Palo Alto Weekly

News - August 3, 2012

News Digest

Race for Palo Alto City Council expands

Perpetual Palo Alto City Council candidate and panhandler Victor Frost is again tossing his hat into the ring this year, bringing the number of unofficial candidates for November's race to six. Finance consultant Timothy Gray this week also filed his campaign-finance statement.

A seventh potential candidate, concert promoter Mark Weiss, has pulled election papers but has not yet filed them.

They join attorney Marc Berman, Santa Clara County Supervisor Liz Kniss and incumbent councilmen Greg Schmid and Pat Burt in their quest to fill four open seats on the nine-member council.

Frost, Gray and Weiss all made bids for the council in 2009.

Last year, Frost — who often sits on sidewalks in the downtown and California Avenue districts — lost a long legal tussle with the city over its sit-lie ordinance and was fined $50 for two infractions. His campaign flier this year lists "constitutional rights, homeless rights, civil rights and developing a new democracy" as his key issues.

In 2009, Gray focused his campaign on the city's finances and its infrastructure backlog. He identified himself as an "independent voice" and also expressed concerns about the police department and high-speed rail.

Most recently, Weiss has advocated for the preservation of the old Varsity Theater in downtown Palo Alto, which formerly housed a Borders bookstore, as a concert venue. In 2009, Weiss told the Weekly he would eschew both campaign committees and financial contributions.

According to campaign-finance statements, covering the period from Jan. 1 to June 30, neither Frost nor Gray has received any contributions for their council bids.

With three months to go, most of the other candidates' campaigns are just starting to hit the ground. Marc Berman has received $22,105 in contributions, including $100 from current councilwoman Nancy Shepherd and $350 from the Rich Gordon for Assembly Committee.

Kniss has raised $5,800, including contributions from current councilwoman Gail Price and past mayors Judy Kleinberg, Gary Fazzino and Peter Drekmeier.

Schmid has loaned his campaign $2,500. Burt has announced his candidacy but not officially entered the race.

Man nabbed for 'window smash' burglaries

Palo Alto police have arrested a man who allegedly stole purses, bags and small electronic items from cars in Palo Alto and other Bay Area cities.

Reynaldo Gomez, 48, of Los Gatos, was arrested Thursday, July 26, outside a San Jose courthouse where he was scheduled to appear for another matter.

Detectives tied Gomez to the burglaries after he used a stolen credit card at Costco. The credit card, which did not match Gomez's Costco card, had been stolen from a Palo Alto victim.

A search of Gomez's residence in the Los Gatos mountains yielded property linked to auto burglaries in other cities, including Campbell, San Jose, Sunnyvale, Santa Clara and San Ramon, police said.

Police said Gomez targeted gym parking lots, where he would perform "window smash" burglaries. He was booked into the Santa Clara County Main Jail in San Jose on multiple counts of burglary and possession of stolen property.

El Camino facelift begins with housing project

A lot left vacant at 389 El Camino Real when a car dealer abandoned Menlo Park will now come to life again as a housing development.

The Menlo Park City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night, July 31, to let Matteson Companies build 17 townhomes and nine single-family homes on the 1.23-acre site.

Three units will be set aside as below-market-rate housing, costing the developer about $1.45 million to build. Matteson will also pay $1.1 million in fees to the city and other agencies.

Years of negotiation led to the project's current design, meant to blend in with the Allied Arts neighborhood bordering the property. Originally, in 2008, Matteson proposed packing 48 homes onto the lot, a plan that inspired protest from the neighbors.

And now: "I don't know how you could possibly vote against this," Menlo Park resident Preston Butcher said of the scaled-down project. "It's absolutely magnificent."

Indeed, the council could not, voting 5-0 to approve the project after some discussion on the tree canopy and sidewalk widths. Councilman Peter Ohtaki noted that he used to live near the empty lot and expressed pleasure that the landscape would be changing in the near future.

— Sandy Brundage

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