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Opinion: A Palo Alto business tax and the space-time continuum

Original post made on May 13, 2022

Here in Palo Alto we can do our part by adopting a fair, appropriate tax on those companies that can most afford it. Silicon Valley is the corporate envy of the world, but as the saying goes, "The piper must be paid."

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, May 13, 2022, 6:50 AM

Comments (16)

Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on May 13, 2022 at 8:28 am

Annette is a registered user.

So much of this makes sense and I would vote for it if it was a special tax rather than a general tax. Per the minutes of the April 25 CC meeting “council voted to direct staff to draft a non-binding resolution to inform the public of council’s intentions regarding the use of Business Tax proceeds,” with the intentions being grade separation and rail safety, affordable housing and homeless programs, public safety, and improvements to University and California Ave business districts.

Key words: non-binding and intentions. This means that the tax could pass and the General Fund could swell but the issues that need funding will continue to be issues that need funding.


Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 13, 2022 at 8:55 am

Online Name is a registered user.

Thank you both for calling out the lobbying powerhouses for refusing to pay their fair share while making us, the residents, bear the costs of their members' never ending expansions.

How about also calling out the City Manager and Budget Director for contributing to the confusion of the tax with their confusing "set-in-stone" presentations to CC about revenue projections and Shikada's recent announcement of his "plans" to add 23 more high-level staffers?

Also it's ludicrous that our highly paid city staffers and their gravy train of consultants are incapable of setting up a business registry and tracking the number of employees instead of taking the easy way out and going with a square footage tax.

The same people can't even manage permitting services and simple things like responding to street light outrage reports yet they have NO problem awarding themselves raises and utility rate hikes to fund those raises.

Where's the accountability? Where's the clarity? Where's the oversight?


Posted by Citizen
a resident of College Terrace
on May 13, 2022 at 10:29 am

Citizen is a registered user.

No thanks guys. No new taxes that will get passed on to consumers dealing with 8% inflation. Tighten your belts and live within your means, City.

Propose a special tax if you really believe it's needed for certain items.

The population is dropping in CA and the Bay Area; not such a great need for frequent Caltrain runs, or costly grade separations.


Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on May 13, 2022 at 10:31 am

Annette is a registered user.

As noted by the authors, NAIOP is the Commercial Real Estate Development Association. NAIOP stands for National Association for Industrial and Office Parks. I would love to hear Teddy Roosevelt's comments on those parks.


Posted by David Ross
a resident of Portola Valley
on May 13, 2022 at 10:42 am

David Ross is a registered user.

Until 2001 I operated a commercial construction business based in Palo Alto. I always thought it odd that we paid business license taxes in 15 local jurisdictions, but not in our home town.


Posted by Anne
a resident of Midtown
on May 13, 2022 at 12:50 pm

Anne is a registered user.

Thank you Council Members DuBois and Filseth for this column. Also thanks to the Weekly for printing it.

I have also been watching, for many years, as the Silicon Valley Leadership Group promotes regressive taxes on those who can afford them the least. I've also been watching as the San Jose Mercury has been taken over by corporate interests (Digital First Media) and always parrots and promotes the Silicon Valley Leadership Group agenda.

The special sauce provided by Silicon Valley and Stanford has enriched corporations tremendously and it is time for them to pay their fair share for the impacts they cause.

I'm in favor of the biggest possible business tax we can extract, to deal with all the seemingly intractable problems we face.


Posted by Local Resident
a resident of Community Center
on May 13, 2022 at 1:05 pm

Local Resident is a registered user.

While prop 13 requires increasing the taxable value of homes when sold but businesses have managed to skirt these revaluations. The result is businesses have been paying a smaller and smaller portion of taxes and the burden has been shifting rather dramatically onto the shoulders of residents who have far less wealth than the corporations. This tax does not fix this issue but does add a business tax which almost every other city on the peninsula already has. I will be voting for this tax.


Posted by PaloAltoVoter
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 13, 2022 at 2:06 pm

PaloAltoVoter is a registered user.

It is not a surprise that big business is already campaigning against a tax. I am happy that small businesses will be exempted. It’s about time that we have such a tax. I will be supporting this wholeheartedly. All the cities around us have a business tax and many are raising theirs. It’s time that the large businesses paid their fair share of city costs.


Posted by felix
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 13, 2022 at 2:38 pm

felix is a registered user.

A Palo Alto busniness tax is a no-brainer except to parasites who want to suck the hard earned money out of residents while keeping theirs. The Chamber (not mentioned but also behind egregiouos mailers), the SVLG and NIOP are a bunch of greed-heads.

If voters are swayed by the age-old phony arguements of the entitled, then woe is us. Everyone who is worried about affordable housing, every mom or dad with a kid who crosses railroad tracks to school, or all in town who needs traffic relief and protection from fires and hazardous spills need this tax. Our town needs this tax.

Don't listen to the phony, self-interested BS - Vote for the Business Tax.




Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 13, 2022 at 2:48 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

"While prop 13 requires increasing the taxable value of homes when sold but businesses have managed to skirt these revaluations. The result is businesses have been paying a smaller and smaller portion of taxes and the burden has been shifting rather dramatically onto the shoulders of residents who have far less wealth than the corporations."

Absolutely. And the groups they support like the well-funded YIMBY's, Palo Alto Forward and all their latest incarnations just love to scream about Prob 13 and blame the horrible "NIMBY residents" while never, ever mentioning businesses.


Posted by ALB
a resident of College Terrace
on May 13, 2022 at 3:00 pm

ALB is a registered user.

I commend council members Tom DuBois and Eric Filseth for their important piece concerning the proposed business tax. It has been disgraceful IMO that a culture of obstructing the business tax by earlier councils and city managers (Keane) has endured until now. Note that the Chamber of Commerce is against this tax. Palo Alto is the only city without a business tax. I trust this council to be responsible and work to get this passed.
Again, thank you council members Dubois and Filseth for stepping up to elucidate on this critical and long overdue tax.


Posted by peter p.
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 13, 2022 at 4:27 pm

peter p. is a registered user.

Large businesses contribute to the cost of a city's services and infrastructure. Palo Alto is one of the few cities without a business tax. It would appear to be reasonable to expect large businesses to pay their fair share and therefore it was sad to see the business community attack this proposal before it was actually written.


Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on May 13, 2022 at 5:35 pm

Annette is a registered user.

@ALB, good point about earlier City Councils and City Managers. This issue should have been addressed long ago. The pro-development bent that allowed unmitigated commercial development and low development fees hurt Palo Alto. We've waited a LONG time to break that hold and I also applaud this Council for taking up this issue. That said, I wish this was proposed as a special tax so that we didn't have to trust that the City Manager and the finance team will consistently propose budgets that use the revenue for its intended purposes. Promises are too easily broken and the intended purposes too important to be ignored in favor of special projects, capital improvement projects that are nice but not critical, adding staff positions that are not directly related to the 4 areas this tax is supposed to fund, or paying down our unfunded pension liability.


Posted by chris
a resident of University South
on May 13, 2022 at 5:54 pm

chris is a registered user.

It would be lovely if the square footage tax were high enough to incent landlords to convert their property to housing. The remaining commercial property would generate significantly more revenue and the city would get more housing out of the bargain.


Posted by community member
a resident of University South
on May 14, 2022 at 4:42 pm

community member is a registered user.

Thanks to Council Members DuBois and Filseth for clear,
well-written message.
Yes. All should pay their fair share.


Posted by PaloAltoVoter
a resident of Crescent Park
1 hour ago

PaloAltoVoter is a registered user.

It really boils down to corporate values. Do our local companies believe in our community as one of their stakeholders they serve? Or do they only serve shareholders? I hope some of the larger companies that will be subject to the tax will come out and say “we have caused impacts on communities and we should be part of the solution and pay our fair share”. By paying into the general fund they will be part of the community just like resident tax payers who have funded more and more of the load over the years. I hope someone stands up like the CEO of Salesforce has. It would be refreshing and it’s the right thing to do.


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