Palo Alto Weekly

News - August 22, 2014

Around Town

IF AT FIRST YOU DON'T SUCCEED ... Who will replace JJ&F Market at the currently under-construction College Terrace Centre on El Camino Real? The question remains open after the City Council last week rebuffed a proposal from James Smailey, the developer's son, to run the new market. The developer of Alma Plaza in south Palo Alto jumped in last weekend to pitch an alternative: Miki Werness, whose grocery store Miki's Market occupied the plaza (now called Alma Village) for six months before closing. "Miki Werness built a beautiful market at our Alma Village project and might have succeeded with a slightly less upscale format and a much smaller store (i.e., with a vastly reduced overhead)," developer John McNellis wrote in an email sent to the City Council last weekend. "With a smaller market, his wealth of newly acquired experience in supermarket ownership and — let's face it — a much better retail location, I do believe Miki could succeed at College Terrace," McNellis wrote. The council decided on Monday night to send Smailey's proposal back to the drawing board, effectively giving him a choice: Give us more details, or bring in another grocer.

HOUSE OF FIBER ... It's not always easy to get a building approved in Palo Alto, but Google had no problem getting the city to sign off on two last week without a squeak of opposition from the city's elected leaders. The high-tech giant is seeking to build up to two "fiber huts" at to-be-determined city-owned locations. The prefabricated structures are a required component of "Google Fiber," a fiber-to-the-premise system that would deliver broadband speeds of 1 gigabit-per-second to every home in the city. Palo Alto is one of 34 U.S. cities that Google is eyeing for the new system, which made its debut in Kansas City and more recently launched in Austin, Texas, and Provo, Utah. Though it remains to be seen whether Google holds the answer to Palo Alto's decades-long quest to deliver high-speed Internet to the masses, the City Council did its part on Aug. 11 to stay in the running by quickly endorsing an agreement that would allow the two huts, with specific locations to be separately approved in the future. Each hut would be roughly 12 feet wide, 28 feet long and 10 feet high and would contain equipment to accommodate the new Internet and TV services. Despite its swift passage, the "hut agreement" was able to muster only five votes of affirmation from the nine-member council. That's because four members — Marc Berman, Pat Burt, Larry Klein and Nancy Shepherd — had to recuse themselves from the vote because they own Google stock.

SKEETERS ALERT ... Get any mosquito bites while strolling through the Palo Alto Baylands in recent weeks? A timely combination of the opening of a tide gate, a super moon causing slightly higher-than-normal tides and mosquito eggs poised at the edge of still water in a flood basin led to the hatching of said eggs in recent weeks, according to Baylands Supervising Ranger Richard Bicknell. Bicknell explained the cumulative happenstances that caused the hatching process to start in recent weeks. The city maintains a flood basin in the Baylands with the main purpose of flood control, though it is also home to a 500-acre habitat for birds, mammals and fish. City staff manually control a tide gate to manage water levels and to make sure there is adequate oxygen in the water for fish to breathe, Bicknell said. However, "One of the animals that we do not want to provide quality habitat for are mosquitoes," he said. Adult mosquitoes lay their eggs at the edges of still water. If the area dries out or it's too cold, the eggs can lay dormant for years. "The pregnant females then fly around looking for a blood meal (they need the nutrition in order to produce viable eggs). The females are often very annoying to humans." Long story short, about three weeks ago, the water level in the basin dropped too low, so staff opened the tide gate an extra six inches to let in extra water. At about the same time, a super moon caused higher-than-usual tides and voila, "The combination of the two actions got just enough water into the flood to dampen some mosquito eggs and get the hatching process started," Bicknell said. "The hatching culminated a few days ago with a mosquito fly-off."

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