Palo Alto Weekly

News - March 7, 2014

Around Town

NAME THAT LIBRARY ... Palo Alto's effort to renovate and expand its Main Library is proceeding apace. But the same cannot be said for a parallel effort to rename the Newell Road facility. The proposal to give the library a new name has been bouncing back and forth between the City Council and local boards since August 2012, when the Library Advisory Commission first took up the topic. The feeling was that the building's current name is both vague and confusing, given that it's neither the largest branch (that title goes to the Mitchell Park Library, which is undergoing its own reconstruction) nor the department's administrative center (that honor belongs to the Downtown Library). And unlike College Terrace and the Downtown branches, the Main Library's name makes no reference to the building's location — which is why the library commission has settled on "Rinconada Library" as the new name, a decision it reconfirmed last month. The name, which comes from Spanish for "elbow" or "inside corner," would link the building with the adjacent Rinconada Park. The council hasn't been too crazy about the idea in the past, with some members liking it and others urging the commission to consider naming it after a famous Palo Altan. A final decision was set to be made this week, but after a marathon discussion of development-impact fees, council members kicked the discussion forward to a future meeting, possibly later this month. Meanwhile, several community members, past and present, have been chiming in. Diane Jennings, former library director, added her voice to naming the building Rinconada Library, which she said will "keep the pattern of using location names for all facilities, with the exception, of course, of the very special Children's Library." Local architect John Northway had a different take and recommended naming the branch The Birge Clark Library, after the architect who launched his local practice in 1922 and whose many Spanish Revival projects around town include the iconic downtown Post Office. (For the record: The Main Library was designed by Edward Durell Stone.)

SOLAR KUDOS ... Ever-green Palo Alto was acknowledged last week for its successful efforts to streamline and improve its permitting process for installing residential and commercial solar photovoltaic (PV) systems, receiving the national 2014 Best Solar Collaboration Award. "The city was able to implement a series of streaming program improvements, initiatives, online documentation, and fee reductions to expedite and simplify the entire PV review and inspection experience," a city press release states. According to the city, the average number of days to get a permit for solar panels has dropped from 122 to three; the average number of times plans are returned with corrections has been halved and the number of solar applications received has shot up. "The City of Palo Alto deserves a tremendous amount of credit for listening to the needs of solar customers and making direct changes based on those needs," stated Jefferson Silver of the solar company SolarCity.

MAY THE BEST APP WIN ... The City of Palo Alto's 2014 Apps Challenge is off and running, with judging of the 74 entries currently underway. The challenge, which is being held as part of the 2nd National Day of Civic Hacking, called for ideas for smartphone apps that can help the city better engage with the community it serves. There are eight judges, from Mayor Nancy Shepherd to local startup founders. The city said 30 percent of entrants are younger than 18; that 30 percent includes members of Palo Alto High School's Android Development Club, which submitted a number of app ideas as a group. One idea was for an anti-bike-theft application that lets users register and keep track of their bikes, as well as communicate with police if bikes are stolen. A press conference announcing the top 10 finalists will be held at City Hall, 250 Hamilton Ave., next Thursday, March 13, at 5:30 p.m. After that, the finalists will have to develop and showcase their apps at an April 27 event. The "grand finale" announcing the winners (first place will be awarded $3,500; second place, $1,000; and third, $500) will be held May 31 to coincide with the 2nd National Day of Civic Hacking. Free tickets are available for both the April and May events. For more information, go to www.hackpaloalto.org.

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