Palo Alto Neighborhoods
Questionnaire for City Council Candidates
Please note that no response was received from Ed Power. An essay from Victor Frost is included at the end.
1. What skills and experience would you bring to the City Council?
I am a 21 year resident of Palo Alto, first as an apartment renter, then a condominium owner and finally a homeowner. I have started up 3 companies and have managed them within budget. The last company I raised over $12 million even in the midst of a recession. I bring both experience with managing and operating businesses, as well as working with city and state governments on various projects. I also bring a fresh perspective and creative ideas.
I bring to the City Council a set of leadership skills, experience and knowledge that our community needs now more than ever. My conservative voice on City fiscal matters will continue to be critical in meeting short and long-term budgetary constraints. Under my leadership, the Council passed and implemented my motion for a permanent 5% structural reduction in city expenses. In addition, I called for a controlled restructuring of City Hall, which was unanimously supported by both the Finance Committee and the majority of my colleagues. I voted to maintain commitment to preserving our infrastructure. My leadership will be critical in preserving a sound financial and business structure for Palo Alto’s City-owned utilities.
I served as a State Court judge for almost 19 years, during which time I routinely analyzed complex material, balanced competing interests, and arrived at fair and sound decisions. This ability to be decisive, and move on, is an important quality for a City Council member. During three of these years, I was the Supervising Judge of the Family Court where I was able to forge the highest percentage of mediated settlements in the Court's history. I have served on many committees, including The Community Working Group for the Opportunity Center and the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund (I am a past Chairperson), and have consistently had amicable and constructive relationships with my colleagues. As a Vice Provost at Stanford, I am responsible for a large and complex budget, and am experienced at making hard choices to reduce expenditures and balance the budget, while maintaining the quality of services.
I have lived in Palo Alto for over 30 years, mostly as a renter downtown. I have a couple of Stanford degrees and I served on and chaired numerous committees at school and church. I teach on the south side (Gunn H.S.)
In 1976, 1 founded my real estate law practice. I have managed a business budget during boom times as well as recessions. I know how to eliminate wasteful spending and dedicate a percentage of revenues to future capital needs.
I am an energetic leader, homeowner and a parent of a school-age child. I have two decades of municipal finance, redevelopment and city planning experience, including 10 years in Palo Alto. Please refer to my website at www.nancylytle.net for a more complete resume.
In my first term as a Council Member, I voted against both oversized city operational budgets and proposed making cuts based on resident priorities; worked for the successful reopening of Terman Middle School and protection of Ventura School as a future school site, championed library, park, sport field and tennis upgrades now budgeted. I want to see my efforts through to completion and assure we maintain the best schools, libraries, parks and quality of life in the Bay Area here in Palo Alto.
I am the only practicing attorney on the City Council. My expertise is often an advantage when legal matters are being evaluated or when my colleagues want an unofficial “second opinion” when dealing with advice from our City Attorney. I am also a credentialed mediator and these skills have proven helpful when negotiating among stakeholders, as when I was called upon to mend the breakdown in relations between the City and the School District, which I was able to do over many months of negotiations between the two organizations. I have earned a reputation for being collaborative, bringing differing groups to agreement, and being a constructive influence on the Council and among my colleagues.
I have extensive regional experience working with Santa Clara County, and currently as a member of the Social Services Advisory Commission, in providing comprehensive, cross-sector, culturally sensitive social, health and mental health services. I am also the only candidate who has worked as a child advocate on behalf of children and family services at the local, regional, state and national level. This background gives me the experience and network to promote more progressive and comprehensive youth and family services in Palo Alto. In this regard, I participated in the development of a Youth Master Plan for our community, and I was able to secure my colleagues’ unanimous vote to allocate additional funds in the current budget for increased services for frail seniors, the homeless, the developmentally disabled, and youth leadership programming.
I have been actively involved in promoting affordable housing for our City, taking an active role both on our Council and regionally. As a member of the Santa Clara County Housing Leadership Council, the Housing Action Coalition and the Silicon Valley Manufacturing Group’s Blue Ribbon Task Force on Teachers and Affordable Housing, I have worked hard for legislation and funding strategies to support and incentivize more affordable housing. In my third year of trying, I was able to get a vote of the Council to make affordable and attainable housing one of the City’s top five priorities. I also initiated efforts that created a new City loan program to preserve below market rate units.
I am actively involved in open space preservation, not only as a Council member, but also as a volunteer, which I have pursued for nearly 15 years. I am a former President of the Committee for Green Foothills, during which time I led that organization’s successful advocacy for maintenance of the greenbelt and coastal preservation throughout Santa Clara and San Mateo counties. And I currently serve on the Board of Directors of the Sempervirens Fund, which preserves old growth redwoods in Santa Cruz County. I worked with one of my colleagues to secure funding to purchase the Bressler property, a prime piece of land contiguous to the Arastradero Preserve, saving the property from private development. And with another colleague, I helped initiate the City’s Sustainability Plan under which the City will use less, pollute less and waste less.
̊ Mayor, 2003
̊ Vice Mayor, 2002
̊ Member, Council Finance Committee, 1998, 1999; Chair, 2000
̊ Member, Council Policy and Services Committee, 2001-2002; Chair, 2001
̊ Member, National League of Cities—Energy, Environment & Natural Resources Steering Committee, 2001-2003
̊ Delegate, National League of Cities—Energy, Environment & Natural Resources Policy Committee, 2003
̊ Chair, League of California Cities—Community Services Policy Committee, 2002; Vice Chair, 2001; Member, 1998-2002
̊ Member, League of California Cities, Smart Growth Subcommittee, 2000-2001
̊ Delegate, Association of Bay Area Governments, 1998-2000
̊ Director, Bay Area Air Quality Management District, 1999 to present
̊ Director, Valley Transportation Authority, 2002-2003
̊ Director, San Francisquito Creek Joint Powers Authority, 1999 to present
̊ Director, Altamont Commuter Express, 2002-2003
̊ Alternate Commissioner, Bay Conservation and Development Commission, 2000 to present
̊ BCDC Delegate, Regional Airport Planning Commission, 2003
̊ Chair, Santa Clara County Pollution Prevention Committee, 2001-2002; Vice Chair 1999-2000; Member, 1998
̊ Delegate, Northwest Flood Control Zone Advisory Committee, 2000-2001
̊ Chair, Valley Transportation Authority Policy Advisory Committee, 2001; member 1998-2002
̊ Director, Santa Clara Valley Housing Trust Fund, 2002
̊ Member, Blue Ribbon Task Force: Teachers and Affordable Housing, 2003
̊ Delegate, San Francisco Airport Runway Reconfiguration Committee, 1998-2000
̊ Founder, Palo Alto Try Transit Campaign, 1996
̊ Founder, Special Event Shuttle Program, 1996
̊ Member, Downtown Parking Committee, 1993-1997
̊ Board Member, University South Neighborhoods Group, 1994-1997
̊ Member, Comprehensive Plan Advisory Committee, 1992 to 1995
̊ Alumni Advisor, Leadership Midpeninsula—Environmental Issues, 1992-1998
̊ Co-chair, Research Park Transportation Task Force, 1993-1997
̊ Founding Board Member, Silicon Valley Pollution Prevention Center, 1995-1997
̊ Founding Member, Santa Clara County Creeks Coalition 1993
̊ Member, Needs Assessment Committee, United Way, 1997
̊ Member, Education and Outreach Committee, Housing Action Coalition
2. What do you consider the three most significant issues facing Palo Alto residents? What would you do to address these issues?
Traffic Situation in Palo Alto: The traffic issue is an important one for this community. A huge amount of money has been expended for traffic blockers. My pointed questions as to the legality of arbitrarily closing a public thoroughfare for the benefit of some local homeowners, was brought up City Officials at the orientation meeting for candidates. My position on this matter is that you cannot block public streets, since I consider this as an illegal act, in that it is prejudicial for the benefit of a minority of local residents at the expense of the majority in Palo Alto. It also discriminates against the majority of Palo Altans, in so far as they are not being treated in an equitable manner. Could you imagine blocking every street in Palo Alto in order not to discriminate against everyone? Their reply (at this meeting) was that this was considered as an " experiment" and "temporary". I believe these statements were made to get around the issue. The bottom line is that some residents will benefit from this activity at the expense of all the other residents of Palo Alto.
The issue of response time also came up. Here are some interesting facts that residents of the City may not be aware of: The number of fire calls has risen over 78 % in the last five years; medical and rescue calls have increased over 12%; service calls have increased by more than 116% while staffing in the fire department per 1,000 residents have remained flat. In addition, the same fire stations have had to increase the number of residents served by over 500 per fire station in the last five years. This increases the potential for a less safe environment and increases our response time for emergencies. By creating a labyrinth of traffic blockers we are courting disaster for our community. The present City Council has seen fit to increase the administrative budget by 44% over a five-year period at the expense of fire and police protection.
If there is an earthquake, fire, or other disaster, such as a medical emergency, we are open to a lawsuit if it turns out that the cause of a death or injury was due to increased response time from traffic blockers. There are other prudent solutions that will work and does not entail pushing the problem onto other communities or endangering lives. My program will ensure the building of more parking garages, traffic bumps to slow traffic, as well as establish a long- term regional plan for public transportation.
Administrative Overhead in the City of Palo Alto: Statistically speaking, approximately less than 1% of the population of the United States (~284,000,000) was employed by the Federal Government. That number (2,700,000) also includes our entire armed forces. The State of California employs less than 0.6% 220,000) of the population (35,000,000). The City of Palo Alto has about 1,200 employees servicing a population of about 60,000, amounting to a percentage of 2%. Even if you subtract the utility employees from the total, we still have over 30% more civil service workers than the entire Federal government. As one can tell by the numbers, the City of Palo Alto has a much higher percentage of the population employed as civil servants compared to the state and federal level. On a local level, comparing other cities with Palo Alto, the differences are even greater. For example, Redwood City has about 9 employees per 1,000 residents (FY 1999-00) as compared to Palo Alto of 17 employees per 1,000 residents. Alameda, which offers electric and telecom services to their residents, has about 15 employees per 1,000 residents served. Although Palo Alto has over 350 utility employees our average residential electric bill has increased by 27 per cent over five years. The City of Santa Clara has a smaller average residential bill than the City of Palo Alto. For the last century, Santa Clara utility customers have enjoyed lower rates for utility services than many other communities in our County. On a recent survey of 105 cities and agencies in the nine Bay area counties, the City of Santa Clara provided the lowest combined water, sewer and electric service charges! The City's residential electric rates have averaged about 35% lower than rates from private companies in the surrounding areas.
If elected, I will ask the City Council to review the organizational structure of the City. This will include a review of the manpower allocation, remuneration and staffing levels in the City. Although I consider layoffs as a last option for the reduction of expenses, it will be reviewed along with other proposals and options for cost cutting.
Affordable Housing: Smart growth for me entails cooperation not competition. The City should encourage regular meetings between concerned citizens, business leaders, government officials and developers. If there is a new development that is desired, we must implement a City policy that ensures adequate parking. This should be part of the building code. In addition, I would encourage the instituting of an infrastructure tax. This tax would be implemented across the board (new business, residents, etc.) However, it would be weighted so that the most beneficial party would pay more of the tax. For example, if a large chain or company desired to move into Palo Alto but did not attempt or prioritize the hiring of local residents first, they (company or chain store) would pay the preponderance of the tax. This is because there would be added stress to the existing infrastructure since additional housing would be needed. However, if the company or chain desired to hire local talent then the preponderance of the tax would be levied more on the residents. Why? The reason is simple. The local residents are the principal beneficiaries of the entity doing business here and since local citizens are being hired, the stress on the existing infrastructure would be diminished. Affordable housing is possible if a sane growth policy is adopted.
Affordable housing will only result if a comprehensive City and regional strategic plan is developed. I will encourage the City Council to create public forums so that developers, residents and business owners will co-create a vision for the City.
Manage the budget: our budget will continue to be under pressure for the next several years. We have successfully balanced the budget by permanently reducing costs and overhead. But as the State is forced to do the same in their budget, we must plan for further constraints in our own expenditures. You ask what I will do – I’m pleased to tell you what I have been able to accomplish just in the past several months on our current budget. I have already called for the City Manager to present to the Council a detailed plan for restructuring City Hall (motion accepted by Council). I have also called for the City Auditor to conduct a performance audit of the Community Services Department, our largest department (accepted by Council). In addition, I have moved that we increase capital funding over the next two years (accepted by Council).
Restore trust and confidence in City leadership: I will continue to build consensus within the community on difficult issues. I believe I can work with all my Council colleagues. Over the past four years I have crafted joint memos with nearly all my fellow Councilmembers. Further, I have successfully advocated for open government, and continue to promote the philosophy that our elected officials should be accessible to Palo Alto residents on all issues.
Manage growth sensibly: Just as I worked to moderate the Housing Element Update for our Comprehensive Plan, I will continue to carefully assess how to achieve the housing required by state law against their specific impacts on neighborhoods. I moved the Charleston/Arastradero Corridor Study, specifically incorporating Alma Plaza into the moratorium.
I believe that the three most significant issues facing Palo Alto residents are (1) traffic/safety; (2) affordable housing; and (3) the city's budget. I am committed to protecting school commute areas by implementing traffic calming measures, and by closely monitoring proposed developments for traffic impacts, before approving these developments. Please see my answer to question #10 for more on this issue.
Truly affordable housing must continue to be a priority for our City. Please see my answers to questions #6 and #7.
Palo Alto's annual budget for 2003-2004 is $121 million. The budget for 2004-2005 is $126 million. While it is commendable that the City Council has passed a balanced budget, given the large size of our budget, one wonders why we are left with inadequate revenues to fund our libraries and other important infrastructure costs. I suggest that it is time for our City Council to undertake an in-depth look at our City's budget to enable us to better understand and manage it, so that we can fund clear community priorities such as libraries, athletic fields, etc.
Community Development and Quality of Life
Housing and Traffic
Honesty and Competence in Government
I would hope to broaden the range of opinions & improve decision making by moving away from an ersatz concensus towards open deliberations.
Deteriorating infrastructure ‑ I will seek a charter amendment to require a dedication of revenues to infrastructure projects.
Deteriorating business climate ‑ I will require a new mission statement from our Planning Department.
Lack of affordable housing ‑ I support a yes vote on Measure C.
There is a structural budget problem. Escalating employee costs, the local effects of the state deficit and the aging infrastructure are on a financial collision course.
I voted against the last two budgets because the priorities did not reflect community needs and they failed to address our structural financial problems. We can solve our budget problems by cutting services in areas that are low priority for Palo Altans.
For example, we should not have spent our money and staff CIP resources on the Baylands Parking lot project. Nobody wanted us to pave that parking lot beyond the current surface treatment. On the other hand, everyone wants to upgrade our libraries. The hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on the parking lot and staff resources to build it should go instead to the Children’s library. The grant funding for the lot should be returned to the grant provider to be used on a project that is supported by the community. This is just one example.
We also need to work collaboratively with other partners, like the League of Cities and Silicon Valley Manufacturing Group, to put an end to ERAF shifts and retain local tax dollars locally.
We must continue updating and modernizing our old infrastructure, like storm drains, police headquarters, libraries and parks and fields. We have now achieved capital commitments for sport fields and some modernization of our outdated library system. That is a good start.
We need to complete our private and public match fundraising and develop partners to eliminate wait lists for our children in team sports and summer camps. And we must keep working to make Palo Alto’s libraries a source of community pride again. We must move forward on getting our entire infrastructure inventory up to snuff.
Fiscal reform and budget management through further reduction of operating expenses while maintaining the high quality services that our residents expect, and rebuilding trust and accountability about City financial decisions
Promotion of pedestrian-oriented neighborhoods through protection of first floor retail services, traffic calming measures, and our Zoning Ordinance Update (in compliance with our Comprehensive Plan) and through continued capital investment in our parks, libraries, community service facilities, and supporting infrastructure
Development of neighborhood-compatible affordable housing, linking services such as parks and alternative transportation, including shuttles and bike routes, to planning decisions.
Restructuring city hall operations. I took the lead in directing our City Auditor to begin operational audits of our largest and most costly department – Community Services. Our Auditor is also at present, completing an operational audit of our Planning Department. I believe that both of those audits will yield many ideas for streamlining the way we do business with the community and will enable us to reduce our budget and provide better service to the community.
Solving traffic problems. I have supported increased police traffic patrols, voted to fund additional crossing guards and worked aggressively for city/school traffic safety measures. My leadership has resulted in a city-sponsored shuttle system, improved bicycle and pedestrian access and national recognition as a "Bicycle Friendly City."
Housing. I have been a strong advocate for infill housing in our community. I am committed to approve solid housing projects. I voted for 800 High, and support infill housing on other sites in the city that are transit oriented and designed to be sensitive to their surrounding environment.
3. What steps would you propose to increase City revenues and/or reduce City spending to meet anticipated budget shortfalls?
Please see the answers to question 2.
* Through my leadership, we have achieved a balanced
budget that has cut expenditures by 5% overall while keeping reserves intact
and not cutting any critical service.
* See also comments in previous response.
* I will continue the work begun as a member of Economics Ad Hoc Committee to strengthen partnerships with private enterprise, including business-to-business, regional retail and neighborhood retail sectors to increase sales tax revenues while providing needed services. Council passed my motion to develop policies regarding supporting our nine auto dealerships.
I would increase developer impact fees for new housing to cover more of the actual costs that the City incurs from housing. Currently, developers are required to pay $6,930 per housing unit, whereas the actual cost to the City is $10,329, leaving a deficit of $3,399 per unit. (see City Manager's Report #188:02, dated March 25, 2002).Given our bleak financial situation and the lack of funds for library expansion, new parks, new schools, and other infrastructure cost, it is imperative that new development pay its own way.
See my answer to question #12, for ideas about being proactive in bringing in more retail services to expand our city revenues, and my answer to question #2 re a city budget review.
Changes in Washington, D.C. and Sacramento are needed. The Republican & Democratic parties are corrupt influence peddlers ignoring the long term needs of theaantion. I’m for reforming Prop 13, reducing Bush tax cuts & locally (as a council person) eliminating some middle management.
I would reduce the Planning Department budget by $3,000,000 a year.
I championed the institution of development impact fees for parks and community centers, and more equitable fees for traffic controls and housing. I also promote the use of tax increment in the Cal Ventura area and some segments of El Camino Real. High quality redevelopment of retail will boost City revenues.
Spending reduction can be accomplished by negotiating with employee unions to share escalating benefit costs, reducing operational and capital spending on areas that are not priorities for Palo Alto residents, and auditing all contracts to reduce redundancy and dependency on contractors for services that are low priority (using instead services in-house).
I would raise the TOT rate (the hotel transient occupancy tax) to be competitive with our neighboring cities, which would bring in millions of dollars a year depending on how much was raised. I would also work with local businesses to negotiate their designation of Palo Alto as the point of sale for their businesses, thus capturing now lost sales tax revenue. And I support an organizational audit of City services and would continue the present structural reorganization, especially in keeping with the audit findings and recommendations, to streamline management while maintaining the highest level of direct service to residents and businesses. Finally, future contract negotiations with unions must address in a collaborative way the escalating costs of retirement benefits.
I support restructuring City Hall, so that we can run a “leaner and meaner” organization and continue to provide the services we treasure at a time when both the State and Federal governments are reducing our revenues. I also support working with the League of California Cities to encourage the State to return control of our local tax dollars back to the cities in which we live.
4. What changes in organizational structure or services, if any, do you believe should be made to our City-owned utilities to ensure that they serve our residents well?
Having worked in the energy field both in management and also as an inventor; I invented a garbage-to-gasoline process as well as a new hydrogen from water process technology, there are many things that can be done to improve service and lower rates. First, I would introduce an equitable net-metering program to lower utility rates. This would empower homeowners to invest in their future while potentially profiting from creating their own energy. In this deregulated environment, city municipalities must find ways to leverage their assets and influence in order to get better utility rates. We now flare off the biogas at the City dump. That precious energy can be best utilized within our utility system.
A complete review of the contracts made by the City Council should be done as a priority. In July of 1999, the City Council signed a 20 year agreement with the Western Area Power Administration starting in 2005. This contract will substantially change the way energy will be provided to the City. Because the power will come from hydroelectric sources, the energy provided will vary with hydro-conditions. The result as stated by the Utilities Department will " leave the City with a substantial "energy gap" starting in 2005 that varies by year by month and by hour". The second part of the contract is undefined and will require substantial department resources to define what will be delivered to the City. As the Department admits in its overview, " supply costs are projected to increase substantially, compared to past years, as the City makes supply commitments to fill the energy deficit starting in 2005". Who ever heard of signing a contract in which prices and energy type is not known?
* Our utilities comprise one of the best municipally-owned utilities in the state. Its overall structure has proven sound as we and other muni’s have emerged strengthened after the energy chaos of the last several years. Nonetheless, we need to ensure our utilities have sound “cost accounting”.
* In the last budget cycle, I supported the separation of expenses by city employees who support Utilities from General Fund employees. In addition, I requested that the City Auditor assess the expense relationship between the General Fund and Utilities.
* I will continue to work with cities in our region to assert appropriate control over our Hetch Hetchy water supply, managed by San Francisco.
* We have the opportunity to enter a new utility area – Fiber to the Home (FTTH). We need to look at this opportunity with an open mind, assessing both the possible benefits to residents and the inherent risks.
It is important to distinguish between our City Utilities and the Public Works Enterprise Fund, both of which are owned by the City. The Fund's employees (app. 111) address refuse, storm drains, and water quality. Our Utilities employ 234 individuals for gas, electric, water, wastewater, and fiber optics. Our Utility's budget is separate from the General Fund. Recently, streets lights, traffic signals, street sweeping, and sidewalk washing were shifted from the General Fund to Utilities. This means that a general city expense has now been passed on to ratepayers i.e. Palo Alto residents. To better understand the impact of the Enterprise Fund and Palo Alto Utilities upon city revenues and upon our residents, and before recommending any service or organizational changes, I suggest that our City Council undertake an in-depth review of the City's utility budget.
Some part of these revenues should be unavailable for transfer to the general fund except for utility infrastructure. I don’t know if that’s currently the case.
I support fiber to the home.
We need a full audit and inventory of all City contracts. It would make sense to put an oversight committee, working with our Auditor, in charge of reviewing status and redundancy of all City contracts. The focus would be to reduce contract dependency and bring more services in house. No expansion of staffing is justified in this economy and we should utilize attrition and reorganization to reduce the size of the organization.
The size of the organization should be reduced at the top as well. I would strongly support a Charter amendment to reduce Council size to seven members.
I believe our Utilities department has been a leader in delivering high quality, reliable and sustainable services to residents and businesses. The proposal for adding fiber to the home as a new City utility is a visionary proposal worth careful evaluation for value and cost. We should increase our proportion of utilities that are from renewable resources and look for opportunities to streamline the organizational structure to reduce costs.
City-ownership of our utilities remains a great decision for our community. Our utility rates have remained highly competitive with other providers. Palo Alto is among the top 10 users of green energy in the nation. Utility taxes have enabled our continued $6 million investment in local schools. I support continued efforts to increase water and energy conservation and the use of alternative energy.
5. Do you believe that any of our infrastructure (parks, libraries, recreational facilities, schools, etc.) is inadequate for our current population? If so, please explain what specific improvements are needed and how you would fund them.
In this tight environment, we need to make sure that the infrastructure does not fall into disrepair. My priority, if elected, will be to sustain the infrastructure during these difficult times.
* We have an infrastructure deficit in several areas – and Palo Alto is not alone in this. Cities across California acknowledge the need to maintain and improve our infrastructure.
* According to National Park Standards, Palo Alto needs additional parkland to accommodate current population. My work to ensure new parkland and athletic field space at Mayfield will help to meet this need. Additional work needs to be done to create usable parkland to serve the neighborhood surrounding Greer Park, and a new park in the South of Forest neighborhood.
* The new soccer fields at Mayfield will provide the ideal test for synthetic turf. Should it prove successful there, synthetic turf, where appropriate taking into account neighborhood compatibility concerns, can extend the usability of our existing fields.
* Libraries need renovation and repair. We cherish our branch library system, providing library access to neighborhood residents across Palo Alto. The successful public-private partnership that is working to repair and improve Children’s Library to meet current and future needs is an example of what we can achieve. Other libraries, recreational facilities and community centers across town will need improvement.
* The City will continue to lease the Cubberley community center from PAUSD, providing $6M per year to the school district. This supplements development impact fees in providing funds critically needed by our schools. I will continue work begun earlier to partner with the schools to explore areas of common interest, including traffic safety.
Our libraries are severely in need of expansion, and are totally inadequate for the current needs of our community (much less the additional demands of future growth). This is unacceptable in a community which values learning as much as Palo Alto does. Our schools are overcrowded. In the elementary schools, there are so many portables that they are encroaching on the space for children to play. Our high schools are also overcrowded. It may be necessary to open a third high school at Cubberly, which would exacerbate the already inadequate community service space in south Palo Alto. Our Comprehensive Plan calls for a two-acre park for every 1,000 residents; and, we are already out of compliance with that requirement. Even if developers pay a park impact fee, we lack available land on which to build new parks. Fixing these inadequacies is a major challenge in tough financial times. We must allocate part of our budget every year for the repair and expansion of these services, including the acquisition of more public land.
Developer impact fees should be raised to cover the FULL proportionate increase in demand created for these services. Our City is too focused on more and more housing growth without concurrent planning for the services that must accompany the increase in population, such as new schools, parks, libraries, etc.. This balance must be corrected.
All of them…But it’s a question of economics…As I said, I believe state & federal taxes for the richest people in our society are too low (question 3)
We need to rededicate our general revenues to parks, libraries, etc. by reducing the Planning Department budget by $3 million a year.
Yes. Our libraries are inadequate, as was documented in the library bond effort. Our parks do not meet national standards, particularly for district park facilities, as documented in the Comp Plan EIR. Our schools are overcrowded, particularly at the high school and north Palo Alto elementary level. We have insufficient facilities for children’s sports and summer camps, as documented in our Fields Subcommittee Report.
The first step was the institution of impact fees. Next, we need to put more teeth into our Subdivision Ordinance to require exactions as part of the re-mapping of property. New taxes in Palo Alto are difficult to achieve, as evidenced by both the failed library and storm drain bond ballot measures.
I propose we redirect our capital program to these facilities on an urgent basis.
I also promote working at the State level with partners to
reduce the 2/3 voter approval requirement for libraries, schools and park
bonds. And I support tax increment as a
partner in financing these facilities.
Our infrastructure had fallen behind in meeting the needs of the changing population in our community, especially with respect to the needs of young families. Our parks and libraries are in greater demand today than ever, and our Children’s Library, Museum and Zoo, and Children’s Theatre are all in need of renovation and upgrades. The south neighborhoods of the City especially need expanded and refurbished libraries and community facilities. The failure of the Mitchell Park Library/Community Center effort should be studied and a new scaled-down plan developed as soon as practicable. We’ve done a good job upgrading parks in the past five years and the current focus on improvements and upgrades is commendable and reaping tangible results.
We need more land for playing fields, micro-parks for neighborhoods that don’t have parks now, and mixed-use development and redevelopment of under-utilized property. I believe our Capital Improvement Plan, which for too long went under funded, is now being funded at a greater rate and we need to further increase our investment and timeline in these upgrading facilities.
As we look for ways to fund infrastructure improvements, the investment/staffing priorities should focus on:
* preservation of emergency services and safety strategies/systems (safe streets and school corridors through traffic calming methods and alternative transit/shuttle support, emergency response time, neighborhood preparedness)
* utility service personnel and top-quality equipment and service
* community services (libraries, parks, senior, youth and homeless services)
We have a rich mix of city facilities and services. We need to continue to dedicate significant resources for their protection and enhancement. It is clear that libraries are crowded and need repair, and that we need more playing fields. All of these things cost money and we will need to set our budgetary priorities in order to meet these needs.
6. How would you harmonize the State/ABAG housing requirements with infrastructure needs (including parks, libraries, recreation facilities, schools and roads) relating to that level of growth?
Please see previous answer.
* Palo Alto must continue to provide housing to meet requirements the State defined when approving our Housing Element Update. This update calls for zoning that will allow 250 affordable units to be built, not concentrated in one area of the city, but on carefully-defined sites in various parts of Palo Alto.
* As earlier, we must continually improve infrastructure to meet needs of a growing population, and must manage growth in conjunction with our need for parks, libraries, recreation facilities, schools and roads.
I am committed to building more truly affordable housing in our community and am proud to say that I serve on the Community Working Group which created the Opportunity Center in Palo Alto. I oppose current City policies which allow developers to count units as "affordable" when they are not actually affordable to our teachers, police, and firefighters. For example, the units at 800 High Street may require an occupant to have an income of $60,000 or more to purchase them. Too, the "affordable" units at 800 High Street are too small to comfortably accommodate the needs of even a small family.
I favor reasonable levels of development. I am opposed to over development, by which I mean more development than can be absorbed in a given location without unacceptably high impacts on traffic, safety, noise, etc. I will work diligently to satisfy the State/ABAG housing requirements; however, I will not support projects which are excessive. Our current City planning pushes too much development in areas which already have too much traffic, endangering children walking and bicycling to school. I favor looking for new locations for housing to minimize and spread the impacts, and to focus development in areas which are either in walking distance to train stations and supporting retail, or near the freeway to reduce traffic impacts. As a Council member I would make every effort to meet the State/ABAG requirements within the above-listed constraints.
I believe broader revenue sharing & larger community block grant funding is necessary. The federal housing assistance monies were gutted in the Reagan tax cuts.
I would support the purchase of existing apartments by the Palo Alto Housing Corporation. This would increase affordable housing without increasing density.
We can meet our ABAG requirement and keep pace providing infrastructure to our growing population, daytime and 24 hour. But we have to acknowledge and understand those numbers and plan accordingly. We have been in “denial.” A 1990 to 2000 census analysis and demographic projection update for Palo Alto has yet to be performed. It is unfortunate that an educated community is functioning in a climate of ignorance on a matter so important to our future.
Parkland should be provided at a rate of four acres (2 district and 2 neighborhood) per thousand as national standards require and our Comp Plan. These are not a luxury items. They are necessities. We must preserve school sites, like Ventura, so that we can reopen them to meet populations projections. We should not ignore our responsibility to plan ahead. We need to build all-affordable housing projects and develop partnerships for doing so. One partner is the Palo Alto Redevelopment Agency. This is the largest finance source for affordable housing in our state, and Palo Alto has refused to use it.
We must also work at the state level on legislation to reduce the 2/3 voter majority requirement for library and school facility financing, at minimum.
We must meet our ABAG fair share responsibilities through the development of neighborhood-compatible affordable housing, linking services such as parks and alternative transportation, including shuttles and bike routes, to planning decisions. We must look for ways to allocate housing units that discourages densities that overwhelm nearby neighborhood streets and facilities, and that is why I have pushed for our new Zoning Ordinance to rezone areas of the City that are currently commercial to a mixed-use or residential zone, which may provide incentives for housing in less dense areas such as along the eastern now-commercial corridor of the City (along 101) where empty office buildings could be converted into housing or mixed uses.
One of the major challenges is to provide for affordable and attainable senior housing. The senior population is the fastest growing population in our City and seniors need and want affordable alternative housing that allows them to remain as residents while reducing their housing burden. Senior housing is relatively low on infrastructure burdens (fewer car trips, for example). We must also consider a program for land banking, whereby the City would create a fund to buy up parcels for later affordable housing development.
For 30 years, Palo Alto has had a successful housing program. The program requires below market housing to be included in every residential development. We have also required in lieu fees for commercial developments. Last year, when I was Vice-Mayor, we increased these in lieu fees from 10 – 15%. In lieu fees have been effectively used to build successful affordable housing like Alma Place and Oak Court.
7. What specific steps would you take to create sufficient affordable housing to ensure economic diversity?
A comprehensive housing plan. What the city residents need to ask is where do they want Palo Alto to be in the next 10 or 20 years? What kind of City do we want? Before we can answer your question intelligently, it is important to define the Vision for Palo Alto.
* I have championed affordable housing, and support implementation of the Housing Element Update as approved by the State. Specifically, I have supported the increased requirement for Below-Market-Rate housing, increasing from 10 to 15% for parcels under 5 acres, and from 15 to 20% for parcels 5 acres or greater. This will improve our ability to achieve economic diversity.
* Economic diversity is critical to a thriving
community. I will continue to support
projects such as the Opportunity Center and
Oak Court, just as I have previously supported Alma Place and Lytton 4.
All provide low and very low income
rentals. I also support mixed use projects that provide ownership opportunities
at costs below comparable market rate units.
As I wrote in response to question #6, I am committed to building more truly affordable housing in our community and am proud to say that I serve on the Community Working Group which created the Opportunity Center in Palo Alto. Our finest affordable housing developments are those which we have built using funds derived substantially from developer impact fees and grants, such as Webster Woods, Alma Place, and Arastradero Parks Apartments. I support the developer set-aside requirement, which requires developers to make 15%-20% of new units "affordable." (The requirement is a 15% set-aside for sites less than 5 acres; and 20% set-aside for sites which are 5 acres or more.) However, I would change the guidelines to make sure that these units are priced in a truly affordable range (See my answers to questions #6, supra. and #13 infra.). The City needs to work harder to secure public and private grant funding for affordable housing since reliance upon the developer set-asides results in a greater volume of housing than our existing infrastructures can absorb.
Again all of America needs federal help with this; I support BMR programs, expansion of entitled housing & Section 236 subsidies.
I would seek to build 10‑20 units at the City owned substation on Alma.
The following three steps;
* Get our zoning code updated and applied to the maps.
* Use our Redevelopment tools to partner with developers in the Cal Ventura area for affordable housing production and mixed use (redeveloping in collaboration with important retail generating tenants like Fry’s electronics).
* Partner with non-profits and others to find sites and put projects together as we have done
in the past many decades. Today we have the advantage of the market being pro-housing
and we should seize the moment.
I would continue to work, as I have in the past four years, to create affordable and attainable housing for residents of lower income levels. I have been actively involved in promoting affordable housing for our City, taking an active role both on our Council and regionally. As a member of the Santa Clara County Housing Leadership Council, the Housing Action Coalition and the Silicon Valley Manufacturing Group’s Blue Ribbon Task Force on Teachers and Affordable Housing, I have worked hard for legislation and funding strategies to support and incentivize more affordable housing, as well as market rate housing as called for in our Comprehensive Plan (Goal H-1).
In my third year of trying, I was able to get a vote of the Council to make affordable and attainable housing one of the City’s top five priorities. I also initiated efforts that created a new City loan program to preserve below market rate units. And I took a lead in helping protect the affordable mobile home units in south Palo Alto through mediation and a protective ordinance.
I will continue to work on my proposal for the City of Palo Alto to collaborate with the School District to co-develop the city-owned Alma Street substation into affordable and attainable housing for school staff and city emergency/utilities staff.
I will continue to use every opportunity to build affordable housing and to protect existing affordable housing from being converted to market-rate housing. I am especially interested in finding opportunities for housing that are close to neighborhood commercial services and Caltrain.
8. Our zoning code allows “planned community” projects to exceed the zoning rules that would otherwise apply in exchange for a “public benefit”. Do you favor retention of this zoning category? Do you favor modifying it in any way?
Like any project, each case would have to be reviewed on an individual basis.
Community zoning has become more controversial in recent years and needs refinement. Many of the facilities which we now value
have been possible only by use of PC zones.
These facilities include Lytton Gardens, Alma Place and the Opportunity
I support a very limited use of the "planned community" provision. The planned community exception allows a developer to circumvent applicable zoning limits on density, height, and floor-area ratio. Our zoning codes were drafted to balance a developer's need for profit against the impacts on neighboring properties. Therefore, deviation from these rules is not, in general, good public policy. Additionally, the "public benefit" component of a planned community is poorly defined and can include, for example, a piece of art, or something else vastly smaller in community benefit than the bonus received by the developer. I view the planned community as an exception, rather than the rule. This means that I would support a planned community only rarely and when the public benefit is substantial and is proportionate to the benefit given to the developer. Finally, I would redraft the portion of the planned community provision to clearly define the term "public benefit."
Maybe I favor an immediate moratorium on PC zoning until the south of Forest, Rickey’s & Elks zoning & JCC (old Philco & Sun site) issues are settled, or as a key part of that settlement.
I support PC planning but would seek to limit it to one acre sites.
I would put a moratorium on this tool until we get our zoning ordinance updated. It is being abused in the meantime.
While there may have been
instances of poorly developed PC projects in the past, I don’t think this tool
should be completely abandoned. It needs to be revised with defined significant
public benefits, such as those proposed in the SOFA II Plan, and a cap on the
size of PC developments may be needed in all zones.
The Comprehensive Plan allows for special development rules for transit-oriented housing sites (such as a 25% density bonus for building affordable housing projects). Until the Zoning Ordinance Update is completed, planned community zoning is the only tool available to build such housing. I believe that Council has to look very carefully at the public benefits of particular projects and make sure that they are indeed worth the exchange of development rights.
9. The Comprehensive Plan calls for consideration of a new Transit-Oriented Residential zoning category which would allow multifamily housing up to 50 units per acre in commercial areas that are within 2,000 feet (walking distance) of a train station. Should this category be applied outside this radius (such as along El Camino Real), and if so, under what circumstances? Should Transit-Oriented Residential zoning, wherever it is applied, also require a mixed-use component?
As stated before, we must have a comprehensive strategic plan for both housing and transportation. Transit oriented zoning should apply to all public transit arteries. We should aim at a society where commuting to work should be done by public transit. Europe is an example of this. Cars should be used for discretionary activities only (e.g. shopping, restaurants, visiting, touring, etc.)
* Transit-Oriented Residential development was envisioned in the 1998 Comprehensive Plan to apply to areas within 2,000 feet of CalTrain stations. The Housing Element Update provides limited exceptions that will need justification for projects on an individual basis.
* Mixed use may be a desirable component of TOR developments
but should not be a required component.
I strongly believe that the new Transit Oriented Residential (TOR) Zone should be limited to sites within 2,000 feet of a train station. Busses are not widely used in Palo Alto because services in our community are spread throughout town such that the bus routes are not located where people need to go. If high density housing is constructed along bus routes, huge traffic impacts will be created because the residents will have to drive everywhere they need to go. I would also tie the TOR Zone to areas where there are retail services to meet the daily needs of the residents in order to keep traffic impacts at a livable level.
It would be good to include mixed-uses in new high density housing projects, if the mixed use is closely integrated with the daily needs of the residents. I would not, however, give density bonuses for these mixed uses over and above the 50 units per acre already allowed, because that density already allows for more growth than we can probably absorb, given the infrastructure shortages I highlighted in my response to question #5, supra.
This sounds like more PC type varience that needs holistic analysis with the issues I cite in question 8.
Transit oriented residential zoning would not be appropriate all along El Camino Real. Where appropriate this zoning could be applied provided housing was included in any project.
It should not be applied to all areas within the radius that are meant to be retained , like single family neighborhoods. It should be applied to areas a bit outside the radius when these areas are within perceived convenient distance to the transit center (Psychographic distance rule). The two best examples are the Town and Country property and the Fry’s electronics site.
On some sites mixed use is definitely desired, like at Fry’s and Town and Country. It depends on the site
Although the Comp Plan calls for this density within 2,000 feet of a “transit center,” not specifically a “train station,” I believe that bus routes do not justify the same density as train station areas because this transit is not as productive in creating trip reductions as trains. In addition, it’s not as pedestrian-oriented, which is an important goal for transit-oriented housing development.
I believe “TOR” zoning should require a mixed-use component that could be either horizontal or vertical, placing retail services within a contiguous pedestrian-accessible area. In particular, I would push for nearby small retail services, such as dry cleaners and grocery stores, scaled to the neighborhood and addressing local needs.
This zoning category will be especially useful for residential projects that are very close to Caltrain stations and are easily accessible to these stations by shuttle, walking or bicycling. I support the inclusion of a mixed-use component in this zone to encourage residents not to drive.
10. Many Palo Alto residents want to reduce speeding and cut-through traffic on local and collector streets, as well as improve safety for pedestrians and cyclists, including school commute routes. Others are concerned about how to reduce backups and increase safety on our major streets, especially residential arterials. As a City Council member, how would you address these concerns? What solutions to our city’s traffic problems would you support?
See answer number 2.
I am a
strong proponent of traffic calming.
The City’s experience in recent years is that each neighborhood has
different needs and tolerance for various traffic calming techniques. I support our continuing to work with
neighborhoods on an individual basis to determine the best fit for the
neighborhood and community needs.
I would tie future land use decisions more closely with traffic studies, limiting future development in areas where there are existing traffic safety problems so as to not exacerbate existing problems and shift traffic to local residential streets where it would create even worse safety problems. I am committed to protecting school commute areas from significant increased traffic, and to conducting trials of traffic calming devises in these areas. If the measures are successful, I would implement them permanently. Trials are necessary, rather than immediate permanent implementation, in order to ensure that we are improving the situation, rather than making it worse. I oppose measures that would divert traffic to residential streets which cannot absorb additional traffic safely. Traffic should only be diverted from local streets to arterials and collectors (not to other local streets), or from residential arterials to collectors. Essential to conducting the traffic studies is gathering input from the community, which include those who reside on the heavily trafficked streets, those who reside on neighboring streets, as well as business owners in the vicinity.
Reduce car travel, put Bart around the Bay as an integrated system.
I support traffic calming through police ticketing of offenders.
I have supported traffic calming and I think the “trial period” is a good way to test effectiveness and determine the level of support for the measures. These measures work if a super majority of the residents support the measures after the trial. If there remains a 50% 50% split in support after the trial, it is impractical for the City to impose or enforce the measures
I was pleased to make the motion, supported by my colleagues, to make school corridors the top priority for our traffic calming projects. I have supported the various pilot traffic calming projects that have been initiated in our City and we are learning a great deal about what types of measures will work to improve safety while moving traffic along at a safe speed, but at the same time not creating cut-through traffic problems on side streets or annoyances to drivers that actually result in more dangerous driving. In this regard, I prefer that we take the least draconian measures first to create safer streets, such as speed tables rather than speed bumps, which slow down only the speeding drivers, while those observing the regular speed limit are not inconvenienced and can maintain their usual progress.
I also pushed for the installation of speed monitoring signage, which is now installed at various routes in the City. These are proving a great tool for slowing drivers and making our streets safer, while maintaining traffic flow. We still must tackle the problem of oversized trucks on residential streets, such as the east portion of University Avenue.
I support continuing to build a strong working partnership with the School District to enhance our Safe Routes to School program. I support continued efforts to improve bicycle and pedestrian accessibility throughout the City. I was instrumental in creating our citywide shuttle. I voted for the neighborhood traffic-calming program and believe these programs are most effective in dealing with safety for children, seniors and bicyclists.
I am committed to eliminating cut-through traffic, especially traffic diversion onto residential streets that were never intended to be arterials.
11. Discuss how you would use corridor studies to analyze the aggregate impacts of future development on traffic and infrastructure (school, parks, libraries, and recreation facilities). What streets might benefit from inclusion in such a corridor study?
A comprehensive traffic plan is needed to anticipate future growth. Piece-meal solutions will not solve the problems but rather exacerbate them. I will call forth, if elected, a forum for all residents to be in attendance in order to develop a strategic traffic plan. What is needed right away is more public parking in all business districts, traffic bumps on major through-fares, additional 4 way lights and stop signs and more remote monitoring equipment for traffic violators.
The Charleston corridor study analyzes the aggregate impacts of multiple, local developments on traffic. The Comprehensive Plan adequately addresses other impacts of multiple, local developments.
I would use corridor studies to analyze all the aggregate impacts in areas where substantial
amounts of development are being planned to determine what level of growth can be
accommodated in that area. I disagree with the approach the City Council is taking with the
Charleston Corridor Study, currently underway, because that study is limited to traffic
impacts and ignores the impacts of as many as 970 units (including the proposed
development at the Hyatt, the possible development at the Elks, the Campus for Jewish Life,
and other sites listed in the Housing Site Inventory) on our parks, schools, libraries, and
recreational facilities. Smart growth requires matching new housing with expanded
infrastructure. Current City planning policies focus on more high density housing
development without concurrent plans for expanding our infrastructure to accommodate our
growth. I would use corridor studies to analyze the full range of impacts and ensure that our
land use decisions are tied to the level which can be absorbed without an unacceptable
decline in quality of life. I would consider a corridor study in other areas which are slated
for substantial amounts of development.
There are other areas which may require comprehensive traffic studies for existing
traffic problems (such as Churchill and Channing) where there is currently minimal
development planned and so no need to study infrastructure impacts.
Further inability to reduce car traffic leads to reducing quality of life even more. All East-west arterials & Alma, Middlefield need analysis.
I support grade separations at Charleston and East Meadow
I would use these studies to assure we maintain appropriate quality of life in our community and keep our infrastructure upgraded in pace with the impacts of growth. The studies are a tool to predict the ramifications of development on our level of service at intersections, school safety, parks and recreation facility crowding, etc….
I voted to support the Charleston Corridor Traffic Study, which will delay the final approval of some developments but which I supported because it will give us reliable data from which residents and the City Council can make informed decisions about the impacts of these proposals on safety and traffic flow in the surrounding areas. I believe these studies should not only allow for analysis, but for specific recommendations of measures for ensuring that we have improved the safety of these corridors for pedestrians and bicycle riders, as well as vehicular safety.
I advocated and voted for the staff proposal to initiate the Charleston Corridor study. This study will be an excellent opportunity to implement measures that will improve safety for bicycles and pedestrians, especially our children and seniors. This study also provides an excellent opportunity to test and evaluate safety measures that have not been in place in the past.
12. What steps would you take to revitalize our neighborhood retail, regional retail and business-to-business sales sectors?
The city wastes our money by hiring a public relations staff to the tune of a $500,000 budget. Yet businesses are failing and tax revenue is decreasing. Other cities have solved this problem by assisting local business to flourish. By promoting the unique qualities of our local businesses, the City can assist in marketing, education and guidance with local businesses to improve their competitiveness. It is not a well-known fact that local businesses are price competitive with large outside chains. The City has at least two other major business districts that are being ignored. Isn't it time to give equal weight to all business districts? The life-blood of the City is local businesses, since they are the entities that reinvest the money locally. If the City courts the Walgreen's, Longs, etc., the people of Palo Alto should realize that these stores will not reinvest the revenue generated by the shoppers in the local community.
As mentioned earlier, I have worked with the Economics Ad Hoc Committee to foster and improve the city’s economic strength. I authored the memo to colleagues to protect ground floor retail city-wide and will continue to work with my colleagues to enhance retail operations that serve residents.
There is a great need to increase our neighborhood retail services to provide more businesses catering to the everyday needs of residents within walking distances of their homes. These services will help reduce our daily number of car trips, and provide more neighborhood gathering spots, thus fostering a greater sense of community. I oppose any re-zoning of existing neighborhood retail properties. I favor re-zoning some of our vacant office properties to retail use, both to serve residents and to bolster our tax revenues. I believe that the City should make a greater effort to attract new retail services, and to try to influence the types of new businesses which open so that we can avoid excessive duplication of uses, such as two drug stores or nail salons on the same street.
We need to make more proactive efforts to attract regional retail services (i.e., Trader Joe's, book and music stores, etc.) in appropriate locations to increase our tax revenues. The recent loss of an auto dealership on Embarcadero Road (next to Ming's) had a substantial and negative impact upon our tax base. I would direct Staff to work more closely with key businesses to meet their needs and concerns, so that we can promote their longevity in our City. We are losing some of our business-to-business sales to other communities at a significant loss in local tax revenues. I would explore establishing a City policy favoring City purchasing contracts with companies that keep these services in Palo Alto. The idea, in the end, is to make Palo Alto a more business-friendly environment, while at the same time balancing the needs of businesses with the need to maintain the integrity of our neighborhoods.
I would listen to what these business people can agree needs to be done & support their best knowledge.
I would seek a new mission statement for the Planning Department that reduces the delay and expense of business remodels.
We must preserve our only small business-to-business districts from being wiped out by gentrification of luxury housing construction. The only three areas of our community that provide for these services are at risk of private market shift to housing development under current zoning: SOFA and Downtown North Frame, Transport Area and Cal Ventura. We must protect these business areas and do it soon. Already we have received applications for housing in the wrong places and it will be the end of business-to-business in Palo Alto!
Neighborhood retail needs to be revitalized through the private market by allowing a reasonable redevelopment scheme at Alma and Edgewood. Parking should be provided and housing should not supplant the need for walkable retail destinations and appropriately sized modern grocery stores with other convenient and attractive shops.
We should be working TODAY, with regional retailers like Fry’s to redevelop the site for mixed use using our Redevelopment Agency as a partner. We should not wait until their lease has almost come to term. What are we thinking?
I was pleased to take the lead on the Council in proposing the neighborhood retail preservation ordinance. These local service providers are critical to the vibrancy of neighborhoods and to promoting walkable, safe neighborhoods, thereby reducing traffic. We need to continue to promote strategies and make land use decisions that protect neighborhood retail services, such as has been so successful in the Midtown area.
To revitalize regional retail and business-to-business sales, the City of Palo Alto should create a quarterly City-Business Roundtable bringing residents, city officials, and business leaders together to work on collaborative strategies in a creative, proactive manner. Currently, we are too reactive. I also support the creation of a business license so that we can track business activity and be of better service and support to businesses already here, as well as to know of opportunities for new businesses to locate here.
I support continuing work to identify priority businesses and to develop plans to help these businesses thrive. I support continuing partnerships, like “Shop Palo Alto,” with the Chamber of Commerce, the non-profit and school community and neighborhood associations. I support strong retail protection for our neighborhood centers
13. What lessons did you learn from 800 High Street that you would use to improve the decision-making process for future projects?
There should be rules in the planning and zoning code that would incorporate the needs for parking, traffic control and affordable housing. This is noticeably absent in the present code leading to avoidance by the City Council of tackling these problems. Do we have to have a referendum every time there is a proposed development project? The City Council must act responsibly and come up with criteria that will benefit the citizens of this City and not create new problems.
As with the Charleston corridor study, we must carefully define the timeframe and objectives and responsibilities of specific studies, regardless of the group, be it staff, citizen-based or other, performing the study
I learned that the City needs stricter rules for what constitutes "affordable housing". To qualify for the "affordable" units in this project, individuals and families must have an income ranging from $60,000 (for single units) to as much as $100,000 or more (for family units). This means that they are not affordable to teachers, nurses, police officers, firefighters, and most city workers. Palo Alto has already satisfied its goals for the higher ranges of affordable housing but still needs truly affordable units. I favor strengthening the rules for affordable housing to ensure that new units are truly affordable.
I learned that the community felt resentful and misled when residents were asked by the City to participate in a Working Group with staff and business leaders to create the SOFA II Area Plan, because that Plan was subsequently ignored. Even though the Working Group plan, a two-year effort, had been completed, the 800 High project was approved by the City Council before the SOFA II plan was voted upon. The problem is that the cart was placed before the horse, i.e., the 800 High Project should have be reconciled with the SOFA II plan. The lesson learned here is that the area study should be considered first and then Council should determine whether a specific project is consistent with the plan. It is disrespectful of the hard work of the Working Group to circumvent the process.
I also learned that the "planned community" zone allows developers to get vastly more density than they would otherwise be entitled to in exchange for a "public benefit" which may be much smaller than the extra gain received by the developer.
It’s too big. Note my proposed freeze on PC zoning. Moreover as someone who lives two blocks away I believe business & residential compatability needs more review.
Protracted and expensive studies of a project do not resolve the density and mass issues. Both businesses and residents are entitled to a shorter review process.
If the Council had struck a compromise on 800 High, it never would have ended up on the ballot and would be a far better project. But it is the responsibility of the Council majority to compromise. The minority voting members are not in position to do so.
In this case, the historic impacts and business concerns were largely ignored. The scale of the building was allowed to be out of character with surrounding single story buildings and historic district. The current design does not fit the neighborhood. Parking was included as the only real public benefit, inconsistent with the assertion that the project is “transit oriented.” The opportunity for a higher number of affordable units was overlooked. We could have achieved a far more compatible project and public benefit package, given the nature of the upzoning and the real estate value we created for the developer.
I would have preferred, and voted, that the City Council defer its approval of the 800 High Street proposal until after the working group’s plan had been finalized. In the future, I will hope that when the City engages a group of citizens to advise it, that it wait for the guidance of the group in order to use their input in its decision-making. We need to improve the method by which we obtain the involvement of neighborhood members and of area stakeholders. This will include a clearer mandate and commitment to wait for the results of the group’s efforts.
The process for zoning this site was several years too long. It is important that the City Council accept input from the staff, its boards and commissions and the public; after considering that input, the Council must develop a balanced proposal for adoption.
The Council should take ownership and give direction to staff to develop a balanced proposal for private redevelopment of commercial properties. Conversion of commercial properties to residential is the only way that the city can comply with its goals to create housing and to meet state housing requirements.
14. What role do you believe citizens and, separately, neighborhood associations should play in the City Council’s decision-making process?
Associations would be co-creators in the vision for Palo Alto that is needed in order to give guidance on the other pressing issues of our community.
* Citizens and neighborhood associations are partners as well as consumers of government services.
* Neighborhood associations play an important role, by providing a forum where information can be shared and concerns raised so that they become visible to elected officials. Recent important examples are neighborhood association efforts on Matadero and San Francisco Creeks, Channing and Downtown North traffic calming and the Charleston/Arastradero corridor.
* As I have in the past, I will continue to promote citizen access to elected officials.
City Council members are elected by the residents and, therefore, must keep the needs of the
residents paramount. Residents should feel welcome to ask questions and communicate their
concerns. Residents often feel that some Council members are not interested in their input. I
will actively seek the input of those who reside in our neighborhoods.
Neigborhood associations are a very valuable and important part of our civic process. Our
regulations are complex and Council meetings are time-consuming. Many people do not feel
knowledgeable enough to participate or simply do not have time. Developers have excellent
access at City Hall. Many developers know Council members personally and/or have paid
public relations people who do. Neighborhood leaders balance out the process by making
sure that residents' needs are also represented in the process. In order to qualify as a
neighborhood association, there should be guidelines in place for keeping constituents
informed and soliciting their opinions on important issues.
I believe that the individual and all citizens as they practice their rights of free association and concerted action are the pole star of American democracy. I believe the exclusionary practices of some claiming to be “neighborhood association” on the north of downtown area are misdirected and undemocratic. As we as a society have created a more distributive rather than deliberative political process, there has become more and more “inside trading:, if you will, in regard to decision making, I stand for open meetings, disagreements in public rather than glossing over substantive differences, and a higher regard for preserving more options for the future rather than burning it all up right now. Usually when a mandate for action is absent, the mandate is “don’t act.”
Neighborhood associations should be incubators for residents who want to learn more about issues that concern them. To be effective as information resources, neighborhood associations should accept all points of view.
Both have very important roles. Neighborhood associations do not in any way “threaten” individual participation or the City Council, as has been speculated by some. Every individual has the right to participate as fully as they chose in their government, right up to running for office. The power of the City Council is protected by Charter.
In addition, neighborhood associations are effective at putting forward the concerns of our neighborhoods when others don’t have time to get involved at the individual level. It is far easier for government to work through issues with twelve neighborhood associations than it is with 60,000 individuals. Without Neighborhood Associations, the concerns of residents would have less voice since they are not organized and consistent in asserting their rights and needs.
I was responsible for the original plan adoption of San Jose’s Strong Neighborhood Initiative. In San Jose we are helping neighborhood associations become more effective and representative and using the neighborhood association structure to develop capital investment strategies and public/private partnerships for making improvements to all the areas of the City, based on local priorities. SNI is now a model being used in other cities, and Palo Alto could learn from it. It is a very progressive way of regaining confidence in local government.
In recent years, neighborhood associations have become a valuable tool for residents, not only in creating a sense of place and identification, but especially in representing the needs and concerns of specific residential areas in land use decisions and service provision. Individuals should always be given great respect in meeting their needs and concerns and the city service staff should continue to be customer-oriented. At the same time, the input of individuals and associations must be weighed carefully in the context of what is best for the community overall.
I support the public process whereby all members of the public have the opportunity to be heard.
Neither neighborhood associations nor those who want to develop properties are pleased with the current process – it is too lengthy and too costly for all parties.
The Council must take the leadership in identifying where residential and commercial development is expected to take place. I am committed to developing a process which allows for early input from neighborhoods and commercial interests on development issues, before the dollars have been spent.
Essay by Victor Frost sent in mail.
Palo Alto is now longer a quiet cow town..
We are in the middle of the Silicon Valley, and the eyes Of the world are looking at us and what we do. Yet, I wish Palo Alto to stay Palo Alto. This is hard to do with greedy developers, with big money to buy votes, and build what ever they wish.
If I'm elected to a seat on the Palo Alto City Council, I will stay in touch with the people and the issues, on a daily basis... The people will advise me, I will listen, making, decisions using my common sense, and their feedback, Not, being swayed by white envelops full of cash ... And I will not be a part of the. block‑voting ring….
My level of political accountably, accessibly, competitiveness and responsiveness will always be top notch. In turn I'm looking at developing trust and a positive work environment with fellow council members.
We will argue and fight for our issues, and come to a compromise ‑‑ which will be for the common good of our community and this will be the start of a better democracy.
We new blood, new ideas, and new ways.
The budget…a 15% property tax cut, Why? The people need it…City Hall has started to live within it's means With their feet on the ground….Still there needs much Work in cutting the fat and cutting the crap….we know where all the money goes on paper, but as a city counsel member I want to do spot checks on departments..
Public Works? Jobs: The Silicon Valley is not dead, but it is not alive... The residents of Palo Alto need jobs.J
No one from the 800 projects or the new Low Income Stanford Student and Staffers Apartments Complex Has said anything about day labors Jobs…we need to put Fresh food on the table... a lot people are out of work...The work programs that I will start, I will be in. Reporting To the city council and to the people on how the jobs are going ... An on sight inspector, right there on the job, getting paid……..I need a job….
The present city council, still after two years has not solved the homeless crises ... they were giv en a road map still they are lost…..Three homeless men died do to exposure, they would not open the door to our building, The winter is coming again, How many more will die? Something is wrong…. Delusional thinking is abound.
The 800 project, Stanford Homeless Garden Project. And the new Palo Alto Food hill Park Redevelment Project, Will provide jobs for the down and out residents of Palo Alt. If the big developers disagree about the common good of Palo Alto in there blue prints, we can start the permit pulling process.
I want to be proud of my hometown and our democracy. I don't like the rest of the world laughing at city hall. We can change this... electing city counsel members that Show merit and concem for our community not socialites Worrying how they look on TV or trying to control other Other members or forgetting to do their homework
I love Palo Alto because Palo Alto is Palo Alto..
This is why I'm running for a seat on the Palo Alto
Council. To bring unity and make a better democracy
We all can be proud of. Thank You, Victor Frost