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Audit finds flaws in Palo Alto's management of nonprofits

Original post made on Jun 28, 2022

Palo Alto is preparing to tighten its policies around contracts with nonprofits after an audit found that the city's existing agreements suffer from a lack of clear expectations and insufficient monitoring.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, June 28, 2022, 9:17 AM

Comments (14)

Posted by felix
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 28, 2022 at 7:01 pm

felix is a registered user.

No kidding.
Downtown Streets Team is a prime example. The Council recently gave it more money, yet when a Councilmember asked if anything had changed - he was met with a shrug.

See the article on paonline just posted about its founder and longtime Director who finally stepped down. It’s a graphic example of how the City reneged on its responsibility to exercise reasonable oversight while supplying more and more money to DTST.
It’s quite shocking.


Posted by Native to the BAY
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 28, 2022 at 8:16 pm

Native to the BAY is a registered user.

Damning . The lack of a real & transparent effort for low income seniors, individuals, disabled, families to access Alta Housing waitlists, or who to contact there or how one might get on a “closed” waitlists is opaque at best — if not down right wrong. What did one of their YouTube videos reveal? how to look for housing? It checked obscure box, was trite w broad strokes 4 anxious local folks. The very mission of providing housing & services for local residents in dire need of affordable, safe quality housing is nil. Alta has to be one of the city’s most lucrative 501(c)3 partners w only a link to profit’s website & is a dead end. 99% of their housing stock waitlists are closed!! Why? Anyone surely, especially if they work or live in Palo Alto, should be able to get on a waitlist . Also why can’t one get on their MV property lists? Meanwhile 2017 Related/Mayfield (Stanford owned soil) runs a warm water 71 unit residential complex where main sewer pipes bust regularly, faucets leak, appliances are fire hazards, wall outlets burn out, and not one resident has their own single parking space because ... the 1million dollar parking puzzle is unsafe, not ADA accessible, does not accommodate small utility vehicles (The Erector set would collapse with a 6.0 Earthquake & stops functioning w power outages. very least the City must provide other housing affordable options on their website, like Eden, Mid-Pen etc. where is the Audit for Project Centennial ? A friend had a humiliating and major privacy invasive experience with them. PC just a had a mass job turn-over! Why? PA Housing & development dept revamp, I say. What a disgrace. The system is rigged against the poor, needy, people of color. Meanwhile appears V-Rents (Wall Street) owns 25% of rental stock in PA & they charge above market 4 less than optimal, trashy rental properties. The City has to get honest with its true poverty numbers . Let us in on it. What R the #’s?


Posted by eileen
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 29, 2022 at 9:25 am

eileen is a registered user.

Native to the BAY, thanks for the comment above. You seem to have more information about
Alt Housing. I too wonder how anyone in this city can get on their waiting list! There needs to be much more transparency! Who is getting this housing and why are ALL the lists closed??


Posted by mjh
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 29, 2022 at 10:59 am

mjh is a registered user.

Doesn’t reflect well on the city manager who, under the city’s charter, has broad powers and leeway as to how he manages the city, the departments, and the staff, and limits how much council can intervene or influence other than through control of the major items in the budget and broad policy.


Posted by eileen
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 29, 2022 at 11:54 am

eileen is a registered user.

mjh, I totally agree with your comment above. And yet, the city manager is paid very well as are his many employees!


Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 29, 2022 at 12:01 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

Totally agree with the two previous posters about the city manager. When does his term end and what's the procedure for choosing his replacement? Let's hope it's better than the last one where the new CM gets an extra year's salary and benefits IF his performance is so horrible that he's fired or forced to resign.


Posted by Native to the BAY
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 29, 2022 at 1:50 pm

Native to the BAY is a registered user.

@Eileen. Follow the money and the research. Alta Housing rents their headquarters from Sobrato on West Bay Shore. After 6 years, Sobrato & city just reached a deal on Fry’s 3.5 acres — a set aside 4 desperately needed, completely doable low-income housing for a non-profit developer to build there. Guess who will get the bidding/winning contract? Yes. The other California housing Corp, Alta. The others like Eden, Mid-pen , Charity, Bridge, etc ... don’t stand a chance of building there— even though these affordable builders are really good developers for the poor. They to should be given a fair shake to provide safe, quality, low-income housing for the poor and unfortunate low-wage local residents that desperately need good choices. If only Alta and City and Sobrato were transparent about the real chances of a local resident/family/senior getting a unit on that site. I’d be okay w Alta holding the monopoly of the housing yet who of us locals get in seems to be opaque and super duper selective, discretionary and secretive. Hello. Sabrato has spent last years beefing up their “giving” tools which make them look them look uber good. My beef w Alta and City is housing is anti multi generational flexible to all income , family size, life transitions, abilities — and especially to support low wage local workers who are the backbone to this economy. I am all for awarding a contract to a local developer, yet are the partnering contractors, architects, laborers, vendors local to the Peninsula too?


Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 6, 2022 at 7:22 am

Annette is a registered user.

Once again I miss the LIKE button. I would have used it to LIKE the comments above expressing concern about Palo Alto's City Manager. Shikada was promoted to the position of City Manager in 2018. Per one article “the council opted to avoid the city’s typical recruiting process, which usually involves a nationwide search, a selection of finalists and opportunities for the public to weigh in.” Then-mayor Kniss made the motion to promote Shikada, even while acknowledging that the process was “compacted”. Several Councilmembers spoke about the process, defending their action despite the obvious flaws.

When CC voted on his contract, Tanaka dissented, arguing that there should instead be a fixed component and a variable that reflects a correlation between the City’s performance and the City Manager’s. What a concept.


Posted by Consider Your Options.
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 6, 2022 at 11:32 am

Consider Your Options. is a registered user.

The city manager's "term" ends when he retires or when he is dismissed by City Council. He is an employee of the City of Palo Alto, not an elected official.


Posted by mjh
a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 6, 2022 at 7:50 pm

mjh is a registered user.

My understanding is that when hired City Manager Shikado negotiated a contract that includes $3 million in compensation if he is fired.


Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 6, 2022 at 8:22 pm

Annette is a registered user.

I'd have to check the CC minutes from 2018 to confirm, but I think what he negotiated is a severance package of a year's salary and benefits should he be fired or forced to resign. Put differently, while CC may cut services here and there b/c the City is short on funds, it plans to be sufficiently well funded to pay a City Manager to not work. Is that really the best use of public funds?


Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 7, 2022 at 11:25 am

Online Name is a registered user.

@Annette, true. It was covered by the media when Liz Kniss pushed through those terms of Shikada's employment contract while insisting that he grabbed up immediately and thus was the only candidate the city interviewed.

One has to wonder about a city that would give its manager huge financial incentives to perform so poorly he gets fired or is forced to resign.


Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 8, 2022 at 12:07 pm

Curmudgeon is a registered user.

Look very closely at anything involving Kniss. Especially if it involves departure from normal procedures


Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 8, 2022 at 12:23 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

@Curmudgeon, you mean like her attempt to limit campaign contributions from regular residents but not from the business interests that backed her? You mean like her laughable claim that PA has no traffic problems and that people should just take alternate routes? Or, how when pushed on the question of traffic, she advocated having KIDS hand out traffic citations to drivers???

How she became president of the local League of Women Voters -- which used to have a stellar reputation -- is a case in point, esp. given how she got her buddies to delay the investigation into her own campaign finance irregularity for years while she continued to push pro-development acolytes like Mayor Fine, City Council Members Cormack and Wollbach.

You'll recall Mr Fine's temper tantrum exit from PA politics and how Ms Cormack never met a development project she didn't like, including her laughable plan to convert Town & Country Shopping Center to "medical/retail" as the pandemic was ending without ever defining what that is even though it would have produced no sales tax revenue To name just one of those she backed.

We have her -- and them -- to thank for the ridiculous and disproportionate number of office buildings in PA which of course pushed up the housing targets just like her backers wanted.


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