Greg Tanaka

(bio submitted by candidate)

I am running for Palo Alto City Council to make City Hall work for you.

As a Planning & Transportation Commissioner, I have a proven track record of listening to the community and finding solutions that work while raising a family, serving on my neighborhood association board, and running a local Palo Alto based company.

Palo Alto needs real representation so that every voice can be heard in City Hall.  I will make City Hall work for everyone: working families, professionals, seniors and local business owners. 




General questions:


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

            Please select the above model that most closely matches your vision for the future, and please expound with any nuance. 

A mid-sized university town and significant job center.  Palo Alto plays an incubating role in the regional, state and national economy.  It’s vital that we maintain this balance.  The City has augmented Stanford's world class leadership in research and sparking new economic sectors in technology, healthcare, mobility, biotech, energy and beyond. This will always be our role and key identity and as a CEO of a start-up small tech company, I can bring this voice to City Council.  


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

Do you agree with one of the above statements more than others? What are your main policy proposals to address this issue?

It’s vital that Palo Alto maintain its identity as a research and incubating space that sparks new economic sectors—this happens at work, in the backyard, helping a neighbor with a project, sitting at a coffee shop or around a kitchen table.  As companies scale they move out to Menlo Park, Mountain View, Santa Clara and now San Francisco.  Our work is our play which means that we need to keep the right balance to ensure that there is  enough research and development space, along with and vibrant retail and services.  Creating new policies to incentivize more housing options is vital to stabilizing this balance and ensuring that our heritage as a great place to raise a family stays vibrant.  However, we also need to make sure the impacts are properly mitigated.

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.

            [Which should be adopted by the city?]

Ensuring that all future growth has a good plan to offset adverse effects. Palo Alto is a great place to live and work, yet congestion and traffic has reached a frustration level, and mobility and livability need new strategies.  I want City Hall to work for you so that construction has practical strategies to minimize inconveniences including live updates on the city website, outreach to the community before and during the construction period—we need to keep the community dialog going.



Specific questions:

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?


I support the state mandate that requires the periodic submission of the Housing Element as part of the Current Comprehensive Plan.  I also strongly support innovating Palo Alto housing ordinances to expand and incentives new housing opportunities by zoning for micro unites, collaborative housing (similar to Palo Alto Commons, but open to families and all ages), and locating new housing types next to public transit.   The goal of 2,000 new units is ambitious and is probably best achieved by creating area-specific plans that involve the neighborhoods, community and surrounding communities and not burden the city financially.


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?

○      Is it a critical tool that should receive a high level of support and attention?

○      Is it an interesting experiment (among many other interesting experiments; not critical, but worth trying)?

○      Is it an unrealistic approach for a community such as ours (for any reason)?

○      Anything else?

  • There have been many sources of funds proposed for the TMA, including development fees, parking fees for commuters and downtown visitors, and employer taxes.  Do you have a viewpoint on what the major source of funding should be, and why?


To goal of the TMA is to reverse the Los Angeles commuting culture that has expanded to bay area and is exasperated by long commutes for workers into Palo Alto and Silicon Valley.  Driving to work is an unsustainable practice—it’s vital that Palo Alto take the lead and partner with businesses, commuters and the community to reverse this historic pattern, fund TMAs and make Palo Alto mobile again!


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


I support Caltrain electricfication, increased scheduling, and finding a way to trench the train. This is vital for retaining quality of life, keeping Palo Alto mobile and ensuring that Caltrain keeps its status as the backbone of public transit.  I want to partner with Stanford University, Caltrain and our own voters to find funding and make this happen.   Value capture should be strongly considered.


6) Bike infrastructure: please select the choices that are closest to your view:

  • We should focus on creating infrastructure for bicycles: strongly agree/ neutral/ strongly disagree
  • We have overly constrained car throughput in places in favor of bicycles: strongly agree/ neutral/ strongly disagree
  • We should slow car traffic to create safer streets for bicycles & pedestrians: strongly agree/ neutral/ strongly disagree
  • Our focus on Safe Routes to School should be: increased/ kept about the same/ decreased
  • Our focus on safe routes to work: increased/ kept about the same/ decreased
  • Palo Alto needs more bicycle parking racks: strongly agree/ neutral/ strongly disagree
  • Palo Alto needs more bicycle boulevards: strongly agree/ neutral/ strongly disagree
  • Palo Alto needs protected bike lanes: strongly agree/ neutral/ strongly disagree
  • Palo Alto should connect our bicycle infrastructure to neighboring communities: strongly agree/ neutral/ strongly disagree


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/ Support, but not strongly/ Not important/ Oppose

As PTC records shows,I am passionate about micro unites and community living space.

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/ Support, but not strongly/ Not important/ Oppose

3. Make it easier for homeowners to build second units on their property, especially to accommodate multiple-generation households and caretakers.

Strongly Support/ Support, but not strongly/ Not important/ Oppose

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/ Support, but not strongly/ Not important/ Oppose

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/ Support, but not strongly/ Not important/ Oppose



  • Jim Poppy
    commented 2016-09-30 07:31:15 -0700
    Disappointing to hear that you support Castilleja’s violation of the CUP and that you support a multi-year construction project that will negatively impact the neighborhood and add to traffic congestion. Just because your wife went to school there doesn’t mean the neighbors want this.

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