Palo Alto Weekly

News - June 13, 2014

Around Town

HOW DARE YOU, PALO ALTO ... Palo Alto got a bad rap during a heated Bay Area housing debate Monday at Bloomberg's The Next Big Thing Conference at Bay Area resort Cavallo Point in Sausalito. San Francisco venture capitalist Ron Conway, while defending San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee against criticism from former Facebook vice president Chamath Palihapitiya that the mayor isn't doing enough to combat growing income inequality in the City, snapped: "I live in the city of San Francisco. You live in the city of Palo Alto. ... How dare you, Palo Alto resident!"

THE EYE OF THE BEHOLDER ... "I have a giant target placed on my back that the community has placed there, and I wear it proud," said Lee Lippert, chair of the city's Architecture Review Board (ARB), during the board's discussion with the City Council this week. Indeed, the board has been taking heat from the community in recent months, as new modern-looking buildings have been popping up around town, offending residents and council members whose aesthetics lean toward traditional architecture. In April, as former planning commission Chair Eduardo Martinez accepted a resolution of appreciation from the council, he used his speech to advise the council that it's time to "reinvent the ARB." "As architects we let the pendulum swing too far to where we're afraid to criticize the work of other architects," Martinez said. With accusations mounting, board members this week defended themselves by emphasizing their very limited role in approving developments. Lippert said there is a "misconception in the community" about the board's role, which he said is not to design projects but to merely review them for "quality and character." Board member Robert Gooyer made a similar point, saying, "We can only critique what's presented to us." The board provided renderings of various projects whose designs have changed dramatically between inception and approval, in some cases leading to reduction in massing and height. Most council members expressed gratitude to the board for their work, though Pat Burt and Karen Holman both voiced concerns about the board's willingness to approve large, modern buildings. Burt said that there is a sense in the community that the board is generally resistant to traditional styles. "We've seen on Waverley a number of buildings that don't seem at all (consistent) with the character of what the block has been about," Burt said.

AND THE OSCAR GOES TO ... A pair of Stanford alumni claimed the top two prizes in the documentary category at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' 2014 Student Academy Awards. At the award ceremony, held June 7, Helen Hood Scheer took home gold for "The Apothecary," which followed a pharmacist living in a remote region of the American Southwest; J. Christian Jensen won silver for "White Earth," an exploration of the North Dakota oil boom told through the eyes of the children living there. Both are recent graduates of the Stanford's MFA program in documentary filmmaking. The two went through the program together, producing their award-winning pieces as thesis projects. Scheer said it makes sense that she and Jensen would take gold and silver in the documentary category. "The Stanford program has a reputation as being the best program in the country," she said. Scheer said it was a "fantastic" feeling to take home the gold. Likewise, Jensen was elated to claim silver. "I was pretty stoked about it," he said.

GIRL POWER ... Palo Alto native and new YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki graced this year's Forbes magazine's "25 Most Powerful Women in the World" listicle. At No. 12, Wojcicki beat out Oprah Winfrey (No. 14), Marissa Meyer (No. 18) and Meg Whitman (No. 20). The twelfth most powerful woman in the world took over as YouTube CEO in February, leaving her post as Google's senior vice president of advertising. Wojcicki, who grew up on the Stanford University campus while her father taught physics there, convinced Google high-ups in 2006 to purchase YouTube for $1.65 billion. She's known as "employee number 16," joining Google in 1999.

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