Palo Alto Weekly

News - March 4, 2011

Around Town

CAN-DO SPIRIT ... Palo Alto residents are passionate about the environment, but by at least one measure, those who live in the Palo Verde and Charleston Terrace (Adobe Meadow, Meadow Park and Charleston Gardens) neighborhoods are the greenest of them all. The adjacent south Palo Alto neighborhoods boast the highest percentage of households using 20-gallon mini-cans to dispose of their trash instead of the traditional 32-gallon variety. Palo Verde leads the city with 37 percent of its refuse customers using the smaller cans, while Charleston Terrace is right behind it with 36 percent. The results were presented and mapped out by Zero Waste Palo Alto, a city program that seeks to reduce the percentage of local trash going to landfills. The map, which can be viewed at zerowastepaloalto.org/progress-report, uses colors to highlight the neighborhoods with the highest percentage of mini-can customers, as well as those that haven't come around. Also scoring well were Barron Park (30 percent), Evergreen Park and College Terrace (27 percent in each). On the other end of the scale were Downtown North (a comparatively feeble 13 percent), Green Acres (15 percent), University South and Duveneck/St. Francis (18 percent each). Local environmentalist David Coale, who lives in College Terrace, cited the map at the Wednesday night meting of the Utilities Advisory Commission and told the commission that he wants to see his part of town win the race to become the first "green" neighborhood defined by Zero Waste as one in which more than 50 percent of the households use mini-cans. City officials say the goal isn't as hard to achieve as it may seem. According to the Zero Waste website, about 43 percent of the items Palo Altans throw away are actually recyclable.

MEDICAL EMERGENCIES ... Four months after Palo Alto fired a consultant who was analyzing the city's Emergency Medical Services program, the City Council is preparing to embark once again on the study. The council is scheduled to approve an $87,000 contract for a new study with the firm Systems Planning Corporation/TriData the same one that took part in a recent evaluation of the Fire Department and issued dozens of recommendations to dramatically change department operations. The new study may not be as controversial, but it could prove critical. According to TriData, medical calls to the Fire Department went up by 48 percent between 2000 and 2009 and are expected to make up 64 percent of the incidents the Fire Department will be responding to in 2025.

BRANCHING OUT ... With much fanfare and a pinch of irony, Palo Alto's leading tree lovers are preparing to flock to Eleanor Pardee Park on Saturday, March 12, to celebrate Arbor Day. The Palo Alto Arbor Day Festival will be held two months after the City Council voted to chop down 10 diseased eucalyptus trees that until recently adorned the park in the Crescent Park neighborhood, outraging some tree lovers. In the spirit of Arbor Day, Mayor Sid Espinosa will lead the ceremonial tree-planting (or, rather, replanting) ceremony in the park at 9:30 a.m. The celebration will also include a tree-climbing demonstration and race, "Tree Story Time" with Palo Alto's Planning Arborist Dave Dockter, an arborist booth and activities for children. The festival will take place between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. at the park, which is located near the intersection of Channing Avenue and Center Drive.

PAY UP ... As if $4-per-gallon gas isn't aggravating enough, drivers who frequent Palo Alto can now expect another fee increase. Local parking tickets would rise by $3 under a proposal by the Police Department. The reason is a new state law that requires the city to pay a greater share of ticket revenues to the state. Senate Bill 857 imposed a new $3 surcharge on parking tickets to help pay for the state's court system. This means the amount the city sends to Santa Clara County Treasurer (who subsequently sends part of it to the state) would go up from $9.50 to $12.50 per ticket. Because Palo Alto issues about 50,000 parking tickets every year, the city would lose about $150,000 in revenue by keeping the current fines in place, according to a new report from the police department. The City Council is scheduled to approve the change to the parking fines Monday night.

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