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The "You're despicable" style of politics

Uploaded: Sep 22, 2016
No I am not talking about the presidential campaign. Nor about Congress. Rather about local politics, as practiced by certain elected and appointed officials, and a prominent group of local activists. They are openly and vocally antagonistic and contemptuous of those that don't agree with their agenda, they demonize those with other perspectives, and they characterize attempts to consider-the-consequences and work-the-details as obstructionism.

When you see your opponents as despicable, the strong inclination is to dominate and defeat them--compromise and problem-solving are a betrayal of your principles. Similarly, when you know that your opponents regard you as despicable, you would be foolish to engage in compromise and problem-solving because you have to expect that they will not behave honorably.(foot#1)

The immediate motivation for this post is the blog posting that equates Mayor Pat Burt and Council candidate Lydia Kou to Donald Trump: "A Wall Around My Country and a Moat Around My Hometown" by Mike Greenfield. He promoted it on Facebook, which Eric Rosenblum, among others, then shared on his Facebook page with the endorsement "Wow. Mike Greenfield connects the dots. I wish I could write like this". Greenfield is husband of Palo Alto Forward (PAF) founder Elaine Uang and has at times described himself as a PAF member; Rosenblum is on the PAF Steering Committee and a member of Palo Alto's Planning and Transportation Commission (PTC)--an appointed official on what is routinely called "the second most powerful body in the City government". I expect that Greenfield's article will be widely discussed elsewhere, so I am going to focus on its background and precursors.

This is not simply an academic exercise--rather it is something I urge you to consider in evaluating the candidates for City Council: One candidate endorsed this attitude in his kickoff speech (opposing building "a wall") and another embraced one of PAF's false dichotomies (details on both planned for subsequent blog). Some of the false dichotomies were topics in my previous blog "A manipulative candidate questionnaire" (2016-09-08).

----Thinking about the candidates----
The attitudes of the people around the candidates are important to voters because they are predictive of how those candidates would govern. First, a candidate's basic attitudes are strongly reflected by whom he has attracted as supporters and by whom he chooses to encourage as supporters. But more importantly, these are likely to be the people who will have disproportionate access and interactions with the candidate should he be elected. For some officials, this is their circle of friends--the people they interact with daily. Others have advisors that they consult individually or as a group, although the existence of such a group and who they are is typically not for public discussion.(foot#2) Over the years, I have been dismayed by the number Council members who couldn't recognize that they are operating within "echo chambers" or "bubbles"--they assume that their friends represent the (silent) majority and that the citizens coming before them are an unrepresentative, vocal minority, or "The Usual Suspects".(foot#3) For example, in the 2014 Council campaign, one (unsuccessful) candidate so closely associated himself with PAF that a prominent part of his campaign literature was PAF's dismissive and derogatory characterization of those that disagreed with them as being "afraid of the future".(foot#4)

Important note: Be careful about making inferences from who has endorsed a candidate, both organizations and individuals. Who a candidate chooses to highlight in their campaign materials and on their website is a strong statement, but not those listed in the portion of the website automatically built from those who filled out the endorsement form. But there is a notable exception: When an endorsee's position is prominent enough that "Silence implies consent", the candidate needs to repudiate the endorsement. Failure to repudiate carries implications (this can, and has, made news at the national level).

----Kate Downing's Resignation Letter----
On August 10 Kate Vershov Downing--a member of PAF's Steering Committee--published "Letter of Resignation from the Palo Alto Planning and Transportation Commission"(foot#5) which generated international coverage from largely credulous "journalists" and interviewers--the media is so ravenous for content that it largely dispenses with niceties such checking facts or providing more than a minimal pro forma mention of other perspectives (Long-standing dictate: "Sensationalism sells. Don't let facts get in the way of a good story!").(foot#6)(foot#7)(foot#8) Although, after a bit, the media figured out how to generate more content by sensationalizing another perspective (by Mayor Pat Burt).(foot#9)

There are already good, albeit scattered, critiques of the Downing letter.(foot#10) Consequently, I will reference its points only when they are relevant to the subsequent explanations. I found the letter to be unsurprising--both in its tone and its misinformation--based upon what PAF, and especially Downing, have been producing.

----Cory Wolbach's Facebook Post: Part 1----
Cory Wolbach wrote a supporting statement on this Facebook page the same day that Downing published her letter. That comment and his responses to replies to that comment are illustrative of the very common attitudes within PAF. I am using Wolbach's comments because of his standing: He is not just a member of PAF, but a City Council member.

==B Wolbach (OP = Original Post):== "I ran for office in 2014 at a time of ascendancy for the local conservative political movement known as 'Residentialism,' which openly opposes housing growth and which thrives on the politics of fear, anger, and false blame ." (emphasis added)
Wolbach (@Elizabeth Lasky): "... And a lot of people can be convinced to vote Residentialist/NIMBY by appeals to fear, combined with ignorance . Fear of change, and ignorance about what causes the most frightful changes. E.g. 'More housing means more traffic,' when, in reality, smart housing policies and better transit policies could reduce the need to drive." (emphasis added)

Me: Notice the precursor to Greenfield's equating Burt and Kou to Trump (Aside: Burt is commonly regarded as a swing vote on Council, not as a Residentialist). Notice the switch from labeling opponents as "afraid of the future" (and variants) to seemingly implying that they have been manipulated into irrational positions.(foot#11)
The "opposes housing growth" is an example of the false dichotomies routinely promulgated by PAF: You either agree with PAF's position on X or you are entirely opposed to X. PAF's misrepresentations of the positions and perspectives of others was a major topic of my previous blog posting on their candidate questionnaire (cited in the introduction).

Wolbach @Elizabeth Lasky: (repeating for different point) "... And a lot of people can be convinced to vote Residentialist/NIMBY by appeals to fear, combined with ignorance. Fear of change, and ignorance about what causes the most frightful changes. E.g. 'More housing means more traffic,' when, in reality, smart housing policies and better transit policies could reduce the need to drive."

Me: Notice that what he calls "fear" most people would call "prudence". They don't want to plunge into making a large, irreversible commitment without reasonable confidence and due diligence that it will actually work ("could" acknowledges the substantial uncertainty). And they want enforcement mechanisms, especially when there are large incentives for abuse.
Wolbach has faith in the Smart Growth dogma, despite the many known problems and limitations.(foot#12)
I read this as disparaging those who don't agree with him as fools, fooled, ignorant or manipulators. Not a good attitude for a public official.

Wolbach (OP): "My platform focused on addressing our jobs-housing imbalance by prioritizing housing options for diverse incomes, coupled with significant investment in transportation improvements. Alongside my policy platform, I emphasized a civil approach to civic affairs. "

Me: He may remember it that way, but "civility" was his primary focus for most of his campaign. For example, see the section on him in my blog "Early Campaign Notes: City Council", 2014-09-18.
In endorsing him, the Palo Alto Weekly stated "While we were frustrated by his overly vague policy statements early in the campaign, he has now articulated strong support for limiting new commercial development , focusing on how the city can create more affordable and subsidized housing options and implementing additional protections of retail businesses." (emphasis added) However, you should read "support" as being only for general principles: I found him unable to discuss the details or the tradeoffs (In the above blog, I wrote "As with A. C. Johnston, I haven't heard him engage in the discussion of an issue of his choice that got to the level of sophistication that I would expect of a candidate at this stage in the campaign.")
Aside: Wolbach won the fifth (last) seat by a margin of 135 votes over Kou.

Wolbach (OP): "The shameful failure of Palo Alto to address the former (housing) strains my commitment to the latter (civility). I have become very good at biting my tongue when I hear 'Residentialist' colleagues on Council, new and repeat 'Residentialist' candidates for office, and the vocal minority of hard-line 'Residentialist' voters say that we should not add more housing at some or any income levels. But my patience wears thin. When we hear people say they oppose housing growth in our area, perhaps we should simply ask them, 'Do you not accept reality, or do you not care?' "

Me: Using an alternate reality fabricated to suit his ideology to rationalize actions in the real world.

Yonatan Bryant @Elizabeth Lasky: "They are also the ones who say 'well tech companies should stop creating so many jobs' ".
Wolbach @Bryant: "After they retire from their tech companies."

Me: Wolbach knows very well that this is not true--many Residentialists are still working, and many of them are in tech. That he would write this says a lot about his (lack of) credibility.

----Cory Wolbach's Facebook Post: Part 2----
A header to assist those readers who read this blog in chunks.

Wolbach @Sheri Furman: "Also, I should note for those less familiar with Palo Alto's politics, that the 'residentialist' movement led by the PAC Palo Altans for Sensible Zoning, their members of council, and their candidates, is quite more extreme than the residentialism of decades past. This wave was launched with the conscious choice of finding a project to fight (a search which resulted in the successful overturn of the Maybell affordable senior housing project), which could be used to rally unrelated grievances from across the community, and to launch campaigns for council. That's essentially the story I heard from Tom DuBois."

Me: False, false, false ... I was personally involved in many of the events. First, DuBois has assured me that not only did he not say that but that he doesn't believe it.

Background: Maybell and Wolbach: In my blog cited above ("Early Campaign Notes: City Council"), I wrote of Wolbach "In his kick-off speech, restoring civility was a top priority. He mentioned how Measure D (Maybell project) had split the community and that he had friends who were on different sides who still weren't speaking. I asked what I thought would be a softball question: What had gone wrong? He had no explanation. I told him that I was familiar with the events from the earliest days, and gave him a thumbnail account of both sides, but it seemed new to him. While I could understand him not following up on the day of his kick-off (exhaustion), he didn't ask when we met at subsequent events. I eventually initiated a discussion, but he didn't seem to have done anything to learned the circumstances, which is essential to understanding the dynamics, which in turn is essential to understand how not to have a repeat." Two years later, Wolbach still doesn't seem to understand the facts and perspectives of this dispute,(foot#13) and instead reflects a view derived from ideology. Please remember that this essay is not about Wolbach per se, but rather him as a prominent representative of a group. Wolbach's partisanship is revealed by how he refers to the dispute--"Maybell affordable senior housing project"--when that was less than half of the project, and almost all the controversies were about the other portion.

Background: Maybell and me: My involvement in the Maybell dispute was as a leader of the neighborhood association (Barron Park) where the project was located. As such, I viewed my primary duties as keeping residents informed of meetings and issues and encouraging a fair process. I decided to not take a position on the project, partly because I saw it was going to be highly contentious and being an advocate would compromise my primary duties and partly because the project was on the opposite side of the neighborhood from my house and I had little feel for the facts (for example, traffic levels).

The discussions of the Maybell project started on the neighborhood's discussion group, of which I was the primary moderator--and were later joined by largely overlapping discussions on Town Square Forum. I saw the demonization of the opponents of the project begin long before they became opponents, but rather when they were just asking questions and pointing out problems. I'll discuss this in the section "Exclusionary Zoning" below.

The opposition: I saw an opposition that grew organically and incrementally. Most of the people were new to the Palo Alto process, as evidenced by their naive expectation that they would be treated fairly, respectfully and honestly by the Planning and Transportation Commission and by City Council. The outrage at how they were actually treated provided much of the energy and determination of the opposition.

Far from the conniving group that Wolbach claims, the opposition was disorganized and badly underfunded. It had multiple leadership changes and organizational confusion. A significant portion of the funding to qualify the referendum for the ballot came from the Barron Park (Neighborhood) Association as a result of a poll of the full membership.

Residentialist Movement: Wolbach's comment about the leadership is dead wrong because this movement has no leadership--it might be more influential if it did, but that is a separate issue (not here). Instead there are many "individual contributors" and a few small groups, most focused on their own very specific issues. As to the supposed leadership by Palo Altans for Sensible Zoning (PASZ), go to their website and ask yourself whether anyone would think that this group is leading a large, broad movement.

As to Wolbach's claim about the origins of the current Residentialist movement, Wolbach is again fundamentally wrong (by this point is anyone surprised?). The current movement gradually emerged in the late 1990s and early 2000s and might best be marked by the creation of Palo Alto Neighborhoods (PAN). Its rise can be seen in the 2003 State of the City speech by then-Mayor Dena Mossar: "Neighborhood associations have banded together to create large and small e-mail communication networks that have changed the lobbying landscape significantly from the days--but six years ago--when a neighborhood typically fought its battles in solo mode. The business community, in an attempt to level the playing field, is trying to find an effective way to respond." (Note: "business community" translates to developers and their allies). The efforts of various individual neighborhood associations to protect retail from conversion to offices during the DotCom boom led to a PAN forum on retail (held 2003-07-31) that has had a lasting influence on this issue, although not as much as was hoped for. PAN also held a forum on balancing development (2005-09-29) that had some influence on framing the issues for that Council election, but was then largely forgotten. (Aside: I was a co-chair of PAN during that period). PAN has declined into a group that primarily facilitates information exchange between the leaders of neighborhood associations.

So who was the group that Wolbach claims used the Maybell project for their nefarious purposes? PASZ wasn't created until after the election--its organizing meeting was 2013-11-14.(foot#14) And PAN had long ceased being active in such matters.

As to Wolbach's claim "more extreme than the residentialism of decades past", the original Residentialists movement was highly controversial and contentious.(foot#15) I attempted to revive the "Residentialist" brand for the 2005 City Council election.(foot#16) However, it was rejected by the long-term Palo Altans who said that the bruising battles of the late 1960s and the 1970s were still too fresh in the minds of influential people (over 3 decades later!). However, Wolbach said "extreme", not "controversial", and that is a matter of his personal perspective.

----Cory Wolbach's Facebook Post: Part 3----

Wolbach @Sheri Furman (continued): "Among the central arguments used to oppose housing is the fear of 'unavoidable impacts.' In private, the leading proponent of this argument, Eric Filseth, admitted to me nearly two years ago that it is entirely a ruse (though, no, he did not use that word). The hardline 'residentialists' don't oppose housing because of their fears of impacts. They start from the position of opposing housing and manufacture fear of impacts in order to frighten others into opposing housing and to help them win elections."

Me: Yet another excursion into an alternate reality. As with the earlier purported statement by DuBois, Filseth assures me he said no such thing, and from my many interactions with Filseth on the issues, I know Wolbach's claim is nonsense. But do your own sanity check: Filseth became involved in Palo Alto issues because of overflow parking into his Downtown North neighborhood from office workers. And how does this relates to "unavoidable impacts" of housing?

But the key takeaway from this statement is that those of whom Wolbach is representative have created a rationale to ignore the issues and perspectives of others. They can ignore the stated concerns because they are simply lies.(foot#17) As for the concerns that Wolbach et al claim their opponents have? That they need to be hidden behind lies indicates they are indefensible and thus need to be ignored/opposed. Simply put, those that disagree with them are delegitimized.

There are two basic reasons offered for why their opponents are supposedly lying: support for contrived scarcity (selfishness) and for exclusionary zoning (racism, ...)

----Contrived Scarcity----
"And a city council controlled by wealthy homeowners don't want new housing bringing down their property values." Kate Downing in interview already cited. (foot#7)
Ask yourself, how would the building of 10, 100, 1000 ... studio apartments affect the value of the houses of the richest people in Palo Alto (for example, Mark Zuckerberg)? Remember, the claim by Downing, Wolbach, Palo Alto Forward et al that building these studio apartments could be done without negative impacts on the city or existing residents. The statement by Downing is representative of the sort of economic illiteracy is rampant among such advocates.(foot#18)(foot#19)
Note: In one interview, Downing went off-script and stated the opposite "it is a financial burden for cities to go out and build the infrastructure necessary for housing. There's much greater incentive to build out office space or hotels or things like that that actually get you tax revenue." (foot#6)

Aside: A potential influence or origin of this comes from the academic literature where one finds assertions of a "cartel" of rich homeowners blocking housing for lower income people (the term "cartel theory" seems to be mostly used by critics). First, recognize that a "cartel" is not individuals or corporations acting in a similar manner, but having agreed to act in concert. Many of these authors are professors at prestigious universities (e.g., UC Berkeley, Harvard).

Kim-Mai Cutler is a writer on Bay Area development policy who is much praised by Downing, Wolbach and other leaders and members of PAF. She writes that Palo Alto has "42 percent of its land under conservation protections against development."(foot#20) What she doesn't tell the reader is that this is the Baylands, Foothills Park, Pearson-Arastradero Preserve and the city parks. In an already cited interview, Downing makes a related claim "Only something like three percent of the city is zoned for any sort of multi-family use." (foot#7) Potential statistical trick: There are many parcels whose official zoning is one category, but the zoning ordinance allows multi-family housing. For details, see the Bronstein article already cited.(foot#10)

So, ask the people who praise the analyses condemning Palo Alto (indirectly) for not using its parks and open space for more housing whether they advocate such development. Don't be surprised if they reject the logical consequences of the analyses they praise and support.

----Exclusionary Zoning----
Claims of "exclusionary zoning" is a leading part of attacks on zoning for single-family housing, both here in Palo Alto and elsewhere.(foot#21) The term means zoning that is designed (the "-ary" suffix) to exclude certain groups, and the phrase has a long established usage of the target groups being minorities, immigrants, and miscellaneous other "undesirable" groups.(foot#22)
Note: The federal Fair Housing Act of 1965, outlawed the range of official and semi-official measures that had produced many highly segregated neighborhoods. Cutler, in an argument typical of the ideology she espouses, claims that the patterns established pre-1965 persist to this day: Exclusion of Asians, including her parents, and other minorities back then is why there are so few non-whites living in Palo Alto today. Who you gonna believe? Her (and her ideology) or your own lyin' eyes?(foot#23) And the facts are much more complicated: There were large exceptions to the pre-1965 picture. The developer Joseph Eichler who built large swaths of houses in Palo Alto famously refused to discriminate, including refusing to cancel sales to several buyers who objected to having African-American neighbors.(foot#24) The Ventura Neighborhood, which was annexed to Palo Alto in 1925, had a substantial African-American population. One of my neighbors recounts that when she bought her house in Barron Park (annexed 1975), the real estate agent attempted to dissuade her with "They let anybody live there!"

Another example, from the kickoff event for one of the City Council candidates supported by PAF (Adrian Fine). During the casual discussions among attendees, one of them responded to the innocuous opening question of "What do you do?" by saying that he taught Political Science at Stanford and then volunteered (unbidden) that Palo Alto had "exclusionary zoning". When I objected, he momentarily backed off the definition that such was driven by racism, but then praised the work of Kim-Mai Cutler--for whom the claim of racism is central--and then resorted to the standard argument paraphrased "Racial minorities are disproportionately poor. Therefore anything that disadvantages the poor is intended to discriminate against those minorities."(foot#25) I then asked the professor to cite a local, recent instance of exclusionary zoning, and he cited the defeat of the Maybell project. I responded that I was very familiar with the controversy and knew many of the people who (eventually) led the opposition to the project. I told him that they were primarily concerned about the market-rate portion of the project and traffic issues. The professor told me that I was wrong: That the opponents were using those purported claims to exclude minorities and the poor from their exclusive neighborhood. I pointed out to him that after the project's defeat--actually the defeat of the referendum to upzone the property to maximize profit from the market-rate housing component--the leaders of the opposition had called upon Palo Alto Housing Corp (project sponsor) and the City to try again with a project that recognized the problems. I asked him why they would do this if their intent was to block the project. He said he was unaware of that fact. However, it didn't change his explanation (of opponents being (despicable) racists concealing their true motivations). I gave up and didn't supply any more of the inconvenient facts.(foot#26)(foot#27)

The pattern started very early in the discussions of the Maybell project, with characterizations such as wanting "to maintain an exclusive neighborhood". Except that the neighborhood never had been that.(foot#28) And this was not attributable to ignorance: Many of those casting aspersions were well aware of the actual circumstances, some were living just down the street from what they would have had you believe wasn't there.

----The Wall/Moat----
The wall/moat analogy to being exclusionary breaks down the moment you look at pages upon pages of real estate ads: There is substantial turnover of the households. They characterize Palo Alto as deciding to "repel newcomers" because it won't build housing for everyone who wants to live here.(foot#29) In one interview, Downing took a less unlimited position "And I think it's a misconception that you can never build up to demand. We have a pretty good idea what demand is: Every day, the effective population of the city doubles from the number of people who come in just for work. That tells us something about how much housing we need. It's not infinite." (foot#7) Ignore her apparent assumption that demand will not increase (contrary to her opposition to limits on office growth). Let's consider what is being advocated. First, recognize that there is no way to restrict who lives in any new housing to being those employed within Palo Alto. The current pattern is that about two-thirds of employed Palo Altans work outside the city. So is she advocating quadrupling the number of employed people living in Palo Alto? Second, recognize that Palo Alto would not be providing housing just for those employees, but also their families. The most conservative interpretation of Downing's position would have Palo Alto needing to more than double the capacity of its schools, parks, ...

Again, the false dichotomy that is a staple of PAF arguments: If you aren't willing to support unlimited housing growth, you are not only opposed to any housing growth, but also opposed to having newcomers buy existing houses (however that would be accomplished). It is so, so much easier to impugn the motivations and morality of those attempting to deal with the very difficult issues of growth in a built-out city than to have a realistic approach yourself.

----Wolbach: The Sequel----
Just as I was starting final edits, Wolbach doubled down with a now-deleted Facebook post ((update: Wolbach comment below states that the page was not deleted but changed to "Friends Only" -- FB message is "removed"/"link broken")) (approx 7:45 pm on Weds 2016-09-21): "Palo Alto's leading 'Residentialists' may not as individuals support Trump, and they may even be Democrats. But, on local issues, they are deeply conservative. They exploit the vague (and increasingly dog whistle) term 'quality of life' to exclude new residents. 'Allowing newcomers to Palo Alto would damage our quality of life,' they say. They also talk of 'inevitably' increased crime if we allow our population to grow. Trump uses the same fear-mongering to oppose Mexican immigrants and Syrian refugees. It's sad that so many people can't recognize the dissonance between their national and local values." And in a comment, he added Council candidate Arthur Keller to those being equated to Trump. ((update: Error in my notes: I am told by a third party that it was Kate Downing that equated Keller to Trump as a comment to Wolbach's post and that Wolbach was silent (implies consent)-- he was actively responding to other comments))
Aside: At the City Council candidate forum sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce (2016-09-15), the first mention of "quality of life" came from Liz Kniss--who Wolbach supports--as one of her top three priorities.

As before, this posting quickly received supporting comments and Likes from like-minded advocates.

----Summary----
I would have hoped that this year's Presidential campaigns would have sensitized people to the danger of allowing themselves to become desensitized to politics that is mostly insults, posturing and fabricated facts. Cory Wolbach and Kate Downing are not anonymous Internet trolls, but public officials. And notice that they and Mike Greenfield haven't "gone rogue": From others in their faction (PAF and allies) you see praise and redistribution of their claims rather than repudiation, or at the very least shunning.

People inclined to support PAF and the candidates they support should ask themselves if that isn't counterproductive. It starts with the obvious animosities being generated. It extends to all the time wasted dealing with nonsensical claims and demands--witness the effort expended by many to counter them--and the wasted opportunities to actually do something. Look at the abysmal output of the recent Planning and Transportation Commission with its two PAF members (Eric Rosenblum and the now-departed Kate Downing) and two allies (Adrian Fine and Michael Alcheck).(foot#30) It has been a major departure from the highly regarded PTCs served on by Mayor Pat Burt, former Mayor Karen Holman and Council candidate Arthur Keller.

I hope that residents will make it clear that "This needs to stop now". You can start by letting you friends and neighbors know that you don't accept this as "politics as usual". The watershed moment against McCarthyism was Joseph Welch's "You've done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?"

----Footnotes----
1. If "You're despicable" seems familiar, it is the catchphrase of Daffy Duck, most memorably in the cartoon "Rabbit Seasoning" where Daffy utters this in exasperation after Bugs Bunny repeatedly thwarts Daffy's attempts to convince Elmer Fudd that it is rabbit season, not duck season, and aggressively encourages Elmer to shoot Bugs.

2. Aside: The unofficial advisors to an official are routinely referred to as the "Kitchen Cabinet". This term originated in 1831 for President Andrew Jackson influential advisors who were not part of his official cabinet.

3. Example earlier misperceptions of official who didn't recognize their "bubble":
(a) Many officials from northern Palo Alto lived in such a bubble that they would forget that southern and western parts of the city even existed: They talked as if all of Palo Alto was within easy walking distance of the University Avenue downtown. A common joke in southern Palo Alto was that many in City Hall believe that they needed a passport to cross Oregon Expressway.
(b) The assumption that all Palo Altans were very wealthy, with large amounts of discretionary income.
(c) The assumption that most Palo Altans had bought their homes before Proposition 13 (1978) and thus had a very low tax burden.
(d) The assumption that virtually all Palo Alto residents are homeowners, when it is only somewhat over half (for various reasons, rentals have dropped from roughly 55% circa 2000 to roughly 44% today). People tend to underestimate the number of rental properties because they think only of apartment buildings, whereas many of the rental properties in Palo Alto are single family houses.

4. Candidate: A. C. Johnson who had been recruited to run by Liz Kniss.

5. The link in the main text is the initial publication of the letter. However, other sites replicated it and some have substantial sequences of comments. For example: Letter + comments at Shift.newco.co.

6. "The Shame of Palo Alto: an Interview with Kate Downing on Affordable Housing" - Stanford Politics

7. "Former planning commissioner says Palo Alto has worst housing policy in U.S." - Curbed SF

8. "A Palo Alto Planning Commissioner Leaves Town--and Starts a Furor", CityLab, 2016-08-16.

9. Some examples of coverage of Mayor Burt's response to Downing:
- Palo Alto's Mayor on Kate Downing, Housing, and the Bay Area's "Gluttony for Job Growth" - Stanford Politics
- "Exclusive interview: Palo Alto mayor Patrick Burt fires back at housing critics" - Curbed SF
- "Palo Alto Mayor Fed Up -- Too Much Tech Is Hurting His City" - CBS San Francisco
- "Palo Alto decides it has too much of a good thing" - San Francisco Chronicle
- "No, Palo Alto isn't going to ban coding" - TechCrunch

10. "Behind the story of the Peninsula planning commissioner who left town to buy a house" - Zelda Bronstein. I highly recommend this article. It is very readable, although maybe not in one sitting. Its length was necessitated by the many topics in the Downing article that needed to be addressed.
Also, critiques are scattered throughout the comments of:
- " In parting shot, planning commissioner slams Palo Alto council", Palo Alto Online, 2016-08-10
- "In parting shot, planning commissioner slams Palo Alto council over housing", Palo Alto Online, 2016-08-12

11. Others in PAF are claiming "fearmongering". For example, PAF founder Elaine Uang in her reply to Brendan Walsh under the Greenfield article.

12. Critiques of Smart Growth relative to Palo Alto from earlier blogs:
- "Stupid Growth: So-called 'Smart Growth' is a cancer on the community", 2014-06-07.
- "The Law of Supply and XXXXXX", 2014-06-10.
- "Shills and Charlatans of 'Smart Growth' ", 2014-06-16.
- "Should Palo Alto really aspire to be more like a Chinese factory city?", 2014-06-22.
- "Public Transit Follies", 2014-07-01.

13. Maybell dispute: Understanding the specific issues of the Maybell dispute is unimportant here. However, in case you want a summary, may I suggest as a starting point my blog entry "Measure D (Maybell Rezoning): Cutting through the noise", 2013-10-11.

14. Creation of PASZ: I was at the initial meeting and several of the early meetings. I decided against becoming a member because I thought its focus was too narrow--doing research to present to the PTC and City Council. I saw no evidence that PASZ was created to launch campaigns for Council, again contrary to Wolbach's claim. Quite the contrary: I was worried about the seeming absence of Residentialist candidates, and tried to spark some sense of urgency with two blogs:
- "Supporting a candidate for Council: Not too early to start", 2014-01-06
- "Candidate Slates for City Council: Time to reconsider?", 2014-01-18.

15. That original Residentialist movement arose in response to the Palo Alto establishment engaging in a spree of massive development. According to the historical accounts--I wasn't here at the time--among the things the establishment want to do were turn the Baylands into a large industrial park and sell off many of the parks to become housing developments.
I thought that that was a brand to be proudly embraced, but was over-ruled by people who saw it as an unnecessary distraction.
A starting point: "They wanted to turn the baylands into a huge industrial park and build housing all (over) the city..." from The tumultuous 60's, Palo Alto Weekly, 1994-04-13.
"Off Deadline: Kirke Comstock survived rough-and-tumble politics, and a bomb", Palo Alto Online, 2016-09-03.

16. I registered the residentialists.com domain on 2005-08-01.

17. Another example of delegitimatizing opponents: "These people will say anything, but they don't really care about congestion or water use. They care about keeping the town looking exactly the way it is. These are people who view suburbia as the ideal and they look at urbanization as the death of the American Dream. They think public transit is for the poor and apartments are for people on welfare." -- The Shame of Palo Alto: an Interview with Kate Downing on Affordable Housing

18. Example economic illiteracy: From the "Balanced Mountain View" list (circa 2014H1): "...Which of the following scenarios would you rather deal with? 10 wealthy residents, 20 low income residents and 10 houses available. 10 wealthy residents, 20 low income residents and 50 houses available? The owners of the 50 units will have to compete with each other to attract the limited supply of buyers, wealthy or not because 20 of those 50 units will sit there in the market with no one interested. That's how supply and demand works."
Notice that the author--identified as a Google software engineer with a Master's Degree--makes two incredibly basic mistakes. First, she treats housing as a commodity, such as a gallon of tap water, that is the same for the billionaire and the minimum wage worker. Second, the second scenario presumes a 40% vacancy rate (20 of the 50 houses)--no one would intentionally build that much excess capacity.

19. You might hope for better economic analysis from PAF given that one member of its Steering Committee received a Ph.D. in economics (Steve Levy).

20. "conservation protections against development": "East Of Palo Alto's Eden: Race And The Formation Of Silicon Valley" by Kim-Mai Cutler, TechCrunch, 2015-01-10.

21. "Get rid of single-family zoning? These conversations shouldn't be secret" by Danny Westneat (columnist), Seattle Times, 2015-07-07.

22. More on the definition of "exclusionary zoning": Because Kim-Mai Cutler's writing is so widely cited and praised by PAF and similar advocates, her citation of the Wikipedia article makes it a reasonable basis for understanding the usage of that term by these advocates (however, notice the very partisan wording of that article). When I sampled the academic papers ranked highly by web search on this term, the definitions I encountered had only minor variations from this.

23. The question is a variant of famous line in the Marx Brothers movie "Duck Soup".

24. Joseph Eichler non-discriminatory: example account toward end of "They like Eich").

25. "disproportionately poor": I knew from long experience not to try to bother with the distinction between the claims "Minorities are disproportionately poor" and "The poor are disproportionately minorities".
Since Kim-Mai Cutler uses her own Asian-American background as being a minority, I used that group in a question. The professor's response had him excluding from the category of "minority" those Asian-Americans and Asians who could afford to buy housing units in Palo Alto.
Yes, another example of the ideology being resilient in the face of data.

26. Maybell "inconvenient facts:" In their testimony before the City and in their emails to the community, most of the eventual opponents focused on fixing what they saw as problems with the project. There were a few opponents who argued for adding the site to Juana Briones Park given the local and city-wide deficits in park land (relative to population).

27. The late Eduardo Martinez was a member of the Planning and Transportation Commission during these events and a supporter of the Maybell project. In his farewell speech before City Council on 2014-04-21, he said "We had a project recently, really important to the city, in which I believe 12 inappropriate, not very attractive, houses really were the issue. And they were almost like set in stone. And I believe that we would have had the opportunity to just brush them aside and look at that space differently, perhaps the outcome would have been different. My second thought, and that it's related in a way, is that I believe that we still have the attitude that we know what we are doing, and if only the public understood this, they would go along with us. And I believe that we do know what we are doing, but I think that our inability to take a position where we suspend what we believe and look at a planning development in a different way without the preconceptions that we have, I think we would have come a lot closer to reaching a consensus, or coming up with better ideas, or how we can come together as a community than we has shown in the past. But it's hard work to suspend what we believe in, and to try to understand what others believe. And I think in an infamous recent project, that may have helped us to a better outcome."
Video: speech starts at 1:38:53, and the quote occurs at 1:41:56.

28. Immediately next to the Maybell project was a long-established affordable housing complex managed by Palo Alto Housing Corp (PAHC). And there were other affordable housing complexes in the neighborhood (Barron Park). And the Buena Vista Mobile Home Park. And apartment complexes that have some of the more affordable rents in the city. And a declining presence of the blue- and pink-collar homeowners from before Barron Park was annexed to Palo Alto.

29. everyone who wants to live here: In the second debate of the State Assembly primary, (successful) candidate Marc Berman took the position that we must accommodate everyone.

30. PTC member Michael Alcheck in testimony before City Council on 2013-12-02 in a session on "A Conversation on the Future of the City":
"I don't think that the individuals that are over 55, and over 65, and over 75 always necessarily vote for what they really want. I think that they vote against change a lot because it's scary, but I don't know if they always make the same decisions in their private life that they are making on the ballot."
- Video at 2:01:00
My blog on the whole discussion: "Listen for Yourself: An index into 'A Conversation on the Future of the City' ", 2013-12-13.


----
An abbreviated index by topic and chronologically is available.


----Boilerplate on Commenting----
The Guidelines for comments on this blog are different from those on Town Square Forums. I am attempting to foster more civility and substantive comments by deleting violations of the guidelines.

I am particularly strict about misrepresenting what others have said (me or other commenters). If I judge your comment as likely to provoke a response of "That is not what was said", do not be surprised to have it deleted. My primary goal is to avoid unnecessary and undesirable back-and-forth, but such misrepresentations also indicate that the author is unwilling/unable to participate in a meaningful, respectful conversation on the topic.

If you behave like a Troll, do not waste your time protesting when you get treated like one.

Comments

 +   30 people like this
Posted by Inconvenient Truth, a resident of Downtown North,
on Sep 22, 2016 at 3:46 pm

First Palo Alto Forward opposed limits on office development and when that failed made a strong push to upzone where ever possible and raise the height limits in the name of housing. Who benefits, clearly developers and local high earning tech workers at companies like Palantir. PAF is composed primarily of Palantir employees, developers, architects, etc... Cory was the only one on city council who voted for a recent Lytton Ave project which had office and 3 luxury condos on the top floor when all other city council members said it needed more smaller more affordable housing units.

My understanding of the residentialist movement is they wanted the planning department to start enforcing the zoning laws since so many exemptions were being handed out and it has resulted in significant employee parking overflow into residential neighborhoods and worsening traffic. Also, they got tired of developers of not following through on community benefits in exchange for upzoning (e.g. Edgewood Plaza's still vacant grocery store in exchange for housing upzoning that generated $30 million in sales for the developer at $3 million per condo (not exactly affordable)).


 +   13 people like this
Posted by Cory Wolbach, a resident of Palo Verde,
on Sep 23, 2016 at 12:09 pm

Doug,
There are clearly some factually inaccurate things in your blog.
Web Link

The most glaring and hurtful is this false accusation: "And in a comment, he added Council candidate Arthur Keller to those being equated to Trump." You should delete that immediately. While I have not endorsed Arthur's candidacy in the current council race (with many qualified candidates), I consider him a friend. Further, I have not equated any PERSON in Palo Alto to Trump.

My point with that post (which is not "now-deleted" but changed from public to "friends only") was a lamentation that, for some (unnamed) people, local policy preferences and rhetoric do not always seem to align with broader political preferences and aversions. Any similarities to Trump were intentionally very tenuous, removed, and not-personal. I may have failed, but I meant to encourage us all to look in the mirror and ask ourselves hard questions. We each at times say and do things which do not accord with our highest values. Even me. We are each free to change.

In another example of obvious inaccuracy in your blog, you say, ' "civility" was his [Wolbach's] primary focus for most of his [Wolbach's] campaign.' This is false. Yes, I spoke often about it, but my primary foci were on values, vision, and policy (e.g. lots of housing, not so much office, better transportation options and safety, etc.) alongside the manner in which we have community dialogue (of which civility was a component). My 2014 candidate statement and my campaign mailers to voters made no mention of "civility." Videos of my interview with the Palo Alto Weekly/Online and candidate forums are available as well. You and I have discussed this many times at length, including in writing. You know my view is that factual discourse and public participation are aided by civility, but that truthfulness and accuracy are ultimately more important than manners. After reading you continuing to misrepresent this on a Palo Alto Online forum last year, I discussed it with you in-person and also sent you an email. Remember?

The irony is that a major thrust of your blog is that I am not being civil enough now. Again, accuracy is more important than manners, though each have their role.

Further, you accuse me of making false statements when I have done no such thing. (E.g. regarding conversations with specific people and what they told me about their views and experiences.) Admittedly, when two parties offer differing portrayals of a private conversation from more than a year past, it is up to third parties to judge between or to dismiss the dispute as impossible to resolve. But your judgement and accusations (as a third party) do not lessen nor alter my memories of those conversations. I have to look in the mirror and face my own conscience, and I know it is clear.

Beyond that, I am not going to attempt to respond line by line to your blog. You and I have spent hours together discussing things such as Maybell, concerns about pedestrian safety in Barron Park, and the challenge of making sure City Hall engages substantially (rather than superficially) with residents about their concerns and ideas. I don't think you're despicable, but, given our past interactions and your later misrepresentations of those interactions, I have low confidence you will be fair to your interlocutors. This doesn't make me angry, but sad, especially given the prominence of your platform. I sincerely hope you will prove me wrong.

Best,
Cory


 +   23 people like this
Posted by Voter, a resident of College Terrace,
on Sep 23, 2016 at 12:53 pm

Cory:

You're shock and outrage at being called to task ring hollow for a number of reasons. A few examples:


CW: "Further, I have not equated any PERSON in Palo Alto to Trump."

Actually you have. Why inject the "T-word" into your argument below if that isn't your exact intention?

CW: "Palo Alto's leading 'Residentialists' may not as individuals support Trump, and they may even be Democrats. But, on local issues, they are deeply conservative. They exploit the vague (and increasingly dog whistle) term 'quality of life' to exclude new residents. 'Allowing newcomers to Palo Alto would damage our quality of life,' they say. They also talk of 'inevitably' increased crime if we allow our population to grow. Trump uses the same fear-mongering to oppose Mexican immigrants and Syrian refugees."

By way of example, if I posit: "Cory Wolbach may or may not support McCarthyism, and may actually even oppose it, but like Joseph McCarthy he engages heavily in the practice of making accusations without proper regard for evidence," have I attempted to besmirch your good name by equating it with McCarthy? Do you think the weak, preamble disclaimer makes your aspersion (or my example) suddenly not an equating comparison?


Referring to residentialism in PA, you posted some pretty conspiratorial (and hugely incorrect) claims, and then tried to distance yourself from the opinion by crediting it to somebody else. I refer in particular to this.

"This wave was launched with the conscious choice of finding a project to fight (a search which resulted in the successful overturn of the Maybell affordable senior housing project), which could be used to rally unrelated grievances from across the community, and to launch campaigns for council. That's essentially the story I heard from Tom DuBois."

It's a nice story if you're looking to paint PASZ as some demonic shadow organization, but such a wild claim should have some evidence, correct? PASZ as a reactionary neighborhood movement thrown together to resist a poorly conceived market-rate development giveaway doesn't serve your politics, I suppose. I'd encourage the Weekly to reach out to DuBois on the record, and Cory, I'd encourage you, when you make inflammatory accusations, to at least own them.


 +   11 people like this
Posted by Douglas Moran, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Sep 23, 2016 at 1:00 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

@Wolbach (in multiple parts):

> "My point with that post (which is not "now-deleted" but changed from public to "friends only")"

Update added in main body. Aside: The message from Facebook is "removed"/"link broken".

> "The most glaring and hurtful is this false accusation: 'And in a comment, he added Council candidate Arthur Keller to those being equated to Trump.'"

I have updated to main body to say that this comment was not yours and that the error was in my notes made before the page became unavailable. The statement that of Kate Downing (below). I regret the error. However, the focus of this blog was what you, Kate Downing, Mike Greenfield, ... are saying.

However, you were very actively responding to comments on your posting and you had no objection to what Downing stated. This was very clearly a situation where "Silence implies consent". There is a large amount of hypocrisy in your not showing concern about when your allies repeatedly get the facts about others wrong.

Here is the Downing comment that was supplied to me:

Here's Arthur Keller with the same dog whistle on his website: "Palo Alto's neighborhoods are a key element in our valued quality of life, and they must be respected and protected. We need appropriate options that will enable seniors to remain part of the Palo Alto community. City government must start to consider the impacts of new housing on our schools and class size and on public services, and make decisions that ensure that the quality of life in Palo Alto is preserved and enhanced." Once again, "residents first!". Even if a tiny inconvenience for a resident means a life-altering change for a non-resident. ...


 +   14 people like this
Posted by Eric Rosenblum, a resident of Downtown North,
on Sep 23, 2016 at 1:01 pm

I do indeed find Mike's blog post to be well-written and thought provoking. I would urge others to read it.

I think that there are a couple of worthy parallels between national and local politics:
-- the anti-immigration rhetoric at the national level mimics the anti-newcomer rhetoric at the local level. I believe that they are related. The anti-immigration rhetoric depends on two main planks
(a) we're all full: admitting more people will take away jobs, crowd our cities, etc. Furthermore, how many can we accept, there are [1 billion] potential immigrants; no matter how many we take, it won't make a dent, so why bother
(b) "they" will change our way of life: these people are either dangerous or unamerican
-- I see very similar rhetoric at the local level: our community is already crowded, and this influx will change the change our character. Furthermore, there are endless numbers of people wanting to live here, so it is fruitless to try to do anything.

This is NIMBYism in the literal sense of the term-- most people here admit that people _should_ be able to live closer to their jobs. They also recognize that density is highly correlated with smaller environmental footprints, and that policies encouraging alternative modes of transportation are a worthy public policy goal. However, they don't necessarily want it in _their_ community.

I think that pro-immigration people and pro-housing people (including myself) sometimes get overly caught up in the moral argument: ie., "it's the right thing to do". Mike's post is about something different: that welcoming newcomers and diversity leads to a more interesting place that has more opportunities for all. People living in this region, in particular, should feel this acutely. On a personal level, my wife is the daughter of immigrants; I worked at Google, which was founded by an immigrant; I got to work at another start-up (Drawbridge) founded by an immigrant woman who got her PhD from Stanford who is one of the world's leading data scientists.

So, while I think that a pro-housing policy *is* the right (moral) thing to do, I also think that these policies make our communities stronger.


 +   13 people like this
Posted by John Hamilton, a resident of Evergreen Park,
on Sep 23, 2016 at 1:07 pm

Kudos to Cory Wolbach, Kate Downing, and others who stand up for the interests of our broader community. Palo Alto's no growth/"residentialist" policies have resulted in clogged roads, surging home prices, and a reduced quality of life for many in our community. Our schools suffer because teachers must commute hours from areas with more affordable rent. Local shops and restaurants suffer because they struggle to retain employees who need to commute from hours away. Our community suffers with unseen traffic congestion, no parking, and diminished cultural vitality because the people who work in Palo Alto simply can't afford to live here.

Palo Alto has become the butt of jokes in national media based on our housing affordability crisis (NY Times, Web Link). Palo Alto can and must do better, and thank you to leaders like Cory Wolbach and others who are pushing for a more balanced and reasonable approach.

[[Blogger: readers should note the use of "spotty cell reception" (the web link toward the end) as evidence of "housing affordability crisis" and consider whether this is a serious comment.]]


 +   13 people like this
Posted by Douglas Moran, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Sep 23, 2016 at 1:35 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

RE: Eric Rosenblum

His comment is yet another example of PAF's use of false dichotomies: Not providing housing for all newcomers/immigrants who want to live here is equated to preventing any newcomer/immigrants from living here.

Then there is another "Who you gonna believe? Me or your own lyin' eye?"
I could set out from my front door and within minutes be talking to "newcomers" who are not just here, but Residentialists. Just yesterday, one of my not-yet-a-citizen neighbors stopped to talk to me about her concerns about the neighborhood park.
Correction: It was her dog that stopped--to get its head rubbed--and she took the opportunity to talk to me about the park issues.


 +   12 people like this
Posted by Douglas Moran, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Sep 23, 2016 at 1:43 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

@Wolbach (another part, #2):

> "In another example of obvious inaccuracy in your blog, you say, ' "civility" was his [Wolbach's primary focus for most of his [Wolbach's campaign.' This is false. Yes, I spoke often about it, but my primary foci were on values, vision, and policy..."

There is a difference between his intent and what he accomplished in term of what voters understood to be his focus. Throughout the campaign I heard from residents that Wolbach's focus was on "civility". This often came up in questions to me about what Wolbach stood for and/or complaints that "civility" was not enough of a platform for City Council.


 +   14 people like this
Posted by Douglas Moran, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Sep 23, 2016 at 2:04 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

@Wolbach (another part, #3):

> "Further, you accuse me of making false statements when I have done no such thing. (E.g. regarding conversations with specific people and what they told me about their views and experiences.) Admittedly, when two parties offer differing portrayals of a private conversation from more than a year past, it is up to third parties to judge between or to dismiss the dispute as impossible to resolve. But your judgement and accusations (as a third party) do not lessen nor alter my memories of those conversations."

I stand by my assessment that your claims to have heard the statements by DuBois and Filseth are false.
1. DuBois and Filseth deny having said it.
2. Observable facts are contrary to what you said they said.
3. If those statements had been true, it was contrary to their interest to tell you those things.

That leave the unlikely possibility that they were "punking" you or "yanking your chain", in which case you should have detected that contemporaneously and not be repeating it now.


 +   13 people like this
Posted by Eric Rosenblum, a resident of Downtown North,
on Sep 23, 2016 at 2:12 pm

One more comment for Doug personally.

You go to a lot of trouble to dissect comments made on your site for logical consistency.

You would be a lot more credible if you did this consistently, and not just on postings with which you have a personal disagreement.

The first comment on this blog post is a great example. It is full of easily dis-provable or misleading statements. A couple of simple examples:
-- "PAF is composed primarily of Palantir employees, developers, architects": this is self-apparently false. Palo Alto Forward has a steering committee, but other than that we are a volunteer organization that has people who come to our educational events and subscribe to our newsletter and follow us on Facebook. Right now, we have ~1700 followers on FB (you can see this on our page at Web Link) and subscribers to our newsletter. I don't know who most of these people are (only 29 of them are friends of mine on FB). I would guess that ~1% are employees of Palantir, architects and developers. When we hold events, the plurality is usually the 60+ year old crowd. I suspect we're pretty evenly distributed, though, among millenials, gen-x, and baby boomers.
-- "Who benefits, clearly developers and local high earning tech workers at companies like Palantir." I don't get this analysis. The slow-growth policies that Palo Alto has pursued for decades clearly benefit landlords. If I had to design a system to maximize rents, I would ban all further development. It would work for a while, until the community eventually became unappealing. Palo Alto has had a slow-housing growth policy in place for decades, and developers seem to have done pretty well during this time period. Advocating for more housing probably *would* benefit residential housing developers, but it would greatly benefit people who need to pay lower rents
-- The "office cap" issue is a bit more subtle. I opposed it because I think that a cap is a poor policy tool. We are trying to control traffic, so should be focused on funding a TMA. Creating and enforcing an office cap is a distraction which probably undermines TMA efforts (eliminating a major funding source: development fees and making it less likely that companies will want to buy in).


 +   11 people like this
Posted by Douglas Moran, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Sep 23, 2016 at 2:34 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

RE: Eric Rosenblum

> "The first comment on this blog post is a great example. It is full of easily dis-provable or misleading statements. A couple of simple examples: -- 'PAF is composed primarily of Palantir employees, developers, architects': this is self-apparently false."

The actual statement in that first comment was
"PAF is composed primarily of Palantir employees, developers, architects, etc..."

First, notice what Rosenblum choose to elide.

Second, ask yourself how that statement is "self-apparently" false? Is Rosenblum conflating Facebook followers with members?

With that, you can judge whether anything else Rosenblum says is worthy of consideration (note: Rosenblum is a member of Palo Alto's Planning and Transportation Commission).


 +   12 people like this
Posted by Norman Beamer, a resident of Crescent Park,
on Sep 23, 2016 at 2:48 pm

You were a bit harsh on PAN. They have been active in opposing bad developments that violate zoning via letter and personal appearance before council, and have gotten good results for their efforts.


 +   3 people like this
Posted by John Hamilton, a resident of Evergreen Park,
on Sep 23, 2016 at 3:21 pm

>>Palo Alto has become the butt of jokes in national media based on our housing affordability crisis (NY Times, Web Link). Palo Alto can and must do better, and thank you to leaders like Cory Wolbach and others who are pushing for a more balanced and reasonable approach.

>[[Blogger: readers should note the use of "spotty cell reception" (the web link toward the end) as evidence of "housing affordability crisis" and consider whether this is a serious comment.]]

Hi Douglas,

Thanks for quickly responding to my comment. I encourage you to actually read the NY Times story I linked to instead of just dismissing it out of hand. The term "affordability crisis" was actually used by NY Times reporter Thomas Fuller in the embedded video on the page, and the article goes in depth on the housing imbalance in our city.

Other relevant NY Times stories from this summer include:
(1) How Tech Companies Disrupted Silicon Valley’s Restaurant Scene (Web Link)
"Paying a livable wage is a struggle in Palo Alto, where the average one-bedroom apartment rents for $2,800, the same as in New York City, according to Rent Jungle. Workers have also been driven out of surrounding towns that were previously affordable, like Cupertino and San Jose, where demand from a new influx of tech workers has driven up the average cost of a one-bedroom apartment to more than $2,500."

(2) In Silicon Valley, a Divide in Income and Politics (Web Link)
"PALO ALTO, Calif. — The image of Silicon Valley in most minds is one of technological invention, great wealth and even greater entitlement, a place where a bungalow costs $3 million and people go to work in smoked-windowed buses equipped with Wi-Fi plying U.S.-101 alongside Teslas, Lamborghinis and vintage English motorcycles."

Is this the sort of community we want to live in? As I said in my first comment, Palo Alto can and must do better.


 +   22 people like this
Posted by mauricio, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland,
on Sep 23, 2016 at 3:42 pm

So in PAF's upside-down universe, opposing developer greed and developer giveaways, the elimination of a time honored small town life style, environmental destruction and turning Palo Alto into a human sardine can is "conservatism". .? In the case, this left wing Bernie voter is proud to be considered a conservative.


 +   3 people like this
Posted by Douglas Moran, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Sep 23, 2016 at 4:19 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

RE: Norm Beamer "You were a bit harsh on PAN. ..."

I was not criticizing PAN for what it has become--that is dictated by what its members can and want to do--but rather pointing out that it is not a candidate for leadership of Residentialism.

Details on my judgment:

My first measure is: Would the letters and testimony before Council been any less effective if done by the people who did the research and analysis, but without the name of PAN attached? My judgment is "No, it would have been just as effective" -- it was the credibility of the presenters and the content, not the organization.

My second measure is: Has PAN shown the ability or inclination to rally significant numbers of residents behind its positions. Again, my judgment is "No".

Unquestionably, the members of PAN do valuable work, but is it significantly more than what Herb Borock and Bob Moss do as individuals Council/CityHall watchers?


 +   12 people like this
Posted by Fred, a resident of College Terrace,
on Sep 23, 2016 at 4:35 pm

Uh, Doug, aren't you being a bit hypocritical or have you completely forgotten that you flipped a man off a couple of Sundays ago. I was there.


 +   5 people like this
Posted by Douglas Moran, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Sep 23, 2016 at 4:49 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

RE: John Hamilton

Me bad. I judged the web link from its title "spotty cell reception". The NY Times has a paywall and I am disinclined to pay for junk "journalism".
There were multiple headlines for this article, including "Message to Tech Firms From Palo Alto Mayor: Go Away. Please" and "Spotty reception for tech in the heart of Silicon Valley". And much of the article was about cell phone reception.
This story was yet another sad reminder of what the NY Times has become: The paper of record for what the East Coast Establishment believes and/or wants others to believe.

And this article was "junk journalism" -- a credulous, ideological account based on Kate Downing's letter and interviews. However, it was published in the "Lifestyle" section of the paper, so maybe I shouldn't have expected anything but light infotainment.

In citing NYT articles, remember that the NYT was a cheerleader for the Iraq War because it was credulous of its favored (Establishment) sources and ignored contrary evidence and analysis from those with expertise. And then there was the recent partisanship of the NYT for Clinton over Sanders.

Notice the deep bias of the articles towards the wealthy and the HENRYs (High Earners, Not Rich Yet). It is part of a pattern that supports vast transfers of wealth to "the 1%" and demands that what remains of the middle class sacrifice to support the less well off.

As one friend joked: To the NY Times, a "poor white" is someone who lives on the Upper East Side, but doesn't have an unobstructed view of Central Park.

Perhaps it is the national media that is the butt of jokes, not Palo Alto.


 +   11 people like this
Posted by Douglas Moran, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Sep 23, 2016 at 4:56 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

RE: Fred

The man I "flipped off" was the Stanford professor I describe in the main text. Remember that he declared that the position on development held be me, my friends and my neighbors was driven by racism and that we were liars trying to hide that fact.
I felt that flipping him off was a concise and rather restrained response.

What one should ask of "Fred" is why he doesn't see a scurrilous claim of racism as noteworthy, much less reprehensible.


 +   16 people like this
Posted by sheri, a resident of Midtown,
on Sep 23, 2016 at 6:20 pm

sheri is a registered user.

I am astounding at the statements implying that those of us who favor measured growth--both in jobs and housing--believe '"they" will change our way of life: these people are either dangerous or unamerican.' Our changing demographics over the last decade refute that. That so-called "residentialist" are any less compassionate and concerned about housing people is insulting.

Re: (2) In Silicon Valley, a Divide in Income and Politics (Web Link)
"PALO ALTO, Calif. — The image of Silicon Valley in most minds is one of technological invention, great wealth and even greater entitlement, a place where a bungalow costs $3 million and people go to work in smoked-windowed buses equipped with Wi-Fi plying U.S.-101 alongside Teslas, Lamborghinis and vintage English motorcycles."

Just because that's the image doesn't mean that's true. Come to my neighborhood and see how many long-time residents are just getting by. The idea that Palo Alto is filled only with wealthy people is a decades-old myth.

Demeaning people because they want to live in the suburban environment they bought into is uncalled for and stating that they are racist or afraid of or unwelcoming to newcomers is simply not true. Kate may think it's immoral of me (as a senior) to live in the house I worked 30 years to pay for, but why should I be ashamed to want to stay here?

The lack of housing is regional and has more to do with the massive influx of jobs and spiraling rent increases than any zoning issues. 10 jobs can be added in 20 minutes; the housing to support those jobs cannot be created overnight.

The entire problem is much more nuanced than people want to admit. We really need to look at a balanced approach to how we encourage modest job growth, where to put housing, how to retain retail beyond more restaurants and how to manage traffic. We can't just throw up a building here and another there just so people can live here--that's not urban planning.

Yes, I'm rambling. I'm also incredibly sad to have such characteristics ascribed to me by people who know nothing about me or the volunteer work I've done in the community.


 +   15 people like this
Posted by Allen Akin, a resident of Professorville,
on Sep 23, 2016 at 6:59 pm

@Eric Rosenblum: "I see very similar rhetoric at the local level: our community is already crowded, and this influx will change the change our character."

I think this comes too close to misrepresentation. Right now we're seeing objective, measurable losses in quality of life: increased air pollution; increased noise pollution; increased commute times (and stress); increased accidents on the road; reduced availability of water; displacement of residents; displacement (or destruction) of local businesses; and so on. Significantly increasing the population will make many of these things measurably worse. This is not merely an argument over character, and certainly not a dog-whistle for racism.

"They also recognize that density is highly correlated with smaller environmental footprints..."

Two observations: (1) Minimizing environmental footprint is not the only criterion for maintaining a successful community. (2) This argument has no limit. If more density is good, is still more density better? Where does the process end?

"I think that pro-immigration people and pro-housing people (including myself) sometimes get overly caught up in the moral argument: ie., "it's the right thing to do"."

This fails to acknowledge that there are other choices, such as better foreign policy in the case of immigration and increased development in less-constrained areas instead of Silicon Valley.

I think there are many of us on the limits-to-growth side that are willing to consider principled solutions to our problems, and even acknowledge that some such solutions already exist (albeit with cost that may be unacceptable).

It's harder to work with the unlimited-growth side seriously when its rhetoric concentrates on name-calling ("NIMBY"), accusations of greed and racism, and so on.


 +   14 people like this
Posted by Deplorable, a resident of College Terrace,
on Sep 23, 2016 at 7:45 pm

Multiple witnesses who observed you flipping off and saying "f--- you" in front of the professor's Infant daughter can testify to your highly inaccurate version of events. But what's the point of engaging with someone who only ever hears his twisted version of the other side's argument?


 +   7 people like this
Posted by really?, a resident of another community,
on Sep 23, 2016 at 9:24 pm

Is this accurate? Doug, did you really flip someone off, then write a blog post about how the person you flipped off is an example of the "you're despicable" style of politics? Or is someone impersonating you in the comments?


 +   12 people like this
Posted by Douglas Moran, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Sep 23, 2016 at 9:37 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

RE: "deplorable"

This is a bald-faced lie. I never said "f--- you" to him.
Roger Smith was there and was upset about the professor getting flipped off, and repeatedly said he was upset about that happening in front of the infant daughter. He never mentioned anything about me saying "f--- you' -- confirming evidence that that is a fabrication.

By the way, the infant daughter was in a stroller and was not reacting to the movement of people. Even if she were paying attention, she was much too young to be aware of what was happening.

Again, notice the outrage in favor of the person making the false accusation.


 +   10 people like this
Posted by Douglas Moran, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Sep 23, 2016 at 9:42 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

@really:

You position is that one should not stand up against despicable behavior. Refusal over the years to take strong stands against a despicable bullies like Trump et al is how we got to our current situation.


 +   6 people like this
Posted by sunshine, a resident of Barron Park,
on Sep 24, 2016 at 10:40 am

Some blame the vote to oppose the Maybell project of affordable senior housing and market rate single family on a desire to exclude minorities. Nothing could be further from the truth. Those of us who have lived in Barron Park, some at a time when real estate agents would attempt to dissuade potential homebuyers, welcome the diversity of the neighborhood. We liked it when those living in Barron Park actually knew how to do different useful things. A neighbor would help with a sewing or other craft project, another would help repair a car, another would help fix your plumbing.
Proof of the fact that those who voted against the Maybell Project were not doing it for racist or exclusionary reasons is that soon after that vote, many residents supported keeping Buena Vista trailer park intact and not developing the site with a high rise high income housing project. Buena Vista has over 100 units of low income housing and we want to keep it. Someday it could be upgraded, but it must remain affordable for those already living there and they must be allowed first choice of upgraded units.
ABAG hounds us about putting in more affordable housing for those who work here. Yet some wanted to eliminate over 100 units of affordable housing and replace them with fewer, market rate apartments.

[[Blogger: FYI: Buena Vista precise count: 98 mobile home units, 12 studio apartment, 1 single family unit.]]

[[Blogger: The proposals for a replacement never got to the official stage. However, I have recollection of one outline for well over 100 small units for young professionals ("high-end apartments") in a dense, tall building, but I don't remember if that outline included credible parking.

At one point the developer (Prometheus) talked about including 65 low-income apartments, but my recollection is that it was a "low-income" tier much higher than that of the current residents.
]]


 +   13 people like this
Posted by Don't Be Fooled, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis,
on Sep 24, 2016 at 2:27 pm

Don't Be Fooled is a registered user.

The disagreement is really about do we upzone for housing and how much? If you do support upzoning, do you give that wealth created to the developers or the use the majority of wealth created for community benefit in-terms of subsidized housing. Residentialists are wary of upzoning without a solid credible plan to effectively mitigate traffic and parking impacts and definitely not for giving the majority of that upzoned wealth to developers instead of for below market housing. To say if you don't support upzoning or developer giveaways you are anti-immigration, racist or a Trump supporter is blatantly false and should undercut the credibility of persons making those types of statements.


 +   7 people like this
Posted by Robert, a resident of another community,
on Sep 24, 2016 at 2:28 pm

@sheri

[[Blogger: Readers: Robert is an established troll. Please don't feed him.]]

Can you show me a single statment where someone said you shouldn't have every right to "live in the house I worked 30 years to pay for"? That's completely made up, just because you "feel" like someone might think that doesn't make it so.

[[Blogger: Sheri gave a very clear pointer by citing Kate Downing. She and others have multiple times strongly criticized retired folk (which Sheri identified herself as) for move out of their homes to make way for her type of people. Sheri's neighborhood would be much poorer as a community if she were to move into a senior facility elsewhere.
Note: I have been to Sheri's house and it is much too small to be acceptable by Kate Downing and her ilk.

Downing and others have also supported redeveloping areas of current single-family homes into high density office and housing. Sheri doesn't live in one of those area (but I do).
]]

Doug, feel free to delete this comment if it doesn't fit with your narrative.


 +   4 people like this
Posted by Robert, a resident of another community,
on Sep 24, 2016 at 3:03 pm

[[Blogger: Again please don't feed the troll.
For the curious, I have never heard Downing identify any regulation that make it hard for people to downsize. The issues for downsizing arise from the Federal Tax Laws (capital gains...) which is largely mirrored in California Tax Laws plus the laws surrounding Prop 13.
]]

I've heard Downing criticize how current regulations make it hard for people who wish to downsize to do so, I wanted to know specifically where she or "her ilk" stated that people who don't want to move should be obligated to do so?


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Plane Speaker, a resident of Crescent Park,
on Sep 24, 2016 at 3:14 pm

Resorting to this kind of strategy only works when the system is broken, and those in power seem to strive to keep things broken because that way they can avoid responsibility and stick to rhetoric that has no substance. When faced with facts all they have to do is deny them and return to innuendo, or some dishonest tactic. Those who know what is going on chip in with agreement, clapping, laughter, whatever.

The reason the system is broken is who has the time to keep up with local politics, and if they have the time who wants to invest it in something that never changes or pays off. Our system has scaled itself into dysfuction. One great thing about a computer science education is that you learn the math of networks and limits in calculus. It's amazing that no one has written a popular book to apply these concepts towards explaining in simple terms why things are the way they are ,,, though one good book if you can extrapolate a big is "Willpower" by Roy Baumeister.


 +   6 people like this
Posted by Deplorable, a resident of College Terrace,
on Sep 25, 2016 at 2:43 pm

Ah, yes, the 100 units of the Buena Vista Mobile Park. The way for NIMBY Palo Altans to pat themselves on the back for "protecting" affordable housing while opposing every effort to increase the supply of housing to adjust to demand.

And, of course, when the opportunity arises to build small-unit BMR housing, or to expand transit, or any number of opportunities to make it it easier for the working class to commute into Palo Alto without generating additional car traffic, where are these supposed defenders of the working-class? Blocking such proposals every step of the way while pretending to be "reasonable" and just wanting more "study."

[[Blogger: Readers, before you respond to this as a clueless example+confirmation of the main topic of the blog, please consider that this person may be a troll. It is a sad statement when one can't tell the difference.


 +   6 people like this
Posted by Deplorable, a resident of College Terrace,
on Sep 25, 2016 at 3:00 pm

"This is a bald-faced lie. I never said "f--- you" to him.
Roger Smith was there and was upset about the professor getting flipped off, and repeatedly said he was upset about that happening in front of the infant daughter. He never mentioned anything about me saying "f--- you' -- confirming evidence that that is a fabrication."

"By the way, the infant daughter was in a stroller and was not reacting to the movement of people. Even if she were paying attention, she was much too young to be aware of what was happening."

OK, so you've conceded that you flipped off a gentleman in front of his infant daughter for attempting to have a civilized discussion with you and using some terminology you didn't like. Then you wrote a column about civility. Glad we cleared that up.

And now you've declared yourself an expert on child psychology and development. Not surprising from someone who uses Wikipedia pages to lecture at subject-matter experts.


 +   12 people like this
Posted by Douglas Moran, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Sep 25, 2016 at 3:22 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

> Deplorable: "OK, so you've conceded that you flipped off a gentleman in front of his infant daughter ... you've declared yourself an expert on child psychology and development"

Many Palo Altans may think that their children are incredibly precocious, but "Deplorable" seems to want you to believe that what appeared to be a one-year old was aware of what was going on (if she was even awake).


 +   11 people like this
Posted by Douglas Moran, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Sep 25, 2016 at 3:56 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

@Deployable: "...attempting to have a civilized discussion with you and using some terminology you didn't like.... Not surprising from someone who uses Wikipedia pages to lecture at subject-matter experts."

False. And yes I know I am feeding the troll, but this is useful for showing the venom and rampant dishonesty that one has to deal with in such discussions.

1. I didn't cite the Wikipedia page in the discussion. The professor praised the work of Kim-Mai Cutler on the topic and she cited the Wikipedia article.
2. Calling the professor a "subject-matter expert" is a laugh. He cited the Maybell dispute as an example of his beliefs without knowing the basic (inconvenient) facts.
3. "attempting to have a civil discussion" - the professor didn't realize until after he made the comments that he wasn't talking to a fellow-traveler. Even with that, I find nothing "civil" about false labeling as racists people that you disagree with.
4. "terminology I didn't like" : he chose the terminology "exclusionary zoning" and after a brief retreat from its established usage, confirm that he meant that usage.


 +   10 people like this
Posted by Douglas Moran, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Sep 25, 2016 at 4:37 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

@deplorable: " Then you wrote a column about civility. Glad we cleared that up."

The classic response of bullies and insiders (overlapping groups): Creating an equivalence between despicable behavior and make a strong response to the offender. Actually, they don't see an equivalence: Standing up for what is right is worse than the offense being opposed.

"Larry's tone was in the friendly-advice category. He teed it up this way: I had a choice. I could be an insider or I could be an outsider. Outsiders can say whatever they want. But people on the inside don't listen to them. Insiders, however, get lots of access and a chance to push their ideas. People--powerful people--listen to what they have to say. But insiders also understand one unbreakable rule. They don't criticize other insiders.
I had been warned."
-- Senator Elizabeth Warren, from her book "Fighting Chance", Section: "Insiders Don't Criticize Insiders", pp 105-106, final two paragraphs.

Insiders are focused on getting along, regardless of costs. People who are focused on getting it right and getting it done become outsiders.


 +   7 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon, a resident of Downtown North,
on Sep 25, 2016 at 6:43 pm

"I'm also incredibly sad to have such characteristics ascribed to me by people who know nothing about me or the volunteer work I've done in the community." [[Blogger: the quote is from a comment by Sheri of Midtown]]

It's not about you personally; it's about money. Zoning laws and concerned citizens too often get in the way of quick profits for the moneyed classes who live in enclaves at safe distances from their targets. They want that money, and they have learned how to operate with impunity behind armies of shills.

In parallel, public relations operatives have developed name calling for rabble rousing into a highly refined art. We shouldn't be surprised at how zealously the unsophisticated members of such mobs follow their scripts, nor at the eager hunger of "news" outlets for the sensationalism.


 +   11 people like this
Posted by Eric, a resident of Downtown North,
on Sep 25, 2016 at 9:06 pm

The more PAF and their boosters ramble on, ballot choices become so much clearer.


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Deplorable, a resident of College Terrace,
on Sep 26, 2016 at 10:55 am

Doug, I'd love to hear your well-considered thoughts on the latest Obama initiative to reform local zoning. Perhaps you think he is also a bully for suggesting that communities need to loosen their housing restrictions?

Web Link


 +   3 people like this
Posted by Douglas Moran, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Sep 26, 2016 at 1:28 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

On the Politico article:

Although it gives no details of the actual proposals, much can be learned from whom it claims benefits and hurts:
"endorses changes long sought by builders and the business community."
"mayors and builders increasingly foiled by community opposition"
"The plan rejects some of the arguments made by environmentalists, labor unions and other liberal constituencies..."

Hidden in that "other liberal constituencies" were renter groups and low-income residents--as evidenced by the coalition against Jerry Brown's similar proposal. Those groups opposed that proposal because it would encourage elimination of existing affordable housing units and the displacement of those tenants plus it would deprive those groups of their existing input into the design of what was built. We saw this here with the Maybell project where its advocates declared a Walgreens Drug store was an adequate "grocery store" for the low-income seniors in that building (and a Planned Parenthood Clinic is appropriate medical services).
Detail: This is not a triviality: High-prices and poor selection of foods is a humongous, well-known issue for low-income people.

The picture is of a Democratic Party elite antagonistic to many of its own "base". Of an elite determined to continue to undermine local democracy in favor of business interests (NAFTA, TPP, "too big to jail", ...)

The bias of the author is also exceedingly visible in her repeated labeling of community interests as "NIMBY" (Not In My BackYard).

Notice that the motivation represents sloppy thinking. It sees as a fix to the economic problems of much of the country is to allow some--presumably very few--of the people there to move to the "high-productivity cities".

There are also studies that have found that these policies fail. They produce urban core populated by three groups:
1. the wealthy
2. low-income people who are heavily subsidized
3. people willing to make large sacrifices in their living situation to be in that location, for example, people willing to live in small units to be in/near a large entertainment district.
Those policies push large segments of the population into the suburbs. While the small urban core will have a good GHG (GreenHouse Gas) profile, the overall city doesn't.


 +   5 people like this
Posted by Awright Awready, a resident of Adobe-Meadow,
on Sep 27, 2016 at 4:10 pm

""...you've conceded that you flipped off a gentleman in front of his infant daughter..."

Get off it. It could have been much worse. What if the daughter's mother had been there and pregnant?


 +   3 people like this
Posted by Former PA resident, a resident of Mountain View,
on Sep 28, 2016 at 8:45 am

Your account of the professor's behavior is stunning (as are the comments here bothered only by your *reaction* to that behavior).

There was a time when many California professors -- even military veterans with no use for Communism -- could be fired, and were, for not signing a McCarthyist state "Loyalty Oath" Web Link . Now, evidently we have professors (and any political scientist certainly is accountable to know about ideologies' emotional grip to the exclusion of reality) second-guessing resident motives, against evidence.

Giving the finger was a succinct and fitting response to McCarthyism, and it's equally appropriate to the situation you described.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Tom DuBois, a resident of Midtown,
on Oct 5, 2016 at 3:03 pm

Tom DuBois is a registered user.

I am only going to post here once to make sure false statements don't go unchallenged.

The Council has clear ethical protocols which every Council member swears to that explicitly say you must refrain from engaging in abusive conduct, personal charges or verbal attacks upon the character or motives of other members of the Council. Cory Wolbach has failed to live up to this.

He has repeatedly attacked me and other council members in public online. When I contacted him directly to correct his misstatements and ask that he refrain from public attacks he refused and actually suggested that we carry on our conversation on Facebook. When I told him his statements about my position were also false, he continued to impugn my character.

I am looking forward to getting through this silly season of the election, new colleagues joining the council and working on serious issues of concern to Palo Alto.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Ken Underwood, a resident of Stanford,
on Jan 9, 2017 at 3:48 pm

I don't know if you'd be interested in this slightly alternative interpretation, but I will suggest it to you.
Trump got voted in.
V.Putin: '... assymetric reaction ...' .
Personally, I think Trump got in because of Hilary's scheming.
Especially over Bernie's demise.
I would have voted for Bernie but Clinton was out the window!
The Ruling Elite underestimated the intelligence of the population.
And now ... aha! ... Vlad is really in control!



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