Election 2018

Your vote is your voice!

We have city council vote trackers and a wealth of election 2018 resources to help you use it well.

As we enter the final days of campaign season, our mailboxes and local media are full of political ads with perfect pictures, simple messages, and high-profile or personal endorsements – whatever might catch our attention in a few short minutes and get our vote without making us think too hard. Makes sense. We’re all busy, the issues are complicated, and it’s hard to focus beyond the craziness of national politics.

But as you can imagine, we at Palo Alto Matters hope you won’t rely on a few short minutes standing over the recycling bin to decide how to vote. Scroll down for all the voter resources you need. And we hope you’ll keep the big picture in mind – all policy is interdependent at the local level. Together, we live, play, and shop here; work, raise families, and retire here; walk, bike, and drive here. Home is no place for single-issue or identity politics.

We know local matters matter to you.

From bite-sized to gulp-sized, you can find the info you need to make informed votes here.

Over the past two years Palo Alto Matters invested countless hours putting local headlines in context to help you understand and influence the decisions being made on your behalf here at home. Our diverse, growing, subscriber list from every neighborhood in town and your many gracious letters tell us that Palo Altans, community wide, care about what happens here. You’ve risen to the challenge, doing your homework, turning out at meetings, and reaching out to local officials in record numbers on a wide range of issues.

Now we’re here to help you recall what happened and connect you to a wealth of voter info created by local news media and nonprofits. Palo Alto Matters’ one-of-a-kind vote tracker compiles the voting record for our three incumbent City Council candidates on key issues we’ve covered over the past two years. In addition, we’re including links to other election resources available to the community – covering the City Council, School Board, and Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District (Ward 5) races as well as local and state ballot measures.

We hope you’ll review and share these voter resources, encourage your friends, neighbors and colleagues to subscribe (free!) to Palo Alto Matters, and make the best ballot choices for the future of our community!

Palo Alto Matters’ City Council Vote Trackers

Palo Alto Matters pays attention to local policy debates and chatter and, as you know, we think the facts and details matter. We urge you to resist basing your vote on campaign rhetoric and instead look critically at the actual record. We’ve pulled it together for you below in what we hope is an easily digestible form. Yes, we know it’s not exciting to read a list of policy actions, (and, sorry, we don’t have the bandwidth to make it pretty or interactive for you) but voting records offer a much better indicator of where a candidate really stands than campaign messaging does. 

Vote Tracker - Narrow VotesTo help you differentiate between the three incumbent Palo Alto City Council Members seeking re-election in 2018, Tom DuBois, Eric Filseth, and Cory Wolbach, we’ve compiled a table showing where they’ve disagreed in controversial council decisions over the past two years. We think we’ve captured the bulk of them, but if we’ve missed something important (or gotten something wrong!), please let us know. We’re happy to update the on-line version of our vote trackers.

A useful companion to our vote tracker, and in addition to their election guide below, the Palo Alto Weekly has compiled it’s editorials on city issues from the past two years that flesh out some of the controversies that have swept the community. The Weekly’s editorials on school issues is also well worth review to put the candidate debates in context.

Vote Tracker - HousingFor the Housing Vote Tracker we included all adopted housing-related policies. Contrary to popular rhetoric, there was “across the aisle” agreement among the incumbent city council members seeking re-election in 2018 on nearly every housing action over the past two years. Where housing motions passed or failed it was typically by at least a two-thirds margin. Thus we thought the full list of adopted policies offered the benefit of showing where incumbent candidates diverged while also presenting the big picture of what’s happened on housing.

 

Unfortunately, without a voting record, it’s harder to assess how newcomers Alison Cormack and Pat Boone would perform if elected. But our local news media and nonprofits have done their best to nail them down on specifics. Take advantage of their good work by reviewing the resources below.

Additional Resources for Election Information

The Palo Alto Weekly, Palo Alto Daily Post, League of Women Voters of Palo Alto, Palo Alto Neighborhoods, and Midpen Media Center have done yeoman’s work to help you make informed votes. From candidate interviews, questionnaires, and debates, to side-by-side position summaries, to pros-cons forums, to reasoned endorsements – you can find them below.

To get up to speed on the state-wide ballot, we highly recommend CALMatters.org. CALmatters (a nonpartisan, nonprofit journalism venture committed to explaining how California’s state Capitol works and why it matters) has everything from 1-minute videos along with in-depth looks at statewide ballot measures, to candidate profiles, to issue briefs and news stories related to California’s politics and November ballot. Their coverage throughout the year is astute and informative, we recommend you subscribe (free) and support their work.

Click here for the Palo Alto Weekly’s “Election 2018: Complete coverage of Palo Alto races, measures.”

Click here for the Palo Alto Daily Post’s “Readers’ guide to local elections.”

Click here for the League of Women Voters of Palo Alto’s 2018 Election Guide

Click here for Palo Alto Neighborhoods’ 2018 City Council Candidates Questionnaire and Palo Alto City Council Candidates Forum

Click here for Midpen Media Center’s video coverage of the Palo Alto City Council, PAUSD Board of Education, Midpeninsula Open Space District (Ward 5), and County Sheriff races, along with pro-con arguments for local ballot measures.

Click here for the CalMatters.org state-wide “2018 Voter Guide.”

Protect your voice in negotiations with Stanford

Stanford asks for development agreement that would preempt new affordable housing requirements.

County to consider offer and negotiations process on October 16.

Over the past year, we’ve all studied up on Stanford’s expansion plans and the potential impacts of the 2.3 million square foot academic expansion proposed in Stanford’s 2018 General Use Permit application (2018 GUP) and weighed in on the adequacy of draft mitigations. In addition, the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors has looked closely at the affordable housing demand that Stanford’s expansion will create and passed new ordinances to raise housing impact fees and require more affordable housing.

Now Stanford is hoping to preempt a Final Environmental Impact Report (and associated, transparent conditions of approval for their 2018 GUP application) and go behind closed doors to negotiate an alternative that will supersede imposition of the County’s new affordable housing ordinances, prevent imposition of additional mitigation requirements, and freeze the County’s authority to regulate land use in the Stanford Community Plan Area until completion of the full expansion or for 30 years, whichever comes sooner.

Stanford seeks to negotiate a development agreement in exchange for “community benefits” in the form of proposed affordable housing commitments and investments, but county staff says Stanford’s affordable housing proposal doesn’t go as far as current law.

This Tuesday, October 16, the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors will hold a public hearing to discuss whether Stanford’s proposed development agreement warrants further discussion and negotiation and if so, what the negotiation process should entail. Public comment is welcome in person and via email (referencing “agenda item #9”) to boardoperations@cob.sccgov.org.

Read on for more info about Stanford’s housing offer and county staff’s analysis and recommendation.

What is a development agreement?

A development agreement is a voluntary contract with a local jurisdiction (Santa Clara County) in which a property owner (Stanford) is granted new entitlements or exceptions to existing rules in exchange for providing community benefits that otherwise would be difficult for the jurisdiction to obtain. In contrast to the transparent 2018 GUP analysis and review process, negotiators typically bargain over the trade-offs in private. In Santa Clara County only a single public hearing is required. The public and affiliated government entities, like the City of Palo Alto and the PAUSD, do not have a seat at the table and might only be informed of the details after the parameters of a deal have been struck. 

Stanford’s offer of affordable housing investments as a “community benefit” falls well short of housing funds due under current law.

The primary community benefit cited in Stanford’s development agreement application is affordable housing commitments and investments. However, according to the county staff report,

“As currently offered, Stanford University’s housing proposal does not constitute community benefits in that the proposal does not offer affordable housing beyond a level that can be obtained through existing regulations [and county authority].”

Indeed, the staff analysis indicates that Stanford’s proposed development agreement would produce an affordable housing subsidy value of $89 million less than Stanford would be required to contribute under the county’s new impact fee and inclusionary housing ordinances. Stanford emphasizes the timely value of up-front housing funds in its development agreement application, but even adjusting for net present value, their proposal falls short of current law by $75 million.

By county staff’s estimate, applying current requirements to Stanford’s GUP would produce a total of 663 new and converted affordable units, while the total under Stanford’s proposed development agreement would range from 314 to 455 affordable units.

County analysis of affordable housing benefit

County staff recommends pre-conditions to negotiation, integration with the ongoing GUP review process, and additional public engagement.

Given the lack of community benefits in Stanford’s development agreement proposal, county staff recommends that the Board of Supervisors only enter development agreement negotiations if Stanford first agrees in writing to:

  • Increase its affordable housing proposal to exceed what current housing ordinances would require.
  • Express a willingness to include other benefits, such as school site dedication and/or ongoing funding and other benefits relating to transportation and traffic mitigation, sustainability, open space, etc.
  • Accept an extension of the 2018 GUP application timeline to allow for negotiations with a concurrent community engagement and communication process.
  • Reconsider its demand that mitigations be limited to those proposed in the Draft Environmental Impact Report for the 2018 GUP; and
  • Express a willingness to reduce the scope of applicable county rules to be held constant during the life of the development agreement.

Stanford seeks to condition its community benefits offer on limiting environmental mitigations to those already proposed in the Draft EIR. However, if the Board of Supervisors chooses to move forward with development agreement negotiations, staff recommends finalization of the Environmental Impact Report and staff preparation of conditions of approval for the 2018 GUP (targeted for late 2018) before the parties begin negotiations. Staff asserts that this will “provide a stable regulatory baseline for negotiations and ensure integration and consistency” with the 2018 GUP application review process. The Development Agreement would then be included in the Final EIR along with conditions of approval and monitoring and reporting requirements for Board of Supervisors’ consideration in 2019.  

County staff also proposes additional public outreach, (to both the general public and staff and elected officials representing public agencies and cities near Stanford) to inform the negotiations and obtain input on terms and desired community benefits at three stages in the process:

  • within the first few weeks of starting negotiations.
  • at the point in negotiations at which proposed community benefits are identified.
  • at the conclusion of development agreement negotiations but prior to Planning  Commission public hearings on the 2018 GUP in 2019.

Process matters. Let the Board of Supervisors know what you think.

Are you surprised that Stanford’s development agreement application promises less affordable housing than the county’s newly passed impact fee and inclusionary ordinances would produce? Do you support negotiation of a development agreement with Stanford or prefer to rely only on the in-progress 2018 GUP process? Is it premature to begin negotiating a development agreement before the Final EIR is available to the public and/or reviewed by the county Planning Commission? Do you support staff’s recommendation to make entering negotiations contingent on certain expectations? Did they identify the right contingencies? What do you think about the proposed outreach process?

You can offer comments in person on Tuesday October 16 at 10:00 am or send an email with “agenda item #9” in the subject line to boardoperations@cob.sccgov.org.

The public hearing will be held on the first floor of the County Government Center located at 70 W. Hedding Street in San Jose and will begin no earlier than 10:00 am. (There is some free, marked 2-hour public parking on the side of the building parallel to San Pedro Street; there are parking meters in the general area; and there is a lot where parking can be purchased at 171 W. Hedding that is also open to the public.

 

Standing Rock Legal Update and Call to Action

Dear climate activists and Standing Rock supporters,

You’re invited to a special event in Sunnyvale next Wed (9/6) at 7 PM with attorneys Chase Iron Eyes and Daniel Sheehan of the Lakota People’s Law Project. The day after speaking at Google, Chase and Danny will join us at the Congregational Church of Sunnyvale for a local event that is free and open to the public.

Chase Iron Eyes is a citizen of Standing Rock and a leading spokesperson for the NoDAPL movement. In February, following intense surveillance by militarized security forces, he was arrested and charged with two felonies by North Dakota law enforcement.


Daniel Sheehan is president of the Romero Institute and a renowned constitutional attorney. As chief defense counsel for Chase Iron Eyes, his legal strategy will expose the collusion between government, industry and militarized security to suppress Native populations and the right of all Americans to peacefully demonstrate.

I attended their talk in Berkeley last week and thought it was a perfect blend of information and inspiration–from the opening video to the legal defense and offense, from Danny’s deep knowledge of constitutional rights to Chase’s ability to connect and ground us to our common humanity, from updates on individual water protectors to the petition to #DropDAPLCharges, from the call to divest to the push for public banking–they covered it all.

If they can do the same or similar in Sunnyvale, I don’t think anyone who supported the Standing Rock movement will regret going. I was really glad I went.

Tickets are free to attend, but Pastor Ron has graciously donated space for this event and we’d love to channel support for the Congregational Church’s Homeless Services where donations of ready-to-eat meals and toilet paper are needed and welcome.

Doors open at 7:00 PM for seating, tabling with local groups and interaction. Speakers begin at 7:30 PM. Please join us next Wednesday and help us get the word out!

With gratitude,
Melanie Liu
Defund Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL)

Submitted by Adobe Meadows resident: Tell the Palo Alto City Council to support strengthened Renter Protection

Tonight at 7:15pm (or so), the Palo Alto City Council will consider a colleagues memo from Councilmembers DuBois, Holman, and Kou to strengthen renter protection for Palo Alto residents.  See http://www.cityofpaloalto.org/civicax/filebank/documents/59776

The Rental Housing Problem

Rental housing cost in Palo Alto and the region has exploded in recent years as the pace of job growth has tripled compared to the rate of housing growth. Housing that is being built is predominantly high-end along with small amounts of subsidized, low-income housing. The needs of moderate-income workers and families have been ignored, undermining our social and economic balance. Vital members of our community, teachers, nurses, police, firefighters, utility workers, shopkeepers, social workers and others are all being driven away.

Although big growth in the tech economy has been a boon to many, it has caused negative disruptions to our region including a huge growth in housing demand that has harmed affordability with many long-term renters being driven out or forced to pay more than they can afford. Since 2011, the average rent in Palo Alto has increased 50% while the county median income has grown at less than1/10 that rate. Palo Alto needs to provide renters with the sort of reasonable protections already provided by Mountain View and San Jose.

By the council acting on this problem through a city ordinance, Palo Alto avoids the likelihood of a more restrictive and less balanced citizen initiative like in Mountain View which cannot not be modified except through a future vote of the electorate.

Renter Protection Goals

  • Support retention of a healthy, diverse community and local economy;
  • Moderate the rate of rent increases;
  • Provide protections from unjust evictions that are fair to both renters and landlords;
  • Continue topromote construction of new multi-unit rental developments.

Recommendations

  • An annual percentage cap on rent increases for multi-unit residences built before 1995, thereby continuing to encourage new housing construction.
  • Protections against tenant terminations without just cause while protecting the fair rights of property owners.
  • A city council ordinance rather than a voter initiative that will allow needed adjustments over time.

Here’s what you can do

  • Write to the Palo Alto City Council today at city.council@cityofpaloalto.org requesting they support the Colleagues Memo (agenda item 13).  Please write in your own words, and you may use the talking points above.
  • Come speak to the City Council tonight.  Arrive by 7:15pm.  Fill out a comment card requesting to speak to agenda item 13.  You will have two or maybe three minutes to speak.  It is best to prepare your remarks in advance, either word-for-word or in outline or note form.  You can make a short statement, simply to say something like, “I support the goals of recommendations of the colleagues memo.  Thank you.”

Jobs/housing: Tell Council your thoughts on office growth – September 5, 2017

On September 5, City Council will define its vision for future limits on the pace of growth for office and research and development (R&D) square footage in Palo Alto.

In this first step toward developing a permanent annual limit on office/R&D development, Council will direct staff regarding the following details of a possible ordinance:

  1. Boundaries of the areas that should be subject to an annual cap;
  2. The quantitative limit – should it be 50,000 sf or something different;
  3. Whether unused annual allocations should be “rolled over” to raise the cap in subsequent years;
  4. Whether current exemptions to the limit should be continued or modified; and
  5. How projects should be reviewed – competitive, first-come first-serve, or some other process.

Many Palo Altans see managing the pace of jobs growth as a vital piece of the puzzle to address our jobs/housing imbalance, while others worry that constraints on a strong office market will impair Palo Alto’s economic vitality.

Tell City Council where you stand on office growth limits. Speak up at City Council on September 5 at 6pm (City Hall) or send an email to the full Council at city.council@cityofpaloalto.org.