Opinion: Lythcott-Haims shouldn’t be elected to council

BY DAVE PRICE
Daily Post Editor

We’ll come out with our City Council endorsements in a future edition, but one candidate has already shown she shouldn’t get the job.

Candidate Julie Lythcott-Haims sent out a mass email Saturday that attacks a large swath of Palo Altans because they disagree with her about housing.

Disagree with her and you’re a conservative! Or you favor racial segregation.

Even the slow-growth group Palo Altans for Sensible Zoning, or PASZ, is on Lythcott-Haims’ undesirable list.

At one point in her email, she tries to associate Planning and Transportation Commissioner Doria Summa, who is also running for council, with Jim Crow.

Lythcott-Haims’ complaint arises from a candidate forum on Thursday when the discussion turned to a 2013 referendum that stopped a housing development on Maybell Avenue.

Lythcott-Haims wrote in her mass email:

“At the Daily Post forum on Thursday night, my fellow candidate, Doria Summa, herself a PASZ-supported member of the Planning and Transportation Commission, all but asked Why the hell are you still talking about Maybell, Julie, (she said it more carefully than that but the tone was sharp). She also said that if I was against the Maybell vote, then ‘you don’t like democracy.’

“Can you picture me steaming? Can you picture me picturing the strictures and mandates of the Jim Crow South, which was the result of votes by an overwhelming number of residents who wanted to preserve their way of life and keep things as they were? I wanted to pull the gloves off and begin talking about the rise of PASZ. Yet in a largely conservative crowd, I did NOT want to be the Black woman equating our failure to build affordable housing with segregation — which it IS. So, in that forum Thursday night, in person and on the spot, I tried to make my point without saying something that would make people lose their minds.”

In her email, she attacked the Palo Alto audience at Thursday night’s forum, calling them a “conservative crowd.” But the forum at the Mitchell Park Library was open to anyone. And if you looked around the room, you saw civic-minded people like Winter Dellenbach and Tom DuBois, who aren’t conservatives.

This attack is a bad sign for somebody running for council.

The goal of a council member should be to improve the community. But to do so, you need to work with other people on council who hold different opinions. It takes four votes to get anything done. You can’t antagonize others by insinuating they’re racists and then expect they’ll be on your side when the next issue comes up.

With this attitude, she won’t succeed on council in improving Palo Alto. But if her goal is to get a platform for virtue signaling, then she’s running the perfect campaign.

Editor Dave Price’s column appears on Mondays. His email address is price@padailypost.com.

—————–

UPDATE: Lythcott-Haims sent the following letter to the Post on Thursday, Oct. 20, and it was published on Friday, Oct. 21

Candidate responds
Dear Editor: While it was painful to read Dave Price’s column about me on Monday, I’m glad I did; he helped me see the disconnect between what I intended to convey in an email to my supporters, and how it was received, at least by some.

No one wants to be compared to the “Jim Crow South,” a term that came to my mind after I reflected on America’s history of voters getting it wrong. I also labeled your audience “largely conservative” yet now realize that assumption was inaccurate. And I used the word “cabal” to describe opponents of housing which some deemed culturally offensive.

Despite being a writer, I’m not a politician. I wish I had chosen my words more thoughtfully. But creating affordable homes for more Palo Altans drives my passion on this issue.

As a student of American history and law, I know that the concept of single-family zoning (R-1) was created to facilitate racial exclusion and it began here in California. (Joseph Eichler was a notable exception to the exclusionary norms of his time.) None of us bear responsibility for those policy decisions made long ago, yet they led to the tremendous income inequality that we experience today in our city. Don’t we want to fix this, by making our neighborhoods more inclusionary, if we can? Aren’t we smart and thoughtful enough to tackle this?

It’s hard to grapple with these topics with those with whom we disagree ideologically, but we must. Frankly, it’s why I’m running for city council.

Julie Lythcott-Haims
Palo Alto

61 Comments

  1. I was in the audience at the excellent forum. Glad at least, the audio is now posted. Summa added needed context to the contentious and complex Maybell referendum movement. It did not sit well with Lythcott-Haims. She came “back at you” with the more recent multi-family application in College Terrace; fair game. But her subsequent comments to her readers were a clear and unfortunate, unforced error on her part. A sincere apology to Summa and the public, without defensiveness or rationalization is needed in order to help show this was, and will be, a one-off.

  2. She’s a far-left radical. The far-left and the far-right are equally scary.

    Running for office isn’t easy, but if you can’t be reasonable and keep an even keel, you shouldn’t be running. Antagonizing others should be against your better judgment. You’ll alienate the voters, and every vote counts.

  3. Julie LH also had a community rally on Sunday night at Lytton Plaza which was for inclusivity and specifically against Ingrid Campos, a conservative pausd school board candidate who has wanted to ban lgbt books, doesn’t want schools to teach sex Ed, etc) and who also happens to be partially Hispanic. While I don’t agree with Ingrid’s point of views at all and in fact think she is nuts, attacking a member of our shared community seems ruthless and hypocritical. Where’s the inclusivity and empathy?? Ingrid has children at Gunn- how do you think they’ll be treated the Monday after that rally?? Julie has lost my vote.

    • How do you know Campos is part Hispanic, and what does that mean? Not trying to be difficult, it’s unclear what tiu mean since Hispanic isn’t a race.

    • The rally wasn’t anti-anyone. It wasn’t a campaign event. It was a rally to bring people together in support of inclusivity and acceptance.

  4. Dave’s candidate non-endorsements are more helpful than most paper’s endorsements. He pulls no punches and gives us the critical information we need to know when we evaluate candidates. The Daily Post is an honest independent paper we can count on.

    • I wrote a letter to the editor on one of her comments and then for the first time in my life I withdrew it out of concern for my safety given her history of threatening those she disagrees with, including her neighbors and other candidates.

      I’m grateful to Dave Price for saying what so many of us feared to say publicly — which is an absurd position for a communuty.

      • “Threatening” is a strong word. When speaking the truth is seen as threatening, we are at a dangerous place in society. People are only threatened by truths when they are wrong. Julie is a unifier and believes in people.

  5. I had heard about this letter and was disappointed in it as I feel JLH has a lot to offer. She could be a great resource for our Human Rights Commission, and this might provide her with more experience with the city council operations. Last night’s meeting was more than 5 hours long and–I could be wrong–but I’m not sure how interested she might be in heat pumps! These jobs are very multi-faceted and often tedious. They don’t usually attract the sparkiest personaltities in the room, and I doubt the breadth of the work will scratch the itch sufficiently to satisfy her bigger social justice mission (which I feel a part of).

  6. “But if her goal is to get a platform for virtue signaling, then she’s running the perfect campaign.” The same sentiments can be said for Palo Alto School Board candidate Nicole Chiu-Wang.

  7. She probably is taking a sucessful tactic from the “No on V” crowd in Menlo Park. They’ve gotten pretty good at calling their opponents flat out racists and white supremecists.

  8. I’ve known Julie LH for 23 years as a friend & a fellow mom raising our kids together in Barron Park. Raising a family that is “different” is not easy in Palo Alto – in my case it’s b/c my child had disabilities & couldn’t participate in many typical things in our community, sports, etc. Being biracial is “different”. Having a queer parent is “different”. Honestly, we feel we don’t fit in Palo Alto a lot of the time – but we know it is our right, and we want to be welcomed & accepted for who we are. Julie is a STRONG woman, and that would an asset on our Council. We need strong women who will stand up to the men in power who typically make decisions in our community. Julie knows we need more affordable housing. Many people with disabilities cannot afford to live here, but they/we are JUST as entitled. Julie stands for inclusivity. I was not a fan of the rally against hate though – as has been said here earlier, Ingrid Campos is also a mom in our community, and she & her family deserve to feel included too. Love thy neighbor as thyself. I REALLY don’t want Campos elected to our school board, but I respect her right to live & raise her family here. School board & City council races are non-partisan for a reason. The fact that Campos was tapped by the far-right Trump side of the Republican Party to run here & “disrupt” our community is sad & makes me angry. I will stand against that by voting for Julie & Vicki Veenker for Council. Both strong, smart, and caring women. For school board I support Shana Segal & Nicole Chiu-Wang – again both strong smart brilliant & caring women/moms. I think this anti-endorsement by the Post is BS. Price could’ve just endorsed the candidates he wants for Council, he didn’t need to write this hit piece. And I think it looks bad on him & his paper. Not that he cares. But I do. And I want families to live cooperatively in our city. Hate cannot drive out hate. Only love can do that.

    • Stacey says, “The fact that Campos was tapped by the far-right Trump side of the Republican Party to run here & “disrupt” our community is sad & makes me angry. I will stand against that by voting for Julie …”

      How do you know that’s a fact? We’re you wiretapping the phone call when the Republican Party boss called Campos and told her to run?

      Or is it just possible that people are sick and tired of how you Democrats have been running the country and decided ON THEIR OWN to run against your candidates?

      Why do Democrats assume that Republicans are mind-numbed robots who do exactly what they’re told?

    • Nowhere in her letter did she call anyone racist, segregationist, and I’m not even sure where you’re getting the “half the city (probably more)” stat from.

      I don’t think her letter deserves Dave Price’s characterizations:

      “Disagree with her and you’re a conservative! Or you favor racial segregation.”

      and

      “she tries to associate Planning and Transportation Commissioner Doris Summa, who is also running for council, with Jim Crow.”

      I would be wary about trying to put words in people’s mouths. It is my opinion that this happened in this editorial piece.

      • Really, paly02, why don’t you read what she actually wrote.

        — Jim Crow: In response to Doria Summa, Lythcott-Haims writes “Can you picture me picturing the strictures and mandates of the Jim Crow South, which was the result of votes by an overwhelming number of residents who wanted to preserve their way of life and keep things as they were?”

        — Conservatives: “Yet in a largely conservative crowd, I did NOT want to be the Black woman equating our failure to build affordable housing with segregation — which it IS.”

        — Palo Altans who want to protect neighborhoods, like PASZ, are segregationists, same quote: “Yet in a largely conservative crowd, I did NOT want to be the Black woman equating our failure to build affordable housing with segregation — which it IS.”

        At the very least, JLH owes the community a full-throated apology for her hateful remarks.

        • I’ve no doubt that you and Dave Price both *heard* that message but I’m arguing that that was not the message that was *sent.* For example, she brings up the Jim Crow South in response to Doria Summa’s claim (I notice no one here calls it an “attack”) that JLH “[doesn’t] like democracy.” So where you hear an attack on Doria Summa, I hear a history-rooted defense of JLH’s position.

        • “Failure to build” is “segregation” are JLH’s own words. If you want to take a reasonable approach to housing, like PASZ, then you’re a segregationist to JLH. PASZ candidates have won in the past three elections. JLH must believe there are a lot of segregationists in Palo Alto. She’s a professional communicator, so she can’t argue it was a slip of the tongue. It’s not a case of her saying one thing and people hearing another. She wrote it.

          • I think there is an important distinction between what one believes about a system and what one believes about a set of individuals. So I don’t think she would call anyone a “segregationist” and that word was not in her letter.

      • Yes she did say segregationist.

        Her actual words were: “Yet in a largely conservative crowd, I did NOT want to be the Black woman equating our failure to build affordable housing with segregation — which it IS.”

        Paly02, why would you misstate that?

      • I’ve watched and listened to the candidate forums and in each Julie has repeatedly accused her neighbors of being “racists” who left nasty notes on her door and in her mailbox. Her vehemence got me curious so I Googled her address and as soon as I saw the huge new house she’d built it was clear that why the neighbors were upset. Maybe she should have tried TALKING to her neighbors on ways it could have been less intrusive — which is what neighbors all over town do during construction projects!

        Leaders are supposed to communicate and negotiate, not play fact-free attack dogs.

  9. Why doesn’t Julie LH release her email that she sent out to the public so they can make up their own mind? We have gotten glimpses of it from the Post editorial, but I’d like to see more. Does she call those who oppose her views on housing, or other subjects, racist? I suspect she might, but would like to know for sure.

  10. Stacy, Who is trafficking in hate? It is not Dave. More affordable housing, by PA standards is not going to change the racial profile of this town. Racism is not the issue, money is. Ask all the Asians who suffer what I consider racist abuse at our hands. I am pro growth. I want more housing built here. I will not vote for a manipulating bully.

  11. Stacey:
    You said you support ‘inclusivity’ and that disabled people are just as entitled to live here. What does that mean? Who is entitled to live here? Is there a list of attributes that entitle someone to live somewhere that I wasn’t aware of? Do you disagree with the current manner of how folks end up living here? Do you believe that decisions about who can live here are (made by someone or something) should be made on the basis of ‘inclusivity’ or entitlement?

    Why does someone who holds different views from you and who chose to run for school board somehow means that they are ‘disrupting’ our community and makes you angry? I thought you said you supported ‘inclusivity.’ Not ‘inclusivity’ of that type?

  12. JLH’s rhetoric is very devisive. Palo Alto is not very conservative, this is not Orange County (or Missouri). This email she sent was a snapshot from what we can expect from her for four years if she gets elected. She will spend her time on council defaming anyone who disagrees with her very pro development, pro growth philosophies as racist.

  13. David Price in his recent Opinion Piece about Julie Lythcott-Haims wrote: “Even the slow-growth group Palo Altans for Sensible Zoning, or PASZ, is on Lythcott-Haims’ undesirable list.”

    In Braden Cartwright’s article entitled: “City Council candidate for affordable housing” in the October 7th issue of the Daily Post, stated “Summa has been part of Palo Alto Neighborhoods and is endorsed by Palo Altans for Sensible Zoning, two groups that generally oppose development.”

    A bit of clarification about PASZ seems in order.

    I cannot speak for any relationship that Ms. Summa may have with Palo Alto Neighborhoods (although it is known that PAN does not endorse Council candidates), but I can say that Palo Altans for Sensible Zoning (PASZ) opposes inappropriate developments, but supports well thought out developments that take into consideration the legitimate interests of neighboring property owners or are asked by PASZ and others to revise their developments to do so.

    An example of an inappropriate development is the proposed project to demolish Creekside Inn and replace it with two six-story buildings having 386 units on 3.6 acres (106 units per acre). PASZ will continue to oppose that project if pursued by the developer with an inappropriate level of density, as have neighbors in the immediate vicinity. (Council unanimously rejected that proposal last night in its pre-screening review.)

    An example of a well thought out development is the Wilton Court development with 59 truly affordable units at the corner of Wilton Avenue and El Camino Real. PASZ supported that project when accommodations were made to minimize privacy issues with neighboring property owners.

    PASZ is for “sensible land use planning and development” and will continue that mission, as we have in the past. We want housing that complements existing neighborhoods and does not unduly compromise the character of our town (preferably housing “affordable” to lower income workers if that can be accomplished with land costs so high in Palo Alto).

    One final point, Lythcott-Haims (as well as others) continue to rail against the result of the Maybell referendum. It’s incredibly easy to have an opinion about Maybell if one does not take time to learn what the referendum was all about. The facts can be known as the people who led the referendum are still residing in Palo Alto. Equally important is the fact that once Council approved the Maybell project, the Palo Alto Housing Corporation refused to meet with the people organizing the referendum even though we repeatedly and publicly asked it do so, but why talk when it knew it was going to win the referendum. We asked it to meet with us even after we won the referendum, but it still refused to do so. With a truly neutral mediator, not then-Mayor Greg Scharff, an openly strong proponent of the project, it is not far-fetched to think that the Maybell senior housing would be there today.

    Joe Hirsch
    Member, PASZ Steering Committee

    • Phew, that’s an awful long response to being called “slow growth.” So what is the right term for PASZ? I always thought of you as “no growth” and that the paper was being diplomatic to say “slow growth.” But it’s now something else? That you’re against “inappropriate development”? That’s a subjective term that doesn’t mean anything. “Inappropriate development” could mean anything. Like you’re against a coal-fired power plant in the Barron Park neighborhood. We’re all against “inappropriate development,” whatever that means in our own minds. Maybe you’re trying to change PASZ’s image? Or fuzz up what PASZ’s goals might be. Anyway, that’s a lot of words to say nothing.

  14. Almost 70 years ago in 1955 housing discrimination based on race became illegal in California. Today housing has become expensive, especially in desirable areas. The reason housing is expensive is because of local massive technology corporate growth. Those tech employees can afford market rate housing with their high salaries. However, the folks in service jobs they depend on cannot. Unfortunately, many corporations fought the Measure K business tax that would help fund affordable housing for these service workers supporting the tech employees. As a result the council had to reduce the amount of funding for Measure K by 4X to get corporations to agree not to spend massively to fight it. Corporations are what caused the high housing prices and who continue to resist efforts to fund below market rate housing at the levels needed. Vilifying home owners who bought their homes before these corporations like Facebook, Google, Palantir and VM Ware existed is misdirection.

  15. From the perspective of your typical resident who has gone before City Council twice, I can tell you that it’s a nerve wracking experience. You’re worried about saying the right thing, how you’re being perceived, whether you’re going to run out of time. I don’t think it would be a good idea to have Julie Lythcott-Haimes on the council because it will be just one more thing to worry about. What if I say something wrong and she fires back that I’m a racist or a segregationist? I want a council with open minds, not people who go around pointing fingers at people. I’m grateful that Dave Price wrote this. He’s got a lot of courage.

  16. I am sorry to see JLH be so reactive about people who have served our city well. I’m supporting Doria Summa because she knows far more than JLH about how all the parts of this city function, and is INTERESTED in making the city a better place to live for everyone. I’d like to see JLH influence Stanford’s land use. All zoning–and rezoning–is fundamentally a rights infringement, and we’ve seen rezoning in our city mostly initiated by those who stand to benefit financially. There is no question that low income workers need housing. But let’s talk about whether the “impossible” could happen…Has anyone posting here or reading this walked though the extraordinarily beautiful –empty for years–VMWare campus, or through other empty corporate campuses on Page Mill Road lately? Huge possibilities for entire villages. Actually “pedestrian friendly” not just greenwashing. Zoning and politics allows this vacant (private property by right) to be persistently vacant (hello Stanford?) while housing in those locations — which would be continuously utilized–remains ignored. How could we press Stanford for the housing opportunities it HOLDS ONTO in our midst? Such as: the Stanford Mall: why aren’t healthcare workers housed there? Why is Stanford planning a hotel instead of housing employees? Plenty of parking at night, no? This would be worthy of JLH efforts, since she has been tightly affiliated with Stanford. Or, Palo Alto Square? Meanwhile, the state mandates that cities pack housing into dense chunks and provides no infrastructure funding. Stanford “helps” by identifying the Fish Market and other small commercial properties on decrepit El Camino for developing housing, and places the responsibility onto existing residents to deal with incessant noise, traffic, and the infrastructure costs. It makes no sense. Unless you already have the zoning power to do it that way. JLH: If you want more housing, maybe get involved with the county’s negotiations with Stanford. Be a connector?

  17. It’s more than marketing skills and a single email for those of us who’ve been paying attention during this campaign. What caught my attention were JLH’s statements that A) she wanted to leave most details to city staff so she could concentrate on getting progressive Democratic activists involved on the regional and NATIONAL fronts and B) calling PASZ the “loudest voice in the room” while ignoring the success of the business community in shifting costs from them to the residents.

    It’s why Doria Summa keeps saying that Palo Alto is a community, not a commodity” to be sold out to the highest bidder.
    JHL mossed the fact that staff needs more oversight, not less, and that a City Council member’s job is to focus on the CITY while ignoring the fact that bot all Palo Altans are Democrats and not all Democrats are progressive activists.

    Claiming that PASZ is “the loudest voice” shows her selective deafness and ignorance of PA politics where past councils have been blatantly pro-business, pro-development. Did Mayor Burt negotiate the weak business tax with PASZ? No, he negotiated with business groups like the Chamber of Commerce, one of the biggest pro-business lobbyists. I guess she’s bought her backers’ often=repeated claim that PASZ is bigger than the Chamber of Commerce! Time to get her facts straight and her hearing checked.

  18. Helpful history above and from which I will extend and connect a few threads: Joe Hirsch on “Maybell” and PASZ and Long Time Home Owner on tech growth in Palo Alto.

    As circumstances would have it, during the period of the Maybell Avenue housing application and its aftermath, the city of Palo Alto was basically out of control in terms of office developments it would consider. That included a 4-tower, 260,000 square foot office project on the MacArthur Park site at 27 University Avenue and a 310,000 square foot add-on to an already maxed out commercial lot at 395 Page Mill Road at Park Boulevard. The first case would require the rezoning of an area designated as public facilities, and in the second case, use of the frequently abused, sky’s-the-limit horse trade for public benefits that often did not materialize: the create-your-own-custom zoning grab bag known as Planned Community (PC).

    The project for the Maybell Avenue site a decade ago was a PC application, for a worthy cause, but with significant limitations, including those that Joe Hirsch described. The leaders of the Maybell referendum movement (i.e., the Maybell Action Group later to become Palo Altans to Preserve Neighborhood Zoning) despite being outspent 10 to 1, skillfully tied their local issue into the broader city-wide one of zoning abuses, such as that of PCs.

    It was a contentious election, including rifts between allies of PC reform. “Right goal, wrong time” the Maybell PC advocates would say.

    But in the end the Maybell referendum supporters carried the day, and, in its wake, a sea change. Applicants dropped their project plans for both 27 University Avenue and 395 Page Mill Road. Greg Scharff, running for re-election, completely reversed field and called for the end of PC zoning. It was soon to be suspended, until resurrected in 2020, but only for the purpose of stimulating housing construction.

    Can you imagine the increase in traffic and additional rise in cost of housing here if the projects for 27 University Avenue and 395 Page Road had gone through, and what more might have been built if PC zoning was not stopped? Long Time Home Owner is correct in stating that “the reason housing is expensive is because of local massive technology corporate growth.”

    And still a majority of the city council was not completely weaned off the concept of large growth in office development, as they allowed a whopping 1.7 million square feet to be built through 2030, the end date of the current cycle of our city’s Comprehensive Plan, a state mandated document referred to as a General Plan in most other jurisdictions.

    So, four years ago, Palo Altans for Sensible Zoning (the new, post-Maybell name) brought forth a citizen’s initiative to cut that office cap number in half, to 875,000 square feet over the 12 year cycle. Not zero, as some wanted, but in half, i.e., extremely reasonable. They succeeded in obtaining sufficient resident voter signatures to bring the matter to the ballot. But prior to that as per California law, the initiative went to the city council for an opportunity to approve it or put a competing measure before the voters. They chose the former.

    I have not heard a single complaint about this initiative since, nor has it even been mentioned at any of the candidate forums. It was an obvious need that led to a sensible response that residents successfully brought forward for the community’s benefit.

    I hope that candidate Lythcott-Haims considers this material if and when she proceeds “to pull the gloves off and begin talking about the rise of PASZ.”

  19. First, Kudo’s to Dave Price for having the courage to write the piece. I’ve watched anti-racist bullying from Berkeley to Vancouver (Seattle pushed back because of a strong media community) and now creep into the mid-Peninsula in Menlo Park and Palo Alto.

    Secondly, its good to hear some real history of Palo Alto zoning. In particular, Palo Altans continue to understand the relationship between housing demand and housing supply. However “bad” PASZ might be perceived in the eyes of “Housing Justice” warriors, reducing future office by 875,000 sf saved literally thousands of lower income families from being displaced by in-migrating tech workers with much higher salaries.

    HJW’s will never fully understand what I just wrote. JLC should be thanking PASZ, but she clearly doesn’t understand land-use economics.

    Nor will HJW’s understand that housing demand and supply “co-vary” in “agglomeration” supercities. The more housing that gets built the more pent-up demand will in-migrate. Some tech companies are generating $1m in profits per employee. That’s PROFITS not revenue. Of course they will import as many employees as the region will house. Sub-contractors will also in-migrate to be “near” and so-called “agglomeration” externalities multiply. A firm will make more located in PA than in Arkansas.

    And finally, about sustainability: It is not possible to accommodate everyone who wants to live in Palo Alto. Since that is perpetually true, lower wage workers will always be at a disadvantage to compete for whatever market rate housing gets built, not matter how much gets built, because it will attract im-migrating tech workers with higher wages.

    Which brings us back to Dave Price’s point. Inexperienced HJW’s have an “alternate” accidental theory of housing that blames neighbors and zoning for lack of supply, and wrongly believes that more supply will bring affordability. When we criticize those policies on economic grounds we are indirectly called names using the R-Word, the N-Word, and the S-word. Good for him for calling that out. Other media outlets and officials just cower and pander to the uninformed bullying.

    This too will pass.

    “Progressive” housing policy is doomed because markets do not minimize profits and they do not sell expensive products at less than cost, particularly to those who cannot afford the cost let alone the price. “Housing as a human right”, particularly in Palo Alto requires massive subsidies that do not exist and may never exist.

  20. Hi everyone, I submitted a letter to the editor in response; as that is not likely to make the online version of the paper I’m posting it here:

    Dear Mr. Price:

    While it was painful to read your editorial about me (10/17), I’m glad I did; you helped me see the disconnect between what I intended to convey in an email to my supporters, and how it was received, at least by some.

    No one wants to be compared to the “Jim Crow South,” a term that came to my mind after I reflected on America’s history of voters getting it wrong. I also labeled your audience “largely conservative” yet now realize that assumption was inaccurate. And I used the word “cabal” to describe opponents of housing which some deemed culturally offensive.

    Despite being a writer, I’m not a politician. I wish I had chosen my words more thoughtfully. But creating affordable homes for more Palo Altans drives my passion on this issue.

    As a student of American history and law, I know that the concept of single family zoning (R-1) was created to facilitate racial exclusion and it began here in California. (Eichler was a notable exception to the exclusionary norms of his time.) None of us bear responsibility for those policy decisions made long ago, yet they led to the tremendous income inequality that we experience today in our city. Don’t we want to fix this, by making our neighborhoods more inclusionary, if we can? Aren’t we smart and thoughtful enough to tackle this?

    It’s hard to grapple with these topics with those with whom we disagree ideologically, but we must. Frankly, it’s why I’m running for city council.

    Julie Lythcott-Haims

    • JLH isn’t apologizing. She’s trying to avoid responsibility for what she said. Let’s take it apart, sentence by sentence.

      1. She said there was a “disconnect between what I intended to convey in an email to my supporters, and how it was received, at least by some.” Translation: What I said was fine, but it’s your fault for reading something else into my words.

      2. She finishes the sentence by saying “… at least by some” — In other words, “some” people aren’t smart enough to understand what I was saying.

      3. JLH writes: “I used the word “cabal” to describe opponents of housing which some deemed culturally offensive.” Translation: I meant “cabal,” but now that I’ve been called out, I wish I would have used an inoffensive term that meant the same thing. No apology here.

      4. “Creating affordable homes for more Palo Altans drives my passion on this issue.” Really, how many homes is that?

      5. “As a student of American history and law …” That’s another way of saying I’m smarter than everybody else, so don’t argue with me. And, if she’s elected, she’ll be telling us that over and over again. Ever notice how smart people don’t have to tell people they’re smart, but dumb ones (think Donald Trump) are always telling us how smart they are?

      6. “It’s hard to grapple with these topics with those with whom we disagree ideologically, but we must. Frankly, it’s why I’m running for city council.” No apology here. She informs us that if she’s elected, she’ll be driven by ideology. If you appear before council with a request, she’ll shoot you down if it doesn’t line up with her ideology. Count on it. She just told you she would.

  21. She says, “I wish I had chosen my words more thoughtfully.” I’m glad she spoke her mind. Now we all know what the next four years will be like if she gets on council.

  22. Ms. Lythcott-Haims appears to hold the view that single-family zoning is inherently racist and therefore single-family neighborhoods must be eliminated (made “more inclusionary”) in order to “fix this”. As Palo Alto approaches the point where no single ethnic group constitutes a majority of the population, I think it’s fair to say that her premise is questionable. Ben Wilson’s “Metropolis” has an insightful discussion of the history of Compton that’s relevant to this issue.

    Even if we accept the premise for the sake of argument, it’s not clear that her approach is a solution. Increasing density doesn’t make housing more affordable (well-explained in Patrick Condon’s “Sick City”). De-regulating construction doesn’t drop prices significantly because housing investment is globalized and flows to the highest-profit projects (good explanation in Richard Walker’s “Pictures of a Gone City”) and price here is driven up by unmanaged demand.

    What does make housing more affordable? Reducing the amount of living space per person (argued persuasively in “Metropolis”), limiting demand, and subsidizing (which includes social housing). It would be interesting to know if Ms. Lythcott-Haims has considered these things, and how Palo Alto would change if they were implemented sufficiently to have a meaningful effect.

    City Council members rarely get a chance to advance racial justice. For the most part, they have to deal with tedious matters of public safety, public services, public works, and the budget. First and foremost, their responsibilities are to the residents and businesses already in Palo Alto. The City doesn’t build housing, and has only limited authority to affect what investors and developers choose to build (or not build). Ms. Lythcott-Haims might be running for a position that she would find frustrating and unrewarding.

    • Limiting demand won’t work either. I understand and agree with local policies to manage and cap job densities, but global demand is mobile, so it really can’t be limited. And, even if Palo Alto became balanced with respect to jobs/housing growth, imbalanced job growth in nearby cities would still put demand on Palo Alto and its prices would rise.

      Inelastic global demand to move to supercities, mobility to do so, along with high-wage concentration in super cities makes the problems hard to solve.

      One thing you have left out is so-called “place-based” policies. These would be Federal policies designed to encourage job growth throughout the country, rather allowing markets to concentrate them. Housing in Austin is still much cheaper than Palo Alto, and housing in Indiana cheaper still.

      To augment your reading I recommend checking Richard Florida’s Citylab column in Bloomberg.

      • We’re essentially in agreement, though I caused some confusion by using the phrase “limiting demand” as shorthand for more general policies intended to manage demand. Whichever regional, state, and national policies we use (and I support many of them), we’re stuck with the localized RHNA process and so we have to address much of the demand problem at the local level. Requiring jobs/housing balance in new developments and preventing privatized-profits/socialized-costs through business taxes and other means are among the tools we have.

        I do read Richard Florida’s column from time to time, though not as regularly as I’d like.

  23. It’s not historically true that R-1 zoning was created to facilitate racial exclusion and that such exclusion began in California.

    First, the Berkeley version of this myth as promulgated through KQED/NPR is factually incorrect. The zoning petition that was used in Berkeley to exclude the “negro dance hall” was “multi-family” zoning, not single family zoning. The KQED/NPR writers misread their source. Nor was that petition the Elmwood neighborhood R-1 petition. It was another petition remote to Elmwood. Those neighbors requested multi-family zoning and adopted duplex zoning, not single family zoning.

    Multi-family zoning had a racist origin in Berkeley not R-1 zoning.

    Minnesota used its zoning ordinance to create single family neighborhoods as early as 1913. Nothing racial about it. Single family zones also appeared in Bridgeport CT plans, not adopted, introduced by planner John Nolan before Berkeley used R-1 zones.

    Second, the “racist” origin often cited by the Richard Rothstein version of the myth relies upon the 1910 Baltimore segregation ordinance. This ordinance, called “The West Segregation Ordinance” was unrelated to R-1, it applied to existing “blocks” and was the product of a single individual who was not a planner and used no planning input. It was not a “zoning” ordinance, it was quite literally a segregation ordinance that applied to whatever type of housing existed on the applicable block.

    But it did inspire the copycat Louisville ordinance that was challenged and struck down by the Supreme Court in Buchanan v Warley in 1917.

    Segregation ordinances were limited to the South and border states, and fizzled out completely by 1929. Outside of the South, after 1917 I know of no cited historical attempt by any community in California to adopt a facially racist zoning ordinance.

    A remarkable study on Race Relations conducted in the mid-1920’s by a Stanford professor name Eliot Mears.

    Mears sent a detailed survey (588) to every local realty board in California through the national realtor organization, asking if and how each city segregated and who was segregated. 47 communities responded including Palo Alto (718) and Berkeley (611). The language of responses was raw and openly racist. Respondents seemed almost like schoolboys trying to brag about how they did it.

    Read the responses. It’s good history, and it gives a good indication of how openly racist our cities were then.

    Mears summarized the data in both the box (589-593) and his book. All communities practiced segregation. Most used realtor steering into segregated areas. Most also used racially restrictive covenants.

    No-city in California that responded to the Mears survey used an ordinance to segregate housing. Zoning is an ordinance. No city used zoning. This includes Berkeley which had already adopted a comprehensive zoning ordinance.

    Clearly it was because facially racist ordinances had been struck down in Warley.

    Instead, Berkeley and Oakland (712) were exploring a “convenant plan”, (793-796) a plan to organize blocks to adopt restrictive covenants, post hoc, for their homes. This, after a realtor rep from Berkeley, while in DC, read an article in the Post (755) about “Corrigan v Buckley” the famous contract law case that upheld the validity of racially restricted covenants. Corrigan was upheld by the DC court of appeals, whereafter the Supreme Court refused to hear it on appeal. The decision stood until 1948.

    After Corrigan, covenants proliferated as the tool of choice for segregation.

    Let’s be clear, Berkeley (and Palo Alto) already had comprehensive zoning ordinances with single family zoning. They did not and knew they could not use R-1 zoning to segregate. That is why Berkeley tried to use racial covenants after having adopted comprehensive zoning. Palo Alto (718) used realtor steering.

    Finally, there is much historical data to show that single family homes and subdivisions were a widespread commercial practice in cities throughout the US long before zoning (and covenants.) If you look on SC county online assessor maps you will find such subdivisions in Palo Alto. Many subdivisions specifically targetted (then) low income and working families, not elites.

    The Berkeley and Rothstein zoning origin myths are both based on historical distortions or simplifications that are politically convenient. They are sub-urban myths (pun intended).

    It’s time we had a debate about land-use policy free of anti-racist junk history.

  24. If JLH cares so much about affordable housing, what has she done about that in the past? Can any of her supporters name one board or commission she’s joined? Has she done anything to help nonprofits that advocate for housing?

    She has no record of accomplishments in this area. She’s never even applied to serve on a board or commission.
    But we’re supposed to believe she’s better suited to serve on council than people who have a record of serving the community for years?

  25. Dear Editor,

    You are doing a mass publication of a hit piece that takes a badly formulated expression and tries to make it look like a general reflection of a candidate.

    You are missing a larger view of an outstanding Palo Altan!

    Best regards

    AM

    • Let’s take a larger view of a person who casually throws around the term Jim Crow or who calls Latinos “browns”. What kind of person does that?

    • I don’t think it’s a “hit piece” since it is clearly labeled opinion. But i get where you are coming from. You support the 1st Amendment only when you agree with what’s being said. You have no tolerance for opposing views.

  26. This year’s election to the City Council is not difficult to decide who are best to serve us. If you wish to continue the status quo to replace Tom DuBois and Eric Filseth, then Ed Lauing and Doria Summa should get your votes. If you wish to see that the inertia that has plagued the Council’s decisions in the past eight years be finally addressed, then vote for Julie Lythcott-Haïmes and Lisa Forssell as I plan to do. They have what it “takes”to move our City forward and solve the diverse community issues. Thank you for reading this post.

  27. I would NEVER elect Lythcott-Haims to ANY form of public office. she was on the board of a writing community in SF and made false allegations of racism that nearly destroyed the community. She is divisive, backbiting and will drop the race card whenever she feels threatened. Hard pass!

  28. Julie Lythcott-Haims has no experience on any boards or commissions. Therefore we have no way of knowing whether she’ll be a constructive council member who tries to improve our city, or just a very loud activist who shouts “racism” every time she’s outvoted. Note her remark about how the U.S.A. has a long history of getting it wrong. Also note that when she loses a debate, she shouts “Jim Crow.”

  29. Julie Lythcott-Haims’ thoughtful response demonstrates why she is an excellent candidate. She is clearly open to self-reflection, mutual exchange, and constructive engagement. I want to defend her intentions as I think they are being misrepresented here. As she writes on her platform, “Yet housing here is so unaffordable that teachers, fire fighters, small business owners, seniors, and our own grown children can’t afford to live here. We need more housing, and housing for all.” Amen. Her wholehearted commitment and courage to stand by and work toward inclusive housing practices is long overdue and inspiring. It seems that folks are more uncomfortable with references to the deeply rooted history of racially segregated housing practices. I think that is worth some self-reflection. Not shame – reflection. She has my full endorsement and support.

    • If “Pete Moss” fully endorses and supports Julie Lythcott Haynes, why would “Pete Moss” use a pseudonym? What’s so bad about supporting Haynes that you wouldn’t give your real name?

    • No-one is uncomfortable with authentic references to the deeply rooted history of racially segregated housing practices. We are uncomfortable with casual use of junk history to promote casual junk solutions to an incredibly difficult problem for which there may only be lesser of evil non-solutions, all of which are economically constrained, none of which are racially contrained.

      Do you and JLH really think you are the first to address these thorny issues?

      Nevertheless ’tis done. Here’s to hoping that JLH is as open as you say she is.

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