Potential funding for California Avenue creates an opportunity for essential change.
Possibilities exist for business support besides the current lane configuration. Some European cities, for example, close shopping districts during the day. Protective gates unlock during early morning hours to allow for deliveries.
Perhaps the businesses that focus on foreign imports need to reconsider priorities.
By reshaping venues to center upon locally produced goods, high fuel-use transport systems will yield less environmentally damaging ways of doing business.
The grocery store that features foreign items can easily shift to locally produced brands that also accommodate specialty tastes. Apparel shops that now center on European products could seek out local companies that create goods analogous to the foreign-produced ones. Regional economies would benefit from such changes while decreasing their reliance on fossil fuel.
These shifts might begin to reduce the need for giant trucking on California Avenue and set the stage for the emergence of more environmentally conscious ways. Ecological awareness is likely to attract additional business to the area by those wishing to support kinder means.
Rather than the current "we against they" stance that exists between businesses and city leaders that serves to generate hostilities, cooperative resolution might evolve to benefit many — both in the present and for coming generations.
Don't destroy Cal Ave
Does anyone invite a dozen guests for dinner and then burn half their dining room chairs? This is what the City of Palo Alto intends to do. It plans to narrow California Avenue from four lanes to two. At the same time, hundreds of new homes are being built just a few blocks away.
The city claims this will make California Avenue "safer" but refuses to prove how "dangerous" the street is. The city claims this will encourage more people to bike and walk, without a single study showing that anyone will make this change. Would you bike or walk more on California Avenue if half the lanes were eliminated?
The city is desperate to solve a problem that doesn't exist. If you liked the overnight removal of all the trees on California Avenue, you'll love the loss of half its lanes, with all the resulting traffic tie-ups and increase in accidents. If you don't want California Avenue destroyed, write the City Council today.
Fix, don't narrow
I don't understand why reporters for the Palo Alto Weekly continually say that residents are enthusiastic about reducing California Avenue to two lanes and only the business owners are against the project. That simply isn't true.
I attended the community meetings and an overwhelming majority of residents were against reducing the lanes to two. The business owners have filed a lawsuit because they rightly believe that two lanes will harm business. I agree. Not only will two lanes slow traffic and keep would-be shoppers and diners away, they pose a safety hazard to bicyclists.
With the east/west tunnel, the Park Boulevard north/south bike commuter route and Caltrain ridership — the California Avenue area is a major bike and pedestrian crossroads. Changing to two lanes would seriously decrease the ability to maneuver a bicycle safely through California Avenue. Proposed housing on Birch Street and Park Boulevard will bring even more traffic. This is no time to reduce the lanes!
Despite lawsuits and the residents' dismay, the city just committed $500,000 to move forward with the planning. Geez, I thought we were struggling with the budget. Yet there is money to throw at this unpopular project. Meanwhile California Avenue-area roads are full of dangerous potholes and big cracks in the pavement, making bicycling unpleasant at best and downright dangerous at worst.
How about just fixing the roads and abandoning the costly and hugely unpopular beautification project?
Why worry about two-track versus four-track when the major obstacle to running a fast, efficient train system on the Peninsula remains level crossings?
The fact that Caltrain has many road crossings leads to excessive noise (train whistles are not required at under- or over-crossings), accidents and long delays. More than one death per month on average and many non-fatal accidents at crossings cause delays of several hours and consequently unreliable service.
Suppose we add several more trains per hour to this system with high-speed rail — the above problems will be compounded, in addition to causing excessive traffic delays at the crossings. I would love to see both Caltrain and high-speed rail succeed, but I haven't seen any proposed solutions to this seemingly intractable problem.
San Jude Avenue
Brown vs. Munger
I am disappointed that there may be two school tax initiatives on our ballot this November. Neither is perfect, but something must be done, and each may rob the other of enough votes so that neither will pass, an outcome that would leave our schools to continue to operate without sufficient resources for improvement.
I think we can all agree that the K-12 schools need more money, but if both initiatives are on the ballot, I will vote for the Brown initiative and against the Munger.
Why? The Brown initiative puts aside at least some money for our important community colleges. Not enough, but at least some. The K-12 schools are not the only educational institutions in desperate want of funds.
It seems to me to be a fatal idea to have two initiatives on the same issue on the same ballot. I hope the Munger initiative will fail to gather sufficient signatures.