News

Resignation creates another opening on Palo Alto's planning commission

After William Riggs' departure, three seats on panel are up for grabs

The Palo Alto Planning and Transportation Commission voted on Jan. 13 to elect Barton Hechtman and Giselle Roohparvar as chair and vice chair, respectively. Earlier that day, William Riggs announced his resignation from the commission. Video courtesy city of Palo Alto YouTube channel.

The Palo Alto City Council will have a chance to fill three seats on the Planning and Transportation Commission in the coming weeks after commissioner William Riggs' recent resignation.

The resignation of Riggs, a professor at the University of San Francisco who chaired the commission in 2019, means that the recently reconstituted council will have a chance to leave a greater imprint on the city's most influential advisory commission, which is often seen as a stepping stone for would-be council candidates.

Riggs' resignation on Jan. 13 follows a contentious political battle between the council's two factions over commission appointments. Last year's council, which included Liz Kniss and Adrian Fine and on which the more pro-growth bloc enjoyed a 4-3 majority, favored making the appointments before the end of the year, a move that may have threatened the reappointments of commissioners Ed Lauing and Doria Summa.

But the commission appointments were delayed after the three council members associated with the more slow-growth camp — Tom DuBois, Eric Filseth and Lydia Kou — missed the interview meeting, which was then canceled because of a lack of quorum (Alison Cormack couldn't attend because of a family emergency). Given its failure to conduct interviews, the council voted on Dec. 14 to leave the appointments to the 2021 council, consistent with policies in the city's recently approved commission handbook.

Now, with the new council in place and the more slow-growth wing enjoying a 4-3 majority (or 5-2, when Vice Mayor Pat Burt joins them), Lauing and Summa are increasingly likely to win fresh terms. Summa is the commission's most consistent and tenacious critic of new development proposals, while Lauing's recent council candidacy was endorsed by the group Palo Altans for Sensible Zoning, which is aligned with the slow-growth "residentialist" camp.

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The council has received nine applications for the two seats that were open prior to Riggs' resignation. In addition to Lauing and Summa, the pool of applicants includes Kelsey Banes, Doug Burns, Alon Carmeli, Rebecca Eisenberg, Kathy Jordan, Kevin Ma and Jessica Resmini.

The planning commission also elected a new chair on Wednesday night, voting to award the position to Barton Hechtman, a land use attorney and the commission's newest member. He was unanimously chosen after the initial nominee, Vice Chair Giselle Roohparvar, declined a nomination to serve as chair. Hechtman, whose detailed motions have shaped the commission's recent discussions on Castilleja School's proposed expansion and the North Ventura Coordinated Area Plan, replaced Commissioner Cari Templeton in the role of chair,

The commission also voted to have Roohparvar remain as its vice chair for another year. Four members, Michael Alcheck, Hechtman, Roohparvar and Templeton voted for Roohparvar, while Lauing and Summa voted for Summa.

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Resignation creates another opening on Palo Alto's planning commission

After William Riggs' departure, three seats on panel are up for grabs

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Sat, Jan 16, 2021, 8:23 am
Updated: Tue, Jan 19, 2021, 8:41 am

The Palo Alto City Council will have a chance to fill three seats on the Planning and Transportation Commission in the coming weeks after commissioner William Riggs' recent resignation.

The resignation of Riggs, a professor at the University of San Francisco who chaired the commission in 2019, means that the recently reconstituted council will have a chance to leave a greater imprint on the city's most influential advisory commission, which is often seen as a stepping stone for would-be council candidates.

Riggs' resignation on Jan. 13 follows a contentious political battle between the council's two factions over commission appointments. Last year's council, which included Liz Kniss and Adrian Fine and on which the more pro-growth bloc enjoyed a 4-3 majority, favored making the appointments before the end of the year, a move that may have threatened the reappointments of commissioners Ed Lauing and Doria Summa.

But the commission appointments were delayed after the three council members associated with the more slow-growth camp — Tom DuBois, Eric Filseth and Lydia Kou — missed the interview meeting, which was then canceled because of a lack of quorum (Alison Cormack couldn't attend because of a family emergency). Given its failure to conduct interviews, the council voted on Dec. 14 to leave the appointments to the 2021 council, consistent with policies in the city's recently approved commission handbook.

Now, with the new council in place and the more slow-growth wing enjoying a 4-3 majority (or 5-2, when Vice Mayor Pat Burt joins them), Lauing and Summa are increasingly likely to win fresh terms. Summa is the commission's most consistent and tenacious critic of new development proposals, while Lauing's recent council candidacy was endorsed by the group Palo Altans for Sensible Zoning, which is aligned with the slow-growth "residentialist" camp.

The council has received nine applications for the two seats that were open prior to Riggs' resignation. In addition to Lauing and Summa, the pool of applicants includes Kelsey Banes, Doug Burns, Alon Carmeli, Rebecca Eisenberg, Kathy Jordan, Kevin Ma and Jessica Resmini.

The planning commission also elected a new chair on Wednesday night, voting to award the position to Barton Hechtman, a land use attorney and the commission's newest member. He was unanimously chosen after the initial nominee, Vice Chair Giselle Roohparvar, declined a nomination to serve as chair. Hechtman, whose detailed motions have shaped the commission's recent discussions on Castilleja School's proposed expansion and the North Ventura Coordinated Area Plan, replaced Commissioner Cari Templeton in the role of chair,

The commission also voted to have Roohparvar remain as its vice chair for another year. Four members, Michael Alcheck, Hechtman, Roohparvar and Templeton voted for Roohparvar, while Lauing and Summa voted for Summa.

Comments

Name hidden
Downtown North

Registered user
on Jan 18, 2021 at 5:29 pm
Name hidden, Downtown North

Registered user
on Jan 18, 2021 at 5:29 pm

Due to repeated violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are automatically removed. Why?


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 18, 2021 at 8:24 pm
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on Jan 18, 2021 at 8:24 pm

I hope the interview process takes into account the changing real estate market and demographic trends in the post-Covid environment where a) people no long want to be densely packed, b) where we'll see more workers working remotely and c) will push back against the ABAG numbers that ignore these realities.


Anonymous
Registered user
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 18, 2021 at 10:13 pm
Anonymous, Duveneck/St. Francis
Registered user
on Jan 18, 2021 at 10:13 pm

I agree with Online Name.


Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on Jan 20, 2021 at 10:42 am
Resident 1-Adobe Meadows, Adobe-Meadow
Registered user
on Jan 20, 2021 at 10:42 am

It is pointed out in the article that participation on this commission could be viewed as a stepping stone for a run for office. We saw that in the elections that just took place. That translates that some members would be serving the direction of the higher state legislators / major employers in other cities vs the needs of the this city. Instances of that occurrence have been pointed out and individuals called out for taking actions that are not approved by the city direction.

A big concern at this point in time as the current business base in the city and state are going in the wrong direction of the positions of the current state legislators. In fact the policies which are being approved in the state - SB50 could be driving business out of state. Multiple factors are driving business out the door and depleting the tax base of the cities and state.

Continual use of ABAG to drive counter-productive actions are in play here. ABAG is a political engine with no basis in actual numerical data of what is transpiring in the state and are unable to justify how they derive their directives. As major companies leave the state - or move their companies to other locations are not able to be noted in ABAG's "methods" for their directives.

Palo Alto is not a major metro city and has no traditional jobs for a diverse economy - no major airport, no major rail connections - just a station, no major port action, no major manufacturing facilities, no agricultural activity. SU as a non-profit organization is questionable as to how they contribute to the tax base of the city and county.

What we have seen is "hype' which has no basis in reality. The FHP experience has taught us some lessons as to how outside advocate groups could be driving decisions which are counter-productive in the end results.
We need to be very vigilante in what people are pushing as programs and whether those actions are in fact counterproductive.


Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on Jan 24, 2021 at 12:44 pm
Resident 1-Adobe Meadows, Adobe-Meadow
Registered user
on Jan 24, 2021 at 12:44 pm

Article in today's SF Chronicle concerning housing in Sacramento and SF and the fact that they are overcoming NIMBYism. What the people who run major papers fail to understand is that there are major metro areas in any state where there is a conjunction of rail, air, ports, and major city government and commercial structures. The dynamic of the mixed economy and variant on economic activities are unique in each city. You then have suburban cities which are usually limited in their economic choices and infrastructure. You cannot apply one concept against the other and retain any value relative to city planning.

Housing is not a random activity. City planning has purpose, tax consequences, and impact relative to school planning and overall governance. You cannot spread this like peanut butter over whole swaths of cities. State governance needs to start reimagining how they approach this topic.


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