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Original post made on Feb 8, 2020

AWKWARD TRANSITION ... Few elections in Palo Alto are as suspenseful, rancorous and polarizing as the Planning and Transportation Commission's annual selection of its chair and vice chair. For those who enjoy hyperlocal political intrigue, this year's election of officers on Jan. 29 didn't disappoint. Residents read aloud a public letter, signed by about 50 endorsers, listing a set of principles they would like to see in the top two leaders. These include a "selfless interest in serving the public good," "zero tolerance for bullying or disparaging a member of the public from the dais" and compliance with "complete disclosure at the dais of any conflict of interest" — a veiled reference to Commissioner Michael Alcheck, who has been criticized for not recusing himself during commission hearings that pertained to garages and carports while he was moving ahead with two projects that involved garage construction. Some expected Alcheck, who came into the meeting as vice chair, to assume to the chair's seat. He quickly quashed those expectations by nominating Carolyn Templeton as chair, calling her "compassionate" and "thoughtful." His colleagues unanimously supported the nomination, with Commissioner Doria Summa noting that she was thinking about throwing her own hat into the race for chair but was happy to support Templeton. They maintained that spirit of unity for a whole 30 seconds until things got awkward when they chose a vice chair. Commissioner Ed Lauing supported Summa for the role, calling her an "avocational zoning expert" and touting her two decades of active engagement in city issues and three years of commission experience. Alcheck then nominated Giselle Roohparvar, a real estate attorney who joined the commission last year. Commissioner Barton Hechtman, who was appearing in his first meeting, abstained from the vote, noted that he didn't have sufficient knowledge of either nominee. Outgoing Chairman William Riggs took a shot at Summa for not participating in a team-building exercise at a commission retreat last year and then abstained from the vote. Roohparvar prevailed by winning three votes from the seven-member commission. She gained supporting votes from Templeton, Alcheck and herself. In making the case for her nomination, Roohparvar said she believes the position should "transcend politics." "It's not about coming here and arguing your point. It's about making sure everyone is heard and has a fair chance, and making sure there is civility and decorum that's always maintained," she said.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, February 7, 2020, 12:00 AM

Comments (18)

31 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Greendell/Walnut Grove
on Feb 8, 2020 at 9:28 am

Winning by a minority vote - 3 of 7 - with one of the three votes being one’s own hardly shows the support of her colleagues.


39 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 8, 2020 at 2:53 pm

Reminder: The City Council appoints members of the Planning and Transportation Commission, the very same CC that ignores feedback from residents about the jobs/housing imbalance, the need to contain OFFICE growth while denying we have traffic problems, the need to make BIG business pay its fair share, etc etc.

Anyone else see anything wrong here?


23 people like this
Posted by mjc
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 8, 2020 at 2:59 pm

When Michael Alcheck nominated Giselle Roohparvar for vice-chair and described her pertinent experience for this position, among other things he appeared to claim she was or had been a partner in a law firm. Which while I hope is true, may have been a misleading statement. I hope someone can clarify this.


33 people like this
Posted by ALB
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 9, 2020 at 3:17 pm

The citizens who signed the document sent to the Planning Commission were the original fifty, now there are over eighty supporters of the document which lists the qualities that constituents desire in Planning Commissioners including ethics and not using his or her position for personal gain to name just a few.

Michael Alchek gave a gushing recommendation for Gisele Roohparvar for the position of vice chair. He said that she made partner at Star Miller and Regalia. He also said it is the best land use firm. What about Shute & Mihaly? There is no factual basis to support the claim that Roohparvar was a partner in the firm. He swooned about her interview and how impressed he was with her credentials. If you made partner why in the world would you leave the firm is my question? And did she actually make partner?

He also mentioned the esteemed and late Eduardo Martinez who served, as Chairman, on the Planning Commission. Eduardo Martinez was a gentleman and a Harvard graduate with impeccable values. For Alchek to mention Eduardo Martinez is like Donald Trump invoking Martin Luther King. It was absurd for Michael Alchek to cite Martinez because Alchek does not embrace the same values nor does he have the emotional intelligence of the respected former Chairman Eduardo Martinez. Chairman Martinez never ever shouted from the dais to a member of the public
because he did not agree with what a citizen had written online. Alchek objected to the word 'cabal.' He lost it. Chairman Lauing had to caution Alchek for his comportment.

Bill Riggs had been Chair for one year and still seemed nonplussed by his duties and how to comport himself on the dais. Of course that is not a crime but he did not seem good in his own skin. Was he not prepared?

As I observed this meeting in person I witnessed bad behavior that citizens find unprofessional and misleading in some of the commissioners.


12 people like this
Posted by We can do better...
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 9, 2020 at 9:40 pm

There is no end to the nonsense. This article made drama from nothing. It is so sad and depressing to me that even our local news has stooped to the level of simply being click bait. Here’s a truth: Alcheck is nimby click bait. Here’s another truth: for the first time ever many residents spoke during the election of the chair and vice chair item. And a third truth: despite being historically very uncommon, several residents lobbied the commissioners to appoint Doria Summa, politicizing a rather apolitical role.

The residents who spoke in favor of her appointment were appalling. They demonstrated a clear lack of respect during the process. Gfawing when their preferred choice was not ultimately chosen. Now they sit in their homes attracted by the click bait that this paper finds acceptable to publish and suggest that lies were spoken and records are now false. How about one of you just email our new vice chair and ask her yourself. I did. Her email was easy to find. Google it. Or are you afraid of the truth. Stop following the example of your falsifier in chief and do your own research. God I swear this newspaper is as awful as the Balin publication. It’s not worth the paper it’s printed on.

Sadly when online housing advertisements make realtor ads unnecessary this paper will be in serious trouble because it didn’t cultivate a reputation for legitimate reporting. And these forums are cess pools for misinformation. Of course I can’t say whether Doria Summa would have been good or not but if she could not get more than one colleague to support her (just Ed Lauing supported her, which makes you wonder was he lobbied hard) well then frankly it’s probably because Doria Summa is not right for the job.

[Portion removed.]

The more I think of it the more I believe this group of residents ought to be ashamed of themselves. They don’t know the first thing about emotional intelligence. They despise people because of their perspectives on housing development. They feign compassion for the poor but rally against religious institutions that try to address it locally. And then when nothing else works they malign those they oppose ideologically by accusing them of being reprehensible in all sorts of illegitimate ways.

Think about that for a minute. Make the phone call. Do the leg work. Reach out to the person you’ve been told to hate. Have a conversation with someone you’ve been led to believe is the enemy and fix our broken overly partisan status quo. Being informed is not the same as letting the $#!% stirrers in this town get you worked up. Don’t buy into the red herrings, the trump analogies, the carport crisis, the suggestion that our city is being ruined, I could go on and on. Instead see the border wall that’s being erected around you by these so called sensible zoning advocates and bring that wall down. Palo Alto is our community. We should be better than this. And for the love of god Weekly please stop printing this garbage. We have so many news worthy events to report on. [Portion removed.] We need to do better. And if we don’t try then frankly we deserve this president and our local engagement will only get worse.


2 people like this
Posted by Mark Weiss
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 10, 2020 at 6:18 am

Adding bouleware as a Park is trivial compared to not grabbing a swath of Fry’s for a “major” category Park. We could even call it Wheatley Park in honor of the developers. Maybe there’d be a separate endowment for puppetry.


11 people like this
Posted by Clay L
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Feb 10, 2020 at 10:54 am

So... in other words, even the transportation committee is gridlocked in Palo Alto. Huh.


21 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 10, 2020 at 11:36 am

Please stop calling it a "vote" when it's an appointment by the sane folks who were appointed by the cc so it was pre-ordained before the meeting even started.


4 people like this
Posted by mjh
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 10, 2020 at 2:33 pm

Giselle Roohparvar

Deputy General Counsel
Company Name: Bungalow
Dates Employed: Oct 2019 – Jan 2020
Employment Duration: - 4 mos
Location: San Francisco Bay Area

Partner - Real Estate and Land Use
Company Name: Miller Starr Regalia
Dates Employed: Jan 2013 – Oct 2019
Employment Duration: 6 yrs 10 mos
Location: San Francisco Bay Area

Associate - Real Estate and Land Use
Company Name: Pircher, Nichols & Meeks LLP
Dates Employed: Aug 2011 – Jan 2013
Employment Duration: 1 yr 6 mos
Location: Greater Los Angeles Area


29 people like this
Posted by How Low Have We Sunk?
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 10, 2020 at 2:34 pm

The article doesn't mention that Michael Alcheck also illegally converted his carports into garages without getting the proper permits. As a Planning Commissioner and an attorney, he certainly knew he needed permits - and there was some question whether the conversions were even legal as he had to hire other lawyers once he agreed to even submit to the permit process.

In a decent city, committing illegal acts like this would cause a commissioner to instantly resign or at worst be forced out. But in Palo Alto ....




2 people like this
Posted by Not Quite Rock Bottom
a resident of Community Center
on Feb 10, 2020 at 5:08 pm

In a decent city, you'd be allowed to have a garage if you want one and there would be controversies like the carport/garage "scandal". Palo Alto "neighbors" exert far too much control over what property owners do with their property. In a decent city, we'd recognize that R1 zoning is segregationist and we'd change our laws to make it possible to add more homes in every neighborhood.


2 people like this
Posted by Summa (editor's note - this poster is not Doria Summa)
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 10, 2020 at 8:37 pm

Seems to me these appointments are largely ceremonial. Each person’s vote counts the same so what’s the big deal? It’s not like the PTC sets its own agendas like the Supreme Court.

For anyone complaining about the other commissioners, I ask you to simply observe Summa’s demeanor during hearings. She has an arrogance and a “smarter than thou” demeanor at all times. Frankly, she has so much contempt for everything she does not agree with. [Portion removed.] As direct as Alcheck may be, he is smart, considered, and tries to view things holistically. Can’t say the same about Summa. Frankly, Alcheck didn’t need the title and voted for someone else. [Portion removed.]


26 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 11, 2020 at 7:51 am

@Summa - Arrogant? Holier than thou? Doria?? Hardly. I see her more as one who is reliably in attendance, who contributes to the discussion, and who is prepared and knowledgeable.

Given your opinion of her, it's odd that you choose to post under her name.


25 people like this
Posted by Louisa Coty
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 11, 2020 at 2:06 pm

Got to look at the motivations:

Templeton: wants to be a politician, paid to go through politician school, start off on a commission, become chair, run for council, become mayor, run for state legislator, why stop, run for governor.

Roohpovar: get better jobs using the Planning and Transportation Commissioner title. She works for Bungalow now and had Bungalow give a presentation at Planning and Transportation, and the Chair Billy Riggs and city staff allowed the marketing attempt.

Riggs: touts himself to be a Transportation expert but hasn't provided much solutions, actually none. Seems to mostly throw out theories as if he was back in grad school.

Alcheck: Don’t buy into his red herrings, [portion removed] and the fact is, he had a financial interest on a matter where he should have recused himself. He is a big part of the "special interest" problem.

Lauing: serve the council and Palo Alto.

Summa: serve the council and Palo Alto.

New guy: we shall see.


21 people like this
Posted by Outrageous bullying
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 11, 2020 at 2:21 pm

>(Alcheck) shouted from the dais to a member of the public
because he did not agree with what a citizen had written online. Alchek objected to the word 'cabal.' He lost it.

Alcheck was so out of line, so inappropriate, by bullying a member of the public who had used a word he didn't like on Nextdoor. Not a government publication. [Portion removed.]


19 people like this
Posted by Alcheck = Cabal
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 11, 2020 at 2:50 pm

[Post removed.]


27 people like this
Posted by Calm Down
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 11, 2020 at 7:42 pm

[Portion removed.]

Doria Summa's demeanor at meetings is unremarkable, which is how it should be. She is civil, doesn't interrupt, bully or hog attention unlike some. She is welcoming to the public, well prepared, smart and knows the issues.

Honest criticism is one thing, dishonest criticism is disgusting and cynical. The true Doria Summa is owed an apology by the fake "Summa", as are members of the public who attended the last Commission meeting.


5 people like this
Posted by Outrageous bullying
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 14, 2020 at 10:53 am

Alcheck and his buddy Riggs were absent from the last PTC meeting.
But the new member, Hechtman, held forth for such a long time,it was quite remarkable. He held the center stage for an astonishingly long time, repeating himself alot. I hope this is not a sign of things to come.


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