Neighborhood vs. City-wide Concerns

How would you balance neighborhood and city-wide concerns? Responses to Questions on Issues from my profile at SmartVoter.org (400 word limit)

I reject the premise that neighborhood and city-wide concerns are in conflict. The neighborhoods are the key part of the city. When the neighborhoods resist having unfair burdens on them and their quality of life diminished, special interest groups demonize the residents as NIMBYs (Not In My BackYard). Is it NIMBYism to resist calls to sacrifice so that others may reap excessive profits? Is it NIMBYism to protect the community that you sacrificed to become part of and have invested in, both financially and emotionally? Is it NIMBYism to resist frequent assertions that Palo Alto needs to become more like Manhattan?

Too often city-wide concerns is code for the agendas of City Hall, the regional bureaucracies and the politically well-connected. Is it a city-wide interest to have even more office workers at a cost of increasing cut-through traffic and overflow parking in the neighborhoods?

City-wide concerns is also code for ignoring the impacts of projects on nearby neighborhoods. There is a city-wide concern to provide more housing, but that shouldn't trump supporting neighborhood-serving retail. Is the benefit of a few more housing units worth the cost of a whole neighborhood now having to drive further for basic retail? Especially since statistics predict that less than a third of the employees in that housing will work in Palo Alto? And somehow concerns that affect many neighborhoods across the city are treated in isolation, rather than as a city-wide concern. For example, overflow parking into the neighborhoods. College Terrace worked long and hard for a Residential Parking Permit (RPP) program. It was supposed to serve as a template for Evergreen Park and then the neighborhoods around University Avenue. Instead, City Hall delayed and delayed and is reinventing an RPP for downtown.

City Hall sees having a vibrant downtown—a regional entertainment and dining destination—as a city-wide issue. But has downtown ceased to be useful for many residents? Those in neighborhoods not close to downtown tell me that they rarely go there, a combination of too much trouble and nothing I want.

As a residential Realtor of 17 years, I am constantly reminded of why people want to buy in Palo Alto. They come here for the schools, for a yard so that the kids can play, for the sense of community… Palo Alto's neighborhoods are the community, not just where people park themselves when not at work.

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