Our Skyline Is Not For Sale: For Exceptions, Apply an objective and consistent standard for Community Benefits.

"Editorial: Stretching the Brown Act (as published in the Palo Alto Weekly)
Tight-lipped, city staff defends closed council sessions to discuss selling small foothills parcel.

For one, there has been no policy discussion, at least in open session where the law requires it must occur, about whether or why the city should even consider selling this parcel. Yet for unexplained reasons, city staff is already negotiating the terms and price of a sale in private...." read full story at http://www.paloaltoonline.com/news/show_story.php?id=26870


This viewpoint raises very valid questions about following principles of transparency and openess in City Government without criticism. The concerns are a nice public service.

Remove the identities of both the city and the developer from the story and view it as an academic case study. The key principles are as follows:

1. Before any Government asset is considered for disposal, there should be a policy that is followed. Imagine what would happen to our City's assets if a piece of land was sold every time the Council didn't have the political will to exercise fiscal discipline and balance the budget?

2. Avoiding the appearance of a conflict of interest is as valid as avoiding a conflict of interest. Even if the developer has a charitable and benevolent approach and offer, having both conversations going on at once shows, at the very least, a lack of judgement from the City. If they are linked, then let's package the conversations together and offer full disclosure.

3. And finally, even when viewing a benevolent proposal, from a developer who has a stellar charitable track record, we must apply an objective and consistent standard in valuing the price of piercing our skyline that we have so jealously protected, and awarding density credits. (How does it impact our jobs to housing balance, what is the value of community benefits we should expect, and how do the Citizen's want to spend that Community Benefit vs. being dictated by the project.?)

I appreciate that the Editor brings this to our attention, as the issues and principles can be applied to all project. The current proposal is just illustrative of the need for an objective standard of transparency and an objective standard of valuing and spending Community Benefit.


Timothy Gray (full disclosure: Palo Alto Council Candidate)