http://paloaltoonline.com/print/story/print/2012/11/30/around-town


Palo Alto Weekly

News - November 30, 2012

Around Town

BLOWIN' IN THE WIND ... Palo Alto's war against the plastic bag is about to mount its next campaign. The effort, which was spurred by the city's desire to keep local creeks clean, won a major victory in 2009 when the city adopted a ban on plastic bags at local supermarkets. Now, the city is considering its next battle: extending the ban from large grocery stores to all retail and food-service establishments, including restaurants, food trucks and convenience stores that sell food. The proposed ordinance would also require a minimum charge of 10 cents for each paper bag or reusable bag — a fee that would go up to 25 cents one year after ordinance adoption, according to an update email City Manager James Keene wrote to City Council last week. "Staff is seeking an ordinance expansion to further reduce plastic bag litter found in creeks and by the Bay, to help comply with a state regulation requiring 100 percent reduction in trash in local creeks by 2022, and to help meet City Zero Waste goals," Keene wrote. But not everyone is thrilled about the city's recent efforts to curb plastic bag use. The Save the Plastic Bag Coalition, an industry group, has been filing lawsuits against agencies that have adopted similar ordinances including, most recently, Santa Cruz County. The coalition also challenged the city's earlier ban on bags in supermarkets. The two sides reached a settlement after the city agreed to conduct a full environmental analysis before expanding the ban. Palo Alto has recently completed the study and is preparing to hold two public hearings on Thursday, Dec. 6, to discuss the new report and the city's proposal. The first meeting is scheduled for 9 a.m. at the Cubberley Community Center, Room H-1, 4000 Middlefield Road. The second one will be held at 6 p.m. in the same location. Staff plans to bring the environmental report and the proposed ordinance to the City Council in February.

TIME TO SHINE ... Palo Alto plans to usher in the holiday season this Friday with a Tree Lighting Event in the city's most prominent downtown plaza. The second annual event will be held at Lytton Plaza starting at 4:30 p.m. on Nov. 30 and will feature music from the Cantabile Children's Chorus and the Keys School Chorus. Residents will also have a chance to support those in need by bringing donations of warm blankets, coats and gift cards for groceries to the plaza, with items collected by the Opportunity Center and the Downtown Streets Team. Vice Mayor Greg Scharff will flip the switch at 5:30 p.m. to light the city's decorated tree. The event will be held rain or shine, so visitors are encouraged to bring their rain gear, if necessary.

GOING FOR A RIDE ... Bicyclists and pedestrians who frequent the area around the Palo Alto Baylands may soon see some welcome changes thanks to a $50,000 grant the city just received from Santa Clara County. The grant, which was secured by Supervisor Liz Kniss, will pay for a host of bike projects and crosswalk improvements in the area of Embarcadero Road and Faber Place, near the Palo Alto Municipal Golf Course. These improvements will include three pedestrian-activated flashing beacon signs, 12 "sharrows" (a road marking encouraging drivers to slow down and be aware of bicyclists — think "share" plus "arrow"), crosswalk striping, a median island and a pedestrian ramp. In a letter to Kniss's office, Palo Alto's Chief Transportation Official Jaime Rodriguez said the goal is to help close the last gap in the Bay Trail in Palo Alto. At the Nov. 19 meeting of the City Council, City Manager James Keene said the city plans to begin implementation of this project in January. This is just the latest in a series of bike projects that the city is pursuing with help from the county. Earlier this month, the county approved spending $4 million on a new bike bridge over U.S. Highway 101 at Adobe Creek and $1.5 million for a trail along Matadero Creek.

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