Cover Story Liz Kniss 1. Three steps to further address pension problem?
The recently state-enacted Public Employees Pension Reform Act (PEPRA) appears to contain provisions that automatically apply to cities and don’t have to be bargained. Retirement age for newly hired non-safety employees is raised to 62 (Palo Alto was at 60), which I’d have recommended. The city can still bargain to have employees pick up a portion of the employers share of the pension expense, as other agencies are doing. Look at health care issue also. 2. Top three infrastructure priorities?
Streets and sidewalks; a new public-safety building; proposed playing fields at the golf course. Although great emphasis is on the public-safety building, I hear far more concern from constituents regarding conditions for walkers, runners and especially bikers. Given the dramatic rise in students biking to school, we must raise many of our roadways to the better than “fair” rating that exists. Having a street-rating system is a great addition. 3. Do you support the California Avenue lane reduction?
Yes. And as a member of the VTA governance board, I have voted for two years to allocate the grant for this project; however, counsel advised against that vote while the lawsuits were ongoing. We recently made the award from VTA. 4. Future of the Cubberley site?
PAT BURT Profession: CEO of Vascular Access Technologies Top Issues: Finances, land use, emergency preparedness Prior Civic Engagement: SOFA Area Working Group, former president of University South Neighborhood Association, Planning and Transportation Commissioner, City Council incumbent, chair of council’s Finance Committee, board member at San Francisquito Creek Joint Powers Authority, chair of Peninsula Cities Consortium (2011), Mayor (2010)
Pat Burt 1. Three steps to further address pension problem?
The council has already achieved two-tier pensions, employees assuming the full Employee PERS share of contributions, employee sharing of medical costs and elimination of pension spiking. Next, I support: Increasing the employee share of medical for existing and retired employees; moving to defined-benefit program (cafeteria) for medical and other benefits; and moving toward hybrid pensions, combining defined benefit and defined contributions. 2. Top three infrastructure priorities?
In addition to the recent $2 million per year infrastructure-spending increase, we doubled our budget for street re-paving and repair in 2010. I believe that the city’s top three infrastructure priorities should be: Improved street and sidewalk repair. A new public safety building that is correctly sized and meets police facility regulations and essential-services seismic-safety laws. Replacement of fire stations 3 and 4 to make them conform with seismic and structural requirements of essential-services buildings. 3. Do you support the California Avenue lane reduction?
Yes. I believe that it will enhance
the quality of the neighborhood, improve pedestrian and bicycle safety and improve commercial activity. 4. Future of the Cubberley site?
I support the city renewing a lease of whatever Cubberley space the Palo Alto Unified School District makes available to the city. I support the multi-stakeholder Cubberley Process that was initiated by the City Council last year, which I think will result in win/win opportunities. Long term, the school district has indicated that they will need to re-take possession of their acreage. I envision the city making more effective use of the 8 acres owned by the city and that the school district will collaborate with the city for shared use to the extent possible. 5. Cell towers on city property?
I am open to using certain city property for wireless equipment at appropriate locations. I believe that the height should be determined in the context of the location. I would prefer more locations at heights lower than 100 feet, if possible.
I was a school board member when this agreement was signed in 1988; the Palo Alto Unified School District had declining enrollment, and the coffers were empty. With basic aid now in place since the ’90s and enrollment growing at 2 percent per year, PAUSD financial circumstances are very different. This decision will likely be made late next year, and I want to hear the results of the Cobb-Lowell Advisory Committee meetings before I come to any leasing or extension decisions. 5. Cell towers on city property?
Yes. As a population that has become more dependent on cell service (especially the 21-35 age group) and in many cases not using a land line for service at all, cities need to be more responsive to citizens’ communication needs. We hear many complaints in Palo Alto regarding the “dead zones.” Increasingly, school children carry cell phones for emergency calls to their parents or care-givers, a very important connection. 6. Composting plant at Byxbee Park? Limiting conditions?
Yes, I support the construction of that facility and believe we must move in that direction. Concerns will arise from the environmental-impact report, and any mitigations need to be carefully analyzed. It must of course be cost-effective, as other communities such as San Jose are constructing anaerobic digesters and will be
6. Composting plant at Byxbee Park? Limiting conditions?
its surroundings; and strong environmental benefits.
I support a waste-to-energy facility on the acres that the voters removed from the expanded portion of Byxbee Park. I believe the project should be conditioned on an economically sound plan; good compatibility with
7. Your opinion of the city’s PC zoning process?
I believe that Edgewood Plaza is a good project as approved. I led changes to the Lytton Gateway project to reduce its size, cause it to conform
LIZ KNISS Profession: Santa Clara County Supervisor Top Issues: Infrastructure, health and wellness, sustainability Prior Civic Engagement: School board, City Council (19902000), Mayor (1994 and 2000), board member at Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority, Joint Venture Silicon Valley, Association of Bay Area Governments, Bay Conservation and Development Commission.
looking for other markets in this area. Having our own plant keeps trucking needs to a minimum and is more environmentally sound. 7. Your opinion of the city’s PC zoning process?
I think the process as it exists is adequate; how it is used changes the outcome. I believe that the council members usually have the most impact on the decisions made. I have heard many complaints while campaigning regarding this and know that Alma in particular is troubling to observers. On the other hand, Edgewood is getting great comments from the public. Design is the key to acceptance of more density and height, I believe. 8. Ban on people living in vehicles?
Yes, with some possible provisions. The obvious is that a car is unlikely to have facilities required for bathing and other needs. I understand that some churches, etc., may wish to provide the opportunity to provide showers and toilets for those living in their vehicles. However, most cities in the county prohibit people living in their cars.
Many nearby cities have parking permits, as does College Terrace. As the downtown area becomes even more successful, and the Caltrain station increases ridership incrementally, which has now continued for a year and a half, we must take some serious steps to alleviate the impact on the downtown neighborhoods. I walk in that area often and would agree that this is a growing problem. It needs attention and action from the City Council. Council’s stance on growth: prodevelopers, pro-residentialists or balanced?
From the community, I’m hearing that the developers are coming out ahead. Regardless of the reality, the perception is an unbalanced approach in weight given to the developers. The best result seems to be Edgewood Plaza, the most criticized is the former Hyatt site at Charleston Road and El Camino Real, and the new “Elevation” site on Alma Street. In both cases, “too close” to the road and “too massive” are mentioned often. N
9. Downtown residential-parking
to city building-height guidelines and increase its parking. I opposed much of the Alma Plaza project. I advocated for more retail and less housing, more on site parking and a more pedestrianfriendly street face. 8. Ban on people living in vehicles?
I look forward to hearing the rec-
ommendations of the community advisory committee on vehicle dwelling. I am interested in improving our restrictions and enforcement first to address the most significant problems rather than an outright prohibition at this time. I support allowing faith(continued on page 30)
Section 1 of the September 28, 2012 edition of the Palo Alto Weekly