(bio submitted by candidate)
Don McDougall is a retired high-tech CEO who has become an involved community member and environmental volunteer. He is a candidate for the Palo Alto City Council. McDougall has a clear vision, a belief in success together and the importance of sustainability as a measure for today and tomorrow.
He currently is vice-chair of the Palo Alto Library Commission, a member of the Citizens’ Advisory Committee for the Comprehensive Plan, an active volunteer and docent for the Environmental Volunteers. Don is focused on what makes Palo Alto a unique and positive community. It's the people and the place. The character of the people, their widely varied interests, their diversity, energy and spirit brings life to the community. The trees, parks, open spaces, libraries, retail and restaurants give us the unique place to live.
McDougall wants to keep Palo Alto a livable, sustainable, engagingcommunity and he knows the challenges the city faces to maintain and improve the style and quality of life in Palo Alto. He knows housing costs and shortages, traffic congestion, and parking storages have cost, density, location, aesthetic, and diversity considerations.
Don McDougall's answers
1) Our identity: What kind of city should Palo Alto be in coming decades?
A mid-sized university town: innovative and accommodating to a wide range of ages and socio-economic backgrounds. Significant job center. Example: Boulder, CO.
There are several keys for this model to be effective:
(1) Collaboration with neighboring communities on housing, jobs, services such as water.
(2) Effective TDM policies and TMA organizations to mitigate traffic and parking. Again collaboration!
(3) Effective alternate transport modes. More walkability and bikability (two separate things) including creation of a well planned Bike Network in Palo Alto and within the region (again collaboration). And the Free Shuttle replace with a Free Mobility Network that includes some or all of; fixed route driverless minibuses, flexible route and time buses, point-to-point options, and late night guaranteed ride home.
(4) Positive and deliberate attitudes toward a sustainable culture within the city.
(5) And more
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.
The J/H imbalance is a problem and housing should be the first priority but I’m not sure what incentives work as opposed to changes in zoning and ordinances.
Zoning should allow for better for mixed use and density alternatives
(1) Zoning should more specifically define where single bedroom/studio buildings can be built
(2) Zoning should anticipate further development of the sharing generation with respect to different types of cars share.
(3) Job growth should and will slow. The costs or living in Silicon Valley will and is already driving organizations to establish operations in Las Vegas, Phoenix, Portland.
(4) And more
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.
For me the terms “metering” or “offset adverse effects” are hard to work with. I think a combination is what needs to be discussed. Within the Comp Plan committee I have been proposing what I will call “Development Requirements” that a builder must meet without negotiation and then a set of “bonus items”. For the community there would be a set of “Quality Measures” that allows the city to measure the “adverse effects”. Initially a overall cap would give confidence of avoiding run away growth but as the requirements and measures proved effective they would become the standard by which growth was managed, not an overall or even area cap.
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?
I would support a Housing Element similar to the current element which is still being debated within the context of the Comp Plan recognizing that the goal of 2000 is ambitious and is probably best achieved if we work in collaboration with surrounding communities.
○ What can we do to ensure that these units actually get constructed?
There are several things we can do to assure they get built:
(1) Change zoning and ordinances to allow for denser housing (single bedroom and studio condominiums.)
(2) Consider the full range of housing possibilities such as the above plus cluster housing, ADU units, (and homeless housing by the way)
(3) Streamline the housing permit processing
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?
TMA’s are critical and should get more support:
(1) Palo Alto needs more than one TMA so serve the several regions of the city.
(2) Approaches must be negotiated that include city contributions, large company contributions and small business participation.
(3) Parking fees MIGHT be the best funding as developer fees get passed on and employer taxes probably penalize the wrong players.
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:
We should evaluate all practical design options, considering a variety of issues including appearance, maintaining street connections, avoiding taking property, and cost.
There are several steps in the Caltrain/High Speed Rail saga:
(1) Improvements need to be made at all Caltrain crossings within Palo Alto. Consideration should be given to removing the “boxes” that are at intersections and light timing should allow traffic flow to continue along Alma.
(2) Caltrain electrification needs to be pursued and completed without further interference and delay.
(3) Caltrain trenching has been explored and is a popular notion but need to be further vetted in terms of cost and within the context of high speed rail. It will be incredibly expensive to trench and although I am generally supportive of the idea I’d like to see more before it is shovel ready.
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: neutral
It’s not just about slowing car traffic, it’s about:
(1) Providing separate lanes in places
(2) Defining a NETWORK of bike paths, not just bike routes.
(3) Connecting neighboring communities directly
- Our focus on Safe Routes to School should be: kept about the same
○ The question is focus and not more or less routes and I think people like Penny Ellson are doing a wonderful job promoting Safe Routes to School
- Our focus on safe routes to work: increased
- Palo Alto needs more bicycle parking racks: strongly agree
- Palo Alto needs more bicycle boulevards: strongly agree
■ Even at the risk of reducing some RPP parking spaces because more biking will require less cars and less parking.
- 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).
■ No “brief” or long explanation is needed. All these topics have been discussed above and are being discussed within the Land Use Element of the Comp Plan. Not all will immediately be adopted but all must be considered.
1. Encourage construction of more studio apartments and other naturally affordable smaller units.
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.
3. Make it easier for homeowners to build second units on their property, especially to accommodate multiple-generation households and caretakers.
4. Allow car-light and car-free housing in walkable, transit-accessible areas for residents who are able to not own a car.
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.