Palo Alto Weekly

News - July 15, 2011

News Digest

Menlo Park teen dies after shooting

A 19-year-old Menlo Park woman who was shot early Wednesday morning (July 13) in East Palo Alto has died, East Palo Alto police said.

Catherine Fisher was shot while sitting in a vehicle with a man and another woman at 2:12 a.m. in the 2500 block of Annapolis Street between Michigan and Notre Dame avenues east of Bay Road.

Fisher was transported to Stanford Hospital where she died from her injuries. The vehicle's other occupants were unharmed, police said.

Investigators are working to develop suspect information and a possible motive for the shooting.

Acting Capt. Jeff Liu said police have not yet determined if the shooting was gang related. It is the city's fourth homicide this year, he said.

Police are asking anyone who has information or might have witnessed the shooting to contact the East Palo Alto Police Department by email to epa@tipnow.org, or leave an anonymous voicemail or text message at 650-409-6792.

Infant's accused killer pleads not guilty

A 17-year-old boy accused of fatally shooting an infant in East Palo Alto last month pleaded not guilty to murder in San Mateo County Superior Court Wednesday, July 13.

Fabian Zaragoza, wearing a yellow jail jumpsuit with his long hair in a ponytail, entered his plea before Judge Barbara Mallach as the 3-month-old victim's parents — Ivonne Garcia Lopez and Oscar Jimenez of Redwood City — sat in the front row of the courtroom.

"I'm not guilty," Zaragoza said.

Zaragoza is suspected of lying in wait with another gunman and firing as many as 15 gunshots into the family's car as they left an East Palo Alto baby shower on June 5, according to police.

Baby Izack Jesus Jimenez Garcia was shot in the head and later died at a hospital. The infant's parents were both wounded.

Investigators believe that Zaragoza and an accomplice targeted the family after mistaking them for Sureno gang members who had assaulted Zaragoza in Redwood City on May 31.

In addition to murder, Zaragoza has been charged with two counts of attempted murder with the infliction of great bodily injury, along with the special circumstances of lying in wait and the use of a firearm in the commission of the crimes.

He is being held without bail and faces life in prison if convicted.

Zaragoza is scheduled to reappear in court Aug. 10 to set a preliminary hearing date.

Man, 23, killed on train tracks in Palo Alto

A 23-year-old man was struck and killed by a train at about 8:30 p.m. Thursday, July 7, near the Churchill Avenue crossing in Palo Alto, according to the San Mateo County Transit Police.

He was identified Friday by the Santa Clara County Coroner's Office as Clayton Carlson, a Palo Alto resident. Carlson graduated from Palo Alto High School in 2006.

Train No. 190, a local train that stopped at all stations, was traveling south when it struck Carlson about 1/2 mile north of Churchill, Caltrain spokesperson Christine Dunn stated in a press release.

The 175 passengers from train No. 190 were transferred to another southbound train.

David Triolo, chief of protective services for the Transit Police, spoke to reporters gathered along Alma Street.

"These are all tragedies," he said, "and we take very seriously safety education."

This is the tenth fatality on the Caltrain tracks in 2011, Dunn said.

Churchill at El Camino Real was blocked off to traffic after the incident.

Caltrain uses a multifaceted approach to address safety issues, Dunn said: engineering, education and enforcement.

Caltrain has posted signs on its right-of-way announcing that any person who is in an emotional crisis can find help by calling a hotline: 650-579-0355.

PG&E to test gas pipeline beneath Palo Alto

PG&E will conduct pressure-testing in the next two months on its gas transmission line running through Palo Alto, the utility announced.

The work will begin in "a week or two" and last until mid-September, officials said.

The testing will not disrupt service but may cause a "temporary gas odor" and will be visible above ground, with traffic cones and detours, testing equipment and machinery, including excavators and water tanks.

"While gas odors are likely from the work being done ..., safety is our top priority and we encourage any resident who has questions or concerns about the smell of gas to call us 24 hours a day at 1-800-743-5000, or call 911 immediately," PG&E said.

The transmission line, Line 132, enters Palo Alto from the north along Junipero Serra Boulevard, turns left at Page Mill Road, right on Alma Street, left on El Carmelo Avenue, right on Waverley Street, left on Loma Verde Avenue, right on Cowper Street, left on Ashton Avenue, and right on Middlefield Road, continuing south into Mountain View.

A major access point for the testing will be on Alma, just south of Colorado Avenue, a PG&E official said.

The method used will be hydrostatic testing, which involves placing water in the pipe to make sure it will not leak. If the pipe fails, the result would be similar to a water main break, with disturbed topsoil or bucked pavement, the agency said.

The pipeline will be taken out of service during testing, but gas to customers will be provided from other sources. PG&E is among the suppliers to the Palo Alto Utilities Department.

The Palo Alto work is part of PG&E's planned testing or replacement of some 150 miles of pipeline segments that are similar to the portion that exploded last September in San Bruno.

For information on the exact location of pipelines, visit www.pge.com or call 1-888-743-7431.

Plan to replace Newell Road Bridge moves forward

Palo Alto officials threw their support behind a proposal to replace the narrow Newell Road Bridge — a project that they hope will improve flood control around the San Francisquito Creek and make the bridge safer for drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians.

The City Council voted Monday night to apply for a state grant that would fund about 89 percent of the design work for replacing the 100-year-old bridge connecting Palo Alto and East Palo Alto. The rest of the funding would come from the San Francisquito Creek Joint Powers Authority, an agency that includes officials from Palo Alto, East Palo Alto and Menlo Park, as well as water officials from Santa Clara and San Mateo counties.

The proposal to replace the bridge met some resistance from Palo Alto residents in the flood-prone Crescent Park neighborhood, many of whom said the city should instead focus on the Pope/Chaucer Street Bridge. Others argued that the proposal to replace the narrow 40-foot bridge with a much longer and wider structure would bring more traffic to the neighborhood.

At the council meeting, several residents said the new bridge would be out of context in their neighborhood and asked city officials to think smaller. Andrew Vought, whose Edgewood Drive home is near the bridge, said that while he supports replacing the bridge he and his neighbors are concerned that building a larger bridge would create new "traffic and safety issues" and interfere with the wildlife in the San Francisquito Creek.

The scope of work for the project tentatively proposes a 75-foot-long bridge with wider traffic lanes as well as sidewalks and bike lanes on both sides. Public Works officials said they proposed the larger structure largely to ensure they get enough grant money for the project. Phil Bobel, interim assistant director of Public Works, said engineers will continue to refine the design of the new bridge and make sure it accomplishes the goals of improving flood control and boosting traffic safety.

Palo Alto may require mediation for labor disputes

If Palo Alto voters decide to repeal the binding-arbitration provision from the City Charter this fall, the city could adopt a new law that forces management and unions to take their labor disputes to mediation.

The City Council is scheduled to debate Monday night (July 18) whether to place a repeal or a modification of the binding-arbitration provision on the November ballot. The provision, which voters passed in 1978, empowers a three-member arbitration panel to settle labor disputes between city management and public-safety unions. The panel includes one neutral arbiter and a representative from each side.

The council's Finance Committee vetted both possible measures — a repeal and a modification — on Tuesday night and unanimously agreed to send them to the full council for consideration.

The committee also agreed to send to the council an ordinance that would institute a new mediation requirement for labor disputes. Under the proposed ordinance, the mediation process could only be avoided if both sides agree to bypass it.

Under the committee's motion, the mediation requirement would only take effect if the voters repeal the binding-arbitration requirement.

The city and the unions already have the option of going to mediation, though the process is not required. Klein said the new ordinance, if approved, would send a message to all bargaining units that mediation is "no longer a chess piece for bargaining."

JLS administrator named principal at Duveneck

A new principal will greet students at Duveneck Elementary School in August: Chris Grierson, formerly assistant principal at JLS Middle School.

Grierson, who taught six years at Walter Hays Elementary School before moving to Jordan Middle School and later JLS, was named to the post Wednesday (July 13).

He replaces John Lents, who resigned unexpectedly last month because of a job opportunity for his spouse in St. Louis.

Grierson joined the school district in 2002 as a fourth-grade teacher at Walter Hays. He taught sixth grade at Jordan for a year before moving to JLS, where he has been assistant principal for several years. He also has worked as a summer school principal.

He holds a bachelor's degree in English and a master's degree in education from the University of California at Santa Barbara, as well as a master's in public administration from Notre Dame de Namur University.

"Mr. Grierson's extensive knowledge of elementary curriculum and his work with middle schools make him an ideal candidate for this position," Superintendent Kevin Skelly said.

Stanford Hospital project wins final approval

After an unexpected last-minute delay, Stanford University Medical Center's bid to dramatically expand its hospital facilities surged past the finish line Monday night (July 11) when the Palo Alto City Council gave the $5 billion project its final approval.

The council's vote came a week after Stanford agreed to relocate a day care center at one of the construction sites, thereby resolving an 11th-hour dispute with the parents whose children attend the Stanford Arboretum Children's Center. Stanford earned the city's initial approval June 6 after nearly 100 public hearings. But the hospital was forced to halt its celebrations a week later because of protests from dozens of parents whose children attend the day care center near the Hoover Pavilion.

The parents, many of them Stanford University professors, argued that the project's environmental analysis failed to adequately consider the impact of construction on the day care center. After hearing these objections, Stanford asked the council to delay its "second reading" of the approval — a largely procedural vote that would have made its earlier approval final.

The city's approval of the massive project, nearly four years in the making, became official Monday night. As part of its settlement with the parents, Stanford agreed to move the day care center and to postpone construction on the parking garage near Hoover Pavilion until the center is relocated. After hearing about the deal, the council voted 7-0, with Gail Price absent and Larry Klein abstaining, to give Project Renewal the final go-ahead.

Stanford detailed its offer to delay the parking-lot construction in a July 7 letter to the Arboretum parents. The letter, co-signed by Lucile Packard Children's Hospital CEO Christopher Dawes, Stanford Hospital & Clinics CEO Amir Dan Rubin and Stanford University Provost John Etchemendy, characterizes the recent discussions between Stanford and the parents as "cooperative and productive." Stanford officials pledged in the letter to continue working with the parents to address their concerns.

Under the agreement, the day care center would be temporarily moved to a site on Stock Farm Road, between Oak Road and Campus Drive West.

— Gennady Sheyner

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