Palo Alto Weekly

News - October 12, 2012

Around Town

NAME THAT LIBRARY ... As Palo Alto plows forth with its bond-funded renovation of local libraries, city officials are looking far beyond brick-and-mortar fixes. In the case of the Main Library, which is set to be expanded and renovated next year, the city is also considering a name change. The frontrunner so far is "Rinconada Library." That was the recommendation the city's Library Advisory Commission issued at its last meeting on Sept. 27. The recommendation followed a suggestion from the City Council that the name "Main Library" is too vague and meaningless, particularly given that the Newell Road library isn't even the city's largest (that distinction goes to the Mitchell Park Library, which is currently getting rebuilt from scratch). Commissioner Bob Moss advocated the name Rinconada Library at the meeting as a safe option given its location on a centrally located campus that also includes Rinconada Park, the Palo Alto Arts Center and the Junior Museum and Zoo. The city is, in fact, currently putting together a master plan for the Rinconada campus with the goal of improving connections and circulation. Moss said calling the library "Rinconada Library" would be the simplest solution though urged the city to wait until the library is renovated before making the switch. The name change would still have to get approved by the council before it becomes final.

NO THEFT HERE ... For a brief time, Barron Park neighborhood residents were incensed. A 4-foot-long wood sign at Cornelis Bol Park had disappeared, sawed off at both posts during the Sept. 29 weekend, residents reported. The sign on Laguna Avenue featured a large, colorful portrait of the park's first and now deceased donkey, Mickey. It had been a park fixture for nearly 20 years, according to a longtime resident. Upon inquiring of city workers, the resident said that Erin Perez from the city's Community Services Department merely said a replacement sign would be made. As it turns out, while thefts have been plaguing other parts of town, the apparent Bol Park vandalism turned out this week to be something else: none other than city maintenance. "The same sign will be returned soon, after a little sprucing up," City of Palo Alto spokeswoman Linda Clerkson said in an email to the Weekly.

RIPE FOR GROWTH ... Higher buildings. Denser developments. More foot traffic. Economic vitality. That's Palo Alto's vision for the neighborhood around California Avenue a vision that took another step forward at last week's Planning and Transportation Commission meeting. The commission agreed at its Oct. 3 meeting to rezone four adjacent parcels on the 400 block of Page Mill Road from residential to commercial. The parcels, which currently house single-family residences, would be rezoned to allow construction of a taller mixed-use building that will likely include major office space. The commission voted 6-0, with Arthur Keller absent, to support the rezoning proposal by architect John Northway. At its Oct. 3 discussion, commissioners agreed that the Page Mill sites aren't suitable for residential developments. But they also stressed that much work still needs to be done before Northway's proposed development gets the green light. Commissioner Michael Alcheck noted that the developer will have to demonstrate that the project would not have adverse parking impacts or burden neighboring properties with risks of toxins being emitted during construction. "The next step in the process is one that will be most difficult figuring out how to make this work," Alcheck said.

THE SUPREMES ... Obamacare, voting requirements, same-sex marriage and Anthony Kennedy's interesting role on the Supreme Court were just a few of the many topics that bubbled up during this week's discussion between Stanford University professor and constitutional lawyer Pamela Karlan and Jeffrey Toobin, the legal-affairs reporter for the New Yorker and CNN. During a Tuesday night chat at the Herbst Theater in San Francisco, Toobin and Karlan broke down the current state of the Supreme Court, where four of the nine members are currently in their 70s, and parsed the ideological differences between the conservatives on the court. Kennedy, Toobin argued, isn't the "moderate" most people think he is but "an extremist with unpredictable enthusiasm." He pointed to Kennedy's support in the controversial Citizens United ruling, which restricts the government's ability to curtail election spending by corporations, and his support for Lawrence v. Texas, which put an end to Texas' sodomy law. Karlan and Toobin also lamented the rise of conservative ideologies on the nation's highest court, with no apparent resistance from the Democratic camp. Karlan had a hypothesis for why that's the case. Conservative buzzwords such as "strict constructionism" and "judicial restraint" are easier to throw around than nuanced arguments about judicial philosophy, she said. "Who wants to be for 'loose constructionism?'" Karlan asked. "Or for 'judicial supremacy?' Complex arguments are harder to make than simple arguments," she concluded.

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