Palo Alto Weekly

News - December 23, 2011

Around Town

BYE, GEORGE ... The end is fast approaching for "George," a popular and much-defended century-old coastal live oak that stands in front of 816 Cowper St. The root of the problem is, well, the roots, according to Barrie Coate, an arborist who was commissioned by the city to examine George. The oak's root structure is structurally deficient and provides inadequate support, Coate found. But given the number of residents who rallied to save George, the tree will not go quietly into the night. The city plans to hold a community meeting in January to consider next steps, which could include a memorial and a replacement tree. The meeting is scheduled for 5 p.m. on Jan. 9 at Channing House, 850 Webster St.

LOOKING GOOD ... Seeking to join and further encourage the electric-vehicle craze, Palo Alto this week adopted an official policy to encourage installation of charging stations and promote vehicle charging in off-peak hours. The City Council approved the policy with little debate or discussion, though council members decided in the last minute to add a clause to the policy encouraging good aesthetics. It's not enough, the council reasoned, for the chargers to keep the cars going; the new infrastructure should also look nice. Councilwoman Karen Holman, who proposed including aesthetics in the policy, pointed to a recent proposal by AT&T to install antennas throughout Palo Alto — a plan that has attracted heated opposition from neighborhoods where the equipment would be installed. The criticism had prompted AT&T to revise its design, which received the city's approval earlier this month. "At a time when the AT&T antennas are such a topic of conversation and disagreement among the community, I think not to address the aesthetics of these installations would be a great oversight on our part," Holman said at the Monday council meeting. Vice Mayor Yiaway Yeh agreed and said that good aesthetics can draw attention to the stations and encourage usage. "Given the investment that the city is interested in making for these particular stations, ultimately we're calling attention to them," Yeh said. "We want them to be something that promotes and appeals to members of the public to actually use."

THE WRIGHT STUFF ... The Palo Alto Chamber of Commerce has a new president, though he will look very familiar to the organization's members. The chamber announced Thursday that it has decided to name Paul Wright as its president and CEO. The former Belmont mayor has been leading the chamber on an interim basis since his predecessor, Paula Sandas, stepped down in October. The learning curve shouldn't be too steep for Wright, who had previously served as CEO of the Santa Rosa Chamber, as a deputy executive director of the San Francisco Chamber and as president of the Palo Alto Chamber board. Wright said in a statement that he plans to spend 2012 trying to "understand and deliver what the Chamber members want. ... We need to reinvent ourselves so that we can ultimately provide our members with maximum value. Specifically, we're going to kick off a number of focus groups next month to learn about the current challenges of Palo Alto businesses. We then will refine our programs and services to tailor their needs," Wright said.

ON BOARD ... When Palo Alto approved the massive expansion of Stanford University Medical Center earlier this year, traffic impacts topped the city's list of concerns. To make sure the city won't be burdened with congestion, the city and Stanford agreed that the hospitals would provide Caltrain Go Passes to all of their employees starting in 2015. This week, Stanford announced that the hospitals are way ahead of schedule when it comes to train passes. Sherri Sager, a spokesperson for the Lucile Packard Children's Hospital, told the City Council Monday that both the children's hospital and Stanford Hospital and Clinics decided to implement the program this month. Sager said 2,000 employees have already signed up to receive the Caltrain passes, a number that she said will likely accelerate. The two hospitals also plan to add Marguerite shuttles to help ferry employees and relieve road congestion, she said. "It will help reduce the traffic in the construction area around the hospital, which will be good for the patients, their families and the community at large," Sager said.

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