New appointments made for key Palo Alto commissions

Asher Waldfogel wins a spot on the Planning and Transportation Commission; Peter Baltay to join the Architectural Review Board

With the relationship between the City Council and the Planning and Transportation Commission hitting a low in recent months, the council on Monday night appointed a new member that it hopes will help restore cooperation between the two bodies.

Asher Waldfogel, a high-tech entrepreneur and former member of the city's Utilities Advisory Commission (UAC), was selected by the council to fill a seat on the Planning and Transportation Commission (PTC). He will replace outgoing commissioner Mark Michael on the city's most prominent land-use board.

Waldfogel was one of four candidates who was considered for the open seat. He won an appointment by an 8-1 vote, with Councilman Cory Wolbach supporting John Hamilton. Waldfogel had spent six years on the UAC, completing his final term earlier this year. He also took part in the city's Library Technology Advisory Commission.

In his application, Waldfogel cited the recent battle between the council and the commission over "policy ownership" and said that he believes it's "important for the PTC to operate within its statutory boundaries." The planning commission was recently criticized by several council members, who at the Oct. 19 meeting said that the panel is ignoring the council's direction and (in the words of Councilman Tom DuBois) trying to set its own policies.

The topic also came up during Waldfogel's interview for the commission seat. At the interview Waldfogel argued that while there's nothing wrong with commissioners writing memos and presenting unsolicited advice, the commission should not be flat-out rejecting policy direction.

"I think it's fine to present things outside of that, but I don't think it's appropriate to say, 'Look, we reject the policy direction that was sent down to us from the council. We'll just ignore it and move on from there.'"

The city's Architectural Review Board will also be seating a new member -- architect Peter Baltay. On Monday night, Baltay won the unanimous support from the council for the appointment. Incumbent board members Robert Gooyer, who chairs the ARB, and Alexander Lew were also reappointed with seven and eight votes, respectively.

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9 people like this
Posted by Mark Michael
a resident of Community Center
on Oct 29, 2015 at 2:55 pm

I would like to congratulate Asher on his appointment to the Planning & Transportation Commission and wish him every success. Public service is a privilege, as well as a responsibility. It is encouraging to see the caliber of applicants to serve on boards and commissions. Mr. Waldfogel brings a deep understanding of the issues facing Palo Alto and a strong grasp of the Palo Alto process. I am sure that his new colleagues on the P&TC welcome his joining the commission and will benefit from his experiences and insight. Planning and transportation issues, for better or worse, are relevant to the quality of life in our community. Something all of us would. like to preserve and potentially improve.

1 person likes this
Posted by Disgusted Palo Altan
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 29, 2015 at 4:06 pm

[Post removed.]

4 people like this
Posted by Conflict of Interest
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 29, 2015 at 6:11 pm

The city's Architectural Review Board will also be seating a new member -- architect Peter Baltay.

This is definitely a case of conflict of interest.

2 people like this
Posted by Disgusted
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 30, 2015 at 10:50 am

The architectural review board should not have architects selling houses in Palo Alto on their Board. This is complete conflict of interest. Peter Baltay has built some Monster Homes in midtown which tower over older homes. Put citizens on these Boards to represent the people who actually live here.

2 people like this
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 30, 2015 at 11:07 am

As many other people have pointed out in the past, the ARB does not have any jurisdiction on residential construction. Your demand does not make much sense given the obvious.

However, I would like the ARB to be comprised of PA residents only. It's our town and we pay the taxes (and live with the good/bad of daily life) here. Non-residents should not have a say in how our town will look or be like.

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

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