Slow-growth faction will get to pick new members of the Planning and Transportation Commission

Palo Alto City Hall. Post file photo.

Daily Post Staff Writer

Palo Alto’s slow growth proponents won a fight against the city’s pro-growth leaders tonight and as a result, council won’t make any appointments to the Planning and Transportation Commission or Historic Resources Board until the new slow-growth majority council is seated next month.

But the current council decided to appoint people to the  Architectural Review Board and Parks and Recreation Commission.

But the highest profile panel is the Planning and Transportation Commission, or PTC.

Vacancies on the PTC will be decided by the new council that won’t have pro-growthers Liz Kniss or Adrian Fine aboard but will have former mayor Pat Burt and slow-growther Greer Stone.

Council members Tom DuBois and Lydia Kou wanted to delay all new appointments until the new council steps in.

DuBois, Kou and Eric Filseth were all absent last week when council planned to interview applicants to open positions on the city’s panels.

Kniss told the Post last week that she believed the three council members were stonewalling the outgoing council’s appointments.

The interviews were canceled and council voted 5-2 to go ahead with only the Architectural Review Board and Parks and Recreation appointments, with Kou and DuBois dissenting.

“Palo Alto doesn’t need another fight,” Fine told the council. “But by golly, folks, the rank hypocrisy and bad faith involved in this process truly astounds me. It’s really below Palo Alto’s standards. I hope we all reflect on that.”

Fine made a motion to move forward with some appointments, which was seconded by Councilwoman Alison Cormack. Both Fine and Cormack are part of the pro-growth faction.

Incumbents Grace Lee and Osma Thompson were reappointed to the Architectural Review Board on a 6-0 vote with Kou abstaining in protest, and Amanda Brown won an open spot on the parks commission on a 4-3 vote, with Kou, Filseth and DuBois voting for Brent Yamashita instead.

Cormack echoed Fine’s disappointment in their colleague’s absences.

“We really are better than this,” Cormack said.

“We had council members who refused to participate in interviews,” she said. “It was embarrassing for me and I think it was disrespectful.”

Filseth asked council to add a directive to the council’s appointment policies to eliminate “lame duck” appointments from outgoing council members, which was rejected by Fine and Cormack. And DuBois proposed an amendment of his own to delay the appointments until later, which also failed.

DuBois previously told the Post he was working his day job at Google during the time scheduled for interviews last week, and that City Clerk Beth Minor couldn’t find a time for interviews that would work for a quorum of four of the seven council members. Kou told the council she also had prior engagements.

“I’ll tell you, I work and I have standing meetings,” Kou said. “I’m not embarrassed. I have to work and I have other meetings I have to go to.”

But Kniss said their reasons for their absence aren’t significant enough to be excusable.

“I truly am so disappointed that we could not get a quorum for many of the times we wanted to conduct interviews, including just last week,” Kniss said Monday night, adding the planning process began in August for applicant interviews. “Four months seems like a fair amount of time to plan interviews of any kind.”