Palo Alto Weekly

News - July 19, 2013

Around Town

PEACE OUT ... Palo Alto Mayor Greg Scharff has withdrawn from the Mayors for Peace, an international organization headquartered in Hiroshima, Japan, after nearly 30 years of Palo Alto mayoral endorsement, he has confirmed. Late Mayor Jim Burch endorsed Mayors for Peace in 1985, after appeals by hundreds of local citizens, according to Paul George executive director of the Peninsula Peace and Justice Center. Prior to Burch's action, the City Council approved a resolution endorsing a freeze on nuclear weapons. But subsequent mayors haven't passed along the mantle. Scharff said he first became aware of the city's membership after receiving emails from the organization to attend a conference in Hiroshima. Scharff said the council did not vote in a resolution to join the group. He strongly believes a city's role is to its constituents. "My job is filling potholes," he said, referring literally to road repairs. If the council were to pass a resolution supporting the membership, Scharff said he would follow that resolution. Flying to Hiroshima at taxpayer expense is also a no-go, he said. But George said the proper response "would be a polite 'no,' not canceling Palo Alto's membership. The bigger question here is a familiar one: Is it appropriate for a city council to take a stand on issues that do not seem to be directly related to city business? ... We live in a representative democracy, and council members are elected representatives. On occasion, those whom they represent will ask to have their voices amplified on important issues of the day. When something means so much to so many local residents, it becomes a local issue, regardless of the broader context. We hope the mayor will reconsider his decision," he said.

WORLD'S 'TOP CHOICE' SCHOOL? ... Stanford University hit a milestone of sorts in 2005, when the number of undergraduate applications surpassed 20,000 for the first time. That, however, is nothing by today's standards. This year, that number of applications was nearly double, with 38,828 applications. Only 2,210 students were admitted. "Stanford has become a top choice for undergraduates worldwide," university President John Hennessy told alumni in the July/August issue of Stanford Magazine. Recognizing a "dramatic increase in qualified applicants" and feeling the "responsibility and ability" to educate more students, Hennessy said he hopes to slowly increase undergraduate enrollment from 6,590 to about 8,000 over 10 to 15 years.

A GROWING TERRACE ... Change has long been the norm in Palo Alto's College Terrace neighborhood, whose close proximity to Stanford University, Stanford Research Park and the California Avenue Business District make it particularly vulnerable to the effects of new developments. But the latest building project to make its way toward College Terrace would effectively transform and expand the neighborhood. Under the "Mayfield Development Agreement" that the city and Stanford University signed in 2005, the university is allowed to build 180 units of housing at 1601 California Ave., which would include 68 single-family homes and two four-story apartment buildings with 112 units. On Thursday, the city's Architectural Review Board discussed the project and made some suggestions about the architecture and road designs (it didn't take any action). In designing the housing, the goal was to "make this project a natural organic extension of the College Terrace neighborhood," landscape architect Paul Laterri of Guzzardo Partnership told the board. Brent Barker, president of the College Terrace Neighborhood Association, agreed and said he hopes the new development is "not set up to be an island tethered to College Terrace but an integral part of College Terrace."

THE ORIGINAL TESLA ... To Palo Alto resident Dorrian Porter, Nikola Tesla may be the most fitting representative for the city. It's not just because the technology based on his inventions represents the foundations (and fortunes) of some of the city's greatest innovators, including his namesake company, Tesla Motors, whose cars use an alternating-current induction motor like the one originally invented by Tesla. Porter, who started a successful Kickstarter campaign to build a statue of Tesla in Palo Alto, also wanted to "pay respect to the person who used his brilliance to advance society, not for personal wealth." The project raised $127,260 from 722 backers, more than $5,000 above its target, to build a life-size bronze-cast statue of Tesla near Harold Hohbach's recently approved "Park Plaza" development at 195 Page Mill Road. Porter wrote on the Kickstarter site that he hopes to inspire entrepreneurs to think with a selflessness similar to Tesla's in business ventures. Fittingly, the statue of the turn-of-the-century technology innovator will be a wireless hotspot and have a time capsule to be opened in 2043.

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