IN WITH THE NEW ... A flood of fresh faces will soon be making their debuts on some of Palo Alto's most influential citizen commissions — though in one case, the appointment process was too close to call Monday night. The City Council this week made a series of commission appointments to fill vacancies on the city's Planning and Transportation Commission, Architectural Review Board and Utilities Advisory Commission. As a result, the seven-member Architectural Review Board will soon get two new members — architects Naseem Alizadeh and Randy Popp. The influential board also will retain veteran member Alexander Lew. The Utilities Advisory Commission will welcome as its newest member Audrey Chang, executive director of California Energy Industry Council and co-founder of the group Students for a Sustainable Stanford as an undergraduate. Two current members, Jonathan Foster and Steve Eglash were also reappointed to new terms. Meanwhile, Commissioner Marilyn Keller announced that she would not be seeking another term, noting that she is "quite confident that there are other qualified candidates." The council saved the suspense for its most important commission — the Planning and Transportation Commission. The council reappointed Commissioner Greg Tanaka and appointed Alex Panelli, a former Parks and Recreation Commission member. But the race for the third spot on the seven-member commission went through several ballots and still resulted in dead heat between Vice Chair Susan Fineberg and aspiring newcomer Michael Alcheck. With Councilwoman Gail Price absent, each candidate received four council votes. Given the stalemate, the council elected to interview one more candidate, Henry Wong (who couldn't attend the interview that was initially scheduled), and to settle the matter when the full council is present.
SURVEY SAYS ... Palo Alto has grand plans for improving one of its oldest and most prominent parks and, in the coming months, residents will have a chance to chime in with their own ideas. The city is pursuing a long-term master plan for Rinconada Park, a fixture on Embarcadero Road since 1922 (only El Camino Park is older). The goal is to add amenities and improve connections between the park and nearby facilities such as the Lucie Stern Community Center and the Palo Alto Art Center. To solicit community feedback, the city has released a detailed survey asking residents what they'd like to see at the park, with options including an amphitheater, a skate park, horseshoes and bocce-ball courts. Residents interested in taking the survey can access it at cityofpaloalto.org/rinconadaplan.
TURNING TIDE ... If the Santa Clara Valley Water District passes a tax this fall, most county residents probably won't notice. That's because the new tax, which the district's board of directors looks to bring to the voters in November, would extend the tax that voters had already passed in 2000 to fund the district's Clean, Safe Creeks and Natural Flood Protection Plan. While Palo Alto doesn't get its water from the water district, it has much to gain from the tax extension. The district's plan includes two major projects that would impact the city — $35.5 million to boost flood protection from the volatile San Francisquito Creek between the Bay and Middlefield Road and another $20 million for a plan to boost tidal-flood protection. The tax measure, which requires a two-thirds majority, would authorize a special tax for 15 years to support the plan. Not surprisingly, the City Council voted 8-0 (with Gail Price absent) to endorse the water district's drive. Councilman Pat Burt noted that the proposal merely keeps in place the taxes that are already there and stressed the importance of protecting the city from tidal flooding. "There will be a lot of dollars sought to do that," Burt said. "But this is a major first step toward tackling that."