Palo Alto Weekly

News - October 15, 2010

Around Town

FOR THE FRANCOPHILES ... James Franco, Palo Alto's favorite homegrown Renaissance man, recently took some time off from his films, his General Hospital shoots, and his Ivy League classes to release a collection of stories about the city of his youth. The collection, "Palo Alto Stories," hit the bookstores this week, and it's filled with references to the titular city. Franco, now a Yale University student, studied the writing craft at Brooklyn College and Columbia University and wrote these stories for his creative-writing classes, as he told NPR in a recent interview. Though the book alludes to a myriad of local landmarks — Stanford Hospital, the old Printer's Inc. bookstore and Jordan Middle School to name a few — the stories are less about the city than about the dark thoughts and frequent indiscretions of local youths (story titles include "Headless," "Killing Animals" and "I Could Kill Someone."). Sex, drugs, alcohol and guns abound in "Palo Alto." The dark themes may not come as a surprise to those who've been following Franco's career. These days, movie fans can watch Franco play another disaffected writer, Alan Ginsberg, in the film "Howl."

CHALLENGING THE AUTHORITY ... Palo Alto's leading high-speed-rail watchdogs will receive an award Friday night for their efforts to promote more accountability from the California High-Speed Rail Authority. The Committee for Green Foothills will present "Citizen Advocacy Awards" Friday to the four co-founders of Californians Advocating Responsible Rail Design (CARRD): Elizabeth Alexis, Sara Armstrong, Nadia Naik and Rita Wespi. The four Palo Altans have been promoting public awareness of the controversial rail project; tracking rail legislation and flagging problems with the rail authority's projections and plans. Gilroy resident Yvonne Sheets-Saucedo is also scheduled to pick up an award for participating in the planning of the Central Valley portion of the rail line. "Citizens' voices are a critical component in the discourse on urban planning, especially in today's discussions of providing High Speed Rail for our region and our state," the Committee announced in a statement. "CGF feels it important to recognize these local citizens for their willingness, tenacity, and fervor with which they have taken on this task."

FILL 'ER UP ... Palo Alto's Public Works staff has a new proposal for the city's landfill in the Baylands: Let's fill it up as fast as possible. Garbage has been trickling into the landfill at a slow rate of late following the City Council's January 2009 decision to ban commercial waste at the landfill. The ban was intended to keep a 9-acre portion of the landfill open so that the site could house a waste-to-energy plant in the future. But the policy went further than expected, dramatically shrinking garbage loads and making it harder for the city to close the landfill by 2012 or 2013, as was previously planned. A delay would force the city to run afoul of its state permit, which requires the city to stop accepting garbage by late 2011. And then Palo Alto would have to seek extensions to its closure plan. So now city staff want to fill the landfill by fall 2011. This would entail diverting garbage from the SMaRT Station in Sunnyvale (the current destination for local garbage) to the Palo Alto dump. A new report by Public Works Senior Engineer Matthew Raschke recommends that the city "quickly fill the remaining landfill capacity" and "convert the area to parkland as soon as possible." The council's Finance Committee is scheduled to discuss the proposal Tuesday night.

WELCOME TO THE TREE HOUSE ... Palo Alto is well known for its astronomic property values, but when it comes to affordable housing, the city's supply is widely known to be grossly inadequate. Palo Alto officials hope the "Tree House" will improve the situation a little bit. The 35-unit housing complex will soon be developed at 488 West Charleston Road, at a leafy site between El Camino Real and Alma Street. The City Council is scheduled to consider on Oct. 18 whether to provide the Housing Corporation a $2.5 million loan for the new development (which would bring the council's total financial assistance for the Tree House to $5.3 million). If the council approves the loan, construction would commence later this fall.

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