Palo Alto's housing element sure sounds like we are creating ghettos. Making sure that "those people" live "over there," not in our neighborhoods — not only ghettos, but in high-rise tenements.
The Housing Element calling out: "designated locations," "smaller apartments" and "protecting existing neighborhoods." It sure sounds like Merriam-Webster's definition "... a quarter of a city in which members of a minority group live especially because of social, legal, or economic pressure."
The only real solution is to understand that ALL of Palo Alto is going to have to change. All neighborhoods are going to get denser. All neighborhoods are going to have to accommodate more elderly, lower income, non-vehicle owning residents. All neighborhoods are going to have to move back to a mixed-use model. All neighborhoods are going to have move away from one single-family-housing unit per lot.
Kudos to Oskar
Kudos to "Oskar and the Last Straw" at the Escondido Elementary School. I had the privilege and the pleasure of attending a performance of this most concise and touching piece of wisdom. With echoes of Mr. Fred Rogers and Sesame Street, it delivered a great lesson about how to fight the stress and overload that our kids face. And it did so in a subtle, cheerful, non-didactic way perfectly designed for such young pupils.
Hundreds of little ones were rapt and engaged by the plight of Oskar, as he "unpacked" some of the pressures their world imposes on them. At the end, during the "Q and A" it was remarkable how much the children had retained about the struggles between "Coping Cat" and "No More Choices Bear."
I was thinking, if only their parents could've been there too (they were most likely working and multi-tasking) to hear these timeless messages about "doing one thing at a time" and "prioritizing" and learning these time-treasured techniques of problem-solving.
We are so very fortunate to have such an amazing company called TheatreWorks in our town that has the vision and commitment to using its very special way of reaching people of all ages in such a preemptively mentally healthy way. Strengthening and re-enforcing what we already have in our DNA is heartening.
Thanks to all involved in Oskar. Keep up the wonderful work and those positive messages, which we are never too old to learn.
Shelter closure rush
Why the rush to close the animal shelter and spay-neuter clinic?
Your editorial "An unsustainable animal shelter" (April 6, 2012) wrongly maintains that $7 million in upgrades will be needed to keep Palo Alto Animal Services functioning. Not so. That was the estimate for building a new state-of-the-art shelter. The city recently upgraded the current facility and according to Mike Sartor, director of public works, it has another 20 years of useful life to give the community.
There is, yes, a budget hole. The Mountain View contract continues into mid-fiscal year 2013 before it is terminated, and we estimate that the deficit to continue operating the shelter is as little as $300,000 for the remainder of next year. This deficit could be eliminated with budget cuts and increased revenues from the sterling spay and neuter clinic.
We are asking the City Council to consider these options for keeping the shelter open through the fiscal year of 2013 to allow time for the development of longer-term solutions for animal services in Palo Alto. These solutions include contracts with neighboring cities that become available in two years, lower staffing costs, greatly expanded output at the spay-neuter clinic, affiliating with a nonprofit, and establishing "Friends of the Shelter" to generate citizen and corporate support.
Keeping animal control services local is essential for our animals and for the quality of life Palo Altans expect.
We are going to resist the blind rush to close the shelter. Please join us in that effort.
Palo Alto Humane Society
Show the benefits
Again there is a call to reform planned community zoning, the catchall zoning category of choice for commercial and residential mega-developments in Palo Alto (Palo Alto Weekly, April l3, 2012). A prized change to planned-community zoning allows much denser and bigger projects.
Public Benefits is a required component of planned-community developments. Benefits must be "substantial" or the planned community cannot be granted — supposedly. "Substantial" means of considerable value and importance. Too often the city grants enormous concessions to developers, ensuring millions more in profits, while the public is granted public benefits of little value.
An example is a severely under-parked Lytton building where owners got rich and the public got some trees and little cars sculpted around the door — perhaps looking for parking? The city must require some rational equivalency between increased private and public benefit to protect the public interest.
Our planned-community ordinance requires that developments "will result in public benefits not otherwise attainable." This should make every reader gasp. We have more than 140 planned-community zoned projects in Palo Alto, and I wager that many were approved with a blind eye to this requirement.
Listing public benefits in the planned-community agreement was a later amendment to the original ordinance. Developers can only be held accountable if we know what is required of them. Palo Alto Square is an example that lists no public benefits. The city should let the sunshine in and publish a list of all public benefits by address.
Planned-community zoning must be substantially reformed, then enforced. Otherwise eliminate it.
La Para Avenue