I am writing in support of two important ballot measures in Palo Alto.
The first one, Measure K, will provide almost $10 million annually to the Palo Alto budget to fund critical efforts in the community.
I understand the concerns some have about imposing a tax on businesses, especially as we are trying to recover from the pandemic. City leaders, however, have crafted this measure through detailed negotiations with the needs of both residents and the business community.
I applaud Mayor Pat Burt and the rest of the council for their efforts to reach this consensus. By including exemptions for businesses under 10,000 square feet and an annual cap of $500,000, Measure K protects small businesses while encouraging our largest employers to continue to grow within the community.
Palo Alto is the only major Bay Area city that has not implemented some form of business tax — in San Francisco, approximately 15% of its budget (nearly $1 billion) is funded through its business taxes. The funds raised through Measure K will be put toward affordable housing, train crossings and rail safety, and public safety efforts.
Measure K funds have been targeted for a variety of transportation and mobility programs. As Caltrain increases service in the coming years, track crossings will become increasingly time-consuming without re-aligning our local streets. Palo Alto is already working on grade separations at four existing rail crossings. These projects will improve traffic flow and improve safety for bicyclists and pedestrians.
Measure K also will help address homelessness and the shortage of affordable housing in our community. Building affordable housing in the Bay Area is difficult and expensive. The high cost of land throughout our region limits the opportunities for housing for low- and moderate-income households and the loss of redevelopment agencies a decade ago took away cities' best option for financing these types of projects.
As a result, cities now have to explore different options for producing needed affordable housing. Measure K is a critical component of our work toward this goal. Creating more affordable housing reduces traffic congestion and reduces greenhouse gas emissions.
Measure L is an important component of our climate goals that will help reduce our reliance on natural gas (which many now call "fossil gas").
Measure L will help us accomplish this goal, along with funding critical city operations like emergency services and street maintenance. For 70 years, Palo Alto has transferred funds from its utility to the general fund for day-to-day operations. A recent change in state law requires a vote to continue the practice. For 70 years, your representatives have used these monies responsibly; they should be allowed to continue doing so.
Palo Alto has earned a well-deserved reputation as a great community to live, work and raise a family. It is home to some of the world's most brilliant and creative minds developed by world-class educational systems. And we are strengthened by the diversity of our residents.
But to preserve that high quality of life and sense of community, we need to invest in its future. We need to provide housing for teachers so our schools remain among the best in the state. We need to improve transportation to, from and around our city so our streets remain safe and our businesses can thrive. And we need to continue efforts in Palo Alto to address the effects of climate change on our community.
Together, Measure K and Measure L will ensure that Palo Alto continues to be the city we love. It is important that both of these measures pass this November.
I strongly encourage a "yes" vote on Measures K and L.