Palo Alto Weekly

Spectrum - March 15, 2013

Letters to the editor

Where are the flowers?

Editor,

We support the California Avenue beautification project, but see no mention of flowers. Every beautiful town in the world has one or more live flower displays decorating their roadways. Mountain View's Castro Street has them, as do many restaurants, retail stores and industries. Sculpture success depends on the taste of the beholder but everyone loves flowers. I know flowers are more trouble to maintain, but in our view they're definitely worth it.

Gary Breitbard

Jena Rauti

San Jude Avenue

Palo Alto

A downtown parking idea

Editor,

Mayor Greg Scharff mentioned the need for downtown parking in his State of the City address and indicated an estimated cost of $60,000 per parking space. There is an alternative that comes without any cost to the city. If anyone is in doubt about that, you have only to look at an example that has been there for many years.

The Abitare condominium project was developed on what was then a small city parking lot located between High Street and Alma. The developer (Chuck Kinney, who later became mayor of Menlo Park) bought the air rights from the city. A multi-level underground parking garage was built. On top of the garage, a four-story building was constructed that included one retail level at the ground floor and three floors of for-sale residential condominiums above that.

The city got a parking garage for free. The downtown area got some new retail space and, more importantly, some new housing that contributes both property tax revenue and puts consumers who live in the condominiums within walking distance of all the stores in downtown Palo Alto.

This could be replicated on any city parking lot.

While considering this, the council might also want to reconsider the sacred cow (the 50-foot height limit). Garages do not have to be blocky, blah buildings. Downtown Chicago has buildings that include parking and residences that are architecturally stunning. The Abitare project was developed using a vertical subdivision map with a condominium plan overlay. Perhaps the council should ask the staff to revisit this concept.

John Paul Hanna

University Avenue

Palo Alto

One region idea: bad

Editor,

It seems the Silicon Valley Community Foundation proposes to turn the whole Bay Area into a single region. Hmmm. Facebook's CEO Mark Zuckerberg recently donated $500 million to this group, and suddenly the foundation apparently wants to take over the entire Bay Area. The last time I checked, we were living in a Constitutional Republic where individual rights are "unalienable," and cities have the freedom and sovereignty to chart their own courses.

This "One-Silicon-Valley-and-Bay-Area-Plan," to coin a phrase, brainchild of the Joint Venture Silicon Valley Network and the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, should be very worrying to residents. It would mean losing our representational form of democratic government. Exactly who would be deciding what's best for all Bay Area counties? And why are businesses and government so eager to partner? Have we already forgotten that the classic definition of totalitarian Fascism is partnership between government and big business? Nor is government by "region" — through unelected, nonrepresentational bodies — unknown in Communist countries.

Consider this quote by technology forecaster Paul Saffo: "Powerful regions are the new basic unit of governments in the 21st century." Not so new however: They were the basic unit of government in the Soviet Union in the 20th century! All that regional government accomplishes is to take away the rights of our cities, towns and counties along with those of the residents within them. This "new" idea has long since been proven a disastrous failure and needs to be nipped in the $500 million bud.

Cherie Zaslawsky

Oak Lane

Menlo Park

Whose fault is it?

Editor,

I would like to share my story of today with your readers:

I was parked in a parking lot of a large electronics store in Palo Alto. Next to me is a motorcycle. I park slightly angled touching the white line with my rear left wheel. When I come back from the store, I find my driver's door kicked in with a large motorcycle boot imprint.

So I call the police who take 45 minutes to appear.

While waiting an old lady tries to park next to me and rams into my trunk.

Police arrive and says:"Oh, that's easy, it's your (my) fault because you are touching the white line. You will have to pay for your own damage and that of the old lady who ran into you. We will file a report for the old lady."

Apparently in the U.S., if you touch the white line in a parking spot, other folks have the right to destroy your property.

I thought that is worth knowing for your readers because it could have far-reaching consequences on parking lots throughout California.

Christian Busch

Greenways Drive

Redwood City

Who knew what?

Editor,

The issue unmentioned in your soundly reasoned statement about the blown bullying incidents is "who knew what, and when." That the school board let none of the important facts into light during an election year in which two incumbents were running for reelection casts a particularly suspicious aroma on an unusual, prolonged silence.

Credible deniability concepts notwithstanding, this is definitely a case where the dog did not bark.

John Fredrich

La Para Avenue

Palo Alto

What schools need to succeed

Editor,

I am appalled that the president of the Santa Clara Board of Education and the board appear to be biased against public education and for the expansion of charter schools. I also found no evidence that the president has credentials, experience or training in the field of education. Free public education was first established in the 17th century in this country and has continued to educate all our children to this day. Every child is accepted, regardless of his/her condition or circumstance. None are excluded. It is the genius of this concept that has made our country great, leading to countries around the world seeking to copy our methods and success.

No large institution is without problems nor the necessity to work to solve them. Nevertheless,

the current effort to privatize public education is not the answer. Clearly, studies have shown that charter schools as a whole are no better, and are often worse, at improving performance. Public education is increasingly underfunded in our state. If billionaires and others are truly interested in better educational results, they should see to it that underperforming public schools get the resources, including new methods and techniques, and the highly trained teachers they need to accelerate progress. I hope that both the president and the board will work to see that all the children have what is needed to succeed.

Mae Stephen

Sand Hill Road

Palo Alto

Address city parking woes

Editor,

I understand there will be a city council meeting on March 18 that will address several downtown development issues including 27 University, the theoretical CAP study and the downtown parking woes. The meeting might also include a proposal from Chop Keenan to build a parking structure on a city-owned parking lot for his exclusive use (but charging employees, I assume). Yes, he should provide for parking, but this is a public property that needs to be devoted to addressing the existing parking problem, not devoted to one owner to help him build even more. If he must build, he can contribute the needed in-lieu funds at $60,000 plus per space (hopefully with no exceptions) and his employees can get in line like others in the employee parking lottery until a real solution is found to match parking demand with a downtown commercial district supply of employee parking.

I might be wrong, but I still sense that the public feels as if there is a simple solution and do not know the scope of what the city has allowed to happen or the impact it is having on our downtown neighborhoods that are soon to be entirely covered with commercial employee, assisted housing, Stanford, high school and Caltrain parking from the Creek to Embarcadero, and across Middlefield Road. Planned studies — let alone any concrete actions — will do little to address the problem, and will most likely just delay it.

Your accurate journalistic and editorial coverage might help create the understanding needed to find real solutions.

Ken Alsman

Ramona Street

Palo Alto

High-speed-rail questions

Editor,

I can't keep up with the various evolutions of opinion, rumors and facts about tracks, costs, funding and timing; and there is one issue that I have not seen in any consistent manner.

It is clear to me that one significant funding source will be air rights above the tracks. Does anyone know how air rights will be awarded?

One artist's rendering of stations indicates that there will be dozens and dozens of stations and large office/condo buildings above the trenched tracks, a la the Pan Am/Met Life Building over Grand Central Station in New York City.

I lived in New York City during the time when preservationists and developers compromised over the demolition of the historic train station. The economic drivers in mid-Manhattan are not too different from the eventual air rights over our own humble train tracks and stations.

I predict that the high speed rail is the Peninsula's future one way or the other, and sooner rather than later, given the long-term demand for office and housing. Just watch the current development density and heights in downtown Palo Alto and along El Camino Real.

Neilson Buchanan

Bryant Street

Palo Alto

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