Sierra Club Questionnaire


Lydia Kou almost won a seat on the council in the last election in 2014. She’s a residential realtor and an active community volunteer who advocates for listening closely to what residents want.  She believes that growth should be managed in a way that provides/preserves community, environment, and quality of life.  She wants to retain green spaces and trees in Palo Alto by paying attention to the health of this valuable aspect of the City’s persona.


 The following are the questions from the Loma Prieta chapter of the Sierra Club and the responses submitted by the candidate:

Civic Engagement

We consider your past record as the best indicator of your future action for the environment. What have you done to protect natural resources and the environment?

My past civic engagement included:

  • Palo Alto Emergency Service Volunteer Team Leader
  • Palo Alto Community Emergency Response Team (CERT/PANDA) Trainer
  • PAN Emergency Preparedness program Executive Team
  • PAN Emergency Preparedness program Trainer
  • Palo Alto Chamber of Commerce Leadership program
  • Palo Alto Mediation Program Certified Mediator
  • Barron Park Association Board of Directors
  • Barron Park Association Emergency Preparedness & Safety Committee Chair
  • Barron Park Association Cultural Diversity Lead Organizer
  • PAUSD 2015 Measure A Parcel Tax Co-Chair
  • PAUSD 2005 Measure A Parcel Tax Volunteer
  • Terman Middle School PTA Vice President
  • Terman Middle School Volley Ball Coach
  • Silicon Valley Association of Realtors' Grievance Committee
  • Silicon Valley Association of Realtors' Charitable Foundation Trustee
  • Silicon Valley Association of Realtors' Service Volunteer program to help Seniors Age at Home

My current participation in civic engagement includes:

  • Palo Alto's Comprehensive Plan Update Citizen Advisory Committee member
  • St. Thomas Aquinas Parish Pastoral Stewardship Committee
  • Our Lady of Rosary Site Committee
  • Our Lady of Rosary Building, Maintenance and Equipment Committee

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Major Issues

What do you regard as the major environmental and conservation issues facing Palo Alto and the Bay Area as a whole?

  • Growth:  should be managed in a way that provides/preserves community, environment and quality of life. We are in a time with a lot of environment and climate change, some we have control over and some that we have little. Growth is also a State concern and State should be managing growth by helping cities that do not have economic vitality to become destination locations and incentivize companies to locate and provide jobs to those cities. 
  • Sea level rise: ensuring restoration and preservation of the marshlands and levees to avoid floods.
  • Drought issues: conserve, reserve and recycle. Storm management on site. Ground water recharge.
  • Air quality: vigorously protect and plant more trees to help in the fight against GHG emissions.
  • Trees: as Palo Alto has intensified with present growth, trees are been affected negatively. It is visible that many are dying or have been killed or have died. Trees provide both public health benefits, as well as, social benefits. Some tree benefits:
    • Trees take in carbon dioxide and produces oxygen (clean air).
    • Tree help trap dust, pollen and smoke from the air (cleans air).
    • Trees provide important habitats for birds, animals and insects.
    • Trees provides cooling.
    • Trees reduces surface water runoff and decreases soil erosion.
    • Trees have many social benefits as well, it provides us with color, flowers, fruits. It provides beauty with it leaves, trunk and provides serenity, peace and tranquility. Trees can separate and define space for privacy or to screen unattractive views.

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Environmental work

What are the principal areas of the environment that you will work on if elected?  How will you deal with them?

I would support Canopy. Protecting all trees. Encourage more parks and open space.

Palo Alto is currently working on the Urban Forest Master plan and Parks Master plan and will be reviewed soon. I plan to be involved and monitor its implementation, progress and maintenance. 

Palo Alto’s Sustainability and Climate Action plan (S-CAP) is still been developed and I will be monitoring and working on it for its completion. I support that and if there are conflicts and I will work with the community to resolve it.

Transportation is a big issue. As a member of the citizen’s advisory committee of the Comprehensive Plan update, I will continue to work on the transportation that protects and preserves the quality of life and the environment.

Affordability: I see that as an environment issue as people are displaced. I have been in strong support and continued to support saving Buena Vista Mobile Home Park. I was the only one in the 2014 election during the PAN City Council Candidate forum to introduce that the City should purchase the Buena Vista mobile home park and have Palo Alto Housing Corporation to manage the property.

Sea level rise:  I support efforts to restore wet lands and protect the levees.

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Climate change

Would you advocate performance improvements to Palo Alto’s climate action plan and what would those changes be? 
What else should Palo Alto do to reduce greenhouse gas generation?

Palo Alto has been working on a comprehensive Sustainability and Climate Action plan and I would want to see it completed and for it to have more protection for the urban forest and the ecosystem in the Baylands and the hills.

Trees must be vigorously protected as to the reasons I mentioned in the above answer. Urban Forest should be a part of the carbon sequestration.

Sustainability has its faults, such as failing to recognize that replacing existing buildings with green buildings and ignoring the carbon footprint of demolition of a building and the carbon footprint of building a new building. There is also a carbon footprint to the shipping of the concrete, sand mining and the costs. This is just one example of “sustainability” not fully being environmentally conscious.

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Sea Level Rise

Scientific analysis overwhelmingly concludes that sea levels are already rising and that San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties are seriously threatened in this century. Please give us your thoughts as to the near term tasks that you think should be undertaken by Palo Alto, nearby cities and the Bay Area at large?

I am glad Measure AA passed and that there will be a bay restoration agency and that I hope to see that there is wetland conservation and restoration as part of a comprehensive solution to protect Palo Alto from sea level rise.

Read about the Measure AA San Franscisco Bay Restoration authority about their plans, I am just starting to learn about this and have a lot to learn.

I hope to see an oversight committee to ensure transparency in the use of the Measure AA funds to the constituents.

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Community Choice Aggregation

Although there has been significant progress across California in green energy supply, the Sierra Club believes that municipal utilities (as well as PG&E and CCA JPAs) now need to concentrate on increasing locally generated green energy free from the transmission losses attendant to remote facilities. Please give us your thoughts as to possible implementation(s) in Palo Alto.

I am supportive of Palo Alto’s solar energy generation program.

Palo Alto’s residential neighborhoods that have an abundant tree canopy, I am concerned that residential solar above residential rooftops would cause for the loss of trees due to shade.

I want to focus solar over public parking spaces, top of garages and also tall office buildings, commercial/industrial buildings and all city owned properties.

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Environmental Justice

We support the right to a clean and healthful environment for all people and we support approaching all decisions based on the Precautionary Principle - when an activity potentially threatens human health or the environment, the proponent of the activity, rather than the public, should bear the burden of proof as to the harmlessness of the activity. Where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing measures to prevent environmental degradation. What can be done to better ensure that low-income residents in your area are not unfairly burdened by pollution, have improved access to open space and increased voice in decision-making in your community?

At this time, Palo Alto is not only impacted by the issues it created itself in the past decade, however, there is definitely harmful activities from actions from neighboring cities. Menlo Park approving more building for the Facebook site, adding residential multi-housing on Willow Road (already impacted) in exchange for money. Mountain View same with Google and LinkedIn. These cities should be giving conditional approvals for the building after circulation and mobility issues have been mitigated. As a matter of fact, if something has to be mitigated than it should not be considered or approved.

I oppose the VTA’s plan to eliminate the 35 and 88 bus which serves the low income & the disabled, elderly population.

The local shuttles/buses which services Palo Alto have to be better organized and coordinated in order to reach into neighborhoods so that it is convenient for people to use.

I want to ensure in as a citizen advisory member of the Comprehensive Plan update discussions that I am not supportive of measures of the reduction of ratio of parkland per person.

I do not support High Speed Rail, it adds to Palo Alto’s local negative impacts to traffic, as well as to creating a wall dividing the east and west parts of Palo Alto.

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Sustainable Land Use

In light of Palo Alto’s recognized jobs/housing imbalance, what long-range strategies do you envision to bring about a more balanced ratio?

Stop the imbalance by limiting office, research and development developments by lowering the allowable building square footage limit/cap per year, and expanding the limit/cap to encompass the entire city of Palo Alto and extending the time period for the limit/cap to another 3 years when the interim time period expires.

Meanwhile, focus building meaningful and purposeful housing/multi-housing for service workers who are essential to keeping Palo Alto a town socio-economically diverse. For example, workers who are staff and nurses who are employed at senior facilities.

I would also consider studying areas, especially along transportation corridors where higher density could be considered. For examples, Fry’s area concept plan where there may be more flexibility for building and parkland. 

Increase the percentage of BMR units and ensure availability for the low low income use and there must not be displacement. 

What types of development conditions (for example: Residential Parking Permit Programs [RPPP] to reduce redundant parking and Transportation Demand Management programs [TDM] to reduce automobile congestion) would you support to reduce land waste, unit cost and auto dependency in the vicinity of new multi-unit housing proposals? 

Increase walkability for all (which includes people with functional needs). Sidewalks must be aesthetically inviting, making wider sidewalks, inclusion of trees for shade, benches. Seek out pathways for shared uses for pedestrians, people with functional needs and bicyclists. 

What is your view of recent debates about development in Palo Alto?  What developments do you think the city should prioritize and which should be discouraged?

Palo Alto is described as a vibrant business park and I find that our town’s character has been changed with less focus on its residents’ quality of life and its natural resources.  Palo Alto’s roads cannot be widened, yet it has all kind of conceivable uses imposed on it for SOV reductions, however, that goal ignores the health and safety concerns. If accomplishing one goal but it deteriorates another, then it is not a success.

With our jobs to housing exasperated in the last decade, I would encourage that the city focus on building housing purposefully and responsibility for the low low income and for the service workers much needed in Palo Alto along arterial streets which does not have school children bicycle/pedestrian traffic.

I would discourage buildings that does not provide sufficient parking space for its users and public parking.

I would discourage office buildings that do not have solar power generation.

I would discourage buildings that are harmful to migratory birds and other wildlife.

I would discourage buildings are not compatible in mass, design and height with its neighboring buildings.

I would encourage commercial landowners and developers to being good community stewards and partner with the community to enhance quality of life for the community they operate business in.

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What types of transportation projects would you support locally and regionally to provide people with an alternative to the private auto?

I support more coordinated, frequent and convenient public shuttles within the city of Palo Alto. Stanford University’s Marguerite shuttles should partner with Palo Alto’s shuttle to deliver coordinated and efficient services. Since Stanford Research Park does contribute to circulation and mobility issues, it should consider expanding their Marguerite services to all of Palo Alto. Marguerite services are free, that helps with encouraging people to use public transportation.

Many agencies do not work well with each other and regard each other as competition. Marguerite should have common management with the city shuttle so that they can coordinate and work together efficiently.

Regionally, CalTrain must provide for grade separation in order not to further exasperate traffic congestion especially with electrification.

VTA must continue its 35 and 88 bus lines.

Dumbarton Rail should be revisited and restarted; it is another method for workers from the East Bay. Ferry to Redwood City is feasible only if it does not harm wildlife or marshlands.

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Access to Nature

Palo Alto’s parkland-to-residents ratio is good. How will you ensure that residents in your city will continue to have access to safe and enjoyable parks and open space as Palo Alto grows?

Developments should always include parkland or pay hefty fees, an amount that would discourage developers from not including parkland. Fee should be used for not only maintaining parks but also to buy more parkland.

Maintain parks and protect each park’s uniqueness keeping it spacious. Ensure that each park is also made accessible to people with disabilities for enjoyment of open space.

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Water Conservation

California will continue to face increasing droughts. The political input of individual cities to local and regional agencies is important.

Do you support regional projects for recycled water reuse? Absolutely!

Subsidized Gray water programs? Yes. Try to capture into swirls for recharge or into cisterns for reserves. The Sacramento Delta Twin-Tunnel “Water Fix”? No.

Additional large-scale dam projects such as the Sites Reservoir? No.

What other actions do you support to ensure that Palo Alto’s future residents will have water security?

Limiting dewatering and requiring water from dewatering be re-used to replenish the aquifers and not directed into the storm drains to flow to the bay.

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Integrating nature and habitat into the City is important to the Sierra Club. Would you support programs to protect open space and parks in the City, plant more oaks and other native trees, protect stream corridors and require that buildings incorporate measures to protect birds from collision with glass?

I support enthusiastically. I live in Barron Park and the neighborhood association which I was a board member and the residents has maintained the rural feel and we have a wild life corridor along Matadero Creek where we have seen egrets, herons and even pelicans. Every spring the neighborhood gets an alert to be aware that mommy duck is out with her many ducklings trailing her and maybe walking on a street so to drive slow.

Would you support development of a Bird Safe Buildings ordinance?
Yes, I would support an ordinance for bird safe buildings. Modern glass architecture is harmful to birds and I would want to have a lights out program for minimizing light pollution and attracting birds to the location.

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Zero Waste

Do you believe that waste recycling can be improved in Palo Alto and, if yes, how, in your opinion, might that be achieved?

With the economic downturn, my understanding is that there is not a market for the recyclable products and even the nearby Green office has closed. The market for recyclables has collapsed. And there is the process for recycling which leads to the actual act of recycling that is generates green house gases.

I am supportive of Palo Alto food and yard waste to continue to go to the anaerobic digester station in San Jose.

I am supportive to continue compost.

I am supportive of demolition material recycling and/or salvaging for re-use.

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Trans-Pacific Partnership

The Sierra Club is strongly opposed to the TPP. Local governments frequently send letters or resolutions to their federal representatives regarding such important national issues with potential significant local impact. Please tell us what you think Palo Alto should ask of your federal representative regarding the TPP.

Globalization and has caused a lot social and economic problems to the U.S. however, on this topic and maybe on other issues, I would need to approach Sierra Club for advice. I don’t know enough about how it affects Palo Alto.

I would also want to do public outreach to my community to learn the community’s thoughts and recommendations.

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