Julie Lythcott-Haims sets sights on Palo Alto City Council seat | July 29, 2022 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - July 29, 2022

Julie Lythcott-Haims sets sights on Palo Alto City Council seat

Author, educator wants to champion youth wellness, encourage more housing

by Gennady Sheyner

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.

In addition to Lythcott-Haims, the pool of candidates 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; [https://www.paloaltoonline.com/news/2022/07/06/stanford-medical-researcher-seeks-city-council-seat Hope Lancero], a medical researcher at Stanford University; [https://www.paloaltoonline.com/news/2022/07/20/vicki-veenker-launches-campaign-for-city-council Vicki Veenker], a patent attorney and mediator; and [https://www.paloaltoonline.com/news/2022/07/28/realtor-alex-comsa-jumps-into-palo-alto-council-race Alex Comsa], a Realtor at Coldwell Banker.

The candidates are vying for three open seats, with council members 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.

Email Staff Writer Gennady Sheyner at [email protected]


Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Greendell/Walnut Grove
on Jul 28, 2022 at 3:17 pm

Neighbor is a registered user.

Sounds way too identity politics-oriented for me... while important on a state/national level, definitely not what Palo Alto needs right now with our very immediate post-pandemic actualized policy needs.

Posted by Aaron Schaefer
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 28, 2022 at 4:26 pm

Aaron Schaefer is a registered user.

"I am a Black biracial queer resident of the South side of Palo Alto..."

If the majority of Palo Alto voters truly believe in diversity and a progressive society, Ms. Lythcott-Haims should be easily elected.

I imagine Ms. Lythcott-Haims will leave no stone uncovered as a PACC council member and Palo Alto desperately needs more intrepid council members.

Posted by Bystander
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 28, 2022 at 5:31 pm

Bystander is a registered user.

Interesting to know more about how she plans or thinks walking down the street and being accepted by neighbors will happen. Reading on Nextdoor there are plenty of examples of people having problems with neighbors due to parking issues, trash cans, construction noise, general noise, etc. This seems to be nothing about how people look, but whether or not they are good neighbors.

Palo Alto is becoming more unneighborly with people not knowing neighbors and even not wanting to get to know neighbors to do small favors such as bringing in trash cans while on vacation and ready to report unmoved cars as abandoned. I wish her luck on getting the residents of Palo Alto to be more friendly. I would like to hear her plans.

Posted by CT resident
a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 28, 2022 at 6:10 pm

CT resident is a registered user.

RE..."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..."

When I was at Whole Foods yesterday, the cashier told me it was a "good day" because only one person swore at her. I don't know when/where things turned, but this town has gotten down-right rude. I've lived here for for the better part of 50 years. We used to have a joke: In Palo Alto, if you left your trunk open, someone closed it for you. Folks were generally more patient, polite and thoughtful.

The place to start is by asking yourself, "Was I thoughtful with the people I engaged with today? Or was I rude and impatient?"
Then ask, did I work to improve the space I was in today? Or did I make a mess and leave that mess behind for someone else?
Then... Do I want to live in my own bubble or a community? If the latter, you need to do the work to cultivate it.

PS. Julie is great. She's smart, a critical thinker, and pro-people/community.

Posted by Sam Larson
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 29, 2022 at 8:56 am

Sam Larson is a registered user.

"If the majority of Palo Alto voters truly believe in diversity and a progressive society, Ms. Lythcott-Haims should be easily elected."

Concurring...Palo Alto needs more PACC members of her caliber to question and to keep things in check at City Hall.

The PACC does not need anymore 'yes people' and neither do Palo Alto residents.

Thank goodness for term limits.

Posted by S. Underwood
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 29, 2022 at 10:08 am

S. Underwood is a registered user.

I know (though not too well) and like Ms. Lythcott-Haims, and I am excited to hear her positions on our City's big questions and pending decisions compared to other candidates in interviews and forums.

Responding to the comments above, I don't think anybody should be supporting anybody based on what identity-check-boxes they happen to tick. That's not what progress or inclusivity is all about. Keep those ears open!

Posted by Bob Shackleford
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 29, 2022 at 10:58 am

Bob Shackleford is a registered user.

A vote for Ms. Lythcott-Haims will bring the PACC into the 21st century.

"Thank goodness for term limits."

^ Amen.

Posted by KJH
a resident of Stanford
on Jul 29, 2022 at 2:28 pm

KJH is a registered user.

A breath of fresh air. Thank goodness she is running for City Council.

Posted by Consider Your Options.
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 29, 2022 at 4:13 pm

Consider Your Options. is a registered user.

What does she know and think about transportation, utilities, the BUDGET. This is the stuff City Councils spend the lion's share of their time on. What city committees has she served on?

You can't build housing if you don't have the money, transportation, and utilities infrastructure in place to support it. What does she know about that?

Posted by PA Community Advocate
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 29, 2022 at 9:56 pm

PA Community Advocate is a registered user.

Is it wrong to care about increasing my property value, not making the city more affordable?

I worked ridiculously hard to be able to afford my small shack here. I pay absurd property taxes.

When was the last time you heard complaints about Atherton’s affordability and lack of access?

The entitlement to owning and living in Palo Alto continues to be absolutely bizarre.

Posted by Be realistic
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jul 30, 2022 at 11:08 am

Be realistic is a registered user.

Consider Your Options,
"You can't build housing if you don't have the money, transportation, and utilities infrastructure in place to support it."
--- Thank you.
Technically, you can but then you are left with more gridlock, sewage overflow, shopping in San Mateo, waiting for your doctor's appointment for three months, and classrooms overcrowded.

"believe in diversity and a progressive society" - of course. What does that have to do with the city budget, utilities, and traffic?

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 30, 2022 at 11:42 am

Online Name is a registered user.

I'm sorry but her "platform" reminds me of Cory Wolbach's "civility platform" when we desperately need practical expertise and for the CC to monitor the city manager and city staff which seem to have no problems wasting our time and money on ridiculous projects for which they haven't done their homework WHILE pleading poverty and while cutting services to residents.

Notably her campaign web site doesn't list her endorsements which is usually the real key to where candidates stand.

Today the New York Times reported that Palo Alto has the SECOND highest rents in the country and elsewhere it's been reported that minimum wage workers need at least 3 full-time jobs to pay their rent. The horrible YIMBY-backed new state laws only require 15% below market housing units with only 5% slated for very low income because the laws cater to their tech backers who need to house more well-paid tech workers.

Where's her expertise and what is she going to do about rents that push out people and small businesses? Lecture them on child-rearing practices?

Posted by Local Resident
a resident of Community Center
on Jul 30, 2022 at 12:08 pm

Local Resident is a registered user.

Local government should not be used as a platform for identity politics. Sounds like she's for upzoning everything in sight.

Posted by Be realistic
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jul 30, 2022 at 12:19 pm

Be realistic is a registered user.

Online Name,
Thank you for your assessment. Agree with pretty much everything. Her numerous endorsements, as the text above has, come from Allison Cormack, Josh Becker, and Marc Berman. That is all I need to know.
She will be further greenlighting 2-3 M townhome developments out of the goodness of her heart and the desire to promote dignity and kindness. I would like to see where that energy, water, sewage capacity, and roadways will be coming from.

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 30, 2022 at 12:42 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

@Be Realistic, thanks. I missed the fact that she was endorsed by Ms Cormack. When I mentioned projects where staff and CC didn't do their homework, I always think of Ms Cormack's advocacy of the landlord's proposal to turn Town & Country Shopping Center into "medical/retail" when neither bothered to define what "medical/research" was or to look at all the sales tax revenues the city would lose. and/or to question the laughable claims that people hurting from their medical procedures would go shopping. All this as covid was moderating and just weeks before the lockdowns ended/.

Fortunately residents got together and killed that project, doing the homework staff should have done initially and Town & Country continues to be packed with residents and other shoppers.

Neither Becker nor Berman were honest enough to declare their positions on the housing bills when the held Zoom meetings with HUNDREDS of concerned residents and then immediately voted for those bills which do NOT support affordable housing.

If she wants to run for office, let her leverage her expertise on the Human Relations Commission or contributing to the City Manager's Uplift newsletter with its helpful hints on mental health, meditation and recipes which his ever-expanding highly paid communication staff sends out weekly instead of accurate updatates on crime and power outages.

Posted by Citizen
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 30, 2022 at 2:56 pm

Citizen is a registered user.

@Online Name, that's an interesting comparison with Wohlbach.

Especially with a newly smaller council, I agree with you, anyone who runs really should have experience volunteering for civic roles first.

Being truly effective in a position that involves serving the public can be really hard for people who are used to being in charge or being deferred to.

I'm thinking of someone else who served on a commission and ran unsuccessfully for council, who was an absolute nightmare to work with as a volunteer because he really didn't understand or appreciate how much work others had done. Some people want the power, or to step into a leadership roll in organizations they didn't work to create. They can have an outsized idea of their own efforts and dismiss the contributions of others that are greater and/or more effective than their own. It's hard for such a person to be an egalitarian team player and respect/honor the contributions of others, especially if they disagree on an issue or think others don't meet a social standard of worthiness. The latter isn't necessarily society's standard.

When people judge or diminish others for who they think they ARE because they disagree with them on an issue, or if they ascribe libelous motives to people they disagree with rather than dealing with the issue in good faith, that’s poison on a small-town council. When people volunteer, that gives the public a better idea of how they operate.

The Maybell referendum could have been an opportunity for neighbors to come together and create something even before the referendum or after the dense rezoning was rebuffed. I didn’t see JLH joining the neighbors who asked the city to keep rather than sell the property for at least a time so that neighbors could figure out how to make parkland or just affordable housing or both. Those who opposed the referendum had been so confrontational, I guess it was too hard for them to find common ground. (The Klein endorsement isn't a good sign)

Posted by Forever Name
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 30, 2022 at 3:44 pm

Forever Name is a registered user.

A City Council Member's job is to run the city, ultimately a business, not "create a sense of belonging" or run on a platform of identity politics. Palo Alto needs candidates with humility (vs. self-serving promoters), experience listening (vs. performing), ability to navigate complex issues with multiple contingencies with collaboration know-how (vs. grandstanding), experience (vs. having had no experience on city volunteer committees), and goals related to the city's real issues (vs. feel good platitudes): budget, traffic (number one issue per recent surveys), crumbling infrastructure, schools hemorrhaging due to closures, high speed connectivity, etc etc.

The City Council job description pasted below. Nowhere does it say "create a sense of belonging"!
City Council: 2022 Council Priorities graphic
Web Link
Key Responsibilities:
Set City‐wide priorities and policies and direct the City Manager to apply them
Make final decisions on all City matters
Adopt Ordinances and Resolutions
Approve the annual budget
Act as a Board of Appeals

Not to mention, I personally would NEVER vote for a candidate endorsed by Assemblyman Marc Berman whose office * recently* made the national news for sexual harassment of its female employees! It's shocking that a candidate (Haims) is selling to those who "want to be treated with dignity and kindness" while touting an endorsement from an Assemblyman whose office DOES NOT treat it's employees with dignity or kindness! Berman has made NO public statement or apology for his office's documented harrassment, and his silence as an elected rep has been shameful. News story reported in PA Online 4/22/2022:
"I reported my harassment in the California Legislature. Then state investigators went after me
by Ruth Ferguson / Contributor"
Web Link

Posted by Be realistic
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jul 30, 2022 at 4:35 pm

Be realistic is a registered user.

Forever Name,

That is very well put.
We know Mr. Berman for a while.
Regarding Mr. Becker, he was carefully avoiding Zoom meetings with the constituents on SB9 and SB10. When asked why in one on one setting, his reply was "I am not interested in hearing from the constituents. I am interested in advancing my political career."
The wider community should be aware of that when reviewing the endorsements of CC candidates.

Posted by OnlineName
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 31, 2022 at 9:58 am

OnlineName is a registered user.

Actually Mr. Becker did have a Zoom on housing that 200+ people attended. When asked specific questions he famously responded that he "was still trying to wrap his mind around" each issue, prompting a friend to suggest that we buy him a turban.

A very short time later he voted without pushing the affordability issue.

Posted by Citizen
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 1, 2022 at 11:52 am

Citizen is a registered user.

No to woke candidates who focus on Marxist identity politics. No thanks.

Reduce utility fees. Fix potholes. Do something about the homeless and about crime. Not this baloney about 'belonging'.

Posted by Citizen
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 2, 2022 at 5:50 pm

Citizen is a registered user.

A former Stanford dean (Julia L-H) says trying to fit into 'white environments' left her with $3,900 of credit-card debt at 22.
Web Link

Didn't Ms. L-H write a book on being an adult?

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 2, 2022 at 6:30 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

@Citizen, absolutely incredible. Thanks for that link.

Instead of blaming racism for her own financial irresponsibility and ignorance that credit card debt has to be repaid, she might look to history and the century-old phrase "Keeping up with the Jones's" which applies to ALL status-seekers regardless of race, creed, sexual orientation etc. etc.

Since when is "racism made me do it" a qualification for someone seeking to manage city business, spending, unfunded pension fund liabilities, lawsuits and payouts, negotiations with developers, providing staff oversight etc. etc.??

Posted by community member
a resident of University South
on Aug 2, 2022 at 7:12 pm

community member is a registered user.

Her list of supporters is a Who's Who of development interests:
Berman, of course. also former mayors Larry Klein and Betsy Bechtel, and former council members LaDoris Cordell, Gail Price, Hillary Freeman and developer John Barton.
What else do you need to know?

Posted by Be realistic
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Aug 2, 2022 at 7:17 pm

Be realistic is a registered user.

Thanks for sharing that link.
So she runs up her credit card debt which is later paid by her parents. That teaches her a big lesson. Do you want to know what the huge lesson was? No, it was not live by your means, be responsible for your spending and debt, or something along those lines. The lesson was "ask for help sooner."
What a great message of someone who wants to be in charge of this city, including its budget.

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