Kou running for state Assembly against Berman

Palo Alto Mayor Lydia Kou, a critic of state legislation to increase housing density in neighborhoods, announced today that she is running for the state Assembly seat now held by Marc Berman.

“We keep sending typical politicians to Sacramento — and expecting a different result,” Kou said in a statement announcing her campaign. “People say it’s insane to challenge an incumbent. But what’s really insane is to not challenge the status quo that isn’t delivering for our communities.”

Kou opposed Senate Bill 9, which will allow four homes on a single-family lot. In August 2021, SB9 was approved 44-16 in the Assembly, with Berman voting in favor.

Last week she was the only Palo Alto council member to vote against approval of the Housing Element, the state required plan that, in the case of Palo Alto, forces the city to zone for over 6,000 more homes.

She stakes out some other positions in her announcement:

• She wants to build “enough safe, decent shelters for everyone in every community in California – and then giving local governments the power to require that people use that shelter, rather than sleep on the streets.”

• As for crime, she favors “taking career criminals off the streets, starting with making sure there are consequences for repeated thefts and other crimes.”

• And wants to stop “insane proposals like spending up to $7 billion to extend Caltrain into downtown San Francisco, when the SF train station was just linked to downtown via subway.”

Kou, a realtor, was elected to Palo Alto City Council in 2016 and re-elected in 2020. Because of term limits, she cannot run in 2024 when her current term expires. The seven-member council picks one of its members each year to serve as mayor and this year it’s Kou’s turn.

Berman served one term on the Palo Alto City Council and then was elected to the Assembly in 2016. He chairs the Assembly Business and Professions Committee, which oversees health care professional licensing and regulation, occupational licensing and regulation, vocational education, and regulation of the legal cannabis industry.

He championed legislation that requires county election officials to mail voters a ballot before every election. Previously voters had to request an absentee ballot. He wrote the law to phase out the sale of new gas-powered landscape equipment.


  1. She’s got my vote. Berman is all for stack-and-pack housing. He’s forgotten the people in his district. She should be able to clobber him when people see their record.

  2. Thank you for your balanced piece. I support Lydia because she’s a champion for residents, helping us get answers from the city. Back when the ADUs were proposed, Lydia and only 2 other council members met with residents and tried to find answers to our specific questions that had gotten lost in the rah-rah slogans promoting them.

    Mr. Berman, on the other hand, wasted the time of 200+ people on a lengthy Zoom on the housing bills. He kept pleading ignorance when asked questions because “he had too many bills before him to focus on one bill.” He promised to get answers and then never did, but he managed to cast right after the Zoom.

    When running for his current seat against Vicki Veenker, he couldn’t even be bothered to create a web sure outlining his positions. We deserve better!

  3. I think I agree with Lydia on most things, but once I heard her say she opposes mixed-use buildings containing housing. In a mixed-use building, the high rents from retail and/or office subsidize the housing most of us want. These buildings can go up without government subsidies. Her comment made me wonder if she thinks money grows on trees.

  4. The problem with mixed-use developments is unfortunately that in order to make the project pencil out, the developer needs to provide so much office space that the overall project creates more demand for housing than it supplies; at least, in mid-Peninsula economics. hat’s the case with every significant local mixed-use expansion from Sequoia Station to Facebook to SRI.

    If it weren’t that way we’d have looked more favorably on them; but unfortunately they just invariably end up “negative housing.” The requirement that big projects provide enough housing for the jobs they create was also central to the County’s demand for “full mitigation” in Stanford’s proposed R+D expansion, one of the biggest “mixed-use” proposals ever in this area, which was eventually shelved — the economics simply didn’t work once you considered housing Demand, and not just Supply in isolation.

    Palo Alto’s response to the Grand Jury a couple years ago contains a fairly careful analysis of this.

  5. I would vote for Lydia Kou over Marc Berman.
    Shes does what she says she’s going to do.
    Berman not so much.

  6. What has Berman done for us since he got into office? I can’t think of a thing. Time to switch it up and see how Lydia does.

  7. Berman does what Sacramento tells him to do. Anyone willing to represent their constituents rather than the developers who fund Sacramento gets my vote

  8. In my view, the big issue with Berman is El Camino Real. The potholes are huge, and they’re only growing. He oversees Caltrans, which is supposed to be filling those potholes. They’re not doing their job. It’s time for somebody else to give it a shot.

  9. We will VOTE for Lydia Kou. Both Marc Berman and Josh Becker did NOT respond to their numerous constituents’ recent plea (many phone calls and emails) to them to support SCA-4 to REPEAL the Death Tax caused by the devious Prop 19 SCAM in 2020 — just to allow voters a fair chance to vote next year on a very misleading ballot during the Worldwide health problems in Nov 2020. They are NOT for their constituents. We need representatives who LISTEN and help their constituents. Visit RepealTheDeathTax.com to learn more about it.

  10. I will support Lydia Kou. I reached out to Marc Berman several times asking for his support of SCA4. He never responded to any of my e-mails or phone calls.
    We need to vote for politicians that will listen and represent the people.

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