Focus on Whole City - Our Two Civic Institutions
A major reason many families choose to live in Palo Alto is the high quality of our public schools. My wife, Erina, and I are among them. We have lived in Midtown continuously since 1995 and our two children are in middle and high school in our school district. Like so many other parents, we have also supported our schools as active volunteers. For example, I have been a basketball coach for both boys and girls teams for 15 years and help lead the Music Boosters at Gunn High School
While the Palo Alto school board and Palo Alto city council are separate entities with separate responsibilities, there are still a number of important ways that the city council can support the well-being of our school children and the school district. Some examples include sites for new schools and supportive community services.
As a council member, I will make increased collaboration and cooperation between the two entities a priority.
Pace Change at Rate Our Schools Can Absorb
Our city's development and density choices have a direct impact on our schools There is a real danger that if we proceed as we have for the last four years, our schools will not be able to keep up with the pace of population expansion. Also, the recent and vast expansion of office space in Palo Alto exacerbates our already large jobs-housing imbalance, leading to increased state mandates for additional housing.
As indicated in the section on land use, my votes will be shaped by whether developments enhance our quality of life and, to the extent permissible by law. Whether our schools can support the pace of change
Plan For The Future of Cubberley as Both a Community Center and School
The large Cubberley Community Center site is owned, in part, by both the school district and the city. But it is literally falling apart due to an inability to make timely decisions on long term plans for the site. While the stakeholder group (the Cubberley Community Action Committee) has provided valuable input, including recommendations for underground parking and both a two-story high school and community center, we have a long way still to go.
I am optimistic that changes on the council, school board, and a re-invigorated presence in the superintendent’s office, will clear a path for substantial progress. I will be vigilant toward this goal and will not allow personalities or narrow agendas to obstruct our path to what we need and can be a new jewel within our city.
Increases in housing places more demand our school system. At the same time, the state obligates us and other municipalities to zone for more housing.
We also have, what I would describe as a moral obligation to finds ways to provide housing opportunities for seniors, and for those at various income levels. In addition, we need to do our best to prevent the loss of long-standing residents and their families, such as those at Buena Vista Mobile Home Park.
Earlier this year, I was appointed to the citizen’s advisory committee to our city’s Regional Housing Mandate Committee (RHMC). This is a standing subcommittee of the city council which also includes a school board member who provide input. These meetings and extensive materials, research and discussions related to it, have significantly informed my knowledge of the housing challenges we face in Palo Alto and how we can best address them. This includes:
- Flaws and fallacies in the state-appointed Association for Bay Area Governments (ABAG) plan for housing (i.e., Plan Bay Area), and how we as a city can best cope with that in the short term and achieve reform in the long term.
- Palo Alto’s implementation of the state’s density bonus, which provides developers an incentive for providing some below market rate housing or 100% senior housing projects. These incentives include exceptions to zoning in our code.
- Palo Alto’s very progressive “inclusionary zoning” law which mandates that developers set aside 15% or 20% of units in a project for below market rate housing or pay cash into a fund
- Complex issues related to the Maybell and other senior or below market rate projects, includes the mechanisms through which they can be financed.
I am not opposed to more housing in Palo Alto. We need to target it properly, with amounts we can handle, and designed to blend in properly with the surrounding community with minimal impacts.
Buena Vista Mobile Home Park
The people in the Buena Vista community are good, hardworking residents, who have lived here for years, are our neighbors, and with children firmly integrated into the school district. We must do all we can to see that these families are not pushed out of town.
Council members have been advised by the city attorney not speak on the issues of the recent settlement agreement regarding relocation expenses put forward by the property owner as it will most likely come to the city council on appeal, where council members will, in effect, act as judges. But beyond that discussion, there is the issue, which I can speak about, that relates to finding places for these members of our community to stay with us. In this regard, I support our current school board and many other members of our community in this goal and pledge to do all I can to find such a solution.
Indications are that the large site that includes Fry’s will be redeveloped. Fry’s and other adjacent businesses there are “non-conforming” uses as the underlying zoning is actually residential. With the Fry’s lease nearing an end, we need to develop an area plan for this site so the proper amount of housing is built as well as related services, amenities, and infrastructure. Development of an area plan was used with great success in the South of Forest Avenue (SOFA) area. We can replicate that success here.
The current zoning is 30 units per acre, which may be greater density that we want. We need to begin the process of an area plan for this area now, before we lose control of its future. As with the Cubberley site, this is a location of significant size that presents an opportunity. We may need/want a school in this area for all the kids in Ventura between Alma and El Camino Real.
Palo Alto is a very bike friendly town, but there is work still to be done, especially in support of our school children and increase bicycle use. This includes efforts to
-Continue to build out our Safe Routes to School and bicycle boulevards
-Explore developing a tunnel or bridge at Alma Street as a new safe route to Gunn High School.
I will seek ways to align city and school programs for renting playing fields and prioritizing their use to ensure residents have access. Currently, this is not the case.