Palo Alto Council candidate profile: Vicki Veenker

Vicki Veenker

Daily Post Staff Writer

Vicki Veenker wants to play a big role in updating Palo Alto’s downtown area, where the parking lots, transit center and common areas are ripe for renovation.

She believes her experience as a lawyer, a mediator and a person who starts things will help her come up with an innovative plan.

“I like to see things that aren’t there yet,” she said in an interview.

Veenker, one of seven council candidates running for three seats, said that Palo Alto residents are frustrated with a lack of forward movement.

She said she wants to get rid of natural gas in the city, but she would be in favor of asking voters about a timeline for doing so.

Veenker would waive the city’s 50-foot height limit for the right housing projects. She said the city will have to do so to meet its housing quotas from the state, and growth should be focused in downtown, on El Camino Real and where buildings can transition from tall to small.

Housing in commercial areas will help businesses thrive if office workers don’t come back, she said.

Veenker said she wants to pursue a city-owned fiber internet network if possible, and she supports the business tax on the November ballot.

Veenker said she would want to see how the tax works until at least late 2025 before considering increasing it. The tax, which would amount to about 1% of rent, likely won’t impact where businesses decide to locate, and it may be enough to cover current budget shortfalls for police officers and firefighters, she said.

Veenker was non-committal when it come to whether police dogs should be used to apprehend criminal suspects. She said she would look into discontinuing dog bites, but they may be a better alternative to firing a gun.

Veenker, 59, worked as a patent attorney for 30 years and has shifted to mediating cases in the past decade. She said she prefers sitting in the middle of the table these days, rather than an one side, because she can see what everyone is thinking and propose solutions.

For example, Veenker said she brought together health policy leaders who disagreed in Sacramento to come up with a recommendation for addressing rising health care costs. While different group had different motivations, they found room to agree and their recommendations were mirrored in a state bill that was signed into law along with this year’s budget, she said.

Veenker said she is in favor of allowing people to sleep in their cars in church parking lots while they work toward more permanent housing. She also is excited about the city’s plan to build a homeless shelter by the Baylands, which she said could deal with homelessness in the city within two years.

Veenker ran for state assembly in 2016 and lost to Assemblyman Marc Berman by a 54-46 margin. Her former opponent has endorsed her, along with Congresswoman Anna Eshoo, state Sen. Josh Becker, Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian and Mayor Pat Burt.

Veenker is the first candidate for council that the Post has interviewed. The rest will be interviewed before ballots are mailed.