Palo Alto Weekly

News - April 6, 2012

News Digest

Janitors hold protest march in Palo Alto

Hundreds of janitors took to the streets of Palo Alto with signs and bullhorns early Thursday afternoon, April 5, as part of a regional effort to negotiate a new contract.

The workers, who are represented by the Service Employees International Union United Service Workers West, walked north on El Camino Real en route to Lytton Plaza on University Avenue, where they planned to continue the protest, said Cecille Isidro, the group's spokesperson. Carrying signs with slogans such as "CEOs sitting on cash" and "Justice for Janitors," the procession of workers occupied the right lane of El Camino as participants marched north and chanted, "We are the 99 percent."

Isidro said the union is holding similar rallies in other cities, including in Sacramento and in the East Bay. The contract for 30,000 of the union's 40,000 members is set to expire at the end of April, she said, and the union is considering holding a strike starting May 1 if an agreement isn't reached.

Participants in the Thursday march included janitors who work in the city at a large number of companies, she said. She estimated the number of participants at about 700.

"There are many buildings in Palo Alto that janitors clean," Isidro said. "Many people here also clean buildings in Mountain View and San Jose."

Boys robbed Saturday afternoon in Palo Alto

Two 13-year-old boys were robbed in Palo Alto on Saturday afternoon, March 31, Palo Alto police said.

The boys were walking on Edgewood Drive near Newell Road when they were approached by three other boys between 15 and 16 years old riding BMX bicycles and a Razor-style scooter at about 3:45 p.m., police said.

One of the alleged robbers rode up to the boys and asked for the time, which one of the victims answered after pulling out an electronic music player.

The boy on the bike then said, "Give us your stuff," according to police. He had his hand in his sweatshirt pocket, police said.

"Both boys heard a sound they described as 'a can of soda opening,' which they thought might be the sound of a gun cocking," police stated in a press release.

The boys did not see a weapon, police said.

The boys handed over the music player and a cellphone, and the robbers were last seen crossing the Newell Street bridge into East Palo Alto, police said. Officers searched the area but were unable to locate the suspects.

The boys were described as Hispanic males between 15 and 16 years old, wearing black hoodies and blue jeans. The primary aggressor had a thin build and long, straight hair. His BMX bicycle was black and orange, and one of the other boys had a black BMX bike.

Police are urging anyone with information to contact Palo Alto police at 650-329-2413.

Residents call for changes at Palo Alto rail crossings

Palo Alto's vision for the Caltrain corridor should include better east-west connections and enhancements to busy intersections, but its top priority should be grade separating the rail crossings at East Meadow Drive and Charleston Road, residents told city officials at a packed public hearing on March 29.

The meeting, attended by more than 60 residents, focused on the recently released Rail Corridor Study, a document the city is drafting to lay out the community's vision for the Caltrain corridor, Alma Street and El Camino Real. A 17-member citizen task force and a team of consultants have been working with city staff on the document since February 2011.

The report, which the city plans to finalize in May, studies land use and traffic circulation issues on both sides of the railroad tracks. Its major themes are improving the east-west connectivity through the rail corridor and adding amenities to neighborhoods and shopping areas on either side of the corridor.

The report identifies 15 potential rail crossings that could supplement the existing 11. It also identifies four new bike and pedestrian "priority crossings" that the city could consider adding, at Everett, Kellogg and Seale avenues and Matadero Creek.

But while the task force report advocates new crossings, most of the residents at Thursday's meeting said they were more concerned with improving existing ones. Attendees considered a list of 26 potential "improvement projects," including enhancements to major intersections on El Camino and installation of new crossings, but a large plurality voted for improving two notoriously congested rail crossings at East Meadow Drive and Charleston Road.

The new report is a highly conceptual document that doesn't recommend any particular land-use changes or specific projects. It is meant to be the basis for future studies that would focus on specific projects, Smiley said.

— Gennady Sheyner

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