Comprehensive Plan

One thing we know about Palo Alto's prehensive Plan is that it involved great citizen participation and really is the "constitution" we have agreed to follow as new issues are presented.

I view it as a “constitution” of sorts. We have made a collective decision as a community, and we need to honor it. There are aspects of greater public benefit that are allowable exceptions. The Plan is a “living” document and can be amended. Before making too many exceptions, I would want to be true to the very inclusive tradition that was the foundation of the Plan — community participation. If we find ourselves making regular changes, we need to evaluate the playing field, so that we keep it level by adjusting the rules as a group with complete and thorough community participation, similar the inclusive inception of the document. Group clarity on having a rulebook that serves as a guide for fairness is essential.

The following is the introduction to Comprehensive Plan from the City of Palo Alto website:

Comprehensive Plan

Each of us has a vision of what Palo Alto should be like in the future. Although our visions are different, they share common qualities. We aspire to create a safe, beautiful City for children, our future generations, and ourselves. We envision a City with diverse housing opportunities, where the natural environment is protected, where excellent services are provided, and where citizens have a say in government. We aspire to create a City that is economically healthy and a good place to do business.

The Palo Alto Comprehensive Plan strives to build a coherent vision of the City’s future from the visions of a diverse population. It integrates the aspirations of the City’s residents, businesses, neighborhoods, and officials into a bold strategy for managing change.

Please see the answers to the attached Palo Alto Neighborhoods Questionnaire for my views on framing discussions of the future:

Palo Alto Neighborhoods
Questionnaire for City Council Candidates 2007

QUESTIONS
1. What are your top three reasons for running for City Council?

A. To encourage citizen participation in City government.
B. Financial skills are needed in keeping the Budget on course and for making decisions that keep economic balance in the equation. I have a solid history of financial stewardship.
C. To offer innovation in our collective efforts to be custodians of the environment. There is room for entrepreneurial creativity in getting the community involved and making meaningful progress in protecting the environment.

2. Describe your personal involvement in issues that have come before the Council, starting with either the most recent or the most important. What was your role? (For example, did you send an email, speak to the Council, lead a group of citizens, etc.?)How extensively were you involved?

I have attended the last two council meeting from start to finish. Prior to that, I was one who assumed that we could just let the other smart people take care of the City’s business, and I could just enjoy the benefits of living in a great City. After reading a former City Council member’s newspaper column about the lack of citizen participation, and discussing this with my wife, I decided to answer the call.

More than 10 years ago, I presented the highest bid to the City Council for the Well Tower property, for use as a small and unique lodging facility. After all the bids were in, the Council withdrew its intent to sell the property, and kept it as a public place. With 20-20 hindsight, that was a good decision.

3. Are there any major City Council decisions made in the last few years that you would have disagreed with? Explain.

As a late entrant to the campaign, I do not have knowledge of such items. In addition, my work with bringing people together for forward action has a tradition of not criticizing what has gone before, but to build agreement on what future actions can benefit the group.

4. The Planning & Transportation Commission has a policy that strongly discourages commission members from having private communications with applicants or members of the public about pending projects that require refined judgment in determining the best outcome. The purpose is to ensure that all information about the public’s business is in the public realm. Would you support the adoption of a similar policy by the Council? Why or why not?

No. The Council’s ability to represent the community must be built by greater community connection. The key difference: the commission members are equitably applying the rules that have been formulated by policy makers. The Council is a policy making group, and the formulation of policy is a dynamic (ever changing to meet the present times and circumstances) conversation that is essential to assure a representative voice. It is essential if we want to protect the rich American tradition of representative government.

5. What changes, if any, would you make in the process of writing and approving the city budget? Would you reallocate spending and, if so, how? How can Palo Alto spend its money more efficiently? Do we need to increase revenues, and if so, how?

More benchmarking (objective external comparisons) with other cities would yield continuous quality improvements. Every organization has the ability to grow towards becoming a bureaucracy if left unchecked. My financial background with many organization as large, if not larger, as the City of Palo Alto, has taught me the great value of keeping a watchful eye on administrative expenditures. If given a choice, I would spend a dollar on youth service or infrastructure over administrative costs. There is the perception that the line is blurred between the general fund and the Utilities Enterprise fund. I would work to delineate the facts and find a way for the community to have more clarity on that issue.

6. How familiar are you with the City's zoning ordinances and Comprehensive Plan (the City's Master Plan)? What criteria would you use to decide what to do when a land use application conflicts with the zoning ordinance or Comprehensive Plan? Under what circumstances can the Comp Plan be overruled?

My website www.vote4Gray.com has a link to the City’s Comprehensive Plan. I view it as a “constitution” of sorts. We have made a collective decision as a community, and we need to honor it. There are aspects of greater public benefit that are allowable exceptions. The Plan is a “living” document and can be amended. Before making too many exceptions, I would want to be true to the very inclusive tradition that was the foundation of the Plan — community participation. If we find ourselves making regular changes, we need to evaluate the playing field, so that we keep it level by adjusting the rules as a group with complete and thorough community participation, similar the inclusive inception of the document. Group clarity on having a rulebook that serves as a guide for fairness is essential.

7. During 1999-2006, Palo Alto was asked to build 673 market rate housing units. Palo Alto actually built or approved three times that amount. The 2006-2014 ABAG draft for calls for 1,207 market rate units--about one-third of its total housing recommendations. ABAG targets are not requirements, nor does state law mandate that the units be built. Should Palo Alto limit the amount of market rate housing built and how might this be done?

I would look to the Comprehensive Plan for guidance, and if the plan fell short of this goal, then I would participate in an initiative to have the plan address whatever shortfall we collectively agreed had to be addressed. I am aware of various ideas about increasing density near traffic corridors, however, it would be inappropriate for any one individual to advocate their personal ideas before listening to the communities that we represent.

8. Development projects impact traffic, libraries, schools, police and fire departments, and recreational facilities. Impact fees only provide about one third of the total costs. How can the total costs be fairly determined and allocated between the developer, the city and residents? Should impact fees for the development of new market rate housing, offices, and so on be set at 100% of the calculated impacts? Please explain.

As a late entrant to the campaign, I cannot address the intricacies of this question. I certainly would look to fairness and consistency in finding an answer. We must do everything in our power to keep any City approved initiative from degrading our schools. Protecting our quality schools is the highest priority. Who should fund it: let’s take it one step at a time. The answer would differ if it was well within the Comprehensive plan, or if it stretched the intent of the plan. Then the public benefit would definitely need to include infrastructure funding.

9. Given the amount of housing being built, how would you ensure the development of additional neighborhood parks to support this housing?

That would be a question answered by the community. As mentioned in the previous answer, if the Comprehensive plan were stretched, parks would be a definite part of the public benefit required by the project.

10. About 4,800 homes are in flood zones in Palo Alto, of which half are at risk for flooding from the San Francisquito Creek and about 2,650 are at risk for flooding from the Bay. In February 1998, the San Francisquito Creek flooded 1,700 homes and caused $30 million in property damage in Palo Alto, Menlo Park, and East Palo Alto. Are you satisfied with current efforts regarding flooding along San Francisquito Creek? Explain. Should Palo Alto act independently of the Joint Powers Authority? Should Palo Alto push for upstream measures to be adopted?

I do not have enough information at this time to answer this question. Cooperation with our neighbors is important, but so is getting the job done. Good will and right human relations can be the key in gaining cooperation. I can only offer this idealism as a starting point for solving the issue at this point in time.

11. What several things would you do to support retail that could be implemented in a short timeframe, such as a year? How would you accomplish them?

We must listen to the retail community and act quickly to put the suggested measures in place. As opposed to ideas that the City would overlay on the group, let’s get the “organically grown” solution.

12. The vitality of a business district is heavily influenced by the mix of businesses. Some communities, such as Burlingame, have imposed limits on some categories such as restaurants in order to promote healthy commercial districts. In the University Avenue and California Avenue business districts, restaurants and nail salons are often mentioned as being over-represented. What do you think the City’s role should be in promoting the mix of businesses in these districts, and what is your position on establishing certain limits?

At first glance it seems like a desirable thing to do, but I would hesitate dictating the terms to landlords. Palo Alto has been a great playground and I want to do everything possible to keep it a lively and active place to be. I would favor creating incentives for a more sustainable mix vs. dictating a narrow view.

13. The current plan for Alma Plaza calls for approximately 62% of the 4.2 acres to be devoted to market rate housing and roughly 38% to retail and commercial development with 14 below market rate housing units above a 15,000 square foot grocery. What do you think about this plan? Do you think this is a good model for neighborhood centers?

The most current changes seem to make it more appropriate. I think we have a planning commission with a wealth of experience, and if they honor the processes contained in the City’s comprehensive plan, we need to respect that. Having neighborhood access to larger scale retail that allows room for more than just a “boutique” sized store assures access to essential shopping for neighborhoods. Otherwise, people travel twice as far and unnecessarily create traffic issues for other areas.

14. In response to the projected population growth, the School District is considering converting part of the Cubberley Community Center back into a high school. This will result in the displacement of a range of social services and community activities currently hosted there. What can be done to provide space for these services and activities in locations where they are accessible to residents?

This will take a community effort. As a parent that benefits from several organizations at the site, I am very interested in participating in a solution.

15. The City Council is hampered in its deliberations when members have to recuse themselves because of conflicts of interest. Can you identify potential conflicts you may have (excluding your personal residence) in ongoing or forthcoming issues?

My wife works at the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital, which is part of Stanford University. Having worked at the Hospital myself, from 1990 to 1997, I know of the great life-saving services that are provided. These are services that you may not appreciate, until your child, grandchild, niece, or nephew has a life-threatening condition. I am clearly biased on the issue of Hospital expansion and will need to recuse myself from this topic.

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