Candidates for council tackle top issues at election forum | September 16, 2022 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - September 16, 2022

Candidates for council tackle top issues at election forum

Seven challengers united over higher density housing, new city gym

by Gennady Sheyner

The seven candidates vying for three seats on the Palo Alto City Council this November all want to see the city build a gym, renovate Cubberley Community Center, adopt a business tax and build housing at a higher density.

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Email Staff Writer Gennady Sheyner at [email protected]


Posted by Palo Alto Mom
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 14, 2022 at 11:37 am

Palo Alto Mom is a registered user.

Thank you Weekly for this debate that confirmed my votes for Julie Lythcott-Haims and Lisa Forssell! Vicki impressed me too and will probably get my third vote. How lucky we are to have 3 kick-ass woman candidates to vote for! We especially loved Julie’s no-bs response to the police question and her response to one of the final questions about one last thing they would want to improve. While others spoke of gas blowers and such she gave a passionate response (that had us in tears) about being a Gunn parent and about the need for mental health services and a sense of belonging and unconditional love for our youth. Julie is our #1!

Posted by felix
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 14, 2022 at 12:18 pm

felix is a registered user.

Thanks Weekly and Candidates for this good Forum. One suggestion - next time have all candidates in person to video/zoom to the public, preventing constant reliance on crib sheets and texts to answer most questions. Only two candidates didn't do what I think of as cheating - giving a false impression of more knowledge than candidates have.

Generalities replaced specific knowledge by just saying "yes" to stuff - greater housing density (easy to say given state law requires 6,000 more units in town), office caps, etc. Only Lauing and Summa stated chapter and verse 90% of the time about the many issues asked of candidates.

When Lythcott-Haims did get specific, she showed lack of knowledge by promoting a tunnel or viaduct as grade separations, though the Council eliminated both as way too costly or too impactful of residents. She complained that no one spoke of George Floyd/BLM the night our new Police Chief was approved by Council, yet she was there and said nothing about either.

Campaign finance was asked about, with candidates Forssell, Lythcott-Haims and Veenker all supporting campaign finance caps including Independent Expenditure Committees (IEs), yet none mentioned they had just benefited from ads run the week before in a local paper paid by for an IE. IE's can't be limited by law, nor can PACs. Campaign finance limits/reform are an illusion as Summa stated.

Forssell wants Specific Area Plans. The problem is she doesn't know the consequences. SAPs take a long time to do when done right like SOFA (not like Ventura, so far a failure). Several SAPs would be needed for El Camino, San Antonio areas, delaying housing by years - a no-starter.

A Gym? Yes, but also a good public swimming pool. Riconanda has two. South Palo Alto, none, which is poor in services. Put both at Mitchell Park.

Lauing and Summa simply know the most, have the most experince and it showed last night

Posted by Bystander
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 14, 2022 at 2:24 pm

Bystander is a registered user.

Does anyone have any firm ideas of where these new residents for new housing will materialize? I do agree that people like teachers and various support staff for Stanford and service industries will want to live nearer to their work places, I am not so sure we are going to need lots of housing for high tech singles or even couples who might be working here.

There appears to be huge amounts of empty office space with for lease signs and empty parking lots all over town. Even smaller office space in Midtown and similar commercial areas seem to be in abundance.

Are we going to build ghost housing for people who will never live in these developments?

Posted by Concerned Neightbor
a resident of Triple El
on Sep 15, 2022 at 9:29 pm

Concerned Neightbor is a registered user.

The only one who deserves a vote is Brian Hamachek. Possibly also Alex Comsa. All the others will bring more problems to the residents.

Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 19, 2022 at 2:36 pm

Annette is a registered user.

I would very much like to see each candidate rank Palo Alto's problems and priorities in writing and submit those to the Weekly and Daily Post for publication simultaneously before ballots are mailed.

An incomplete list of problems includes: increased crime, an understaffed PAPD, a lack of affordable housing, the grade separation conundrum, what to do about Cubberley, an unreliable electricity grid, water supply and treatment , youth mental health, and the fiber issue. More than one of these problems is fat and thorny, making it impossible to choose which one is the most serious and thus worthy of the most CC and Staff time and attention. And limited budget money.

What does get a lot of attention is climate change and the City's SCAP goals. Of course those are important, but they are also global issues and the focus of agencies and higher level government than city council. Since Palo Altans are environmentally conscious and inclined to work towards and even sacrifice for the good of the environment, I think it's best to focus on the most critical issues that are truly within the council's purview: local health and safety, local housing, local transportation issues (including grade separation). If we continue to bite off more than we can chew we will continue to make insufficient progress on our worst problems.

Climate change can be promoted by others. The Cubberley conundrum, as important as it is, should not be prioritized over allocating funds to improve health and safety. A gym can wait. Ditto the fiber project. If we were looking at a future that included revenue from a relevant-to-impact business tax, we would not have to prioritize as much or make as many hard choices, but we aren't, so let's move forward in a practical, realistic manner.

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Sep 19, 2022 at 2:54 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

"I would very much like to see each candidate rank Palo Alto's problems and priorities in writing and submit those to the Weekly and Daily Post for publication simultaneously before ballots are mailed."

I would also. We can't have everything and often spend a small fortune on overly ambitious projects, hiring pricey consultants with no local knowledge and end up worse off than we started.

It would also be nice if at least one candidate said their top priority is having the city work efficiently to provide timely service in a cost-effective manner. In all my years of living here, I've never heard Palo Alto mention cost-effectiveness.

Posted by Bystander
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 19, 2022 at 3:49 pm

Bystander is a registered user.

I think the previous two posts have nailed it.

We have had and seemingly will have a council with grandiose ideas if any of the candidates replies are anything to go by.

Palo Alto is a small city which takes a long time to get things done. Think about the pedestrian bridge! It was supposed to be a statement bridge that would make those driving by think Wow, Palo Alto. Instead we have a very functional bridge which I have heard described as a rusty railroad bridge in appearance. I don't really care what it is called, but pleased now that we have a bridge after over 10 years talking about it. I have heard similar statements that a particular intersection needs statement appeal as it gets a new look. Can we please get a council that stops thinking we need statement appeal or need to be leaders on an issue and instead get a council that will approve things in a timely manner.

We don't need statement ideas. We do need to get things done. We need efficient service for Palo Alto residents as described above. We have suffered long enough with bad service and it is time that should change. That is enough statement for any of us.

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