The Palo Alto City Council Election will take place on Nov. 4 with 12 candidates running for five open seats, in comparison to six vying for four seats in 2012. The issues surrounding growth and Palo Alto’s future have split the candidates into two self- named groups — the “residentialists,” anti-development, and the “establishment,” pro-growth.
Wayne Douglass was the last candidate to obtain nomination papers, deciding to run based on observations of the effects of the city council’s recent prohibition of sleeping in one’s car. He supported Measure D, city support of senior housing development, which was rejected after much debate. Douglass acknowledges himself as a single-issue candidate, focusing mainly on the issue of homelessness in Palo Alto.
Tom DuBois, a technology executive in the video-game industry, was a strong opposer of Measure D and soon after helped create Palo Altans for Sensible Zoning, along with Filseth and Kuo. DuBois is anti-development, supporting the current 50 foot height limit on buildings and few zoning exceptions. He also wants to bring Fiber to the Home, city wide high-speed Internet, to Palo Alto, despite its previous failure, as well as more transparency within the council. Finally, DuBois advocates for more collaboration between the city and Palo Alto Unified School District (PAUSD) to prevent the over- population of schools.
Eric Filseth, a retired executive of a semiconductor company, shares similar views to DuBois on the future of development in the city. He also prioritizes more long-term accounting and better fiscal management. Filseth wants to fight the housing mandates requiring a one percent increase of residents per year to maintain the quality of life in Palo Alto.
Lydia Kou, a residential realtor, closes out the three candidates who were an integral part in the fight against Measure D. Kou views the current development in Palo Alto as contrary to what most residents want the community to be. According to Kou, the continuous expansion has resulted in more traffic, school overcrowding and a decrease in the quality of life. Kou sees a lack of residential input in the current council and hopes to bring more accountability and transparency if elected. Finally, Kou notices a lack of basic infrastructure and believes it must be fixed be- fore looking to bigger projects for the city.
John Fredrich, a retired history teacher of Gunn High School, was a supporter of Measure D but still classifies himself as a “residentialist.” He believes in status quo zoning, current building height limits and traffic management based on data. Fredrich also wants to preserve the Veteran’s Building and the environment around creeks. Lastly, he wants a reduction of city staff and an improved performance quality review system.
Karen Holman, one of three incumbents running, is one of the few current council members who support slow-development. She argues that the current comprehensive plan does not provide a complete strategic outlook on growth, and the city needs to make decisions based off of future consequences. Holman wants to continue her work on the Council Finance Committee in reducing the structural budget deficit and continuing the more transparent system she has helped to put in place.
A.C. Johnston, a managing partner at Morrison & Foerster, is running as an independent candidate and is grouped with neither the “Residentialists” nor the “Establishment.” Johnston supports growth and innovation that still preserves the quality of life in Palo Alto. He also wants an updated comprehensive plan, better parking and infrastructure and a closer partnership with PAUSD.
Seelam-Sea Reddy, a retired aerospace engineer, wishes to slow growth and keep the current building height limit. He also wants to end affordable housing projects and lower taxes for residents. He admits that he does not have specific policy issues and solutions, but his experience in tech management will benefit city council.
Greg Scharff, experienced council member and former mayor of Palo Alto, is proud of the decisions he has made to benefit the community in his past term, but has certain areas where he wants to see more improvement. Scharff looks to create a new comprehensive plan with residents in mind for land use decisions. He also wants to eliminate the contentious planned-community zoning process. Lastly, Scharff wishes to make a new Public Safety building and 911 Center that is earthquake safe.
Current Palo Alto Mayor Nancy Shepard is seeking her second term as council member. She wants to reduce the parking and traffic problems present in Palo Alto by implementing a residential parking-permit program and increasing public transportation. Shepard prioritizes fighting the state housing mandates and controlling the population density, as well as balancing the budget, providing more services for youth and seniors and continuing the Climate Action Plan policy.
Mark Weiss, founder of the concert-production company Earthwise Productions and of the blog Plastic Alto, is running for a third time. He is a strong advocate of more performing-art venues and of the anti-development movement, self-declaring himself as a “residentialist.” Weiss continually points out that he is the only candidate who is a product of Palo Alto schools and his personal knowledge of the system will enable him to make more well-informed decisions.
Cory Wolbach, staff member for Sen. Jerry Hill and the youngest candidate in the race, is running unaffiliated with the “residentialists.” He acknowledges the need to ad- dress parking and traffic issues, the poor planning process and the effect of growth on schools. Colbach wants to add more housing to offset the current imbalance between jobs and housing. He also hopes to give more support for youth, seniors and home- less and to strengthen relationships with PAUSD.