Palo Alto Weekly

News - October 1, 2010

Around Town

BRINGING DOWN THE HOUSES ... Residents in one of Palo Alto's wealthiest and most scenic neighborhoods have a loud message for city officials: Stop fiddling with our zoning laws! The city is contemplating establishing maximum house sizes for the Open Space (OS) zone district in the Palo Alto foothills. A year ago, the City Council had adopted new limits on development density in the leafy and isolated neighborhood, much to the consternation of some residents. Now, foothills residents are revolting against the latest proposals, which they claim leaves them mired in long-term uncertainty. Earlier this year, they boycotted a meeting with planning staff to discuss the proposed changes and told staff they are no longer interested in participating (only one resident showed up at the February meeting, and then quickly left). The Planning and Transportation Commission had recommended against setting maximum housing limits because the city already has other processes to make sure the hillside mansions don't interfere too much with the scenic views of the foothills. The City Council is scheduled to consider the matter on Monday night. This week, a group of foothills residents called Palo Altans Protecting Opens Space (PAPOS) has sent a letter to the council reemphasizing its contempt with the city's "seemingly endless" zone changes. "Many of your constituents are now frustrated and angry by continuous review of the District's zoning ordinance, and the astonishing number of public meetings in which we have needed to participate," wrote resident Cathy Cartmell on behalf of PAPOS. More than 70 residents had also signed petitions urging the council to drop the latest proposal. The petitions note that the OS district has just 79 homes and that the proposed changes are projected to impact five to 10 properties over the next 20 years. "Is this the prudent use of Council and City staff time and resources??" the petition asks.

MOVING ON UP ... As fans of "The Office" can testify, a little preposition can make a big difference when it comes to job titles. Dwight Schrute, whose official title was "assistant to the regional manager" was routinely corrected when he wishfully tried to condense it to "assistant regional manager." In Palo Alto, one member of the City Manager's Office is jumping ship to Hayward in order to shed that pesky "to." Kelly Morariu, who has served as assistant to the city manager since 2006, will leave Palo Alto and become Hayward's assistant city manager in late October. Morariu's responsibilities included organizing the City Council's labyrinthine work plan; reinstituting the Citizen Corps Council; and adopting the Foothills Fire Management Plan. City Manager James Keene said his office "will really miss Kelly and wish her all the best." He also suggested in a statement that Morariu's job title could see further condensing in the years ahead. "Kelly is on the path to become a City Manager and this is an important next step in her career," Keene said.

CALIFORNIA VS. TEXAS ... What's a good way to persuade Palo Alto residents to oppose a California proposition? Link it to Texas. That, at least, is what opponents of Proposition 23 are banking on. This month, the "No on Proposition 23" campaign set up a fake oil rig on the 3400 block of El Camino Real, near Margarita Avenue, with the sign "Stop Texas Oil: Hell NO on Prop 23." The campaign had also opened an office on El Camino. If Proposition 23 passes, California would have to suspend the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, which regulates greenhouse-gas emissions, until its unemployment rate dips to 5.5 percent. Backers of Proposition 23 include Texas oil giants Valero Corp. and Tesoro Corp. The Palo Alto City Council had unanimously passed a resolution earlier this week opposing Proposition 23. The council also voted 8-1, with Greg Schmid dissenting, to oppose Proposition 20, which would create a 14-member redistricting commission (five Democrats, five Republicans, and four members from neither party) to handle Congressional redistricting, a task currently performed by legislators. The idea is to make the redistricting process less political. But Councilman Larry Klein called Proposition 20 a "unilateral disarmament" by California. He also noted that Texas would still be able to gerrymander its own congressional districts to give archconservatives seats in the U.S. Congress. California, he said, shouldn't change its redistricting rules "until the whole country goes along."

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