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Here's how this year's Palo Alto City Council candidates want to serve you if elected

Original post made on Sep 13, 2022

In their own words, the seven candidates seeking three open seats on the Palo Alto City Council share their qualifications, vision for the city and priorities.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, September 13, 2022, 8:49 AM

Comments (30)

Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Greendell/Walnut Grove
on Sep 13, 2022 at 10:15 am

Neighbor is a registered user.

Hmm... not all too happy with this year's lineup. Brian doesn't seem to take this seriously at all; Julie will likely play up absurd amounts of identity politics locally, considering that's her entire platform; Lisa is an institutional committee person who hasn't changed anything yet and won't in the future... Vicki, Comsa, and Ed seem like the best choices here. We need people with a vision who are willing to play in favor of our community, not politics or their own weird agenda. Would like to see some more from all candidates in terms of actionable policy, though.


Posted by Hal Plotkin
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 13, 2022 at 11:00 am

Hal Plotkin is a registered user.

This article is a wonderful public service. Kudos to the Palo Alto Weekly. It is so refreshing to see candidates for local public office given a chance to share their platforms and credentials without having to pay for the opportunity. Our democracy is in peril. Resources like this are an excellent way to help preserve it for future generations. We are again fortunate in Palo Alto to have such a distinguished roster of candidates willing and eager to run for public office despite the many sacrifices involved in honest public service. I am a proud supporter of Ed Lauing, in recognition of his inclusive values and years of devoted and effective service to our city. This article will help me as I look for other candidates to support within this exceptionally distinguished group. I hope the Weekly, which has done such a remarkable thing here, will give these candidates additional opportunities like this as we approach the election. Thank you again, Palo Alto Weekly!


Posted by Consider Your Options.
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 13, 2022 at 11:17 am

Consider Your Options. is a registered user.

Yes. Thank you, Palo Alto Weekly.


Posted by Bystander
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 13, 2022 at 11:35 am

Bystander is a registered user.

This is a good way to see the candidates and their backgrounds listed together. I personally feel that someone without political clout and backing may be what does the best good. I like the idea of a mix of experience with the ability to learn on the job as a good mix on a council and look at the wide mix as being an asset on a council. We don't want a council of carbon copies, but some individual thoughts and life experiences can widen the net overall.


Posted by Sheri
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 13, 2022 at 11:57 am

Sheri is a registered user.

Please also see the candidates' answers to questions from PAN (Palo Alto Neighborhoods) at Web Link


Posted by resident3
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 13, 2022 at 1:34 pm

resident3 is a registered user.

Ditto. Thank you, Palo Alto Weekly.

and to Sheri for the PAN link.

The bad feeling about "local control" shared by one of the candidates, where it sounds like a group of neighbors organized to pressure about the appearance of a house sounds like a nightmare. Horrible.

Bullying neighbors seems like the opposite of how control should work though. As long as zoning requirements are fulfilled, people should have no business forcing or even telling a neighbor what to change or what they like.

Now, what's going on with housing in Palo Alto and "local control" is really about CARS. Everyone wants housing but one camp seems set on working on climate issues and wants to reduce car usage while building more housing. I hope to hear more about this during the debates.

Are there any transportation studies for traffic on the big arteries and how much the mandated 6000 units would add? Even in the cities with actual "mass" transportation, there is solid parking. What others do well is the connections - which we have few of here. Nothing connects to anything.




Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Sep 13, 2022 at 1:52 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

Or how much water the new residents would consume during an historic drought that's going to get worse and how much current residents will have to back. Also how much the new residents will stress the already strained electrical grid.


Posted by chris
a resident of University South
on Sep 13, 2022 at 2:19 pm

chris is a registered user.

Online Name,

New housing in Palo Alto is about multi-family housing, which is much more efficient in utility usage than single-family homes.

New housing in Palo Alto is not about attracting new people to California. It is about providing housing for residents of California closer to their jobs, which is environmentally friendly.

There is a large group of Palo Altans who continue to spread FUD about new housing in Palo Alto.

Palo Alto allowed way over 100,000 jobs to locate in Palo Alto. It is Palo Alto's moral responsibility to provide more housing to house a greater percentage of these workers.

That overrides the desires of a group of Palo Altans to freeze Palo Alto in time.


Posted by resident3
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 13, 2022 at 2:35 pm

resident3 is a registered user.

@Chris,

"It is Palo Alto's moral responsibility to provide more housing to house a greater percentage of these workers."

The recent business tax debacle shows that the companies and businesses that employ workers in Palo Alto have no interest in the burdens that come from serving their businesses. Safety, paving streets, City Hall bandwidth; how many businesees support the schools and local services?

Sounds insane to have a moral responsibility to Amazon or Stanford. Remember all the small businesses are exempt from paying a business tax. Palo Alto was threatened with a campaign against the interests of the City. It doesn't feel right under these circumstances to assist rich developers in building houses meant only for the rich.

The "moral" compass in this picture is wrong.


Posted by Local Resident
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 13, 2022 at 3:13 pm

Local Resident is a registered user.

Unfortunately, Alex Comsa seems very pro developer. Having Randy Popp as one of your endorsers is a huge red flag. I'm also always surprised at the number of candidates that run for office with no prior experience working with the city, never served on a city board or commission or have given public comments on city council until a several months before the election.

From my perspective Doria Summa and Ed Lauing understand how the city works inside out, have a long history of experience serving on commissions and resident groups and are the candidates who will best represent residents interests.


Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Sep 13, 2022 at 3:19 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

@Chris, no, it's not about people who are "already" here since it's based on old pre-pandemic job numbers when non-Palo Alto commuters outnumbered Palo Alto residents 4:1.

This is the fault of previous City Councils and City staff that pushed for uncontrolled office growth. They even expected US to subsidize those commuters by paying their public transit costs, their commuting costs, a bonus for carpooling and their Uber/Lyfts from the train station. WE paid for THEIR failed plans to equip those non-Palo Alto commuters with ridiculously expensive bikes so they could ride to their workplaces.

So no, they're not "already here" and they may not be coming back.

@resident3, absolutely! Where's the "moral" responsibility of businesses and the well-paid lobbyists pushing unsustainable growth of largely MARKET RATE housing? Where's Stanford's when they refuse to house their own community on their land??

The business tax was indeed a debacle since resident/taxpayers were NEVER consulted about our priorities and we don't have the right to negotiate OUR taxes like the business community.

Those who bothered to complain to City Council were treated disrespectfully and dismissively.

Now we're hearing about a Renter's Registry -- a worthy cause -- that ignores the fact that PA couldn't create and maintain a Business Registry. Why should a Renter's Registry be different?

The ridiculously low Business Tax's share for "affordable MARKET RATE housing" is so low at $3.4M it would buy one single family home or maybe 3 or 4 "affordable" market rate dense new units.

I want to hear from the city council candidates what they will do for US, the non-business TAXPAYERS who live here NOW.


Posted by Anon123456
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 13, 2022 at 4:14 pm

Anon123456 is a registered user.

When comparing candidates, I first look at their stance on key issues I care about, then I look at their leadership experience and ability to get things done. The rest of the data feels like a distraction - whether they've served on 3 committees or 13, whether they've lived here 5 years or 25, etc. The council will encounter so many unforeseen issues, unanticipated tradeoffs, unexpected resistance, the council members' ability to problem solve and lead change will matter more. For me, Lisa Forssell, Julie Lythcott-Haims, and Vicki Veenker stand out.


Posted by Bystander
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 13, 2022 at 4:36 pm

Bystander is a registered user.

We have empty office space all over Palo Alto. Take W Bayshore for example, lots of for lease signs and empty parking lots.

What we don't want to do now is get lots of empty housing for non-existent workers. Many high tech workers are now working remotely from all over the State and even out of State. They are not coming back.

Do we really need to build for ghost workers?

As for the candidates, I would like them to list what they see as the most important issues for Palo Alto residents who are already here. Traffic, parking, efficient power, water, public transit, are all issues that affect those of us who live here on a daily basis. These are what we should be hearing their thoughts.


Posted by resident3
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 13, 2022 at 4:43 pm

resident3 is a registered user.

@Anon123456,

"The council will encounter so many unforeseen issues, unanticipated tradeoffs, unexpected resistance, the council members' ability to problem solve and lead change will matter more."

Unforeseen - the unforeseen has already happened, Covid and there is a lasting reality that everything will cost more.

Other than that, the only news in Palo Alto is development A, B, C, D, and how Council caves to developers and businesses.


Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 13, 2022 at 5:08 pm

Annette is a registered user.

There are a few issues that are common to most candidates: housing, climate change, and grade separation are biggies. I think those are a given in Palo Alto and each is complicated and some are well beyond the capacity of any City Council to solve. At best we can have City policies that don't exacerbate existing problems. I want to know where candidates stand on issues that a City Council can actually impact. What about City governance? Where do the candidates stand on changing the charter so that we elect our mayor? And vote by district? Where do they stand on accountability of the City Manager and other senior staff? How about the reliability of our electrical grid? What about water supply? Plans for retail? Staffing PAFD and PAPD so that public safety is as assured as it can be? Our infrastructure shortcomings need attention. I'll vote for those I think will be practical and realistic. Theory isn't working.

I also think experience with how things are done is important so that valuable time isn't spent learning the ropes by too many new-to-city-government people simultaneously.


Posted by mjh
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 13, 2022 at 5:22 pm

mjh is a registered user.

Having watched council meetings for years, pretty much without exception those elected to council who jump in with no prior experience on any of the city’s commissions, committees, and boards, and/or a track record of years of being involved at the grass roots level, have such a steep learning curve they are to a large extent unable to be effective council members for the first year, or longer. Unable to make meaningful substantial contributions or decisions that advance the work of the council.

However much those without experience may try to fill in the gaps, there is simply no shortcut for the kind of knowledge and experience that can only be gained from years of being involved with the city.

Which shortchanges the public.


Posted by felix
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 13, 2022 at 5:35 pm

felix is a registered user.

The question asked here was, "Why are you better qualified than the others to serve on the City Council?"

If I were looking for someone to build my house, draw up my estate plan, or make policies and budgets for my city, I want the most experienced and knowledgable person to do so. Wouldn't you?

Two candidates answered the above question in detail, with relavancy - Ed Lauing and Doria Summa. Read over their answers again, then compare to all other candidates.

Lauing, bullet point by bullet point, lists an impressive compliation of service that embedded exactly the wide range of knowledge needed to govern our city smartly, ably and wisely from the get-go. That he has multi-times Chaired two important Commissions is vitally important - he has experience in working with City staff and is nimble with process issues.

Summa relates her long experience, ensuring the reader understands the meaning of the many Committees, Boards, and Commission she serves on and learned from. The Comprehensive Plan is the planning 'Bible" for our City. The North Ventura Neighborhood Plan is 60-acres for redevelelopment. Both have immense importance and entail tremendous responsibility by Summa.

I wouldn't vote for someone who thinks it's a qualification because they are "an outsider to city leadership" (meaning they have no experience relavant to actual Council issues). Writing books, making films - nope. City Council is a policy making body, not a creative writing class or film school.

If you watch Council meetings, it will fast ground you in reality as to the inescapable Council issues. We need the best and the brightest NOW, Lauing and Summa, not newbies needing training wheels.


Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Sep 13, 2022 at 6:44 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

Echoing Annette, mjh and Felix. Experience matters. Ability to dig into the issues and understand their complexity matters. Accountability matters.

Too many recent council members and mayors have been better at sloganeering and virtue signalling than understanding the issues and more intent on serving big developers, lobbyists and big businesses who refuse to pay their fair share and shift the tax burden onto us.

So they told us we don't have traffic problems, approved more offices and underparked developments. They were too busy virtue-signalling and proposing ambitious new projects than executing existing ones like granting solar permits, constructing a business registry and fixing traffic light timing. Enough.

Pay attention to who's endorsing the candidates and who's funding the candidates.

"If I were looking for someone to build my house, draw up my estate plan, or make policies and budgets for my city, I want the most experienced and knowledgable person to do so. Wouldn't you?

Two candidates answered the above question in detail, with relavancy - Ed Lauing and Doria Summa. Read over their answers again, then compare to all other candidates. "


Posted by Allen Akin
a resident of Professorville
on Sep 13, 2022 at 9:22 pm

Allen Akin is a registered user.

"...multi-family housing, which is much more efficient in utility usage than single-family homes"

20 apartments need more water, power, and transportation resources than the parking lot they replace. Micro studios would be more efficient. Pod living would be even more efficient. Hot-bunked dormitories attached directly to workplaces would be best.

Efficiency isn't the only thing that matters.

"New housing in Palo Alto is not about attracting new people to California."

The amount of new housing is determined by the California Department of Finance based on population growth estimates and rates of household formation. The Department of Housing and Community Development adjusts this to make sure there's a minimum number of vacancies, account for demolitions, prevent overcrowding, limit the number of households that are cost-burdened, and so on. The total number of units is "allocated" to cities and counties, which then have to develop plans accordingly.

So the new housing requirements Palo Alto has to meet are based first and foremost on population growth, not on serving the people already working here.

Getting back to the subject of the article, maybe a good test for a Council candidate would be to ask how much of the RHNA process they can describe offhand.


Posted by chris
a resident of University South
on Sep 13, 2022 at 9:35 pm

chris is a registered user.

There may be empty office space all over Palo Alto. That provides a good opportunity for Palo Alto to develop more housing. Regardless of that, there are still many workers (of medium to low income) who are commuting long-distances to Palo Alto.

For those who say Palo Alto does not have a jobs/housing imbalance, the population of California is dropping. However, many of the jobs in Palo Alto that require long commutes are not jobs that can be done remotely.

Multi-unit housing may use more resources than a parking lot, but it is more efficient than building a similar number of single-family homes in Los Banos.

Unfortunately, the supporters of Lauing and Summa have created their set of "facts" that only describe a small part of the elephant.

We need independent thinkers on City Council who have not bought into the pre-existing Palo Alto mindset.


Posted by resident3
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 13, 2022 at 9:55 pm

resident3 is a registered user.

@Chris,

"We need independent thinkers on City Council who have not bought into the pre-existing Palo Alto mindset."

I guess you didn't watch the Palo Alto Weekly event tonight, all 7 candidates were talking "pre-existing" Palo Alto mindset - community, libraries, parks, dog parks, open space, neighborhoods, youth, families. Don't break what isn't broken.

All seemed to agree we just need more of it.


Posted by Allen Akin
a resident of Professorville
on Sep 13, 2022 at 10:44 pm

Allen Akin is a registered user.

"Multi-unit housing may use more resources than a parking lot, but it is more efficient than building a similar number of single-family homes in Los Banos."

That's a false dichotomy. There are other options that are better.

Realistically, investors and developers will build whatever's most profitable, no matter what we might prefer. Council always has to take that into account.


Posted by Alto
a resident of University South
on Sep 14, 2022 at 9:53 am

Alto is a registered user.

So only three of the candidates (Forssell, Lauing, Summa) have actual public service experience in Palo Alto? To me, that shows both the commitment and the knowledge (both topical and political) I want running my city.

With seven candidates all generally saying they want the same things and only three seats, I'm inclined to go with the three who know what they're talking about.


Posted by PA Parent
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Sep 14, 2022 at 10:52 am

PA Parent is a registered user.

Does the weekly also report about the fundraising? It looks like a lot of money is needed to run for office here. I saw an ad in the paper touting three candidates together. Said it was paid for by Jennifer Debrienza, Larry Klein and I forget who else. Never seen that before.


Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Sep 14, 2022 at 3:35 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

@PA Parent, the others paying for the ad include Gail Price and Steve Levy "and nobody else" -- with that last phrase something I've never seen before and which might allude their rich organizations thattraditionally endorse candidates.


Posted by Consider Your Options.
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 16, 2022 at 11:42 am

Consider Your Options. is a registered user.

We need an Area Plan for the San Antonio Area where Council continues to upzone parcels in knee jerk response to developer proposals. The city has not funded a new planner to start this work while they persist in pushing new units in this direction. San Antonio needs work on bike/ped facilities, transit connections, traffic management. Cubberley has to be redeveloped to provide greater community service and public school capacity to serve these new residents.


Posted by HappyHere
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 17, 2022 at 5:48 pm

HappyHere is a registered user.

I always question the motives of people running and while some have the time and resources to do this job and they genuinely want to serve the community, others may use it as a way to build a name for themselves. I don't like that. Take Comsa. What does he mean by "firm leadership" - where or what did he lead before - and why is he pushing the non-partisan angle, to please everybody pre election? I hear he is indeed a Republican. And the example mentioning the "writer, designer and judge" - c'mon, low blow. Let's be respectful to the other candidates, who have been actually serving the community for some time and are not doing this to see their names on signs. Thanks to the Palo Alto Weekly for doing the legwork to help us find our true leaders.


Posted by Neal
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 20, 2022 at 4:49 pm

Neal is a registered user.

I can't possibly vote for Alex Comsa. He's a developers dream. He's heavily involved in the real estate business. He took out a full page ad in the Daily Post (Monday, Sept. 19) advocating taking 100 acres of City owned Airport Land to build 6000 units of housing. Just say NO to Alex Comsa because developers win and residents lose.


Posted by PaloAltoVoter
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 25, 2022 at 1:58 pm

PaloAltoVoter is a registered user.

Julie has talked about not wanting to focus on affordable housing but to focus on inclusionary housing. She talks at length about a mix of housing types in our neighborhoods. This should be a huge alarm for everyone.

Palo Alto requires 15% of the units of a market rate project to be below market rate units. To get to our state mandated ~3000 BMR units, Palo Alto would need to build 20,000 units of housing. 20,000!

This is so far beyond the bounds of reasonableness I can not support any candidate who thinks this is the way to meet these mandates. 20,000 new housing units would create a highly urbanized Palo Alto, unrecognizable to the voters living here. It would have to raze and rebuild current neighborhoods or completely remove Palo Alto business districts. We would no longer be a nice family town with good schools. Our urban forest would be a distant memory in the shade of a major cities tall buildings.

Not the future I want for Palo Alto.


Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Sep 25, 2022 at 5:50 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

Re Julie and inclusionary zoning, in both forums she was so animated and adamant about the racism and harassment she encountered from her new neighbors that I started to wonder. Most of us have survived neighbor's construction projects without threatening them. Some of us even cooperate on joint projects.

Why all the hostility, nasty notes left on her door and in her mailbox? Is Palo Alto really that racist? Was there something unusual about her neighborhood and/or her project and house.

So I googled her new house and the house it replaced. And friends chatted.

Questions arise about how she defines neighborhoods and neighborhood character and how she'd resolve differences,


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