Palo Alto Weekly

News - June 21, 2013

Around Town

A WAKE-UP CALL ... Palo Alto's effort to ban vehicle dwelling within city borders has featured all the elements residents have come to love and hate about the famously thorough city — focused community meetings, long public hearings, deep divisions, frequent revisions, heavy outreach, considerations of alternatives, reconsideration of the whole process and, ultimately, a reversion to the original proposal. This week, the city will head into the final stretch of the long and unpleasant journey when the City Council's Policy and Services Committee reviews the vehicle-banning ordinance that it directed staff to draft last month. If it votes to approve the ordinance, the law would then head to the full council for final approval. Even if the ordinance becomes law, as now seems increasingly likely, Palo Alto officers won't exactly be rushing out to bang on the car windows of vehicle dwellers. Under a plan prepared by the department, the city would embark on a "robust notification progress" about the new law, personally reach out to known vehicle dwellers to couple them with social-service providers; devote 60 days to "education, outreach and transition" and give warnings for additional 30 days. Even after this leniency period ends, enforcement will be complaint-based and will "generally not have officers self-initiate contacts for violation of the ordinance," Assistant Police Chief Bob Beacom wrote in a memo. "As current practice dictates, officers will continue to provide affected parties with referrals to social-service agencies. The goal will be to assist these individuals, who violate the ordinance, to find appropriate social services and utilizing the judicial system only as the last resort."

WITH HONORS ... When South Palo Alto's newest housing development opens its doors at the former site of the Palo Alto Bowl, it will include as part of its design a direct link to the city's past. Monroe Place, as the housing portion of the development is called (there will also be a four-story hotel), will feature three new interior streets. Under a proposal made by the Palo Alto Historical Association and scheduled to be approved by the City Council on Monday, these streets will be named for three Palo Alto officers who had died in the line of duty: Lester Cole, Gene Clifton and Theodore Brassinga. "We have heard from the Police Department about their interest in having streets named for police officers who had died in the line of duty," city Historian Steve Staiger wrote in a letter to the city. "We support this desire and have recommended that the three streets in the Palo Alto Bowl (former) site be named for the three Palo Alto officers who died in the line of duty." The only obstacle is that Palo Alto already has a Clifton street, which bears no relation to the fallen officer. After discussing this issue with Police Chief Dennis Burns, the historical association accepted his suggestion to name the street "Gene Court." The other two streets would be Cole Court and Brassinga Court.

HERE COMES THE SUN ... For years, Palo Alto has been scouring far and wide for green sources of electricity, from dams and wind farms to geothermal plants and methane-burning landfills. Until recently, solar energy has been in short supply. That changed last week, when the city signed three 30-year solar contracts that between them will supply 18 percent of Palo Alto's energy needs once they come online in 2017. The three contracts with Elevation Solar, Western Antelope Blue Sky Ranch, and Frontier Solar, which will cost the city about $350 million, are the latest installment in the city's quest to make its electric portfolio completely carbon-neutral. These days, most local electricity already comes from renewable sources, with the remainder offset through purchase of "renewable energy certificates" that support green-energy projects in other parts of the state. By 2017, the city expects to go 100 percent carbon neutral without buying the certificates. "Palo Alto has bought the entire output from these three new projects, which are being built right here in our home state," Jane Ratchye, director of the Utilities Department's Resource Management, said in a statement. "People can go gaze upon the fields of solar panels and know that's exactly where their electric power is coming from! I find that pretty cool."

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