Councilman Cory Wolbach to run for re-election | News | Palo Alto Online |


Councilman Cory Wolbach to run for re-election

Housing advocate kicks off Palo Alto's political season with announcement

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Cory Wolbach, one of the Palo Alto City Council's staunchest housing advocates, kicked off the city's election season Monday afternoon when he stated his plan to run for a second term in November.

With his announcement, Wolbach became the first candidate to enter the race for three open seats on a council. Councilmen Tom DuBois and Eric Filseth are also completing their first terms this year, though neither has yet announced his plans for a second term. Council members Greg Scharff and Karen Holman will be concluding their second terms this year and are ineligible to run again.

Wolbach, a former legislative aide to state Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, who now works as a public-outreach consultant, has stood out on the council for his consistent support for the creation of more housing. Last year, he co-signed a memo from Councilman Adrian Fine that proposed a list of new zoning rules to help spur housing, a memo that prompted the council to approve a Housing Work Plan last month.

Unlike his council colleagues on the slow-growth side of the dais, Wolbach has advocated for both market-rate and affordable housing. He was one of the first council members to propose the relaxation of rules for accessory-dwelling units, and he has favored exploring the concept of housing developments with "microunits" and "car-light" policies (which provide more transit incentives and fewer parking spots) as part of the solution to the housing shortage.

On land use, Wolbach has largely been affiliated with the council's pro-growth wing, which includes Mayor Liz Kniss, Scharff, Fine and Greg Tanaka. All four are endorsing his campaign, as is Hill and state Assemblyman Marc Berman, D-Palo Alto, Wolbach's former council colleague.

A resident of the Palo Verde neighborhood and a longtime activist in the Democratic Party, Wolbach first ran for council in 2014, when he edged Lydia Kou for the final open seat (Kou ran again and won a seat in 2016). At the time, he cited the city's housing challenges as a top priority. He also talked about the need to improve civility in civic discourse.

On Monday, Wolbach pointed to progress on both fronts. In an interview with the Palo Alto Weekly, Wolbach said that he sees the council's recent consensus on slowing down the growth of office construction and increasing the city’s housing supply (of both market-rate and below-market-rate housing) as its greatest accomplishments of the past term.

"Four years ago, that sort of consensus position didn't exist and a lot of people thought it was crazy that we needed more housing," Wolbach said. "I think we've gone together as a community and as a council, and that's reflected in our Comprehensive Plan and in the unanimous support for our Housing Work Plan."

On the civility front, it hasn't been completely smooth sailing. In January 2017, Wolbach and the five-member majority drew criticism when they supported stripping all policies from the updated Comprehensive Plan, contrary to recommendations from a citizens committee that helped craft the policies. After an uproar and an accusation by DuBois of a "hijacked democracy," Wolbach made the motion in March to reverse course and restore the policies.

Wolbach told the Weekly that when it comes to "civility," things on the council got worse before they got better. Today, he said, the council is working collaboratively to address its top priorities: a shortage of housing, the need to decide on how to separate the railroad tracks from local roads, and the need to upgrade the city's infrastructure.

In a statement, Wolbach said that as a council member, he has "delivered results on issues that matter to our community."

"I am running for re-election to continue leading on housing affordability, transportation, sustainability and the environment, and inclusive and efficient government," he said.

He also told the Weekly that he'd like to see the city continue to focus on traffic-reduction strategies, including growing the Palo Alto Transportation Management Association and pushing Stanford University to stay focused on its transportation-demand-management effort in Stanford Research Park.

While he said he fully supports the council's adopted priorities, the first phase of his campaign will focus on "really listening."

"It's something I've always prioritized, and people who've worked with me know that I've always tried to make myself accessible," Wolbach said.

An independent consultant, Wolbach is currently working with the subcontractor Louis Berger to help the San Mateo County Transit District with outreach as the district explores a sales-tax increase for transportation projects. He also currently chairs the council's Rail Committee and had served last year as chair of the Policy and Services Committee.

Wolbach will be running in a year that will see a structural change on the council, with the number of seats going down from nine to seven.

He is one of two candidates who have filed candidate statements of intent. Alison Cormack, a community volunteer who spearheaded the Measure N campaign to rebuild local libraries, also plans to seek a council seat.


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39 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of University South
on Mar 26, 2018 at 4:10 pm

Great to see Wolbach running for re-election! He's been a sensible, moderate voice on the Council, which is exactly what we need right now.

42 people like this
Posted by More Homes Needed
a resident of Woodland Ave. area (East Palo Alto)
on Mar 26, 2018 at 4:22 pm

We need more advocates for sensible growth and housing on council, and Mr. Wolbach fits the bill. He is a Palo Alto native that speaks foryounger residents. I'm a proud supporter and look forward to seeing his return to council.

31 people like this
Posted by Palo Alto resident
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 26, 2018 at 4:23 pm

Excited to see Cory running for re-election. He's a strong voice for common sense measures to help our city be inclusive and welcoming.

41 people like this
Posted by Dan
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 26, 2018 at 4:26 pm

Not a fan of Wolbach, but hopefully this time his cards are on the table. No running on a vague platform of "civility"... own your agenda: Pro-development + Pro-density and all the complicated issues that come with it.

31 people like this
Posted by Tony
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 26, 2018 at 4:27 pm

Very pleased Cory is running again. He has been a productive council member. I liked the town hall idea he introduced when he first elected, and I support the work he is doing with granny units and increasing the amount of affordable housing. I will support him again.

10 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 26, 2018 at 4:30 pm

[Post removed.]

27 people like this
Posted by Glad to hear this!
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 26, 2018 at 4:31 pm

We could use more young committed public servants like Cory! He is genuine, kind and above all, open minded to hearing from and speaking with everyone. Politics everywhere has been so mean spirited, including here in Palo Alto and what I appreciate about Cory is his willingness to listen and speak with everyone.

27 people like this
Posted by RPopp
a resident of Monroe Park
on Mar 26, 2018 at 4:39 pm

RPopp is a registered user.

This is great news! I'm looking forward to supporting Cory for re-election! I respect his goals and appreciate his style. His nominating Filseth was a great example of how he is supportive of the whole community, and as a long-time resident, understands how important it is for our Council to reflect our population overall. I've had the opportunity to speak with Cory and found him to be a smart, thoughtful and compassionate guy. He takes time to evaluate the large and small issues and seems to be closely aligned with what I, and most of my friends, want for Palo Alto. As an aside, I thought this was a well written and accurate piece. Thanks Gennady for doing it this way. I only hope the other candidates and the press will continue to be civil and respectful. The last election devolved into a sad and unfortunate situation. Our community can and needs to be better than that.

49 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 26, 2018 at 4:41 pm

Being "pro-housing" is completely, absolutely pointless unless further office development is stopped. There is no way that new housing can ever catch up if further office development continues.

24 people like this
Posted by Go Cory!
a resident of Professorville
on Mar 26, 2018 at 4:43 pm

This is great news. Cory embodies many shared values, such as advocating for diverse housing options as well as renters rights, striving to reduce traffic and congestion, and protecting our schools and environment. He brings logic, sound judgment and social consciousness to Council. He's from Palo Alto and naturally wants whats best for our city and has the tenacity to go after it!
Don't be fooled by the vocal minority act like they want us to return to fruit orchards and will likely use their BIG $$ PAC PASZ Political Action Committee money to attack Cory. This is 2018 and we need Cory's progressive voice to ensure that our future growth is sensible and forward-thinking. VOTE 4 CORY!

34 people like this
Posted by Eric Rosenblum
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 26, 2018 at 4:49 pm

I'm really proud to support Cory, and I think that we're lucky in Palo Alto to have a public servant like him.

Survey after survey has shown that our community's most pressing problem is housing affordability (closely followed by traffic-related issues). He has unflinchingly grappled with both issues head-on. He pays attention to the strong work done by staff, and has also educated himself on the economics of housing, the relationship between transportation, housing and jobs, the structural constraints to both housing and transportation, etc.

Beyond his commitment to improve both housing affordability and transportation, he has a true north when it comes to social justice and civil liberties. He is a hard worker, collaborative colleague, and lives the strength of his convictions.

Thanks for running, Cory.

30 people like this
Posted by Thanks for running!
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 26, 2018 at 4:50 pm

So great to see Cory is running again. Cory has been a strong voice supporting solutions for the housing crisis and will be an excellent voice to continue that effort. I feel lucky to have a passionated candidate like Cory who is willing to listen and articulate solutions. He is the one we can rally behind and support. Thanks for running, Cory!

94 people like this
Posted by Eddie Haskell
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 26, 2018 at 4:54 pm

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame om me.

22 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 26, 2018 at 5:21 pm

I'm getting good at this technology thing. It may not be just email, his twitter tweet is already out and his followers are retweeting this link.

I wonder how many of his followers are Palo Alto registered voters?

Isn't technology wonderful!

25 people like this
Posted by Cory for the win!!!
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 26, 2018 at 5:24 pm

I've known many of the honorable individuals who have served our city as council members and many of them have made me very proud to have voted for them. But none more than Cory Wolbach. Cory has consistently kept his focus on the issues that are most pressing in Palo Alto and he has never shied away from making the right decision no matter how unpopular. This is the sort of courage we need from our leadership. I am proud to support you Cory and I hope you keep working to usher Palo Alto into the 21st century with the sort of ethos we can all be proud of.

29 people like this
Posted by Mark Michael
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 26, 2018 at 5:24 pm

I support re-electing Cory to Council. As someone who grew up in Palo Alto, Cory genuinely appreciates what makes our community special for families to raise their kids in a safe, stimulating and nurturing environment. Our thriving economy and innovation bring challenges of managing growth The need for more housing of all types, including affordable housing, is a priority for the City and Cory is an effective advocate for such needs. In Cory's first term he has supported policies for youth programs, zoning reform, accessory dwelling units, and even raising the minimum wage. We face big challenges, including traffic, transit, housing, protecting the environment and public health. Palo Alto was a great place for Cory to grow up and he will continue to make efforts to provide the same opportunity to the next generation, while tending to the needs and concerns of all generations.

3 people like this
Posted by DogLover
a resident of University South
on Mar 26, 2018 at 5:34 pm

[Post removed.]

4 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 26, 2018 at 5:39 pm

@Dog Lover

I am indeed a resident of Palo Alto, but there is no way for me to prove it. You will have to take my word for it.

At least one of the supporters claims to be from East Palo Alto.

Wondering is all I am doing. Anyone here can claim to be from wherever they want to claim they are from and nobody has to believe them.

My substance is that I have checked Cory Wolbach's twitter tweets and he is already getting his message out to his followers and they are retweeting. In my book, that is substance and fact. You can check his twitter account for verification.

58 people like this
Posted by Wondering
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 26, 2018 at 5:43 pm

Development interests at PA Forward will be pleased.
Will he take money from developers like his buddies Kniss, Fine, Tanaka, and Scharff?

10 people like this
Posted by Fake comments
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 26, 2018 at 5:50 pm

[Post removed.]

52 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 26, 2018 at 5:51 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

We need more deep thinkers like Corey who never imagined the ADUs might cause neighborhood parking problems. When questioned about that at a CC council meeting, he gave the issue a good solid 45 seconds of thought before saying that ADU tenants could just park on front lawns.

That's the type of leadership we've come to expect from Palo Alto Forward.

18 people like this
Posted by Crescent Park
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 26, 2018 at 6:35 pm

Good news for Palo Alto! Cory's questions and comments on the Stanford Research Park Transportation Management Association study session tonight show how knowledgeable he is on alternative transportation issues. This is an issue where we can move the needle.

25 people like this
Posted by Bart
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Mar 26, 2018 at 6:48 pm

Excited that Cory Wolbach is running again! He has been a young, fresh, and collaborative voice on the city council. Unlike some others who “say” they support housing, Cory ACTUALLY does, and has been willing to weigh different options to make a better city! Go Cory Go!

74 people like this
Posted by These posts
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Mar 26, 2018 at 6:51 pm

I am surprised to see so much support expressed here for build, baby, build.

This hyperdevelopment adds to the stress on our overloaded infrastructure while making housing more expensive.

It’s one thing when one doesn’t know what a candidate stands for or who funds him.

But knowing what we know?

Are these people trying explicitly to bury Palo Alto in built up undersupported business and residential activity?

What is the advantage to residents of this? We’re already paying for people to commute to Palo Alto. We’re already suffering car break-ins and accept bicycle theft as expected. We already see double digit increases in cost of housing. We already are forced to conserve water and waste. And our city cannot afford its current employees.

Isn’t time to digest and adjust to our current stresses before we do growth on steroids?

36 people like this
Posted by PAF
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 26, 2018 at 7:04 pm

If you support PAF's pro-development agenda, providing more high-density housing for Millenial tech workers, vote for Wolbach. [Portion removed.]

4 people like this
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 26, 2018 at 7:16 pm

[Post removed.]

24 people like this
Posted by Elizabeth
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 26, 2018 at 7:53 pm

Cory has my vote! We need more people in office under the age of "I bought my house twenty years ago," who understand the housing shortage as it currently is.

48 people like this
Posted by HMMM
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 26, 2018 at 8:38 pm

Of course Cory has support online. His friends at Palo Alto Forward have known for months he is running again. If he is honest about his agenda (which Fine and Tanaka were not in the last election), then, that's fair. I would like him to just be honest, deep ties to PAF, pro development, pro corporation...let's really debate and vote on the issues.

12 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 27, 2018 at 5:08 am

Wow. Amazing how many people felt called upon to endorse Cory Wolbach on Day One. Someone remind me when the election is?

45 people like this
Posted by Questions
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 27, 2018 at 7:32 am

One positive area that the council has come together on is their support for affordable housing. But I wish that the article had probed Wolbach on some important positions and actions that he has taken on the council rather than so much focus on his campaign rhetoric.
Why did he oppose higher affordable housing impact fees? Why did he oppose the council considering renter protections, including some form of rent control? Why did he reverse himself and oppose moving forward with consideration of a business license tax for local transportation that could fully fund the transportation management association and expand it citywide? Why has someone who campaigned on the mantle of civility so frequently acted as a model of incivility on the council with his strident personal attacks on those he disagrees with?
These and other parts of his record should be what the Weekly should be reporting and the public should be weighing.

15 people like this
Posted by Gina Dalma
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 27, 2018 at 9:32 am

I don't agree with Cory all the time, but I do most. I respect his ability to study an issue, articulate pros and cons clearly and vote with integrity. I respect his values and vision of what he wants to see in Palo Alto - diversity, vibrancy and cohesion. Most of all, I respect his understanding of where we have fallen short and what we have to do differently to ensure we are raising people up. I will vote for Cory and support his re-election campaign.

54 people like this
Posted by Let's see how naive residents are
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 27, 2018 at 9:36 am

Wolbach is the kind of politician who will say anything to get elected, and then turn around and just push the agenda of the special interests that got him there. Just look at all the online comments supporting him, probably some kind of coordinated effort that most residents in town aren't even aware of.

Observing the actions of the pro-development candidates for the past few years have made me very cynical about anything I hear from them. Let's see if most voters have wised this time now that we know there's big money and special interests behind many candidates.

15 people like this
Posted by Nancy Krop
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 27, 2018 at 10:23 am

I support Cory's re-election whole heartedly. Cory was one of the first voices to support our over 100 PAUSD students and their families facing losing their homes in the Buena Vista Mobile Home Park. Cory understands one of the things making Palo Alto great is our diversity. When Cory gives you his word - you can trust it. He's an honest, dedicate public servant. I'm proud and honored to stand with him.

18 people like this
Posted by Voter
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 27, 2018 at 10:52 am

[Post removed.]

45 people like this
Posted by Novelera
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 27, 2018 at 1:16 pm

Novelera is a registered user.

It looks very suspicious to me that Cory, who has gotten a LOT of criticism here on Town Square for his votes for more and more housing and a really bad ADU ordinance is getting SO many supportive emails. I've seen this before, and Palo Alto Forward are known for mass supportive emails here and mass positive comments at City Council meetings. These don't feel like the people I know in Palo Alto.

8 people like this
Posted by stephen levy
a resident of University South
on Mar 27, 2018 at 2:01 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

I support Cory. His stands on civil liberties, the environment and housing are positive for the kind of community I treasure and the kind of council members I want in Palo Alto.

I am glad he had decided to run.

47 people like this
Posted by Concerned Observer
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 27, 2018 at 3:33 pm

Concerned Observer is a registered user.

Eddie Haskell is right.....Says one thing to get your vote and then does the opposite once he got elected. Bur hey, most politicians do the same thing. I won't be voting for him or anyone else that supports turning our streets into obstacle courses for pedestrians, bicyclists and automobiles. Time to get these people out of office. They NEVER listen to what the majority wants and just oil the squeaky wheels time after time.

45 people like this
Posted by Marie
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 27, 2018 at 4:49 pm

Marie is a registered user.

Just no. Cory has made no effort to balance office and housing development.

I think the council should oppose all commercial development requiring zoning variances until our housing imbalance is reduced. The continual approval of zoning variances (reduced parking, no loading zones) in the face of our crowded streets and parking deficit makes no sense except to get continued donations from developers. Even when housing is included, the number of new employees usually far exceeds the number of possible housing units and in many cases the housing becomes corporate housing for visitors.

Please focus on new housing for low and moderate income residents. Please do whatever is possible to support housing for teachers and public safety employees. The city council should be using its housing fund to purchase land. I expect that if there is no cost for land, then public housing authorities could build low and moderate income housing, without further subsidies.

The city did not take the opportunity to buy the Maybell parcel when the proposed housing was voted down, at a price less than market value even then. If they had, I am sure we would have a successful low to moderate income project there today (not senior housing - it was a poor location for senior housing with no services and inadequate parking), which the neighbors would have wholeheartedly supported, as they did the Terman project years ago.

They also gave up an option to buy land in Ventura at a time when it was much cheaper than it would be today. I'm pretty sure they had enough money to buy the property - just not enough to build the public safety building. If they had bought it, they would have been able to use it today.

Finally, the old VTA parking lot, which was not zoned for any housing, was bought by a developer at that value. The council could have easily said they would only zone it for low and moderate income housing. Eventually the developer would have sold it for that or it could have been obtained by eminent domain, for its value at that zoning. Now we will have an underparked market rate building, that blocks views for the existing low income SRO and an assisted living facility, each of which were approved without appropriate parking. Has anyone surveyed either of those projects to see how many residents and workers park on the street? It would be easy to find out how many parking permits come from those two projects. Let us stop fooling ourselves that low income people don't own cars and that workers for retirement homes, don't drive to work. If your shift starts at 6AM, mass transit does not work.

Why must zoning variances only be made to advance the aims of developers as opposed to what is best for Palo Alto residents?

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