A Healthy Balance

801 Alma: Affordable Housing

Housing, Jobs & Transportation

After over 20 years as a neighborhood leader, Planning & Transportation Commissioner, City Council Member (2008-16), and Mayor, I have continued to work on community issues. As a private citizen over the three years since I termed out, I've worked to support housing, including affordable housing, while opposing state legislation designed to eliminate single-family neighborhoods (often described as “exclusionary zones” by proponents of this legislation). I also helped lead local support for protections against rent gouging and wrongful lease terminations.  

I am committed to local businesses, a diverse economy, and better transportation for all. This motivated me to lead a citizens group promoting a business tax, similar to ones other Bay Area cities already have, requiring big businesses and developers to pay their fair share toward traffic relief and transit, needed railroad grade separations, and replenishing the depleted city affordable housing fund.

“He has been a strong supporter of a business tax and increasing commercial-development impact fees to fund affordable housing and worked hard while on the council to adopt policies that would encourage more housing and limit new commercial development.” (Endorsement Palo Alto Weekly 10/2/2020)

I understand how to make government work for us to sustain a strong and healthy community. I will focus on: 

Prioritizing balanced, thoughtful growth. A vibrant and diverse community is made up of a tapestry of housing types that transition from higher density in core areas to medium and lower density neighborhoods. We need to continue transitioning from excessive overgrowth in offices to providing a balance of new low, moderate, and higher-income housing for teachers, nurses, retail and essential service providers, public safety workers, and others. Diversity in the types of housing in our community helps ensure a place for the diversity of people we need and want here.  We should:

 Continue to moderate the rate of office growth.

Increase zoning incentives for low income, moderate-income, and market-rate housing including rezoning portions of our downtowns, El Camino, and Stanford Research Park from office/commercial development to housing only or housing/retail.

Provide greater funding for low and moderate-income housing by reinstating impact fees (cut in 2017) on new office development to fund these initiatives. An increase in Palo Alto’s impact fees doubles affordable housing funding, since the county’s fees on Stanford are tied to Palo Alto’s fees.

  Help decrease expensive land costs for low and moderate-income housing by converting city-owned surface parking lots in areas that are zoned for higher density to parking garages with housing on top.

Strengthen renter protections against rent gouging and wrongful terminations. Almost half of all Palo Alto residents are renters and their home stability needs must be supported.

 Adopt as city policy the Obama Administration “Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing” (AFFH) rule to assure that the city is free of any discriminatory barriers to housing.

Support designated off-street RV dweller sites that are safe and provide sanitary services.  

Helping businesses, especially small and medium-sized  survive and flourish. Palo Alto should not be defined by the heavy influence of few big companies and the highest office rents; it’s a community of neighborhoods, schools, retail and local-serving businesses, and an ecosystem nurturing new, innovative technologies. We must promote a healthy economic mix. We need big businesses and developers to pay their fair share to address the affordable housing and transportation impacts they create.

 Strengthen the relationships between the City, the Council, businesses and the community to collaboratively support a vibrant economy

 When the economy improves, we should develop a fair business tax focused on big business to fund low- and moderate-income housing and transportation improvements.

Continue our commitment to walkable, bikeable, transit-served neighborhoods to reduce congestion, noise, and pollution. Palo Alto’s liveability has been crafted through comprehensive planning for a mixture of housing types around community centers, schools, shopping centers, parks, libraries, and tree-lined streets designed to meet community needs. Sustainable and accessible transit helps address social equity and environmental issues. To provide a mix of mobility and lifestyle options we should: 

Prioritize and fund bike and pedestrian improvements as they disproportionately help the underserved community, including many thousands of local school commuting children and other people who cannot drive or who choose healthy, sustainable, active transportation.

 Support local and regional transit, including building grade separations to create safer mobility in our city and to reduce our dependency on cars

A balanced, sustainable quality of life for all. Growth must be balanced for an economically, socially, and environmentally sustainable city; housing, schools, parks, public safety, and services must keep up with job and population increases. A healthy economy is measured by its diversity. While managing challenges from the COVID recession is our focus today, we will soon return to unsolved issues in a new context. We must respond to the long-term effects of COVID on commuting, demand for office space, and housing. And, we need to build on the qualities that attracted us here.  

Building consensus for real progress. Long-lasting, substantive change happens only when we work together. I value a consensus-style of leadership; hearing different perspectives and working with community members to forge innovative solutions that guide balanced planning, infrastructure, and transportation investments. Consensus building is the democratic way we build the political support we need to get things done.

Please join me working toward a better, more inclusive Palo Alto that offers a healthier balance of diverse housing, jobs, and transportation options. I hope you share my vision of our community.