Palo Alto Weekly

News - January 15, 2010

Around Town

WHERE THERE'S SMOKE ... Palo Alto isn't exactly a smoker's paradise. The health-conscious city takes pride in having smoke-free playgrounds, bleachers and trails. Even in the busiest stretches downtown, visitors often have to wander for several blocks before spotting a pedestrian with a cigarette. Last year, the city halted its proposal to ban smoking at all parks after the Parks and Recreation Commission recognized that the issue is, well, a non-issue. So residents could be justifiably confused to learn that the city just received a grade of "D" from the American Lung Association when it comes to "tobacco control." The association's new report, State of Tobacco Control 2009, gives grades of either D or F to every city in Santa Clara County. The association established the grade based on the existence — or non-existence — of local laws in three areas: smoke-free outdoor air, smoke-free housing and reducing sales of tobacco products. Generally smoke-free Palo Alto's grades in the three categories were C, F and F, respectively. But residents shouldn't feel too depressed about Palo Alto's mediocre placement. The county received an F, as did two-thirds of the cities and counties surveyed. Meanwhile, only four California cities earned an A grade: Albany, Glendale, Calabasas and Richmond.

MARKET MARKETING ... Palo Alto's recent experiment with a farmers market near City Hall ended with a thud last fall, when the City Council pulled the plug on the city-subsidized market, citing underwhelming participation by employees. But now, city officials hope to resurrect the market at another prominent nearby site — the newly renovated Lytton Plaza. This time, however, the market would not receive a subsidy from the city. Debra van Duynhoven, assistant to city manager for sustainability, said the city is looking for a volunteer who would manage the new farmers market. According to an advertisement, the volunteer would act as a main contact for vendors and community members, maintain accounting records and manage entertainment at the Farmshop. The position also includes handling parking issues around the Farmshop and creating a "marketing and outreach plan." Van Duynhoven said the city doesn't know if and when the new Farmshop would open at Lytton Plaza. "It's all based upon us finding a volunteer who can help out," she said.

"WORLD'S FINEST ACCOMMODATIONS?" ... Looking for a top-quality, low-cost room in Palo Alto? According to the Financial Times Executive Education Survey, local residents don't have to look far, provided they have connections. The Schwab Residential Center at Stanford University offers "spacious private bedrooms with double extra-long beds," private baths, desktop computer with high-speed Internet, TV, laundry service and a 24-hour concierge for just $140 a night. "Once again," the university boasted, Schwab was voted "the world's finest accommodations in the Financial Times Executive Education Survey." In addition to executives attending programs at Stanford Business School, the center is open to alumni and anyone else attending conferences or reunions at Stanford.

GARBAGE FEES ... Hundreds of local residents were dismayed to learn this month that they now have to pay an extra $15 to have their garbage collected. The residents live in what the city calls "hard to serve" areas, which include narrow private streets, alleyways and particularly hilly areas. As a result, the city's garbage collector, GreenWaste Recovery, Inc., has to go through the trouble of using smaller and nimbler trucks to get to these residents' garbage. City Manager James Keene said the new fees affect about 658 local properties. About 63 percent of these properties have the option of avoiding the new fee by dragging their garbage to the curb for standard collection. Keene said the majority of the people who have the option have already chosen to exercise it. What about those who don't have this option? Keene announced at Monday night's City Council meeting that after hearing from many customers, city officials have decided to scrap the "hard to serve" fee, at least for now. "We'll be looking at additional notification and outreach with these customers," Keene said.

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