19. Here's what they had to say to the following question: Why are you better qualified than the others to serve on the City Council?

Alex Comsa

Alex Comsa. Courtesy Alex Comsa.

I love Palo Alto and believe that my skills, work ethic, and common sense would contribute to our community decisions, enhance the quality of life for residents, and create a new sense of community in our world-class city.

My Profile: Father; Small Business Owner; Palo Alto Resident since 2010; Immigrant; Raised by Single Mom; Avid Athlete; 25 Years of Corporate and Real Estate Experience; Two Kids in Palo Alto Public Schools; Non-Partisan Focus; Bridge Builder; Trustworthy; Competent; Collaborative; Committed.

Help sustain the local news you depend on.

Your contribution matters. Become a member today.

Join

A vast majority of the issues brought to the City Council are land use-related. Therefore, any person in charge of hiring/selecting city council members — especially since we have the housing element on our plate — should look into hiring someone with real estate and/or development expertise. If you were to hire a math tutor for your kid, would you hire a writer, an interior designer, a judge, or would you hire someone that was involved in math tutoring in the past?

The future of Palo Alto really is at stake here, so Palo Alto voters need to look into selecting the best person for this job using that same logic — especially considering we don't have a real estate development office within our City Hall. Now more than ever, we need in-house real estate expertise.

I am here to serve the community, and my endorsers are mainly community members and/or local, family-based businesses. My campaign is being run by a young team, on a small budget, with in-house expertise, but we are passionate about it and getting incredible results.

I believe the Palo Alto City Council will benefit from a different mix of talent and a new, proactive approach that entails firm leadership, energy, and a commitment to nonpartisanship, Thank you.

Lisa Forssell

Lisa Forssell. Courtesy Lisa Forssell.

I have served on the Utilities Advisory Commission (UAC) for six years, including two as chair. While on the UAC I have advised on the City's electricity, gas, and water supply projects, as well as electric vehicle, water recycling, and climate change mitigation programs. I am an advocate for sustainability, renewable energy projects, EV charging access in multifamily and public spaces, local grid modernization and proper carbon accounting to guide sound decision making. As a member of the Utilities Budget Subcommittee, I provided oversight over the $300+ million utilities budget.

Stay informed

Get the latest local news and information sent straight to your inbox.

Stay informed

Get the latest local news and information sent straight to your inbox.

I have over 20 years of experience (and 15 film credits) in creative, technical, supervisory and senior management roles, first at Pixar Animation Studios and currently at Apple. I have a reputation for interdisciplinary, cross-functional teamwork, pulling together people with disparate views, skills, and backgrounds to find a path forward to a common goal.

I have three PAUSD kids and I have served on the PTA Executive Boards at Walter Hays, Duveneck, and Greene. I have an MBA, an MS in Environment & Resources, and an MS in Computer Science, all from Stanford. My roots in the community, my commission leadership, my budget experience, my business, technology, and creative experience, my history of sustainability advocacy, and my track record of getting things done in all of these contexts make me qualified and excited for city council service.

Brian Hamachek. Courtesy Brian Hamachek.

Brian Hamachek

I am the only candidate that was born and raised in Palo Alto. Palo Alto isn't just a city to me; Palo Alto is my home.

I believe that this gives me a unique perspective which is absolutely critical for the City Council.

Ed Lauing

Ed Lauing. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

I am a proven leader in the Palo Alto community with almost 13 consecutive years of city government service — and results — for our residents. My breadth of local experience and achievements span practically every category of our community priorities: parks and open space, housing, zoning and land use, renter protections, traffic and parking mitigation, safe bike and pedestrian infrastructure, sustainability, retail support, community amenities, and many more.

I know how the city works and have demonstrated success getting things done. My contributions have earned me a reputation among residents, colleagues, staff, and council members alike for evaluating all perspectives and doing my homework to bring a reasoned and collegial approach to deliberations. I focus on sensible solutions.

Public service to Palo Alto and the region has been a core value for me for decades. In addition to my work as a three-time CEO of tech start-ups and current executive recruiter, I have volunteered countless hours as:

• Current Co-Chair of the city's Housing Element Working Group

• Current & former Chair of the Planning and Transportation Commission (2 terms; 5+ years)

• 3-time Chair of the Parks and Recreation Commission (2 terms; 7 years)

• Board Member and Finance Chair of InnVision/Life Moves for homeless support

• Board Member and VP at Congregation Beth Am for social action on housing and hunger

• President, Palo Alto Babe Ruth - Regional Baseball League

• Rotary Club committees - vocational student grants; non-profit organization grants.

I urge voters to compare my breadth of experience, commitment, and track record in Palo Alto to those of other candidates.

I can be effective day one as a Council Member as we tackle the very difficult issues ahead for our city.

Julie Lythcott-Haims

Julie Lythcott-Haims. Courtesy photo.

As a Palo Alto resident of over twenty years who is an outsider to city leadership, I bring a fresh perspective to addressing our city's ongoing challenges.

My experiences as a Harvard-educated lawyer, dean at Stanford, and board member on over a dozen non-profit boards in our city and elsewhere (such as Palo Alto's YWCA of the MidPeninsula; PiE Advisory Board; LeanIn.org; and Challenge Success; and East Palo Alto's Foundation for a College Education) taught me how to ask the right questions at the right time, and convene inclusive processes to reach visionary and actionable solutions. As an author of bestselling nonfiction books on human development, I've developed a reputation locally, regionally, and nationally for speaking frankly about challenges and for galvanizing communities to pivot in a new direction. As a Gunn mom I know the challenges our youth face in growing up

in a community with high demands and expectations and have a track record of motivating educators and parents to create more supportive environments for youth. As a person of color who is also queer, I know how critical it is that we seek to understand the experience of all Palo Altans, not just those in the majority. I'm a connector and a collaborator, and over a thirty-year career spanning multiple sectors I've developed a trusted network of thought leaders in myriad industries and communities to whom I can turn for perspective and to ensure that I come to the most informed conclusions.

I admire a number of my fellow candidates; that said, in the aggregate, the foregoing characteristics are what set me apart from all of them.

Doria Summa

Doria Summa. Courtesy Doria Summa.

With more than 15 years of service to Palo Alto. I have gained both deep and broad experience working on a wide range of issues with residents, city staff, local businesses, boards and commissions, and the City Council. This experience is well beyond that of any other candidate. I will immediately be an effective council member.

My service began as a member, then president, of my neighborhood association working to create a parking permit program and a traffic calming program. I served as the resident representative on the advisory group for improving the department where residents and contractors go to get plans reviewed and permits issued. As the resident representative in a group composed largely of those in the building industries and large property owners, I ensured the recommendations of the group included the interests of residents and not just the building industry and large property owners.

I was appointed to the committee that developed strategic plans for the North Ventura neighborhood. I served on the committee that developed the strategic plan for all of Palo Alto through 2030 – the Comprehensive Plan. There I worked hard to make sure that ideas and concerns of Palo Alto residents were incorporated into the final recommendations.

I was appointed by the City Council to the Planning and Transportation Commission. It reviews projects for their adherence to city rules, and it reviews policies regarding land use and transportation and makes recommendations to the City Council. I have served for almost six years, currently as vice-chair. I ensure that residents' inputs, perspectives and priorities are incorporated into our recommendations to City Council.

My valuable experience working with residents, Palo Alto city staff, local businesses, boards and commissions, and City Council means that I will be an effective council member from day one.

Vicki Veenker

Vicki Veenker. Courtesy Vicki Veenker.

I have called Palo Alto home for 30 years and bring a long history of community service, professional experience, and a record of innovation and bridge building unique among the candidates.

Decades in the Community

* For 19 years, my husband and I had children in the Palo Alto public schools.

* For 10 years, my parents were in senior residences in the city.

* Over the last 30 years, I helped provide food, clothing and shelter for the unhoused through the Food Closet and Hotel de Zink

* For 20 years, I served on the Board of the Law Foundation of Silicon Valley which provides access to justice for underserved communities, including the five years we represented the residents of the Buena Vista mobile home park.

* I founded Sibling Cities USA, a nonprofit that bridges our country's regional divides by developing relationships between city pairs, and worked with the Palo Alto Council to launch the first-ever Sibling Cities partnership with Bloomington, Indiana; the two cities have shared best practices regarding destination marketing, public art, parks, economic development, and more.

Decades in Law and Mediation

My skills as a professional mediator are unique among this cohort of candidates. I have a track record of building consensus on tough issues. As a Director at Convergence Center for Policy Resolution, I convened Sacramento policy leaders to create a plan to rein in escalating healthcare costs that became law this year. For 16 years, I've served as a mediator for the federal courts and the US International Trade Commission.

I've worked with innovators in the practice of patent law for 34 years at national, international, and (now) my own firms. I also co-founded Women's Professional Soccer and served as its General Counsel in order to give extraordinary women athletes a league of their own.

Craving a new voice in Peninsula dining?

Sign up for the Peninsula Foodist newsletter.

Sign up now

Follow Palo Alto Online and the Palo Alto Weekly on Twitter @paloaltoweekly, Facebook and on Instagram @paloaltoonline for breaking news, local events, photos, videos and more.

Stay informed on important city government news. Sign up for our FREE daily Express newsletter.

Here's how this year's Palo Alto City Council candidates want to serve you if elected

Learn about the 7 contenders seeking your vote this fall

by Palo Alto Weekly staff / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Tue, Sep 13, 2022, 8:49 am

Election season is in full swing across Palo Alto, where campaign signs are becoming more noticeable across town.

To assist local voters in their decision at the ballot box, the Weekly asked this year's seven City Council candidates to fill out questionnaires about their qualifications, vision for the city and priorities if elected. They also explained where they stand on housing, climate change, rail crossings and policing and crime, among other topics.

The candidates' answers on all these topics will be published as separate articles, one per day, through Sept. 19. Here's what they had to say to the following question: Why are you better qualified than the others to serve on the City Council?

Alex Comsa

I love Palo Alto and believe that my skills, work ethic, and common sense would contribute to our community decisions, enhance the quality of life for residents, and create a new sense of community in our world-class city.

My Profile: Father; Small Business Owner; Palo Alto Resident since 2010; Immigrant; Raised by Single Mom; Avid Athlete; 25 Years of Corporate and Real Estate Experience; Two Kids in Palo Alto Public Schools; Non-Partisan Focus; Bridge Builder; Trustworthy; Competent; Collaborative; Committed.

A vast majority of the issues brought to the City Council are land use-related. Therefore, any person in charge of hiring/selecting city council members — especially since we have the housing element on our plate — should look into hiring someone with real estate and/or development expertise. If you were to hire a math tutor for your kid, would you hire a writer, an interior designer, a judge, or would you hire someone that was involved in math tutoring in the past?

The future of Palo Alto really is at stake here, so Palo Alto voters need to look into selecting the best person for this job using that same logic — especially considering we don't have a real estate development office within our City Hall. Now more than ever, we need in-house real estate expertise.

I am here to serve the community, and my endorsers are mainly community members and/or local, family-based businesses. My campaign is being run by a young team, on a small budget, with in-house expertise, but we are passionate about it and getting incredible results.

I believe the Palo Alto City Council will benefit from a different mix of talent and a new, proactive approach that entails firm leadership, energy, and a commitment to nonpartisanship, Thank you.

Lisa Forssell

I have served on the Utilities Advisory Commission (UAC) for six years, including two as chair. While on the UAC I have advised on the City's electricity, gas, and water supply projects, as well as electric vehicle, water recycling, and climate change mitigation programs. I am an advocate for sustainability, renewable energy projects, EV charging access in multifamily and public spaces, local grid modernization and proper carbon accounting to guide sound decision making. As a member of the Utilities Budget Subcommittee, I provided oversight over the $300+ million utilities budget.

I have over 20 years of experience (and 15 film credits) in creative, technical, supervisory and senior management roles, first at Pixar Animation Studios and currently at Apple. I have a reputation for interdisciplinary, cross-functional teamwork, pulling together people with disparate views, skills, and backgrounds to find a path forward to a common goal.

I have three PAUSD kids and I have served on the PTA Executive Boards at Walter Hays, Duveneck, and Greene. I have an MBA, an MS in Environment & Resources, and an MS in Computer Science, all from Stanford. My roots in the community, my commission leadership, my budget experience, my business, technology, and creative experience, my history of sustainability advocacy, and my track record of getting things done in all of these contexts make me qualified and excited for city council service.

Brian Hamachek

I am the only candidate that was born and raised in Palo Alto. Palo Alto isn't just a city to me; Palo Alto is my home.

I believe that this gives me a unique perspective which is absolutely critical for the City Council.

Ed Lauing

I am a proven leader in the Palo Alto community with almost 13 consecutive years of city government service — and results — for our residents. My breadth of local experience and achievements span practically every category of our community priorities: parks and open space, housing, zoning and land use, renter protections, traffic and parking mitigation, safe bike and pedestrian infrastructure, sustainability, retail support, community amenities, and many more.

I know how the city works and have demonstrated success getting things done. My contributions have earned me a reputation among residents, colleagues, staff, and council members alike for evaluating all perspectives and doing my homework to bring a reasoned and collegial approach to deliberations. I focus on sensible solutions.

Public service to Palo Alto and the region has been a core value for me for decades. In addition to my work as a three-time CEO of tech start-ups and current executive recruiter, I have volunteered countless hours as:

• Current Co-Chair of the city's Housing Element Working Group

• Current & former Chair of the Planning and Transportation Commission (2 terms; 5+ years)

• 3-time Chair of the Parks and Recreation Commission (2 terms; 7 years)

• Board Member and Finance Chair of InnVision/Life Moves for homeless support

• Board Member and VP at Congregation Beth Am for social action on housing and hunger

• President, Palo Alto Babe Ruth - Regional Baseball League

• Rotary Club committees - vocational student grants; non-profit organization grants.

I urge voters to compare my breadth of experience, commitment, and track record in Palo Alto to those of other candidates.

I can be effective day one as a Council Member as we tackle the very difficult issues ahead for our city.

Julie Lythcott-Haims

As a Palo Alto resident of over twenty years who is an outsider to city leadership, I bring a fresh perspective to addressing our city's ongoing challenges.

My experiences as a Harvard-educated lawyer, dean at Stanford, and board member on over a dozen non-profit boards in our city and elsewhere (such as Palo Alto's YWCA of the MidPeninsula; PiE Advisory Board; LeanIn.org; and Challenge Success; and East Palo Alto's Foundation for a College Education) taught me how to ask the right questions at the right time, and convene inclusive processes to reach visionary and actionable solutions. As an author of bestselling nonfiction books on human development, I've developed a reputation locally, regionally, and nationally for speaking frankly about challenges and for galvanizing communities to pivot in a new direction. As a Gunn mom I know the challenges our youth face in growing up

in a community with high demands and expectations and have a track record of motivating educators and parents to create more supportive environments for youth. As a person of color who is also queer, I know how critical it is that we seek to understand the experience of all Palo Altans, not just those in the majority. I'm a connector and a collaborator, and over a thirty-year career spanning multiple sectors I've developed a trusted network of thought leaders in myriad industries and communities to whom I can turn for perspective and to ensure that I come to the most informed conclusions.

I admire a number of my fellow candidates; that said, in the aggregate, the foregoing characteristics are what set me apart from all of them.

Doria Summa

With more than 15 years of service to Palo Alto. I have gained both deep and broad experience working on a wide range of issues with residents, city staff, local businesses, boards and commissions, and the City Council. This experience is well beyond that of any other candidate. I will immediately be an effective council member.

My service began as a member, then president, of my neighborhood association working to create a parking permit program and a traffic calming program. I served as the resident representative on the advisory group for improving the department where residents and contractors go to get plans reviewed and permits issued. As the resident representative in a group composed largely of those in the building industries and large property owners, I ensured the recommendations of the group included the interests of residents and not just the building industry and large property owners.

I was appointed to the committee that developed strategic plans for the North Ventura neighborhood. I served on the committee that developed the strategic plan for all of Palo Alto through 2030 – the Comprehensive Plan. There I worked hard to make sure that ideas and concerns of Palo Alto residents were incorporated into the final recommendations.

I was appointed by the City Council to the Planning and Transportation Commission. It reviews projects for their adherence to city rules, and it reviews policies regarding land use and transportation and makes recommendations to the City Council. I have served for almost six years, currently as vice-chair. I ensure that residents' inputs, perspectives and priorities are incorporated into our recommendations to City Council.

My valuable experience working with residents, Palo Alto city staff, local businesses, boards and commissions, and City Council means that I will be an effective council member from day one.

Vicki Veenker

I have called Palo Alto home for 30 years and bring a long history of community service, professional experience, and a record of innovation and bridge building unique among the candidates.

Decades in the Community

* For 19 years, my husband and I had children in the Palo Alto public schools.

* For 10 years, my parents were in senior residences in the city.

* Over the last 30 years, I helped provide food, clothing and shelter for the unhoused through the Food Closet and Hotel de Zink

* For 20 years, I served on the Board of the Law Foundation of Silicon Valley which provides access to justice for underserved communities, including the five years we represented the residents of the Buena Vista mobile home park.

* I founded Sibling Cities USA, a nonprofit that bridges our country's regional divides by developing relationships between city pairs, and worked with the Palo Alto Council to launch the first-ever Sibling Cities partnership with Bloomington, Indiana; the two cities have shared best practices regarding destination marketing, public art, parks, economic development, and more.

Decades in Law and Mediation

My skills as a professional mediator are unique among this cohort of candidates. I have a track record of building consensus on tough issues. As a Director at Convergence Center for Policy Resolution, I convened Sacramento policy leaders to create a plan to rein in escalating healthcare costs that became law this year. For 16 years, I've served as a mediator for the federal courts and the US International Trade Commission.

I've worked with innovators in the practice of patent law for 34 years at national, international, and (now) my own firms. I also co-founded Women's Professional Soccer and served as its General Counsel in order to give extraordinary women athletes a league of their own.

Comments

Neighbor
Registered user
Greendell/Walnut Grove
on Sep 13, 2022 at 10:15 am
Neighbor, Greendell/Walnut Grove
Registered user
on Sep 13, 2022 at 10:15 am

Hmm... not all too happy with this year's lineup. Brian doesn't seem to take this seriously at all; Julie will likely play up absurd amounts of identity politics locally, considering that's her entire platform; Lisa is an institutional committee person who hasn't changed anything yet and won't in the future... Vicki, Comsa, and Ed seem like the best choices here. We need people with a vision who are willing to play in favor of our community, not politics or their own weird agenda. Would like to see some more from all candidates in terms of actionable policy, though.


Hal Plotkin
Registered user
Midtown
on Sep 13, 2022 at 11:00 am
Hal Plotkin, Midtown
Registered user
on Sep 13, 2022 at 11:00 am

This article is a wonderful public service. Kudos to the Palo Alto Weekly. It is so refreshing to see candidates for local public office given a chance to share their platforms and credentials without having to pay for the opportunity. Our democracy is in peril. Resources like this are an excellent way to help preserve it for future generations. We are again fortunate in Palo Alto to have such a distinguished roster of candidates willing and eager to run for public office despite the many sacrifices involved in honest public service. I am a proud supporter of Ed Lauing, in recognition of his inclusive values and years of devoted and effective service to our city. This article will help me as I look for other candidates to support within this exceptionally distinguished group. I hope the Weekly, which has done such a remarkable thing here, will give these candidates additional opportunities like this as we approach the election. Thank you again, Palo Alto Weekly!


Consider Your Options.
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 13, 2022 at 11:17 am
Consider Your Options. , Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Sep 13, 2022 at 11:17 am

Yes. Thank you, Palo Alto Weekly.


Bystander
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 13, 2022 at 11:35 am
Bystander, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Sep 13, 2022 at 11:35 am

This is a good way to see the candidates and their backgrounds listed together. I personally feel that someone without political clout and backing may be what does the best good. I like the idea of a mix of experience with the ability to learn on the job as a good mix on a council and look at the wide mix as being an asset on a council. We don't want a council of carbon copies, but some individual thoughts and life experiences can widen the net overall.


Sheri
Registered user
Midtown
on Sep 13, 2022 at 11:57 am
Sheri, Midtown
Registered user
on Sep 13, 2022 at 11:57 am

Please also see the candidates' answers to questions from PAN (Palo Alto Neighborhoods) at Web Link


resident3
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 13, 2022 at 1:34 pm
resident3, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Sep 13, 2022 at 1:34 pm

Ditto. Thank you, Palo Alto Weekly.

and to Sheri for the PAN link.

The bad feeling about "local control" shared by one of the candidates, where it sounds like a group of neighbors organized to pressure about the appearance of a house sounds like a nightmare. Horrible.

Bullying neighbors seems like the opposite of how control should work though. As long as zoning requirements are fulfilled, people should have no business forcing or even telling a neighbor what to change or what they like.

Now, what's going on with housing in Palo Alto and "local control" is really about CARS. Everyone wants housing but one camp seems set on working on climate issues and wants to reduce car usage while building more housing. I hope to hear more about this during the debates.

Are there any transportation studies for traffic on the big arteries and how much the mandated 6000 units would add? Even in the cities with actual "mass" transportation, there is solid parking. What others do well is the connections - which we have few of here. Nothing connects to anything.




Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Sep 13, 2022 at 1:52 pm
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on Sep 13, 2022 at 1:52 pm

Or how much water the new residents would consume during an historic drought that's going to get worse and how much current residents will have to back. Also how much the new residents will stress the already strained electrical grid.


chris
Registered user
University South
on Sep 13, 2022 at 2:19 pm
chris, University South
Registered user
on Sep 13, 2022 at 2:19 pm

Online Name,

New housing in Palo Alto is about multi-family housing, which is much more efficient in utility usage than single-family homes.

New housing in Palo Alto is not about attracting new people to California. It is about providing housing for residents of California closer to their jobs, which is environmentally friendly.

There is a large group of Palo Altans who continue to spread FUD about new housing in Palo Alto.

Palo Alto allowed way over 100,000 jobs to locate in Palo Alto. It is Palo Alto's moral responsibility to provide more housing to house a greater percentage of these workers.

That overrides the desires of a group of Palo Altans to freeze Palo Alto in time.


resident3
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 13, 2022 at 2:35 pm
resident3, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Sep 13, 2022 at 2:35 pm

@Chris,

"It is Palo Alto's moral responsibility to provide more housing to house a greater percentage of these workers."

The recent business tax debacle shows that the companies and businesses that employ workers in Palo Alto have no interest in the burdens that come from serving their businesses. Safety, paving streets, City Hall bandwidth; how many businesees support the schools and local services?

Sounds insane to have a moral responsibility to Amazon or Stanford. Remember all the small businesses are exempt from paying a business tax. Palo Alto was threatened with a campaign against the interests of the City. It doesn't feel right under these circumstances to assist rich developers in building houses meant only for the rich.

The "moral" compass in this picture is wrong.


Local Resident
Registered user
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 13, 2022 at 3:13 pm
Local Resident, Duveneck/St. Francis
Registered user
on Sep 13, 2022 at 3:13 pm

Unfortunately, Alex Comsa seems very pro developer. Having Randy Popp as one of your endorsers is a huge red flag. I'm also always surprised at the number of candidates that run for office with no prior experience working with the city, never served on a city board or commission or have given public comments on city council until a several months before the election.

From my perspective Doria Summa and Ed Lauing understand how the city works inside out, have a long history of experience serving on commissions and resident groups and are the candidates who will best represent residents interests.


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Sep 13, 2022 at 3:19 pm
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on Sep 13, 2022 at 3:19 pm

@Chris, no, it's not about people who are "already" here since it's based on old pre-pandemic job numbers when non-Palo Alto commuters outnumbered Palo Alto residents 4:1.

This is the fault of previous City Councils and City staff that pushed for uncontrolled office growth. They even expected US to subsidize those commuters by paying their public transit costs, their commuting costs, a bonus for carpooling and their Uber/Lyfts from the train station. WE paid for THEIR failed plans to equip those non-Palo Alto commuters with ridiculously expensive bikes so they could ride to their workplaces.

So no, they're not "already here" and they may not be coming back.

@resident3, absolutely! Where's the "moral" responsibility of businesses and the well-paid lobbyists pushing unsustainable growth of largely MARKET RATE housing? Where's Stanford's when they refuse to house their own community on their land??

The business tax was indeed a debacle since resident/taxpayers were NEVER consulted about our priorities and we don't have the right to negotiate OUR taxes like the business community.

Those who bothered to complain to City Council were treated disrespectfully and dismissively.

Now we're hearing about a Renter's Registry -- a worthy cause -- that ignores the fact that PA couldn't create and maintain a Business Registry. Why should a Renter's Registry be different?

The ridiculously low Business Tax's share for "affordable MARKET RATE housing" is so low at $3.4M it would buy one single family home or maybe 3 or 4 "affordable" market rate dense new units.

I want to hear from the city council candidates what they will do for US, the non-business TAXPAYERS who live here NOW.


Anon123456
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 13, 2022 at 4:14 pm
Anon123456, Adobe-Meadow
Registered user
on Sep 13, 2022 at 4:14 pm

When comparing candidates, I first look at their stance on key issues I care about, then I look at their leadership experience and ability to get things done. The rest of the data feels like a distraction - whether they've served on 3 committees or 13, whether they've lived here 5 years or 25, etc. The council will encounter so many unforeseen issues, unanticipated tradeoffs, unexpected resistance, the council members' ability to problem solve and lead change will matter more. For me, Lisa Forssell, Julie Lythcott-Haims, and Vicki Veenker stand out.


Bystander
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 13, 2022 at 4:36 pm
Bystander, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Sep 13, 2022 at 4:36 pm

We have empty office space all over Palo Alto. Take W Bayshore for example, lots of for lease signs and empty parking lots.

What we don't want to do now is get lots of empty housing for non-existent workers. Many high tech workers are now working remotely from all over the State and even out of State. They are not coming back.

Do we really need to build for ghost workers?

As for the candidates, I would like them to list what they see as the most important issues for Palo Alto residents who are already here. Traffic, parking, efficient power, water, public transit, are all issues that affect those of us who live here on a daily basis. These are what we should be hearing their thoughts.


resident3
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 13, 2022 at 4:43 pm
resident3, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Sep 13, 2022 at 4:43 pm

@Anon123456,

"The council will encounter so many unforeseen issues, unanticipated tradeoffs, unexpected resistance, the council members' ability to problem solve and lead change will matter more."

Unforeseen - the unforeseen has already happened, Covid and there is a lasting reality that everything will cost more.

Other than that, the only news in Palo Alto is development A, B, C, D, and how Council caves to developers and businesses.


Annette
Registered user
College Terrace
on Sep 13, 2022 at 5:08 pm
Annette, College Terrace
Registered user
on Sep 13, 2022 at 5:08 pm

There are a few issues that are common to most candidates: housing, climate change, and grade separation are biggies. I think those are a given in Palo Alto and each is complicated and some are well beyond the capacity of any City Council to solve. At best we can have City policies that don't exacerbate existing problems. I want to know where candidates stand on issues that a City Council can actually impact. What about City governance? Where do the candidates stand on changing the charter so that we elect our mayor? And vote by district? Where do they stand on accountability of the City Manager and other senior staff? How about the reliability of our electrical grid? What about water supply? Plans for retail? Staffing PAFD and PAPD so that public safety is as assured as it can be? Our infrastructure shortcomings need attention. I'll vote for those I think will be practical and realistic. Theory isn't working.

I also think experience with how things are done is important so that valuable time isn't spent learning the ropes by too many new-to-city-government people simultaneously.


mjh
Registered user
College Terrace
on Sep 13, 2022 at 5:22 pm
mjh, College Terrace
Registered user
on Sep 13, 2022 at 5:22 pm

Having watched council meetings for years, pretty much without exception those elected to council who jump in with no prior experience on any of the city’s commissions, committees, and boards, and/or a track record of years of being involved at the grass roots level, have such a steep learning curve they are to a large extent unable to be effective council members for the first year, or longer. Unable to make meaningful substantial contributions or decisions that advance the work of the council.

However much those without experience may try to fill in the gaps, there is simply no shortcut for the kind of knowledge and experience that can only be gained from years of being involved with the city.

Which shortchanges the public.


felix
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 13, 2022 at 5:35 pm
felix, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Sep 13, 2022 at 5:35 pm

The question asked here was, "Why are you better qualified than the others to serve on the City Council?"

If I were looking for someone to build my house, draw up my estate plan, or make policies and budgets for my city, I want the most experienced and knowledgable person to do so. Wouldn't you?

Two candidates answered the above question in detail, with relavancy - Ed Lauing and Doria Summa. Read over their answers again, then compare to all other candidates.

Lauing, bullet point by bullet point, lists an impressive compliation of service that embedded exactly the wide range of knowledge needed to govern our city smartly, ably and wisely from the get-go. That he has multi-times Chaired two important Commissions is vitally important - he has experience in working with City staff and is nimble with process issues.

Summa relates her long experience, ensuring the reader understands the meaning of the many Committees, Boards, and Commission she serves on and learned from. The Comprehensive Plan is the planning 'Bible" for our City. The North Ventura Neighborhood Plan is 60-acres for redevelelopment. Both have immense importance and entail tremendous responsibility by Summa.

I wouldn't vote for someone who thinks it's a qualification because they are "an outsider to city leadership" (meaning they have no experience relavant to actual Council issues). Writing books, making films - nope. City Council is a policy making body, not a creative writing class or film school.

If you watch Council meetings, it will fast ground you in reality as to the inescapable Council issues. We need the best and the brightest NOW, Lauing and Summa, not newbies needing training wheels.


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Sep 13, 2022 at 6:44 pm
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on Sep 13, 2022 at 6:44 pm

Echoing Annette, mjh and Felix. Experience matters. Ability to dig into the issues and understand their complexity matters. Accountability matters.

Too many recent council members and mayors have been better at sloganeering and virtue signalling than understanding the issues and more intent on serving big developers, lobbyists and big businesses who refuse to pay their fair share and shift the tax burden onto us.

So they told us we don't have traffic problems, approved more offices and underparked developments. They were too busy virtue-signalling and proposing ambitious new projects than executing existing ones like granting solar permits, constructing a business registry and fixing traffic light timing. Enough.

Pay attention to who's endorsing the candidates and who's funding the candidates.

"If I were looking for someone to build my house, draw up my estate plan, or make policies and budgets for my city, I want the most experienced and knowledgable person to do so. Wouldn't you?

Two candidates answered the above question in detail, with relavancy - Ed Lauing and Doria Summa. Read over their answers again, then compare to all other candidates. "


Allen Akin
Registered user
Professorville
on Sep 13, 2022 at 9:22 pm
Allen Akin, Professorville
Registered user
on Sep 13, 2022 at 9:22 pm

"...multi-family housing, which is much more efficient in utility usage than single-family homes"

20 apartments need more water, power, and transportation resources than the parking lot they replace. Micro studios would be more efficient. Pod living would be even more efficient. Hot-bunked dormitories attached directly to workplaces would be best.

Efficiency isn't the only thing that matters.

"New housing in Palo Alto is not about attracting new people to California."

The amount of new housing is determined by the California Department of Finance based on population growth estimates and rates of household formation. The Department of Housing and Community Development adjusts this to make sure there's a minimum number of vacancies, account for demolitions, prevent overcrowding, limit the number of households that are cost-burdened, and so on. The total number of units is "allocated" to cities and counties, which then have to develop plans accordingly.

So the new housing requirements Palo Alto has to meet are based first and foremost on population growth, not on serving the people already working here.

Getting back to the subject of the article, maybe a good test for a Council candidate would be to ask how much of the RHNA process they can describe offhand.


chris
Registered user
University South
on Sep 13, 2022 at 9:35 pm
chris, University South
Registered user
on Sep 13, 2022 at 9:35 pm

There may be empty office space all over Palo Alto. That provides a good opportunity for Palo Alto to develop more housing. Regardless of that, there are still many workers (of medium to low income) who are commuting long-distances to Palo Alto.

For those who say Palo Alto does not have a jobs/housing imbalance, the population of California is dropping. However, many of the jobs in Palo Alto that require long commutes are not jobs that can be done remotely.

Multi-unit housing may use more resources than a parking lot, but it is more efficient than building a similar number of single-family homes in Los Banos.

Unfortunately, the supporters of Lauing and Summa have created their set of "facts" that only describe a small part of the elephant.

We need independent thinkers on City Council who have not bought into the pre-existing Palo Alto mindset.


resident3
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 13, 2022 at 9:55 pm
resident3, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Sep 13, 2022 at 9:55 pm

@Chris,

"We need independent thinkers on City Council who have not bought into the pre-existing Palo Alto mindset."

I guess you didn't watch the Palo Alto Weekly event tonight, all 7 candidates were talking "pre-existing" Palo Alto mindset - community, libraries, parks, dog parks, open space, neighborhoods, youth, families. Don't break what isn't broken.

All seemed to agree we just need more of it.


Allen Akin
Registered user
Professorville
on Sep 13, 2022 at 10:44 pm
Allen Akin, Professorville
Registered user
on Sep 13, 2022 at 10:44 pm

"Multi-unit housing may use more resources than a parking lot, but it is more efficient than building a similar number of single-family homes in Los Banos."

That's a false dichotomy. There are other options that are better.

Realistically, investors and developers will build whatever's most profitable, no matter what we might prefer. Council always has to take that into account.


Alto
Registered user
University South
on Sep 14, 2022 at 9:53 am
Alto, University South
Registered user
on Sep 14, 2022 at 9:53 am

So only three of the candidates (Forssell, Lauing, Summa) have actual public service experience in Palo Alto? To me, that shows both the commitment and the knowledge (both topical and political) I want running my city.

With seven candidates all generally saying they want the same things and only three seats, I'm inclined to go with the three who know what they're talking about.


PA Parent
Registered user
Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Sep 14, 2022 at 10:52 am
PA Parent , Leland Manor/Garland Drive
Registered user
on Sep 14, 2022 at 10:52 am

Does the weekly also report about the fundraising? It looks like a lot of money is needed to run for office here. I saw an ad in the paper touting three candidates together. Said it was paid for by Jennifer Debrienza, Larry Klein and I forget who else. Never seen that before.


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Sep 14, 2022 at 3:35 pm
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on Sep 14, 2022 at 3:35 pm

@PA Parent, the others paying for the ad include Gail Price and Steve Levy "and nobody else" -- with that last phrase something I've never seen before and which might allude their rich organizations thattraditionally endorse candidates.


Consider Your Options.
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 16, 2022 at 11:42 am
Consider Your Options. , Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Sep 16, 2022 at 11:42 am

We need an Area Plan for the San Antonio Area where Council continues to upzone parcels in knee jerk response to developer proposals. The city has not funded a new planner to start this work while they persist in pushing new units in this direction. San Antonio needs work on bike/ped facilities, transit connections, traffic management. Cubberley has to be redeveloped to provide greater community service and public school capacity to serve these new residents.


HappyHere
Registered user
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 17, 2022 at 5:48 pm
HappyHere, Duveneck/St. Francis
Registered user
on Sep 17, 2022 at 5:48 pm

I always question the motives of people running and while some have the time and resources to do this job and they genuinely want to serve the community, others may use it as a way to build a name for themselves. I don't like that. Take Comsa. What does he mean by "firm leadership" - where or what did he lead before - and why is he pushing the non-partisan angle, to please everybody pre election? I hear he is indeed a Republican. And the example mentioning the "writer, designer and judge" - c'mon, low blow. Let's be respectful to the other candidates, who have been actually serving the community for some time and are not doing this to see their names on signs. Thanks to the Palo Alto Weekly for doing the legwork to help us find our true leaders.


Neal
Registered user
Community Center
on Sep 20, 2022 at 4:49 pm
Neal, Community Center
Registered user
on Sep 20, 2022 at 4:49 pm

I can't possibly vote for Alex Comsa. He's a developers dream. He's heavily involved in the real estate business. He took out a full page ad in the Daily Post (Monday, Sept. 19) advocating taking 100 acres of City owned Airport Land to build 6000 units of housing. Just say NO to Alex Comsa because developers win and residents lose.


PaloAltoVoter
Registered user
Crescent Park
on Sep 25, 2022 at 1:58 pm
PaloAltoVoter, Crescent Park
Registered user
on Sep 25, 2022 at 1:58 pm

Julie has talked about not wanting to focus on affordable housing but to focus on inclusionary housing. She talks at length about a mix of housing types in our neighborhoods. This should be a huge alarm for everyone.

Palo Alto requires 15% of the units of a market rate project to be below market rate units. To get to our state mandated ~3000 BMR units, Palo Alto would need to build 20,000 units of housing. 20,000!

This is so far beyond the bounds of reasonableness I can not support any candidate who thinks this is the way to meet these mandates. 20,000 new housing units would create a highly urbanized Palo Alto, unrecognizable to the voters living here. It would have to raze and rebuild current neighborhoods or completely remove Palo Alto business districts. We would no longer be a nice family town with good schools. Our urban forest would be a distant memory in the shade of a major cities tall buildings.

Not the future I want for Palo Alto.


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Sep 25, 2022 at 5:50 pm
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on Sep 25, 2022 at 5:50 pm

Re Julie and inclusionary zoning, in both forums she was so animated and adamant about the racism and harassment she encountered from her new neighbors that I started to wonder. Most of us have survived neighbor's construction projects without threatening them. Some of us even cooperate on joint projects.

Why all the hostility, nasty notes left on her door and in her mailbox? Is Palo Alto really that racist? Was there something unusual about her neighborhood and/or her project and house.

So I googled her new house and the house it replaced. And friends chatted.

Questions arise about how she defines neighborhoods and neighborhood character and how she'd resolve differences,


Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.

Post a comment

In order to encourage respectful and thoughtful discussion, commenting on stories is available to those who are registered users. If you are already a registered user and the commenting form is not below, you need to log in. If you are not registered, you can do so here.

Please make sure your comments are truthful, on-topic and do not disrespect another poster. Don't be snarky or belittling. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

See our announcement about requiring registration for commenting.