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Alison Cormack will not seek second term on Palo Alto City Council

Original post made on May 13, 2022

Alison Cormack, who was elected to the City Council in 2018 and who has been a vocal advocate for building more housing and redeveloping Cubberley Community Center, said Friday that she will not seek a second term.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, May 13, 2022, 5:22 PM

Comments (24)

Posted by Kevin
a resident of Greendell/Walnut Grove
on May 13, 2022 at 7:32 pm

Kevin is a registered user.

That's too bad.


Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 13, 2022 at 8:28 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

Too bad for the developers and those looking for huge capital spending projects, maybe, regardless of what the neighbors want like the landlord's desire to convert Town & Country Shopping Center from a resident-serving shoppijg center to undefined "medical/retail" just as the recovery was starting.


Posted by felix
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 13, 2022 at 11:19 pm

felix is a registered user.

Excellent decision.
“Team” - a new euphemism for “Slate”.


Posted by PaloAltoVoter
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 14, 2022 at 1:10 am

PaloAltoVoter is a registered user.

I’m not sure Ms Cormack would work well with many. She always seems to take snarky shots at her colleagues when they are agreeing, with her being the one “to disrupt the calm”. I think it’s called micro aggression. Let’s hope we can some candidates that represent residents well.


Posted by Bystander
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 14, 2022 at 6:55 am

Bystander is a registered user.

Alison Cormack was well known around the community for her work on the Mitchell Park library and in the PTA. I believe many of her friends and contacts voted for her just because they knew her or knew her name. I think at least some of them were disappointed in her views which they did not know when they made their decision. I am not sure they would vote for her again.

It comes down to understanding who the candidates are before deciding to vote for them. Just because you know the person from somewhere, doesn't mean you should automatically vote for them. I wish people in Palo Alto would pay more to council elections because so many take little time choosing compared to the more noisy bigger races.


Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 14, 2022 at 10:37 am

Online Name is a registered user.

"I’m not sure Ms Cormack would work well with many. She always seems to take snarky shots at her colleagues when they are agreeing, with her being the one “to disrupt the calm”. I think it’s called micro aggression. Let’s hope we can some candidates that represent residents well."

In addition to her snarky shots at colleagues, you could always count on her to disrupt substantive discussions by saying, "Let's hear staff's take on this" since she and staff rarely represent residents well.

She really outdid herself representing the Town & Country landlord, giving us good giggles with her absurd insistence that patients at the proposed "medical/retail" establishments would surely go on shopping sprees while hurting, sweating and/or still drugged from recent procedures.

Re her support for campaign finance "reform," where was she while her mentor Ms. Kniss was violating campaign finance laws and why aren't they pushing to limit contributions from businesses and lobbyists as well as from residents?


Posted by community member
a resident of University South
on May 14, 2022 at 4:36 pm

community member is a registered user.

Cormack's close association with Liz Kniss says everything you need to know. Kniss was featured prominently in her pre-election fotos.
Pro developers all the way.
Hope she can be replaced with a citizen-centered candidae.


Posted by Evergreen Park Observer
a resident of Evergreen Park
on May 16, 2022 at 10:49 am

Evergreen Park Observer is a registered user.

Ms. Cormack made a wise decision. She aligned herself with Liz Kniss and Adrian Fine, and the last election demonstrated how voters felt about how this group rammed business/developer-first policies through the Council. Proposing a tax on residents and opposing a tax on businesses was astounding.


Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 16, 2022 at 11:05 am

Online Name is a registered user.

Someone called "friends of Cubberley" posted the following on the other newspaper site:

I had hopes in Allison as a leader, but the defining moment for me was at the end of an extensive community outreach for Cubberley, she secretly instructed the consultant to add housing to the plan, thereby converting public facility to private usage. It was clearly not popular, and showed tone-deafness to the community, and the needs of a growing population. While Cubberley needs serious, action-oriented attention, I am leery of Allison’s continued involvement. Hopefully she will change her stance, and use her energy to make a long-lasting gem of a facility for an increasingly urbanized town.


Reaally?? Shameful. If true, why weren't her "secret" instructions to the consultant widely reported??

Also, I'm confused by the timing of her announcement. Why now?


Posted by chris
a resident of University South
on May 16, 2022 at 2:08 pm

chris is a registered user.

Her timing clears the path for one more seat on the council. No candidates have yet made public announcements that they are running. People considering running for council will not have to face the headwinds of any incumbents in the election.


Posted by Observer
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on May 16, 2022 at 3:05 pm

Observer is a registered user.

For me the final straw destroying any respect for her was her support for lame duck committee appointments at the last meeting for term-ending members Kniss and Fine (along with Tanaka), with some comments justifying this hard-ball stunt as being OK not because of any ethical logic but "because they could".


Posted by PaloAltoVoter
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 16, 2022 at 4:30 pm

PaloAltoVoter is a registered user.

Given her performance I doubt she would have been re-elected. It takes a different temperament to create coalitions on an elected body. She has not demonstrated the ability to form those coalitions. Instead she has insisted she knows the correct path and worked at odds with the rest of council.


Posted by scott
a resident of Fairmeadow
on May 16, 2022 at 5:08 pm

scott is a registered user.

Cormack is the only remaining good member on a council that's been trying very hard to banish our children to other states by starving them for housing.

But every election is an opportunity, and at least some prominent members of the self-deportation caucus are getting termed out.


Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 16, 2022 at 5:36 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

@Scott, come on. How does adding 2,000,000 more people and literally tens of millions sq feet of new offices which STILL outpaces housing growth bring down prices?? That claim never ever made any sense, nor does the refusal to admit reality like there's a DROUGHT and FIRE risk.

Sorry, she DID take a position on the drought: she tried to sell OUR water rights so a San Mateo County city so they could build an office park! Fortunately smarter heads prevailed, suggesting her short-term greed was counter-productive with the drought likely to get worse no matter what short-term gains from the IRREVOCABLE sale would have been.

She also opposes any business tax for her corporate backers while shifting the tax burdens to us because it would be wrong for THEM to pay any share, forget about their FAIR share.


Posted by scott
a resident of Fairmeadow
on May 16, 2022 at 6:20 pm

scott is a registered user.

Online Name, if you aren't in favor of new housing and new jobs, then you aren't in favor of keeping Palo Alto families together. Our kids need both. If we don't give them both housing and employment opportunity, then we're forcing too many of them to choose between local poverty and self-deportation.

If you've been in the Bay Area for any length of time, I'm sure you've lived through the economic displacement of loved ones. It never had to be that way. It was a path we've chosen at the ballot box for the last four decades, at least.

But the promise of democracy is we can always make a different choice, and build a better future.


Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 16, 2022 at 7:06 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

Scott, tell me where in the US children / recent college grads can reasonably expect to buy into their parents' neighborhoods that are among the most expensive in the US. Even at half the price. I'll wait.

(The average purchase price in the country is around $380,000, rising an average of 16% every year everywhere due to rapid population growth. $380,000 -- or even $1,500,000 are a bit less than the $3,000.000 average price here.)

You're also assuming they'll never change jobs and/or more elsewhere for a better/different opportunity. How many jobs have you had and in how many different cities, states and countries? More than a few I'd bet, like most Americans.

Sure, I've had many friends and colleagues leave when they've lost their jobs and/or cashed out and/or aged out and/or retired. People start worrying about age discrimination at 35 which is no surprise since they stop tracking workers here at age 44. Many have found happiness and sometimes second careers elsewhere. I do miss them.

How long realistically do you expect your kids to stay here until they too consider leaving? Until you consider leaving? Where else to go has always been a hot topic.

What says EVERYONE has to work in the same tight spaces like rats, living in pods and rv's? I can think of a few states that could benefit from some educated workers/ voters these days, can't you?


Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 16, 2022 at 7:29 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

But back to Ms. Cormack, what's she done to pressure her backers/companies to pay living wages at a time when startups like DoorDash, Lyft, Uber etc. spent literally hundreds of millions of dollars lobbying in the last election to deny their workers any benefits and even minimum wage?

What's she done to limit new office growth the raises housing prices and other costs?

What's she done to ensure that "affordable housing" -- which is primarily for well-paid techies (85%) -- ALSO covers "low income" workers, now capped at 15% divided between low incone (10%) and very low income (5%)?

Where was she when the President Hotel evicted 85 long-time middle income residents and we're now getting stuck with the bill to produce NEW downtown middle income housing?


Posted by scott
a resident of Fairmeadow
on May 16, 2022 at 7:46 pm

scott is a registered user.

That's certainly the pro- self-deportation take. I'm happy for you that you seem comfortable with the personal losses you have endured due to housing scarcity. Not everyone is.

In the 1970s we were building a lot more housing, and, consequently, it was a lot easier to buy housing! When I grew up in an affluent Bay Area suburb, a friends' parents were restaurant workers. They were a dual-income family, bought in the 80s. Modest house, frugal living. Good school district. Our region was still coasting on the housing investments of the Greatest Generation: the downzonings of the 1970s took time to choke out enough opportunity to kill the American Dream for the working class.

To your question: median home price in Detroit is about 1.4x median household income. They have a lot of supply because a lot of people moved out. They self-deported in the face of poverty created by evaporating employment opportunity. Our council wants us to be like Detroit. It could work! Anything that can be done by accident can obviously be done on purpose. Lot of rust belt towns are affordable. (But you're misapprehending how bad it is here. Young people can't just not afford to buy. They can't even afford to move out of their parents house. We're going to have to close schools because households can't form.)

Rust belt shows trick is getting to abundant housing on the market. They accidentally killed prosperity/demand. Bay Area cities deliberately throttled supply 40-50 years ago, leading to shortages despite prosperity. We could just... reverse the shortages decision and keep the prosperity.

There's precedent. During WW2 the Bay Area also had a housing crisis. War workers flooded the area. It was treated as an emergency. Berkeley suspended zoning entirely. It worked. Fast. But we've gone decades, mumbling "we've tried nothing and are all out of ideas."


Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 16, 2022 at 9:47 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

The whole country is seeing huge price appreciation in housing pricing which is likely to continue due to speculation (25% and rising). So there's no reason to expect Palo Alto prices to come down.

I'm not happy about having friends and colleagues leave, just realistic. And glad they've chosen interesting places to relocate where I can go visit them.

None of these truisms have much if anything to do with Ms. Cormack's ability to change reality, esp. not after her mentor Ms Kniss pushed so aggressively for Palo Alto to add more offices than housing for years which creates more -- not less -- pressure on housing prices and demand.


Posted by scott
a resident of Fairmeadow
on May 16, 2022 at 10:13 pm

scott is a registered user.

It's mostly wrong to look at the country as a whole, because prosperous areas have generally made the same errors. Houston is an exception. Want to pay 250k for a home? Go to the largest city in the county without zoning. (Disclaimer: do not actually go to this dystopian post-democratic hellscape that does literally only this one thing better than us.)

But generally, in the US, I look at how things have changed over time. Zoning is a very new idea, and people only really got bonkers with it starting the 70s or so. So you can ask questions like: how have things changed since the 1970s downzoning? (Not great!) How did we fix historical housing crises? (Suspending zoning.) Did that work? (Yes.) What about before that? (No housing crises. Zoning wasn't deemed constitutional until 1926.)

But the US isn't the only place! Does legalizing housing production work in other countries? (Yes: Japan notably fixed a housing crisis with basically only that.) What about Europe? (Lots of social housing. The difference between the successes like France/Germany and failures like Stockholm boils down to whether or not they deliver on housing production or focus exclusively on price regulation.)

The ongoing destruction of our social bonds is a choice we make every election cycle. It's a problem we decided to create. But it's also been fixed in lots of places and times over the last century, and we're a democracy, so we can just start making different choices whenever we want.


Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on May 18, 2022 at 9:03 pm

Annette is a registered user.

@Scott and OnlineName - your exchange is fascinating. Please add ghost houses to the equation. Investors buying houses and not living in them hurt cities in a couple of ways: much needed housing is taken out of inventory and the element of community is greatly diminished.

And to Scott - two things: First, I am surprised by how prevalent the expectation is that one can live where their parents, have their kids live near them, live where they grew up or live near where they work. To meet those expectations in many communities, a paradox would need to exist: many things would pretty much have to be static AND there'd have to be an endless supply of land on which to build housing so that generation after generation after generation could populate their hometown if they so chose. Second, when commercial development goes forward without mitigation for housing the old supply/demand equation leads, inevitably, to a seemingly endless increase in housing costs. That's bad development policy but those who raised concerns were derided as being against change. Moneyed interests prevailed. And some City Council members helped that along.


Posted by scott
a resident of Fairmeadow
on May 19, 2022 at 10:43 am

scott is a registered user.

@Annette: land availability is a non-issue. Almost all of our land is legally capped at 2 stories or less. That's a policy choice. Last year Tom Dubois floated development in open space, so that's clearly a (bad) option, too. Those are pretty much the options (up or out), but they'd both work, so we do have to take moral responsibility for the humanitarian cost of failure.

Bay Area's vacancy rate is around half the national average. So whatever you think of "ghost houses", they aren't driving the overall picture. If you want fewer of them, look at planning approvals and permit times. (Aside: Tight vacancy rates are more correlated with homelessness than mental illness rates and even poverty. You talk about mitigations. Housing mitigates homelessness, and homelessness is expensive.)

There's no paradox. Cities shouldn't be static. If you have a lot of economic growth, that's good, but you need to expand housing enough to accommodate natives and newcomers. We don't, which means making our children compete for scarce housing with people we're drawing from literally all over the world into an absurdly hot labor market. Of course they wind up in pods, cars, tents, and worse: Texas. Of course they can't start households, much less families, and we have to plan school closures.

Growth benefits everyone, by the way. Our transit situation is Extremely Bad for people who've aged out of being able to drive. In Palo Alto, normal longevity leads inexorably to being imprisoned in your home. More local density both fosters better transit, and creating housing opportunities in transit-accessible locations.


Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on May 19, 2022 at 12:58 pm

Annette is a registered user.

@Scott - thank you for your thoughtful reply. I agree that cities should not be static and that our transit situation is extremely bad. I've not aged out of driving, but I make every effort to drive as little as possible. The Embarcadero Shuttle was a great resource, but it is gone. We have a lot of work to do.


Posted by Local news junkie
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on May 20, 2022 at 7:23 am

Local news junkie is a registered user.

Scott, You use the words “self-deport” and “self-deportation.” Do you mean “move”? ;)


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