Town Square

Post a New Topic

Editorial: In search of a 'community conversation'

Original post made on Dec 6, 2013

Palo Alto's new planning director, Hillary Gitelman, got her first dose of the Palo Alto process Monday night, as the city staff attempted to get direction from the City Council on how to proceed in response to last month's Measure D election results overturning the Council's unanimous approval of the Maybell senior housing project.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, December 6, 2013, 12:00 AM

Comments (45)

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 6, 2013 at 10:22 am

I do not intend to be insulting towards any of the individuals who researched and/or presented the now infamous traffic study...

But how does any reasonable analyst look at the results and not come up with a "this can't be right" response? As the OpEd has stated above - the ill-fated traffic study should have never made its way to the CC for presentation.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Jo Ann
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 6, 2013 at 11:21 am

It is the height of arrogance for the Council and staff to be so dismissive of the community's real concerns about congestion, especially given the very flawed traffic study.

Let me recommend that each and every person involved with planning -- Council AND staff -- spend at least an hour each day driving the major arteries at a different hour each day to give them a feel for what the rest of us experience.

Let them spend the same ridiculous amount of time we do at Town & Country trying to exit parking spaces, trying to turn onto Embarcadero and/or El Camino. Let them get stuck endlessly on Middlefield and Embcadero when during school pickup times and during rush hour so they too can experience the ridiculous light timing and see the drivers forming their very own lanes in frustration.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 6, 2013 at 11:52 am

I suppose Hillary Gitelman doesn't live in Palo Alto.

If she wants to know what it is like being part of the community of Palo Alto, I have some suggestions for her.

She should try doing a family weekly shopping in Safeway in Midtown, buying affordable clothes for growing children without going online or outside Palo Alto city limits, and taking a couple of young children out to eat in a sitdown restaurant in Palo Alto without spending a fortune.

She should stand and watch traffic move at ECR/Arastradero, T&C at Paly, Churchill and Alma, Charleston, Middlefield, Alma, Arastradero, Oregon, in commute times (particularly the am commute), taking particular note of the number of bikes and parents driving children to school because of insufficient public transit. She should try to park in the Cal Ave area at lunch time and in downtown for more than 3 hours on a weekday.

When she has done all these things, she should then have a starting point.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Jo Ann
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 6, 2013 at 12:14 pm

Good ideas, Resident. They should also go out to lunch on California Ave., in Town & Country and on University Ave. Then they can report back on how they fare trying to find a parking space.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 6, 2013 at 12:50 pm

> Nancy Shepherd blamed the public for not doing its homework
> on the legal constraints that tie the city's hands.

And why should they? Why didn't the City simply provide a white paper on these "legal constraints" so that all of us would be on the same page? Why didn't Nancy Shepherd provide this information to the voters--since she seems to be suggesting that she is an expert on these matters.

> Liz Kniss contrasted the "vibrancy" of Palo Alto today to the 1980s
> when she couldn't find an open restaurant downtown after 10 p.m.

Is this really the best measure for our town? There also is a price to pay for this sort of "vibrancy"--such as more street crime, more home breakins, every greater traffic, and increased frustration as residents watch as their downtown is taken away from them and given to people who are not from Palo Alto, and could care less about the quality of life of the residents.

Let's hope this is Liz Kniss' last tour of duty as a Palo Alto council member.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Resident Too
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 6, 2013 at 1:30 pm

@ Joe,
> Nancy Shepherd blamed the public for not doing its homework
> on the legal constraints that tie the city's hands.

I don't know if you realize this, but this isn't the first time this Council has taken up this Devil Made Me Do It approach now that the public is onto them.

During the Maybell meetings, before the vote, the City Attorney stood up and gave dire warnings about a state anti-NIMBY law and about how the Council's hands were tied in what they had the discretion to reject when it came to affordable housing. A bunch of neighbors then read the law for themselves and found that it explicitly did not apply to rezonings. This did not stop the City Council from directing the City Attorney to look through that law to see if there was any way it could be used to tie Council's hands and rezone. That's explicitly in the meeting notes!

They have also been now claiming they have no discretion when it comes to projects under existing zoning, which is also not true. (Bizarrely, they used that excuse for a property they just approved at We Fix Macs which violates the height limit by a total of over 20 feet? They sort of parsed out the roof line and other things on the roof, but all of it violated the zoning.)

What they should be doing is telling developers their hands are tied in granting any more exceptions, because some residents are mad enough to start a recall.

Marc Berman interestingly is said to have somehow compared the number of votes he received with the Maybell election, and dismissing the message Measure D sent because of it. One of those votes was mine, of course, and I wish I could take it back. Probably a lot of people who voted against D also voted him into office. It doesn't mean we support him acting like a vindictive idiot who doesn't like democracy.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Resident Too aka Citizen Doh
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 6, 2013 at 1:37 pm

"as a vehicle for getting more community involvement and input."

Hello! The involvement and input at Maybell were described by PTC as "historic".

Lack of community involvement and input isn't the problem. We need is a vehicle for getting City staff and Council to listen and incorporate it in their work. It would start with checking their egos at the door and realizing they are public servants, or resigning for everyone's good if that's too hard.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 6, 2013 at 1:47 pm

"Liz Kniss contrasted the "vibrancy" of Palo Alto today to the 1980s when she couldn't find an open restaurant downtown after 10 p.m."

Liz Kniss didn't look very hard. The University Cafe, across University from Lytton Plaza, was open 24/7.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 6, 2013 at 1:49 pm

>Liz Kniss contrasted the "vibrancy" of Palo Alto today to the 1980s when she couldn't find an open restaurant downtown after 10 p.m.

I tend to agree with her. I am pro growth, under certain circumstances. I am also pro neighborhood protections. I live up the street from California Avenue, and I think vibrancy is a good thing there. It used to be Lincoln Ave (St.?). in Mayfield, and it was vibrant back then . It is showing some signs of vibrancy, without major city-imposed planning. I, personally, am willing to try to understand the big Cal. Ave. redo...I do not reflexively reject it.

There is no way that Palo Alto will become vibrant, if it continues to support welfare housing. If CC wants welfare housing, it should be in their own neighborhoods, period...don't hold your breath, waiting for that to happen!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Oh Well
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 6, 2013 at 3:25 pm

The whole point of this editorial was/is that the current City Council, City Manager, and city staff are so out of touch with the community that they have taken the low road and begun to lash out against residents calling them uninformed and uneducated. Meanwhile, council members point fingers at each other placing blame on fellow council members and city staff. Only the Palo Alto Weekly is optimistic enough to believe that the current City Council and staff will assert leadership in bringing a meaningful dialogue about the future of the city. It is quite clear that the current City Council and City Manager have no intention on basing any of their community decisions on the opinions of the uninformed and uneducated residents of Palo Alto.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Citizen Doh
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 6, 2013 at 4:01 pm

@ Craig Laughton,
Then maybe you will support using the public fund that went to buy Maybell to help save the Buena Vista Mobile home park. That property is truly affordable housing -- not some program -- people chose it based on the market-based affordability and retained ownership of their own homes. Given that the money that went to purchase Maybell is from the affordable housing fund and has to be used for that purpose, wouldn't it be better to loan it to low income residents who would pay it back through their rent, long-term Palo Altans who already live here and care about the community? It wouldn't be welfare, it would be a loan for a purpose it is already earmarked for, and no other funds would then be used for it. It would also spare the area from the impacts of a much denser development that would go there otherwise.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by CrescenntParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 6, 2013 at 4:21 pm

>> >Liz Kniss contrasted the "vibrancy" of Palo Alto today to the 1980s when she couldn't find an open restaurant downtown after 10 p.m.

Huh ... this is an ignorant comment that was picked up and used as some kind of fact ...

Today I don't know of a single restaurant open really late. Several of the Mediterranean spots are open to 11pm or so, and they are great, but there is nothing that was open all night ... except now we finally have the Subway Sandwiches which is.

Back in the 90's ... can't remember when it closed, we used to have the University Creamery that was open 24 hours. It was kind of like a Denny's and it was a nice pretty good place on the north side of University somewheres round about the Stanford Theater, or within a block.

The vibrancy of downtown is what people see and want to say it was. There were plenty of time when University was vibrant, and without a lot of drunk people down at the Alma end where the bars are as well as the police cars who have to monitor this area at night.

We used to have the Varsity Theater, and there was 42nd Street which is now a restaurant. I think many people did not want University to be TOO VIBRANT, on purpose. Go to downtown Mountain View and it's a bit too vibrant. There are quite often a lot of noisy rude drunk people on Castro.

We should be thankful that University is fairly pleasant, and stop trying to make silly comparison arguments that really are not backup up in fact. This off the cuff BS from our City Council just shows us how clueless they are, and the repeatedness of these types of statements shows they do not learn or listen.

I think they would be out of there really quick if there were some serious challengers, maybe even non-serious challengers to these positions.

And not to let the media/papers get away unscathed, they are the ones who ought to be investigating and laying out the shape of the constraints on our city, what we need to do and why.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 6, 2013 at 5:40 pm

>Given that the money that went to purchase Maybell is from the affordable housing fund and has to be used for that purpose...

Can you provide the legal CPA budget rule(s) that demands such a bucket?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 6, 2013 at 6:10 pm

@craig...

is this what you are looking for?

Web Link


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Citizen Doh
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 6, 2013 at 6:12 pm

Contact the City. If you are against welfare housing, the BV park is the only low-income housing we have that is NOT.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 6, 2013 at 7:37 pm

> We used to have the Varsity Theater, and there was 42nd Street

Downtown was very vibrant at one point. There was Henry's, and the Gatehouse, and 42nd Street, and Rudy's, and McArthur Park, Freddies, and the Garden Court to name a few. Henry's, the Gatehouse, Freddies and 42nd Street only exist in the memories of their old customers, these days. Friday nights were a lot of fun, if you were into bar hoping.

During the summer, there was live music in the court yard of the Varsity. More great memories for those who lived here then. It's hard to understand how Liz Kniss can claim that PC zoning had anything to do with the social scene back in the '80s.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Citizen Doh
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 6, 2013 at 8:51 pm

@ Oh Well,
"The whole point of this editorial was/is that the current City Council, City Manager, and city staff are so out of touch with the community that they have taken the low road and begun to lash out against residents calling them uninformed and uneducated."

I haven't had the stomach to watch the Council commentary yet, but I read/heard Marc Berman and Karen Holman justified ignoring the election results by saying they received more votes each in the election. I voted for them (won't make that mistake again) so did many people who voted against D. I don't know how exactly does he figure people who voted for him support every dumb decision he makes, especially when he's too arrogant to listen to the public? And if voting for him indicates support, how come so many fewer people than voted for him voted for the ordinance, especially since the whole Council shilled as hard as they could for it?

And when he says things like that which are obviously extreme justifications ignoring most of the facts, how is it that he can still imagine we don't notice? There's a difference between a general and special election. Palo Alto had over 40% of registered voters participating where countywide that election participation was closer to 25%. They had paid elections people. They had a six-figure war chest from the first day. They had people working on the campaign whose day job it was. They had the League of Wm Voters on a crusade for it. The ballot they wrote didn't even mention the direct changes of the ordinance and their analysis never mentioned costs. If it had been a fair fight, they would have lost by far more. It's a good thing they didn't, can you imagine how they would have interpreted it then?

They continue to treat the public with zero respect. If someone wants to start the recall, I'm guessing they'll get even more votes then.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Henry
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 7, 2013 at 12:27 am

@ Citizen Doh - I agree with most of what you've said, except for lumping Karen Holman with the Council Members who dismissed Measure D election results because they received more votes when elected. Karen Holman NEVER said anything like that! She did speak about her values, which in my opinion are worthy, even if one disagrees with a particular decision she made. She is always respectful and deserves the same from the public!

It was Klein, Berman and Kniss who dismissed the election results based on how many votes they had received. No idea why the Weekly didn't call out Klein for that!

Please check your facts. Do your homework before criticizing someone for something that never happened.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by pat
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 7, 2013 at 10:52 am

It's ironic – or maybe pathetic – that council members exhibit disrespect , if not contempt, for residents at the same time they want resident input on "core values." Web Link

Marc Berman was sitting behind me at the September 28th Measure D debate. When the AGAINST team (Tim Gray and Bob Moss) was speaking, Berman was making snide comments to people sitting next to him and behind him, dismissing what the speakers were saying. That told me everything I need to know about his core values.

Staff suggests "visioning" meetings to find out what residents want for the future of the city, while their own vision is so clouded that they can't see the absurdity of their traffic study results.

We don't need visioning meetings or special online forums like "Open City Hall" to communicate with council. We just need council and staff to LISTEN to us.

Residents get 3 minutes to speak at council meetings -- and get no feedback. Hard to know if the message is even heard, especially when Liz Kniss gets up and leaves the dais, followed by Larry Klein.

How many times have you received a response to a comment you made at a city meeting or to a letter or email you've written to the council, the planning commission or a staff member?

How many times have you spoken up at a meeting where a city official or staff member sits back with folded arms and an expression that says "my mind is already made up"?

Palo Alto residents are smart and many are super achievers. I'd bet that many of them are way smarter and have accomplished a lot more than all the council members put together.

Yet many council members and staffers look down on residents and completely disregard their ideas and wishes.

Council members, once their campaign is over, forget that they are supposed to represent the people of the city. And staff seems not to realize that they are being paid by the people to do the will of the people.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 7, 2013 at 2:57 pm

>@ Craig Laughton,
Then maybe you will support using the public fund that went to buy Maybell to help save the Buena Vista Mobile home park.

Actually that bucket of dollars is the result of a self-imposed shakedown of property owners and developers, due to in lieu fees, instead of building BMR (welfare)units in given projects. Palo Alto inflicted this on itself. Also, the loan of the money to the ill-conceived Maybell project was only $3.2M from that pot of money...the rest came from other funds, such as the Stanford money paid to get the Children's Hospital expanded (note: this money could have been used to support PA infrastructure, rather than welfare housing).

That Maybell loan is not available to purchase a private property, like BV, unless our CC votes to do it...it would then be involved in a for-profit venture...very dicey. I don't have a particular opinion about BV, unless it takes money away from our City coffers.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 7, 2013 at 4:33 pm

What is the best way to send input to the city council? Is there a website with their email addresses and do they even read them?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 7, 2013 at 6:10 pm

Pat is exactly right. The residents have been absolutely trampled while
an arrogant and out of control Council and staff have destroyed the
"balance" which Klein praises. It's all about money, influence, power
and personal agendas. Quality of life, streetscapes,urban design,scale,are concepts which this Council and staff have no time for,no understanding of.

It has all come together here in Palo Alto, a perfect storm of strong market demand, complicit government, and developers, insiders who seek to fully exploit the situation as they double-down in a rigged game. Dialogue
is meaningless in this context. The problems, the abuses, the impacts are
as clear as could be. We need an immediate moratorium on office projects
pending a downzoning. Drive by the oversized 537 Hamilton under construction crammed in with no setbacks to the adjacent buildings. And this will be followed by 611 Cowper down the street underparked by 53 spaces coming soon to your neighborhood.








 +   Like this comment
Posted by Douglas Moran
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 7, 2013 at 10:11 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

RE: "What is the best way to send input to the city council?"

Send it to city.council@CityofPaloAlto.org (capitalization is optional).
Such messages get redistributed to all Council member, plus get entered into the public record.

As to whether Council members read them, that depends on the Council member and other factors.

To increase the impact of your message, make sure to have a descriptive subject line. If you are addressing an upcoming agenda item, give the meeting date, agenda item number and the name of the agenda item (in case the numbering changes).

Write your message like a newspaper article: headline with an opening paragraph (or two) that gives the important information. Assume that the Council member won't read beyond that, but if you want to give more detail, structure assuming that the reader won't go all the way to the end (again, like a newspaper article).


 +   Like this comment
Posted by boscoli
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 8, 2013 at 7:18 am

There is no reason for restaurants and bars to be open all night in Palo Alto. This is a small college town and a leafy suburb. Palo Alto is not Manhattan, Los Angeles, London, Milan, Sao Paulo or Tel Aviv. Those who craving life in an intensely urban cement jungle have a multitude of places to choose from and are free to relocate, but trying to turn Palo Alto into such a place is unacceptable.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Obvious
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 8, 2013 at 10:47 am

It seems to be that either Hilary Gitelman does not live in PA, just works here, OR she is very, very out of touch with reality. She also, like her peers, does not seem to listen to her public--or listens and then dismisses their pleas.

It seems rather obvious that Ms Gitelman is going to be another PC director who is not good for Palo Alto. May as well hire Joe Blow off the street ( if he lives here, he probably has more sense).


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Obvious
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 8, 2013 at 10:50 am

Perhaps the real problem is whoever does the hiring for these positions. Apparently, they do not know what Palo Altans want and do not impress upon the interviewee the importance of keeping Palo Altans happy.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Empty suit
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 8, 2013 at 11:16 am

Marc Berman is an empty suit. He's a lawyer and the lawyers on the council supported him, knowing he would follow their votes.
He also seems impressed with his own age (though he's around 32, time to grow up!)and his newness on the council. He was unprepared for the job and hasn't learned enough. But he follows the other lawyers and the real estate people who supported him.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Garrett
a resident of another community
on Dec 8, 2013 at 11:20 am

Palo Alto is not a college town or a small town on the outskirts of major job center. Palo Alto is a major university town or small city with major employers, world class hospital, national ranked schools and strong retail.

I have seen many adverts of major retailers with locations in Palo Alto, restaurants that have stars. Even one star will bring in patrons. All spending, investing and creating wealth in a city in area that is right up there with London, New York and Los.Angeles.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Preserve Zoning
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Dec 8, 2013 at 2:13 pm

Garrett - we are a medium density family town with excellent parks and schools. Many of us want to keep it that way. If we have a world class restaurant or two, great! We don't want to compete with London, New York, or Los Angeles on other factors though such as crime, pollution, over-loaded school systems, etc.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by royal mess
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 8, 2013 at 2:51 pm

"It seems rather obvious that Ms Gitelman is going to be another PC director who is not good for Palo Alto. May as well hire Joe Blow off the street ( if he lives here, he probably has more sense)."

They say you only get one chance to make a first impression.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Julian
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 8, 2013 at 7:25 pm

I call BS on this so-called search for a community conversation.
"City Council begins process of 'recalibrating' policies to reflect community attitudes"
Wow - after years of community input on that question. I'm so impressed.

It's just more lip service so the city administration can say they're listening to the residents, but the two recent building approvals show they're still working for the real estate developers.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 8, 2013 at 7:40 pm

Palo Alto is a unique City with a balance of renowned residential, corporate/high tech,commercial, academic components in a beautiful setting with a backdrop of coastal mountains. It has a human scale with an interesting eclectic architecture with a rich historical legacy. The tragedy is that the City Council and staff are not just capitulating to but actually serving development interests destroying the balance,the character and ambiance of the City.

Klein was right at the last Council meeting when he talked about this balance. Perversely he entrusts an increasingly outraged public to somehow preserve this balance as he himself and the Council continue to pile on in their actions destroying that balance. Then he criticizes the Measure D vote
as invalid. All of this just illustrates the rhetoric being used as a
backdrop to what the Council is engaging in - the destruction of a
unique City.





 +   Like this comment
Posted by Fred Balin
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 8, 2013 at 9:40 pm

Solid editorial.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 8, 2013 at 10:40 pm

When the City Council and staff are dragged into a "dialogue" about the
direction of the City only after a referendum while several members of the
Council even continue to deny the message of the vote, we have a serious
problem with the balance of the Council.

Continuation of present policies was the Council majority consensus regardless of collateral damage to neighborhoods,traffic congestion in a continuing transformation of the character of the City prior to the vote. If these Councilmembers saw nothing wrong before the vote, they see nothing wrong after the vote. It is simply political expediency which is coming into play. So fundamental change, what is called for, is hard to foresee
happening. To understand the underlying problem, imagine what would have happened if Measure D had passed.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Run away Train Wreck
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 8, 2013 at 11:15 pm

Editor incorrectly states "They propose using the update to the city's Comprehensive Plan, which has been quietly underway for two years, as a vehicle for getting more community involvement and input."

The Comp Plan Update has been going on for seven years since 2006. A Colleagues Memo in 2006 started the process. There was not much work for the first year or two. Starting in about 2008 there were monthly meetings of the Technical Advisory Group (TAG) composed of a diverse group of stakeholders to advise staff on the Housing Element Update. Then in 2009 Staff and Planning Commission Subcommittees started meeting behind closed doors to update the Housing Element, Transportation, Land Use and Natural Environment Chapters. Staff also engaged the Parks and Rec Commission to update the Community Services Chapter. There were poorly attended public hearings for a few of these Chapters, but most of the work remains in draft form, out of public view. It's been seven years!

The Cal Ave and E. Meadow Concept Area Plans were initiated in early 2009 and are only now about to be released to the public. That's five years!

So, last Monday's Council Meeting was to begin a dialog. What on earth have Staff and Council been doing for the last seven years updating the Comp Plan if they don't have an understanding of the community attitude towards development. They only care now when they have not incorporated any of the feedback over the last seven years because there are numerous appeals, CEQA law suits, and Measure D on the ballot.

Council has created an outraged public. Klein said that he doesn't want to hear from the public that spoke at the meeting, he wants to hear from new people. One might assume that he thinks everyone else, not in the room, agrees with him. Berman told us he knows what's best for us. Kniss has a vision of a office buildings and a lively bar scene. Shepherd thinks we are unprepared and not able to understand the issues. Scharff want to make incremental fixes to parking and traffic so he can get re-elected.

Staff tells us that all this growth has reduced traffic. We just forget how bad it was. The citizens of Palo Alto are neither dumb nor forgetful!

It has taken a lot longer than two years to create this run-away train wreck. It needs to be stopped!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Citizen Doh
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 9, 2013 at 2:17 am

What are the things we can do? I've picked up ideas from various posters and have a few of my own. Let's have the conversation we won't have at City Hall:

1) Form a citizen committee to actively recruit new Councilmembers with residentialist leanings, and backbones connected to their brains. We have to do this with the PTA - have a search committee. It really helps.

2) If we find enough good ones willing to serve, recall the ones who won't be up for election.

3) Important lesson from election: change City elections code so from now on, an impartial ballot committee writes the analysis and ballot questions, not the City Attorney. The more I speak to citizens who are personally involved with elections of the past 20 years, the more clear it is that we have been had. This is important enough to do by initiative in the next general election if necessary. If we have to do anything else by initiative or referendum, believe me, you want to be sure the ballot is fair.

San Francisco had a virtually identical measure on their ballot, Measure C, with $12 million to go to affordable housing in exchange for a developer giveaway. In their system, their impartial ballot committee hashed out a question that basically asked, should a developer get to increase the height limit by 80 feet at a certain address. What did ours ask? The direct effect of the ordinance, whether a developer should be able to exceed (long, long list of zoning violations)? No - Do you want senior affordable housing. It is anti-democratic for ordinary citizens to be up against that kind of ballot manipulation.

4) Change City code so developments must comply with the comprehensive plan, legally enforceable protections the vast majority of cities, even charters cities have.

5) Watch the comprehensive plan development like a hawk and make sure this Council doesn't just achieve their evil ends by corrupting the Comprehensive Plan to their vision of mini-Manhattan. Remember the 2nd referendum? Neighbors had to take the rezoning of Maybell out of the Comprehensive Plan. If we do not do #4 and #5, we will be fighting these battles one development at a time.

6) Put instruction manuals for citizen actions on a central website, like paloaltoville.com . For example, I'm wondering if a two-story overlay could be done in my neighborhood to prevent anything like the Maybell rezoning from coming up again. I'm sure we would get enough signatures! But I can't find any info.

7) Demand the Council make meetings accessible for interactive online participation. Watch the December 2 meeting - speaker 21 or 22, Edena Levin (no idea how to spell that) made a great comment about expanding participation in Council meetings electronically. She mentioned the City of San Mateo already doing something like that with Mind Mixer.

8) Demand the City give more autonomy to safety and emergency preparedness personnel. One of the most frightening things to come out of the Maybell debacle was the knowledge that safety personnel and planning is completely subordinate to City transportation staff, i.e., our safety is being controlled by a biased political process.

When neighbors at Maybell complained about traffic and limited ingress/egress, about emergency vehicle delays to the schools and neighborhood, PAHC employees countered that the fire department had looked at the traffic — representing it as an independent review — and found no problem. So neighbors asked the fire department for details and found they do no such review. All they do is look at whether the development in question can be reached (it was across the street from the fire department). Fire personnel told us Planning and Transportation people tell them when there is a problem, that's when the fire department investigates. Our planning and transportation department doesn't identify problems, it advocates for developments and finds "no impact" no matter what. The safety of all of our residents is completely at the mercy of a broken political process. That must be fixed or we are a disaster waiting to happen.

9) Form an official Citizens Enforcement Committee for zoning. Check this out from another state: Web Link
"Some of the objections to zoning may be eliminated by using a citizens enforcement committee that serves as a watch dog over the administration of the rules and regulations. This committee could also get participation from concerned individuals in public hearings. "

10) Halt all new development approvals until we figure out the consequences of the development already in the pipeline and how to mitigate those impacts.

11) Pass an ordinance or initiative to eliminate or seriously curb PC zoning.

Have I missed anything?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by royal mess
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 9, 2013 at 6:48 am

Run away train wreck,

"Berman told us he knows what's best for us.
Kniss has a vision of a office buildings and a lively bar scene.
Shepherd thinks we are unprepared and not able to understand the issues.
Scharff want to make incremental fixes to parking and traffic so he can get re-elected.
Staff tells us that all this growth has reduced traffic. We just forget how bad it was."

Klein's said he's tired of the people who show up to speak.



 +   Like this comment
Posted by Citizen
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 9, 2013 at 8:34 am

I agree with Citizen Doh. I for one will be happy to gather signatures for a mass recall (and a recall of Kniss and Berman in particular, since we're stuck with them until 2016).

I've heard that Bob Moss (who by the way has done more good for this city than any anyone on our council by a long shot)and some of the Maybell folks are looking to qualify a ballot initiative to remove or severely restrict PC zoning. I will happily gather signatures for that as well if it comes to pass.

We should part ways with the city attorney based on the biased ballot language she produced for her council friends. At the end of the day, she works for the people of Palo Alto, and it's clear she has forgotten that.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by royal
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 9, 2013 at 9:21 am

A ballot initiative to remove or severely restrict PC zoning or recalling Berman and Kniss is probably better than a "conversation".


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 9, 2013 at 9:29 am

Our biggest problem is that we do not have a great pool of people willing to stand for election to our CC. There is no point in trying to recall people if we can't be sure that the replacements will be any better.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Sad to see
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 9, 2013 at 11:27 am

Keene isn't the only one pivoting. The Weekly with this editorial completes its pivot away from a professed concern with affordable housing to its actual focus on large-scale commercial development. I agree with those Council members that still care about low income housing, despite the howls of the mob here in PA Online and the misplaced self righteousness of the Editor.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Thanks Weekly!
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Dec 9, 2013 at 5:35 pm

Yes, "sad to see," it's sad to say but I was entirely correct. Now the Weekly has dropped all reference to Measure D and affordable housing and instead says that the purpose or message of Measure D was to "send a message" regarding Page Mill and Arillaga. The Weekly has played a destructive and disingenuous role in this instance, encouraging NIMBYism and an ugly politics of exclusion, both in this case and in the anti-homeless ordinance in order to "send a message" about developers and traffic analyses. The Weekly, like the "no-on-D" folks used the ugliness against affordable housing and the poor to catalyze public opposition to development that had nothing to do with the poor at all. It was cheap Southern Strategy politics unworthy of you. I am still surprised you did it and would tend to forget you did except that you keep writing these ridiculous editorials reopening the wound.

[Portion removed.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Citizen Doh
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 9, 2013 at 8:41 pm

Speaking of reopening the wound. Can you stop with the politics of division? People disagreed with a development decision in their neighborhood. This did not make them NIMBYs and it was vicious, cynical attack, and cut off any chance for dialog when rezoning proponents did that. Calling people names was the lazy way out, they didnt have to deal with any of the actual concerns and problems then.

You are still equating being against the Maybell development as meaning against affordable housing, you're going to push so many people away it will be a self -fulfilling prophesy.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Thanks Weekly!
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Dec 10, 2013 at 12:19 am

Four homeless individuals froze to death in Santa Clara county this weekend due to the lack of affordable housing. That fact is entirely relevant to a thread about the effects of Measure D. You want to talk only about the effects of the Measure you like -- the "message sending" effect. I want to talk about the effects on housing for the poor, which seems reasonable since that is actually what it was about. It would be convenient to make the unhoused poor disappear. Just a big citywide "portion removed" is what the Measure D vote really amounted to.

Thanks Weekly for what you have done to set back the cause of aiding the poor to the 1930s.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 10, 2013 at 7:21 am

No offense, but I think you are giving The Weekly way too much credit for the success of the No on D campaign.


Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.

Email:


Post a comment

Posting an item on Town Square is simple and requires no registration. Just complete this form and hit "submit" and your topic will appear online. Please be respectful and truthful in your postings so Town Square will continue to be a thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

We prefer that you use your real name, but you may use any "member" name you wish.

Name: *

Select your neighborhood or school community: * Not sure?

Comment: *

Verification code: *
Enter the verification code exactly as shown, using capital and lowercase letters, in the multi-colored box.

*Required Fields

I Told My Mom She's Dying
By Chandrama Anderson | 11 comments | 2,475 views

Easy Living
By Sally Torbey | 11 comments | 2,428 views

Grab a Bowl of Heaven soon in Mountain View
By Elena Kadvany | 0 comments | 1,790 views

Quick Check List for UC Applications
By John Raftrey and Lori McCormick | 0 comments | 1,210 views

Campaign Endorsements: Behind the Curtain
By Douglas Moran | 3 comments | 771 views