Palo Alto Weekly

Spectrum - August 8, 2014

Letters to the editor

A silly campaign

Editor,

Just read this: "Brown is the new green" — at least according to the Santa Clara Valley Water District, which is launching a $460,000 summer drought campaign of that name to encourage residents to let their lawns go a little brown in the name of saving water. "Lawns are generally the single biggest water user for a typical property," a lawn care tip sheet reads. "Want to brag about your water conservation? The district will be distributing free 'Brown is the New Green' lawn signs as part of the campaign."

I'm sorry, but in my book, lawn signs are not about being "green." Think of the costs (environmental costs particularly) of manufacture, distribution and disposal. Go ahead and conserve water, but think twice about participating in this silly campaign.

Carol Muller

Heather Lane, Palo Alto

Here to stay

Editor,

Thank you for writing about the issue of services for homeless and low-income residents here in Palo Alto ("Palo Alto nonprofit for homeless low-income residents faces crisis," July 19). We want to assure the community that the affordable homes and supportive services provided at the Opportunity Center will be here for years to come.

Community Working Group (CWG) partnered with InnVision Shelter Network (IVSN) and the Santa Clara County Housing Authority to create the Opportunity Center, CWG's flagship project. CWG is a volunteer-run nonprofit organization that brings people together to build partnerships and make the best use of available resources to provide affordable housing options and rehabilitative services for individuals and families here in the Mid-Peninsula who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.

The Opportunity Center includes 88 affordable apartments on its upper floors, and two service centers offering health care, case management, job training, light snacks, showers and more, on its first floor. CWG keeps the apartments affordable by offering rent subsidies through IVSN and covers all the non-staff operational costs (including phones, copiers, utilities, janitorial services and maintenance) for the service centers. In addition, CWG contracts with IVSN to manage the delivery of services, which are provided by IVSN and other nonprofits.

We know that providing services in conjunction with housing is critical to stabilizing low-income families, and we are so proud of what the community collaboration has accomplished through the Opportunity Center: Last year alone, 28 Opportunity Center clients got jobs and 19 got permanent housing. We will certainly keep up the high level and quality of the supportive services offered by the Center!

John Barton

Board president, Community Working Group

Charleston Road, Palo Alto

A caring community

Editor,

I have always thought of Palo Alto as a caring community. For example, consider the Opportunity Center on Encinal Avenue adjacent to the Town and Country Shopping Center. It provides a variety of essential services to the needy. It was built on three separate land parcels. The City Staff assisted the donor community to clear the complex land transfers required. And they did it promptly. No Palo Alto process there.

Early City Fathers made a controversial decision when they decided to purchase and distribute water and electricity to the residents. The benefits of that decision have provided many valuable services like parks and open spaces to all. A caring decision by the City government.

I urge the City's leaders to consider the social benefits of preserving diversity and affordable housing in our community. I suggest that Palo Alto provide funds for the acquisition of the Buena Vista mobile home property on El Camino while enacting restrictions to preserve its affordability. Over the next 50 years, the property can be converted to other forms of low-cost rental housing. It will require City Council and staff creativity to do this, but maintaining diversity will demonstrate to all that Palo Alto is a caring community.

Robert Roth

Middlefield Road, Palo Alto

Connect the dots

Editor,

Our students are the fodder in a bureaucratic safety divide between the Palo Alto school district and our city government. Where is the hazard? In and around Embarcadero as Palo Alto High School students arrive, head for lunch or leave. Why? The district is directing students to walk and ride as 100 parking spaces are eliminated in the new art center construction. What will we see? Students running across Embarcadero and sidewalks jammed with more bikers and pedestrians as cars race through the underpass. We want our students to arrive safely in spite of themselves.

In an institutional logic that defies public common sense, the district says they can only engage with safety within their property, and the city responds that they cannot take actions to mitigate the hazards because this is a district project. Our students move between these lines, but the institutions cannot connect the dots.

I invite a call from the head of the school board to our mayor. The call can align the teams, demand short and long-term steps, and cut the committee meetings. The city and district must work together and each make improvements inside and out of the school for traffic safety.

Next week the Palo Alto police can help protect the students as they arrive and depart — it is too late for much more. In the next month, let's install barriers to control temptations to leave the car, jaywalk or fall into the street. The long term must consider student and bike interests in the massive traffic flows on Embarcadero near Palo Alto High.

Bob Wenzlau

Dana Avenue, Palo Alto

Celebrating diversity

Editor,

We wish to bring your attention and that of the public's to California Assembly Bill 1750. AB 1750 would require the state's Department of Education to commission a report to identify model programs, standards and curricula pertaining to ethnic studies for grades seven to 12.

In essence, ethnic studies addresses racial and ethnic concerns in an effective manner. Due to the fact that California has one of the largest and most diverse populations in the country, this sociological study ought to be implemented in California schools. In fact, 43.4 percent of the population and 42 percent of Palo Alto is comprised of minorities, yet we still do not have any formal type of cultural history. For about four decades, individuals like us have pushed for the idea of ethnic studies, but as of now, the school educational system has yet to prominently incorporate this topic.

Developing ethnic studies in grades seven to 12 is crucial in creating a classroom environment that is accepting of cultural diversity. In order to do so appropriately, this bill calls for the Instructional Quality Commission to establish the most effective way to implement ethnic studies classes through speaking to experts of ethnic studies, along with educators, researchers and professional associations.

We ask the public to support Assembly Bill 1750 as it would be the first step in creating ethnic study classes for schools across California. As of now the bill is pending in the State Senate; to show your support, write to your local state senator or visit us at ethnicstudies4all.weebly.com.

Rick Takeuchi

El Camino Way, Palo Alto

Can-do spirit

Editor,

Rapidly accelerating, and potentially irreversible, climate change demands creativity and drastic change to avoid disasters, e.g., either the flooding of major parts of Palo Alto or millions to avoid it. In that context your Aug. 1 editorial, "Skeptical about 'net zero,'" showed an unfortunate lack of imagination, basically calling for "business as usual." We can and should do better. Palo Alto is already recognized as a leader on climate change. Recent examples include carbon-free electricity and broader installation of charging stations. Cities around the country look to us as a model, and with Congress paralyzed, action at the local level is our best hope.

Net zero sounds like just the type of creativity that is needed: for example, making the Stanford Research Park a "cutting-edge proving ground for innovative concepts in energy generation, carbon sequestration, recycled water, urban farming and drought-resistant landscaping."

There is a strong — and justified — wave of opposition to rampant development in the city. Requiring new developments to be net zero would support that wave. You rightly argue against zoning that is "riddled with available exceptions" but offer no evidence that net zero would involve such exceptions.

You acknowledge that Stanford has managed its no-new-trips requirement well but allege that it is na´ve to think that the City could implement such a policy. I'm sure Stanford also felt that meeting its requirement was unachievable but found ways do it. We need the same can-do spirit.

Finally, you argue that the staff can point to no city where such a policy has been successfully implemented. There is also no example where it's failed, so why should we be afraid to be the first to make it work? Climate change cries out for leadership, and Palo Alto is able — and should be ready — to exercise it.

Walter Hays

Parkside Drive, Palo Alto

Angel in Palo Alto

About 30 minutes before the car crashed into University Cafe yesterday (July 31), a lady was inside Avenidas, the senior center around the corner on Bryant Street. She was about to enjoy a delicious lunch in La Comida, the dining hall inside the senior center. She suddenly lost consciousness, and the paramedics came very soon. The wonderful manager of the dining facility stayed with her and did all the right procedures until help came. After she accompanied her to the ambulance, she heard what happened on University Avenue. She rushed to the scene along with some officials. Without any hesitation, she helped to calm the victims.

I am writing this true story witnessed by this old man to praise this lady for her kindness! Come to La Comida to thank her. A rare find in downtown Palo Alto. So glad there are still angels around town!

William Shu

Harvard St., Palo Alto

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