With the demise of Borders, let's review the history.
The Varsity Theater, a Class-A historical building (the highest designation in California), was to be destroyed to accommodate Borders. A petition signed by thousands was presented to the City Council, asking that the theater be saved and big chain stores discouraged from moving into town. The petition was ignored and the project fast-tracked.
When Chop Keenan embraced Borders, a vicious battle raged with its evil twin Barnes & Noble for mega-chain bookselling primacy. Independent booksellers and small chain bookstores and employees were collateral damage — Mega Books, Stacys, Chimera, and the beloved Printers Ink, unable to sustain high rents, online sales and Borders downtown. And Palo Alto lost some of its heart.
I feel sorry for Borders employees and lost revenue for the city, but I cannot feel bummed about Borders crashing.
But for Palo Altan Dennis Backland finding that state laws (CEQA) required preservation (where was the city attorney?), the theater building would have also been lost. Keenan was forced to preserve it, constructing removable floors so that it may revert to theater use in the future.
As Chop shops for new tenants, the city must ensure the historical integrity of the Varsity Theater. Every little plaster cherub and flourish; every neon tube and tile must be preserved in anticipation of the lovely night when film may again flicker on the Varsity screen. In the meantime, we can recommit our support for our remaining local independent bookstores and film theaters.
La Para Avenue
Count me in as one of those not so sad to see the big chain retailer Borders leave downtown Palo Alto. We have two great local, independently owned alternatives — Books Inc. in Town and Country Village and Kepler's in Menlo Park — and I've always resented Borders for taking over the old Varsity Theater, for which there never has been a reasonable alternative. It was a beautiful theater that showed good movies (and, shock of shocks, people still like to go to movies in a theater!), and it had lots of live music from local musicians in its lovely courtyard. I do hope that downtown continues to thrive, and that good businesses take over the Varsity/Borders building and the other currently vacant retail locations there, but I say good riddance to Borders.
I was a victim of systematic white privilege as much as anyone else and I think the recent outburst of suicides in Palo Alto is a direct result of too much privilege.
Teachers give some students the benefit of the doubt creating a very harmful sense of entitlement, while the school casts disadvantaged students aside. Our high-school classes are based on lanes that force some students to stay in AP and honors classes while other students are systematically excluded from entering higher lanes.
In addition, students with disabilities are given little or no chance to achieve Paly's high expectations of "success." These young adults are put into lower lanes and often treated with disrespect by other teachers (some of whom refuse to recognize learning accommodations).
My next suggestion for improvement is that Paly should diversify its staff to include more teachers who promote social justice and accept differences among faculty and students. While attending Paly, I encountered a number of horrific statements from my so-called "teachers" including a Geology teacher who called one of my queer peers a "f----t."
This type of hateful language should never be tolerated, especially not in a school setting. Every school should be a safe place for students to grow, but Paly provided no support to help students develop the coping strategies that we need in order to survive.
Looking back at my experience at Paly, the only thing I learned was to think that I'm stupid when really that was just oppression talking.