Palo Alto Weekly

News - April 23, 2010

News Digest

City unleashes flood of high-speed-rail concerns

Insufficient outreach, inaccurate projections and a shoddy business plan have all plagued the California High-Speed Rail Authority's latest environmental analysis of the $43 billion rail line, Palo Alto officials are alleging in a letter to the rail authority.

The City Council this week approved a letter to the rail authority outlining more than 100 concerns about the controversial high-speed rail line. The letter, which the council unanimously approved Monday night, argues that the rail authority's recently re-released Environmental Impact Report for the controversial rail line includes flawed and "grossly overestimated" ridership figures, inadequate discussion of right-of-way issues, and incomplete analysis of the rail line's impacts on Palo Alto businesses, historic landmarks and air quality.

The letter also describes the document's analysis of the various route alternatives as "inadequate, inaccurate, incomplete and biased."

Some of the city's comments pertain specifically to Palo Alto, including the rail's impact on El Palo Alto, the city's iconic redwood. Other comments take on broader subjects such as noise impacts, greenhouse-gas emissions and the ridership model used by the rail authority in its reports.

The Environmental Impact Report was initially released and certified by the rail authority in 2008, at which time few in Palo Alto knew or cared about the project. But the rail authority decertified and modified parts of the report because of a lawsuit filed by Menlo Park, Atherton and a coalition of transportation and environmental groups.

Developer Jim Baer injured in bike accident

Palo Alto real estate developer, property manager and environmental activist Jim Baer is recovering from injuries sustained in a bike accident on April 3 on a Leukemia & Lymphoma Society Team-in-Training ride in the East Bay.

Baer, who was wearing a helmet, had fallen behind other riders and was found unconscious on the road by a passing motorist. After being treated for head trauma at Eden Medical Center in Castro Valley, he is now in a rehabilitation hospital in San Jose.

According to friends, Baer is alert and talking, but suffered memory loss and has some cognitive and speech impairment that will require extensive therapy. Such symptoms are typical after head trauma, doctors say, and he is expected to make a full recovery over time.

Baer's company, Premier Properties, manages many commercial properties, especially in downtown Palo Alto. He has been a frequent consultant and advisor to local development projects, including the recently completed new offices of the Palo Alto Weekly on Cambridge Ave., which is expected to soon become the first LEED gold-certified newly constructed green building in the city.

He founded Wave One, a nonprofit project dedicated to helping small and medium-sized businesses reduce their energy consumption and become more environmental in their business practices. He recently spearheaded a renovation of Rep. Anna Eshoo's district office to make it the first "green" congressional office.

Decision expected on sit-lie ordinance

Palo Alto panhandler Victor Frost's case challenging the city's sit-lie ordinance went to a jury for decision on Thursday afternoon, just after the Weekly went to press.

Frost received 11 citations for violating the city's sit-lie ordinance for his insistence about sitting on his milk crate in front of Whole Foods Market. Six of the tickets are still against him and the others have been dropped.

Frost's challenge could mean the city's ordinance will be thrown out because, as his attorney maintains, it is discriminatory and unevenly enforced against the homeless and not against businesses that encroach on the sidewalk with outdoor tables and chairs.

Visit www.paloaltoonline.com for the court's decision.

— Sue Dremann

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