Town Square

Palo Alto seeks more polls before ruling on 2014 ballot

Original post made on Oct 1, 2013

Palo Alto has a generous menu of options when it comes to tax measures that may appear on the November 2014 ballot, but with a little over a year left until elections, officials are still struggling to figure out which money-raising path to pursue.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, October 1, 2013, 7:33 PM


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Posted by common sense
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 1, 2013 at 8:00 pm

The council members know that if they pass any tax on the developers/business property owners they'll get very little money in campaign contributions. So that's why they are backing off.

And they know the residents aren't going to pay to solve the mess that these council members created by approving project after project which doesn't have enough parking (Maybell is just the latest example - 37 parking spots for 60 apartments). And why should the residents further subsidize the office buildings?

Quite a box the council has put themselves in.

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Posted by Fonzie
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 1, 2013 at 8:10 pm

City Hall, here is a poll of one: No.

No, I will not support any additional taxes for you to play with and squander on poorly defined, poorly executed, bungled projects. This city is currently over staffed, look no farther than the city managers office for layers of new bloat. The inept and blundering execution of city projects is appalling, look no further than the Mitchel Park Library. Now the city is suddenly concerned about the downtown parking problem, while falling all over itself to hand over developer concessions and exemptions from including parking into their projects is truly mind bending. You created the problem! Now it's up to everyone else to pay for?


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 1, 2013 at 8:14 pm

If the city is getting $300k from the Castilleja fine that is for traffic mitigation purposes, they should use the money to put in parking meters and pay per hour machines at all garages and lots. This would ease some of the parking woes and the income could be used for some improvements.

It is time that those who work here pay some of the costs that their traffic creates. It isn't just the employers that cause the problem but the employees too. They should be paying something in fees and taxes to the city in which they are employed.

If the City allowed more affordable shopping in town, they would be getting the tax dollars most of us are spending in Mountain View, Menlo Park and East Palo Alto.

If the shuttle was improved and a fair fare was charged, they would not be funding this unfair school bus system.

If they stopped subsidizing the Childrens Theatre, they would be saving money which is unfairly giving some children free after school activities while other parents pay for sport, music, etc.

Should I go on?

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Posted by palo alto resident
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Oct 1, 2013 at 9:23 pm

And my poll of one - supported by lots of friends and neighbors... the City does not need more money from their residents. They need to:

Fund ONLY vital health/safety/infrastructure projects until they have "surplus" funds. For example, pave streets but make the Children's theater self-supporting.

Make developers build realistic parking or provide alternative transportation. We are in a position of power, Palo Alto real estate is more expensive and desirable than Manhattan. Companies want a PA address on their letterhead. Let them pay for it.

If you read thread here - from bond measures to RV overnight parking to Castilleja (the issue isn't just traffic, its parking),to the Newell Bridge - a BIG issue with the residents is PARKING! Whether you think it is right or wrong, PA residents want to park by their homes, without RV's or other people living in their vehicles, without people parking overnight and trashing the neighborhood or dealing drugs or peeing in their yard... the residents want (often politically incorrect) parking control. City council -deal with it and get over the non-PC portion.

Until the residents of Palo Alto feel like the Council is listening to them (and I suspect this includes no changes in zoning and standing up to the ABAG) it will be either hard or impossible to pass a bond.

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Posted by Another Poll of 1
a resident of Palo Verde
on Oct 1, 2013 at 9:52 pm

Another Poll of 1 - votes no.

Palo Alto has been irresponsible approving project after project with inadequate parking and infrastructure. The new housing approved by Council has grown the school district to breaking point. The Council has burned through half a million at 27 University on a scheme that has no application. They have wasted a quarter million analyzing the ridiculous anaerobic digester. They allow developers to take from taxpayers and not deliver public benefits.

I will not willingly pay any additional money until Council behaves in a manner that represents the best interest of the voters!

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Posted by Kate
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 2, 2013 at 6:49 am

And who gets 'called' for these polls? Homeowners WHO ACTUALLY LIVE HERE full time? Residents who are LEGAL VOTERS? Residents who are citizens? Adults? Whoever 'answers the phone"? Renters? Who pay taxes?
Just like the poll on 'who loves Palo Alto", most long-time residents never get polled. These polls are phony- and very carefully selected.

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Posted by common sense
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 2, 2013 at 7:04 am

Very convenient to be polling the residents before the next election... I wonder if the poll will stick strictly to the bond issue, or if there will be other information gathered to help the council members running for re-election next year (eg. "what issues concern you most?", "how would you rate the job the council is doing?"

The council members are having the city pay for a poll (probably costs around $50,000) so that they can use the information to design their campaigns.

Shame, shame, shame; and what an out of touch city council.

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Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Oct 2, 2013 at 9:45 am

Why should the residents of Palo Alto be expected to pay parcel taxes to build parking structures downtown--which will only be used by the businesses and the City?

The current parking structures are mired in mystery. The DT Parking Assessment District is paying for the structure (presumably bond retirement payments), and the City is pocketing the money it charges DT businesses for permits. Why?

Is there a model anywhere that describes the finances of each of the structures? I put together a very small spreadsheet just now that suggests that if a stall costs about $40,000 to build, it could take 60 years, or more, to pay off the construction costs if the hourly rate for parking were $5/hour, and the structure were to accommodate 400 cars a day. (My spreadsheet does not take any inflation into account--so it's woefully inadequate. Just something to add a datapoint to the discussion.)

What's needed is a fully-blown model that gives us a clear picture of what it costs to build, and maintain, these structures. The idea that residents should be taxed to build new garages which few would ever use, only to see the City charging the business for permits so that it can bulk up the General Fund for more salary/benefit increases doesn't seem like something I would like to see.

At lot of this mess falls on the shoulders of the City Manager. Why are we paying him and his stable of Asst. CMs so much--and we get so little back in terms of meaningful results, and options for future choices?

If we must have another poll, let's add the following question to the mix: "Do you think it's time for a new City Manager?"

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 2, 2013 at 10:21 am

I do get these polls from time to time. The interesting thing about them, at least the "would you support a bond measure / tax / etc" is they always ask "what," and never "why?"

For example, would you support a bond measure for X? How about Y? How about Z? You can't help but assume the city has already decided it wants a bond measure or whatever; and has a big checklist trying to tune its packaging for whatever might pass voters.

But as these things fail over and over, you'd think the city council and staff might want to dig into why they have so much trouble with them. But they don't do that. Maybe they're afraid of the answers.

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Posted by Jo Ann
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Oct 2, 2013 at 10:57 am

How much do the residents ALREADY pay for the polls asking which way to boost our taxes is the most appealing?

Some of the polls are so ridiculously long and repetitive, people give up in the middle.

Same bureaucrats who can't figure out the Utility Dept's mission should be to provide cost-effective service.

Paging Kafka.

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Posted by John Galt
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Oct 2, 2013 at 11:19 am

The bullies will , of course, exact revenge by cutting school funds, police, fire, while hiring MORE consultants (probably loyal sycophants) to distribute money they don't have as it is.

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Posted by Polled Before
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 2, 2013 at 11:34 am

I remember a poll I received on the Libray that essentially asked common sense questions such as would you like a well lighted library etc. Of course the answer is yes - but the real question is why the original libray was not well lighted? It was obvious from the poll they were trying to get the Library approved.

Here are other questions they could ask - due you want to make the streets safe yes - ok that must mean we should slow the traffic down to 2 miles per hour as we have done in Arasterdero during commute hours.

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Posted by Richard C. Placone
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 2, 2013 at 1:42 pm

This is an excellent group of comments on the issue of a poll to determine residents preferred tax increase. I hope the posters realize that most council members,if any, do not read these comments. I've heard that one reason is that there are too many negative comments and opinions. Go figure! Posters should do as I do - send a copy of your ideas to the members of the city council - However, do not expect a reply. Only rarely have I ever received a reply to my letters. While not defending him, don't blame all on the city manager. He brings most of his requests to the council and the council never seems to say to NO. In the end, the buck stops in the council chambers.

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Posted by Kate's right
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 2, 2013 at 4:10 pm

The polls are simply bogus! Asking a select and pre-determined group of people to tell you what you want to hear is asking to be brown-nosed.

Polling a broad spectrum of the PA homeowners, not renters, will give the city council answers they do not want to hear, which is why they do not do it.

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 2, 2013 at 4:48 pm

"Vice Mayor Nancy Shepherd wondered Tuesday if [proposing that developers and businesses pay for garages for their employees] would make residents less likely to spend any more money on solving the parking issue."


It's completely consistent that the Vice Mayor should want residents to pay for downtown office parking. After all, developers don't want to pay for it.

Scharff, who is no fool, understands that developers and city zoning abuses created the problem and voters know it, and that this council is widely perceived as arrogant and doesn't care about residents. He's already in major damage-control mode in the early run-up to next year's elections.

But the Vice Mayor, as usual, is oblivious.

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Posted by Fair Elections
a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 2, 2013 at 6:38 pm

When the City Council is considering what to put on the next ballot, I wonder if they are assuming they will get to write whatever biased "impartial analysis" and leading ballot question they want like their City Attorney did on the Maybell rezoning for Measure D?

If you want to understand just how leading the ballot question for Measure D is, as written by the City Attorney, check out the letter written to them by an elections firm for the neighbors, protesting the bias in the ballot: Web Link

The City has an inherent conflict of interest in being the party that writes the ballot "impartial" analysis and question in elections. I think that had everything to do with why neighbors narrowly lost the High Street referendum, the question was structured to help the City win. The same is true of Maybell Measure D ballot question and "impartial" analysis.

This is why I'd like to ask the City to adopt a change to their election code to give Palo Alto an impartial ballot committee that decides what goes in any given local election ballot materials in an open public process involving all sides. They have been doing this is San Francisco for 30 or 40 years. When the City Council ignores that request, then a group will bring it forward for an initiative. When the City Council ignores the thousands of people who sign that initiative, it will go to vote in November 2014 general election, same ballot.

The Maybell neighbors may or may not be able to stop the rezoning at Measure D through this referendum, but they are not without recourse even so, it will just get uglier if they have to keep fighting. And if so, I think there is no way in Hades City Council will get a tax approved, especially if Palo Altans hold a referendum to stop them from being able to write biased ballots anymore.

I know there are thousands of us who are newly aware, and if the residents of the North tell us Maybell neighbors that they don't want the tax, that they don't want all the residents and existing businesses to pay for the parking generated by new developments that get special exceptions to avoid putting in enough parking -- like at Maybell which is grossly underparked -- we over here will support them, and no way is City Council going to get a tax passed.

I'm not sure how they do a poll, either. PAHC paid for some poll right after the referendum qualified, and people quickly heard about it and spread the word around town via social media not to participate or to participate only if they would tell them who paid for it (no one did), so the hourly workers taking the polls almost certainly didn't end up producing very good data for their expensive report. Not that it really matters -- seems like our City Council is seems to care very little about what the residents want.

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Posted by Fair Elections
a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 2, 2013 at 6:41 pm

Good people of Palo Alto:

We need some Residentialist candidates for City Council!!

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Posted by Fair Elections
a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 2, 2013 at 6:49 pm

(okay, last point) Someone wrote a comment on one of the Maybell threads that everyone in town should hear. I have no idea who this is, but it's a real indictment of the City:

"Posted by Resident, a resident of the Palo Verde neighborhood, on Sep 30, 2013 at 8:54 pm

I am voting NO on D. Because I agree with need to stop unbridled rezoning throughout Palo Alto. Many thanks to the folks who have led this effort. This is not simply a Barron Park issue.

I work for the city and am a resident, and I often see among my colleagues (city employees) a serious disregard, if not out-right contempt, for Palo Alto residents. They are not working for us. Their "just doing their job" and don't care one bit about long term quality of life issues for Palo Alto."

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Posted by Juno
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 2, 2013 at 7:26 pm

The City (Council and Staff combined) is like a spoiled kid who makes more money than most, say $200K a year, but won't save for the maintenance and repair of the family home, spends all income on overpaying for things like Teslas and fortune tellers and trips to the moon, so when there is a leak in the roof, he runs crying to mom and dad to bail him out with money to buy a new roof.

You should listen to the Infrastructure Committee meeting (go to the Community Media Center web site and view the archived Palo Alto Infrastructure Committee meeting of October 1.) The Committee tries to come up with the right "bundle" to sway the voter to open up his/her pockets and vote yes.

By the way, the Daily Post says that Council allocated a total of $90,000 to the Committee to pay for the various polls they choose to conduct.

By the way The 2013 Infrastructure Committee Members are Klein (Chair), Shepherd, Scharff, and Berman. It was a unanimous vote to do the poll.

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Posted by Chop Chop
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 2, 2013 at 7:38 pm

Why should the taxpayers of PA pay for new parking garages!! Let the developers and the non residents who drive into PA each day foot the bill. Our city council has created the parking mess. The nerve of them to actually dare say that the homeowners in PA should pay more taxes because of their incompetence. There should be a moratorium on new commercial construction in PA.
I hope each and every current city council member is voted out of office the next time they are up for re-election. The damage they have inflicted on this town is frightening. I bet it is true that the PA city employees ridicule and are jealous of Palo Altans. They could care less about the quality of life for the citizens of PA.

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Posted by Residents, not cash cows
a resident of Professorville
on Oct 2, 2013 at 8:59 pm

Palo Alto residents find themselves in the middle of an ever-escalating bidding war: it is a war to leverage (as in, to borrow) our quaint and charming town's properties and low-built lands, and morph it into a maximally-developed area including skyscrapers and office buildings (but no parking). In the last year, we have seen remarkable City time spent on ridiculous proposals. Why is this being done? Sadly, one explanation is that by over-developing the town, the City's Staff hope to pay for the increasingly burdensome City Staff benefits, retirement, salaries and bonuses.

Rather than solve this problem of too expensive benefits (currently faced by many other US cities, even those with less expensive real estate), the Staff instead focuses on maximizing development, adding large office buildings, housing units, and rezoned space to an already congested area. This development is not being done with an eye to suitability, to the residents' desires, or to the infrastructure required to justify and support it.

Tragically, the gatekeepers in all this development and decision-making are the City Staff - City Manager's Office, City Development and Planning Office, and other Administrative areas – those who look to Palo Alto as a cash cow. These Staff often don't live in Palo Alto, and therefore have nothing to lose when the town’s real value – its history, charm, once quiet streets, safety, and elegance - are lost as a consequence of their efforts. These Staff do not understand that their plans can destroy the very value that they hope most to leverage.

Checks and balances are needed urgently in the Planning, Development and City Manager's Offices. Alignment must exist between the City’s goals, the Residents’ goals, and our infrastructure capabilities. Rational development should make sense within our town's context and it should respect the needs of our residents. Palo Alto is changing rapidly - sometimes in great ways, and not so in others. We must develop thoughtfully, and add businesses and expand residences in ways that are in line not only with our capacity for resources like parking, utilities, public spaces, and schools, but also within the goals of the Palo Altans themselves, not just the City's Staff.

Let's be rational about how much we want to leverage this charming, quiet, safe and clean town's future for stopgap measures to solve City budget issues, yet ruin all that we prize. Let's think about the price that rezoning will exact, prior to issuing those permits.

City Staff dropped the ball and it is right for Palo Alto Residents to be frustrated at the repeated City Staff solution: More taxes for residents. No thank you, City Staff. Taxes do not solve the problem, which will recur. We have tasked you to represent our interests, not yours.

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Posted by rich and stupid?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 2, 2013 at 9:50 pm

My answer also NO.

Is there an alternate reality that CIty Council lives in?

A Post quote from Larry Klein

"My gut feeling is that it (people's attitudes toward funding parking garages may become more favorable) because there's so much publicity about parking problems" Larry Klein

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Posted by Kate
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 2, 2013 at 10:42 pm

There's a rumbling out in the neighborhoods. It is a sleeping giant awakening - the residents - from complacency and 'being too busy' to notice what is going on. Busy with PTA, busy with PIE, Little League, Scouts,church, children, their computers, and working hard to pay-the-rent and mortgages. But all of a sudden one person shook up Palo Alto- John Arrillaga. And voila, the sleeping populace took notice: Maybell, autos inundating neighborhoods, crime, perceived ugly buildings, escalating traffic, overcrowded schools - all issues exploding in our faces. Residential issues happened back in the 70's. It wasn't "pretty" ,and it was politically raucous. But the "residentialists" won and recalled councilmembers. IF EVER this should be repeated, it is now!! The Maybell issue must be defeated with a loud NO. The city tried to 'stack the deck' like it did with 27 University, working on that in secret long before it became public. AND THE CITY COUNCIL KNEW IT!! Now the city has influenced the voting by writing the ballot statement. Talk about gaul.
Wake up, fellow Palo Altans. If it could happen to the Maybell area, it can happen to us.
It's all about overriding ZONING which defines a city like ours. And it's about the city itself trying to influence the vote.

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Posted by Stan
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 3, 2013 at 4:32 pm

No more free motor vehicle parking! More free bicycle parking! Better low-cost intra-city shuttle supported by businesses (instead of free parking). Frequent transport among various popular destinations (Stanford Shopping Center, Town & Country, California Ave train station, University Ave train station, perhaps some large businesses, etc.). Increase bike exchange facilities and add wheelchair rental, too.

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Posted by rich and stupid?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 7, 2013 at 1:39 pm


"Intra-city shuttle supported by businesses (instead of free parking). Frequent transport among various popular destinations (Stanford Shopping Center, Town & Country, California Ave train station"

THANK YOU, can someone please listen to Stan!!

Given the ridiculous situation of no parking and crazy traffic, one would think shuttles and frequent transport would cross somebody's mind.

During the Arrillaga 27 University threads, we covered traffic issues extensively. There was even someone who had this cool technology of a light rail of some sort that was not super heavy but simple small cars. Without getting fancy, what about straight up shuttles?

In those 27 University threads where we posted about traffic (where btw plenty of trolls denied there were any traffic or parking issues LOL), I suggested satellite parking structures at 101 and 280 with frequent and rational straight routes to the main centers. Stanford hospitals, the university, the stadium, PAMF, logical stuff. Places where people work.

Another "line" of public transportation which currently is completely missing is Stanford Shopping Center to PA neighborhoods, passing through downtown.

If you cannot bike because you have an injury, and you cannot walk for similar injury, the only way to get around is with a car.

Not a single way to get from Stanford to PA neighborhoods in a direct way, with a reasonable schedule. A simple line via Lytton or Hamilton, going North or Homer going South. There is nothing.

In a City you have many ways to make it past 20 blocks without a car. Not here.

Posted by Name hidden
a resident of Greater Miranda

on Jun 5, 2017 at 4:22 am

Due to repeated violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are automatically removed. Why?