Palo Alto Weekly

News - March 19, 2010

Around Town

ONE TREE, TWO TREES ... For the first time in nearly two decades, the city named after a tree is preparing to count its trees. The Palo Alto City Council approved a $156,894 contract this week with the Davey Resource Group for an inventory of street trees. The city last counted its roughly 36,000 street trees in 1989 and, as a new staff report points out (and as California Avenue frequenters can't help but observe), things have changed over the past two decades. Under the current contract, Davey Resource Group would assess each tree, update the information in Palo Alto's TreeKeeper inventory and provide the city with a report that includes "the structure, function, value and maintenance needs of the city's tree resource." The project will be largely funded by a $120,000 state grant, with the city footing the rest of the bill. The project is scheduled to be completed by the end of June.

GOING, GOING, GONE ... Local volunteers in Palo Alto's upcoming school-parcel-tax campaign are joking that they should auction off their black and fluorescent-green "YES ON A" lawn signs on eBay. "We distributed 1,000 lawn signs, and I couldn't believe how fast they went," said Support Our Schools Campaign Co-Chair Tracy Stevens. "We're out of them, and we're not getting any more." However, student and parent volunteers in the Measure A campaign are distributing "Palo Alto Schools Rock" posters created by artist and Fairmeadow School parent Kris Loew. They're also selling "Palo Alto Schools Rock" T-shirts and gearing up for a community rally for Measure A on April 3 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. in Lytton Plaza. "As a community, we embrace our schools," said Campaign Co-Chair Anna Thayer, a Paly alumna and mother of four. The third campaign co-chair, Al Yuen, a Duveneck father of four boys, has done his part by enticing a local Chinese-language newspaper, the World Journal, to write an article about Measure A.

MEMORIAL ROAD ... She taught blind people to read, promoted a vibrant downtown and encouraged businesses to go green long before "green" became Palo Alto's most repeated buzzword. But it was Betty Meltzer's drive to plant trees along El Camino Real that proved to be her most visible contribution to Palo Alto. Meltzer, a civic leader who died in September 2008, earned a special proclamation and a video tribute from the City Council Monday night. Mayor Pat Burt highlighted Meltzer's many civic achievements and recalled a chat he had with her about the El Camino project several years ago. "She just had this remarkable rare spirit that was infectious," Burt recalled. "We ended up spending two or three hours talking about everything that mattered, and it was a wonderful experience." Community activist Caroll Harrington, who worked with Meltzer on the tree initiative, called Meltzer the "ultimate lovely lady." "I feel very lucky that I did know Betty," Harrington said. City officials aren't the only ones impressed with Meltzer's accomplishments. Last year, the state Legislature decided to commemorate Meltzer's efforts on behalf of El Camino Real by naming a stretch of El Camino after her. Now, drivers zipping down El Camino Real between Page Mill Road and the San Francisquito Creek are driving on what is officially known as the Betty Meltzer Memorial Highway.

TALKIN' RAIL ... About a year ago, Palo Alto formed a new City Council ad hoc committee to monitor California's controversial $43 billion high-speed-rail project and report its findings to the full council. Since then, the committee added a fourth member and began attracting larger crowds of rail watchdogs and state officials to their meetings. Ad hoc groups typically meet for a few months and then disband, but the City Council formally acknowledged this week that the rail issue isn't going away any time soon. The council designated the rail group as the City Council's third "standing committee" (along with the Finance Committee and the Policy and Services Committee). The committee currently consists of Mayor Pat Burt and council members Larry Klein, Nancy Shepherd and Gail Price. In recognition of the group's growing importance, city officials also announced this week that the rail committee meetings will now be televised.

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