Past Events

We love events!  We've literally hosted dozens of them each year since our founding... everything from neighborhood walking tours to semi-academic discussions to good old fashioned year-end parties.  

Here is a selection of our past events to give you an idea of what membership gets you: 

Holiday Social

A Palo Alto Forward City

We all had a blast this year at our Holiday Social. Together our members built an amazing Palo Alto Forward City with tall housing, duplexes and even an ADU! 




Housing Element 101 Series

Kicking off on the 17th of every month at 6pm, our board member, Robert Chun will spend 1-hour per month talking details and helping to demystify the Housing Element process. Please join us for one, three, or all of them!

RSVP here:
Watch the recordings here

Coffee with Brian Barth

Brian J. Barth is a journalist in southern Appalachia. His work appears in publications such as the New Yorker, Slate, Washington Post, Walrus, Guardian, National Geographic, Mother Jones, Pacific Standard, Nautilus and City Lab. Barth was awarded the 2017 Bradford Williams Medal for his article "Let's Beat It."

We met him early last year when he came to Silicon Valley to research income inequality. At our August 4th event, in a salon moderated by Pastor Paul Bains, we discussed his article, "Homeless in the Shadow of Apple’s $5 Billion Campus". He has returned to the region while he finishes writing his latest book, which focuses on stories from California's homelessness crisis. 

Want do something about homelessness locally? Join us on August 9th at City Council to support several key programs and services - including a new Project Homekey proposal!  



Climate Change and Housing: re-thinking land use for our planet's future

Palo Alto and other bay area suburbs have led the nation in environmental policies to reduce Green House Gas emissions and protect our open spaces. But climate change is happening faster than we predicted and every jurisdiction must determine how to address this crisis. Our greenest neighborhoods are also our most dense. How can we re-think the way we design neighborhoods to promote more energy efficient, sustainable cities with robust parks and open spaces? Join Palo Alto Forward and the 350 SV Palo Alto Team on May 12th at 5pm to hear from:
- Amanda Eaken, Director of Transportation, American Cities Climate Change Challenge at Natural Resources Defense Council
- Justin Wang, Advocacy Manager at Greenbelt Alliance
- Sandra Slater (Moderator)

Webinar Recording: 

Intentional Communities: Community Housing Models for Affordability (November 16, 2020) 

Palo Alto Forward co-hosted this inspiring event on November 16, 2020. It consisted of 3 panelists: Phil Levin from Radish, Ofelia Bello from YUCA and PAHALI, and Andy Madeira from EDEN Housing. After the panel, a handful of members stayed on to talk about our visions for a better housing model. And as one longtime EPA resident said, "Palo Alto owes a lot to East Palo Alto"! Let's hope we can start to be better neighbors - and eliminate the homelessness, segregation, and inequities that plague our region. This is possible if we do it together!  

Webinar recording:

Housing Salon: Are the region's housing goals impossible? (September 2020)

On September 8th we hosted a virtual salon to talk about how we can make space for new neighbors at every income level! The aim was to help everyone get better sense of the Regional Housing Needs Assessment and Housing Element process and how to get involved. As one of our Twitter followers said,

Palo Alto is an amazing city with a huge housing shortage and we want to ensure that more families and individuals have access to this resource rich community! As Isabella Chu pointed out, everything from life expectancy to future earnings could change for families able to move to opportunity rich areas. That is why we hope you will become a Palo Alto Forward member and join us in speaking out when key decisions are being made. Click here to become a member. 

Not in Palo Alto? Check out The Housing Leadership Council of San Mateo County and Silicon Valley at Home.

  • Click here for a recording of the webinar. 
  • Click here for Steve's slides on the Basics of RHNA
  • Click here for Mathew's slides on RHNA and Housing Elements 
  • Click here for Bella's slides on public health impacts 

Affordable Housing Month 2020: Missing Middle Panel and ADU Workshop (May 2020)

May 2020 we hosted two virtual events as part of Affordable Housing Month: New Ideas for Constructing Affordable Homes, Including the Missing Middle on May 13th and our 4th annual ADU workshop: Much ado about ADU's on May 19th. Click here to read our block post about the events, including links to recording. 

What's Palo Alto Doing to Address the Housing Crisis? (May 9, 2019)


On Thursday, May 9th, Palo Alto Forward hosted "What's Palo Alto Doing to Address the Housing Crisis" as part of Affordable Housing Week 2019, in conjunction with Silicon Valley @ Home, SPUR, and League of Women Voters of Palo Alto.

We had a great panel featuring speakers with diverse backgrounds and experiences in the realm of housing. The panelists included Liz Kniss, of Palo Alto City Council, Jonathan Lait, the City of Palo Alto Planning Director, Tod Spieker, of Windy Hill Property Ventures, and Randy Tsuda, of Palo Alto Housing. The conversation was peppered with informative slide decks and charts displaying the facts of population growth (spoiler alert: there's been a lot of it) and comparable housing development growth (spoiler alert: there hasn't been enough of it!). To view the slides from speakers' presentations, click on their names.

Each panelist had a unique and informative perspective on housing and together they presented a comprehensive outlook of the situation today. Palo Alto Forward is deeply appreciative of the panelists who took out time from their evenings to join us, and judging by the engaged audience participation, the whole community appreciated it too!

Thanks to all for a great event! If you weren't able to join us in person, you can view the video recording here.

Home Sweet CASA (February 14, 2019)

On Thursday, February 14th, Palo Alto Forward hosted Home Sweet CASA in conjunction with Menlo Together and support from League of Women Voters of Palo Alto, Silicon Valley @ Home, and other community groups.

Michael Lane of [email protected] discussed the CASA compact, a set of 10 principles developed by a coalition of low-income housing advocates, environmental groups, business and labor representatives, city officials, non-profit and for-profit developers.  The compact includes renter protections, cost reduction measures to build housing, and an employer and resident fund to support more subsidized housing.

Thanks to Michael for an informative presentation, and to the engaged audience for their investment in the discussion and the rich questions and subsequent discussion.

Meet and Greet with Ed Shikada (February 21, 2019)

Welcome to 2019! On Thursday, February 21st, Palo Alto Forward hosted its first event of the year, a Meet and Greet with Ed Shikada, the new Palo Alto City Manager. The event was hosted in the home of a PAF board member, Sandra Slater, and the environment as well as the excellent reception from over 60 Palo Altans and Peninsula residents lent itself to an excellent evening. Guests discussed issues of housing and reconnected before and after the main event, a Q&A with Ed Shikada, moderated by PAF board chair Elaine Uang. Many questions were on topics including climate change, public transit, working with Stanford, and more hot-button issues, such as scooters, teacher housing, and a parking garage proposal. Other event attendees took the opportunity to learn directly from a policy implementer like Ed and asked questions about the role of the state in housing and transportation issues, as well as big picture questions about the government’s long-run view of these issues.Ed answered everyone’s questions with thoughtfulness and seemed to enjoy the engaging crowd. Thanks to everyone who came out to support Palo Alto Forward and engage more deeply with the issues of the day!

Earth Day Booth (April 14, 2018)

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Palo Alto Forward drew a great crowd at City of Palo Alto's Earth Day & Great Race for Saving Water. Visitors were invited to take three little Commuter quizzes. Many were amazed (and pleasantly surprised).  First question was who had the longest commute time. Those who commute to work but do not live in the Silicon Valley have the longest average commute: 56 minutes. Second question asked how much do we drive now as compared to what it was 8 years ago? And by how much? The answers surprised and puzzled a many. That created a teachable moment and room for discussions.

We also brought attention to ADUs in the great back yards of Palo Alto as one of many housing solutions, and its relationship to decreasing commute times. Many people also shared their commutes by connecting the dots between their homes and destinations of work, daycares, schools/lib, shopping, and etc. The exercise really highlighted how often people use modes other than cars on their daily commutes. Thanks to our volunteers for staffing the table and to all the visitors at the event!

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Affordable Housing 101 (Apr 5, 2018)

On Thursday April 5th, we hosted Danny Ross from Palo Alto Housing to talk about how to build affordable housing.  Danny's presentation showed how difficult it is to make 100% affordable projects financially successful.  Specifically, he talked about how the projects stitch together various funding sources from the LIHTC tax credits, city in lieu fees, private investors, and debt in order to make projects financially feasible.
He emphasized the importance of having supportive communities and local government zoning policy towards making affordable housing successful and showed how communities with zoning friendly affordable housing end up getting more units built.  You can watch the entire video on our our YouTube channel here:  Its well worth watching; the attendees asked great questions.

Bicycle Salon (Mar 22, 2017)


Many thanks to Alta Planning Principal Hugh Louch for coming to chat with us about precedents, key concepts bicycle infrastructure, and sharing existing and future Palo Alto projects.  Our bike salon was attended by 35 cyclists and cycling infrastructure supporters, many who shared wonderful examples of successful bike infrastructure around the region and world.  Hugh provided excellent background on concepts and vocabulary in bicycle route and infrastructure planning, and led an excellent Q&A discussion about a range of topics. 

Check out Hugh's full presentation here

Holiday Party 2017 (Dec 8, 2017)

In what has become an annual tradition, our FOURTH holiday party was jam packed and enthusiastic.  


Over 100 people came out to celebrate the accomplishments of the past year-- in particular, the passage of a landmark ADU ordinance, and the passage of our Comprehensive Plan after more than a decade of work (believe it or not).  In addition, a number of council members kicked off an aggressive housing work plan that will carry over into staff work in 2018.  What a way to ring in the new year!!





On The Table discussion (Nov 17, 2017)



Palo Alto Forward co-hosted this great event with the League of Women Voters and Congregation Beth Am.  We were a small part of a day where thousands of peninsula residents came together to have a meal and discuss the housing challenges and opportunities in our region.  




Standing-room only crowd came to hear from city officials, financing experts, and architects on how to navigate the ADU process in Palo Alto.  

Car Light Housing Forum (Sept 28, 2017)

Palo Alto Forward hosted a lively discussion with experts from TransForm (transportation policy think tank and advocate), Palo Alto Housing (affordable housing developer), and Harmonie Partners (market rate housing developer focused on walkable infill developments).  


The event attracted ~50 people, largely from Palo Alto, but also some from neighboring communities.  There were several planning commissioners as well as former and current city council members.  

The thrust of the discussion was around the consequences of high "parking ratios" (the number of parking spaces per unit of housing that has to be built).  A large portion of the total cost of projects goes into parking, and much of the parking is often under utilized, because it is "captive" (located within a private property).  

Nina Rizzo, from TransForm, gave a description of their GreenTRIPS certification program (she described it as "akin to LEEDS, but for transportation), with some examples of buildings that have taken innovative approaches to reducing car dependence.  The certification recognizes residential projects that have taken significant steps to reduce reliance on cars. She also introduced the GreenTrip Connect tool, that allows planners and citizens to understand the need for parking on a building-by-building level, taking into account the type and location of the building.  


Candice Gonzales, CEO of Palo Alto Housing ("PAH"), built on TransForm's example.  Many PAH projects do not need excessive parking, since their residents often do not own a car; the population served by PAH are low income, with a significant percentage of special needs.  Candice explained that even with the lower parking ratios that they have been permitted, when they spot check their parking structures, they almost always find them under-utilized.

Finally, Wendi Baker, Partner at Harmonie Partners, talked about some of the difficult realities of building housing with less parking.  In addition to zoning barriers and neighborhood resistance, there is a fundamental issue of financing: lenders are conservative, and until there is a proven market for "car light" developments, financing may be difficult to arrange.  Wendi walked us through a project-- Los Gatos' North 40-- to show how a less car-centric community can be created when many factors (such as a dense downtown area, or easy public transit options) are not available.  They worked across multiple agencies to create connections to established bike trails, and also have built a mixed use community to keep a lot of trips close to home.

Housing Salon (Aug 31, 2017)


We came out of the summer doldrums with a casual salon to discuss major housing initiatives in the Comp Plan, and what the potential paths forward could be for Palo Alto.


CALTRAIN 101 CORRIDOR (June 28, 2017)

Over 60 people came out to hear Ratna Amin (SPUR), Chris Lepe (TransForm), and

Carolyn Helmke (Stanford Parking & Transportation) talk about the future of Caltrain, and strategies for reducing congestion on the 101 corridor.

Stanford University General Use Permit (GUP) (May 18, 2017)


Together with the League of Women Voters, we co-hosted a forum on the important Stanford General Use Plan (GUP), which has significant implications for regional housing and transportation.


Jean McCown (Associate Vice President, Office of Government and Community Relations) and Whitney McNair, AICP (Director, Land Use Planning, Stanford University) were our guest presenters.


The Dutch Cycling Embassy (May 8, 2017)

The Dutch Cycling Embassy (DCE) stopped by while on ther California tour, meeting with officials from LA to SF.  They shared their experiences and offered us ideas and strategies to enhance our cycling culture. As the world’s number one cycling country, the DCE's goal is to facilitate cycling worldwide as the most modern, efficient and sustainable method of transport.


Over 60 people came to learn from our Dutch friends :)

Earth Day (April 22, 2017)



A great time at the Palo Alto Earth Day Celebration.  Palo Alto Forward represented in force, and helped educate the community about commute patterns, housing patterns and sustainability.  

Designing Peninsula Communities 2.0 (April 18, 2017)



Are we designing our communities to preserve what we love about them, while also continuing to advance them as adaptive, high-functioning “live, work, and play” communities of the future?


A packed house (sold out event) came out to hear the perspectives of two recognized Bay Area architects and urban designers for incorporating design methodologies in everyday practice. We learned about design techniques and strategies for achieving community and placemaking which advance shared goals of affordability, liveability, health, and community benefit.

Taming Traffic (March 23, 2017)

We hosted Evan Goldin — Director of Product & Design at Chariot and Jamie Jarvis — Transportation Demand Manager, Stanford Research Park to discuss effective tools for taming traffic.   They shared their methodology for reducing traffic, reflected on the process and explained how other companies or institutions can apply these evidence based tactics to begin Taming Traffic.   


Over 70 people in attendance!


Tiny Houses (March 16, 2017)

Around 40 people turned out to see architects Brian Rubin and Siena Shaw, who are designing (and will be living) in Tiny Houses (theirs is called MightyHouse!).  


Meet the Mayor and Vice-Mayor (Feb 28, 2017)



What Makes a City Great: Alex Garvin (February 2,2017)

We have many amazing cities on the Peninsula. But what makes places great? And how can they be made better? Architect, author, professor and planner Alex Garvin set out to answer these questions in his book, "What Makes a Great City?" Among his answers are that it’s up to us — to people who shape cities - residents, municipal staff, entrepreneurs - to make great cities.


Expanding our Housing Toolkit (Sept 7, 2016)


Scotty's Meetup and Council Meeting: Comp Plan 5th Option (May 16, 2017)


April Ice Cream Social (April 1, 2016)

Super fun meet up with make-your-own ice cream sundaes in one of Palo Alto’s pocket parks (Heritage Park).  Spring was welcomed deliciously!


Lilypad Homes (March 3, 2016)

Rachel Ginis the founder of LilyPad Homes helped investigate the opportunities we have to increase housing options by encouraging the development of second units — Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) or “granny” flats -- as infill housing.

Boom & Bubble: Regional & County trends (Feb 25, 2016)

Regional Economist, Stephen Levy joined us for his annual update on regional and county trends, covering the following:

  • Is there a slow-down happening in the housing market?

  • Is the projected slow-down in tech still headed our way? And if so, how that might affect housing affordability in the region?

  • How many people are projected to move to the region? Who are they and how does their arrival fit into the picture? Who is leaving and who is staying?


Second Units: Missing Middle Housing (Nov 5, 2015)

We heard from Daniel Parolek, a nationally recognized thought leader in architecture, design, and urban planning, who specializes in creating livable, sustainable communities. Daniel conceived the term Missing Middle Housing to describe the range of multi-unit or clustered housing types compatible in scale with single-family homes that help meet the growing demand for compact, convenient, walkable lifestyles.

Don Weden: Change, Growth and Planning  (Sept 29. 2015)

Don Weden, the retired Principal Planner from Santa Clara County presented a new vision for the next version of Santa Clara County.



Parking for Thriving, Convenient Places (Jun 23, 2015)

We were joined by Richard Willson to learn about effective strategies that other cities have used to manage parking, and how they might be applied in Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Mountain View and other nearby cities.

Richard Willson is a respected expert in parking strategies for cities.  His new book,Parking Management for Smart Growth focuses on how to plan and implement successful parking management strategies, with effective practices and case studies from a variety of cities.


Drinks and the Comprehensive Plan (May 26, 2015)

Casual get-together at Scotty’s Bar downtown to discuss the upcoming “Our Palo Alto” Forum, and potential visions for the comprehensive plan


Spring Picnic (May 17, 2015)

Community get-together in Rinconada Park with great food and drinks.  Local favorite, John Henry of the band "John Henry's Farm" joined us and provided participatory musical entertainment


Second Units (May 3, 2015)

Study session: What is the current process for implementing second units in Palo Alto and what can be done to incentivize more second units?


Tactical Urbanism (April 7, 2015)

Co-hosted with Island Press, we hosted Mike Lydon, author of Tactical Urbanism.  Mike Lydon's work through the Streets Plan Collaborative focuses on faster, cheaper, better ways of prototyping small community drive projects that are effective and delightful ways that improve streets and neighborhoods.  

Come Learn about Measure A! (Mar 27, 2015)

Educational session to learn more about the local parcel tax measure to support Palo Alto’s schools

Silicon Valley Transportation Choices & Healthy Communities Summit (Mar 12, 2015)

Yoriko Kishimoto, former Mayor of Palo Alto, recounted stories of what happens when transportation challenges meet politics and described her vision for doubling bike use in the region.



Buena Vista Rally (Mar 9, 2015)

Outpouring of support from the Palo Alto Forward community to stand with the residents of Buena Vista Mobile Home Park


Silicon Valley Transportation Choices & Healthy Communities Summit (Mar 7, 2015)


Palo Alto Forward and other Santa Clara and San Mateo County residents in discussed how we plan, grow, and invest over the coming decades. A diverse group of organizations and agencies led workshops and trainings to discuss critical issues, innovative solutions, and how you can play a role in shaping the future of your community.


Sustainability and Climate Action Plan (S/CAP), and Mobility as a Service (MaaS) (Feb 26, 2015)

Gil Friend (Chief Sustainability Officer, Palo Alto) – and special guests from Finland--discussed the city's sustainability options, and how a sustainable, carbon-free Palo Alto can improve the quality of our lives, encourage a more connected and healthier place to live and be a model for the world.



Doubling Caltrain Capacity (Feb 10, 2015)

How can Caltrain keep up with capacity needs?  What’s being done to plan for grade separations for safety and reliability?  How can upcoming ballot measures in 2016 help Caltrain keep up with the needs, and how can riders and supporters help?


Downtown Housing Walking Tour (Jan 24, 2015)


Tour of 3 residential clusters afforded us the opportunity to learn and experience what makes a development enjoyable to live in and walk by. Bagels and coffee and then a guided tour with discussion about the planning and legal and design background of these buildings and this housing helps shape the experience of our city.


Holiday Social 2014 (Dec 18, 2014)

The first of what has become a holiday tradition!  Packed house, lovely food and drinks, and housing and transportation related wishes for Palo Alto’s future.  


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