(bio submitted by candidate)
My parents came to Palo Alto in 1979 for good jobs, great schools, and an excellent quality of life. My family has been here ever since, and I am grateful that I was able to attend Ohlone, JLS, and Gunn. Growing up, I enjoyed playing AYSO, hiking in the Foothills, and learning to bike on Bryant Street. My first job was at Accent Arts on California Avenue (I’m sad that it’s closing).
I now live in College Terrace with my fiancée, Jane, and we enjoy gardening, cooking, watching movies, and walking the dogs. My parents live two blocks away, and I want to stay near them because we are going to need help with the grandkids! We are members of Congregation Kol Emeth, and we look forward to starting our family in Palo Alto.
Professionally I am a city planner and technologist, and I use my skills to improve communities locally and around the world. I’ve had the opportunity to work on neighborhood revitalization, police-community relations, conflict negotiations, and transportation finance.
I’m an avid cyclist, and I care about getting around the city safely. I’m a keen photographer, and I value aesthetics, especially in architecture. I love to travel, and I have lived in South Africa, Barcelona, Jerusalem, and Philadelphia.
In short, I’m a product of Palo Alto.
Questions for Council Candidates--Housing and transportation
1) Our identity: What kind of city should Palo Alto be in coming decades?
a) A quiet suburb: great place to have young kids and a great place to retire. Not a jobs center. Example: Los Altos
b) A mid-sized university town: innovative and accommodating to a wide range of ages and socio-economic backgrounds. Significant job center. Example: Boulder, CO
c) A major job/ university center: major regional economic center, competing with neighboring cities for jobs. Major expansion of our downtown area. Example: Austin, TX
B/C - We are already a mid-sized university town AND a major regional economic center. Our planning needs to keep pace with these two realities.
Palo Alto is an urban environment, connected to Stanford University, and located between the Baylands and the Foothills. We may never grow to be a major city, but we are a center of economic innovation that attracts immigrants, jobs, teachers, capital, students, and businesses from around the world. This is our reality, and we have a lot to gain from it. This means that we have to build regional partnerships, provide housing and transportation choices for a wide range of ages and economic backgrounds, and accommodate the needs of longtime residents - all at the same time.
My vision for Palo Alto is of an inclusive, walkable, green, and multigenerational city that provides housing and transportation choices for all residents, current and future.
2) Jobs: Housing imbalance: Palo Alto has the highest jobs: housing imbalance in the country. There have been different reactions and policy proposals from public officials and the public. Some common themes are
a) The jobs: housing imbalance is not a problem; this is a natural occurrence in certain job centers, and should not influence policy
b) The jobs: housing imbalance is a problem; our first and most significant priority should be limiting office growth and taking other measures to restrict job growth
c) The jobs: housing imbalance is a problem; our first and most significant priority should be devising policies to incentivize the construction of more housing
C - We need to build more housing to address the imbalance, but also because it is the moral thing to do. We have extraordinary opportunities in Palo Alto, but our success also relies on the the ability of diverse groups of people to partake in these opportunities. An inclusive and diverse community is a strong community.
Obviously, office growth and more jobs contributes to the imbalance. But limiting these with blunt policy instruments is not wise, particularly considering the region we live in. We need to flip the financial and policy incentives so that new development is majority housing.
We need to incentivize the construction of housing in the right places, and some of my proposals include:
- Allow increased density of units (upzoning/better use of valuable land)
- Unbundle commercial and residential parking (makes development cheaper and allows users to choose whether they want a parking spot or not)
- Enable and encourage more housing types (bungalows, secondary units, micro units, co-living spaces, “missing middle” housing)
- Reduce minimum lot size requirements (because they limit land available for housing)
- Implement housing minimums (“if you build here, this site must have at least XX units, including N affordable”)
Finally, the Jobs:Housing balance is truly a Jobs:Housing:Transportation challenge, and we also need to invest in a sustainable transportation system that gets residents and employees where they need to go.
3) How to handle growth: On May 30, 2015, Palo Alto held its “Our Palo Alto summit” to solicit input into our comprehensive plan. Attendees were asked to respond to the following question:
Three possible approaches to growth management are:
a) a cap on overall growth;
b) metering the pace of growth; or
c) requiring the future growth offset adverse effects, such as increased traffic and parking demand.
C. As I’ve argued on the planning commission, an overall cap is a blunt instrument that does not fix the problems. Metering usually ends up in unforeseen and undesirable side effects, like pushing growth elsewhere (in which case, you still deal with the impacts), or causing peaks and troughs in development.
We need a cooperative approach to intelligently plan for future growth, and to use that growth to fund solutions for traffic and parking. For example, if we manage growth through coordinated area plans, we can set targets, and use the growth to fund amenities and improvements the community needs. We can also guide desirable behaviors, such as shifting trips from cars to transit or bike/ped.
Lastly, our region is growing, and if Palo Alto does little or nothing, we are still going to suffer the consequences. I want us to be a regional leader, and a model for other cities so that we can solve our problems collectively.
1) Housing Element: The City submitted a housing element identifying 2,000 housing units for the next seven years in response to state law.
- If elected, will you support this Housing Element update or one with similar or more units in different locations?
- What can we do to ensure that these units actually get constructed?
- If not, how do you plan to avoid state penalties and the resulting lawsuits if PA violates state law?
If elected, I will support the existing housing element, but I would advocate for more units in more locations to address the jobs:housing balance and our social equity issues.
We can ensure these units are constructed in a beneficial fashion:
a) create coordinated area plans for Downtown, Cal Ave, El Camino, Alma, and San Antonio
b) relax restrictions to encourage a diversity of housing types (accessory units, multifamily, “lily pad” units, micro units, units without parking)
c) use the Zoning Ordinance Update (ZOU) to allow more density of housing near transit and services; perhaps create new green/transit overlays
d) implement housing minimums for residential and mixed land uses
e) bring everyone to the table: neighborhoods, developers, non-profits, PAUSD, and city staff
f) explore novel partnerships like naming rights for philanthropists on needed infrastructure or buildings
4) Transportation Management Association/ Transportation Demand Management: Palo Alto has formed a TMA, aimed at helping Palo Alto achieve its goal of reducing single occupancy vehicle traffic by 30% to relieve traffic and parking demand.
- There are a range of viewpoints in the community about the importance and viability of a TMA. Where do you stand?
○ I believe it is a critical tool that should receive a high level of support and attention
- There have been many sources of funds proposed for the TMA, including development fees, parking fees for commuters and downtown visitors, and employer taxes.
○ The TMA is a new organization tackling some of our top priorities (traffic, parking), and the council should fund the TMA out of the general fund with real money, not chump change
○ Managing parking with pricing and better information would partially solve the problem itself, and provides important funding for the TMA
○ This would need a lot more study: but some cities use a payroll tax to fund services just like the TMA
○ Businesses outside the district should be allowed to join for a fee
5) Caltrain: What do you think should be done about the “at-grade crossings” where Caltrain crosses streets? Which of the following best encapsulates your view:
- The tracks need to be trenched, to maintain the aesthetic value of Palo Alto
- We should evaluate all practical design options, considering a variety of issues including appearance, maintaining street connections, avoiding taking property, and cost
- Palo Alto should consider “value capture”, using funds from new buildings near the corridor to pay for grade separation and station improvements, and should consider the amount of development it would take to pay for the designs we want
- Palo Alto should not be responsible for Caltrain improvements. We should fight against more frequent service until Caltrain pays to trench the train.
- No significant changes need to be made to Caltrain
To be honest, the top three bullets all have value. The goal is safety, quality of life, more frequent Caltrain service, better road circulation, and preparing for HSR. The best outcome is trenching and capping the tracks with development + parks, and the funding mechanism is value capture. We also have the chance to improve our Caltrain stations as regional transit hubs.
6) Bike infrastructure: please select the choices that are closest to your view:
- We should focus on creating infrastructure for bicycles: strongly agree
- We have overly constrained car throughput in places in favor of bicycles: strongly disagree
- We should slow car traffic to create safer streets for bicycles & pedestrians: strongly agree (initially I thought the bulb-outs at Stanford and El Camino were silly and inconvenient, but they’ve slowed car traffic and make the intersection work more safely)
- Our focus on Safe Routes to School should be: increased (+ Safe Routes to Parks!!)
- Our focus on safe routes to work: increased
- Palo Alto needs more bicycle parking racks: strongly agree (in certain places, not all)
- Palo Alto needs more bicycle boulevards: strongly agree
- Palo Alto needs protected bike lanes: strongly agree
- Palo Alto should connect our bicycle infrastructure to neighboring communities: strongly agree
Lightning round (short answers only):
Palo Alto Forward submitted a petition calling upon City Council to strongly support some specific housing initiatives. It has been signed by over 1000 community members (including 8 former mayors). Choose the answer that best represents your position (and add brief explanation-- 50 words or fewer-- if needed)
1. Encourage construction of more studio apartments and other naturally affordable smaller units.
Strongly Support. Less than 20% of Palo Alto’s housing is 1BD/Studios, and yet this is the exact housing type needed by young professionals and couples.
2. Encourage buildings composed of apartments and condos over ground-floor retail. Current policy requires developers to build office space into any new four-story building in a commercial district.
Strongly Support. Our mixed-use codes must be updated to prioritize housing over office. Imagine Cal Ave with 2 or 3 layers of residential on top, providing vitality and business for the street.
3. Make it easier for homeowners to build second units on their property, especially to accommodate multiple-generation households and caretakers.
Strongly Support. This is a property right that allows homeowners to have more flexibility and/or income, and produces housing for the community. This builds on my message of social equity and a multi-generational community.
4. Allow car-light and car-free housing in walkable, transit-accessible areas for residents who are able to not own a car.
Strongly Support. Many young professionals don’t own cars, and we need to build housing that works for them. This is the sustainable choice, and by unbundling parking from the housing units, producing those units becomes less expensive.
5. Facilitate the development of new senior housing, including alternative models such as co-housing, home sharing, and mixed-use senior communities with retail and services.
Strongly Support. I grew up here, I want to raise my family in Palo Alto, and I want my parents to have access to high-quality senior housing in Palo Alto when they need it. By offering our honored seniors more choices, we can increase housing mobility for them and other generations.