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The disrupters; or the upholders?

Original post made on Dec 27, 2013

In the year when federal contractor Edward Snowden leaked National Security Agency secrets and ran off to Russia, Palo Alto saw its own crop of newly minted civic activists, who took on City Hall, the school district and the old ways of doing education. Some may have viewed them as disrupting the status quo, while others may see them as upholding the values that have made Palo Alto great. Here are a few of this year's activists.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, December 27, 2013, 12:00 AM

Comments (21)

Posted by Rupert of henzau, a resident of Midtown
on Dec 27, 2013 at 7:03 am

Another fawning article from the weekly. Cheryl made unsubstantiated claims that pro D people were removing signs from opponents of measure D-- the weekly just printed her false allegations and made no attempt to verify the veracity of her statements. Web Link
Doug smith is trying to force his terrible taste in architecture on the entire city. The weekly fails to mention that his survey was a completely non- scientific survey, that was biased and was not statistically significant.

Well, we now know with whom the weekly will be attempting to curry favor with in the coming year.


Posted by Not Guilty, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 27, 2013 at 9:13 am

If Snowden isn't guilty of doing anything wrong, why did he run away like a coward? Instead of facing the music and proving his innocence?


Posted by Rupert of henzau, a resident of Midtown
on Dec 27, 2013 at 9:34 am

Not guilty-- not sure who wrote this story, but comparing Snowden with the actions of some people in Palo Alto shows the overblown ego and level of self- importance held by the weekly.


Posted by pat, a resident of Midtown
on Dec 27, 2013 at 2:51 pm

What have you got against the Weekly, Rupert? It's come a long way since the days when it used to fawn over the city council and was better known as The Weakly.

Cheryl's claims are true. She didn't name the person who was pressured by a neighbor to take down the No on D sign because that would have caused even more problems. We all know that signs on both side of every campaign sometimes go missing.

How do you figure Doug Smith's survey is not scientific when he went out counted parked cars twice a day for a long period of time?

If you don't have anything else to complain about, life in henzau must be idyllic.


Posted by Rupert of henzau, a resident of Midtown
on Dec 27, 2013 at 6:26 pm

Pat -- did you read the link I posted ( a weekly story) in which Cheryl clearly made the charge that signs were stolen-- we are not talking about a. Neighbor being pressured by another neighbor.

Doug smith did not do parked car count, that was Neilson Buchanan-- Doug smith did the survey on architecture.
The weekly,IMHO, still fawns over the council and now they have expanded their fawning to " important" people in Palo Alto. Do I have to like the weekly because they are your best buddies now that they came down for the anti D side?
Feel free to complain about my posts, but try to get the facts straight at least.
Are things in Los altos as idyllic as they are in henzau???


Posted by another not guilty, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 28, 2013 at 12:32 pm

@ not guilty, if Snowden had hung around, we would have never heard anything beyond the absolute minimum about these abuses, as Obama would have chucked him in jail and refused contact w/the outside world. This way, we DO get to hear about excessive and startling government surveillance.


Posted by Neighbor, a resident of Green Acres
on Dec 28, 2013 at 1:16 pm

I know the players involved and what happened, and Cheryl was stating accurate information. Lawn signs on the No side did disappear, and I know where and the honesty of the people who reported them missing. The No side had very little campaign money in the beginning, so every well-placed sign was known. Ultimately, the Yes side spent around $120,000, and they began well-funded. The No side had to turn a ragtag, broad based neighborhood grassroots effort into a real campaign, and Joe and Cheryl did a lot of heavy lifting. The No side did not begin with a professional campaign firm, and much of the $20,000 they ultimately had wasn't available at the start (they only spent $15,000 ultimately).

Cheryl is an honorable person and was just asking the Yes side to tone it down. Jerry Underdal and Winter Dellenbach, and a few others, were quite caustic and ad hominem online, attacking those on the other side personally. The No side, I felt, was a lot more measured overall. The election is over and you are still trying to wage it. Please stop, it only furthers the negative hole PAHC people dug for themselves, by association.

The No people did complain about the City and PAHC colluding to represent the rezoning as already PC zoned to the state funding agency that decides who gets federal and state tax credits, even though the site was never actually zoned PC throughout all of this. If anything needs to be looked at further, it's the City's continuing to fill out third party verification forms for those tax credits, because
1) if the City had not provided that verification, and continued to do so, PAHC would not have qualified for that round and would have had to wait for the next round, i.e., they would have had time and leeway to work with the public and make more substantive compromises that could have allowed the project to go forward ultimately. Instead, they went for broke on essentially that plan, it was all in black-and-white for the state.
2) The tax credit allocation for funding is competitive, and other projects in usually less wealthy communities lost out in the review process for their tax credits. The process doesn't judge runners up in case anyone is found to not actually have qualified (since I guess the thought of a City providing false information doesn't seem to be on their radar), so the money will not now go to other worthy projects in cities that almost certainly will not be able to provide that housing because of what our City did, the committee is done awarding the grants this year and that's the end of it.
3) When neighbors qualified the referendum, the City Council had the choice to read the handwriting on the wall and set aside the ordinance, or they could have chosen a less expensive election cycle. Instead, they chose the most expensive election cycle, the only one that would have allowed them, if they won, to continue the whole development process as if the public wasnt there (remember their application to the tax credit committee was represented as the property having PC zoning, as CEQA appeals expired, etc, none of which were true). The consequence to Palo Alto taxpayers was the City Council and staff having zero incentive to work with residents to come up with a substantive compromise, but a great incentive to spend $660,000 of taxpayer money to hold an election they did not have to hold. Remember they had the choice to set aside the ordinance and work with neighbors. If they won the election, though, as they felt they would, they would pick up without missing a beat, as if the public never mattered, and the public processes were mere window dressing.
4) The forms are filled out by PAHC at least under penalty of perjury, the forms are not informal about the facts and requirements, there are millions in federal and state monies at stake.
5) The City's continuing to participate in the funding application process in this way provided strong incentive to also inappropriately and probably illegally advocate for the Yes side in the elections materials via the City Attorney's ballot bias.

Democracy has checks and balance for a reason. When so much pulic money is at stake, private corporations, even nonprofits, should be subject to the same standards of transparency and they were not. The lack of accountability and transparency allows for-profit interests too much cover to use the situation to their benefit at the expense of the public (recall that nearly 60% of the property was a market-rate development, from which all the profits from the sale of the upzoned houses would have gone to the for-profit developer). And it almost certainly cost Palo Alto taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars, and some other affordable housing project in a needier community or communities their funding.

The Weekly reported neighbors' first complaints, and passed on Candace Gonzales' claims as fact without any support, yet called neighbors' contentions "claims" even though they presented official state documents obtained via public records act requests. Neighbors provided evidence of City employees improper behavior in City Council but were ignored by the press. Thus, the misrepresentations to the state continued and the project was ultimately awarded money (now returned) because the state continued to evaluate the project against other projects with untrue information provided by City employees.

This had consequences to our taxpayers, and shame on our media for not delving into that. This really should be triggering an investigation into City staff ethics and performance. All of the newly involved citizens should care about this.


Posted by Rupert of henzau, a resident of Midtown
on Dec 28, 2013 at 1:30 pm

Neighbor- before you accuse people of theft, you should have some proof. Cheryl did not and the weekly went along with her and did not check the veracity of her claims.
On another note, you talk about daw hominem attacks, yet you have no problem attacking jerry and winter.


Posted by pat, a resident of Midtown
on Dec 28, 2013 at 1:37 pm

@Rupert
Mea culpa.

As Neighbor says above, Cheryl kept track of where Against D signs were placed. Some were reported missing. But campaign signs always go missing, so I don't think it's a huge deal.

Yes, it was Neilson Buchanan who did the car count.

I agree that Doug Smith's survey was not scientific. But nor was the city's transportation survey which, according to Jaime Rodriguez, relied on "the honor system" in that it allowed people to vote multiple times.

IMHO, the Weekly doesn't fawn over anyone. Although they came out on the AGAINST D side (as did the other 2 PA papers), they are not my buddies. I do respect the work they do. But you certainly don't have to like them.

Do you think the Weekly is now fawning over the AGAINST D folks? If that makes them "important," I'm all for it.


Posted by Rupert of henzau, a resident of Midtown
on Dec 28, 2013 at 1:51 pm

Pat-- appeciate your mea culpa. As you say-- signs go missing.
BTW, I would not trust any survey Jaime and the transportation department does, especially after the arastadero road fiasco
IMHO-- the weekly is all about money-- notice them pushing their membership/donation site ( and remember they are a for profit). Yes, I think the weekly bases their editorials and endorsements and what will profit them the most-- in this case it was the anti d people. And therefore was their reporting Cheryl's claims as being fact. Real reporting takes a back seat to profits.
Also note they did not endorse Tim Gray ( a staunch opponent of D) for council. They went with endorsing the good old boy networks candidates for council. Also Tim did not help himself by posting a caustic comment about the weekly a few years back which mirrors my comments about the weekly. It is in the archive and you can find it if you want.
And if you want more fawning chck out jays recent blog about scharf's year as mayor-- no serious question/ comments, just more of " business as usual"


Posted by Neighbor, a resident of Green Acres
on Dec 28, 2013 at 4:18 pm

@ Rupert,
You apparently did not bother to read the entire story you linked to:
Web Link

The Weekly actually reported both Gail Price and Candace Gonzales saying they had signs stolen from their front yards. Those were direct claims of theft. Cheryl was, as a spokeperson, relaying separate reports she had received on sign stealing, and other reports of misbehavior. The Weekly didn't ask any other residents, and thus actually seem to have bent over backwards to represent the Yes side's claims disproportionate to the No side.

There was no preferential treatment by the Weekly. You are having trouble processing what happened because you (unlike the No side) never took the other side's interests or points seriously but instead chose to attack people. The Weekly and the other newspapers had to look at both sides. You are attacking the Weekly and Cheryl Lilienstein with unsupportable claims about bias in the reporting about yard signs, an issue that is irrelevant now anyway. The City Attorney used its position to write a grossly biased ballot. If we need to be rehashing anything from the campaign, we should be rehashing that.

Because in San Francisco where an impartial ballot committee uses input from both sides in a public process, their ballot language for a nearly identical Måeasure, Measure C, asked if the developer should be allowed to violate the height limit by 80 feet (the specific violation of the law enabled by the ordinance), even though the ordinance provided $12 million for affordable housing. That Measure was won by opponents with 67% of the vote, as opposed to won by 56% of the vote by opponents in Palo Alto, despite SF being even more liberal. In Palo Alto, the ballot basically asked voters to vote for or against seniors, even though the direct consequence of the ordinance was a series of zoning changes (changes to the law, which is what an ordinance does), an increase in height limit, a violation of required parking spaces, violation of daylight plane, violation of density, etc, just as in SF. But in Palo Alto, the City Attorney got to write the ballot question. The consequence of this manipulative and biased ballot question is that many people assumed the ordinance was to allow an affordable development where it presumably wasn't allowed before (the change in the law allowed by the ordinance), even though that was not the consequence of the ordinance and no such change in law was at issue, and thus that Palo Alto is a place that rejects affordable housing, hurting the cause of affordable housing in this town.

As for "attacking" Jerry Underdal and Winter Dellenbach -- it is not attacking them to comment on their behavior of attacking people on the other side personally throughout this. I wrote: "Jerry Underdal and Winter Dellenbach, and a few others, were quite caustic and ad hominem online, attacking those on the other side personally." And I don't just mean TownSquare.

I witnessed many exchanges online and on neighborhood lists, and I never saw anyone on the No side saying things like STFU and go away to their opponents or attacking them PERSONALLY as the Yes core people did. Even the false charge of NIMBYism, overused and misplaced, was a personal attack. People on the No side mainly went after actual misbehavior, people on the Yes side mainly went after their neighbors. That's just an observation. If it's not true, maybe you can get Winter and Jerry to retract or apologize for some of the truly nasty things they wrote to and about their neighbors?

As for the Weekly being about money -- in case you hadn't noticed, the Yes side had $100,000 more to spend and took out major ads. The Weekly endorsed the Councilmembers based on their statements, which they have not lived up to, but even so, they endorsed Measure D based on Measure D, not on past Council endorsements. I voted for all those people on the Council, it's too bad I can't take it back now.

What are you accomplishing by this one-sided spleen venting, "rupert"? You're only continuing the divides in the community, and tainting the reputation of PAHC by association, when they badly need to work on reaching out to the community. The desire to work with them truly is there, you are only continuing to keep the wounds open and raw by this pointless and unfounded venting of your own spleen.


Posted by please stop talking now, a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 28, 2013 at 4:37 pm

[Post removed.]


Posted by Rupert of henzau, a resident of Midtown
on Dec 28, 2013 at 4:43 pm

"@ Rupert,
You apparently did not bother to read the entire story you linked to:"

[Portion removed.]

I actually read the article. You are missing the subtle points-- Cheryl accused, without evidence, the pro D people of stealing signs. The weekly parroted her claims. Price and Gonzales stated that yes on D signs had also been stolen, but they did not make unsubstantiated accusations. Understand the difference?


"As for "attacking" Jerry Underdal and Winter Dellenbach -- it is not attacking them to comment on their behavior of attacking people on the other side personally throughout this. I wrote: "Jerry Underdal and Winter Dellenbach, and a few others, were quite caustic and ad hominem online, attacking those on the other side personally." And I don't just mean TownSquare."

Like Cheryl, it is easy for you to make unsubstantiated claims. Provide the proof.


"What are you accomplishing by this one-sided spleen venting, "rupert"? You're only continuing the divides in the community, and tainting the reputation of PAHC by association, when they badly need to work on reaching out to the community. The desire to work with them truly is there, you are only continuing to keep the wounds open and raw by this pointless and unfounded venting of your own spleen."
Is that what you call expressing an opinion that goes against what you believe. So be it. Making false analogies about the PAHC and the community are totally irrelevant to the discussion at hand. As for " venting" , you seem to continue to do a good job of that, long after the election is over. My opinion is my opinion and you are free to cnsider it to be " pointless and unfounded". However I will continue to express it.


Posted by Neighbor, a resident of Green Acres
on Dec 28, 2013 at 5:22 pm

@rupert,
[Post removed.]


Posted by Rupert of henzau, a resident of Midtown
on Dec 28, 2013 at 5:34 pm

[Post removed.]


Posted by pat, a resident of Midtown
on Dec 28, 2013 at 8:06 pm

@Rupert,
1. We are probably in agreement on many things, e.g., "I would not trust any survey Jaime and the transportation department does, especially after the arastadero road fiasco." He declared that a success, in spite of the fact that – by his own numbers – it pushed 24% more traffic to Maybell.

2. Re Jay's recent blog about Scharff, remember that Jay stepped down as editor of the Weekly in January 2011, so he's not officially part of the staff any more. IMHO, the Weekly changed quite a bit when Jocelyn Dong became editor.

3. [Portion removed.]


Posted by Neighbor, a resident of Green Acres
on Dec 28, 2013 at 10:52 pm

@Rupert,
You wrote: "Neighbor- I remember your long postings during the D campaign. Something's do not change."

Many people wrote short and long posts during the campaign. I was "stalked" by a particular person, whose illogical, accusatory style and penchant for thinking they had identified me as the only person making long or intelligent posts made me think it was you. My apologies.

Cheryl heard from neighbors that signs had been stolen and reported that she heard this. I personally know some of the people making those reports, and they are honorable people who would not have made that up. The Weekly could have probed further but chose not to, that is not Cheryl's fault, especially since the main point of the article was not stolen lawn signs, but Cheryl's call to the other side to calm down, something they clearly didn't listen to. In the same article, Candace Gonzales and Gail Price claimed their signs were stolen and offered no proof they were telling the truth, either. If Ms. Gonzales doesn't even live in Palo Alto (I don't know, does she?) one could ask why anyone would even bother to steal her signs or she would even bother to put them in her front yard.

Cheryl received first-hand reports from reliable people who she trusts. Cheryl also pointed out other misbehavior in her statement that I know was true because I and others I knew were on the receiving end of it. If the Weekly didn't, or thought it was important, they could have delved further.

This is a silly line of discussion, anyway. Far more relevant is that Ms. Gonzales and City staff made demonstrably false representations on state documents, the acceptance of which gave them every incentive to ignore the public and push this whole thing to an expensive campaign and election, as well as to think they didn't need to compromise to come up with an acceptable plan.


Posted by Neighbor, a resident of Green Acres
on Dec 29, 2013 at 12:12 am

[Post removed.]


Posted by Neighbor, a resident of Green Acres
on Dec 29, 2013 at 12:41 am

[Post removed.]


Posted by Neighbor, a resident of Green Acres
on Dec 29, 2013 at 12:47 am

"If this was about affordable housing, PAHC could have taken a longer view and developed and sold the houses at the same time as they developed the main building, in order to make even more money from the sale of the houses (rather than just the money going to a for-profit developer for the upzoned market-rate plots) to make the whole thing work for everyone."

Sorry, correction and clarification:

If this was about affordable housing, PAHC could have taken a longer view and developed and sold the houses at the same time as they developed the main building. This would have allowed PAHC to make the money from the sale of the houses, rather than the for-profit developer making that money. PAHC only planned to upzone the plots for that developer's benefit, and to apply the lesser profits from the sale of the land to the affordable side, they refused to develop the houses themselves and apply those profits to the development. Which is strange that they would sink the whole thing over that, given that they were becoming developers to build the main building, until you look at the tax credit application and the circumstances they were trying to portray.


Posted by SWE, a resident of Green Acres
on Dec 30, 2013 at 2:42 am

SWE is a registered user.

To "please stop talking now"

You wrote: "But no wants to "work with you" or "reach out" or have anything to do with the NIMBIES who ran the No on D campaign."

And there you have, in a nutshell, why the project failed and was destined to fail from the start. The proponents didn't think they would have to reach out, so they demonized their opposition for perceived political advantage, failed to address the real issues, and lost the opportunity to get what they wanted through negotiation, collaboration and compromise. Now that they've lost, they want to retain their poisonous conceit - it's so much easier to keep blaming others than taking responsibility for what they have done to sink their own cause. Pride before poor people. Selfish self-righteousness. Bigger people could turn this thing around on a dime.


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