Campaign Kickoff

August 27, 2016

Arthur speaking Arthur speaking

Thank you, Karen Holman, for that gracious introduction and thank you, Mayor Pat Burt, for serving as MC today. I’d like to thank Janet Dafoe and Ron Davis for hosting us today. And thank my campaign team, honorary co-chairs Councilmembers Tom DuBois, Eric Filseth and Karen Holman, my campaign manager, Pat Markevitch, my campaign treasurer, City Councilmember and former Palo Alto School District trustee Greg Schmid, and Mac Beasley, former Mayor Mike Cobb, Dave Bubenik, Len Filppu, Maury Green, Jeff Greenfield, Michael Griffin, Joe Hirsch, CeCi Kettendorff, former Mayor and current Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District President Yoriko Kishimoto, Elaine Meyer, and Rita Vrhel. And thanks to all of you who came to listen today.

Who Am I?

I first came to Palo Alto from New York to be a grad student at Stanford. After getting my Ph.D., I went to teach at the University of Texas at Austin. I returned to Palo Alto in 1987 because I missed Palo Alto and Stanford. I have lived in Palo Alto ever since. I left Stanford in 1999 to work with startups.

And I got involved with the Community. I founded the Adobe Meadow Neighborhood Association, so that my neighborhood could have a voice in the developments at East Meadow Circle. My twin daughters motivated me to get involved in our schools. My daughter Reta is here helping today. I was on the Site Council for Ohlone Elementary School. Then I was on the Board of The Girls’ Middle School.

Len Filppu & Annette Ashton Len Filppu & Annette Ashton

After fighting to keep the VTA 88 bus, I started the post of Public Transit Coordinator for Gunn High School PTSA and have continued even though my daughters have graduated. And yet again, I’m fighting to keep the VTA 88 and 35 buses and paratransit service for our seniors and disabled.

Why I’m Running

I am running for Palo Alto City Council because I want our city government to be the best it can be. Our City government must be responsive to the needs of its residents and businesses, and responsive to changing conditions. Our residents and businesses need a moderate and thoughtful approach to managing development and growth that does not outpace the capacity of our schools, parks, and infrastructure. I support growth at a rate we can absorb.


Cities evolve over time. When I first arrived in Palo Alto, Downtown was a quiet place, just beginning to recover from the building of the Stanford Shopping Center. Downtown is now thriving, but the policies instituted decades ago to help Downtown recover have worked all too well.

Len Filppu & Karen Holman Len Filppu & Karen Holman

Over the last decade, we have allowed office space and jobs to grow dramatically Citywide. The result is worsening traffic congestion and parking spilling over to the surrounding neighborhoods.

Innovation can be good. I look forward to having a self-driving car when it is no longer safe for me to drive myself. That self-driving car will need a place to park and a way to charge since it will be electric.

Forty years ago today, the Internet was started with a computer at Zott’s in Portola Valley, also known as the Alpine Inn Beer Garden, connected wirelessly to SRI and then onto a computer in Boston. Things have sure grown since then, but we’re still waiting for Fiber-to-the-Home and reliable cell phone service. The growth of the Internet has enabled over 2000 Palo Altans to work from home, while communicating around the world and in outer space.

But not all growth is good. It is not sufficient to mitigate the impacts of growth, we must manage growth and reduce its impacts. Our rapid growth in jobs is the root cause of our housing and traffic problems. The Council has begun to limit the rate of office space growth with an interim ordinance. There are some who want the limits to go away. Palo Alto must tie how fast we grow to addressing the impacts of growth.

The Stanford Research Park was exempted from the limit on office space under the vague hope that they would address the impacts of their growth. They have begun to address traffic through a new Transportation Management Association. That’s a good start. We can tie future growth of the Stanford Research Park to binding targets for reducing traffic on Page Mill Road, Oregon Expressway, and the Charleston-Arastradero Road corridor. Yes, binding targets to reduce traffic.

Supervisor Joe Simitian Joe Simitian

That’s just one thing we can do to improve traffic. We can coordinate our traffic lights to improve the traffic flow. The technology has been around for decades, but we’re just now starting to implement it.

When the Stanford Medical Center expansion was being reviewed, somehow Menlo Park had more intersections that would be affected than Palo Alto. Why is that? Because Menlo Park’s rules about measuring traffic congestion are stricter than Palo Alto’s. (Although Menlo Park does not seem to be enforcing them for Facebook.) I fought for Palo Alto to retain traffic congestion as part of our development considerations and to revisit the standards to make them stricter.

Yes, Palo Alto should promote bicycling and walking. Every bicycle takes a car off the road. I initiated the project to build a bicycle and pedestrian bridge over 101 by Adobe Creek.

But I emphatically reject the attitude that the way to get people not to drive alone is to deliberately make driving worse. We need to make the alternatives better—to make them viable, if not attractive. And to get there, we need to honestly examine what keeps people from using these alternatives. And we must accept that for some there will be no viable alternative.

Quality of Life

Palo Alto’s neighborhoods are a key element in our valued quality of life, and they must be respected and protected. And that means preserving the character of our residential neighborhoods and protecting local-serving businesses, both of which help define Palo Alto.

Greg Schmid Greg Schmid

Dense housing means even more need for parks that their residents can walk to.

The potential loss of Fry’s Electronics gives the potential to redevelop that large piece of land. The community must decide what goes there, not the developer. We can decide to have a park and buildings that do not overwhelm the surrounding neighborhood.

New development must fit into the community. We do not want four story buildings next to single-family houses, not even on El Camino Real in South Palo Alto.

Palo Alto began but did not complete a plan for California Avenue; let’s get the job done and, as Karen would say, zone for what we want.

There is pressure to redevelop, causing displacement of small, local serving businesses.

Winston Churchill paraphrasing Benjamin Franklin said, “He who fails to plan is planning to fail.” We must plan to succeed. Our residents and small businesses must deliberately decide the future of Palo Alto and not have it decided for us by developers. Too many projects are reviewed by the City Council only when they are appealed.


Palo Alto does need new housing. We must be realistic and realize that we cannot have housing for all who want to live here. As Karen said, we should “house people not warehouse people.” We need more housing for seniors, so our seniors can stay in our community as we age.

Additional housing must also focus on those most in need, including more affordable housing units. We can follow the lead of San Francisco and increase our minimum percentage of affordable housing from 15 to 25%.

We can explore housing for new teachers, maybe under pending legislation, and for first responders and utility workers. We must also do our part for emergency preparedness.

State law does allow Palo Alto to consider school impacts of our policies, though not individual development projects. The City must start to consider school overcrowding. Our high schools were originally designed for 1200 students each and are now planned to hold nearly double that.

Our Middle Schools are already at capacity.

The School District can build two story school buildings, but we cannot have two story playing fields.

Nielson Buchanan & Annette Ashton Nielson Buchanan & Annette Ashton

Most of the housing built in Palo Alto since 2000 has been large townhouses, causing the enrollment surge in our schools. Let’s take a look at what type of housing we most need. Only 20% of our housing stock is studio or 1-bedroom apartments. Yet 60% of Palo Alto’s households have 1 or 2 people. So it’s clear we most need smaller units for these smaller households. And those happen to have less impact on our schools.

When we make decisions, our priority is to ensure that the quality of life in Palo Alto is preserved and enhanced for all Palo Altans.

I find it incongruous when some focus only on what new housing we can build like accessory dwelling units while ignoring the loss of existing cottages and less expensive housing. And when housing is illegally used for office space, it harms the fabric of the neighborhood and it takes housing off the market. San Francisco has a law regulating Airbnb; why don’t we?

We must enforce our laws so that people feel safe. There are places in the city, like Middlefield in Downtown north, where the documented rate of accidents continues to grow because of increased congestion. We need to enforce the “no-left-turn” signs there so people do not continue to get hurt.


Palo Alto has a tradition of environmental leadership. We must set a standard that will best ensure a healthy place to live and work. This includes encouraging the use of electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles and also public transit, as well as conservation efforts in zero waste, greenhouse gas reduction, and climate change adaptation.


Palo Alto’s future will be decided by this City Council election. We can manage growth at a rate we can absorb. Or we can return to fast growth without limit. The choice is yours.

Pat Burt Pat Burt

When you vote for me, you know what you are getting.

Look at my record of eight years on the Planning and Transportation Commission and as Co-Chair of the Citizens Advisory Committee on the Comprehensive Plan Update.

The Palo Alto Weekly said I am “known as much for [my] wonky, detail-oriented approach to new development projects as for [my] staunch criticism of commercial growth.”

I support a moderate and thoughtful approach to managing development and growth that does not outpace the capacity of our schools, parks, and infrastructure. That’s growth at a rate we can absorb.

I will be your voice on the Council, a voice of reason supported by facts and data, not wishful thinking.

Thank you for coming today.

I will be honored to serve you on the City Council.

I first have to get elected, and to do that, I have to get my message out amidst the cacophony of the general election. So let me give the microphone to Mayor Pat Burt who will tell how you can help.

Photos by Pease - Light at 11B

Paid for by Arthur Keller for City Council 2016
3428 Janice Way   Palo Alto, CA   94303
FPPC #1386870   Greg Schmid, Treasurer
Copyright 2016

Contributions are not tax deductible for federal or state income tax purposes