Palo Alto Weekly

News - July 8, 2011

Around Town

NO SNOOPING ... Library patrons concerned about other people snooping through their emails, online chats and computer research could soon have a reason to feel relieved. The state Legislation this week approved a proposal by Sen. Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto) to upgrade California's library-privacy laws, which currently protect only circulation and registration records. The bill was proposed by Cupertino resident Mary Minow, a library-law consultant, as part of Simitian's annual "There Oughta Be a Law" contest. Senate Bill 445 would change the law to make all user records equally protected. "This simple change ensures that the more than a million Californians who use our public libraries every day will have their personal information protected," Simitian said in a statement. "People use libraries to research sensitive and personal topics; their privacy shouldn't be compromised." The bill now heads to Gov. Jerry Brown for approval.

FOR THE FOODIES ... The newest addition to University Avenue's thriving restaurant scene will be half Korean, half French and full of bread, pastries and other baked goods. The Korea-based bakery and restaurant Paris Baguette is planning to set up shop at the prominent intersection of University Avenue and Waverley Street, a building formerly occupied by Jennifer's Convertibles. The building, which stands next to Cheesecake Factory, is scheduled to undergo a host of renovations, including a metallic-finish storefront, a blue-tinted glass canopy and new aluminum-framed windows. The city's Architectural Review Board approved the design Thursday morning. The project at 383 University Ave. would also make a contribution to the city's art scene. The applicant proposed a hand-painted mural on Waverley featuring a "bicycle built for two and a riding couple seated in an alternative fashion, on handlebars."

TAKING CHARGE ... Palo Alto officials expect to decide in the next two months whether to hire a new fire chief or to permanently merge the leadership positions of the Fire and Police departments. City Manager James Keene and Dennis Burns, who currently heads both departments, have been hashing out a proposal and expect to issue a recommendation to the City Council either just before or just after the council's August break, Keene told the council's Finance Committee on Tuesday night. The city has been without a permanent fire chief since Nick Marinaro retired in June 2010. Burns assumed leadership of the Fire Department on an interim basis immediately after Marinaro's retirement. If the city decides to consolidate the leadership positions of the two departments, it would need to hire an assistant fire chief to help run the department, Keene said.

A 100-YEAR BRIDGE ... Palo Alto, East Palo Alto and Menlo Park officials have been brainstorming for more than a decade in hopes of finding a way to protect their cities from the flood-prone San Francisquito Creek. The effort to ward off the "100-year flood" (which, by definition, is expected to happen once every 100 years) could receive a boost in the coming months as the cities launch an effort to replace the old and substandard bridges spanning the creek. The first to go is expected to be the Newell Road Bridge, a 100-year-old structure that connects Palo Alto to East Palo Alto's Woodland Park neighborhood. The cities, which work together in the San Francisquito Creek Joint Powers Authority, are expecting a grant from the California Department of Transportation to pay for 89 percent of the cost for the design work, with the balance supplied by the authority. The Palo Alto City Council is scheduled to vote on the project and possibly authorize staff to accept the grant for the Newell Road bridge on Monday night. Staff estimates that it will cost $360,000 to perform the necessary engineering design work and the environmental analysis. Caltrans has already inspected the bridge and has classified it as "functionally obsolete." According to a report from Palo Alto Public Works Engineer Joe Teresi, the bridge's deficiencies include "substandard width, lack of access for bicycle and pedestrian traffic, harsh vertical profile, unsafe railings, and poor sight distances." The new bridge is expected to both improve traffic safety and bring some flood protection to the residents around it. Other bridges that could also see major renovations in the coming years are the Middlefield Road Bridge, the Pope/Chaucer Street Bridge and the University Avenue Bridge.

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