Commentary

We’ve started to collect and sort Palo Alto (and some regional) commentary and editorials into general topics to help you see what’s been going on at a glance. Click on a link below to view a particular topic (or if you’d rather just see the latest, across all topics, click here).

Public Trust and Accountability

Editorial: The risks of secrecy

Palo Alto Weekly - by PA Weekly editorial board / December 8, 2017 School board splits on whether and how to accept large anonymous donations When developing a new public policy, a sure warning sign should be when the policy has to thread a needle to avoid violating existing laws and, in doing so, becomes convoluted and irrational. The Palo Alto school board struggled Tuesday night trying to balance competing interests of transparency and donor privacy, and a bare majority (Ken Dauber, Jennifer DiBrienza, Terry Godfrey) approved a new policy that, in our opinion, skates on the edge of the ...

What’s all the fuss about code enforcement?

Palo Alto Matters - October 10, 2017 Public trust and damaged community life. Ask a typical Palo Altan what code enforcement is all about and odds are the first thing they’ll mention is gas-powered leaf blowers. But it also encompasses zoning and building compliance, Use and Occupancy permits, parking, signage, construction noise and more – complex, wonky, and sometimes seemingly nitpicky, issues that have both immediate and cumulative impacts on land use and quality of life. While most residents may not know a specific code violation when they see one, they experience the impacts of noncompliance and it feels unfair. Immediate ...

Editorial: The shriveling office cap

Palo Alto Weekly - by the Palo Alto Weekly editorial board / September 8, 2017 Council's split over office cap will surely return as an election issue next year The irony and hypocrisy of this is that the same majority that voted Tuesday to make more commercial development easier has been advocating repeatedly for more housing. If there is one documentable result of the current office-cap restrictions, it is that it has led to more housing projects where office development would have otherwise been likely. It is not hard to imagine voters becoming cynical about candidates who say their focus is ...

How to avoid a train wreck – doing grade separations right

Palo Alto Matters - Guest Commentary by Pat Burt / September 1, 2017 Former Mayor of Palo Alto The city council is scheduled this Tuesday to decide on the process for designing railroad grade separations across Palo Alto, but the current plan for the decision-making runs a high risk of running the project off the tracks. While debate over “process” can make most folks eyes glaze over, how we come to agreement as a community on the design for this very complicated and expensive project is critical to its success ...

Big league politics undermine community solutions

Palo Alto Matters - June 11, 2017 On a national and even global scale, enmities are fueled around the clock by extreme partisan politics, social media bullying and “fake news.” We’re all up in arms about it. But even as we rally to resist, those same tools of division are intensifying conflict and blocking compromise here at home. Distorted battle lines, name-calling and oversimplification of complex challenges are demonizing local interests, dividing our community and impeding balanced and sustainable solutions ...

“Young guns” out of step with community

Palo Alto Matters - May 13, 2017 Councilmembers Wolbach, Tanaka and Fine have stretched their wings as part of the new Council majority with policy proposals that would worsen the city’s jobs/housing imbalance and shift parking and traffic burdens to residents. Along the way, they have employed tactics that sidestep City staff, exclude public input and forego opportunities for compromise, undermining public trust and repeatedly raising widespread and vocal community concern ...

Editorial: A council adrift

Palo Alto Weekly - by Palo Alto Weekly editorial board / May 5, 2017 Bizarre and poorly conceived 'symbolic' proposals are wasting time and disrespecting the public process The erratic behavior of three Palo Alto city council members is beginning to become a tiring pattern seemingly more designed to stir up controversy and stake out a political philosophy than seek genuine solutions to real problems ...

Hundreds protest bait and switch tactics on “granny units”

Palo Alto Matters - April 24, 2017 Last month, in a last minute policy shift, a divided City Council voted to allow the construction of second homes (known as accessory dwelling units or ADUs) on any property in single family neighborhoods, within six feet of side and rear property lines and with no on-site parking or design review requirements. In doing so, Council rejected a publicly vetted and broadly supported staff recommendation in favor of a final hour proposal that reduces privacy protections and creates additional parking impacts. Most residents, including those objecting to portions of the new ordinance, support more ADUs. But many thought abandoning the compromise ...

Facing sustained public outcry, Council reverses course

Palo Alto Matters - March 24, 2017 Moving quickly to assert itself, the new Council majority used a fast-track voting process to limit debate and sideline the Citizen Advisory Committee's Land Use recommendations - only to retreat after two months of public backlash ...

Making amends

Palo Alto Weekly - Editorial / March 24, 2017 Admitting its January “irrationality,” council backtracks on Comp Plan Faced with a strong backlash from residents across Palo Alto’s political spectrum and angry colleagues who felt disrespected, the City Council majority that had in January abruptly voted to remove the implementing programs from the draft revision to the Comprehensive Plan reversed course with a do-over Monday night ...

Editorial: A necessary investigation

Palo Alto Weekly - by Palo Alto Weekly editorial board / March 17, 2017 State opens inquiries into Kniss and Tanaka campaign practices State and federal campaign laws have long been rooted in the principle that the transparency of campaign contributions is the most effective way to discourage and expose special interests attempting to influence elections and public policy ...

A different view of the Comp Plan process

Palo Alto Weekly - Guest Opinion by Larry Klein /  February 24, 2017 The process has stretched out interminably and at a cost far in excess of what anybody could have imagined in 2008,’ former councilman says. The Weekly’s Feb. 2 editorial (“A reckless majority“) and the sibling guest opinion by Councilman Tom DuBois (“When democracy is hijacked“) take serious issue with the Comprehensive Plan decisions of the City Council majority in response to the recommendations of the Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC). Read on… ...

City Council makes wise decisions on land use

Palo Alto Weekly - Blog by Steve Levy / February 10, 2017 Recent actions ‘strengthen local participation and democracy’ Last week the Palo Alto City Council reviewed a series of policy and program choices sent to them by the Citizen’s Advisory Committee (CAC) and staff. A Weekly editorial spoke of a “reckless majority.” Councilman Tom DuBois went further in an op-ed using words like “democracy is hijacked” and “massacred our Comprehensive Plan” and referred to his council colleagues as “wolves in sheep’s clothing.” ...

When democracy is hijacked

Palo Alto Weekly - Guest Opinion by Tom DuBois / February 3, 2017 Monday night, in a brazen display of power, some members of the Palo Alto City Council massacred our Comprehensive Plan, the shared long-term vision that guides all of the city’s work ...

A Reckless Majority

Palo Alto Weekly - by Palo Alto Weekly editorial board / February 3, 2017 In stunning surprise, new council majority upends planning process The five members who make up the new, more development-friendly majority on the Palo Alto City Council blatantly stuck it to their four colleagues and the community Monday night with what appeared to be a carefully orchestrated take-over of the critical land-use portion of the new Comprehensive Plan ...

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Quality of Life

What’s all the fuss about code enforcement?

Palo Alto Matters - October 10, 2017 Public trust and damaged community life. Ask a typical Palo Altan what code enforcement is all about and odds are the first thing they’ll mention is gas-powered leaf blowers. But it also encompasses zoning and building compliance, Use and Occupancy permits, parking, signage, construction noise and more – complex, wonky, and sometimes seemingly nitpicky, issues that have both immediate and cumulative impacts on land use and quality of ...

Big changes coming to El Camino Real

Palo Alto Daily Post - Opinion by Editor, Dave Price / September 12, 2017 In Palo Alto, 2018 will be the year of El Camino Real. City Councilwoman Lydia Kou recently rattled off a list of 11 projects that are in the works for the King’s Highway. Most of these projects would result in more housing stacked up against the street, 50 feet tall (the city’s height limit). If Palo Alto isn’t careful, El Camino ...

Guest Opinion: A roadway Odyssey

Palo Alto Weekly - Guest Opinion by Evelyn Preston / August 18, 2017 Palo Alto-style A former teacher gives a glimpse into Palo Alto life by traveling around town While some of my friends binge on their second safaris, cruise European canals or time-share in Hawaii, I consider a trip to downtown Palo Alto an equally grand adventure. For someone living in south Palo Alto, a crosstown sojourn requires strategic planning. Snail-like speed limits, packed ...

Guest Opinion: A Palo Alto son asks: ‘Would I raise a family here?’

Palo Alto Weekly - by Aldis Petriceks / August 14, 2017 Recent college graduate says Silicon Valley culture is 'placing blinders over our collective vision' For many today, Palo Alto feels more cardboard than community; more ideal than reality. Silicon Valley's culture is fixated on status, not service; on power, not people. We might benefit by pulling those blinders back. We might come together in unexpected ways, by engaging our community as much as we do ...

Editorial: Serious or mollifying?

Palo Alto Weekly - by Palo Alto Weekly editorial board / August 4, 2017 FAA report raises hopes on airplane-noise reduction, but with a long and uncertain time table The good news is that a long-awaited response to recommendations made eight months ago by a "select" committee of elected officials appointed by local Members of Congress suggest an acknowledgment by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that the South Bay's air traffic noise problems are real and can't be ignored ...

Editorial: Facebook’s proposed ‘village’

Palo Alto Weekly - by Palo Alto Weekly editorial board / July 14, 2017 Massive development proposal will only worsen housing, transportation problems It's hard to imagine a better example of how messed up our region's planning processes and development policies are than Facebook's latest proposal to build nine new office buildings totaling 1.75 million square feet, likely to be occupied by up to 10,000 new employees, while eventually constructing 1,500 rental apartment units ...

Big league politics undermine community solutions

Palo Alto Matters - June 11, 2017 On a national and even global scale, enmities are fueled around the clock by extreme partisan politics, social media bullying and “fake news.” We’re all up in arms about it. But even as we rally to resist, those same tools of division are intensifying conflict and blocking compromise here at home. Distorted battle lines, name-calling and oversimplification of complex challenges are demonizing local interests, dividing our community and impeding ...

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Housing

Big changes coming to El Camino Real

Palo Alto Daily Post - Opinion by Editor, Dave Price / September 12, 2017 In Palo Alto, 2018 will be the year of El Camino Real. City Councilwoman Lydia Kou recently rattled off a list of 11 projects that are in the works for the King’s Highway. Most of these projects would result in more housing stacked up against the street, 50 feet tall (the city’s height limit). If Palo Alto isn’t careful, El Camino ...

Editorial: The shriveling office cap

Palo Alto Weekly - by the Palo Alto Weekly editorial board / September 8, 2017 Council's split over office cap will surely return as an election issue next year The irony and hypocrisy of this is that the same majority that voted Tuesday to make more commercial development easier has been advocating repeatedly for more housing. If there is one documentable result of the current office-cap restrictions, it is that it has led to more housing ...

The big lie about California’s housing crisis

San Francisco Examiner - Featured Opinion By  / July 27, 2017 It’s official: The rent in California, not just San Francisco, is too damn high. California now has the highest poverty rate in the nation when the cost of housing is taken into account. Since 2005, more than 2.5 million Californians have been forced to leave the state in search of an affordable home. Unfortunately, the prevailing supply and demand — “just build” — mantra put forward ...

Dear YIMBYs: The brutal, unfettered market won’t stop displacement

San Francisco Examiner - OpEd by   and  / July 20, 2017 Your platform, which relies on the filtering theory, states, “Today’s new, expensive housing becomes tomorrow’s inexpensive housing.” This theory doesn’t hold true for San Francisco, nor likely any other city strangled by the current global speculative market. When the California Legislative Analyst’s Office misused UC Berkeley’s Urban Displacement Project data to advocate for the construction of market-rate housing as an anti-displacement tool, the ...

Editorial: Facebook’s proposed ‘village’

Palo Alto Weekly - by Palo Alto Weekly editorial board / July 14, 2017 Massive development proposal will only worsen housing, transportation problems It's hard to imagine a better example of how messed up our region's planning processes and development policies are than Facebook's latest proposal to build nine new office buildings totaling 1.75 million square feet, likely to be occupied by up to 10,000 new employees, while eventually constructing 1,500 rental apartment units ...

Big league politics undermine community solutions

Palo Alto Matters - June 11, 2017 On a national and even global scale, enmities are fueled around the clock by extreme partisan politics, social media bullying and “fake news.” We’re all up in arms about it. But even as we rally to resist, those same tools of division are intensifying conflict and blocking compromise here at home. Distorted battle lines, name-calling and oversimplification of complex challenges are demonizing local interests, dividing our community and impeding ...

A City’s Moral Impetus

Palo Alto Matters - Guest Commentary by Greer Stone / June 25, 2017 Santa Clara County Human Relations Commissioner, Chairman of the Santa Clara County Justice Review Committee, and former Chair of Palo Alto’s Human Relations Commission In 2003 the world was a different place. A gallon of gas cost $1.79, a dozen eggs would run you $1.24, and the average price of a home in Palo Alto cost $1,179,000. The world had never heard ...

Is PAUSD the City’s Single Top Revenue Source?

Palo Alto Matters - Guest Commentary by Eric Filseth / June 11, 2017 Palo Alto City Council Member, Finance Committee Chair Outlandish as it sounds, there’s actually a line of thinking for this. Sales taxes are many cities’ largest revenue source, and they’re a major contributor in Palo Alto as well: normally about 15% of our General Fund, with the Stanford Shopping Center usually being our largest single contributor, last year about $5.5 million. But ...

Wolbach and Fine oppose planning for school impacts from city growth

Palo Alto Matters - May 13, 2017 Maintaining the quality of schools and the sufficiency of local infrastructure to support them are of paramount importance to the Palo Alto community. Nevertheless, the current City Council has shown little interest in either planning to ensure that schools can support Palo Alto’s rate of growth or regulating land uses to accommodate future school expansions. Instead, the Council majority frequently cites PAUSD’s current decline in elementary enrollment as excuse not to worry about ...

“Young guns” out of step with community

Palo Alto Matters - May 13, 2017 Councilmembers Wolbach, Tanaka and Fine have stretched their wings as part of the new Council majority with policy proposals that would worsen the city’s jobs/housing imbalance and shift parking and traffic burdens to residents. Along the way, they have employed tactics that sidestep City staff, exclude public input and forego opportunities for compromise, undermining public trust and repeatedly raising widespread and vocal community concern ...

Hundreds protest bait and switch tactics on “granny units”

Palo Alto Matters - April 24, 2017 Last month, in a last minute policy shift, a divided City Council voted to allow the construction of second homes (known as accessory dwelling units or ADUs) on any property in single family neighborhoods, within six feet of side and rear property lines and with no on-site parking or design review requirements. In doing so, Council rejected a publicly vetted and broadly supported staff recommendation in favor of a final hour proposal that ...

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Traffic/Transportation

Guest Opinion: Exploring creative options for underground train tracks

Palo Alto Weekly - Guest Opinion by Tom DuBois / October 1, 2017  City holding next grade separation workshop on Oct. 21 Palo Alto is planning perhaps the most critical infrastructure in its history: the separation of our roads from the rail line that bisects the city. The desire from the community is clear. We need to exhaustively investigate creative approaches to put the train underground and evaluate whether it is possible to do it ...

How to avoid a train wreck – doing grade separations right

Palo Alto Matters - Guest Commentary by Pat Burt / September 1, 2017 Former Mayor of Palo Alto The city council is scheduled this Tuesday to decide on the process for designing railroad grade separations across Palo Alto, but the current plan for the decision-making runs a high risk of running the project off the tracks. While debate over “process” can make most folks eyes glaze over, how we come to agreement as a ...

Guest Opinion: A roadway Odyssey

Palo Alto Weekly - Guest Opinion by Evelyn Preston / August 18, 2017 Palo Alto-style A former teacher gives a glimpse into Palo Alto life by traveling around town While some of my friends binge on their second safaris, cruise European canals or time-share in Hawaii, I consider a trip to downtown Palo Alto an equally grand adventure. For someone living in south Palo Alto, a crosstown sojourn requires strategic planning. Snail-like speed limits, packed ...

Editorial: Facebook’s proposed ‘village’

Palo Alto Weekly - by Palo Alto Weekly editorial board / July 14, 2017 Massive development proposal will only worsen housing, transportation problems It's hard to imagine a better example of how messed up our region's planning processes and development policies are than Facebook's latest proposal to build nine new office buildings totaling 1.75 million square feet, likely to be occupied by up to 10,000 new employees, while eventually constructing 1,500 rental apartment units ...

“Young guns” out of step with community

Palo Alto Matters - May 13, 2017 Councilmembers Wolbach, Tanaka and Fine have stretched their wings as part of the new Council majority with policy proposals that would worsen the city’s jobs/housing imbalance and shift parking and traffic burdens to residents. Along the way, they have employed tactics that sidestep City staff, exclude public input and forego opportunities for compromise, undermining public trust and repeatedly raising widespread and vocal community concern ...

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Parking

Editorial: Facebook’s proposed ‘village’

Palo Alto Weekly - by Palo Alto Weekly editorial board / July 14, 2017 Massive development proposal will only worsen housing, transportation problems It's hard to imagine a better example of how messed up our region's planning processes and development policies are than Facebook's latest proposal to build nine new office buildings totaling 1.75 million square feet, likely to be occupied by up to 10,000 new employees, while eventually constructing 1,500 rental apartment units ...

“Young guns” out of step with community

Palo Alto Matters - May 13, 2017 Councilmembers Wolbach, Tanaka and Fine have stretched their wings as part of the new Council majority with policy proposals that would worsen the city’s jobs/housing imbalance and shift parking and traffic burdens to residents. Along the way, they have employed tactics that sidestep City staff, exclude public input and forego opportunities for compromise, undermining public trust and repeatedly raising widespread and vocal community concern ...

Editorial: Return of the parking meter

Palo Alto Weekly - by Palo Alto Weekly editorial board / April 7, 2017 Palo Alto considers shifting to paid parking on downtown streets, lots and garages We hope the City Council enthusiastically supports these initiatives, which cap years of discussion and are consistent with adopted city policy to expand supply, create incentives to reduce solo driving, reduce the impacts on surrounding residential neighborhoods and fund a transportation-management program to encourage people to use transportation ...

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