Palo Alto Weekly

News - November 19, 2010

Around Town

EARLY DEADLINES ... Palo Alto's land-use watchdogs and neighborhood groups cringe every time a developer tries to slip a note to a city official at a public hearing or shows up with last-minute revisions. That infamous practice may soon come to an end. The City Council will consider on Monday changing the city's policies to require developers to submit all application materials well in advance of council meetings. The policy would require these materials to be released at least five working days before the release of the City Council's pre-meeting packets. The policy change is one of many proposed by the council's Policy and Services Committee, which has been poring over the council's rule procedure over five recent meetings. Councilwoman Karen Holman, a former planning commissioner, has been a leading proponent of the policy change. At a recent meeting, she pointed to instances in which application materials were delivered to the homes of council members — a practice that she said undermines the transparency of the development process. The committee also agreed that council members shouldn't talk to applicants about their projects until after the city's Architectural Review Board and Planning and Transportation Commission had issued their recommendations. The change was prompted by arguments from some planning commissioners that their work is being disregarded by applicants who choose to go over the commission's head and appeal directly to council members.

PARDEE TIME ... On Jan. 18, a giant limbed snapped off a sick eucalyptus tree at Palo Alto's Eleanor Pardee Park and landed next to Ron Eadie, a Crescent Park resident who was out for a stroll. The incident triggered a series of tree inspections, complaints from neighborhood residents about the dangers of branches falling next to a playground, a petition from 400 other residents asking the city not to take down the trees, five community meetings to discuss the health and fate of the trees and a revolving door of consulting arborists offering second, third and fourth opinions. Six of the most diseased trees have already been removed. Now, after further examination, it looks like the rest of the eucalyptus trees will soon be on their way out as well. That was the conclusion by Torrey Young, a consulting arborist from the firm Dryad, LLC. According to a report from Community Service Director Greg Betts, Young concluded that "all eucalyptus trees should be removed to prevent additional limb drop or whole tree failure around the playground." Arborist Dave Muffley, who was hired by neighborhood residents to inspect the 10 remaining trees, concluded they were "structurally unsound." The city then hired Landscape Architect Edward Chau to develop conceptual plans for the replanting of trees at the southwest corner of the park, according to the report. The plan will be discussed at a Dec. 1 community meeting — the sixth such event since the limb fell.

GOT MONEY? ... Students and parents across Palo Alto this week were greeted at their schools by volunteers for Partners in Education, an independent foundation that raises funds for Palo Alto public schools. At Palo Alto High School, parents including Melissa Anderson, Susan Bailey and Sally Kadifa, along with Assistant Principal Jeffy Berkson, waved signs reading "Give to PiE," "Thank you" and "3 Days Left to Double your $$," telling parents that all contributions made this week would be doubled thanks to a $275,000 matching grant. Last year, PiE raised $2.9 million to support staffing for classroom aides, science, arts and counseling on this district's 17 campuses.

CHOWCHILLA SPEAKS OUT ... Midpeninsula cities aren't the only ones fuming over California's high-speed rail project. In August, the City Council of Alhambra in Los Angeles County, took a stand against the project. This month, the city of Chowchilla in the San Joaquin Valley followed suit and passed its own resolution of "no confidence" in the high-speed rail project. Much like the "no confidence" resolution that the Palo Alto City Council unanimously approved in September, the Chowchilla resolution blasts the authority for insufficient communications, a lack of details about the rail's design and unreliable ridership projections. It also stated that the "the tardy and cumbersome level of review and approval of all official communications from the CHSRA (California High-Speed Rail Authority) impedes transparency, candor and trust in the Authority's planning and design process."

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