Town Square

Post a New Topic

Palo Alto comes up short on composting options

Original post made on Mar 9, 2010

Palo Alto's quest to keep a composting facility within city borders could be imperiled by expensive land and opposition from airport advocates and conservationists, neither of whom want the new facility on their turf, according to a new staff analysis. In short, there is no easy choice for a local composting site.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, March 9, 2010, 12:05 AM

Comments (48)

Posted by Marco, a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 9, 2010 at 7:42 am

What about using the land the former Los Altos waste water treatment plant site along lower San Antonio- that we bought and paid for a few years ago ? Why has the staff dismissed this option so quickly and completely? Part of the site could be used for a composting facility. Or else, since it borders the existing future park/marsh area, dedicating part of that land as a trade off to keeping the current compost facility in place.


Posted by Henry, a resident of Community Center
on Mar 9, 2010 at 8:10 am

I believe we should get rid of the airport whose time has come and gone. The airport is sitting on a large piece of land which can be put to much better use. I think we should move Baylands Athletic Center and the Greenwaste facility from Geng Road to the airport. This will free up the land on Geng Road for development into something that will generate revenue for the City. We can expand Bayland Reserve into a wonderful park and recreation area. We can even down-size Greer Park into a neighbor park and community garden and move its athletic fields to the new bayland facility. The airport is not generating any money for the city and it is such a waste of resource for a limited number of flyers. Palo Alto needs to evaluate its resources and think outside of the box. The County does not want to continue to operate the airport, so let's take the land back and make something good out of it. There will be plenty of room of a compose center!


Posted by skeptic, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 9, 2010 at 8:53 am

I generally agree with both previous comments. The city should look for a temporary location for the composting until the airport lease runs out (or the County bails out of running the airport); the airport should then be closed down. (And I don't think airport advocates are winning over voters by their obstructionist stance on this issue).


Posted by down to earth, a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 9, 2010 at 9:11 am

"opposition from airport advocates"

Yes, any renewal of the airport lease should remove the land required for composting. The airport's position is untenable.


Posted by Don, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 9, 2010 at 9:25 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Lois, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 9, 2010 at 9:28 am

"Councilman Greg Scharrf said the Byxbee Park site appears to be the only possible option, based on the staff study. He suggested polling the public and seeing how people feel about building a new composting facility at Byxbee Park." - I agree.

Things have changed since Palo Alto passed the ordinance dedicating parkland; therefore, it should be placed on a ballot ASAP.


Posted by down to earth, a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 9, 2010 at 9:55 am

Yes, let's have a ballot. Use the vacant land at the airport or land at Byxbee Park.


Posted by Carroll Harrington, a resident of Community Center
on Mar 9, 2010 at 11:05 am

I started becoming active in environmental issues during the save the baylands era, and remarkable changes were made. I agree, "things have changed." I personally believe that the relatively small area needed for state-of-the-art composting can be considered a "green" use of the land. Hauling Palo Alto garbage to Gilroy is unthinkable when we are working to hard to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.

I urge the city to conduct a survey and then place the issue on the ballot.


Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 9, 2010 at 11:20 am

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

Haul unsorted waste to Lassen County for sorting and processing, and reuse or disposal. It was always an error to make a dump of our waterfront when there were better options.


Posted by Deep Throat, a resident of another community
on Mar 9, 2010 at 11:38 am

Compost at your residence or business in Palo Alto. A compost facility is not needed if environmentalists compost where they live or work. The proponents of the commercial compost operation seemed to be motivated for some reason to find an excuse to prevent the completion of the park in the Baylands. Maybe today's meeting between City staff and a venture capitalist for a composting technology is just another smoke screen to hide the real reason the proponents of this unnecessary facility want to prevent the completion of the Baylands park. The sewage treatment plant can have its own energy generation facility on its own property.


Posted by Joel, a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 9, 2010 at 11:43 am

As I understand it we are concerned that one of the most CO2 expending land uses for an elite few, Palo Alto airport, stands in the way of creating one of the most CO2 reducing land uses, a local composting facility for the entire community as well as a revenue enhancer for the city. Please help me with this seemingly no-brainer dilemma.


Posted by Daniel, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 9, 2010 at 2:20 pm

We must get rid of the airport and use that land for the compost site. Nothing would benefit the environment more than putting an end to a major source of lead emissions into the atmosphere. It would also remove a major source of noise pollution and permanent danger to nearby residents. This must be put on a ballot measure.


Posted by Don, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 9, 2010 at 2:32 pm

As I understand it, the airport has potential economic value to Palo Alto. Byxbee Park, including the dump site is drain on city finances. We need to look at lost economic opportunities.

We should keep the airport, and bring back the yaght harbor.

Put the high tech composting center where composting is currently going on...the dump. Don't tie up even more land in order to please the presrvationist radicals. Their day is over.


Posted by Tom, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 9, 2010 at 2:33 pm


"No more committees, no more land trades, just direct staff to complete the park at an earliest possible time," urged Enid Pearson, former Palo Alto mayor.

Right, and no more votes, right former mayor? I mean, who needs democracy, anyway. Given the realities of fighting the FAA as well as die-hard airport supporters, the Byxbee site sounds reasonable, with other lands dedicated to parks.

I think, as much as people like parks, if it comes down to whether or not we can have a composting facility, people will be happy to make this trade.


Posted by Daniel, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 9, 2010 at 3:25 pm

Don, what "potential economic value" does the airport have? As a matter of fact it's a habitual money loser. It's a tax payers give away for mostly out of town hobbyists and plane owners, leased for $1 a year, has been receiving state and federal grants, yet the SC County is refusing to continue to manage it, since it's such a money loser. Much more importantly, it's a constant supplier of lead into the the atmosphere(any lead in the atmosphere is too much, in case you didn't know), a constant noise nuisance and a perpetual danger to nearby neighborhood. There are numerous reasons to get rid of this unnecessary playground, and bringing up the imaginary "potential economic value" will fool only a few.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 9, 2010 at 3:49 pm

Things have changed:

(1) San Francisco's free compost, used by community, backyard and school gardens in the Bay Area, is processed sewage sludge - the product of anything flushed, poured or dumped into the wastewater system, including industrial, chemical and pharmaceutical toxins.


But the problem, say groups like the Organic Consumers Association and the Center for Food Safety, is that the EPA requires testing only for nine metals, when there are potentially thousands of chemicals in the compost.

(2) Albert Einstein wrote "If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe then man would only have four years of life left. No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man." Bee populations are dying. Some experts believe that "besides a number of other factors," the fact that genetically modified, insect-resistant plants are now used in 40 percent of cornfields in the United States could be playing a role.

(3) According to a recent study by U.S. PIRG that analyzed 2005 compliance with the Clean Water Act, California was one of the 10 states with the greatest number of facilities leaking pollutants beyond the legal limits and was the state with the most large-scale violations. Web Link


Posted by Sharon, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 9, 2010 at 5:01 pm


The demographic characteristics of Palo Alto are changing quickly and will accelerate even more as the baby boomers retire and move.

Look around--particularly in the GUNN school district, Mid Town and S Palo Alto

The old hippy ethos is fast disappearing

The new generation of Palo Altans do not share the extremist environmental preoccupations of the old PA hippies.
They are aware that the AGW god is dead, that the bubble has bust.

They care instead about their children, families and traditional values.
They want both an airport and a yacht harbor, and they will get both.

They realize that the main sources of lethal led pollution in the area are the guns fired by narco terrorists in EPA and they do not want that violence on PA streets.

They want decent streets that are not full of pothole,
they want reliable utilities,
they do not want the "green police"

These are the values of the new property owners and tax payers in Palo Alto.

The transition will be difficult for some of the old guard, but they still have Berkeley or SF to move to were the 60s live on,--- for a while---


Posted by Don, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 9, 2010 at 5:34 pm

"Don, what "potential economic value" does the airport have? "

Well, if it is allowed to develop, according to the supply and demand for its services, it will have a very solid future. I am not a pilot, nor am I connected with the airport, but I have read the various news stories about it.

The county wants to get out of the business, because Palo Alto will not allow the airport to build hangers to meet the demand for more hangers. Any notion of another landing strip has been nixed by Palo Alto environmental extremists.

My understanding is that private interests have expressed a desire to build a convention hotel out there, combining the golf course, airport and open space in an interesting way to create a profit center. I have heard others talk about developing an interest in modern research on waste disposal and energy production, which could be a business focus.

If the airport was allowed to develop to its natural demand level, with concommitant business development, our tax base could be improved, significantly.

We have been left in the lurch by the radical preservationists. The current economic collapse will help us to focus our minds.

Keep the airport. Put the composting/energy center at the current site...the dump.


Posted by Daniel, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 9, 2010 at 5:49 pm

As it is, the airport is a major air and noise polluter. Allowing it to build another runway would create insufferable pollution and danger for all. This airport is a chronic money loser, with or without more hangers and runways. That's why the county wants out.


Posted by Sharon, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 9, 2010 at 6:03 pm



In going on 70 yrs there have been no fatalities on the ground near PA airport, flyers and passengers assume their own liability.

Meanwhile there are increasing deaths and injuries from out of control Priuses-- , there was another case in San Diego yesterday, the video is on the Web.

We need logic, science and decision science to deal with these trade -offs
not Gaia spirituality and Luddite nostalgia


Posted by Kate, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 9, 2010 at 6:05 pm

To Sharon? You are calling older residents "OLD Palo Alto hippies? The 'hippies' moved in and out rapidly a long time ago in the 70's. The 'old' Palo Altans were/are now basically a rather conservative, very patriotic bunch of home-loving God. community, and country folks. Where did you get these ideas? Just what residents are you talking about??? Enlighten us. I'll wager that they/we want decent streets, long for the yacht harbor and want the airport, want good schools for the town's children, care about their grandchildren and neigbhorhood children, and all the other things you list and don't want green police. So just WHO are these old hippies?



Posted by Don, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 9, 2010 at 6:25 pm

"As it is, the airport is a major air and noise polluter. Allowing it to build another runway would create insufferable pollution and danger for all. This airport is a chronic money loser, with or without more hangers and runways. That's why the county wants out."

Actually, the airport is neither a major air, nor a major noise polluter. I get much more bothered by the city streetsweeper and garbage trucks. They have a way of waking me up early every week. I, occasionally, hear the small planes that fly overhead, but it is hardly a "major" thing. Aviation gas is 100LL, which means 100 octane with low lead; to suggest that it is a major polluter is only to say that the 'acceptable' lead levels have been driven down by those who want to get rid of airplanes. There is no realistic data that show that airplanes, using 100LL, are a health risk. It is a cirular argument of the worst sort.

The truly insufferable thing is to have to listen to hysterical and illogical arguments against the airport, and in support of radical perservationist agendas.


Posted by Daniel, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 9, 2010 at 7:21 pm

100LL avgas contains two grams of lead per gallon. Much more than the auto gas of the 70's. And airplanes use a lot of gasoline, 4 gallons per hour and upwards, often much more. And that's quite the amount of lead. They have to add special chemicals so the lead goes out the exhaust, and doesn't clog up the engine or ignition. Still, some of it ends up in the engine oil, you can actually see it shimmer from the lead. You aren't allowed to burn that oil - it has to be specially disposed of because of the high lead content. If the oil is so bad, what about the rest of the lead, which gets spread all over the atmosphere?


Posted by Sharon, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 9, 2010 at 7:32 pm


@ Kate
Look at the recent history of the city council,
passing resolutions "to save the planet" while ignoring the infrastructure like streets and utilities,
Le Doris Cordells personal identity activism ,
political correctness rather than rational police behavior,
P C school programs rather than an emphasis on self efficacy, excellence in math and science and resilience.
The proposed irrational " green police" taking photos of our garbage and posting it on the web
Supporting an illogical HSR project that, few people would use and that would destroy Palo Alto.
An adversarial attitude to Stanford, which is our greatest asset.
Ignoring the fact that we have narco terrorist drug gangs in our back yard and invoking a PC irrational approach to that increasing threat which is now linked to international terrorism according to the FBI

ETC


Re the airport,

it will stay, it is not a significant source of pollution or danger

The train has killed many more people in 6 months than the planes have in 70yrs. PA airport has a fantastic safety record, no ground casualties in 70yrs of operation.-- in contrast EPA had 24 murders in one year-- 1991-- and still has one of the highest rates in the nation
The trains create much more noise day and night than PA planes, as do garbage trucks and motorbikes


Posted by David Tam, a resident of another community
on Mar 9, 2010 at 8:44 pm

Palo Alto should establish a composting facility at Byxbee Park.

This Berkeley-based Zero Waste advocate (who appreciates the superb cinema programs at the Stanford Theatre) recommends that Palo Alto walk its talk on sustainability with respect to methane-productive food and yard wastes. No Bay Area community has. as yet, done the right thing. At best, they haul their organic wastes to Gilroy or Stanislaus County or Vacaville.

Surrounding communities should pay a reasonable premium for their use of this facility, which will enable them to benefit the region with significant reductions in fuel use, trucking emissions, and congestion.

I agree with Carroll Harrington, who wrote:

"I started becoming active in environmental issues during the save the baylands era, and remarkable changes were made. I agree, "things have changed." I personally believe that the relatively small area needed for state-of-the-art composting can be considered a "green" use of the land. Hauling Palo Alto garbage to Gilroy is unthinkable when we are working to hard to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.

"I urge the city to conduct a survey and then place the issue on the ballot."


Posted by Henry, a resident of Community Center
on Mar 9, 2010 at 10:03 pm

One person said that the airport has economic value. I agree. I think we need to evaluate its economic potential as an airport or as some other use. Palo Alto should do this before the lease with the county is due. If there is economic gain right now to convert the airport to something else, we should do it now. The county does not want to operate the airport and the city is getting $1/year. It is time for the city council to request an economic evaluation of the airport.


Posted by JerryL, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 9, 2010 at 10:53 pm

The point is we *HAVE* a Byxbee park and it seems big enough to me.
I'm not a pilot but kinda like having a general aviation airport in the community. It seems like a no-brainer that "Greater Byxbee" won't miss the 4.7 acres needed for the composting facility. Let's attack the park dedication issue square on. I'll support modifying the plan and help those involved in the campaign.

I'm sorry to see the dump go, too. If it were up to me I would let it expand on to the ITT property. Somehow our city seems "less than" by not having our own dump and recycling facility for residents to take stuff to. The idea of hauling garbage and even recyclables dozens of miles on already overcrowded freeways to somebody else's dump seems idiotic, when you think about it.

Yes, things have changed but not Palo Alto. We seem wedded to decisions that may have seemed nice decades ago. But look like sacred cows today.


Posted by Daniel, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 10, 2010 at 7:20 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Emily Renzel, a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 10, 2010 at 8:17 am

I compost at home, but also send larger woody items in my green bin for composting. We all benefit from keeping that material out of landfills. However, we have an approved plan for taking our yardwaste to the SMaRT Station in Sunnyvale, as we have done with our garbage since 1992. We are already paying for that composting service even though we don't use it. A small ($13-$26/ton) fee would be added if we take yardwaste to SMaRT. The City can make major inroads in carbon emissions by just using an anaerobic digester for the sewage sludge on the Water Quality Plant Site, which is a regional facility with 7 jurisdictions participating and sharing the cost. No truck traffic is involved for this.

Both the Planning Commission and the Parks Commission recommended against using Byxbee Park for composting - not just because it diminishes the amount of parkland, but also because a large industrial facility is not compatible with the remaining park. Imagine putting such a facility in Foothills Park or on the Enid Pearson Arastradero Preserve. Byxbee Park should be given the same respect.

Garbage ratepayers in Palo Alto will pay the costs of the proposed composting facility and despite rosy pictures that have been painted about revenue, this will most likely still be much more expensive than our approved SMaRT Station plan. We will pay the rates.


Posted by Paul, a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 10, 2010 at 12:34 pm

This is one more good use for the land presently being squandered under the airport.


Posted by pecuniac, a resident of Meadow Park
on Mar 10, 2010 at 12:40 pm

When are going to stop genuflecting on the altar of Enid Pearson? Who set her up as the final arbiter of environmental values? Byxbee park is a surreal reminder of the imprint of an out of control industrial machine on low hills of garbage. Its not a nice place to walk. Its not silent due to the aircraft of the self-indulgent elites buzzing overhead. The power lines are even uglier sentinels, dominating the viewscape. There is a landfill gas combustor fan motor running continuously that sounds like an industrial machine.
LEAVE THE COMPOST FACILITY WHERE IT IS. PUT IT ON THE BALLOT FOR THE NEXT ELECTION.


Posted by PlaneLar, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Mar 10, 2010 at 2:22 pm

Will someone please look up the definition of the word Slander. I believe it has to do with reporting the truth, not just what someone thinks is the truth. I try not to laugh when I read these comments that have absolutely no validity when it comes to Palo Alto's beautiful, self sustaining airport, often visited by many non aviators and is a destination attraction used by many moms and teachers. It's just like a park with many attractions and possibly safer that most large parking lots. I'd sooner be here than on highway 101 anytime. Those objecting aren't the least bit interested in the facts, they just have too much time on their hands and are too self indulgent. I hope some of you will give me the pleasure of showing you around and giving you the REAL facts and truth. In the spirit of community . . .


Posted by Don, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 10, 2010 at 2:44 pm

"I compost at home"

That's nice, Emily, but many of the rest of do not want to be forced into your paradigm. Can you even realize how off-putting your suggestion is?

I don't compost at home...I take the stuff to the existing compost yard at the dump, like the vast majority of us do.

If there is a way to do anaerobic composting, and producing power, then we should do it. And we should do it where composting is currently done.

Put it on the ballot!


Posted by Paul, a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 10, 2010 at 2:44 pm

"Will someone please look up the definition of the word Slander..."

Sure, glad to help. Webster's Collegiate Dictionary: The utterance in the presence of another person of a false statement or statements, damaging to a third person's character or reputation, usually distinguished from libel, which is written.

So, what's the relevance to this discussion?


Posted by Annette, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 10, 2010 at 4:41 pm

Lois, a fellow Midtown resident wrote:"Councilman Greg Scharrf said the Byxbee Park site appears to be the only possible option, based on the staff study. He suggested polling the public and seeing how people feel about building a new composting facility at Byxbee Park." - I agree with Lois.

I compost at home, but I also send larger clippings to the city composting facility. I don't want to have it trucked far away as we are doing with our garbage. We have an obligation to take care of our own waste. If we build a Waste to Energy facility, we'll be generating energy. What an idea!

Things have changed since Palo Alto passed the ordinance dedicating parkland. The earth is endangered by Global Warming. We're starting to feel the effects of Peak Oil. Trucking our waste is just a bad idea. We should put the Waste to Energy Facility on the ballot.

I enjoy walking in Byxbee Park. I would be excited to see a facility there that was turning our sludge and waste into energy and wonderful compost. It would give me hope, and students and teachers would love to be able to tour such a facility.


Posted by Bob Wenzlau, a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 10, 2010 at 7:33 pm

Bob Wenzlau is a registered user.

The landfill is a tremendous site for this modern compost project. The project when completed provides a gateway to any future park. Much of the facility could be hidden by a green roof integrated to the contours of the landfill -- noise, odor, dust and visual impact mitigated. That the modern organic facility is at the landfill is the appropriate enduring testament to 100 years of waste disposal.

Additionally, placing the site at the landfill allows efficient integration with waste water treatment operations, and contributes to the numerous cost savings as well as revenue generation -- features that make the project a possible financial winner for the City. The landfill site could also retain a location for the occasional need to drop off larger recyclables, drop off trimmings when too much for the green bins, and pickup finished compost (yes, the same "park" advocates also are set on shutting down our recycling center.)

This project will not be an industrial site anymore than our waste water treatment plant which sits rather innocuously in its bayland setting. Once the land is dedicated toward its use for modern composting, our planning commissions would align with the direction provided by a citizen vote.

Conceivably this project will be the ingredient needed by the City to actually finish the balance of the park. Given that the project should generate revenue to the City, few would object to some economic proceeds and certainly compost being used to convert the vast majority of the landfill to manufactured open space.

The effort is innovative in the spirit of Palo Alto: local infrastructure that generates return, self reliant while protecting the environment. This is the Palo Alto that I embrace.


Posted by Baylands walker, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 10, 2010 at 11:52 pm

I enjoy walking Byxbee Park, but that enjoyment is negatively impacted by the dump activities, and even more negatively impacted by the airplanes coming in for a landing. Walking Byxbee Park on a sunny Saturday afternoon, I can't escape the practically nonstop buzzing of airplanes for the first 15 minutes or so of my walk. But the farther away I get from Palo Alto airport, the more enjoyable the walk becomes. Walking along the Bay can be a wonderfully rejuvenating experience.

I would love to see a Byxbee Park completed as promised. I also think it would be nice to keep composting in Palo Alto, but not if it comes at a high $$ cost. I also don't believe that the impacts of the proposed composting will be confined to 4.7 acres, and I'd rather see composting moved to another site, even if that means the SMaRT station. (Whatever happened to regional cooperation?)

I expect that most of Palo Alto's compost currently gets trucked out of Palo Alto to be used, anyway, and that residents use only a small fraction of the compost currently generated at the dump. I also don't trust the City not to make a financial disaster out of the composting plan.

The airport gets none of my support, and I'd be glad to see the airport closed and composting moved to some of the airport land. Now that would really improve the Byxbee Park experience.


Posted by Harry, a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Mar 10, 2010 at 11:57 pm

Attacking the airport for air and noise pollution is like asking the police to ignore a bank robber to arrest a jaywalker. Caltrain roars through our neighborhoods blaring its whistle day and night. City trucks pull up in front of our houses at the crack of dawn. Dogs bark too much and neighbors play their music too loud. We get more noise from jumbo jets going into SFO than we do from small planes operating out of PA's airport.

All these are nuisances that we manage day-to-day and week-to-week by either suffering through it b/c we value the services or by communicating with our neighbors to minimize it going forward. The people who use the airport work hard to be good neighbors by soliciting feedback about noise through the Joint Community Relations Committee, who's meetings are publicized and open to the public, and by conducting better than 95% of traffic pattern operations over the unpopulated east side of the field. Local pilots consistently fly over PA at an altitude 50% higher than the minimum safe altitude prescribed by the FAA (1500 ft instead of 1000 ft). Many would fly higher still but SFO airspace restrictions prevent small planes from doing so.

One of the things that makes our city great is the balance of services and facilities available to us. We have 34 public parks, 53 public tennis courts, a zoo, libraries, a lake, and more. The baylands has over 2,000 acres of open space. And we have an airport. It's part of the balance, and it's part of what makes our city great. I don't use all of the city's facilities, but I don't call for the closure of those I don't use because I want my neighbors to be able to do what they enjoy.


Posted by Emily Renzel, a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 11, 2010 at 8:10 am

Bob Wenzlau extols the suitability of using Byxbee Park, with all sorts of glorious dreams of a green roof and lots of dollars to the city's till.

This expensive project will be built with dollars paid by all of us ratepayers and the numbers spouted about revenue generation are all speculative at this time since no such plant has been operated yet in the U.S. where energy costs and land values are very different than in Europe, for example. Building a green roof over a giant foodwaste receiving building, a dozen or so digesters, and a monster pile of curing compost output would be so costly that it just isn't likely to happen. Instead we will all enjoy looking at, smelling, and hearing this industrial operation as we visit our long awaited park.

Bob says "conceivably" this could pay for completion of the park. If history is any guide, the landfill enterprise fund has paid over $109,000,000 into the General Fund and precious little of it has gone to even the existing 30 acres of Byxbee Park that is open. It is shameful. And, of course, this plant can only "conceivably" pay if it makes money and all that money will come from ratepayers. Our garbage rates currently are second only in the Bay Area to Los Altos Hill for residential and San Francisco for commercial.

There are lots of "enduring testaments to waste disposal" ringing San Francisco Bay --Shoreline Park, Bayfront Park, Sunnyvale Baylands Park. All of them are pleasant completed parks. I guess Bob thinks ours is the only one that should look like and be a landfill. Our Water Quality Control Plant "fits in" because it has 6-8 acres of landscaping surrounding it. Two of those acres toward Byxbee Park would be ripped out for this proposed facility. It will be impossible to screen this industrial composting facility!




Posted by Ralph Britton, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 11, 2010 at 2:17 pm

This issue can be resolved into two parts: Local choice of site and whether a local or regional facility makes better sense.

With respect to the airport site option, the six acre question is partly financial, and partly operational. It is now used for helicopter operations, providing both a practice area and a safety zone in case something were to happen to the helicopter after liftoff or near arrival. After the recent crash, no one should question the importance of a safety zone. The financial side is that there exists the possibility of environmentally sensitive and visually non-intrusive hangar development which would add revenue to increase the airport's income and ensure that it will remain self-sufficient. Posted comments about the airport costing the general fund to the contrary, the airport is self supporting and property taxes paid at the airport are some $2M, none of which goes to the airport.

If composting is to be done in Palo Alto, Mr. Wenzlau's discussion is the result of much time and effort by a number of people. The land adjacent the wastewater plant could be used for the purpose with little impact on the remaining 2000 acres of parkland. But any such development should be done in coordination with a plan for developing the remaining nearby land for park use, to be implemented as soon as possible.

However, a major consideration is one of efficiency. A large regional composting and conversion facility to produce fuel could conceivably be more cost efficient and have a higher yield of fuel per ton of material. The diesel fuel used in carrying material to Zanker road would be insignificant and could easily be more than offset if the larger facility were more efficient City staff is well aware of the engineering considerations involved in the process and I believe their assessment reasonable. In addition, a regional facility will be engineered and developed independently of the city. It's a costly burden for the city to undertake such a project at this time.

There is also a possibility of collaboration at the Sunnyvale SMART
regional facility to build a plant there which the city could use as an alternative to Zanker Road.

I think it prudent to see how these regional plans develop before committing the city to do anything other than continue with the aerobic windrows or some improvement thereupon. There are options related to processing final-stage material from the wastewater plant as well. Right now it's hard to make the comparison of doing it locally vs. using a regional facility.


Posted by Don, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 11, 2010 at 2:38 pm

There are a number of ways to 'burn' organic waste, and to produce energy in the process. It can be done cleanly, with minimum "pollution".

The current dump site is the perfect place to clean up previous bad practices, such as aerobic fementation that produces methane, a major greenhouse gas.

We need to build this thing, because we are progressive, know how to do it, make it profitable and provide a model for others. People from all over the nation, even the world, will want to fly into PAO in order to attend seminars on how the future works!

Do it, and build it at the dump. Put it to a vote.

The day of the radical preservation is over.


Posted by Henry, a resident of Community Center
on Mar 11, 2010 at 5:58 pm

One reader post "One of the things that makes our city great is the balance of services and facilities available to us. We have 34 public parks, 53 public tennis courts, a zoo, libraries, a lake, and more. The baylands has over 2,000 acres of open space. And we have an airport. It's part of the balance, and it's part of what makes our city great. I don't use all of the city's facilities, but I don't call for the closure of those I don't use because I want my neighbors to be able to do what they enjoy."

A agree with the concept. For example not everyone goes to the library, but the libraries are a tremendous asset to the city. However, I believe the airport is used by too few of the Palo Alto residents to justify the use of a valuable resource in such a manner. I think the city should do an economic analysis and explore various options. Let's also see how many residents and non-residents use the airport facility.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 11, 2010 at 6:08 pm

Stanford shopping centre is used by more than Palo Altans and Stanford people.

University Avenue restaurants are used by more than Palo Alto residents.

Palo Alto Bowl is used by more than just Palo Alto residents.

Winter Lodge is used by more than just Palo Alto residents.

The YMCA and JCC are used by more than just Palo Alto residents.

An amenity is used by those who live or work in the locale, not just the city residents of the city it is situated in. The airport is a facilty which happens to be situated in Palo Alto. It does not mean it cannot be used by others.

I happen to use Shoreline Park, Shoreline theatres, Castro Street restaurants, Mountain View and Menlo Park stores, etc. etc. I hope none of those amenities are closed because more outsiders than residents of the home city use them.

The fact that possibly more non-residents than residents use a facility means it should be closed is pointless.


Posted by Anna, a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 11, 2010 at 6:39 pm

"Stanford shopping centre is used by more than Palo Altans and Stanford people.

University Avenue restaurants are used by more than Palo Alto residents.

Palo Alto Bowl is used by more than just Palo Alto residents.

Winter Lodge is used by more than just Palo Alto residents.

The YMCA and JCC are used by more than just Palo Alto residents."


Of course none of these things are run and subsidized by the government, like the airport is. That you conflate so many private and public functions shows a troubling lack of thought about the role of government in society...but I digress: The airport is a subsidized activity - none of these other items are. The airport land could be used for activities that a much bigger slice of the residents of PA would find of use.


Posted by Bob, a resident of Community Center
on Mar 11, 2010 at 6:48 pm

Anna,

WHAT activities are you proposing for the current airport site? If something could have been built there, it would have been. That is marsh land. The land is unstable. It a a prime flood plain. It is reclaimed land. An airplane hanger has distributed weight around the edges of virtually an empty 'shell, but basically it is not heavy. The water table is extremely high so nothing of weighty substance can be built on it. And like Oklahoma, the 'wind comes whistling down the plains" starting most days by 1:00 p.m. So tell us what you'd put there? The airport has been there since 1924.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 11, 2010 at 6:58 pm

Anna

Exactly my point.

A library, tennis courts, or any city amenity can't be compared to our airport. Every city has a library, tennis courts, etc. We even use each other's city supported facilities. We don't have, as yet, an airport in every city therefore we share it with the surrounding community. And if we were smart, we would encourage people to use it by improving restaurants and shopping nearby to encourage these out of towners to come and spend money here.

This airport is one of the assets that could attract people to use Palo Alto and if marketed properly it would truly be an asset. Whether we need to charge more rent and tax those who use the airport in more ways or find other ways to increase revenue, are the types of questions we should be asking.

This is the 21st century. Flying small planes is becoming a viable travel option for more business and even personal travelers. The age of the car is not going to be the same as it was last century. Zip cars, shared cars and company planes will be taking their place. Our airport should be on the forefront of this new trend, as Palo Alto itself should be with all new technologies.


Posted by Sharon, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 11, 2010 at 7:06 pm


The airport is an asset,
the major sources of led poisoning in that area are old paint, batteries, the bullets fired by gangs and air pollution from China plus the massive residual pollution from ROMIC Web Link
There have been no deaths on the ground in 60 + years of operation by PA airport-- an outstanding record--

We need more logic and less emotional rhetoric in this matter.


Posted by Don, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 11, 2010 at 7:13 pm

"WHAT activities are you proposing for the current airport site? If something could have been built there, it would have been."

That is a radically false statement. The county wanted to build more hangers there, in order to offset costs, but it was not ALLOWED to do it. Why? Because the preservationist radicals whould not allow it.

If such restriction were to be removed, the airport could become a real profit center for our city.

The problem here is the radical preservationist agenda, not the airport.

Build the composting plant at the dump.


If you were a member and logged in you could track comments from this story.

Post a comment

Posting an item on Town Square is simple and requires no registration. Just complete this form and hit "submit" and your topic will appear online. Please be respectful and truthful in your postings so Town Square will continue to be a thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

We prefer that you use your real name, but you may use any "member" name you wish.

Name: *

Select your neighborhood or school community: * Not sure?

Comment: *

Verification code: *
Enter the verification code exactly as shown, using capital and lowercase letters, in the multi-colored box.

*Required Fields

On Tour at Selective Schools: Chapman, La Verne, Redlands, Whittier
By John Raftrey and Lori McCormick | 1 comment | 1,847 views

The dress code
By Jessica T | 16 comments | 1,703 views

Two Days to Save This Dog?
By Cathy Kirkman | 15 comments | 1,134 views

. . . People will never forget how you made them feel.
By Chandrama Anderson | 0 comments | 1,095 views

It Depends... Disguising Real Characters in Fiction
By Nick Taylor | 0 comments | 367 views