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Santa Clara County, CA November 8, 2005 Election
Smart Voter

Zoning Struggles

By Jack Morton

Candidate for Council Member; City of Palo Alto

This information is provided by the candidate
The Community has strugled against blanket zoning decisions that do not reflect the need for both housing & comercial areas.
Community Zoning & Council Myopia

My first political experience in Palo Alto, soon after we returned to Mary Ellen's girlhood home from Toronto, was to take 16 month-old Dawson in arms and join our neighbors on Webster to defeat an overpass at Middlefield. .

In the years that followed, the community has protested zoning changes that would have permitted a Super Block on University Avenue or the replacement of the Art Center with a grocery store. After that, and literally closer to home, we fought the battle against the re-zoning of Middlefield for high-density housing. That re-zoning had all but spelled the demise of the Winter Lodge. We battled almost block for block to save Midtown, fighting for Century Market at Loma Verde, then the Dutch Boy hardware at Bryson as well as the Emergency Vet, the Arco Service Station plus the Winter Lodge. I don't know what amazes me more in retrospect: that we succeeded in saving both our neighborhood services plus the City's most popular recreation activity or that the Council never seems to get the message that Palo Alto is primarily a single family residential community that likes a reasonable residential and commercial mix.

This past year, a Council majority (that did not include me) refused staff's request for a zoning change that would allow recycling and composing to continue beside the water treatment plant. The community also had to turn out to defeat a change in single family zoning that would have permitted a second unit on lots over 6,000 square feet. More recently, a Council majority that again did not include me asked staff to explore changes in commercial zoning that would prohibit medical or dental services in the empty buildings on East Embarcadero. As Stanford reclaims the buildings on Welch Road, this zoning change would all but ensure the exodus of our family doctors and dentists to Menlo Park or Mountain View. Some members of the Council have even suggested that the requirements for forming a single story overlay be changed from a clear majority to a supper majority, making it harder for neighbors to protect themselves from mansionettes. It has been 20 years since voters passed citizen initiatives to save the Winter Lodge but we are still fighting for a vision of Palo Alto that understands that neighborhoods are dynamic systems and that zoning changes need to safeguard what most of us want to preserve.

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