Your editorial on the proposed project at Page Mill and Park is off the target. While few would disagree that Harold Hohbach is stubborn, he has had to endure more than one should from the Palo Alto process.
He made a number of concessions to get his original Council approval. Unfortunately, he was stymied by a baseless lawsuit. Once this was overcome the city required him to go through the entire process again. During this process further concessions were extracted. This is not the description of one who "ignored input from the city."
The new Council now sees new problems with the previously approved design. They have asked for "substantial" changes — whatever that means. One Council member did suggest making the project more inviting to the public. The design is one that is seen frequently in Europe. Apartments are built around a central courtyard. The design is consistent with the city's efforts to build greater densities near a transportation hub.
Is Harold Hohbach being stubborn because he does not want to completely redesign a project previously approved by the city in 2006 and approved twice by the ARB? In Palo Alto this could take years, a risk that a 90-year-old does not want to take.
Hohbach is caught in a real Catch 22. He can stay with the project as designed or he can spend the next few years going through the Palo Alto process for a third time and risk being told at the end to redesign it yet again. The sad part is the real losers are the citizens who have to support the ponderous decision-making process and who could lose the rental housing.
Cassidy Turley BT Commercial
Klein's HSR stance
I disagree with Councilman Larry Klein's stance to squash creation of a high-speed-rail line. Given the lousy state of California's finances now, I don't advocate a full-blown investment in state-of-the-art high-speed rail either, but we ought to invest in building at least its foundation.
Doing so would immediately create needed jobs. Given our state's geography and demographics, it just makes sense in the fullness of time to connect our distant major cities and state capital as China, France and Japan have.
Even if money were no object, I object to high-speed rail on the San Francisco/San Jose corridor. If its rail lines terminated at the outskirts — not the centers —of major cities (like airports do), billions in cost would smartly be avoided.
Mr. Klein equates funds to the rail as direct loss of funds to education. In the Great Depression we built the Bay and Golden Gate bridges and other quality infrastructures, and my parent's California elementary, high school and UC educations were first rate.
Whether two-thirds of our legislators vote up or down on funds for high-speed rail, Mr. Klein's invocation of John Kennedy's "Profiles in Courage" is rank hyperbole. His "principled, lonely" stand to nix high-speed rail is ridiculously short of the caliber of braveness displayed by those Kennedy cites.
A California high-speed rail is not a "vanity project" for Jerry Brown as Mr. Klein suggests; it will be a combined (and valued) legacy of many governors to come.
Planning Menlo Park
I should state my bias first: I work in venture capital and make my living by saying "Why not?" Many people have jobs making new products that benefit other people because of those two words.
I was recently an adviser for a dermatology office project on Oak Grove Avenue submitted to the Menlo Park Planning Commission. I have no financial connection with any of the principals.
The transaction would have yielded almost a million dollars to the building owner and brought 950 new patients to downtown Menlo Park. Although both parties wanted to close, the commission rejected the project because of a 2006 agreement that the space should be used for "personal service." It has been empty for years because it is below grade, has no street visibility and an uninviting entrance for retail. Although the owner wants to alter his prior position, the commission refused the plan because of the paper restriction.
This inflexible decision is part of a larger problem. The commission controls land and building use in Menlo Park. The results of its work can be seen from Valparaiso Avenue to the Stanford Mall on El Camino, and from the Caltrain tracks to University Drive on Santa Cruz Avenue. No airy future plans can offset its inability to deal with the present. Based on incontrovertible evidence, the current planning commission is incompetent, inflexible and dilatory.
The members should be thanked for their efforts, dismissed with their equally inflexible staff, and replaced with an open-minded group that can adapt Menlo Park to the economic and social realities of the present.
Cheers and silence
I am a neighbor of south Palo Alto. I raised my family of four children in Palo Alto, I was an educator all my life, and a grandmother now. On June 7, I came home and I could listen very clearly to the names of the promotion candidates from JLS Middle School. I sat in my backyard enjoying a beautiful evening and listening to that very special moment. It was great. It brought memories of my two children that graduated from JLS many years ago and my many years of happy graduations at Woodside High School, where I worked for 25 years.
At one point I realized something very sad. As each name was called, some students got a lot of cheers and screams while others got nothing, just plain silence. I cannot bear the thought of how those that were not acknowledged must have felt.
In a city like Palo Alto, where we have suffered many unfortunate suicides and so many of our children are depressed or feel like they don't fit, I think it is cruel to expose anyone to such discrimination.
I understand that some kids have big families and others don't, some are more popular than others, some are athletes, and so on. I wonder what can be done to make every child in Palo Alto feel special at promotion. I thought that having a cheering team, rather than individual ones, every year at every promotion and graduation in our city, may be a good idea in the future. I will be willing to participate.