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Palo Alto Weekly

News - November 23, 2012

News Digest

Redwood tree removal permit withdrawn

The owner of the CitiBank building on the corner of California Avenue and El Camino Real in Palo Alto has withdrawn his permit to have two mature redwoods cut down, Mike Sartor, the city's public-works director, said Tuesday.

The two stately, 2.5-foot-diameter trees are located near the parking lot behind Citibank, which sits on the south corner of El Camino Real and California Avenue. Notices appeared on Nov. 14 informing the public that the trees were scheduled to be taken down by the Public Works Department sometime after Nov. 28.

The city issued the removal permit after learning that the situation met the Palo Alto tree ordinance. The trees and their roots had caused cracks in the building foundation and walls, had broken a water line, were lifting the public sidewalk, and were likely to make things worse as the trees continued to grow, city officials noted in a Nov. 15 press release.

The trees were to be replaced as part of an overall landscaping and parking reconfiguration for the site, city officials said.

A residents' group, Friends of California Avenue, emailed a protest letter to city officials, which kicked into gear a requirement for the property owner to hold public-outreach meetings. The issue could have been heard before the City Council, Sartor said.

On Monday, Nov. 19, city officials met with the property owner and an engineer, Sartor said. After exploring their options, the owner indicated that a water line that was damaged by the trees' roots would be relocated and a gas-service line would also be moved with assistance from the city, he said.

Cleaner arrested following Palo Alto burglaries

A house cleaner has been arrested for burglary after three Palo Alto residents who shared the same cleaning team noticed items, including jewelry, hidden money and prescription medication, were missing from their homes.

Martha Quintero-Ramirez, 36, of Redwood City, was arrested Saturday, Nov. 17, after police contacted her and recovered some of her employers' possessions, including a wedding ring and a bracelet.

Quintero-Ramirez had worked for one of the residents for two years along with another house cleaner — who is not a suspect — who had been employed by the resident for 20 years. After an investigation police concluded that the longer-serving house cleaner had had no knowledge of what her cleaning partner allegedly was doing.

Two of the Palo Alto victims are next-door neighbors in the 700 block of Bryant Street. The third lives in the 1500 block of Castilleja Avenue.

Police initially responded Saturday morning to a Bryant Street resident on a report of a residential burglary that had occurred the previous day. The victim told police she and her neighbor both had had their homes cleaned Friday, Nov. 16, by their usual house cleaners.

A short time after the cleaning, the victim noticed things in her closet were slightly out of place. She looked further and discovered six items of jewelry, two bottles of prescription medication and hidden money was missing.

She contacted her neighbor, who also discovered missing items, including a wedding ring and an antique watch. They contacted the third person on Castilleja, who discovered several pieces of jewelry and antique coins missing. The items had gone missing over the past two months, but the resident thought she had simply misplaced them.

Police encouraged anyone who may have employed Quintero-Ramirez and had property stolen to contact their local police department to report the theft. Detectives from the Palo Alto Police Department will work with other agencies to investigate any additional crimes that may have been committed.

Anyone with information about the Palo Alto cases can contact the police department's 24-hour dispatch center at 650-329-2413. Anonymous tips can be e-mailed to paloalto@tipnow.org or sent via text message or voice mail to 650-383-8984.

Dryer fire damages home on Margarita Avenue

Palo Alto firefighters used a garden hose to extinguish a dryer fire Tuesday afternoon, Nov. 20, at 1:57 p.m. in the 200 block of Margarita Avenue.

After shopping for food for the holidays, the resident returned home and "found her house to be charged with smoke down to the floor," the Fire Department stated in a press release.

Responding firefighters discovered the contents of the gas dryer were ablaze.

"The fire was knocked down with a garden hose, and the dryer was removed from the home," the department stated. There was smoke damage throughout the house, but fire damage was limited to the dryer and the utility room, officials said.

The department recommends residents have their dryers and ducting cleaned annually, test smoke detectors monthly, change smoke-detector batteries annually and replace smoke detectors every 10 years.

— Palo Alto Weekly staff

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