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Palo Alto Weekly

News - May 10, 2013

News Digest

Hopes rekindled for new police building

Palo Alto's plan to build a new police headquarters at 3045 Park Blvd. roared back to life Tuesday, May 7, when city officials and their consulting architect announced a breakthrough in designing the proposed facility, which just three weeks ago was seen as highly unlikely to meet the needs of the Police Department.

Under the proposal that the City Council's Infrastructure Committee discussed, the new police building would be constructed by the Jay Paul Company as a "public benefit" in exchange for the city's permission to construct two, four-story office buildings with 311,000 square feet of commercial space between them. The buildings would go up at 395 Page Mill Road, next to AOL's Silicon Valley headquarters.

Tuesday's discussion came just weeks after the Infrastructure Committee learned that the site proposed for the police building may not be operationally feasible. Police Chief Dennis Burns expressed concerns that the building was being "shoehorned" into a site that would not fit the department's needs. After expressing surprise at this development, committee members agreed at their April 16 meeting to invite the city's consulting architect, Michael Ross of the firm RossDrulisCusenberry Architecture, for a presentation on the project.

Since then, the project has taken an upswing. Staff from the city and from the Jay Paul company have been revising the proposed design to make it work for the department.

The biggest change in the new design is that the police building is now a distinct structure. Under the prior proposal, the police headquarters was attached to a garage that was shared by the department and the office workers. Now, the department would be housed in its own building, which would be equipped with parking spaces for police vehicles.

Palo Alto ponders ways to spend Stanford funds

Two years after Palo Alto approved a dramatic expansion of Stanford University Medical Center, city officials are looking for ways to spend the cash that Stanford had contributed as part of the development deal.

In exchange for getting the city's permission to expand its hospital facilities in what officials often call the largest construction project in Palo Alto's history, Stanford had agreed to contribute $44.2 million to the city. While some of these funds are earmarked for particular categories — health, infrastructure and affordable housing and sustainability — most of the money falls under the City Council's discretion. On Monday night, the council kicked off the process for figuring out how to spend the funds by directing its Policy and Services Committee to hammer out the city's guiding principles for using the money.

So far, Palo Alto has received about $32.5 million from Stanford, with another $11.7 million due around 2016, said David Ramberg, assistant director of the Administrative Services Department. The city has already spent or loaned $4.9 million of Stanford funds, with the lion's share ($4.3 million) going to affordable housing.

This still leaves the council with more than $25 million to distribute. Council members agreed Monday that the funds should not be saved as an endowment but rather spent on "transformative projects" that would be enjoyed by multiple generations.

Police roll out strategies against East Palo Alto gang violence

Outraged by the Cinco de Mayo Day shooting of five people at a bus stop, East Palo Alto Police Chief Ronald Davis and Mayor Ruben Abrica vowed on Monday to hammer hard on two gangs believed responsible for a surge in violence in the city since January.

The brazenness of the 2:45 p.m. shooting, in which two young men stopped in a car on Bay Road near McDonald's restaurant and opened fire on four young men, a grandmother and a 6-year-old child waiting for a bus, has unnerved the community, Davis said.

"No violence is tolerated, but there are deeper levels of violence that shock our sense of humanity, and to just pull up and fire into a crowd of six people when a little child is there is beyond the realms of humanity," Davis said.

East Palo Alto has had eight shootings in eight days, Davis said. Four homicides have occurred so far this year. In 2012 there were seven.

Davis said the current gangs responsible for the crime are not members of the local Taliban or DaVill gangs, which came under intense scrutiny last year after a series of shootings in Menlo Park and East Palo Alto. He declined to name the two current gangs. But he said efforts against the Taliban and DaVill, which began in November, show the strategies currently used are working. Those include Operation SMART (Strategic Multi-Agency Response Team), which involves joint investigations with local, state and federal law enforcement, and offers of services that address the root problems of crime.

A similar strategy will be immediately applied to the current violent gangs.

— Sue Dremann

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