Palo Alto Weekly

News - April 11, 2014

Around Town

LOTS OF LOVE ... Palo Alto's never-ending discussion about parking solutions spilled over into the public-arts arena Monday night, when the City Council held its annual joint meeting with the Public Arts Commission. While there was some talk of new sculptures, a proposed Arts Master Plan and the city's new online catalog of public art, council members repeatedly came back to the one issue that continues to flummox and frustrate the city's masses: parking. Council members Greg Scharff, Marc Berman and Larry Klein all talked about the fact that the city is planning on building a new downtown garage, possibly two, and asked the commission to look at ways to make the new structures visually pleasing. Berman acknowledged that making a garage look beautiful may sound a little like putting lipstick on the proverbial pig, but said the city should do what it can "to make those structures as appealing as possible." Klein observed that "the ugliest buildings around in most communities are parking garages." As one exception, he cited Miami Beach, Fla., which has won several awards for its parking structures. Klein issued a challenge for the commission. "One of their parking garages has become so popular that they now have weddings there," Klein said. "That's what I want for Palo Alto."

NORTHWARD BOUND ... After two busy years as an assistant planning director in Palo Alto, Aaron Aknin will soon be moving on to another city named after trees. Aknin has been hired by Redwood City to serve as its director of Community Development Department. Aknin, who has won plaudits from Palo Alto residents for his work in pursuing parking solutions downtown, will be charged in his new position with developing new strategies and improvements in "code enforcement, permit processing, building and engineering services," according to an announcement from Redwood City. Bob Bell, city manager at Redwood City, praised Aknin for his "excellent reputation for working through complex policy issues and navigating projects in partnership with the community." Aknin's departure from Palo Alto was also announced at Wednesday's meeting of the Planning and Transportation Commission, where he thanked commissioners for their work. "It's been short but it's been sweet," he said of his time in Palo Alto. Commissioner Vice Chair Arthur Keller thanked Aknin for his service. "I certainly have appreciated his intelligence and thoughtfulness and support of the work that we do," Keller said. Aknin won't be the first person to make the leap from Palo Alto to Redwood City in recent months. Curtis Williams, who retired as Palo Alto's planning director last year, recently joined Redwood City as the interim planning manager. This means Williams will now be reporting to his former assistant director.

REVERSAL OF POWER ... As a Stanford University undergraduate in the late 1970s Jeff Raikes was arrested while participating in a campus demonstration against the university's investments in South Africa, whose government at the time enforced racial apartheid. Today the tables are turned as Raikes, now CEO of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and a member of the Stanford University Board of Trustees, sits on the university's Special Committee on Investment Responsibility. In a Q and A following a campus speech Tuesday, Raikes was asked if he'd sign a petition backing the divestment of Stanford's fossil-fuels portfolio. "I don't think they'd ask me," he said. "What if they did? I'm not fully informed. These are the kinds of issues where I really think it requires some deep study, and I'd really want to do that and have not had that opportunity." In his speech on "Wealth, Philanthropy and Inequality," Raikes, who was an early employee of both Apple and Microsoft, advocated a research-based brand of philanthropy that encourages being willing to put money on innovative but risky ideas that, if successful, could spark large-scale change. Inherited wealth can distort values and undermine democracy, he said, quoting Warren Buffett to the effect that "he wanted his kids to have enough money that they could do anything, but not so much that they could do nothing."

MAKE WAY FOR THE SECRET SERVICE ... Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer is planning to host another Democratic National Committee fundraising event for President Barack Obama at her Palo Alto home on Thursday, May 8. Mayer has played host to the president before: She hosted a fundraising dinner at the house back in October 2010. The upcoming May 8 event is described as a reception.

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