News


Tanaka and Kniss take fundraising lead in council race

Finance documents show Palo Alto City Hall veterans leading a crowded pack

With the City Council election about five weeks away, Palo Alto's longest-serving council member and its longest-serving planning commissioner are leading the crowded candidate field when it comes to cash raised.

Greg Tanaka, who is on his eighth year on the Planning and Transportation Commission, had more money on hand than any other candidate, according to campaign-finance documents filed Thursday, which cover the period between July 1 and Sept. 24. He ended the period with a cash balance of $37,982 after receiving $47,323 in contributions.


Liz Kniss

Greg Tanaka
Liz Kniss, a two-time mayor who is now on her second council stint and is running in her 10th election, had an ending cash balance of $27,111 over the same period. She received $46,259 in contributions, which includes a carryover of about $15,700 from her prior campaign in 2012.

Both Kniss and Tanaka are among the more moderate candidates when it comes to growth. Though each has opposed specific developments in the past, neither is affiliated with the slow-growth “residentialist” movement and each has endorsements from a long list of democratic political veterans, including state Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, Assemblyman Rich Gordon, D-Menlo Park, and Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian, as well as Palo Alto councilmen Greg Scharff and Cory Wolbach.

Kniss' contributors include former mayors Lanie Wheeler ($100), Larry Klein ($250) and Greg Scharff ($500). She has also received contributions from former planning commission Chair Dan Garber ($999), neighborhood activist Norm Beamer ($100), land-use watchdog Bob Moss ($100) and Carl Guardino, CEO of Slicon Valley Leadership Group ($200). Developer Boyd Smith had contributed $1,000 to her campaign on Aug. 16, though she returned the money two weeks later.

Some of the same people also contributed to Tanaka's campaign, with Scharff and Klein contributing $950 and $250, respectively, and attorney A.C. Johnston contributing $500 (the same amount he gave to Kniss).

Tanaka also received money from developers Boyd and Lund Smith, each of whom contributed $1,000; Roxy Rapp, who contributed $1,000; and Jim Baer, who gave $250. Other supporters are past and present commissioners, including Dave Bower of the Historic Resources Board ($250) and Dan Garber, former chair of the Planning and Transportation Commission ($999).

In the second tier of fundraising are Adrian Fine and Don McDougall, each of whom has also benefited from endorsements and contributions from democratic heavyweights and council members who are not in the slow-growth camp.

Fine received $35,707 in total contributions, with supporters including $1,000 from former planning commissioner Kate Downing, a proponent of building more housing who publicly resigned from the commission in July. He ended the period with $23,425 on hand.

Downing isn't the only proponent of growth who favors Fine's campaign. Steve Levy and Elaine Uang, founding members of the citizens group Palo Alto Forward, have each contributed $500 to Fine, while Sandra Slater, also a co-founder of the group, donated $200. Developer Rapp contributed $1,000 to Fine, who also received $500 payments from Jaime D'Alessandro and Tod Spieker, who have proposed a 60-unit apartment building for the corner of El Camino Real and Page Mill Road. Fine's list of contributors also includes realtor William Reller ($2,500) and former mayors Betsy Bechtel ($100), Scharff ($980) and Klein ($250).

McDougall ended the reporting period with an ending cash balance of $19,246 after raising $24,844, though he contributed about $15,000 to his own campaign. Like Fine, McDougall also benefited from contributions from Klein ($250) and Scharff ($975), as well as from Levy ($500), who serves with Fine and McDougall on the citizens committee that is now updating the city's Comprehensive Plan.

Arthur Keller, who co-chairs the citizens committee and is affiliated more closely with the council's “residentialist” wing, raised $24,074 and ended the reporting period with $15,789 on hand. His contributors include neighborhood leaders, land-use watchdogs and several former and current council members.

Cheryl Lilienstein, president of the citizens group Palo Altans for Sensible Zoning, contributed $500 to Keller, while Joe Hirsch, member of the group's steering committee gave $990. Former council members Emily Renzel and Enid Pearson, both longtime conservationists who favor slow-growth policies, contributed $50 and $100, respectively; former Mayor Yoriko Kishimoto gave $250; and LaDoris Cordell, a former councilwoman and retired judge, contributed another $250.

Keller has also received contributions from three council members from the residentialist side of the political aisle: Tom DuBois and Eric Filseth gave $100 and $250, respectively, while Greg Schmid gave $200.

Filseth and DuBois gave the same amount to candidate Lydia Kou, who also tilts toward slow-growth policies. Kou received $16,937 in contributions and had $13,462 on hand at the end of the reporting period, her campaign finance records show. Her contributors include numerous critics of recent developments, including those who like Kou opposed the city's plan to rezone a site on Maybell Avenue to accommodate a housing development in 2013. Lazlo Tokes, who participated in that campaign, contributed $1,000 to Kou while Kevin Hauk, who also opposed Measure D, gave $100.

Greer Stone and Stewart Carl, both of whom have also been endorsed by council members from the residential camp, haven't raised as much as Keller and Kou. Stone, who chairs the city's Human Relations Commission, enjoys the backing of current Mayor Pat Burt and Councilwoman Karen Holman, who co-chair his election committee. He also has the backing of Dubois, Filseth, Renzel and Pearson.

But when it comes to fundraising, campaign documents suggest that Stone hasn't been as active as others in this political camp. He raised $3,250 and had an ending cash balance of $1,980. His contributors include his fiancee Adriana Oropeza-Gamez ($1,000), Holman ($250) and Renzel ($100).

Carl received $2,566 and had $1,312 cash on hand. Pearson and Renzel each contributed $100 to his campaign, while his College Terrace neighbors and veteran land-use watchdogs Doria Summa and Fred Balin contributed $200 and $100, respectively. DuBois also contributed $100 to Carl's campaign.

Leonard Ely, a commercial real estate broker who has not been involved in the recent political battles, with his campaign statement showing $2,500 in contributions and $1,447 in cash on hand, has one contributor: Leonard Ely.

Candidates John Fredrich and Danielle Martell are both running low-budget campaigns with no committees. Neither has filed finance documents.

All campaign statements can be viewed here.

Correction: The story initially reported that developer Boyd Smith had contributed $1,000 to Liz Kniss campaign but failed to mention that the campaign later returned that money. Also, the contribution from Lanie Wheeler to the Kniss campaign was misstated. It's $100.

The Weekly has created a Storify page for its coverage on the Palo Alto City Council election.

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Comments

11 people like this
Posted by Endorsements
a resident of University South
on Sep 30, 2016 at 1:05 pm

Kniss, Tanaka, Fine, and McDougall won the endorsement of the Democratic Party. Probably no surprise they ended up the top four in money, too.


62 people like this
Posted by So what?
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Sep 30, 2016 at 1:06 pm

Just because they raised more money (from developers?) doesn't mean we have to vote for them.


36 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 30, 2016 at 5:05 pm

>> Downing isn't the only proponent of growth who favors Fine's campaign. Steve Levy and Elain Uang, founding members of the citizens group Palo Alto Forward, have each contributed $500 to Fine


Now THERE’S good company:

“And then what? We just perpetually decide that it’s ok for NIMBYs to hurt our economy because their desire for boring suburbs outweighs the needs and desires of a new generation and a new, knowledge-based economy? How long will social-security and pension-drawing baby boomers be allowed to keep strangling the younger working generation?”

Kate Downing Web Link


“We can still up-cycle. No one's talking about the Manhattanization of Palo Alto. A four or five or six-story community is not Manhattan; it's more like Brooklyn.”

Elaine Uang Web Link


“I think you get amenities with ten stories or nine stories that you don’t get with four stories.”

Steve Levy Web Link


20 people like this
Posted by Sean Biederman
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 30, 2016 at 5:52 pm

No mention of beef jerky entrepreneur Sean Biederman's $400 donation to the Fine campaign?!


48 people like this
Posted by money
a resident of Green Acres
on Sep 30, 2016 at 5:58 pm

On another thread on PAO poster "Resident" sheds some insight into the source of these campaign funds:
"Campaign finance reports came out today, and here’s who the Developers donated political money to:
Roxy Rapp (Rapp Development) – Fine, Tanaka, Kniss
Boyd Smith (WSJ Properties) – Tanaka
Lund Smith (WSJ Properties) – Tanaka
Jon Goldman (Premier Properties) – Tanaka
Brittany Davis (King Asset Management, Commercial Property) – Tanaka
Stephen Reller (NorthWall Builders) – Fine
Greg Scharff – Fine, Tanaka, McDougall
Dan Garber – Fine, Tanaka, McDougall, Kniss"
It seems that developers, like many PA residents, realize the importance of the upcoming CC election.


48 people like this
Posted by read the article
a resident of Green Acres
on Sep 30, 2016 at 8:01 pm

It is very clear from the article who is (financially) supported by developers and pro-growth PAF members (Fine, Tanaka, Kniss and, to a lesser extent, McDougall) and who has the support of neighborhood activists who prefer less development (Kou, Keller and, to a lesser extent, Carl and Stone). All you need to do to decide how to vote is to follow the money trail.


15 people like this
Posted by SEA_SEELAM REDDY
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 1, 2016 at 6:49 am

SEA_SEELAM REDDY is a registered user.

Palo Alto is a highly educated highly rich highly inspirational community. We could do away with lawn signs. We could do away with rising money for campaigns.

We could do away with wasting money on advertising all together.

Let ideas win. All this donation business leads to having to reciprocate after winning the seat.

Respectfully


21 people like this
Posted by Money and Elections
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 3, 2016 at 10:21 am

I just do not feel comfortable when I know candidates are getting contributions from for-profit business.
How can I trust that the candidate, when elected, will be MY representative when there is a conflict between the voter, I, and the business, the contributor.

I agree with "read the article":
All you need to do to decide how to vote is to follow the money trail.


14 people like this
Posted by RESPONSIBLE GROWTH
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 3, 2016 at 11:19 am

Ugg- Quote from Adrian Finer regarding Architectural Compatibility:"Compatibilty, is just replicating the same 'community character' everywhere. It's like an evil amoeba!" I've listed more quotes and their sources below.

This growth at all cost is irresponsible. We citizens of Palo Alto, who pay huge taxes, should have more of a say in how our city grows- not developers. We should demand developer impact fees; prioritize safe bike routes to school; refuse new buildings without parking (developers are pushing for the high rises because they think there will be less driving (I believe that it's just a cheaper way for developers to build- car registrations in Santa Clara up); traffic, housing, schools, retail are important parts of growth and need to happen in parallel. Housing growth should be prioritized for teachers, fire fighters, police, and city workers. We need to watch out for these candidates taking money from developers- here are some quotes from Adrian Finer who will definitely NOT get my vote

“We've been under-building for 40 years.”
Web Link


Architectural Compatibility:"Compatibilty" is just replicating the same "community character" everywhere. It's like an evil amoeba

Neighborhood Parking: “Frankly, I don't think it's been that much of a success. I simply disagree with you, Lydia… you live in College Terrace, you should accept some of the benefits of living in the City. In terms of enforcement, I have friends who get ticketed. My cars get ticketed for other things just as the parking patrol officers come through. It's really, really annoying. I never felt we had much of a parking problem.”

Web Link


20 people like this
Posted by Get Out and Vote!
a resident of Professorville
on Oct 3, 2016 at 11:45 am

This is a critical year for the City Council election. Please mail in your ballots if you can't go on election day. We need to get the candidates in office that will represent us as citizens and our quality of life. Those that will address our overflowing schools, traffic congestion, lack of parking, and get offices off the ground floor of downtown. The growth that has happened in the last 2 years has made our sidewalks filthy (offices don't clean the sidewalks like stores and restaurants do), our streets are falling apart, and cars race the streets from 7:45-8:30 am as children are getting to school. It's time to take back control and get a plan for our beautiful town's growth. High rises will only cause more over crowding. Talk to your neighbors- get people voting. Take note of this article and figure out your stance in this election. Please don't vote based on who the democratic party or developers support- they don't care about our neighborhoods and schools, which are the things that truly make Palo Alto a community.


8 people like this
Posted by Mama
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 3, 2016 at 11:48 am

Very surprised to see Norm Beamer donating to the developers' Liz Kniss! Pls, Norm, say it isn't so.


17 people like this
Posted by Money corrupts
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 3, 2016 at 12:23 pm

To state the OBVIOUS, people with more money have the biggest interests to cater to.

Ahead of our votes are future favors to the campaign donors here, overdue favor to other donors there, scratch my back now, will scratch your back later. WINK WINK, code word here code word there.

Aside from the really big donors(who usually get whatever they want anyway), the rest of us are a litter of abused people who give money year after year for a wink, a hug, a nod, and a coffee klatch with old political cronies while our quality of life is being stolen. Instead of neighbors, we will have empty investment houses or worse, AirBnB dorm rooms for Palantir.

Thank you for telling me who has the most money, I will give money to the ones who don't have it. Plenty of good options for good candidates who are not corrupt, (yet). When their time comes, we can refresh again.

Out with the cronies.


18 people like this
Posted by Oy, Weh!
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 3, 2016 at 1:26 pm

Oy, Weh! is a registered user.

The two people I would least like to see on the City Council have the biggest way chests..... Not a good thing!


4 people like this
Posted by True Residentialist
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 3, 2016 at 1:57 pm

The amount of money each of these candidates is receiving from all sources is TINY compared to the recent appreciation on a typical 2-BR 2-BA ranch house held by a long-time incumbent homeowner in Palo Alto.

The leading candidates have support because many Palo Alto homeowners are enlightened and not trying to protect their gains to the exclusion of everyone else. And they're smart enough to know that one successful company building a few downtown offices is not destroying anyone's quality of life. That such a "decline" is a huge exaggeration. The problem is housing costs, not these minor quality of life issues.

President Obama (who just issued a housing "toolkit" on this topic) and the local Democratic Party appear to agree with Kniss, Fine, Tanaka, and McDougall. This area can't remain economically vibrant and open if the "residentialist" philosophy wins and blocks access to the community for all but the super-rich or the people who lucked into the market early.

Voters going to the polls will get a chance to decide whether to cast their votes for President Obama's vision or for Eric Filseth's and the residentialists'. I'll stand by the President.


15 people like this
Posted by Born again candidates
a resident of Mayfield
on Oct 3, 2016 at 2:20 pm

Republican Tanaka recently had a conversion experience! he became a Democrat.
Adrian Fine also recently joined the Democratic party.

Born-again Democrats, with born-again advocacy for limiting office development.
Don't count on pre-election conversions. They disappear, just like Scharff's residentialist mask disappeared after he was elected.The developers know it, thats why they give $$$$ to these two.

Apropos campaign contributions, Elaine Uang gave a THOUSAND dollars to Marc Berman. Any doubts about where her development interests are?


14 people like this
Posted by margaret heath
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Oct 3, 2016 at 2:36 pm

margaret heath is a registered user.

However, seeing which way the wind is blowing Kniss has became very cautious about going on record when council discusses

So far Kniss has not accepted large donations from the development community, perhaps because with a $15,000 war chest left over from previous campaigns she doesn't need to yet. It will be interesting to see what campaign donations she receives after the next donation report and close to the election.

During her previous terms on the council Kniss was known for her outspoken support for the development community, and consistently votes with the pro-growth council members, Scharf, Berman, Wolbach, with Burt as the swing vote. With the election coming up it has been interesting watching her suddenly become cautious during council debates about development and growth, and controversial building applications wanting to exceed zoning and under parked.

Once you start to keep track of council elections it is most interesting watching candidates who do an about face. For instance, Tanaka and Fine have both argued strongly during Planning and Transportation Commission meetings during the past couple of years for removing the current 50' height limit. As recently as a May Fine, during a meeting of the city's Community Advisory Committee updating the Comprehensive Plan, said he strongly disagreed with the 50' cap. Now Fine has suddenly reversed himself saying, when asked, he is for keeping the 50' cap.


13 people like this
Posted by margaret heath
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Oct 3, 2016 at 2:37 pm

margaret heath is a registered user.

The above comment should read:

So far Kniss has not accepted large donations from the development community, perhaps because with a $15,000 war chest left over from previous campaigns she doesn't need to yet. It will be interesting to see what campaign donations she receives after the next donation report and close to the election.

During her previous terms on the council Kniss was known for her outspoken support for the development community, and consistently votes with the pro-growth council members, Scharf, Berman, Wolbach, with Burt as the swing vote. With the election coming up it has been interesting watching her suddenly become cautious during council debates about development and growth, and controversial building applications wanting to exceed zoning and under parked.

Once you start to keep track of council elections it is most interesting watching candidates who do an about face. For instance, Tanaka and Fine have both argued strongly during Planning and Transportation Commission meetings during the past couple of years for removing the current 50' height limit. As recently as a May Fine, during a meeting of the city's Community Advisory Committee updating the Comprehensive Plan, said he strongly disagreed with the 50' cap. Now Fine has suddenly reversed himself saying, when asked, he is for keeping the 50' cap.


8 people like this
Posted by True Residentialist
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 3, 2016 at 3:05 pm

It's funny to see Palo Altans with homes assessed at $4M talk about $1000 like it's a lot of money and likely to have some huge influence. Thanks in part to restrictive housing policies their home probably appreciated that much in the last week.

I hope the residentialists campaign against President Obama this fall and explain how his open housing ideas are wrong for Palo Alto. Then their alliance with the Tea Party will be complete.


15 people like this
Posted by Nancy
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 3, 2016 at 5:04 pm

Dear True Residentialist-
We purchased our home in Barron Park 4 years ago when my husband was transferred here. As someone that lived most of my adult life in New England I can promise you that President Obama's report is not capturing Palo Alto's true issues. I have been sadly less impressed with Palo Alto these last two years. Traffic is out of control and I have no desire to be downtown where it is full of businesses spilling into parking lots for their employees to eat from a cornucopia of food trucks that have been privately brought in. Where is the community in that? What tax dollars are coming to our city? None- office buildings and their businesses pay NO taxes in Palo Alto. No waiters or waitresses are making tips. These employees aren't socializing with our town people and they have no desire to. Even though there is no parking- I much prefer Town and Country as a place to visit. In T and C people can eat, shop, exercise, and socialize as they walk the center. More office buildings will never be the answer for making Palo Alto great. Just ask the office park employees how they feel about office communities- they try and leave during every break.b Palo Alto is what it is because of Stanford, never big business. Palo Alto is made for small businesses that move when they get bigger. Keep Obama out of our local politics- he doesn't live here!!!!


2 people like this
Posted by True Residentialist
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 3, 2016 at 5:21 pm

I wasn't defending office parks. I think they're horrible, and if we wanted to create more community we could actually do housing and retail infill in the Stanford Industrial Park instead of stand-alone office buildings with no community. But I can guarantee that the residentialists would not support such a "new urbanist" plan. It would make Palo Alto too dense. Much better in their view to preserve parking lots.

A reason parking is out of control in Palo Alto is that we don't price it the way it needs to be priced. Instead of suggesting, appropriately, that it should be expensive to park where there is high demand, we instead build more and more parking spots (in futility) and charge small businesses $250,000 if they're not able to provide their own off-street parking. Unsurprisingly, we end up with congestion and with small businesses punished. See Shoup's "High Cost of Free Parking" for an explanation of why Palo Alto parking is so horrible.



I'm glad to see that the residentialists are converging with the states' rights folks and defending the right to preserve their way of life.


3 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 3, 2016 at 5:28 pm

The Zuckerberg proposal was sent back by the Architectural Review Board, not the city council.

The city council was generally supportive of the parking-lot micro unit plan, though questions remained about parking and the rezoning.

In the long run, adding many small units for well-paid young professionals is actually likely to boost (not degrade) property values for existing single family homes, as those professionals age, marry and seek more space.

Anyone who invokes the Tea Party or Donald Trump is not likely to be a thoughtful person.


2 people like this
Posted by Fred Balin
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 7, 2016 at 8:44 am

Fred Balin is a registered user.

Stewart’s campaign has voluntarily limited campaign contributions to Palo Alto residents and to amounts no greater than $250 per resident.

And that is why your (Palo Alto resident) contribution of any amount to this grassroots campaign, is vital, greatly appreciated, and will be used wisely. Web Link

Fred Balin
Campaign Treasurer
Stewart Carl for Palo Alto City Council 2016


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