Menlo Alum Runs for East Palo Alto City Council


Lopez engages with the East Palo Alto community as he runs for East Palo Alto City Council. Photo courtesy of Antonio Lopez.

Sylvie Venuto, News Editor

Menlo alum Antonio Lopez (‘12) is running for East Palo Alto City Council. His decision to run was heavily impacted by the coronavirus pandemic and influenced by his time at Menlo School.

Lopez grew up in East Palo Alto; upon attending Menlo, experienced a change in the way he viewed the Bay Area. When he first joined Menlo as a freshman, Lopez experienced a self-described “gap” between the quality of education that he received from his middle school, the Ronald Edison McNair Academy in East Palo Alto, compared to that which his fellow classmates had received prior to attending the Upper School. “I used to have a lot of anger for [the inequalities between schools in East Palo Alto and Menlo], but now I understand it’s a metaphor for the structural imbalance of equity and power here in the Bay Area,” Lopez said.

“At a very early age, [attending Menlo] showed me, Antonio, you are moving through worlds, and you are understanding people. You’re going through different social classes. I think what that means then is that as a leader, I need to be someone who can connect different people,” Lopez said. After Menlo, Lopez went on to attend Duke, Rutgers, Oxford and Stanford and became a writer, with each location furthering his drive to connect people.

Lopez, who is running for City Council in East Palo Alto, talks on the phone. Photo courtesy of Antonio Lopez.

When the coronavirus pandemic struck, it disproportionately affected joblessness in East Palo Alto, further urging Lopez to run for East Palo Alto City Council. “COVID-19 hit this community incredibly hard. It really broke my heart, and [it] was very dissonant to have gone and had these opportunities but then also to see how hard we in East Palo Alto have been hit by this pandemic,” Lopez said. “It called me to step up and make a difference in this community, especially as someone who’s had the opportunity to become a leader, to have the credentials.”

Lopez’s platform is a 10-part program and is modeled after the Bill of Rights. “What I’m campaigning for isn’t luxury. They’re rights that people have as human beings, as residents of Palo Alto, and for too long, there have been essential issues that I’ve seen since I was growing up,” Lopez said. “I think we’re here to say that we want to help set up that change as a part of the City Council.”

These 10 parts can be grouped into three larger sections: affordable housing, youth development and safety, according to Lopez.

A supporter of Lopez’s campaign for City Council poses with a sign. Photo courtesy of Antonio Lopez.
Supporters of Lopez’s campaign for City Council pose with a sign. Photo courtesy of Antonio Lopez.

East Palo Alto’s tenants are experiencing unaffordable housing rates, and many have been unable to work during the coronavirus pandemic, Lopez said. With back rent from the pandemic due on Feb. 1, 2021, many tenants will be unable to pay to retain their housing. While current East Palo Alto City plans include asking for help from nonprofit organizations, Lopez also proposes reaching out for state and federal aid to help combat the crisis.

Lopez also hopes to reflect upon his educational experience to help East Palo Alto youth. In order to increase opportunities for young East Palo Alto residents, Lopez aims to increase the number of internships, summer programs and after-school programs. One example of this is creating an official city program, where 40 to 60 youth help senior citizens navigate the City Council website, thus capitalizing on their digital literacy and improving life for two groups within the community.

Lopez’s plans for East Palo Alto include creating more youth programs. Photo courtesy of Antonio Lopez.

Lopez’s experiences growing up in East Palo Alto led to the third main point of his platform: safety. Lopez emphasized his concern over cars parking on sidewalks and driving above the speed limit on residential streets, comparing the width of the East Palo Alto streets to that of bike lanes in Atherton as an example of the unsafe roads. Lopez proposed adding speed bumps, stoplights and streetlights to increase the safety of neighborhoods.

After outlining his platform, Lopez touched on the importance of voting in both the presidential and local elections, while also commenting on other ways youth can be involved in their community. “Voting is just one of many ways to get involved. Voting is important to have for a democracy, but do not — in any shape or form — think that voting is the only thing you can do. Get involved in your community center, in tutoring, with your local church or synagogue or mosque. At a very early age, learn that you can make a difference in someone else’s life,” Lopez said.