This "Millenium Era" project (The Color of Palo Alto) had a questionable stated purpose from the beginning: How could any city be a color? A vibrant city is dynamic, new tastes and designs, old structures replaced as needed. The project had a green component with the artist using equipment powered with solar energy by day and wind at night. The photography alone took two years and I went from skeptical indifference to intrigue when spotting Sam Yates propped against his red scooter snapping pictures of houses through all daytime temperatures.
Intrigue turned to respect as this lone young man stuck with a long-term project. In 2008 I was impressed with the collage of all the snapshots mounted on City Hall and the interesting solar-powered "garage" and project description. We all craned our necks to catch a glimpse of our house somewhere up there, too high to see. The news spread and shoppers made a point of visiting the site at the otherwise boring City Hall Plaza. Tables and chairs were added and residents felt they had a legitimate rest stop in the center of town.
I have yet to discover this elusive color of Palo Alto in spite of my perusal of Sam Yates' website or the Palo Alto City website, but it really isn't important and never was. I feel we've all had our fun. Skeptical criticism, amusement, intrigue, respect, a sense of curiosity and some education on the application of solar/wind power.
I sincerely hope Elise DeMarco and city staff will agree and pay the young man his final installment. I feel we've had our money's worth and I can assure you that HP is not bothered about their $40,000 donation. Five years of work translates to $6.80 per hour (including the cost of equipment and film) and so the remaining $7,000 would bump that up to a whopping $7.50 per hour! Who knew we still starved the artist? I'm amazed there is a database that hasn't become obsolete or fallen out of a backpack somewhere between Los Angeles and Canada where Sam purportedly now resides. If Elise truly believes this database would be useful to safety officials and city planners, we have other issues. Google Earth and Google Maps is on their second photo of our home and the second one is a lot prettier! Pay the man and let's all move on to our next adventure.
S. L. Micek
East Meadow Drive
Skelly really cares
As a parent of a boy soon to enter middle school, I was saddened to hear of the child who experienced persistent bullying. My son was bullied too, but once I told the principal it was stopped literally overnight. It is difficult for me to imagine Dr. Skelly not caring enough about this topic. I met with him a few months ago because my son is shy and I was concerned about middle school. Dr. Skelly explained that his message is Palo Alto schools are inclusive and how he wants all children to feel comfortable. He called the principal at our middle school, Mr. Barnes, who met with me, echoed those inclusiveness sentiments, and took our son on a personal tour of the school.
Dr. Skelly also goes far beyond his official duties. A couple of examples: taking underprivileged children to San Francisco because they had never been and personally assisting underprivileged teens apply for college. I have found him to be a fine, caring and effective school administrator who deserves our full support.
North California Avenue
Ordinarily sports stories don't interest me, but "Wrestle Like a Girl" (Feb. 22) with a large mug shot of a young lady on your cover last week was unusual enough to catch my attention.
When I turned to the cover story, I was shocked — shocked. Virtually all of the (many) girls in the article are of Asian descent!
So why was a young lady of the "European Persuasion" featured on your cover, given the ethnicity of most of the girls?
But perhaps "disappointed" is closer to how I really felt, rather than shocked. A charge of "racism" might also be off the mark somewhat, but "Ethnocentrism" or "Eurocentrism" certainly seem to fit.
Sad. In my own adopted "Hometown." How much longer will we have to wait?
Editor's note: We appreciate the concern; however, the photo of the wrestler was chosen based on its visual impact. The Weekly has featured Asian Americans on its cover, most recently on Feb. 1, 2013, and notably for our "Best of Palo Alto" edition on Aug. 17, 2012.
Where are the flowers?
We support the California Avenue beautification project, but see no mention of flowers. Every beautiful town in the world has one or more live flower displays decorating their roadways. Mountain View's Castro Street has them, as do many restaurants, retail stores and industries. Sculpture success depends on the taste of the beholder but everyone loves flowers. I know flowers are more trouble to maintain, but in our view they're definitely worth it.
San Jude Avenue
A downtown parking idea
Mayor Greg Scharff mentioned the need for downtown parking in his State of the City address and indicated an estimated cost of $60,000 per parking space. There is an alternative that comes without any cost to the city. If anyone is in doubt about that, you have only to look at an example that has been there for many years.
The Abitare condominium project was developed on what was then a small city parking lot located between High Street and Alma. The developer (Chuck Kinney, who later became mayor of Menlo Park) bought the air rights from the city. A multi-level underground parking garage was built. On top of the garage, a four-story building was constructed that included one retail level at the ground floor and three floors of for-sale residential condominiums above that.
The city got a parking garage for free. The downtown area got some new retail space and, more importantly, some new housing that contributes both property tax revenue and puts consumers who live in the condominiums within walking distance of all the stores in downtown Palo Alto.
This could be replicated on any city parking lot.
While considering this, the council might also want to reconsider the sacred cow (the 50-foot height limit). Garages do not have to be blocky, blah buildings. Downtown Chicago has buildings that include parking and residences that are architecturally stunning. The Abitare project was developed using a vertical subdivision map with a condominium plan overlay. Perhaps the council should ask the staff to revisit this concept.
John Paul Hanna
One region idea: bad
It seems the Silicon Valley Community Foundation proposes to turn the whole Bay Area into a single region. Hmmm. Facebook's CEO Mark Zuckerberg recently donated $500 million to this group, and suddenly the foundation apparently wants to take over the entire Bay Area. The last time I checked, we were living in a Constitutional Republic where individual rights are "unalienable," and cities have the freedom and sovereignty to chart their own courses.
This "One-Silicon-Valley-and-Bay-Area-Plan," to coin a phrase, brainchild of the Joint Venture Silicon Valley Network and the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, should be very worrying to residents. It would mean losing our representational form of democratic government. Exactly who would be deciding what's best for all Bay Area counties? And why are businesses and government so eager to partner? Have we already forgotten that the classic definition of totalitarian Fascism is partnership between government and big business? Nor is government by "region" — through unelected, nonrepresentational bodies — unknown in Communist countries.
Consider this quote by technology forecaster Paul Saffo: "Powerful regions are the new basic unit of governments in the 21st century." Not so new however: They were the basic unit of government in the Soviet Union in the 20th century! All that regional government accomplishes is to take away the rights of our cities, towns and counties along with those of the residents within them. This "new" idea has long since been proven a disastrous failure and needs to be nipped in the $500 million bud.