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.
I want to provide information on democratic remedies Palo Altans can take to oppose the settlement the Council majority has chosen. There are two methods:
- A referendum which would overturn the Council's vote to change the ordinance. If the referendum succeeds, it would negate the lawsuit settle and the plaintiffs could proceed to court. The timeline for qualifying a referendum is very tight, especially at this time of year – it would have to be completed within 30 days of the passage of the seconding, in this case, November 16. Palo Alto Municipal Code on referendums: https://codelibrary.amlegal.com/codes/paloalto/latest/paloalto_ca/0-0-0-26744
- A citizens' initiative which would be very similar to a referendum, except that the organizers could choose the starting date. However, the lawsuit settlement would take effect as early as mid-December. Until the voters approved an initiative, Foothills Nature Preserve would be open to non-residents. Palo Alto Municipal Code on initiatives: https://codelibrary.amlegal.com/codes/paloalto/latest/paloalto_ca/0-0-0-26719
Both a referendum and an initiative require a petition signed by registered Palo Alto voters numbering 6% of those registered for the previous election.
Currently that is 43,015, and 6% is 2,581, but having a "cushion" is advisable. At 10%, that would be 2,829. If an initiative's sponsors reach the 12% or 5,162 signature level, a special election can be called – rather than waiting for the next general election.
On the Action agenda, item no. 9 might have seemed to be only about a project at 788 San Antonio Road with 1,800 square feet commercial space, 102 housing units, and 2 levels of underground parking (https://www.cityofpaloalto.org/civicax/filebank/blobdload.aspx?t=61346.19&BlobID=79090).
However, this item includes extensive amendments to Palo Alto’s Comprehensive Plan, the adoption of a zoning ordinance which will affect the whole city by amending the definitions of gross floor area and retail preservation in housing developments. And much more. These major changes should have hearings of their own and not be a “minor part” of a public hearing for one development. We must speak up and stop these wide range changes in our zoning laws. Again, poor and bad governance.
On the Action agenda, item no. 10 is the Update and Discussion on the Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) https://www.cityofpaloalto.org/civicax/filebank/blobdload.aspx?t=62259.73&BlobID=79004. This was scheduled for discussion at the November 9th meeting. ABAG housing allocation for Palo Alto in this cycle – the 6th – is 10,500. That is a 36% increase in 10 years!! Palo Alto and the region must question ABAG’s methodology used to reach such implausible, if not absurd, numbers.
Interestingly, while reviewing the November 12th ABAG meeting agenda, I looked at the roster and a couple of names jumped out, that of Greg Scharff (former Palo Alto Council Member) and Sonja Trauss (CaRLA YIMBY founder advocates for increasing development sues cities for not approving “housing” developments. They, and everyone else on the roster, were not elected by the voters to those positions, rather appointed by the city’s mayors.
Here are all the ABAG members mentioned in the roster (per the 11/12/20 ABAG meeting agenda):
Susan Adams, Jesse Arreguin, Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft, Rick Bonilla, Mark Boucher, Monica Brown, Paul Campos, David Canepa, Kathleen Cha, Cindy Chavez, Amber Crabbe, Diane Dillon, Pat Eklund, Neysa Fligor, Scott Haggerty, Russell Hancock, Melissa Jones, Rafael Mandelman, Nathan Miley, Karen Mitchoff, Julie Pierce, David Rabbitt, Belia Ramos, Matt Regan, Katie Rice, Carlos Romero, Mark Ross, Al Savay, Gregory Scharff, Scott Sedgley, James Spering, Sonja Trauss, Lori Wilson.
Monday, November 16, 2020 City Council agenda https://www.cityofpaloalto.org/civicax/filebank/blobdload.aspx?t=43972.16&BlobID=79070
City Council virtual meeting link: https://zoom.us/join Meeting ID: 362 027 238
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