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Will new council members shift Palo Alto's priorities?

Original post made on Jan 4, 2017

When the Palo Alto's new City Council meets in late January to set its priorities for the 2017, housing and transportation will inevitably top the list, as they have in each of the past two years. But with new council members and Palo Alto citizens coming forward with their own ideas, the list may feature a few additions.

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Comments (27)

54 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 4, 2017 at 9:13 am

I would like to see the Council to prioritize quality of life issues for residents already living here, rather than quality of life for those who want to live here.

Sometimes it seems that those of us living here just get forgotten about except by introducing new rules to make our lives more difficult.


32 people like this
Posted by NeilsonBuchanan
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 4, 2017 at 10:25 am

NeilsonBuchanan is a registered user.

Where is the National Citizens Survey conducted last August? It is overdue and scheduled to be released within days. This annual report of citizen opinions and attitudes is sitting within City Hall and should be the cornerstone of the priority setting process. If "old" and newly elected officials want objective, unfiltered feedback from residents aka voters, then at least submit personal priorities based on objective annual citizens survey.


46 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 4, 2017 at 11:14 am

mauricio is a registered user.

There is a very aggressive, and tragically very effective coalition in Palo Alto which includes PAF, pro growth and developer council members, and ABAG types like Steve Levy, who believe, completely or to some extent, that perpetual and substansive growth and urbanization are always good, and that every person in the world who wants to settle in Palo Alto should be enabled to do so. Many voters who voted for pro growth candidates didn't support them because they want Palo Alto to become a large, dense city, but for a myriad of reasons, often despite opposing their views on growth and quality of life.

As long as the pro growth coalition frames the debate as 'long time home owners want to build a wall around Palo Alto and exclude young people from living here', they will be successful. Once the debate is about the real issues:quality of life, livability, environmental protection, traffic, overpopulation, that land is finite and that not all people who insist on moving to Palo Alto can do so, those who are trying to save Palo Alto just might prevail.


5 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jan 4, 2017 at 12:12 pm

There is land in Palo Alto that is owned by the various transit authorities. Also land owned by the city, county, state, and US Government. Yet these groups target R-1 individual residents in order to get their land. Identify where the land is that should be available for ABAG requirements so that the transit authorities can be using their own land for these purposes. We also have a number of buildings that are always "For Lease". If we have buildings that are not being utilized on a continual basis then some pressure needs to be exerted to update, or sell those buildings so that they can be updated for a useful purpose. The pieces are there we just need to get those pieces positioned correctly so they can be utilized.
If any "new" CC member starts targeting R-1 housing then work to change that dynamic.


31 people like this
Posted by John
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 4, 2017 at 12:29 pm

For some reason I see no mention of our unfunded pension mandates. CalPers is in deep trouble, and our city is on the line to make up the difference. Just today I saw an article about a $10 fee increase on all vehicle registrations in California, not to fix our roads, but to bolster CHP pensions, which are also underfunded. How can our city council refuse to face up to our pensions obligations, and the true cost to all of us?


21 people like this
Posted by jh
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jan 4, 2017 at 12:41 pm

jh is a registered user.

Both the mayor ad vice mayor, Greg Scharff and Lis Kniss, have a track record of and have been staunch supporters of commercial development in the past, despite what they have said during their re-election campaigns. So it will be interesting to see what direction the new council majority will take takes during the next two years.

As both Liz Kniss and Greg Scharf will be termed out and not dependent on residents' votes to get re-elected we will find out how much they prioritize quality of life for residents over ever more dense commercial development, bringing every more jobs to the city and the resulting pressure for ever more housing and infrastructure to support the pace of growth.

Council members who desire a political future and to run for higher office after serving on the council may tend to be dependant on and possibly influenced by those they hope might provide both influential and financial backing in the future.


6 people like this
Posted by jh
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jan 4, 2017 at 12:52 pm

jh is a registered user.

@resident "There is land in Palo Alto that is owned by the various transit authorities. Also land owned by the city, county, state, and US Government. "

Other than the Stanford Research Park and one of two empty lots along El Camino I haven't seen any undeveloped properties, unless you mean parking lots owned by the city and the parking lots adjacent to the two train stations.


13 people like this
Posted by 38 year resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 4, 2017 at 3:00 pm

How about undoing the traffic logjam created at Middlefield and N. California Ave by our bicycle first transportation commission. There are more than just this example of poor judgement by the "traffic calmers" (code for get rid of cars).


17 people like this
Posted by Ken Horowitz
a resident of University South
on Jan 4, 2017 at 5:25 pm

Kudos to Councilman Cory Wolbach for going out on a late Monday night to clean up swastikas by himself on several street signs as soon as he became aware of the vandalism. As far as his priority of human and civil rights, he is one who does "walk the talk". Thank you for your service in making a difference in Palo Alto!


17 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 4, 2017 at 5:51 pm

Shaking my head at this quote from the article "Should the council, for instance, set as its 2017 priority to "increase City revenue by 50 percent without new tax increases," as newly elected council member Greg Tanaka proposed?"

What does this mean? How is is it possible? And why -- and how -- should the city get a 50% raise when it already spends a fortune on salaries and is running a budget deficit (not what's owed on the pensions)??

Are we going to see our utility rates and other non-tax "fees" and "surcharges" rise by 50%? Are we going to see "creative" fees for, say, parking tickets? Failure to align our waste cans correctly>

Are we finally going to be among the recipients for part of the $24 BILLION California collects by taxing marijuana?

Some clarification would be nice.


5 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jan 4, 2017 at 6:35 pm

We need to check the "California values" that the CC is committed to protect.
Note that San Jose now has it's highest murder rate and it's police need to live in motor homes to cover the overtime. Any tax dollars spent to legally protect illegal immigrant's who have a police record are indicator's of the Mexican cartel infiltration into the county/state. How money is budgeted for any effort in this direction needs to be singled out separately. The taxpayer is not here to cover that element being subsidized. We now have a police shortage and need to protect that the services for security are firmly in place.


58 people like this
Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 4, 2017 at 6:56 pm


Q: Will new council members shift Palo Alto's priorities?

A: Priorities will remain the same. Continue to enable the conversion of Palo Alto's quality of life into personal wealth through real-estate development, and leverage that wealth to finance your political career and/or business interests.

Camouflage the whole scam by pretending you are just trying to help school teachers find affordable housing by building limited utility $1,000,000 micro units next to the soon to be blighted fake transportation corridor next to the railroad tracks while you live comfortably in the 1950s leave-it-to-beaver world of Old Palo Alto, or bucolic Portola Valley


1 person likes this
Posted by Debbie Downer
a resident of another community
on Jan 5, 2017 at 9:15 am

[Post removed.]


19 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 5, 2017 at 11:07 am

mauricio is a registered user.

In my naiveté I used to think that council members' most supreme priority was to maintain and increase the quality of life of the residents. Years ago I realized that in Palo Alto, with the incestuous relationship of council members to real estate developers and to Stanford's corporate interests, this is very much not the case.

The priorities of land developers are the priorities of the current pro growth majority and the very aggressive groups and businesses behind them. They are interchangeable. Quality of life for residents, which translate into tranquility(including preventing the town from becoming a permanent, and incredibly noisy construction zone), peace and quite, less traffic, less crime, clean air, more parks and open space and less urban blight, receive at most lip service, but are actually not even a low priority anymore. It is now all about how to cram as fast as logistically and politically possible as many offices and additional residents into the existing space. It is about how to Manhattanize Palo Alto as quickly as possible.


6 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 5, 2017 at 12:02 pm

"Will new council members shift Palo Alto's priorities?"

Coming soon! 27 University!


10 people like this
Posted by A real palo alto resident
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 5, 2017 at 4:51 pm

There is a subset of palo alto residents and non residents like maurucio who refuse to accept the election results. Of course priorities will be shifted. The voters overwhelmingly rejected the PASZ slate, their negative ads and the huge amount of money poured I to their campaign (which makes the constant complaints of developers and council members being cozy as hypocritical).lus resdients saw two years of substandard performance by the PASZ members, dubois, filseth and holman. Clearly voters wanted a change. And who knows maybe the bike bridge over 101 will finally get built.


14 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 5, 2017 at 5:10 pm

"The voters overwhelmingly rejected the PASZ slate, their negative ads and the huge amount of money poured I to their campaign..."

Wrong. The voters thought they were voting for residentialists and again got the ol' bait and switcheroo that was successfully test-run by Scharff in 2014. You have to be, or pretend to be, a residentialist to get elected in this town.


9 people like this
Posted by A real palo alto resident
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 5, 2017 at 5:24 pm

And curmudgeon quickly proves my point. There were two clear slates in the election-- the PASZ one and the slate that proposed sensible development. The voters knew exactly who they were voting for and yet we have curmudgeon insulting the intelligence of the voters that rejected PASZ, negative campaigning and a record amount of money from donors with an agenda. And who got the most votes-- Liz kniss.


10 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 5, 2017 at 9:24 pm

@A real palo alto resident -- a "record amount of money from donors with an agenda"?? All those 5 donors did was level the playing field; go back and review the numbers and you'll find that the 2 slates got the same amounts of money.

Re "sensible" development, take heart. Housing prices are expected to tank since the GOP is moving to eliminate the mortgage interest tax deduction.

Re agendas, are you saying the well-funded Palo Alto Chamber of Commerce and Palo Alto Forward and Palantir have no agendas even though they now dominate all the planning and transportation commissions?

I still want to know how Mr. Tanaka plans to get the city a 50% revenue increase without raising taxes and why he thinks the city deserves one. Where's the money going to come from and where's it going to go?


4 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 5, 2017 at 9:31 pm

@Real Palo Alto Resident

What makes you more real than me?

What makes your opinion more valid than mine?


8 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 5, 2017 at 9:46 pm

"...yet we have curmudgeon insulting the intelligence of the voters that rejected PASZ..."

Au contraire. Intelligent PA voters chose candidates who advertised residentialist leanings, respectfully never doubting their veracity. Being intelligent, they will not be so trusting in the next election.

Nobody rejected PASZ. They didn't have to. It was nowhere in sight during the past election. A one-time angry uprising does not a political movement make.


4 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jan 5, 2017 at 10:24 pm

I keep reading about California Values that need to e protected. They are not spelling out what those "values" are and if everyone agrees that tax dollars need to be assigned to those "values". We need to square up how the budget is assigning tax dollars. Political Mayhem not withstanding there needs to be a lot closer look at how this city is run.


4 people like this
Posted by YIMBY
a resident of Mountain View
on Jan 7, 2017 at 12:17 pm

"As long as the pro growth coalition frames the debate as 'long time home owners want to build a wall around Palo Alto and exclude young people from living here', they will be successful."

But that is exactly what you're trying to do. Now that you live here you're pulling the ladder up with you. You aggravate traffic and environmental issues by making it expensive for workers to live anywhere near Palo Alto, which means more cars commuting in and spewing pollution. Building high density housing in downtown near mass transit is the solution. Or just continue to let your Prop 13 protected investment continue to gain value through a housing crisis you continue to perpetuate at the expense of everyone else.


8 people like this
Posted by HamiltonH
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 7, 2017 at 1:07 pm

HamiltonH is a registered user.

@YIMBY, you said "Now that you live here you're pulling the ladder up with you. You aggravate traffic and environmental issues by making it expensive for workers to live anywhere near Palo Alto, which means more cars commuting in and spewing pollution. Building high density housing in downtown near mass transit is the solution."

The primary blocker for building high-density housing near mass transit is the fact its more profitable to build office buildings rather than apartments/condos. Just drive around downtown Palo Alto and see all the new office buildings and lack of new housing that has just been built. That is why the first thing the residentialist council majority pushed through was a temporary limit on office development, however, more needs to be done. In the current economic environment office remains more profitable, followed by luxury condos. Despite the rhetoric, there is actually more underlying agreement than appears on the surface. Now that the election is over, rather than arguing about who supports housing more, let's work together to update the zoning rules. Specifically, to enable denser multi-unit housing to be built near mass transit with an emphasis on affordability for folks who work in Palo Alto that does not dig us into a deeper hole for parking and traffic. This is possible if done in a thoughtful moderate manner.


9 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 7, 2017 at 6:04 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

A million dollar one bedroom condo is not affordable housing for "folks" who work in Palo Alto. Even if they didn't buy it, the rent would be in the neighborhood of 4,000 dolars a month. Mentioning the word "affordable" with such housing is laughable. Those Palo Alto workers with children would never want to live in them, and those who are single, could never afford them. What we are really talking about is urbanizing, densifying and destroying the quality of life in Palo Alto so highly paid tech workers, and deep pocket foreign investors could buy in.


3 people like this
Posted by YIMBY
a resident of Mountain View
on Jan 7, 2017 at 10:08 pm

It's not even enough for you that you own a home in the bay area, you have to go the extra mile and try to deny housing to anyone else. All you care about is preserving your suburbia at the expense of the generation following yours. Selfish doesn't even begin to describe home owners like you.


Like this comment
Posted by Innovation
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 10, 2017 at 4:28 pm

Innovation is a registered user.

New ways to raise money in this town are not impossible. SF passed a soda tax measure and the Council has already been looking into a way to incentivize retail tenants to boost sales tax. Let them at least try their plans before casting doubt


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