Palo Alto Weekly

News - July 23, 2010

Around Town

WE'RE NOT NO. 1? ... The numbers are in, and it's one of those half-full, half-empty situations: Palo Alto trails behind Bethesda, Md., and Greenwich, Conn., in CNN Money Magazine's 2010 list of "top-earning towns." "Palo Alto is awash in high-tech prosperity. Stanford professors, Facebook engineers and venture capitalists are neighbors in this Silicon Valley town," the magazine said. Median family income here is $153,615, and the median home price is $1,180,000, the magazine said. In Bethesda, home of many federal government employees and Washington D.C.-area professionals, median family income is $172,541, but homes cost less — $725,000 is the median price. In New York City's tony bedroom community of Greenwich, median family income is $164,807 and the median home price is $997,498. Behind Bethesda, Greenwich and Palo Alto in the top-10 list are Newport Beach, Calif., Lower Merion, Pa., Newton, Mass., Fairfield, Conn., Greenburgh, N.Y., Burke, Va., and Naperville, Ill.

HAIL TO THE CHIEF ... As a young man, Nick Marinaroconsidered careers as an attorney, a doctor and a professional golfer before he chose to become a firefighter. Marinaro, who retired last month as Palo Alto's fire chief, said he's had no regrets about his career decision. "You never know where the winds of fate will carry you," Marinaro said at Monday night's City Council meeting, minutes after the council passed a resolution in his honor. "If I had to do it all over again, I'd want to be a professional firefighter." Marinaro began his firefighting career at Stanford University, before Stanford's department merged with Palo Alto's. He has spent 37 years in the two departments and served as a firefighter, a paramedic, a fire marshal and a deputy chief before taking over the chief's position in Palo Alto 5 1/2 years ago. On Monday, the soft-spoken and always amiable Marinaro received two standing ovations from a crowd inside Council Chambers and heard Councilwoman Gail Price read a resolution praising him for providing "conscientious leadership" and "compassionate management." In his parting words to the council, Marinaro also praised the future leaders of the city's Fire Department. "I hope the painstaking effort our staff has taken to hire the best and the brightest will bear full fruit because they will be the future of the organization," Marinaro said. "I'm confident that will be the case."

BEATING THE ZONE ... For years, Palo Alto's Planned Community (PC) zone has been the bane of local land-use watchdogs. The zoning designation, which allows developers to exceed density requirements in exchange for "community benefits," has been a part of almost every controversial development the city has approved in recent years, including Alma Plaza, the College Terrace Centre and the condominiums at 800 High St. Critics have maintained that these "benefits" usually get reduced or forgotten, leaving neighborhoods saddled with massive projects with little upside. This week, a group of local land-use watchdogs united and asked the City Council to do something about the notorious zoning designation. Winter Dellenbach, Bob Moss, Tom Jordan and Mark Nadim all characterized the zoning designation as one that gets chronically abused by local developers. Nadim said the PC zone "makes a mockery of the zoning code," while Moss called it a "rip off." Jordan, meanwhile, told the council that the group will be coming back to the council in the near future with specific examples of how developers have failed to comply with the "public benefit" portion of their PC applications. "When complaint of noncompliance is in front of you, hopefully you'll act," Jordan told the council.

OVERHAUL ... Waste management is a messy business and nowhere more so than in Palo Alto, where city officials are trying to close a $6.3 million deficit in the Refuse Fund. On Tuesday, the City Council Finance Committee approved a package of proposals to close the gap. The committee also debated but turned down several dramatic proposals for reducing costs and raising revenues. Vice Mayor Sid Espinosa proposed closing down the Recycling Center, a move that would likely require the city to ship its recyclable materials to Sunnyvale. "We should think regionally about our approaches to waste management and recycling," Espinosa said. The proposal was rejected by the rest of the committee, with Larry Klein calling it a "backdoor way to change an important city policy." "You cannot be in favor of recycling and not be in favor of the Recycling Center," he said.

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