Palo Alto Weekly

News - April 5, 2013

Around Town

THE JOYS OF ART ... Art lovers, rejoice! On Monday night, City Manager James Keene announced grand plans to expand and enhance the city's collection of public art. The egg-shaped "Digital DNA" statue in Lytton Plaza will be enhanced with "hatching chicks" whose "cheeps" will be piped in through the sound system. The "Push" statue at Mitchell Park will be painted in the "Color of Palo Alto" (a shade of green) in a bid to make "other communities green with envy." The new "Sofa Project" exhibition will put sofas throughout the Baylands to give weary travelers a place to rest and chat. Bol Park will get a 20-foot glass sculpture that will both function as a rain gauge and stimulate conversation about water use. And the "Go Mama" statue on California will undergo modifications as part of the city's new naming-rights partnership with website-hosting company GoDaddy.com. And Palo Alto firefighters will demonstrate their grace and agility with a series of ballet performances at King Plaza over the summer. Keene took the City Council through a slideshow of all these proposals at the April 1 meeting — before reminding them that it was April Fools' Day. The proposals may have been a gag, but they may not be too far from the truth. On April 8, in what could be a case of life imitating art, the council will consider a broad proposal for greatly expanding the city's public-art collection by requiring developers to set aside funds for art.

ALL IN THE FAMILY ... What do a Paly journalism teacher, a Google executive and an expert in neutrinos have in common? Apart from the surname Wojcicki, each will get an award this month from the Commonwealth Club of California. Esther Wojcicki, a Palo Alto High School teacher who is also the founder of ClassBadges (a website that allows teachers to give online badges to student achievers), is set to receive the William K. Bowes Lifetime Achievement Award from the Commonwealth Club. Her husband, Stanley Wojcicki, a retired physics professor from Stanford University, will also receive the prestigious award at the club's annual dinner in San Francisco on April 10. Not to be outdone, the couple's three daughters will each get their own awards. Susan Wojcicki, the senior vice president of advertising at Google; Anne Wojcicki, CEO and co-founder of the genetic-testing company 23andMe (and wife of Google co-founder, Sergey Brin); and Janet Wojcicki, an adjunct professor of pediatrics at University of California, San Francisco, are each set to receive the Distinguished Citizens Awards. The only non-Wojcicki who is set to be honored at the annual dinner is Jed York, the CEO of the San Francisco 49ers.

SAVING SHOPS ... Fearing that a bustling block of restaurants and shops in downtown Palo Alto could turn into a too-quiet street full of offices, Palo Alto officials appear ready to protect the 600 block of Emerson Street from possible conversion to office use. The zone change, under consideration Monday by the City Council, would require all buildings on the block to have retail at street level, although buildings that already have ground-floor offices can keep them unless the space is vacant for 12 months, in which case the retail requirement would kick in. The 600 block currently boasts such businesses as Gordon Biersch, Mantra, the Empire Grill and Tap Room and Buca di Beppo. The recent replacement of Fraiche Yogurt with an office seemed to convince council members that the block is particularly vulnerable to office conversion. In a memo last November, then-Vice Mayor Greg Scharff, Councilman Greg Schmid and Councilwoman Karen Holman argued that Emerson "provides a rich retail-restaurant" corridor that needs to be protected. The proposal is, in some ways, a blast from the past. The city previously required ground-floor retail on this block, but the council removed this requirement in 2009 because of concerns over the economic downturn.

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