FRESH AIR ... By Palo Alto's standards, the city's quiet crusade against cigarette smoke has proceeded at lightning speed. Unlike the city's recent ban on plastic bags and last week's controversial ban on vehicle dwelling, the recent effort to ban smoking at local parks floated through the approval process with little criticism and no opposition. In March, a council committee considered a request from downtown and California Avenue merchants to ban smoking at three small urban parks, Lytton and Cogswell plazas downtown, and the Sarah Wallis Park near California Avenue. Then, like a cloud of smoke, the ban spread to all 24 parks and plazas less than 5 acres, thanks to a March recommendation by the City Council's Policy and Services Committee. When the recommendation reached the full council, members reasoned: Why stop there? In a brief May discussion, they expanded the ban to include all city's open-space preserves, including Foothills Park, the Baylands and the Pearson-Arastradero Preserve. This week, smokers may finally get a little reprieve. The council will consider on Monday creating designated smoking areas at Greer, Mitchell and Rinconada parks, an effort designed to keep smokers from having to drive out of the park for a cigarette, as was recommended by the Parks and Recreation Commission. These areas will include benches, signage and fire-proof waste and will cost the city about $13,500, according to a new report. The council will also weigh the commission's recommendation to allow smoking at the Palo Alto Municipal Golf Course, except within buildings and near building entrances.
ORGANIZED CHAOS ... People passing by Stanford Stadium or the Town and Country Village on Aug. 14 may notice a swarm of emergency responders and police cruisers from outside jurisdictions. It's not Armageddon. It's only a drill. Palo Alto is preparing to join Stanford University, Sunnyvale, Mountain View, and emergency responders from Santa Clara County for what City Manager James Keene called a "large-scale stadium-evacuation drill" that will include 300 people. The drill will allow the agencies to "test various communication, transportation and medical-evacuation procedures," Keene said.