It has been my pleasure to represent Palo Alto at the Santa Clara/Santa Cruz Counties Airport/Community Roundtable (SCSC RT) and as liaison to the SFO Airport/Community Roundtable (SFO RT) for the last four years to address airplane/craft noise, which has not only has been excessive, but disruptive and has health and environmental impacts. Council Member Greer Stone is the new appointee to the SCSC Roundtable.
I would like to bring you up to date on the discussions:
The election has new incoming City Council Members and I am excited to welcome them and am looking forward to collaborating on policies using good governance to benefit Palo Altans. However, before the new Council is sworn in, it is Duck Season – Lame Duck season. It looks like the outgoing majority will try and push through as many irresponsible policies, developments and bad governance as possible.
On the Monday, November 16 City Council meeting, there are several items of interest.
On the Consent Calendar, item no. 7 is the second reading to adopt a revised ordinance that would open Foothills Park to non-residents. Go here for the settlement materials. In my opinion, in choosing to settle, the City of Palo Alto attorney has allowed to stand the lawsuit's claims that Palo Altans are racists and supported segregation.
We invited you to respond to our survey on the Foothills Preserve Lawsuit.
PURPOSE: The results of this survey will be used to inform Councilmember Lydia Kou of resident's opinions and will be made public before the November 2 Council meeting where action on the Foothills Preserve lawsuit will be decided.
INTRODUCTION: On August 3, 2020 the Palo Alto City Council voted 5-2 to:
- approve renaming Foothills Park to be a Nature Preserve,
- approve a revenue-neutral pilot program to allow a limited number of non-residents to enter the Preserve without needing to be a guest of a Palo Alto resident, and
- encourage the next City Council to put forward a ballot measure on the access rules in 2022.
Fifty days later, a small group of individuals filed a lawsuit against Palo Alto to force the immediate removal of the resident + guest restriction. This lawsuit is backed by local chapters of the NAACP and ACLU and a high-power law firm doing pro bono work for the ACLU. On October 19, the City Council voted in closed (confidential) session to settle the lawsuit with the public vote coming on November 2.
SUMMARY OF RESULTS: A total of 10 questions were presented to the public. There were over 800 respondents to the questionnaire.
A MAJORITY OF RESPONDENTS:
- Want the Foothills Preserve to be reserved for Palo Alto residents only.
- Want the City of Palo Alto to actively defend itself against the lawsuit.
- Do not believe the lawsuit will damage the reputation of the City
- Believe the City should protect its democratic decision making process
- Believe failure to defend the City will encourage more nuisance lawsuits
- Believe the plaintiff's argument of racial discrimination is not valid
- Believe that the area in question should be considered a 'nature preserve'
- Do not believe the plaintiff's argument of 'free speech' influenced their preference
- Are strongly concerned that the Council decision in 'closed session' lacked transparency
The details of the results are provided below.
Government transparency, or rather the lack of it, has been a major issue in my 2016 and current campaigns. Many residents are concerned that the City Manager and City staff – NOT the City Council – are running Palo Alto. I fully understand your concerns, and often agree with them. In the past, the City Manager would present Council with his recommendation and one or two alternatives. Now, many times Council receives a single recommendation to which we can make a few modifications before being expected to “rubber-stamp” it.
In endorsing me, the Palo Alto Weekly said "More than others, Kou has been a councilmember for the majority of those residents who don't have connections at City Hall and who feel underrepresented."
Before becoming a Councilmember, I experienced the frustrations and indignities that many other residents have suffered through the years. These experiences led me to run for City Council. I know it is important for a councilmember to have a strong network of residents throughout the City. Residents willing to share their thoughts on what is important and to utilize their knowledge and expertise in helping me address the issues before Council. The North Ventura Community Advisory Panel (NVCAP) and the Expanded Community Advisory Panel (XCAP) – rail crossings – are examples of the expertise and innovative thinking that residents can bring to difficult issues.
Todd Collins Govind Tatachari
Hosted by Lydia Kou
Join me in hearing about candidates’ experience, records, and priorities.
Please submit your questions on matters that are important to you to [email protected]
Wednesday, October 21st, 2020
7:00 – 8:00 pm
I look forward to welcoming you to learn about these two outstanding candidates.
In the September 14 City Council meeting, item 10 was listed as "Verbal Update and Possible Direction to Staff on COVID-19 Related to Business Recovery Efforts" (minutes, pp 4-5):
The initial motion was to direct Staff to explore options and return to Council with:
- Rapid Covid-19 testing and what the City can do to ramp up testing;
- Childcare and how the City can support childcare services; and
- A holiday strategy to support holiday shopping in our major shopping areas.
But then Mayor Fine and Councilmember Tanaka proposed three additions to be explored. These would seriously undermine the existing Retail Preservation Ordinance. That ordinance was a hard-won victory in response to several rounds of community-serving retail being successively displaced for offices, for uses such as software development. Getting City Staff to enforce the ordinance has been very difficult. Within eyesight of City Hall, there are flagrant violations: retail space that has been converted to offices with a "retail" false front that is only a few feet deep.
The first addition was "Temporarily suspending the Retail Preservation Ordinance outside of the commercial cores". As we know temporary changes are likely to be permanent. The rents that property owners can receive from retail spaces are substantially lower than from the likely replacements, such as offices. They can be expected to strongly resist converting back. A second problem is the costs to the retailers for converting the configuration of the space to what is needed. Restaurants have it worse: It is said that the first restaurant in a new space will fail because of those costs.
The second addition was "Temporarily altering or suspending required parking changes for a change of use". Neighbors can lose walkable retail, but gain a parking lot – on their streets.
Both of those additions were added to the motion on 4-3 votes with Vice Mayor DuBois, Councilmember Filseth, and I voting "no".
The third addition was to explore "Allowing diverse retail uses in all retail sites". It passed unanimously.
The overall motion then passed 5-2, with Filseth and I voting "no".
Knee-jerk reactions to complex problems have consequences. As the saying goes… "For every complex problem, there's a solution that is simple, neat, and wrong." H.L. Mencken