CHANGE OF PLANNERS ... Palo Alto's Planning and Transportation Commission lost one of its top veterans this month when Samir Tuma announced his resignation from the influential and notoriously detail-oriented commission. Tuma, who joined the commission in 2007, wrote in a letter to the city that he is leaving because his wife, Kriss Deiglmeier has "an amazing opportunity to work on a poverty-alleviation project overseas, and we will be leaving the country for six months." When asked by phone to elaborate, Tuma declined to state where he will be traveling. But even without his presence, the Wednesday night meeting of the planning commission hit close to home for Tuma. The first item the commission considered was a proposal by Tuma and Deiglmeier to subdivide their property on Chimalus Drive in Barron Park. Though it was Deiglmeier and not Tuma who presented the item to the commission, members noted Tuma's recent resignation during the discussion. Vice Chair Mark Michael said it's "important to eliminate any appearance of ethical lack of clarity" and pointed out that even if Tuma had not resigned, the commission would be able to proceed with this item (Tuma would merely have had to recuse himself from the discussion and vote). The commission agreed that Tuma and Deiglmeier's request is straightforward and approved it by a 6-0 vote. The decision allows the couple to create a two-lot subdivision and permits them to have each lot be 55.85 feet in width, whereas 60 feet is typically the required minimum. The city's planning staff also recommended approval, noting that the applicants' proposal "would meet the minimum site area and eliminate the site's existing nonconforming lot."
ALL THAT NOISE ... Faced with noise complaints, Palo Alto may soon turn down the volume at one of its most prominent gathering spots. The City Council will consider on Monday night whether to set time limits on amplified sound at Lytton Plaza, which has a long history as the city's "free speech" zone. But it's not speech that's vexing critics but rather the music. The plaza was renovated in 2009, at which time the city installed several electric outlets. The intent was to use these outlets for productions of city-sponsored events, according to a new report. But these outlets have since been used by musicians to "perform amplified music at all hours of the day and night," the report states. And it's not just music. "People have used the outlets to power portable stereos, heaters, stoves and various other household outlets." The city's Parks and Recreation Commission has been trying to solve the problem of excessive noise for months, weighing various proposals. After scrapping a prior plan that would have required permits for amplified sound, the commission endorsed on Aug. 28 a policy that would allow amplified sound on a first come, first-served basis between 5 and 10 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, between noon and 11 p.m. on Saturday and between noon and 10 p.m. on Sunday. No permits would be required to use the plaza during the standard hours, but those looking to reserve a time in advance would obtain a permit for $90.