Palo Alto Weekly

News - October 5, 2012

News Digest

Man uses son's bike to chase suspected burglar

A man used his son's bike to chase down a suspected burglar Monday evening, Oct. 1, after the man and his family returned to their home in the 300 block of Kingsley Avenue to discover it had been recently burglarized, Palo Alto police said.

Agent Marianna Villaescusa said the family arrived home around 7:51 p.m. and noticed a young man on a bicycle circling the area in front of the house "doing figure eights." Upon entering the house the family noticed that the backdoor was open and heard a commotion on the east side of the home, she said. The family quickly realized a burglary had occurred, and the man called police and used his son's bike — which had been moved to the front of a neighbor's house — to chase after the young bicyclist, she said.

About a half a block up, the man spotted three teenage boys in a small alley at the same time a police officer arrived.

The responding officer detained the three boys, all juveniles, who seemed "very nervous," she said. The boys said they were on their way to Greer Park to play basketball but then started to give conflicting statements, and two of the boys lied about their names, she said. Another officer arrived to do an area check and discovered stolen items hidden in a bush near where the juveniles were detained. It was later discovered that the items — including jewelry, U.S. currency and a pocket knife — had been taken from the Kingsley residence, she said.

One of the youths was taken to juvenile hall, and the other two were released to a juvenile center, Villaescusa said. All three were cited for burglary and conspiracy, and two were also cited for giving false information to a police officer.

Palo Alto takes a stand against death penalty

Palo Alto thrust itself into a statewide debate over the death penalty Monday night when the City Council emphatically endorsed a proposal to abolish the practice, which officials characterized as both morally and financially crippling.

The council voted 8-0, with Gail Price absent, to adopt a resolution spearheaded by Councilwoman Karen Holman and Mayor Yiaway Yeh that endorses Proposition 34. The measure seeks to abolish the death penalty and replace it with life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. It would also create a $100 million fund that would be distributed annually to law-enforcement agencies.

In endorsing the measure, Holman and Yeh stressed the financial impact of California's death penalty, which is estimated by the Legislative Analyst's Office to cost the state about $130 million annually. In their memo, they argue that this financial drain has resulted in fewer grants coming to the city from the state for capital projects. That amount the city receives in state grants has shrunk from $2.7 million in 2009 to zero in 2012 and 2013, Holman and Yeh noted.

Holman said that while the city cannot guarantee that the passage of Proposition 34 will necessarily result in grant funds being rerouted to local communities, it seems clear that if the death penalty remains, the funds will "most certainly not be" rerouted. The financial argument, and the death penalty's impact on local infrastructure, was the focus of the colleague's memo.

Palo Alto hires development director

Palo Alto's aggressive effort to reform its famously frustrating permitting operation hit another landmark this week when the city hired its first-ever Development Services Director.

Peter Pirnejad, who has spent the past four years as assistant director of economic and community development in Daly City, was hired to oversee Palo Alto's Development Center, the nexus of the city's permit applications and a frequent source of customer frustrations. The hiring of Pirnejad, which City Manager James Keene announced Wednesday, Oct. 3, is the latest component in Keene's effort to improve customer service and efficiency at the Development Center — an effort that also included adding new project managers, hiring a day-to-day manager for the center and leasing space above the Development Center.

Pirnejad will be charged with taming what has become known derisively as the "Palo Alto Process" and coordinating the efforts of the various city departments involved in the process, including Planning, Fire, Public Works and Utilities.

According to a statement from Keene, Pirnejad was selected after an extensive search that yielded 64 applications. Eight candidates were ultimately selected for interviews with three panels, which included department stakeholders, community representatives and Bay Area public sector leaders. He will begin his duties on Oct. 16 and will receive a salary of $161,249.

— Gennady Sheyner

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