In a position paper, City Council candidate John Fredrich called for more affordable housing, new parks and improved mass transit to reduce reliance on cars. That was in 1975, and much has changed since then.
But much hasn't. Palo Alto is still planning for new parks, new shuttles and new housing sites. And Fredrich, a retired Gunn High School civics teacher, is still running for council.
This council election is Fredrich's sixth, as well as his second in two years (he ran in 1975, 1977, 1981, 2003 and 2014). As in the past, Fredrich is running a low-budget campaign with a message that mixes lofty democratic ideals, critique of the status quo and ideas that no one else in the race is discussing.
One such idea is scrapping the city's plan for a new public-safety building near California Avenue, a project that everyone on the council supports. Another is scrapping, or severely reforming, the Architectural Review Board, the panel that reviews major new development and that he feels has been lax in ensuring that new developments are compatible with surroundings. Fredrich told the Weekly he would like to see the board either dissolved or transformed so that it would have a purely advisory function and so that its purview would be limited to broad questions of context and compatibility, rather than specific design elements. He would also add two seats to the city's Planning and Transportation Commission, which would see its mandate increase. The idea is to let the council focus on policy issues and give the commission more purview over individual projects.
Fredrich's philosophy on growth is fairly aligned with slow-growth "residentialist" candidates. He is a fierce critic of recent commercial development and believes the current council was wrong in approving new mixed-use developments at the Olive Garden site on El Camino Real and at 441 Page Mill Road. He goes further than most in his supports for a total moratorium on office development.
But there are key differences. Fredrich in 2013 supported the housing development on Maybell Avenue -- 60 apartments for low-income seniors and 12 single-family homes -- that voters struck down. He also opposed the recent revised proposal, which features 16 single-family homes and earned the neighborhood's support and the council's approval earlier this year. Fredrich said the development should have been required to include affordable housing -- at least three units -- and he disapproves of the council's decision to let the developer, Golden Gate Homes, make a financial contribution to the city to avoid building the affordable housing.
Fredrich also supports the creation of more accessory-dwelling units (also known as ADUs or "granny units"), along with minimum-lease requirements that would make sure the structures wouldn't be used for short-term rentals.
Fredrich also wants to see the city rethink its plan to preserve Buena Vista Mobile Home Park, which is located about a quarter mile from Fredrich's home in Barron Park. The city and Santa Clara County have each committed $14.5 million to buy the park from an owner who doesn't want to sell it (the Housing Authority of Santa Clara County recently joined the partnership, and officials are talking about taking the property through eminent domain). Fredrich believes the idea is "half baked" and said the site should be redeveloped and equipped with a modern housing development with a substantial percentage of below-market-rate units.
"All of my neighbors, they love the people at Buena Vista but they want a nicer, 21st-century housing development there; they don't want a trailer park," Fredrich said.
Overall, Fredrich said he's been disappointed with the council. After the Maybell election, he said he expected a change in direction. Instead, all he saw the council do was "fiddle around with an office cap" and engage in "optics" without really delving into issues. He is also critical of City Manager James Keene and Planning Director Hillary Gitelman and believes both should be replaced.
The leadership in City Hall isn't as responsive to the citizenry as it should be, he claims, with neighborhood problems left to fester with little action. He feels the same way about the current council.
"I have a progressive idea of government, and I want the government to be more responsive to all citizens and more efficient in executing a common purpose," Fredrich said. "I don't see either of those camps dedicated to that yet. I see them dedicated to their particular factions, who give them total allegiance."
By the same token, when asked which side of the council's political divide he feels more closely aligned with, Fredrich paused and chuckled.
"I'm not contrarian, but I'm so used to being in a loyal opposition that it's a little difficult to imagine being in that kind of position (of serving on the council) to begin with," Fredrich said. "But I would be very issue specific."