Palo Alto Weekly

News - July 25, 2014

Around Town

FOR THE BIRDS ... It's not only new developments' mass, density and modernity that Palo Alto residents decry; now it's also their lack of bird-friendliness. Numerous Town Square commenters on last week's cover story on architectural review are advocating for an ordinance to prevent designs that cause birds to fly into buildings. "Birds collide with windows that reflect trees, landscaping, or sky," wrote Shani Kleinhaus of the Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society. "There are ways to design buildings that are safer for birds." Other Town Square posters soon chimed in. "Please help Palo Alto to become a Bird Friendly city," Vi Sialia pleaded. Another sounded hopeful about the possibility of a bird-safety ordinance: "Utility and beauty are unfortunately within the domain of the property owners, but an ordinance about architecture that doesn't kill birds is something that the City could probably do."

SHIFTING WATERS ... A replacement for the damaged "bird bath" fountain at the northern end of Palo Alto's California Avenue has been in the works for almost six years, but the city's Public Art Commission last week authorized one more tweak to keep things in line with the changing plans for the area. The fountain's convoluted history began in 2008, when the commission sought and was denied $190,000 from the City Council for a fountain to be created by artist Bruce Beasley. After locals clamored for a fountain that would make a "splashy water sound," among other preferences, the commission then decided on a more contemporary — and less expensive — fountain design in January 2011. "Confluence" by Mark Szabo would cost $50,000, in addition to some public-works funds. Then the city's planning department began to roll out its California Avenue Streetscape Project, which prompted discussion on moving "Confluence" more into the center of a planned plaza to make the area more pedestrian-friendly and accessible. Meanwhile, new regulations for filtration systems and pooling fountains made it necessary to redesign "Confluence," taking away a basin and replacing it with rocks for falling water to splash on. These changes and other unpaid services added up to a grand total of $22,513 in additional work for Szabo to complete, while the subtraction of the basin rendered $10,255 of work unnecessary. Last Thursday, the art commission unanimously approved the net $12,258 of additional work.

BEST IN SNOBBYNESS ...Palo Alto likes to think it's the best at many things: going green, engendering innovation, beautiful open space, dining, education. Turns out Palo Altans are best at something else: being snobby. Movoto, a national real estate brokerage website (ironically co-founded by Palo Alto resident Dan Lorimer), has dubbed Palo Alto the No. 1 snobbiest small city in America (out of 10 total). "Locals are proud of where they live and aren't afraid to brag about it if it comes up in conversation (or even if it doesn't)," reads a Movoto post on Palo Alto's ranking. Movoto arrived at the rankings after analyzing median home price (the higher the better); percent of population with a college degree (the higher the better); and private schools, performing arts, art galleries and fast-food restaurants per capita (the more the better). Palo Alto, with the highest median home price (more than $1 million on average, according to Movoto), the fourth highest household income, fourth highest percent of college grads (at 80 percent), high number of private schools and a "wide selection" of art galleries, easily came out as most snobby.

GOING NATIONAL ON BULLYING ...Palo Alto Mayor Nancy Shepherd joined more than 170 mayors across the country in signing on to The BULLY Project, an anti-bullying initiative launched by the U.S. Conference of Mayors and filmmaker Lee Hirsch, creator of the 2011 film "Bully. " Hirsch wants people to know that more than 13 million kids are bullied in America each year. Said Shepherd: "We have faced this issue on a local level in our community and know the importance of bringing together parents, students, schools, mental health professionals and others to form a system of support for our youth and teens that we call Project Safety Net." The Palo Alto school district recently spent more than 18 months developing new policies on bullying, prompted by a 2012 federal finding that the district's mishandling of an ongoing bullying case had violated the civil rights of a middle school student with disabilities.

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