The Battle for City Hall: The Residentialists

Of the 12 candidates making a bid for Palo Alto City Council this Nov 4., three are running under the 'residentialist' label

Watch video interviews with the candidates at 2014 Election Central: Palo Alto City Council

Editorial: See who the Palo Alto Weekly is endorsing, and why

They say it's not a slate, and we'll take their word for it. The non-slate includes council hopefuls Eric Filseth, Tom DuBois and Lydia Kou. Together with incumbent Karen Holman, their campaign signs are lawn-mates all over the city; they occasionally campaign together; they lament the fast pace of local development; they oppose zoning exceptions; and they believe the majority of the City Council is out of touch with the wishes of the majority of the voters. Still, it's not a slate.

Filseth, DuBois and Kou come from different neighborhoods (Downtown North, Midtown and Barron Park, respectively), but they are united by a distaste for zone-busting office developments and a belief that the city is changing too fast. Each of the three is affiliated with the group Palo Altans for Sensible Zoning, which formed last year in opposition to Measure D. The group endorses Holman but otherwise believes that the current council is out of touch with the citizen majority.

The three candidates hail different parts of the country (or, in Kou's case, the world) and have different professional experiences. Filseth, a Wisconsin native, worked for decades in the semiconductor industry and considers himself a "numbers guy." DuBois hails from Ohio and spent decades as a business consultant (he currently works in the video-game industry). Kou, a Hong Kong native who works as a Realtor, has the strongest record of civic participation, having served for years as a neighborhood organizer and an emergency-preparedness volunteer.

On the pressing issues of growth and development, however, the three are united. Each believes the city is letting developers have too much sway, at the expense of local neighborhoods. Kou told the Weekly she believes the city is now "beyond the tipping point of a crisis" when it comes to parking and traffic. All three say the city needs a change in leadership to keep things from getting worse.

Filseth and DuBois both dispute the idea that the city's Comprehensive Plan needs to be radically revamped. Rather, they say, the city needs to do a better job following the vision contained in the existing document. Filseth says the city's Planning and Transportation Commission and Architectural Review Board tend to support densification, contrary to residents' wishes. DuBois says the big questions in the debate center on the pace and quality of development.

"In the last few years, if feels like projects have popped up all over town without concern for where they are, whether it makes sense as far as transportation and services," he said.

Right now, DuBois said, every council member sounds like he or she is "resident focused." He argues that the council's record doesn't demonstrate it and points to 101 Lytton Ave., a commercial development that exceeded underlying zoning and that won the council's approval in 2012. All three residentialist candidates say they would have voted against this development (Holman and Greg Schmid were the only council members who didn't support what was branded as "Lytton Gateway").

They are not a slate, but Holman said the presence of candidates with views similar to her own had a big impact on her decision to run. Long accustomed to the thankless frustrations of being in the minority, she would like to see that change. If things go well for the non-slate, with at least two of its candidates joining Holman in winning council seats, they could form a voting majority with fellow skeptics Schmid and Pat Burt -- and work to turn down the dial on growth, alleviate the neighborhoods' traffic and parking woes, and restore citizen trust in City Hall.

Of the 12 people running for City Council, here are the candidates on the non-slate.

Click on the names of the candidates below to read profiles on each.

Eric Filseth

Tom DuBois

Lydia Kou

• To read about where the Residentialists stand on issues including development, transportation and housing, see the Weekly's PDF edition.

Read about the Incumbents and the Challengers.

What is democracy worth to you?
Support local journalism.


3 people like this
Posted by Guy_Fawkes
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 10, 2014 at 10:17 am

Guy_Fawkes is a registered user.

Slate is word being thrown about a lot this election. I don't believe any candidate is going to vote mindlessly as part of a group. But I think the Weekly got the candidate alignments right, and there are two groupings of 4, with both sides aligned and working together.

Personally, I'll take the group focused on resident priorities without a history of voting for bad projects.

2 people like this
Posted by South PA resident
a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 10, 2014 at 11:34 am

Follow up to Guy

I think you have it right. One set of choices is for candidates who are for the residents and, in the case of Kou and Holman, have already demonstrated so. The other set is for candidates who favor accelerated development, and in the case of Scharff and Sheppard, have already demonstrated so. Why would you vote for the latter just because they now claim to be residentialists?

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

Stay informed

Get daily headlines sent straight to your inbox.

Round Table Pizza bites the dust in downtown Palo Alto
By Elena Kadvany | 5 comments | 3,721 views

Local Transit to the Rescue?
By Sherry Listgarten | 28 comments | 3,375 views

Eating Green on the Green – August 25
By Laura Stec | 6 comments | 1,349 views

Moral Panic, again on guns
By Douglas Moran | 18 comments | 1,073 views

"The 5 Love Languages" by Gary Chapman
By Chandrama Anderson | 0 comments | 757 views


Register now!

‚ÄčOn Friday, October 11, join us at the Palo Alto Baylands for a 5K walk, 5K run, 10K run or half marathon! All proceeds benefit local nonprofits serving children and families.

More Info