Veenker, Lauing and Lythcott-Haims win council seats | November 11, 2022 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - November 11, 2022

Veenker, Lauing and Lythcott-Haims win council seats

All three candidates vow to focus on housing, with various degrees of enthusiasm for growth

by Gennady Sheyner

Attorney Vicki Veenker, planning commissioner Ed Lauing position and author Julie Lythcott-Haims appear to have secured the three open seats on the Palo Alto City Council seats, results as of Wednesday, Nov. 9, from the Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters indicate.

With all precincts reporting, Veenker was leading the seven-candidate field with 8,829 votes, or 23% of the total votes cast in the race. Lauing, who chairs the Planning and Transportation Commission, had the second highest total of votes with 8,054, or 20.9% of the total, while Lythcott-Haims picked up 7,159 votes, or 18.62%.

Lisa Forssell, who serves on the Utilities Advisory Commission, and Doria Summa, vice chair of the Planning and Transportation Commission, were in fourth and fifth place, respectively, with 13.81% and 12.31% of the votes. Realtor Alex Comsa and software engineer Brian Hamachek rounded out the field, with each picking up 5.7% of the votes cast.

The Registrar of Voters estimates that 51% of all ballots cast have been counted, but the order of the top three candidates hasn't changed since Tuesday night's initial release of vote totals.

Veenker, a mediator who picked up support from both sides of the city's political spectrum, earned the most votes after running a campaign focused at bringing people together. She said she was happy to see her message resonate with Palo Alto voters.

"You don't have to pick a side. The best thing to do is to listen to all sides and move forward," Veenker said in an interview after the initial batch of results was released.

This year's council race was Palo Alto's first since 2007 that did not feature an incumbent candidate. Two current council members, Tom DuBois and Eric Filseth, are terming out this year after two terms. Council member Alison Cormack is concluding her first term and has opted not to run.

Lauing, who narrowly missed out on a council seat in the election two years ago, said the campaign felt different this time around. In 2020, campaigning was mostly done remotely because of the pandemic. This time, he was able to go out and meet people and he believes his interactions — and the fact that there are no incumbents running — helped him get his message across.

"I hope I came across as the most experienced and most knowledgeable about the city process and how we get things done," Lauing said in an interview during an election party downtown at The Patio.

While there were no official slates in the race, there were two loose coalitions, with housing as the main wedge issue. While all seven candidates talked about the importance of creating more affordable housing, Veenker, Lythcott-Haims and Forssell were generally seen as more accepting of city growth. All three received support from various housing advocates and council members historically affiliated with the more pro-development wing. By contrast, Lauing and Summa were endorsed by Palo Altans For Sensible Zoning, a group that tends to support slower-growth candidates.

The affiliations were reflected on election night. Most of the candidates mingled before the election results were released at a party at the Homewood Suites by Hilton hotel that was organized by the Measure K campaign before proceeding to their own events. Lauing and Summa attended the Homewood Suites party and then joined their supporters at The Patio when initial results were announced.

Both sides claimed a partial victory Tuesday. Lauing said the results suggest that voters are interested in seeing a diversity of perspectives on the council and said he looks forward to civil debates with his new council colleagues, assuming the early results stand.

Veenker drew support from both political camps. DuBois and Filseth, who are typically affiliated with the more slow-growth camp, both endorsed her campaign. So did Mayor Pat Burt, who also threw his support behind Lauing and Summa.

Lythcott-Haims, a former freshman dean at Stanford University, said her top priority once sworn in will be to develop relationships with her council colleagues and with city staff. When colleagues know each other better, she said, they are more likely to trust each other and listen to each other's opinions.

She also said she looks forward to playing a role in the city's effort to build more housing. She noted that over the course of the campaign, she and Forssell were very much in favor of building more than the state's mandate of 6,000 residential units.

"The fact that I earned the third spot being that unambiguous about our imperative to build more housing gives me confidence that a huge swath of our community understands the imperative," Lythcott-Haims said. "It feels like a mandate. There are a lot of Palo Altans in agreement and I'm excited to dive in and help develop the vision."

Forssell, who made environmental sustainability the cornerstone of her campaign, said the campaign was harder and more intense than she had expected. As the results were still being tallied, she said she plans to personally congratulate the winners.

"I have learned so much in this campaign. I take my hat off to everyone who's ever run," Forssell said.

Email Staff Writer Gennady Sheyner at [email protected]

Comments

Posted by Ed Lauing
a resident of Professorville
on Nov 9, 2022 at 1:02 am

Ed Lauing is a registered user.

Your article states: "The split was reflected on election night, with Veenker, Lythcott-Haims and Forssell all attending a party at the Homewood Suites by Hilton hotel that was organized by the Measure K campaign before moving on to their own events. Meanwhile, Lauing and Summa were surrounded by supporters at The Patio when initial results were announced."

You missed the fun group photos of Lauing, Veenker, Lythcott-Haims, and Forssell at Homewood Suites followed by enthusiastic clapping and wide smiles to celebrate the end of the campaign. (Photos available). Later, candidates left for other events.


Posted by felix
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 9, 2022 at 7:55 am

felix is a registered user.

Congratulations to all candidates for your courage and stamina, win or lose.

I am very happy the policy majority on Council will continue.

While not easy to fill the shoes of DuBois and Filseth, it was done when voters wisely chose two knowledgeable, experienced new Council Members.



Posted by resident3
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 9, 2022 at 8:52 am

resident3 is a registered user.

@felix,

"Congratulations to all candidates for your courage and stamina, win or lose.
I am very happy the policy majority on Council will continue."

Ditto. Congratulations - to all candidates, and to the newly elected. Also to Palo Alto Rebecca Eisenberg for taking on a serious incumbent - that is what I would call change.

Was there really a policy majority in play for the City though? The direction of the City doesn't change with Councils. It's what they get done as individuals. In practical terms, Filseth devoted a great deal of time to city finances but was one heartbeat away from defining his and Dubois' tenure with the purchase of dinosaurs for $980,000. In terms of personalities, glad we don't have a Liz' kids situation. Lauing is experienced on city issues; JLH's is all about building so that is predictable. Venkeer, unclear, but sounds like it may be about building or not building.

Building or not building is the recurring theme of Palo Alto elections. It's like we're run by a real estate office which explains Alex Comsa's candidacy. Meantime, the city's finances bounce around and various things that residents care about go by the wayside.


Posted by Bystander
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 9, 2022 at 9:10 am

Bystander is a registered user.

I am just hoping that the City Council will remember those of us who live here and our infrastructure as top priorities.


Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 9, 2022 at 9:43 am

Gale Johnson is a registered user.

I’m happy…two out of three picks should be enough to get things done along with the incumbents. I might have been a little harsh on Julie during the run-up to the election but if she holds true to her words as reported in the article, it might work out okay. Less talk…more listen and learn…is my dollar’s worth (inflation adjusted) bit of advice.


Posted by Tom DuBois
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 9, 2022 at 10:35 am

Tom DuBois is a registered user.

Congrats to all the candidates. Thank you for running and for conducting campaigns that talked about the issues.

Campaigning can be an interesting process and now you must make a mental switch from campaigning and talking about what YOU will do to how will you work TOGETHER, compromise when needed and get things done as a group. It’s a real shift.

Everyone on council was elected by the voters - there are no personal mandates more valid than the others.

You will also each be on 8-10 other boards and groups in your role as council members. Many people don’t realize the job entails much more than Monday meetings. Enjoy serving the fantastic Palo Alto community.


Posted by resident3
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 9, 2022 at 11:25 am

resident3 is a registered user.

@Tom DuBois,

"Campaigning can be an interesting process and now you must make a mental switch from campaigning and talking about what YOU will do to how will you work TOGETHER, compromise when needed and get things done as a group. It’s a real shift."

If this was true, then people wouldn't be celebrating a so called majority out of 7 votes. Reality is that once elected you have a ticket to "compromise" away to get just 3 more votes for what "you" want. Great that everyone can sleep at night this way but I would rather have a more accountable form of government, an elected Mayor.


Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Nov 9, 2022 at 11:41 am

Online Name is a registered user.

Echoing what Resident3 said since there's no evidence that people unjustifiably accusing their opponents of being Jim Crow will suddenly decide to work together in peace and harmony.


Posted by Chris
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Nov 9, 2022 at 1:37 pm

Chris is a registered user.

Not one environmentalist to choose from on this ballot, pretty sad. It will be funny as always to watch the council squirm to explain how they are pro growth AND anti-climate change waaahahaha


Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 9, 2022 at 1:50 pm

Annette is a registered user.

I think this was a tough campaign and while I do wish Doria Summa had been elected so that we would all benefit from her knowledge and experience, the job now is to move forward. I also think Tom DuBois has given the victors very good advice and I hope it is heeded.


Posted by Palo Alto native
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 9, 2022 at 2:57 pm

Palo Alto native is a registered user.

So all the candidates the Weekly endorsed won. For me, this points to the editorial board not doing its job. There is Doria Summa who had the stead the most experience and expertise in land/housing issues. For thSad that the Weekly is not truly representative of the residents.


Posted by Paly02
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 9, 2022 at 3:40 pm

Paly02 is a registered user.

@Palo Alto native - does that mean the vote was also not truly representative of the residents, since Doria Summa only got 5th place?

The Weekly didn't endorse Tanaka for re-election but he won anyway. The Weekly's endorsement helps, but it's not the end-all-be-all.


Posted by resident3
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 9, 2022 at 3:48 pm

resident3 is a registered user.

@Palo Alto Native,

"the Weekly is not truly representative of the residents."

In the grand scheme of power - City Hall being a building office, and the Weekly's advertisers (many real Estate agents) should tell you who the Weekly knows and what they know what to report on.

The Weekly has one "economist" who hasn't met a building he doesn't like. If the Weekly was even neutral, it would at least stop billing Stephen Levy as the only economist in town. The only true representatives of residents are residents, project by project. People evaluate on merits and it's why referendums are the only resort. Let's see how the Weekly's candidates do.

I suspect that is why the Weekly suggested pro-housing Lisa Forsell stick around to run again but it didn't support the candidate who doesn't see Palo Alto as a commodity. Housing, housing, housing and dinosaurs.


Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 9, 2022 at 4:08 pm

Gale Johnson is a registered user.

Thanks to Dubois and Filseth for their years of service on CC. They were well prepared for discussion and debate on issues. They were also civil and respectful of other council members’ opinions. Now let’s hope that carries over to the new members. Of course I’ll be watching the meetings starting in January to see how the members work together. One of my wishes is that they can work together to actually get more housing built for the very low, low, and middle income people who serve our community and have to drive long distances because of the lack of affordability of housing here. But it shouldn’t be a repeated blame game of how the jobs/housing imbalance happened. We know that history and the makeup of CC members that promoted and allowed it to happen. It is important for CC members to know that history, however, so they understand how the policies of accommodation to the pro growth (offices) policies that favored commercial property owners and developers happened, to the detriment of residents who pay taxes for our infrastructure. If a large portion of their campaign donations came from developers and non-residents, then they have some work to do to show us residents that they take our interests first, above those of donors that only have a business (profit) interest in mind. CC members should be bold enough to tell us residents that we will have pay for that ‘affordable’ housing, through taxes and bond measures, or hope we can get grants from all levels of government…county, state, and federal. I’m encouraged that there weren’t advertised slates and that remnants of Kniss’ kids are fading away.


Posted by fred
a resident of University South
on Nov 9, 2022 at 4:28 pm

fred is a registered user.

I suspect the reason that Doria did not `get the Weekly endorsement and came in 5th place in votes is that she has a reputation for nitpicking everything. In order to build more housing, we have to look at the big picture and focus on the things that make a difference in building new housing.

It does not mean accepting all developers proposals as is. It means working with them in a constructing way. It also means more flexible zoning and height restrictions that can be a win/win.

The Housing Element acknowledges that there is a lot of commercial property that is not well utilized. It is up to the City Council to make those changes come to life.


Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 9, 2022 at 5:22 pm

Gale Johnson is a registered user.

That required report on plans to make available space to build housing to satisfy the state’s mandate for housing is paper. No shovels lifted or sweat involved. As a kid I had fun playing “kick the can”. I was raised on a family farm in Montana. We kicked that empty Cambell’s soup can around for hours, even well after dark.


Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Nov 9, 2022 at 5:47 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

Maybe housing could go into all the empty offices spouting throughout the county and state -- Salesforce, Twitter, Meta, Oracle, the company andling corporate shuttles... and into the housing they're surrendering at nearby San Antonio Center.

The layoffs number in the tens of thousands and could go a long way to meeting our housing targets.


Posted by Citizen
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 11, 2022 at 10:55 am

Citizen is a registered user.

Congratulations to all.

My wish is that we would get ranked choice voting so it would be more clear what the results in a large field actually mean. Also so that lots of people can run without concerns of vote splitting. This would make an excellent project for some young people…

I also hope Lythcott-Haimes will be able to work for what she wants while learning to be respectful of others, especially others who might otherwise agree with her but whose input and motives she can’t see over her own biases. Veencker got the most votes because she understood that the majority of Palo Altans were with her efforts at Buena Vista, and deals with all people in good faith, something people like LH could not see at Maybell and thus the possibility of a collaborative 3rd way to get what she said she wanted (that had precedence before) was lost. If she finds herself in a choice again between a soap box and collaboration with people who disagree on vision but not outcome, my fear is she may choose soapbox. She’s never shown an ability to deal well with nuance/subtlety, which City Council requires. That said, she does care/learn, and anyway I hope she doesn’t lose that energy and bit of steamroller if she chooses to challenge Berman (hint, hint) who has been a disappointment. I think JLH would make an excellent state representative, including for some of the reasons I’m concerned about her at the local level. I remain cautious but open to being wrong about those concerns.

Congratulations to ALL.


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