Whew… launch week!
Here at Palo Alto Forward World Headquarters --usually just a table at Scotty’s Bar and Grill-- we have had a great reception to the launch of our website (www.paloaltoforward.com) on Friday. As of this writing, we have had over a thousand visitors, and over 100 registrations, and over 50 volunteers. For a 4 day tally, we’ve come out of the blocks strongly!
Last night, we were active in two venues: City Council Chambers and Scotty’s Bar. This reflects our organizational philosophy: we want to join the public debate, and also engage in amicable, respectful discussion among engaged citizenry-- sometimes best conducted over a beer.
In City Council chambers, the opening study session focused on issues that are core to our platform: potential downzoning in the downtown areas, protection of downtown retail, and the right mix of residential and commercial properties. All Councilmembers brought valuable insights to the debate, but two in particular made remarks that cut to the heart of the issues at hand:
Councilmember Schmid cited communities from San Francisco to Mountain View who have created liveable, walkable areas with healthy retail and manageable traffic by co-locating offices, retail, and residential close to their mass transit infrastructure. (paraphrasing) “Only one place doesn’t do this-- Palo Alto”, he noted: “why can we not consider the solution that has been successfully used everywhere else?” He went further: “why do we not consider the financial implications of our zoning policies? We need to understand the budgetary consequences of our actions.”
Councilmember Price strongly advocated for staff to concentrate on finishing the Comprehensive Plan with focus and speed, and to not get distracted with ad hoc zoning changes in parallel.
We think that they have it right: build a healthy ecosystem of commercial, residential and retail located in the right places. Build a strong base for the city’s budget. Don’t get distracted or tempted by ad hoc planning. Do it right!
In Scotty’s, we had our first “meet-up”. More than 35 new members showed up to understand how they could get involved in the debate about the future of Palo Alto. Attendees ranged from seniors who have lived in Palo Alto for over 70 years to a young family with their toddler in tow, to fresh Stanford graduates renting small apartments downtown. There was great interest and enthusiasm to participate in the debate and volunteer time to help Palo Alto Forward be an effective platform for rational discourse. The council proceedings were on one screen, while Monday Night Football was on the other. Ideas were germinated across a wide swath of citizens, and everyone had fun while engaging in serious discussion
Sometimes, these events are best told in pictures…
Kate Vershov Downing addresses Council on the need for comprehensive planning
Meanwhile, 2 blocks away, a capacity crowd gathered at Scotty’s (which never looked so well-lit!)
Worlds collide: Councilman Schmid broadcast at the Scotty's Meet-up
“Why can’t we have downtown mixed use?”
Elaine Uang addresses the throng (and urges the Cardinal defense to abandon their cover-2 formation)
Our next double-venue event will be on October 8, when the Council returns to discussing the Comprehensive Plan. We hope that you can come out either to address the Council personally or to get to know us better at Gravity.