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Palo Alto set to appoint a slew of commissioners

Original post made on Nov 7, 2014

With the new City Council preparing to take the helm in Palo Alto come January, the existing one will have a chance Monday to leave a lasting imprint on the city's future when it appoints new members to all three boards that review new developments.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, November 7, 2014, 7:40 AM

Comments (17)

Posted by Jo Ann
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Nov 7, 2014 at 1:44 pm

Let's hope that the Transportation czars named by the old City Council start telling Mr. Rodriquez that frustrated drivers are impatiently awaiting some action on the Embarcadero traffic light mess which is nearing 10 years.

As Diana Diamond pointed out in her recent column, he seems obsessed with bikes and deaf to the issue of traffic and gridlock.

While naming someone from Palo Alto Forward by the current council seems to fly in the face of the election results, let hope that we finally see execution rather than costly studies.

Posted by Baron Park resident
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 7, 2014 at 3:56 pm

How can citizens prevent the out going council members with staffing these important commissioner positions with pro-development people?

Is there a recall process for these appointed positions?

Posted by Agenda
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 7, 2014 at 4:00 pm

Aren't you jumping the gun, BP resident. You do not know who will be appointed? Who on the list of potential appointments do you object to? How do you know they are pro development ( and remember that none of the new members are anti development). This practice has been in effect for years, so nothing new happening. Since these are appointed posts, I am not sure they can be recalled.

Posted by Douglas Moran
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 7, 2014 at 4:07 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

Current and past Councils have created problems on the PTC (Planning and Transportation Commission) not just on who they appoint, but who they dissuade from applying.

We have had Councils that repeatedly ignored the PTC, not just disagreed with them. In multiple circumstances, it was very clear that a significant portion of the Council, possibly a majority, hadn't bothered to read the PTC report. Current Council members Pat Burt and Karen Holman went through this when they were on the PTC. So you get a fair number of potential good candidates for the PTC deciding "Why bother?" -- why put in the extensive work required if it is only going to be ignored.

Councils have also made it clear that having relevant experience and expertise is not only no advantage, but often a disadvantage. Witness the choice mentioned in the article between Susan Fineberg and Michael Alcheck.
Or consider Doria Summa of College Terrace who has applied three times and been rejected. She has extensive experience with PC zoning, Residential Preferred Parking Permit programs, Cal Ave development, ... Apparently Council thought it best not to have that experience on the PTC.

As the article indicates, it is likely going to take quite some time to get things back on track.

Posted by Mark Weiss
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 7, 2014 at 4:24 pm

Actually I am better known as a concert promoter -- on the cover of PAW for Earthwise Productions - -than for politics: I've received roughly 9,000 votes for Council compared to 10,000 tickets sold for 150 shows at 300 cap Cubberley Community Center, 1994-2001. But go ahead and call me "three time loser" if that's your angle.

I co-published my ARB ap on my blog, Plastic Alto, along with more than 100 other posts about policy, all since pulling papers on the second to last day of filing period, after not being impressed with those who announced -- totally Cory Wolbach, who I am rooting for still but did not vote for, pulled the day after I did.

My argument is that architects are over-represented on the board and log-roll more than work for We The People. I am claiming to be a non-architect design person -- I design site specific cultural experiences -- which is actually a stated composition element of ARB. I say any more than 2 of 5 as actual architects at this point, with this poisoned well of Democracy - and despite your coverage of the so-called shift -- will perpetuate our very real problems with development and brick-culture.

[Portion removed.]

Posted by Midtown
a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 7, 2014 at 5:42 pm

Do you mean to say that although we voted for change the present Council can block that and perpetuate their agenda?
Can't the new majority fire the ****ING planners who created this mess?
Though the votes show that the present Council was out of touch with the citizens,what does it take to finally actuate the will of the people?
Do we long-term Palo Altans have to "tenir les barricades?" Do we have to physically block bad taste in building and exceptions that seem as though they were a product of collusion or delusion?
Example: When huge numbers of workers commute into Palo Alto and want to park near work, how can you convince them to spend another half hour to park their car and TAKE A BUS TO WORK? How do you expect a forty or fifty year old project manager to bicycle to work from Mountain View or Menlo Park or ...
Livermore where housing is somewhat cheaper?
Can't anyone see that the bicycle emphasis a delusion? Even though I'm liberal I can see that it's simply a attempt to legislate our behavior. In a free society it's no fair to legislate behavior.
That's what seems to have been going on with the Council, and that's what we voted to change!

Posted by Agenda
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 7, 2014 at 5:48 pm

"Do you mean to say that although we voted for change the present Council can block that and perpetuate their agenda?"
What is the present council blocking? Are they doing anything illegal. Which commission candidates do you object to? Greg Scharf was re-elected. I thought he was part of the " problems"

Posted by Shake it UP
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 7, 2014 at 5:57 pm

There needs to be a massive shake-up in the Planning Commission, the ARC, Transportation, and the choice of architects used.

None of these departments listen to their public; they all have their own, hidden, personal agendas they feel must be fulfilled by foisting them on he residents. It should be a crime.

BTW, the latest Ken Hayes abomination is next door to my veterinarian's office. It is so hideous that I am sorely tempted to change vets so I won't have to park next to the eyesore. Even the construction workers joke about their "ugly project".

Posted by How about regular residents
a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 7, 2014 at 6:42 pm

Doria Summa would make a great Commissioner!!! She understands the zoning laws and has stood up to the City Staff and Developers who have set aside zoning to get their pet projects (profits) through. The votes are in, why would the outgoing Councilmembers have their say in the next Commissioners. The whole process should be revamped and more reflect what residents want. Also, any PC if approved by PTC should have to be voted on by the electorate.
10 years or so ago, these seats were not in such high demand. It now seems like the Developers and their proxies see how the process works......and have gotten majorities on these Commissions. I'm tired of all these professionals getting placed on these Boards, then to find out they have a BIG $$$ personal stake in the decisions they make. That is why Doria would make a good Planning Commissioner. She has no conflict of interest..... not beholden to Developers, Architectural Firms, Real Estate Businesses . Perhaps the City Attorney should have some kind of form for potential candidates to sign confirming no conflict of interest, or a resignation clause for Commissioners who are blatantly making money off their votes.

Posted by The Shadow Knows.....
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 8, 2014 at 10:48 am

In politics - and political appointments - the old cliche' still applies"

"It's not what you know, it's who you know...."!

Posted by Mark Weiss
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 8, 2014 at 5:09 pm

I think Doria should be on PATC, she has gotten several votes in her previous applications, and besides her Trostskyite participation in Self-Serving Politburo in Sensational Self-Service or what-not has an impeccable though mostly behind the scenes record here in public service.

She worked on the Schmid campaign in 2012, for instance.

Any real change would have to include independent fourth estate.

Posted by question
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 8, 2014 at 7:06 pm

How much power does the Planning Commission actually have? I'd be appalled if such individuals with no expertise in city planning (some with a clear political agenda) are given any real power over the future of development in Palo Alto.

Posted by Douglas Moran
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 8, 2014 at 8:00 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

RE: "question"
The Planning and Transportation Commission (PTC) is widely called the second most powerful body in the City government.

It has the time to focus on development issues and is tasked to shaping the options and debate before it goes to Council. They have considerable influence over what goes into the recommendations that go to Council. If they choose to ignore certain alternatives and viewpoints, residents are stuck trying to make their case in 2 or 3 minutes oral presentation.

In the 1990s and early 2000s, it was common for people to be appointed to the PTC who had not even bothered to *watch* a single meeting -- their swearing in was the first meeting they attended. A variety of neighborhood leaders started making a stink about this, so applicants were told to attend one meeting before filing.

In the 6 months after new appointments, it is painful to watch PTC meetings because the newbies are stumbling over basic terminology and confused by basic concepts. But as "The Shadow Knows..." said above ...

Posted by JM
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Nov 9, 2014 at 4:40 pm

Depending on who is on the Planning and Transportation Commission makes a huge difference in how and how fast Palo Alto is developed. On this list of PT&C applicants I believe there are more who represent the group Palo Alto Forward, or share their goals, than this article tells us.

From Palo Alto Forward's home page:

"We have one year to shape Palo Alto's new Comprehensive Plan, which will set housing and transportation policy until 2030. We invite you to join us as we engage with City Council members and city staff to champion better options for housing and transportation. We need your help to make this vision a reality!"

Although this mostly young, very active and energetic group, believes building dense apartment and condo developments is the answer, to their housing problems, but they underestimate the attraction for families even the smallest units are, and how this affects school enrollment.

When my kids were in school I knew a San Mateo family with five children to educate, who figured it was cheaper to buy a small condo in Palo Alto (later resold) than send their children to private school. They camped out in Palo Alto during the week, depending on after school activities etc,, and were never caught. The school district does attempt to locate these abuses, but don't have the staff to check out every family enrolling their child or children.

Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 10, 2014 at 12:30 pm

The idea of having radical organizations like "Palo Alto Forward" in control of key decision making entities, like the PT&C is truly frightening. Given that the Comprehensive Plan is not openly voted upon by the voters, and the residents, in general, have very little say in the process--those of us who don't want to see Palo Alto Manhattanized need to think about a Charter change that would allow the voters to force the Council to terminate a given set of Commissioners, and repanel the Commission with new faces.

Too much power is in the hands of too few people who are not accountable to the residents, the taxpayers and the property owners.

Posted by Jo Ann
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Nov 10, 2014 at 12:34 pm

Joe, I couldn't agree more.

And until our Transportation Director Mr. Rodriquez admits that gridlock and traffic are at least as important as bike safety, we need to keep up the pressure.

Posted by So....?
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Nov 10, 2014 at 10:47 pm

So where is the story telling us who was appointed?

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