Aug 142015

Downtown Palo Alto parking problem persists while city officials, developers and employers wear blinders

by – Daily News columnist

It must be very difficult to live in a neighborhood near downtown Palo Alto where your street is completely filled with parked cars on weekdays during business hours. Many of those vehicles belong to downtown business workers and some to Stanford employees who don’t want to pay for a university parking permit.

Rather than force businesses to provide parking, city officials for years closed their eyes to the problem. Let employees park where they will, was their logic.

Thus the car clutter soon became the residents’ problem, not the city’s. And downtown employees found themselves in a game of musical chairs, hunting daily for a parking space.

[Read full story…]

Aug 042015

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.

  1. 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.
    • 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.
  2. 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.
  3. The CAC should have co-chairs who alternate leading the meetings rather than a chair and vice-chair.
  4. 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 ( for any interested party to examine.”
    • 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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:
    • 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?
  7. Open City Hall should not be the only way people can make comments. Email and letters should also be allowed.
  8. 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?
  9. 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.
  10. 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.

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

Nov 062013

paloalto online logo squareA grassroots campaign in Palo Alto to overturn an approved housing development on Maybell Avenue scored a sweeping Election Day victory Tuesday night, winning by more than 1,000 votes.

With all 32 precincts reporting, the campaign against “Measure D” had a lead of 6,437 to 5,036. The vote means that residents have succeeded in overturning a unanimous decision by the City Council in June to rezone a 2.46-acre site on Maybell and Clemo avenues to enable a housing development with 60 units for low-income seniors and 12 single-family homes.  Read full story…


Daily News logoThe D in Palo Alto’s Measure D might as well of stood for defeat.

More than 56 percent of the 11,473 people who cast ballots in Tuesday’s election voted against the measure, according to unofficial, semi-final election results posted by the Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters.

Measure D — which only needed a simple majority to pass — would have given the nonprofit Palo Alto Housing Corporation permission to build a 60unit apartment complex for seniors who make 30 to 60 percent of area median income as well as a dozen singlefamily houses at 567-595 Maybell Ave. The homes would have helped pay for the apartments.

For opponents, the project was less about affordable senior housing and more about a city council that had lost touch with its constituents.  Read full story…


world-journal-logo聖他克拉拉縣開票結果,反對D提案陣營共得8210 票,得票率達56.46 %,以近1000張選票差距,擊敗巴洛阿圖市議會二讀通過的Maybell道開發案。不少反對D提案民眾表示,這是民主一大勝利。



Read more:世界新聞網-北美華文新聞、華商資訊 – ĺ…¬ć

Oct 242013

In the October 19th Daily POST Mayor Scharff is quoted as saying that “Planned Community zoning has the advantage of requiring the developer to give something to benefit the community.”

The mayor has unusual standards as to what constitutes a “benefit.”

In May 2012, Scharff was one of 7 council members who voted in favor of the Lytton Gateway project, calling the building itself a benefit: “I think this is a prime site and having an office building – a Gateway project – is itself a public benefit.”

Councilwoman Nancy Shepherd agreed, saying the building itself was a contributor to the public-benefit package.

Back in the 1990s, council member Micki Schneider said that PC zoning allowed developers to benefit at the city’s expense. Another council member at the time, Ron Andersen, said it was “zoning for sale.”

More recently, Councilwoman Liz Kniss said developers gained too much at the public’s expense and PC zoning was one of the biggest issues raised during her council campaign.

In March of this year Planning Commisioners Martinez, Michael and Alcheck called for major changes to planned-community zoning, calling the existing process “the greatest challenge to land-use planning in Palo Alto today.”

With all the talk, it took the Maybell community to finally stand up and say, “No more rezoning!”

Vote AGAINST Measure D.

Oct 162013

and I urge you to do the same, and participate in this very impressive and significant grassroots effort in support of Barron Park and Green Acres’ residents, who, with limited funds, but great energy, talent, and numbers are working to preserve neighborhood character on the Maybell Avenue site and prevent a very bad traffic situation from getting worse and in turn help all of us.

And I ask you to read part or all of the following assessment I have written to become better informed about the referendum related to Maybell Avenue site, and the larger issues, we in other neighborhoods share and to send a community message to the city council about:

  • Up-zoning, planned communities, and flipping
  • Traffic studies that always conclude “no significant impact”
  • Land use speculation,
  • Conflicted loyalties
  • and more

Sections of This Article

  1. City as Speculator, Council as Conflicted
  2. Upzone then Flip
  3. Maybell Ave. – PC vs. Current Zoning
  4. Traffic and the City Consultants
  5. Residents to the Rescue
  6. Expert Peer Review Ignored
  7. Maybell Mythologies
  8. The Birth of New Leaders and Engaged Residents
  9. The Way Forward
  10. Palo Alto Does Care

Fred Balin, is a 22-year resident of College Terrace