Palo Alto Weekly

News - January 3, 2014

Around Town

REVELING RESPONSIBLY ... Thousands of holiday revelers made responsible decisions this holiday season by taking cabs and public transportation, choosing from a myriad smartphone-enabled ride-sharing services with annoying names, or just walking instead of driving while inebriated. It seems 32 unlucky folks did not. Santa Clara County's "Avoid the 13" DUI crackdown started Dec. 13 with fanfare around a much-tweeted-about patrol with Palo Alto Police Chief Dennis Burns, who didn't catch any drunken drivers. It ended on Jan. 1 with the final three of 32 people arrested over New Year's Eve.

BEST WISHES ... Only hours before the clock struck midnight to bring in 2014, Palo Alto Online staff decided to ask Town Square users what they hoped for in the New Year. One poster said they wanted "Cures for MS, ALS, MD, RA, and cancer." Very noble. A common theme, though, was a desire to have city leaders who oppose development in Palo Alto, with one poster stating her wish as: "A new City Council populated mainly by Greg Schmid clones." Another commenter chimed in: "If we start now we could have Greg's 10 years apart in age." Among other wishes, poster Craig Laughton enthusiastically hoped for a Stanford Rose Bowl win. Sorry, Craig.

ALLIANCE BY DESIGN ... Palo Alto's architecture has been under a glaring spotlight in the last few months, with the modern design aesthetic of new downtown buildings grating up against the traditional tastes of many local residents. But now, architects are striking back. Early in December, more than 20 local architects submitted a letter to the City Council making the case against citizen appeals of building plans that the city has approved. The architects' group includes former Councilman John Barton, former Architectural Review Board Chair Judith Wasserman, current architecture board member Randy Popp and local architect Tony Carrasco. The recent disagreement, they wrote in a letter to the council, isn't between modern and traditional styles. Palo Alto, they say, "has good examples of modern design and poor examples of traditional design, so this is not really a one-sided debate." They also dispute the "compatibility" argument offered by the residents. The city's goal in encouraging compatibility, they say, "does not strive to cause projects to be identical with or to imitate existing styles. Design compatibility refers to overall building massing, site organization, character of detailing and quality of materials and construction." The architects agreed with residents, however, that the city could benefit from improvements in its design-review process and agreed that the city's review boards should discuss how the city enforces its design standards.

SHUTTLE DIPLOMACY ... As Palo Alto looks ahead to the long-awaited reconstruction of California Avenue, city officials are brainstorming ways to minimize the impact of construction on parking in the eclectic commercial district. Vice Mayor Nancy Shepherd had one suggestion: reaching out to Caltrain to see if the city can use the dozens of parking spaces in its lot that Shepherd said are unused each day. The lot, she told city planners in an email, is about "1/4 to 1/3 filled during the work day." According to Assistant Planning Director Aaron Aknin, however, Caltrain officials said they would prefer to keep the parking spaces reserved for train riders. In response to Shepherd, he noted that the city already has other plans to accommodate cars while construction is in place. This includes making 48 additional parking spaces available on Birch Street and making use of a parking lot formerly owned by the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) on the corner of El Camino Real and Page Mill Road. The city is also discussing with Stanford University the possibility of using parking lots between Bank of America and Wells Fargo Bank on El Camino Real and introducing a noontime shuttle between Stanford Research Park and California Avenue.

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