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Baylands composting faces 'hard trade-offs'

Original post made on Apr 29, 2008

A 7.5-acre composting operation won't get -- or stay -- in the Palo Alto baylands without a fight, the City Council indicated Monday night. It voted 6-3 to shelve the issue until an overall baylands-plan revision is completed this fall.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, April 29, 2008, 6:59 AM

Comments (11)

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Posted by Kate
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 29, 2008 at 7:56 am

Comments before the Council last night which I heard on the radio by both Emily Renzel, Enid Pearson - both former city council members whose 'mark' was their dedication to our park system - and by Tom Jordan should be published in the Weekly for all to read. It is vital that residents understand the horrific effects on the Baylands of this proposal espoused by Vice Mayor Peter Drekmeier and his "mentor" Walt Hays. Drekmeier could become mayor next year by 'succession'. Does he have the leadership and civic experience, financial "business experience" and broad vision to be mayor in these contentious times? The "green" issues are now bordering on hysteria.

It IS time that Palo Alto start thinking about having a mayor elected by the residents to really run the city in their interests and not in the whims and interests of a city manager - who comes and goes - or a one-year mayor who has photo op agendas and subscribes to the 'Cause-of-the-Month' Club. The mayor has to be 'one of us", chosen by us, listening to us, responsible to us, and not with his or her own agenda. Palo Alto is at a crossroads, the future of our city must be met head on by the residents. It's time for change.


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Posted by Take responsibility PA
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 29, 2008 at 10:18 am

If Palo Alto residents create all this waste which must be composted; it should be taken care of in Palo Alto. It is ours and we should take responsibility for for our own mess. I am not in favor of sending large trucks spewing carbon monoxide down 101 to Sunnyvale.

Palo Alto has huge areas of open space, Foothill Park, The Arastradero Preserve, The Baylands, Bixby Park; surely 7.5 acres can be found somewhere to compost what is ours.

I'm also in favor of maintaining a small recycling center for the convenience of Palo Alto residents and businesses. Otherwise we will all be driving down 101 to Sunnyvale to do our personal recycling.

I urge Council to put this issue on the ballot so we can see just where the majority of PA voters stand on this issue.

BTW, composting doesn't smell, the smell must be coming from the sewage treatment plant.


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Posted by Not so fast
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 29, 2008 at 10:24 am

Everytime there is potentially difficult issue facing our city council, we can always count on one of our "climate change is my life' members to chip in with some pearl of wisdom. Yoriko has come through again. Of course this pearl of wisdom does not really address the issue or suggest how it should be addressed. It just looks good in print and will make a nice addition to her scrapbook:
:

""There are going to be hard trade-offs made, that's pretty obvious," Councilwoman Yoriko Kishimoto said. "We want our trade-offs to be made in the context of the right information.""


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 29, 2008 at 12:37 pm

Full disclosure: I'm in favor of preserving the baylands. However,
we need to think in larger terms – the scarcity of water is part of all planning issues. Coastal states like Florida and California face a water crisis not only from increased demand, but also from rising temperatures that are causing glaciers to melt and sea levels to rise. Higher temperatures mean more water lost to evaporation. And rising seas could push saltwater into underground sources of freshwater.

We have two very different viewpoints about water issues in the bay area. One group prospers when population is added to the bay area. They make money from the development of property, they spend money from increased tax revenue from additional residents, they look forward to investing in water desalinization plants, waste management plants, perhaps look forward to owning the water we use and selling it to us. The second group prospers when population grows very slowly, when contaminated ground water is cleaned up, when rain water falls on soil and plants rather than on concrete and asphalt. Tax money is spent on maintaining infrastructure, health and safety – not going into the pockets of developers and large corporations.

We need to preserve the baylands and our parks and clean up our water. We should not be building large houses and large developments that gobble up water and energy.


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Posted by Jenny
a resident of South of Midtown
on Apr 29, 2008 at 3:43 pm

Not only will PA be sending trucks of compostable material down to Sunnyvale, but every time they need some compost for our City parks and open spaces, they will have to send empty trucks back down to Sunnyvale to pick the compost up again!!!

Meanwhile the City is planning to build a large automobile dealership in the location of the Municipal yard, right next to the Baylands.

Our City Council needs to get it's priorities straight. It is OK to build an automobile dealership next too the Baylands but it isn't OK to put our compost there. Makes absolutely no sense.




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Posted by Bob Wenzlau
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 30, 2008 at 6:45 pm

Bob Wenzlau is a registered user.

I am very respectful of Emily, Enid and Tom. They champion important causes and interests. Unfortunately, in our urban environment we are forced to balance, and this is the duty of our Council, and the purpose of civic debate. As such I take offense to the divisive tone of Ms. Kate "whoever you are". Mr. Drekmeyer is doing appropriate balancing and serving his appointed duty -- I appreciate it.

At a high level, our city is having its cake and eating it too. We choose to continue to have an incinerator for sludge -- with enormous Green House Gas (GHG) impact. We choose to maintain an airport -- airplanes are the most poignant GHG emitters. And then the council could choose to select a "regional" solution to outsource its composting of the organic stream -- with consequential GHG. I am struck that we take GHG reductions only as serious as long as it does not impact our landscape or lifestyles. These views are on the wrong side of history, and true leadership confronts these. I think the composting issue is symbolic of this modern question.

I am some what of an expert on composting. I helped start our compost operations in the late 70's as a staffer. I tested the compost operations on our sewage sludges. Yet I also have enjoyed the tremendous progress staff has made in expanding the collection and operations. In recent discussion I have advocated to staff options that would permit more compact processing (at higher cost), and options that would facilitate food waste composting. (Yes we allow garbage disposals which also cause a large GHG burden because one essentially "burns" the food waste in the wastewater treatment plant.)

I do not feel that our "baylands" are sacred -- at least those on top of the waste disposal unit. The Baylands was a "deal", and I remember the push. It was an oversight that the compost and recycling operations were not left a set aside that is convenient for the bayland's proponents. If I had been wise to it then, I would have lobbied for an accommodation. I think it is fair to consider this question, and I don't recall the debate being informed on this topic. We just did not have the foresight.

I look forward to staff proceeding with a study of composting operations. However, if we want to preserve the Baylands, Palo Altans should pay the price. The price might be taking space at the airport, and shutting down the airport. The price might be purchasing land adjacent to the regional water pollution control plant, and creating a compact (but expensive) composting operation. We don't seem to step back from huge expenditures to treat our waste water, yet why do we hold a "cheap" standard for our solid organic stream?

Fortunately, the city could pay the higher bill as "composting" fees is part of an enterprise fund -- the refuse bill. We support recycling through this. This would allow Palo Altans to pay for proper management without it impacting the City's general fund.

Obviously I look forward to maintaining my friendships through this green versus green debate. A premise to the solution should be a local composting operation that includes food waste. If we choose to protect the Baylands, then we must pay the price. Perhaps we can come together on this.


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Posted by Matt Raschke
a resident of Santa Rita (Los Altos)
on May 29, 2008 at 9:55 am

If anyone is interested, I gave a presentation on the Composting Feasibility Study Results to the Parks & Recreation Commission (PARC) on Tuesday night (5/28). You can view the presentation and PARC discussion online at this site: Web Link


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Posted by Matt Raschke
a resident of Santa Rita (Los Altos)
on Jul 3, 2008 at 12:21 pm

There was an interesting column by John King in the Chronicle on Tuesday 7/1/2008 entitled "How global warming challenges the old Bay Area assumptions" Web Link

Green House Gas (GH) emissions may soon play a big role in environmental impact reports in the coming years. The Governor's Office of Planning and Research just released a Technical Advisory on how climate change fits into the CEQA process. The advisory is available from this site:
Web Link

I think Peak Oil is also a consideration for how we should change our outlook on long-term planning. Peak Oil is happening now. Supply cannot keep up with worldwide demand. Therefore, fuel prices will continue to rise if basic economic principles hold true. Our free ride is over, and now we're stuck with the legacy of 1950's suburban planning that revolved around the automobile.



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Posted by nat
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 27, 2008 at 12:18 pm

I agree with the Parks and Recreation Commission that another site within Palo Alto, not the park, should be used as the new compost site. And, if necessary in order to find a site, the "in vessel" system rather than open air should be considered, even if it's more expensive.


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Posted by Agree with Kate
a resident of Meadow Park
on Aug 27, 2008 at 11:18 pm

Kate said:
"It is vital that residents understand the horrific effects on the Baylands of this proposal espoused by Vice Mayor Peter Drekmeier and his "mentor" Walt Hays. Drekmeier could become mayor next year by 'succession'. Does he have the leadership and civic experience, financial "business experience" and broad vision to be mayor in these contentious times? The "green" issues are now bordering on hysteria."
I agree. He doesn't seem to have much understanding of issues other than conservation. He wants to save open space but he ran for a city office and make no contribution whatsoever. It isn't clear that he spends any time studying the issues that come before the council. Then he votes with the business community and the Chamber of Commerce that is, the developers. He's in the wrong job.


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Posted by Citizen
a resident of Professorville
on Aug 28, 2008 at 12:20 am

To Kate and "Agree With Kate",

Councilman Drekmeier may feel differently about this operation since many things have happened since then.

Not only the fires, but additional information about compostng operations which may not have been known to him at the time.

Many things have happened since he first supported this. Please give him a chance.


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