Palo Alto Weekly

News - December 9, 2011

News Digest

Palo Alto beefs up Development Center staffing

Palo Alto officials forged ahead this week with a plan to streamline the city's notoriously complex permitting process when they committed $1.5 million to add staff to the Development Center.

The City Council unanimously agreed Monday (Dec. 5) to spend $1.5 million on six positions in the city's permitting operation. These include a supervisor to coordinate the various departments involved in the permitting process, a permit-center manager who would provide day-to-day oversight of the center, a plan examiner and three project coordinators. The expenditure is intended to address persistent community complaints about the long waiting times and the labyrinthine nature of what has become known as the "Palo Alto Process."

The complaints have prompted City Manager James Keene to restructure the Development Center operation to make it simpler for companies and residents to get their applications processed.

Deputy City Manager Steve Emslie called the approved staff additions "a major step toward creating a management structure that is important to creating the results" the city committed to when it launched the effort in July 2010.

The increased staffing would be funded by an increase in permit fees and thus would not require the city to tap into its General Fund.

Some of the reforms have already been put in effect. The city, for example, has been helping large companies get the needed permits by devoting project managers to help shepherd these applications through the process. Mayor Sid Espinosa said results have so far been encouraging.

"Our business leaders, and I think we'll hear from others, are already responding favorably to it and talking about how it changes the business climate," Espinosa said.

Palo Alto man faces 20 years for fraud

A Palo Alto man pleaded guilty Wednesday (Dec. 7) in federal court for a real-estate investment scheme and could face 20 years in prison.

Richard F. Tipton, 62, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, according to U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag. Two other defendants, James Stanley Ward, 65, of Delaware, Ohio, and Edward George Locker, 36, of Highland Heights, Ohio, were also indicted and pleaded guilty on Tuesday (Dec. 6).

Tipton, Ward and Locker admitted they deceived investors in Mountain View-based private moneylender Jim Ward & Associates, Inc., and its successor, JSW Financial, Inc. Using funds obtained from investors, the defendants arranged private money loans to borrowers who built single-family homes.

The men offered investors the opportunity to invest in fractional interests in the loans and in the Blue Chip Realty Fund, LLC, and Shoreline Investment Fund. The companies generated and provided documents to investors that represented the funds made and invested in loans that were secured by deeds of trust on real property, but Tipton and the others knew that those representations were false, according to the indictment. The companies did not secure investments in either fund.

Two people killed on tracks identified

A man and a woman who were killed on the Caltrain tracks Saturday (Dec. 3) in Palo Alto and Menlo Park, respectively, have been identified.

The Santa Clara County Coroner's Office said that San Jose resident Donald Larson, 48, was struck at about 11:10 a.m. at the California Avenue station by northbound train No. 801, a Baby Bullet express.

Jayne Cox, 27, of Folsom was killed just north of the Menlo Park station at 12:13 p.m. by southbound train No. 428. She was identified by the San Mateo County Coroner's Office on Sunday.

There were 150 passengers on the Baby Bullet train going through Palo Alto who were transferred to another train, Caltrain spokeswoman Christine Dunn stated in a press release.

The train that struck Cox had 120 passengers, she said.

There have been 16 fatalities on the Caltrain right of way this year, Dunn said.

A middle-aged man, Greg Brown of Redwood City, was killed Nov. 26 at the California Avenue station. The highest number of deaths in one year in the Caltrain right of way — 20 — occurred in 1995, Dunn said.

— Palo Alto Weekly staff

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