Palo Alto Weekly

News - November 26, 2010

News Digest

Rail authority delays study of Peninsula designs

The California High-Speed Rail Authority will delay releasing a highly anticipated analysis of design options for the Peninsula segment of the rail line because of a recent decision to begin construction in Central Valley.

The authority had previously planned to release the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the San Francisco-to-San Jose segment of the $43 billion line in December. The report will evaluate the various design alternatives for each portion of the segment and consider the impacts of the most feasible alternative.

Preliminary versions of the report identified at-grade and elevated trains as the most likely design options for the Peninsula, with tunneling or open trenching in some areas.

Earlier this month, the authority decided to start construction of the 800-mile line in the Central Valley after a grant from the Federal Railroad Administration allocated $715 million specifically for that region of the state. The authority has yet to determine whether the voter-approved project will make its debut on the Merced-to-Fresno or the Fresno-to-Bakersfield portion of the Central Valley segment.

Robert Doty, director of the Peninsula Rail Program (a partnership of Caltrain and the rail authority), released a statement Nov. 19 saying that the decision by the FRA and the rail authority to give Central Valley the priority "will likely impact the prioritization of the environmental review process for all high-speed-rail sections currently under study."

"This means that the scheduled December 2010 release of the Draft EIR/EIS for the San Francisco to San Jose section will need to be rescheduled for a future date," wrote Doty, who is responsible for the design of the Peninsula segment.

EPA sports field approved amid heated debate

Despite residents' concerns about traffic impacts, the East Palo Alto Planning Commission approved a $3 million playing field for East Palo Alto's youth Monday night — a memorial sports complex to be named for slain police Officer Richard May.

Commissioners approved the field 4 to 1 during an acrimonious and emotional hearing.

The soccer and rugby field, which would replace a dirt and weed-strewn lot behind St. Francis of Assisi Church on Bay Road, has been four years in planning by May's family and friends through the Rich May Foundation.

The family wanted to establish the field as a way to help keep youth in the city engaged and out of gangs, foundation member Frank Merrill, May's stepfather, has said in previous interviews. May was shot and killed in 2006 by Alberto Alvarez, an East Palo Alto gang member who has been sentenced to death for the killing.

Planning commissioners have been hesitant to allow the playing field, with some citing traffic congestion.

Sharifa Wilson, president of the Ravenswood City School District, said the project should have an environmental impact report to address impacts on the surrounding neighborhood. She could not be reached Tuesday (Nov. 23) for comment regarding whether she plans to appeal the commission's decision.

Commissioners required a traffic study to be done by the project architect within one year.

Councilman wants state bar to chide attorney

Councilman Heyward Robinson of Menlo Park — who narrowly lost a bid for reelection in the Nov. 2 election — has filed a complaint with the State Bar of California against attorney and open-government advocate Terry Francke.

The complaint urges the bar to admonish Francke for expressing a legal opinion to the Daily Post that may have influenced the City Council election outcome.

Robinson, who narrowly missed reelection, filed the complaint on Nov. 5. The Post ran a front-page apology on Nov. 19 for two stories and an editorial that said three Menlo Park council members violated the state's Brown Act by exchanging e-mails discussing campaign issues. The Post also ran a guest column by Robinson.

The stories ran a few days before the Nov. 2 election. But Robinson discovered that Francke had never actually seen the e-mails before he declared to the Post that "a very serious Brown Act violation" had occurred.

Once Francke did read the e-mails — the day before the election — he retracted his statement and apologized, saying there was in fact no Brown Act issue.

Francke said the new correction was the second correction run by the Post and that he had personally apologized to Robinson. The correction stated only that Francke changed his opinion, not that he changed it after he read the exchange of e-mails — the reason for his changed opinion.

— Sandy Brundage

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