Last night was the League of Women Voters City Candidates Forum at the Etz Chayim Congregation. The 12 candidates each had time to give opening statements, ask each other questions, take questions from the audience and give closing remarks. Most of the candidates expressed their desire to increase parking availability, reduce traffic and congestion, and restore public trust in city government.
The Comprehensive Plan was raised multiple times by several candidates as one of the key issues the city needs to get right in the near future. Candidates debated on the scope and nature of those changes but all agreed it was critical for the city's future. Angst about housing was a concern as candidate Cory Wolbach raised the issue of middle and lower income residents being priced out of Palo Alto. Other candidates, including candidate Eric Filseth, argued that housing growth must be very deliberately managed. All the candidates agreed that one part of the solution to the housing shortage worth at least exploring is allowing for more in-law units, also known as "granny" units. This would increase lower cost housing supply while also allowing some to downsize while they rent their larger dwellings. Candidate Lydia Kou said she was open to the idea but wanted parking to be a part of the consideration.
Another important point raised at the forum was the strategy to pursue the Transient Occupancy Tax (ToT) vs a Bond to raise revenue for infrastructure maintenance and improvements. Both Mayor Nancy Shepherd and Councilman Greg Scharff argued that a bond requires a super majority to pass and would have been risky to rely on getting passed, so the ToT approach was selected. All candidates also agreed that high speed rail was not right for Palo Alto and should not be pursued. More coverage of the forum can be found here and here.
A final candidate forum will be Thursday October 2nd 7p @ City Hall (250 Hamilton Ave.) It’s a great way to hear the candidates in person and ask them questions directly. With the Comp Plan on the horizon, the future of Palo Alto will be in these council members hands, come learn more. We’ll also be meeting up right before, 6p at Scotty’s Bar & Grill, please join us!