News

Huge political contributions spark outcry, suspicion in Palo Alto's council race

After Lydia Kou and Arthur Keller get about $100K, their competitors and city's former mayors warn of 'undue influence' in local politics

As September wound down, Palo Alto City Council candidate Lydia Kou's campaign had plenty of endorsements but not a lot of cash.

Kou, a longtime neighborhood activist who in July declared her candidacy, had received nearly $17,000 in contributions by Sept. 24, according to her financial disclosure forms. Despite enthusiastic support from the city's slow-growth "residentialists," including contributions from council members Tom DuBois and Eric Filseth and from Cheryl Lillienstein, president of the grassroots group Palo Altans for Sensible Zoning (PASZ), Kou found herself in the middle of the pack in terms of campaign cash.

Then came an October surprise: a sequence of large checks, each totaling $6,000 or more, that collectively pushed her total contributions received to more than $40,000. Additional checks arrived at the end of last week, leaving Kou with a war chest of $78,537.

Arthur Keller, a former planning commissioner who is also popular with the limited-development crowd, did somewhat better than Kou by the end of September, with contributions of slightly more than $24,000. But both he and Kou lagged far behind fellow candidate and planning commissioner Greg Tanaka and council incumbent Liz Kniss, who each had more than $45,000 in their war chests, along with endorsements from the Democratic Party and the council's moderate members.

But like Kou, Keller found his fortunes shift for the better in the first two weeks of this month. A series of contributions, ranging from $2,100 to $6,500, pumped nearly $60,000 into his campaign, raising his total to $84,000, far more than anyone else.

Keller and Kou say the contributions were unexpected. Kou said she knows donor Gabrielle Layton, a Downtown North resident who supported Kou's bid for council in 2014 and more recently served on a committee that crafted downtown's new Residential Preferential Parking program. The other contributions, Kou said, came as a "surprise" in that she has never talked to the donors.

The contributors include venture capitalist Tench Coxe and nonprofit executive Simone Coxe, who between them gave $12,000 to Keller and $12,900 to Kou (they had also made smaller contributions earlier in the year). Gabrielle and Thomas Layton gave $12,500 to each candidate; Helyn MacLean, whose husband Asher Waldfogel serves on the city's Planning and Transportation Commission, likewise gave $12,500 to Kou and $12,500 to Keller. Rounding out the list of the major donors are G. Leonard and Mary Anne Baker; and Michael and Paula Rantz.

The total contributions by these donors to the Kou and Keller campaigns, as well as to the PASZ political action committee, added up to $162,000 as of Oct. 19.

Keller wasn't as surprised as Kou when the funds began arriving. Donors had contacted him, he told the Weekly, to offer their help. Keller said the donors alluded to the fact that four other council candidates -- Adrian Fine, Liz Kniss, Don McDougall and Greg Tanaka -- had just won the blessing (if not the outright endorsement) of the Chamber of Commerce, which emailed members encouraging their support of the quartet.

"They did contact me and indicated their desire to help my campaign and Lydia's campaign by making these donations so that we could better compete with the Chamber of Commerce-endorsed candidates," Keller said. "I figured we can use the help."

Keller said he has not had any conversations with the donors about any specific issues and noted that they did not ask for anything in exchange for their donations. Kou said the same. The donors indicated that they want Keller and Kou to "continue along the policies that they know we've espoused for some time," Keller said.

"They know that, in my case, I've been scrutinizing developments carefully and that I do understand issues of development," Keller said.

Donor Tench Coxe concurred. He told the Weekly that he and wife Simone decided to support Kou and Keller "because we believed they best represented our goals of intelligent growth for Palo Alto."

He said he is particularly frustrated by the city's lack of planning on traffic and parking management, as well as by the city's "lack of willingness to speak about what a bullet-train corridor would mean."

"I am not anti-growth, but I believe we should have a traffic and parking plan (first) and then a plan for low-income housing," Coxe said in an email.

The couple's donations to the two campaigns are so sizable, he said, because "we perceive the developers to be spending a lot of money (on other candidates) and not to have the best interests of the city in their focus." He stressed that he and Simone have "absolutely not asked either candidate for anything in return for our support."

Others offered similar reasons. Waldfogel -- who made a $500 donation to Keller and a $100 to Kniss in September, but no major contribution this month -- told the Weekly that he and the other donors discussed the candidate pool. They agreed that they want to support Keller, a former member of the planning commission, and Kou, a Barron Park resident who helped lead the neighborhood's opposition to a new housing development on Maybell Avenue in 2013 and who was edged out for the fourth open council seat in 2014.

"Arthur knows more about development issues in Palo Alto than anyone else," Waldfogel said. "And Lydia is a community organizer with a big constituency, and she is able to get things done."

MacLean noted that her contributions to Keller and Kou were the single largest that she has ever given to any campaign.

"I made them because I have lived in Palo Alto for 25 years," MacLean wrote last week on Town Square, Palo Alto Online's discussion forum. "I like its suburban, college town character. I'm afraid that we are in danger of losing that. Many candidates seem to be supporting growth to benefit large corporations and developers."

Checking the developer money trail

Developers have indeed made contributions to Fine and Tanaka, though these contributions pale in scale when considered alongside the recent inflow of cash to the Kou and Keller campaigns. The exact amount of contributions from developers is difficult to peg because only a few identify themselves as such on campaign forms (for example, Roxy Rapp, a prominent downtown developer who contributed $1,000 each to Tanaka and Fine, has his profession listed as "Keeping Palo Alto Beautiful and Prosperous" on Tanaka's campaign-finance statement and as "self-employed" on Fine's).

Tanaka did receive contributions from Jim Baer ($250), a land-use consultant who developed many of Palo Alto's "planned community" projects; John Goldman ($1,522), partner at Premier Properties; Sam Hawkes and Brittany Davis of King Asset Management ($1,000 each); David Kleiman, whose two recent downtown projects faced unsuccessful citizen appeals ($250); and from developers Boyd and Lund Smith ($1,000 each). Altogether, the contributions from the developer community added up to about $9,000, according to the Weekly's analysis.

This does not include architects, real-estate agents, real-estate attorneys, environmental planners and members of other professions associated with construction. An analysis by PASZ of "developer money" included donors in these professions.

Fine, for his part, received only about $6,000 from developers as of Oct. 19, which includes $2,500 from Stephen Reller of R&M Properties; $1,000 from Hawkes of King Asset Management; $250 from Goldman; and $500 each from Jaime D'Allesandro and Tod Spieker, whose development company Windy Hill Property Ventures is looking to build a 60-unit housing complex on El Camino Real and Page Mill Road.

The push back

While donors to Kou and Keller say they are looking to level the playing field and counterbalance the developers' influence, the large infusion of funds into the election has sparked concern and suspicion from other council candidates -- as well as from eight former Palo Alto mayors.

In a letter provocatively titled, "Is someone trying to buy Palo Alto City Hall?" former mayors Betsy Bechtel, Larry Klein, Bern Beecham, Sid Espinosa, Dena Mossar, Leland Levy, Lanie Wheeler and Gail Wooley characterized the large amount of cash raised as "disturbing," noting that it sets a tone that "many, if not most, of us don't want in our town."

"Not only are these contributions shocking and deeply troubling, but checks for $5,000 or more are unprecedented in our City Council elections!" the letter stated. "In the past, individual donations rarely exceeded $500, and for good reason: Candidates did not want the appearance of undue influence from big donors."

The letter states that, as former mayors, the signatories are "deeply concerned about the unprecedented role that large contributions are playing in this year's election at the last minute."

"No one knows how these funds will be used, if attacks and negative campaign tactics are coming, or (whether) new City Council members ... will be beholden to big money."

The mayors are hardly nonpartisan bystanders, however. Almost all have endorsed Fine and Tanaka, the two candidates who are generally seen as moderate on growth. Bechtel is an honorary campaign chair for Fine's campaign while Beecham and Klein (along with Assemblyman Rich Gordon and Susan Rosenberg) serve in the same capacity for Tanaka. Fine also has the endorsements of Klein, Mossar, Espinosa, Wheeler and Beecham. Tanaka, meanwhile, has the endorsements of Espinosa, Levy, Mossar and Bechtel.

Espinosa said his biggest concern with the recent big donations is the prospect that it will make running for council a much more expensive proposition, potentially shrinking future candidate pools.

"If this sets a precedent, it will really limit who decides to run for council in this city," Espinosa told the Weekly.

Negative political advertising

The mayors' suspicions became amplified after an online ad began making its way around social media targeting Fine, the candidate who chairs the Planning and Transportation Commission and who sits, along with Kou and Keller, on the citizens' committee that is working on the Comprehensive Plan update.

"Developers and candidates like Adrian Fine want to push through many high-rise office and luxury condo projects," the ad states. "The result? More traffic and crowded schools."

The ad then encourages viewers to support Kou and Keller. Fine, whose pool of contributors includes business professionals, former mayors (among them Bechtel, Peter Drekmeier and Greg Scharff), architects and members of the citizens group Palo Alto Forward, said the ad completely misrepresented his position.

"I never said I was in favor of high-rises, offices and luxury towers," Fine told the Weekly. "I put forward a balanced vision for balanced growth for Palo Alto to address housing and transportation needs that I heard residents call for."

Fine said he was surprised both by the huge amount of money donated to Kou and Keller and by the candidates' decision to use the funds on what he referred to as "completely unfounded attacks."

He also pointed to the fact that the same donors who made the recent contributions to Keller and Kou have also contributed to the Palo Altans for Sensible Zoning Political Action Committee. The committee's campaign statement shows that Gabrielle Layton, Helyn MacLean and Mary Anne Baker contributed $5,000 each to the committee, as did Rita Vrhel and Michael Rantz. Tench and Simone Coxe contributed another $5,000. Until recently, the group's treasurer was Tim Gray, who stepped down to become treasurer of Kou's campaign.

"Palo Alto has never seen this before," Fine said. "This pales in comparison to what other candidates have received from any types of residents or business owners in the city."

Keller and Kou stood by the ad, noting that Fine had previously voiced opposition to both the city's 50-foot height limit for new developments (he once called it "arbitrary") and to the annual cap on new office space that the City Council adopted last year (he called it a "blunt instrument"). As a commissioner, Fine initially voted against the office cap; he now says he favors keeping it at least until the update of the Comprehensive Plan is complete. He also said recently that he would be in favor of retaining the 50-foot height limit.

Keller said the ad "accurately represents Adrian Fine's positions before he changed them to run for council." Kou concurred and said that Fine is now "pivoting" on these issues.

"You have to have some consistencies with what you stand for," Kou told the Weekly.

Other candidates share Fine's concerns about the outpouring of cash. Leonard Ely, who is not affiliated with either the slow-growth or the Palo Alto Forward crowds, told the Weekly that the donations make it look like "someone is trying to buy the election for Kou and Keller." The fundraising, he said, is "getting out of hand."

"I'm concerned, as a citizen, that this sort of fundraising is taking the race out of the realm of 'I'm just a guy that wants to help the city,'" Ely said.

'Vote your conscience'

The donors, for their part, co-wrote their own letter to clarify their reasons for supporting Kou's and Keller's campaigns. In observing the run-up to the election, they say they saw "pro-developer candidates campaigning on a slate" and misleadingly "shift (their) positions on affordable housing, parking and traffic."

"We support affordable housing," states the letter co-signed by the Bakers, the Coxes, the Laytons, the Rantzes, MacLean and Waldfogel. "We support ground-floor retail. We support candidates who are the best choice to achieve positive growth for the city.

"When we saw the developer money and the Chamber weigh in just before the ballots were mailed, we realized that helping our candidates get their message out quickly was important. So we stepped in to help. Disagree? Then vote your conscience. We will."

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

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Follow the Palo Alto Weekly/Palo Alto Online on Twitter @PaloAltoWeekly and Facebook for breaking news, local events, photos, videos and more.

Editor's note: This article has been revised. Tim Gray is no longer the treasurer of Palo Altans for Sensible Zoning. He stepped down recently to become the treasurer of Lydia Kou’s campaign.

Comments

145 people like this
Posted by john_alderman
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 19, 2016 at 4:11 pm

john_alderman is a registered user.

Wow, what a biased article. 78 isn't about 100. If you got 78 on a test, and told your mom you got 100, you'd get spanked by your mom.

And why do you say "endorsements from the Democratic Party and the council's moderate members." You are injecting your own bias by declaring some council members, and by inference others are extreme. Who are the moderates, and who are the extremists, since you are labeling?

Same when you claim that Fine and Tanaka have "moderate" views on development. That is not reporting, that is editorial. I don't think their views are moderate, you can disagree, but don't hide opinion in "news".


184 people like this
Posted by not again
a resident of Meadow Park
on Oct 19, 2016 at 4:13 pm

Personally I'm more outraged by Gennedy Sheyner once again presenting the high-stakes City Council election in a way that makes residentialist candidates look as if they're somehow culpable. For crying out loud, Keller and Kou are accepting donations from Palo Alto residents. The pro-development candidates, particularly Tanaka, Fine and Knissm have accepted large donations from developers who do not even live in Palo Alto. A week ago the PAO title (Tanaka and Fine lead in fundraising) seemed to imply Tanaka and Fine were doing well–leading–as if their election were a foregone conclusion. This seems to have had the opposite effect as many commentators pointed out that much of this fundraising was due to large donations by developers who may well prefer candidates who would rubber=stamp new developments that come before the CC. Now Sheyner seems to imply that there is something insidious about Keller and Kou raising more funds than Tanaka, Kniss and Fine. How about if we all simply admit that the outcome of this election is critical for the future of Palo Alto and that those who are very invested in its outcome (both financially and in terms of enjoyment of quality of life as Palo Alto residents) care a heck of a lot about supporting their preferred candidates.


52 people like this
Posted by outofcontrol
a resident of Professorville
on Oct 19, 2016 at 4:34 pm

Whoever is talking about residents donating is forgetting that they are trying to protect THEIR quality of life and THEIR property values. It's very clear. They could care less about affordable housing or regular people getting displaced, or teachers or service jobs. It is really disturbing. Palo Alto has alway been an affluent town, but this is so completely out of control. Mountain View, for example, has an expenditure limit of $25K per city council campaign to prevent this sort of thing from happening and we should adopt it too. Negative political ads? Professionally designed mailers? Keller and Kou have lost all credibility. This is almost as bad as the presidential race. All this propaganda and doublespeak about "developers" just to muddy the waters of who REALLY rules this town which is clearly a handful wealthy oligarchs. So much for democracy.


36 people like this
Posted by outofcontrol
a resident of Professorville
on Oct 19, 2016 at 4:38 pm

One more through - how dishonest to present modest campaign funds for the first filing deadline knowing very well that those will get a lot of press and then just roll in the big bucks a few days later. And now they're saying they had no idea this was happening. [Portion removed.]


28 people like this
Posted by Me
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 19, 2016 at 4:47 pm

Money usually doesn't cause success in elections - it usually follows it (see: rich people who can't get elected).

However I find it hypocritical for those who say that big checks won't influence Kuo or Keller to then turn around say that developers donating smaller amounts to other candidates would.

You residentialists are so funny when you talk out of both sides of your mouth.


22 people like this
Posted by Chris
a resident of University South
on Oct 19, 2016 at 4:50 pm

Tempest in a teapot for the chattering classes

Anybody think these donations will affect the average Palo Alto voter?


39 people like this
Posted by john_alderman
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 19, 2016 at 4:56 pm

john_alderman is a registered user.

@outofcontrol - So you are suggesting that Fine and Tanka would damage quality of life and property value, but we should support them anyway?


143 people like this
Posted by Clarifications
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 19, 2016 at 5:01 pm

First of all to the residents who are donating to local, resident focused candidates - THANK YOU! Thank you, thank you. It should be mentioned again and again that these donors have no financial interest in the election. Compare that to the developers, architects, and Chamber that stands to make millions on millions of dollars with increasingly dense buildings.

Surprised there is no mention of the large amounts raised by Liz Kniss and Greg Scharff in the past. Just last election, ex-residentialist Scharff raised $86K in his election. This is NOT new.

Also the endorsement is by Democratic clubs, controlled by the same few people endorsing the same candidates. The State Democratic Party did not endorse. Fine and Tanaka were not even Democrats before this year.

The pro-development candidates keep saying they support retail protection, height limits, and paced office growth until the Comp Plan is completed. Which is 2017. Speak clearly - do you support it or not? Supporting an issue for 6 months is political expediency and misleading.

The hypocrisy here is hysterical. Basically endorsers and campaign team members write a letter that they are shocked that the other side has woken up and is out maneuvering them. Let's see what the new campaign finance filings show. I expect if you add up the pro-development slate it is going to be nearly the same amount of money on both sides. Tanaka's initial filings were the top of the money charts from ONLY 25 donors, very concentrated. Keller and Kou are also raising lots of small donations with a much wider based of support.

Allegations that anything underhanded is occuring is ludicrous - it's all reported, all following the law. While PAF and the Chamber of Commerce have yet to report any cash or in-kind contributions. That is what needs to be investigated - undeclared, illegal contributions.

We need moderate candidates like Arthur Keller and Lydia Kou who are focused on affordable housing and wisely paced growth.






75 people like this
Posted by Douglas Moran
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 19, 2016 at 5:04 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

The residents who donated said that one of their concerns was "We saw candidates who are skilled at social media sending targeted messages that may mislead voters." You can see that same media campaign here. In 4 minutes the first post by "outofcontrol" got 5 "Like this comment".

"outofcontrol" followed up with the expected lies in a second posting. It gives a sense of the venomous campaign that the Establishment is pursuing.

In the 2014 campaign, the Establishment candidates were supported by an astroturf (fake grassroots) group and its PAC who did an ad blitz during the final days of the campaign. I wrote about it in my blog "A reprehensible political ad" (Web Link).


115 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 19, 2016 at 5:06 pm

“Palo Alto has never seen this before,” Fine said.


Not so. Greg Scharff raised $100,000 for his 2014 campaign, including at least $60,000 from himself and his immediate family, although AC Johnston was not too far behind that.

This more expensive direction was probably inevitable with the Council’s 2012 decision to align with even years, which meant overlapping with a presidential election every other cycle. Scharff’s may have been the first and as of this moment the only $100,000 city council campaign, but it’s not likely to be the last.

What’s really fascinating is that Palo Alto actually has basically normal residents who can participate in this game. Usually the amounts of money involved mean this kind of politics is the province only of organized groups with vested financial interests as to which people get into government: corporations, public unions, real-estate developers, the gun lobby, etc. The fact that in Palo Alto there are just normal people who can do this too, whose “agenda” is just basically their neighborhood and the community, is mind-blowing. Maybe there’s still hope for America.


118 people like this
Posted by Clarifications
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 19, 2016 at 5:09 pm

@outofcontrol - Yes, residents are concerned about their quality of life! And we are teachers, and regular people. Who the hell do you think is going to care about our quality of life here in Palo Alto if it isn't those of us who live here. This whole thing is very Orwellian - when did it become a bad thing to be a resident? These outside influences on Palo Alto have to stop - donations from businesses and developers outside of Palo Alto who are not paying their share of the issues they are creating.

Having watched the forums closely, and observed people's statements before and during the election - Arthur and Lydia as well as Greer and Stewart have been consistent, honest, and focused on issues that effect everyone here. Fine has flip-flopped 100 times and when pressed on it ducks and weaves. Tanaka says nothing other than he'll listen. Watch his interview with the Weekly - he can't answer a question. McDougal - same, no clear answers. Kniss is the only one who at least is consistent and answers questions.



9 people like this
Posted by @Reisdent
a resident of University South
on Oct 19, 2016 at 5:19 pm

@Reisdent - what's new is not the amount of money, but how much a small number of donors are affecting the race. Greg Scharff raised a lot of money, but not from five megadonors.

What's going to happen next cycle? Will any aspiring politician need to court our new political kingmakers? What if they want to limit themselves to $1000 or even $5000 donations? They will be permanently outclassed by those who get the favor of the wealthy few.


79 people like this
Posted by Douglas Moran
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 19, 2016 at 5:20 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

On the letter from the former mayors and others: Where was their outrage in 2014 when Greg Scharff ran a campaign of over $84K (include $50K in loans to his campaign). Or AC Johnson's campaign of over $48K? Oh, I remember, most of them were supporting those campaigns.

And the pop-up PAC that ran the ad blitz against the Residentialists in 2014 (mentioned in earlier message (Web Link))? At least 4 of the 8 were behind that as well:
Betsy Bechtel, Larry Klein, Sid Espinosa, Lanie Wheeler.


21 people like this
Posted by Annon
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 19, 2016 at 5:39 pm

All of these families have ties to Castilleja who is planning a large expansion. hummm..........


41 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 19, 2016 at 5:41 pm

The outrage is that a bunch of Soccer Moms are doing it instead of them.


16 people like this
Posted by True Residentialist
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 19, 2016 at 5:48 pm

Sure, soccer moms whose husbands work at leading venture capital firms [portion removed.]

But of course, everyone is pretending this is about "quality of life" and not about a group of advantaged homeowners squeezing rents from everyone else.....


112 people like this
Posted by Cheryl Lilienstein
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 19, 2016 at 6:10 pm

So: Why would residents who don't have a financial stake in the developer world donate at this scale? I'm guessing they understand that we desperately need intelligent, competent city council members to plan a good future for this no-longer small-town city, and they decided to invest in the best Palo Alto they could foresee by supporting candidates they feel strongly about-- just as others have before them-- and we should thank them for caring.

Please vote for Keller, Kou, Stone, and Carl.

@ Chris. You are so right.

@ Gennady: few corrections: Rita Vrhel donated $500, not $5000. Please issue (another) correction since this was already corrected in a previous post. Also, Jen Fryhling is the treasurer for Palo Altans for Sensible Zoning.

And, for perspective, did any of the contenders' endorsers/contributors/complainers say word one when Greg Scharff donated $50,000 to HIS OWN campaign?
What about Tanaka's self-funding? Is that inconsequential because they support Tanaka? Sheesh.


29 people like this
Posted by I support Liz
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 19, 2016 at 6:55 pm

@Clarifications -- Keller and Kou are not "moderate" -- they are NO GROWTH candidates.

@Doug Moran -- Scharff didn't "raise" $85,000 -- he paid for his campaign himself.
[Portion removed.]

Liz Kniss has over 175 individual donors, and that excludes her family members. Amounts range from $5-$1000. She is a moderate who considers all sides before making a decision. She listens to her constituents and seeks to find common ground. She's neither "no-growth" or "pro-growth". She wants what's best for Palo Alto.

I'm voting for Liz Kniss for City Council.


15 people like this
Posted by True Residentialist
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 19, 2016 at 6:55 pm

Let's all join Cheryl in thanking the five families [portion removed] who will protect those of us on the inside by slamming Palo Alto's gates shut.

And, on top of that, they'll ensure that we never have to wait for a parking space, ever.

Yes, you saw the flyers, that's what they're running on. Ensuring that we have lots of parking spaces.

So noble. I am absolutely overwhelmed by their high aspirations for us all.



37 people like this
Posted by john_alderman
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 19, 2016 at 7:26 pm

john_alderman is a registered user.

@True Residentialist - [Portion removed.] Do you think five families have more power than 5 mayors?


52 people like this
Posted by Teacher
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 19, 2016 at 7:53 pm

Love these 'fab 5'. They can come to my rescue any time!

@True Residentialist. You seem to have some real angst. Some yoga/meditation might help. Relax. The world as we know it is not coming to an end.


Posted by IsThatYou
a resident of Fairmeadow

on Oct 19, 2016 at 8:18 pm


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95 people like this
Posted by mslovecats
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Oct 19, 2016 at 10:12 pm

What I see here are concerned citizens of Palo Alto who are dismayed by the extent to which some city council candidates are backed by developers and other people with commercial / financial interests. These candidates have an appealing story about building affordable housing, but at the expense of tending to the practical daily life concerns of Palo Altans.

Kou and Keller have plenty of support from citizens across the town, but have not been able to compete against the big dollars coming from developers (they have accepted no money from developers to date). Most people don't have the means or will to donate to campaigns in amounts that rival those who have the most to financially gain from the election (e.g. developers, architects, real estate agents). These donors have generously contributed to Kou and Keller's campaigns to help level the playing field and have asked for nothing in return. They simply care about what the future of Palo Alto will look like, and support a vision and set of priorities that differ from other candidates and their supporters.


20 people like this
Posted by Competition?
a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 19, 2016 at 10:48 pm

Kou and Keller have raised over $150,000 from 5 families. That is absurd. You could buy a house for that in many places (not Palo Alto!)

And for all the talk of "oh it's so they can fight that developer money", remember $150k from 5 families to 2 candidates, vs $20k to 4 candidates. Not in my back yard people: your chips are on the table.


12 people like this
Posted by Apple Pie
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 19, 2016 at 10:48 pm

[Post removed.]


14 people like this
Posted by @apple pie
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 19, 2016 at 11:14 pm

@Apple Pie - the "Fabulous Five Robin Hoods"? What? they use prop 13 to steal from the poor and give to the rich homeowners?


72 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Oct 20, 2016 at 2:49 am

I really wish this article had listed all the contributions to all of the candidates in the name of objectivity.

This fake outrage at $150,000 from 5 families and PASZ non-profit status is truly laughable compared with the truly BIG non-profits like the Chamber of Commerce and BIG companies like Palantir, Yelp, big developers etc. who know how to work the system.

It's what they do -- and they've been very good at getting what they want.

Check out national Association of Chamber of Commerce website where they teach local chambers how to work local systems, get government grants, etc. Web Link

Quoting directly from their 2015 Budgeting welcome screen:

--The budgeting process is closely tied to Bookkeeping/Financial Management practices.
See all examples of budgets from ACCE's Samples Library
Sample Chamber Annual Budgets Under $450K
Where can I find examples of other nonprofit budgets? Examples from GrantSpace.org
--------

PASZ and the Five Families are hardly the well-funded Goliaths here.

Enough already with giving the big guys blanket approval for all their projects. Time for some sensible zoning and an end to worsening gridlock.




55 people like this
Posted by Douglas Moran
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 20, 2016 at 3:45 am

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

Addendum on the hypocritical former mayors:

In her 2003 State of the City speech (Web Link), Dena Mossar lamented the rise of influence of residents at City Hall:
"Neighborhood associations have banded together to create large and small e-mail communication networks that have changed the lobbying landscape significantly from the days -- but six years ago -- when a neighborhood typically fought its battles in solo mode. The business community, in an attempt to level the playing field, is trying to find an effective way to respond."

[Portion removed.]


70 people like this
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 20, 2016 at 7:03 am

Such nonsense. Developers have been bankrolling City Council races for decades. So now other rich interests donate and they are buying the council? Oh come on.


15 people like this
Posted by PhotoOp
a resident of Palo Verde
on Oct 20, 2016 at 7:16 am

Politically motivated journalism in our local newspaper, how cute. Such an "outrage".


74 people like this
Posted by Leveling the Playing Field
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 20, 2016 at 8:22 am

Tanaka, Fine and Kniss all have over $50k each in their war chests. That's also over $150k, which according to @competition could buy a small house somewhere. Really not sure what the fuss is about. It must be only ok if the 'developer slate' raises enough money to buy small houses. Clearly it's offensive that the little guys have the audacity to organize. They can enter the race, but they're not allowed to compete


29 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 20, 2016 at 8:58 am

I am fairly disappointed to seeing so many non-residents of Palo Alto taking such a big part in this election. Non residents are not able to vote for CC. I can't take seriously anyone who doesn't live in town having an opinion on "our" election.

I am also fairly disappointed that public transportation and in particular VTA and their proposal to reduce service in town. This to me should be a big election issue and it is not discussed much. If we lose a bus service to Gunn we will pay for it in local school commuter traffic. We must get the candidates to discuss this issue and discover what they would do to get VTA to continue our important bus routes.


22 people like this
Posted by Scared for our future
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 20, 2016 at 8:59 am

This is pretty scary stuff. Once a taboo about accepting large donations gets broken, it doesn't get put back in place. If Keller and Kou win, it will show that Palo Altans really don't care about the sources of money in our politics. Then from now on, every candidate who is not extraordinarily wealthy herself will need to find a wealthy backer or five.

The system of voluntarily limiting the size of donations - the rules that everyone but Keller and Kou have been playing under - isn't perfect, but it has its advantages. It allows candidates to raise money, but requires a broad base of committed supporters, not just a handful of truly powerful ones.

Next election cycle, the race will be on for candidates to find that handful of wealthy backers, the Sheldon Adelsons of Palo Alto. Now that the taboo is broken, candidates are going to have to play for the favors of people like Chop Keenan who have always wanted to put tens of thousands into a race, but was never able to find candidates who would accept it (including this year!) Next time, they won't have a choice if they want to win.

If we want to stop this, we have to make sure this isn't tolerated. We have to make sure anyone but Keller and Kou wins.


53 people like this
Posted by @scared for our future
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 20, 2016 at 10:04 am

A broad base of support from the developer community who stand to financially benefit from the election outcome is the definition of money in politics! How about we exclude anyone associated with the building industry from giving, and then talk limits. Money has been in the election for years. You're just waking up now?


22 people like this
Posted by scared for our future
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 20, 2016 at 10:55 am

I'm not too worried about a few $1000 contributions. Especially when the PASZ claim that "developer money" is controlling the candidates includes contributions from Greg Scharff, a lawyer and sitting council member! You might not like him (I'm ambivalent), but calling a donation from him "developer money" is fundamentally dishonest.

Just this morning, I saw that PASZ donated $10,000 to Arthur Keller and another $10,000 to Lydia Kou! They are accepting PAC money now. PASZ has contributed more than all the actual developers have to every candidate in the race.

I don't like to see PACs, I don't like to see slates, and I want an honest election without megadonations. It's too bad we've ruined that, maybe forever.


63 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 20, 2016 at 11:26 am

Annette is a registered user.

There's something disingenuous about the outrage; if it was evenly applied it might be credible. Developers, political parties, outsiders, and unions have been supporting CC candidates for years. I don't recall reading a similar article when such support has benefited "establishment" Palo Alto candidates. Now some serious support benefits candidates who challenge the status quo and we have outrage. I guess it kinda stinks when the underdog learns how to play the game.

Here's an idea for the 2017 CC Priorities List: Campaign Financing Reform. And ask LaDoris Cordell to chair the Blue Ribbon Task Force.


93 people like this
Posted by Timothy Gray
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Oct 20, 2016 at 11:34 am

Recent Palo Alto leadership has historically put growth before solutions. That blind allegiance to development has eroded the quality of life to the point that greed of "build baby build" is no longer tolerable.

Palo Alto is not a real estate speculation, it is a place where people live and want to maintain their quality of life. Solutions must come first if we are to accomplish the noble goal of making room for more people. We can work together, however reactionary efforts to abandon historical zoning limits and go for instant gratification, only cannibalizes the good things we have created here, erase anything special about Palo Alto.

Solutions first. When you have tens if not hundreds of millions to be made by the developers, it is no wonder that pro-development candidates get recruited by a major political party, even though they were never in that party. And conversely, lifelong party members are rejected because they are seen as not willing to rezone and hand those millions to developers.

There is no foul in loving your town and wanting to preserve its quality. Donating money out of a true love of community is different than outside money buying influence so they can up-zone properties. All without providing the solutions first. All without paying for the extra infrastructure costs that residents have dutifully funded. Great schools cost money. Sewage, water, and streets cost money -- and yet those pawns advocate handing out new building rights as if those resources are free.

Love of community and standing up for wise growth is at the heart of this election. We must stand up for our City while it is still worth fighting for.

We simply have a new group of candidates that will inadvertently cannibalize the quality life by playing into hands of developers with reactionary decisions that undo years of zoning discipline exercised by those that have come before us. The very thing that has made this place desirable is now under attack by those that demand instant gratification.

God give us the wisdom to take a breath and find a way to work together.


83 people like this
Posted by Thank you, neighbors
a resident of Palo Verde
on Oct 20, 2016 at 11:35 am

Thanks to these Palo Alto families supporting local candidates.

I do hope the "residentialists" win this election. We need a period of slowing down and taking a look at all the recent changes and developments currently in the works. (Including our neighbors, Mountain View, Menlo Park, etc.)

There will be another election in two years and another after that, etc. The developers will still be around and pushing for their financial interests. A temporary slow-down will not harm them or make them go away. But it might give Palo Alto a chance to take a serious look at the current status of quality of life, infrastructure, schools, traffic, water use, etc.

If developers don't get an automatic free pass in City Hall for a few years, I won't cry. I also don't believe the slow down will last more than a few years. The external push to build will continue regardless. But maybe it can be more thoughtful.


59 people like this
Posted by Big Money buys Development
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 20, 2016 at 11:35 am

Why such outrage?? Development $$$ have a history of financing glossy flyers to get their position across. Just 15 years ago, 801 High Street spent an ungodly sum of $$$ to influence the vote. Well, they won, and showed that glossy marketing campaigns work. I'm just waiting for all the expensive mailers to start appearing in my mailbox for the next 10 days till Election Day. On a side note, I've only received 4 flyers so far, for Marc Berman!


53 people like this
Posted by Thank you, neighbors
a resident of Palo Verde
on Oct 20, 2016 at 11:37 am

And I agree with those who are dismayed by the melding of opinion into a "news" article. Palo Alto Weekly, please, rise to a higher standard of journalism.


49 people like this
Posted by Just don''t get it
a resident of Southgate
on Oct 20, 2016 at 11:50 am

How can one say that the Tanaka/Fine etc. slate has the support of the Democratic Party???? My entire family are democrats and we have always supported Kou and Keller!! Please don't speak for me!!


12 people like this
Posted by Me
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 20, 2016 at 11:55 am

This article is biased? Sorry - I have to defend Gennady here. This article seems pretty evenhanded to me. It's just that some folks don't like their actions to be in the spotlight - and what that implies. What's really funny is that turnabout is fair play - after railing about "developer" interests putting money into candidates, suddenly it's "biased" to report on the same thing on the other side of the fence?

It's like the parents who used to run wild in their younger days that are the most strict with their own kids. They assume the other side would do what they themselves would do. Says more about the commenter than anything else.


72 people like this
Posted by Residentialist
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 20, 2016 at 12:09 pm

Residentialist is a registered user.

The title should have read, "Residents make large donations to residentialist candidates in response to the Chamber's Outrageous and false email and large developer contributions to pro-fast growth candidates. For a chart of who received the most money from developers see: Web Link

The Palo Alto Weekly referring to pro-fast-growth candidates as "moderate" because of their new positions on issues in order to get elected is very unfortunate. Prior to the campaign Adrian Fine was talking about how he was against RPP and height limits and before that he strongly opposed the office cap. Of course he's upset residents want candidates who say what they actually believe and are consistent and the residents are willing to not let this election be bought by the developers.

Keller and Kou are truly committed to the folks who live here and will represent them at city hall, which is why they are getting so much support.


55 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Oct 20, 2016 at 12:16 pm

Where's the outrage when the developers fail to honor their commitments and city "planners" continue to approve their next projects?

Remember the Edgewood Plaza developers who have STILL failed to deliver the promised grocery store and how longit took for our "planning" officials to "act"? Finally the city fined them a token $1,000 a month. When the expected nothing happened, the city threw us a bone by raising the fine to a measly $2K!

How much of our time and money of our has been wasted on "planning" meetings and "community outreach"? On bad construction "management" and huge contracts for traffic projects? On Botts Dots and painting our streets green?

Way more than the $150,000!!

We need strong sensible candidates to FORCE our bloated highly paid city officials to start doing the right thing FOR US since they clearly won't do it on their own.


34 people like this
Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Oct 20, 2016 at 12:40 pm

This isn't a news article, it's an opinion piece. Raising money for campaigns is not news, nor is an influx of money closer to election day. Your biases are showing, PA Online.


4 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 20, 2016 at 12:41 pm

Gale Johnson is a registered user.

I didn't get the feeling that the big donors had strings attached and expectations of how the candidates would vote if they were elected. But, although the donors felt they were doing the right thing, they should have realized that there would be this outcry and it provides fodder for the other side...even tho they also have there own set of special interest contributors from developers, real estate people, and others more aligned with growth because of the benefit of lifting the cap and continuing the march down the path of more office growth.

As I remember it, there may be a loose connection with one or two donors from the Castilleja community. If Kou and Keller are elected and that comes to council they should do some form of recusal or simply abstain.

These next days before election will be very interesting. I wouldn't be surprised if huge counter contributions didn't come in for the opposing side, and in the end I hope the totals will be revealed. I'm guessing the difference wouldn't be worth spit. Excuse me, I'm a farm boy from Montana so that's where I learned that term.

Another question I have is, "Where does all that campaign donation money go?" Online ads are big these days...but also glossy mailbox stuffer ads? How is it spent? And if the campaign managers can't figure out enough ways to spend it, resulting in a surplus, what happens to that money? I'm expecting to have the opportunity to meet with 4 candidates in a private setting soon and I will be sure to ask that question, along with other questions that never seem to get good viable answers.

I've said previously, I'm not aligned with any group but am always searching for the best answers to the problems facing us. I'll keep doing that until election time. Now I'll do a Trump stunt...keep you in suspense. I think I can get away with that but 'boy oh boy' that put the nail on his coffin.


38 people like this
Posted by Art
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 20, 2016 at 12:41 pm

Interesting piece of journalism, written with a very obvious slant, just prior to the election. The Weekly has had a reputation of unbiased reporting in the past, but this article makes one wonder if that is still the case. Can't wait to see which council candidates receive the Weekly endorsement.


11 people like this
Posted by Abitarian
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 20, 2016 at 12:51 pm

If you don't like the way candidates are funded, in this case at the local level, lobby the appropriate elected officials for campaign finance reform.

Palo Alto City Council elections are likely to become much more expensive come 2018, when competition increases due the reduction from nine to seven members.


46 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Oct 20, 2016 at 12:57 pm

Fake Outrage Double Standard: Protesting contributions from a donor who's a FORMER school trustee while ignoring contributions and endorsements from CURRENTLY ACTIVE developers, architects, "non-profit" lobbyists like the Chamber, big companies like Palantir and Yelp who benefiting from city "planning" decisions.


64 people like this
Posted by margaret heath
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Oct 20, 2016 at 12:59 pm

margaret heath is a registered user.

@residentialist.

Don't forget that Tanaka, also on the Planning and Transport Commission, supported the same positions Fine argued so strongly for. Remove any office cap, remove the current height limit, and other pro growth positions. All this on record in the city minutes. Hoping no one will notice their strongly held pro-growth position before running for council, both Tanaka and Fine crafted a platform that does not align with their outspoken positions before running for office. No doubt hoping no one will notice what their agenda for Palo Alto's future really is.


36 people like this
Posted by margaret heath
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Oct 20, 2016 at 2:00 pm

margaret heath is a registered user.

During council discussions this year involving any commercial development, Liz Kniss has become very circumspect about commenting on and stating her positions, when previously she would had been outspoken in her support. It is also interesting that Liz Kniss, no doubt seeing which way the wind was blowing, has not accepted contributions from donors with an interest in development and have figured prominently among her contributors to past campaigns. And a head start of $15,000 remaining from her last election campaign.


52 people like this
Posted by Tom DuBois
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 20, 2016 at 2:16 pm

Tom DuBois is a registered user.

I'd fully support campaign funding limits for future council races if it applies equally to all candidates. That's a conversation worth having and perhaps something that everyone can get behind at the local level.

For this race, I am glad that some residents stepped up balance what had looked like a very uneven playing field at the last reporting period. At this point, from what has been reported (and plenty has not - the next reporting deadline is at the end of October) it looks like Keller has raised $85K, Kou has raised $88K, Tanaka has raised $54K, Fine has raised $53K, and Kniss has raised $47K.

I expect these candidates will all be roughly equal when all is said and done.



57 people like this
Posted by john_alderman
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 20, 2016 at 2:22 pm

john_alderman is a registered user.

@margaret heath - This is the most frustrating thing about candidates like FIne, Tanaka, Kniss, and Wolbach. They don't honestly state their beliefs when running for election. Judge them by their actions and pre-election stances and it is pretty clear how radical they are in their wish to urbanize Palo Alto. Which is a legitimate position to have, and let's debate whether we want it. But I think they know a majority in Palo Alto don;t agree with their positions, so they hide them, they equivocate, they hedge.


8 people like this
Posted by Me
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 20, 2016 at 3:23 pm

" They don't honestly state their beliefs"

What's more frustrating is the character assassination that is going on. Shame on you Palo Alto.


4 people like this
Posted by Cecilia
a resident of Addison School
on Oct 20, 2016 at 3:30 pm

Money does not always talk. Vote the way you feel. Just because someone raised lots of money does not mean that they will get votes. It is all about what the candidate stands for and how this is important to each person.


17 people like this
Posted by New round of donation request!
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 20, 2016 at 4:34 pm

Just received this today:

"You're probably aware and tired of all the financial shenanigans in the Palo Alto council race. We remain committed to a grassroots campaign.

Our campaign has been fueled by over 165 small and medium donors, and we need your continued support. This coming Saturday is an important financial filing deadline: Can you contribute at the $50 level? Of course, we are grateful for any amount you can give."

Sender? Adrian Fine campaign.


8 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 20, 2016 at 4:45 pm

Gale Johnson is a registered user.

@Tom DuBois

I'm glad you are in favor of funding limits. I think Mt. View has them. That will take away all the talk about how much who got. The 'from whom' question will always be there. The most important thing is the number of individual donors. That shows real support.


49 people like this
Posted by Pro-developer or. Pro-resident?
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 20, 2016 at 4:55 pm

Citizens can vote for the a pro-developer slate: Fine, Tanaka, Kniss, McDougall or the pro-resident slate: Keller, Kou, Carl, Greer. Approximately 90% of developer funds went to the pro-developer slate. The Chamber of Commerce, who opposes office caps, commercial parking restrictions, and building height limits, supports the pro-developer slate. Council members, who voted to replace the Olive Garden with a massive, block long office complex, are the same members supporting the pro-developer slate. If you want more massive developments in Palo Alto (resulting in more congestion and parking problems), then vote for the pro-developer slate.


23 people like this
Posted by not all of Palo Alto
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 20, 2016 at 5:00 pm

Regarding : "Liz Kniss has over 175 individual donors, and that excludes her family members. Amounts range from $5-$1000. She is a moderate who considers all sides before making a decision. She listens to her constituents and seeks to find common ground. She's neither "no-growth" or "pro-growth". She wants what's best for Palo Alto."

She stood in my neighborhood during the Maybell issues (south PA) and said, "why would anyone care about high-rise housing in this neighborhood, just look at these houses." (while pointing to the eclectic housing across the street).

Sorry, but it seems like Liz Knisse wants what is best for the part of Palo Alto that she values.


49 people like this
Posted by Not so Fine
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 20, 2016 at 5:40 pm

I also received a donation request from Adrian Fine. I do NOT support him. Wonder where he got my address, maybe from his employer Nextdoor.

Wouldn't put it past him, he talks real friendly but votes 100% for major developers.

Development advocates are supporting him (see his donor list) including Scharff, Kate Downing!, Wolbach, GailPrice, John Barton, Vic Ojakian, Dena Mossar, Larry Klein, Marc Berman, Dan Garber (worked on Arrillaga's mega project), Michael Alcheck, Lee Lippert, Steve Levy, Mila Zelka (Palantir), Eric Rosenblum (Palantir)

How can we check on Nextdoor's financial and in-kind contributions to Fine's campaign?


31 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Oct 20, 2016 at 7:09 pm

Tom DuBois says " Keller has raised $85K, Kou has raised $88K, Tanaka has raised $54K, Fine has raised $53K, and Kniss has raised $47K."

Today's Merc reported Keller at $84K, Kuo at $78K, Tanaka $54K, Fine at $53K, Tanaka at $54K, McDougall at $25K, Stone at $3,250 and Carl at $2,566 with only the late contributions over $1,000 shown.

Web Link

Using Tom's higher numbers for Kuo and Keller and the Merc's for McDougall, Carl and Stone:

Kuo/Keller/Stone/Carl have a REPORTED $178K

vs $179K REPORTED for Kniss/Fine/Tanaka/McDougall excluding the "priceless" non-endorsement endorsement from the Chamber of Commerce.

Enough with the outrage over a measly $1,000 difference between the 2 "slates" that still leaves the "residentialists" behind the hyper-growth candidates of today.

The final numbers will be interesting, esp. since previous reports show there are many $999 contributions [portion removed] made specifically to get around the reporting limits.

(Someone else can tally where those $999 contributions went.)





13 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Oct 20, 2016 at 7:20 pm

PS: @ Tom DuBois: I'd fully support campaign funding limits for future council races if it applies equally to all candidates. That's a conversation worth having and perhaps something that everyone can get behind at the local level.

Tom's right but the key is IF it applies equally to call candidates. That's a huge IF since we know from the national news that big companies like Home Depot and Domino's and lots of small companies have threatened to fire employees who vote for "the other guy."

From today's NYT, check out the US Chamberof Commerce's attack on a US senate candidate for not being business-friendly ENOUGH. Web Link A


3 people like this
Posted by Candidate Len
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 20, 2016 at 7:35 pm

Well, after reading all of the above comments it looks like everyone should be voting for me. It looks like I am pretty much the only candidate that has not taken a dime from anyone, including my family. It looks like I will be over my self imposed budget of $3000.00 by about $200.00. Yes, I think that over time one of the ways to correct the jobs/housing imbalance is to raise the height limit in the downtown core. The City has now been trying to solve this problem for 43 years (2.5 to 1 in 1973, 3.5 to 1 in 2016). All that has been accomplished is that they have spent thousands of hours of staff time and hundreds of thousands of dollars consultant fees to study the problem and during this time the problem has become 50% worse. We live in the City of Palo Alto, my father lived in Town of Palo Alto. We need to, as mentioned above as well as what I have been advocating, find and present the City with solutions to the housing imbalance. If the citizens of Palo Alto don't like the solutions then, we as a community don't really want "affordable, below market or housing for our first responders". I look forward to being elected and working to solve problems not talk about them or study them. These issues point out exactly why I chose to run.


6 people like this
Posted by common sense
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 20, 2016 at 8:09 pm

Candidate Len - please provide specifics to the following questions:

1) What is the housing price range do you think a "first responder" can afford? you can look up the salary of a "first responder" in several different publicly available databases and derive the answer. Many first responders do not qualify for affordable housing because they make more than the income limit allowed.

2) How many units will need to be built to depress housing prices to the level that a "first responder" can afford?

3) How many first responders with family will want to live in high density housing versus R-1 housing?

4) Did you read Diana Diamond's commentary about how Palo Alto firefighters are scheduled 48 hours on the job, 96 hours off? Do you think Palo Alto firefighters with a family are willing to trade off their commute (which they do once every 6 days) and R-1 housing to live in high density housing?

5) how many blocks of commercial downtown retail will need to be demolished and rebuilt to provide for this high density housing?

6) Are you willing to use emminent domain to condemn and take property from Chop Keenan, Roxy Rapp and other downtown landowners to implement your vision of skyscraper buildings that create residential housing?

7) How do you plan on funding all this?

8) Do you know of any private investors who are willing to give substandard returns on investment to create housing that would depress housing prices? If so, who are they?


11 people like this
Posted by wondering
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Oct 20, 2016 at 8:23 pm

[Post removed.]


4 people like this
Posted by SEA_SEELAM REDDY
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 20, 2016 at 10:34 pm

SEA_SEELAM REDDY is a registered user.

This is Palo Alto; highly educated society. We do not need campaign lawn signs. We know them all. It is not hard to do e-campaign. Next time; do not donate; do not ask for money. Simple website; stating what you stand for; debates are enough.

respectfully


36 people like this
Posted by Michael Lowy
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 21, 2016 at 12:21 am


The so called ‘presidential debates’ have made me despondent about the vibrancy of our political process. The nuances of creating and implementing public policy that can have positive affects upon our society are generally not communicated.

However, last weekend, my wife and I attended a ‘get to know the candidates’ in a neighbor’s home where approximately 30 people gathered. At the conclusion of the meeting, I felt proud to be an American citizen and my despondency lifted. I actually learned about areas of public policy that I was not aware of. I am delighted that the four candidates for City Council and one candidate for School Board each had something substantive to contribute to the discussions. There were no platitudes, no boring repetitive slogans; rather there was open dialogue about the problems and potential solutions that face the residents of Palo Alto. The candidates had positive ideas to offer; those of us in attendance came to understand how they would approach problems and issues and that they were strongly supportive of maintaining our quality of life in Palo Alto.

Lydia Kou, Arthur Keller, Stewart Carl, Greer Stone, running for City Council and Todd Collins, running for School Board did themselves proud. Karen Holman, our former Mayor and current council member closed out the meeting in an eloquent manner. She enumerated the strengths and unique talents of each of these candidates and explained why we should vote for them. This meeting was ‘democracy in action’. Free speech is a wonderful thing when it is used to educate and enlighten constituents. Those who are running for elected office are free to be creative and to offer their ideas free of fear. We urge Palo Altans to support these candidates and vote for them in November. They are well informed and sincere in their desire to serve the public.


8 people like this
Posted by math problems
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 21, 2016 at 10:45 am

Folks, I think the math isn't adding up here. Seems like both Keller and Kou have raised over 1.5 times of what Fine and Tanaka have. Also the size of individual donations for those campaigns feel pretty uncomfortable - $5000, $6000, $10,000 at a time? I'm glad to hear Fine was asking for $50 or more, seems like the right thing to do to try and level the proverbial playing field.


2 people like this
Posted by Candidate Len
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 21, 2016 at 10:58 am

Dear Common Sense-

Thank you for your questions. My answers in Bold at the end of the questions. I would be happy to talk with you or anyone further at you convenience. len@electlen2016.com.

Candidate Len - please provide specifics to the following questions:

1) What is the housing price range do you think a "first responder" can afford? you can look up the salary of a "first responder" in several different publicly available databases and derive the answer. Many first responders do not qualify for affordable housing because they make more than the income limit allowed. I BELIEVE THAT SOMEWHERE BETWEEN $500,000.00 TO $750,000.00 FOR A HOUSE.

2) How many units will need to be built to depress housing prices to the level that a "first responder" can afford? I DON'T BELIEVE THAT IS HOW YOU SOLVE THE PROBLEM.

3) How many first responders with family will want to live in high density housing versus R-1 housing? ACTUALLY I HAVE ASKED A COUPLE OF FIREMEN ABOUT THIS. ONE HAD 3 CHILDREN THE OTHER HAD 2. I ASKED THEM IF THEY WOULD EVER CONSIDER LIVING IN AN APARTMENT. BOTH ANSWER "ABSOLUTELY NOT". AGAIN THE SOLUTION IS NOT JUST ONE ANSWER FITS ALL. THIS IS A GOOD EXAMPLE OF WHY THE COUNCIL NEEDS SOMEONE LIKE ME TO TRY AND HAVE A MIXED BAG OF NEW IDEAS TO SOLVE OUR PROBLEMS.

4) Did you read Diana Diamond's commentary about how Palo Alto firefighters are scheduled 48 hours on the job, 96 hours off? Do you think Palo Alto firefighters with a family are willing to trade off their commute (which they do once every 6 days) and R-1 housing to live in high density housing? AGAIN, I DON'T THINK i SAID ANYTHING ABOUT HAVING EVERYONE LIVING "IN HIGH DENSITY HOUSING".

5) how many blocks of commercial downtown retail will need to be demolished and rebuilt to provide for this high density housing? WHY DO YOU JUMP TO THE CONCLUSION THAT ANY RETAIL WILL BE DISPLACED OR THAT ANYTHING WILL BE "DEMOLISHED".

6) Are you willing to use emminent domain to condemn and take property from Chop Keenan, Roxy Rapp and other downtown landowners to implement your vision of skyscraper buildings that create residential housing? NOT SURE WHERE YOU CAME UP WITH THE IDEA THAT I WANTED TO CONDEMN PROPERTY OR HAVE"SKYSCRAPERS" BECAUSE THAT IS NOT WHAT i WANT FOR THE CITY THAT MY GRANDMOTHER, MY FATHER AND I GREW UP IN.

7) How do you plan on funding all this? BY SELLING OR RENTING THE UNITS.

8) Do you know of any private investors who are willing to give substandard returns on investment to create housing that would depress housing prices? If so, who are they? I BELIEVE THAT THE CITY COULD INCENTIVIZE THEM TO DO SO.


7 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Oct 21, 2016 at 11:13 am

Some of Candidate Len's answers suggested a possible solution for Palo Alto's housing problem and transportation problems:

How about converting many of the new offices to residences? That will solve our 3.5 worker to resident imbalance while helping our gridlock problem?

Thoughts??


44 people like this
Posted by Timothy Gray
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Oct 21, 2016 at 12:52 pm

Does anyone else see the irony of the Big Money Developer recipients who have actively rewarded those donors with favorable zoning decisions crying foul and that they are outspent by bigger money from people that want nothing for themselves but to preserve growth protocols that have served our town for decades?

I know its not intentional, but the reactionary knee-jerk advocacy of "build-baby-build" will only erode the quality of life that attracted those people to Palo Alto in the first place. Palo Alto is worth standing up for, whether that stand means donating or working hard to expose the true motives of those that would abandon our town's historical values. I guess great support is OK as long as it is received by the traditional insiders, but if it is given in benevolence for the general community, there is a problem.

I am sure that I am not the only one to notice this hypocrisy.


40 people like this
Posted by sometimes a donation is simply a donation
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Oct 21, 2016 at 12:58 pm

sometimes a donation is simply a donation is a registered user.

Rather than assuming there is an personal ulterior motive behind these donations, maybe we could simply assume that the donors are doing what they believe is best for our City. I know one of the donors made a large, anonymous donation to the school district years ago, one that would not benefit any of their family. Sometimes people are simply generous.


39 people like this
Posted by Fred Balin
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 21, 2016 at 1:01 pm

Fred Balin is a registered user.

The dilemma for candidates who accept large contributions is one of perception.

Stewart Carl's campaign for city council has not and will not (1) accept contributions (cash or “in-kind”), individual or in combination, that exceed $250, and (2) all contributions must come from Palo Alto residents. End of story.

This is not to say that Stewart's campaign does not ask for and require contributions. It does, because it is not self-funded, and one cannot be a viable candidate for city council without meeting a certain financial threshold. Web site, yard signs, printed material, social media presence, a modicum of advertising, provisions for gatherings: that’s our must-have list of expenditures. Contribute now. Web Link

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


29 people like this
Posted by Eric
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 21, 2016 at 9:12 pm

I am shocked! Shocked to learn (and apparently so is Gennedy Sheyner) that for once 'residentialist' candidates have attracted similar campaign contributions that the pro-development crowd routinely assumes, and receives. Good for them!


29 people like this
Posted by rita vrhel
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 22, 2016 at 12:20 am

I gave 999.00 to Lydia Kou, 500.00 to Arthur Keller and 300.00 to Greer Stone.

I have seen Lydia at CC meetings for the past 2 years; speaking on a variety of topics. Would have no doubt seen her much earlier if I had been more involved. I came to respect her and was impressed by her knowledge and integrity.

I honestly believe she would NEVER bend to accommodate a contributor. I think anyone who believes Lydia would, does not know her or her track record.

Showing up and waiting to speak at a CC meeting after doing hours of research can be an ordeal, esp at 11 pm. She is passionate in wanting the best for Palo Alto. She has served admirably on the CAC; she has my support.

I met Arthur a year or so ago but had previously heard of him and his service on the Planning and Transportation Committee. His mind is amazing; he knows zoning codes and statistics like few do. He also does not support over development or the removal of current development caps. As I am appalled by the overgrowth of office space, traffic congestion, lack of parking and the relentless pace of change in Palo Alto, I will vote for Arthur. His views align with mine.

Greer Stone is new to me but is a remarkable person. Karen Holman introduce me to Greer and I was impressed. He is young, analytical and a good listener. I will also vote for him.

In addition to giving money to each of the above candidates, I have held coffees for each, planted their lawn signs and recommended them to anyone who would listen. I will continue to support them in any way I can.

What do I expect from them?

I expect each to continue to be ethical, informed and passionate in their love of Palo Alto. I expect them to work for the betterment of Palo Alto and all residents.

Will I disagree with some of their votes? Absolutely. But I trust them to explain the logic behind their votes. That is good enough for me.

The "large donors" have expressed their reasons for donating; I believe them. They are entitled to donate. Would a limit on individual donations for future elections be helpful? Yes, if applied equally.

My daughter also went to Castilleja; I will be attending CC meetings and speaking against the expansion of the school and any increase in enrollment.

I gave 500.00 to PASZ as I am not Social Media but was very concerned about inaccurate posts made by PA Forward/ Pro Growth candidates. PASZ seemed the best organization to counter the posts shown to me.

The Chamber's non endorsement endorsement, in my opinion, was unethical. The previous pro growth Mayors letter states their opinion.

Please review the candidates records and vote for those who truly represent the Palo Alto you want. Thank you





1 person likes this
Posted by Me
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 24, 2016 at 3:33 pm

Would be very interesting to see what the county property valuation assessment for those who contributed heavily to the residentialist candidates.

See how much money they are trying to protect by continuing to obstruct housing. If Palo Alto Online doesn't do it, I might just have to do it. It all public record, after all.


27 people like this
Posted by Econ102
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 24, 2016 at 4:34 pm

@Me

In an environment of very elastic demand, it is actually development that increases the price of real estate. Think about it, the whole purpose of real estate development is to increase the price of real estate. If a developer buys and develops a parcel he has to sell the parcel for a lot more than the purchase price, or he is not a very good developer.


Like this comment
Posted by @Econ102
a resident of University South
on Oct 24, 2016 at 8:16 pm

@Econ102, that's not how it works. If a developer is tearing down a single-family home and rebuilding it, then she can only make a profit by making it more expensive, as you say.

But suppose a developer buys a run-down old motel on El Camino and puts in first-floor retail and a dozen apartments. Then she's splitting the cost of the development over a few dozen new renters. Each of them gets an option to live in Palo Alto for much less than a single-family home would cost, so the developer can make money even if she's offering a lower-cost option.

It's all about whether more than one person can split the benefit of the new development (in condos or apartments) or whether it needs to go to a single wealthy owner (for a single-family home).


16 people like this
Posted by common sense
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 24, 2016 at 8:55 pm

@Econ102 - the scenario you suggest was actually tried in Redwood City. A block of "retail" one story buildings was torn down, and a 10 story building was erected, with the first floor being retail, and 9 stories of apartments. The one bedroom / one bath apartment rents from $3,000 to $3,600/month; a renter will income of at least $110,000/year to qualify - not very affordable.

Rezoning for higher density makes the land much more valuable; the best case scenario for return on investment is for developers is to buy a property zoned for low density, and get the city to rezone for high density. That is what was happening when Palo Alto had the "PC" Zoning designation.


Like this comment
Posted by Me
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 25, 2016 at 6:43 am

[Post removed.]


14 people like this
Posted by Citizen
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 25, 2016 at 9:13 am

I hope residents can see through the nastiness of PAF's political machine. Everything is a fake scandal:

Oh no! Kou and Keller pointed out their opponents' positions without using ridiculous misleading euphemisms! They got campaign contributions from concerned residents instead of developers! How dare they accept contributions from actual residents to make them competitive with the kind of money people like Scharff took from developers!! How dare they be concerned about overdevelopment! How dare they run for office to represent - horrors - residents!

And now there is PAF going after Timothy Gray because he *could have* used something in a way that PAF perceives as negative, even though he never did, in many months, and it was PAF who made it public before the election and created the negative framing. Then they have the nerve to cry dirty politics.

We have serious problems to solve by Councilmembers willing to deal honestly with the issues rather than using negative framing politics and euphemisms to cover a development agenda as PAF is doing.

Lydia Kou is probably the most qualified and incorruptible candidate of all, which is probably why the PAF side has gone after her so hard. I hope residents see through it.

Despite the way it was portrayed, we never got a residentialist majority on Council the last time, and we sorely need it to finally solve our City's problems. Residents have even been paying for developers' dominance of Its employee time and focus. I will be voting Kou, Keller, Carl, and Stone, and so we can finally have some representation for residents again.




4 people like this
Posted by Captain Renaud
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 25, 2016 at 4:35 pm

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


2 people like this
Posted by Khaled Bizri
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 1, 2016 at 2:59 pm

Until we introduce:

1. Meaningful term limits.
2. A ban on political contributions exceeding $100 per person and $200 per family

we shall be witnessing the continued erosion of what made Palo Alto what it was ten years ago.

Clearly a vote for the 'developer-friendly' candidates, Fine, Tanaka, McDougall by or Kniss would be a vote for converting our city into a miniature Los Angeles jungle, where a community is made up from a husband, a wife and a couple of childred, period!

These five took money from developers as seen in the table prepared by Palo Alto Sensible Zoning Committee (www.paszaction.com)and sadly supported by some local newspapers which is customary now in our kind of 'democracy.'

If we cannot put an end to the contrivance of big money aided by all instruments of publicity locally, a reform of our entire political system is a forlorn hope!

I believe many would like to pass Palo Alto to their children as pleasant and warm as when they arrived to this haven. It behooves those many therefore to make sure the decade long onslaught on our city comes to an end, and we, the citizens of Palo Alto are the ones who decide the future of our city not 'developers' and their paid candidates.




8 people like this
Posted by Fred Balin
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 25, 2017 at 1:31 pm

Fred Balin is a registered user.

Conducting research on the 2016 and earlier campaigns and wanted to correct one statement in the letter from the former mayors that was quoted in the article above, i.e., "Not only are these contributions shocking and deeply troubling, but checks for $5,000 or more are unprecedented in our City Council elections!”

FPPC 1st pre-election period disclosure statements released 20 days prior to the mayors’ letter show that Greg Tanaka received two $5,000 contributions during that period. In 2014. Greg Scharff also received a $5,000 contribution. Candidates have also contributed $5,000 or more to their own campaigns.


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

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