The following letter was sent to the City Council and Administration from a combined group of Palo Alto Neighborhoods (PAN) and Palo Altans for Sensible Zoning (PASZ) leaders. We have been informed that the City Council will discuss CAC issues at the August 17th meeting.
If you agree with the opinions expressed here, please sign our petition to add your voice to this discussion.
Dear City Council, Jim Keene, Hillary Gitelman,
We the undersigned have several concerns about the Citizen’s Advisory Committee for the Comprehensive Plan, and are recommending remedies in order to provide trustworthy, fair, and broad community representation.
- Dan Garber has both the appearance of and an actual material conflict of interest that makes him an inappropriate choice to serve on the Citizens Advisory Committee, particularly as its Chair, given that he recently worked for the city on design and planning issues for 27 University (the subject of a major Grand Jury report assailing the city’s action), and stands to benefit professionally from decisions made by the CAC.
Steve Levy is a paid advisor to ABAG and other government agencies and thus should not be on the Citizens’ Advisory Committee. He also frequently blogs on planning issues, which is a direct conflict of interest and also is likely to violate the Brown Act.
The CAC should have co-chairs who alternate leading the meetings rather than a chair and vice-chair.
The outcome of each meeting needs more transparency. The CAC Ground Rules state that “a brief summary of CAC meetings will be posted to the project website (www.paloaltocompplan.org) for any interested party to examine.”
- Having those who work for the city then participate in citizen panels intended to be independent is the much-maligned “revolving door,” which is illegal in many places.
Public comments should be allowed at the beginning of and also before any vote at each meeting. To limit public comments to the end, AFTER decisions have been made or votes have been cast, ignores those attending who ask to have their viewpoints considered. And public comments should still be allowed at the end, so that any outstanding concerns that have not surfaced can be considered in following meetings.
Staff has stated they will allow anonymous online posts, but will not allow them to be seen by the CAC or the public. This is wrong: for staff to accept anonymous posts and not reveal the content publicly gives anonymous posters undue power to influence and distract staff. It diminishes the intention of the public forum, which is to support open conversation. No anonymous posts should be allowed. Also:
- Rather than a “brief summary,” full minutes should be provided within a week of the meeting so the public can understand and comment on the points discussed.
- Minutes should also articulate dissenting as well as majority viewpoints and vote totals so that City Council will understand the challenges that the CAC addressed.
- Ideally, meetings should be televised or at least taped and rebroadcast.
Open City Hall should not be the only way people can make comments. Email and letters should also be allowed.
The schedule seems overly rushed. Are all members of the CAC conversant on each section of the Comp Plan to be revised? Can 20+ people really cover all the land use issues in just 2 3-hour sessions?
The committee should be provided with high-level tools to analyze the impact of proposed policy changes on schools, traffic, parking, and the environment, such as Sim Palo Alto, so as to avoid wasting time discussing infeasible proposals.
There needs to be a better balance of people from north and south Palo Alto, as well as more representation from community groups other than Palo Alto Forward. City Council should have final approval of appointments. We can provide the names of several qualified persons.
- Is there a way to distinguish between Palo Alto residents and non-residents?
- Can duplicate comments be identified?
- Can the number of unique commentators be identified?
Note that the undersigned residents are in substantial agreement with the concerns expressed, although minor disagreements do exist.
Sheri Furman, Midtown
Cheryl Lilienstein, Barron Park
Annette Glanckopf, Midtown
Norm Beamer, Crescent Park
Jeff Levinsky, Duvenek/St. Francis
Peter Taskovich, Meadow Park
Neilson Buchanan, Downtown North
Tim Gray, Charleston Meadows
Elaine Meyer, University South
Mark Nadim, Palo Alto Hills
Douglas Moran, Barron Park
Becky Sanders, Ventura
David Schrom, Evergreen Park
Robin Bayer, Evergreen Park
Joseph Hirsch, Green Acres