Editorial: Yes on E Palo Alto Issues, posted by Editor, Palo Alto Online, on Oct 21, 2011 at 8:31 am
It is difficult to imagine any other city engaging in the kind of hard-fought battle that has characterized the debate over Palo Alto's Measure E, an initiative that does nothing more than reserve 10 acres next to the sewage treatment plant currently designated as parkland as a possible site for a state-of-the-art composting facility.
Read the full editorial here Web Link posted Friday, October 21, 2011, 8:42 AM
Posted by Concerned Grandmother, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Oct 21, 2011 at 8:31 am
Why am I voting YES on Measure E? Because I'm afraid we're running out of time. Evidence is overwhelming that global warming is happening and that human behavior is the cause. Here is one link with a wealth of information: Web Link
And California yesterday adopted regulations on greenhouse gas emissions.
If we do nothing to curb our emissions, the Baylands and a large area of Palo Alto will eventually be under water: Web Link
We don't live in a bubble. Emissions from Palo Alto contribute to the problem. We owe it to ourselves and to our children and grandchildren to at least provide an avenue to explore developing sustainable, environmentally friendly waste disposal. Passing Measure E gives Palo Alto the option to pursue new technologies, which, by the way, are widely in use in other parts of the world for waste disposal AND energy production. VOTE YES ON MEASURE E!!
Posted by Evan Hughes, a resident of Menlo Park, on Oct 21, 2011 at 8:36 am
Your "Yes on E, with caution" editorial is thoughtful, well reasoned and fair - and correct in its conclusion. One reason for Yes that you do not name is the global warming and climate change threat and need for awareness and action. Although this potential project on energy from renewable biomass fuel (organic wastes: sewage sludge, food wastes and compost) is extremely small compared to the global problem, it is the type of action that will be needed worldwide, and Palo Alto leadership would be consistent with what the community has done in the past. It would also show recognition of proper flexibility to make tradeoffs among environmental values and to encourage green technology and business.
Posted by Hilary Gans , a resident of the Fairmeadow neighborhood, on Oct 21, 2011 at 8:48 am
It is refereshing to hear a balanced presentation of the issues associated with Measure E. The propaganda coming from the No on E group has tried to blur the discussion with scare tactics. As this article states, the technology is exciting and promising for Palo Alto and will be evaluated in detail by City Council and staff AFTER Measure E passes and dedicates 10 of 126 acres for continued organic material composting.
Posted by svatoid, a resident of the Charleston Gardens neighborhood, on Oct 21, 2011 at 8:52 am
Why is there no signature on this op-ed? Who wrote it?
Would you trust a person who has never worked a day in his life and has shown no financial responsibility during that time to tell you that we need to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on a nunproven technology. This election alone, an ego trip for said front man, is costing the city $300K alone. Would you trust a person, who claims to be an environmentalist, that has made a career out of bashing the local leader in green technology and it's implementation (stanford University) to give you guidance on "green" issues?
Posted by Me Too, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Oct 21, 2011 at 9:02 am
"Our preference would have been to wait until the City Council made a policy decision on the merits and viability of anaerobic digestion and then take the proposal to the voters in a measure that would include both approval of the facility and the undedication of the needed 10 acres. But proponents thought otherwise, and now they have put an intriguing but still-speculative idea at risk by forcing an early vote over the land-use issue."
Exactly. So the pro-E side is forcing voters to make a choice that they should not have to make, and asking them to hand off their decision rights to a future city council, before the facts (like costs, technology, alternatives) are even known. Shame on them, self-righteous zealots that they seem to be. As they say in the VC community, you can always ask for an answer right away, and it will always be "no"! This is bad policy and bad process, and the zealots should be voted down. No on E.
Posted by svatoid, a resident of the Charleston Gardens neighborhood, on Oct 21, 2011 at 9:09 am
Good point, Me Too. That is one of the questions I have been asking as well--why cannot we have one election, in the future, with both questions on separate ballots?
Seems to be an ego trip for the backers of this unproven technology--self-righteous zealots is a correct description of the propaganda spewing por-E crowd. Yet, not sure why the unknown writer of this piece still recommends a Yes vote.
Posted by Keith Bromberg, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Oct 21, 2011 at 9:16 am
Your editorial demonstrates great respect for the passions on both sides of the Measure E debate and a reasoned conclusion to vote Yes on Measure E. It is also significant that the City has already taken an important step with the council funded preliminary feasibility study that projects significant financial and environmental benefits from implementing an local solution.
Posted by Tyler Hanley, online editor of Palo Alto Online, on Oct 21, 2011 at 9:43 am Tyler Hanley is a member (registered user) of Palo Alto Online
The following comment was moved from a duplicate thread:
Posted by Ming Yu Ling, a resident of the Greenmeadow neighborhood, Oct. 21 at 9:19 a.m.:
So how much more would Palo Alto invest in financing more studies? The city has already spent more than a million in lost gate fees, $300,000 on the special elections, and $200,000 on a a feasibility study. Because the feasibility study shows no need for the parkland, and that the most cost-effective solution for food and yard waste is a regional solution, proponents now ask that we fork away the park so they can continue spending our dollars figuring out what to do with the land. What a Waste! Vote No on E
Posted by Bryan Long, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Oct 21, 2011 at 9:52 am
The well reasoned article above points out one of the major misunderstandings in this initiative: the vote is only to free 10 acres of what is now the landfill for POSSIBLE use for a state-of-the-art transformation facility. Currently, the now-closed landfill is designated as "parkland", which given the current economic climate will be very slow in really becoming a "park". It is probably not known or remembered by most Palo Altans that the City cannot make use of "parkland" for any other purpose without a citizen vote on the issue. When I served on the Mayor's taskforce on this issue in 2009, it was recognized by all that incinerating our sewage sludge was expensive and environmentally damaging, and that with the closure of our landfill-based composting operation we would have to do something else with our yard waste. There are different options to dealing with these two major issues, but the taskforce concluded that building a state-of-the-art facility in Palo Alto would be cheaper and better versus paying others to deal with our waste elsewhere. The problem the city encountered was that the only feasible site would be next to the wastewater treatment plant, and that would require a small amount of the landfill land, which cannot be used unless it is re-designated out of "parkland" by a public vote. Although preliminary calculations are that building our own facility will save the City millions of dollars over the long run, it would be irresponsible for the City Council to proceed with a costly detailed analysis and request for proposal process without knowing the land was available. That is what Measure E is about: just making the land available, so that the City can responsibly proceed with a detailed evaluation of whether building a facility in Palo Alto makes environmental and financial sense. YES on E does not mandate that the City build a facility, it only opens the door for a facility that could save the City millions of dollars -- while improving the environment. Please VOTE YES ON E.
Posted by Me Too, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Oct 21, 2011 at 10:09 am
@Bryan Long - please help me out. If the vote is really so benign, so prudent, so "responsible," why did the Council not put the issue on the ballot itself? Why did it require signature gathering from an advocacy group promoting a specific outcome? This is a sincere question - if E is necessary for a process that the Council wants to pursue, why didn't they just put the measure forward themselves?
Posted by anon, a resident of the Monroe Park neighborhood, on Oct 21, 2011 at 10:40 am
Has anybody yet answered the question of who is going to want to buy the residual compost that is contaminated with chemicals and drugs from the supposedly included sewage? Or will the city have to pay to dispose of it elsewhere?
There are too many unanswered questions at this point to undedicate parkland. Let the plans to replace the sewage incinerator go forward separately and the ten acres become parkland as currently intended.
Posted by Karen P, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Oct 21, 2011 at 11:11 am
Dear Editor: In addition to the reasons you cite for supporting Measure E, I would add that the City has already conducted a feasibility study. The study demonstrated that a digester facility would be a cheaper alternative to trucking our green waste to Gilroy for years to come and would be better for the environment because it would avoid thousands of tons of greenhouse gas emissions, while also generating clean energy that can be converted to electricity. And since we live in the innovation capital of the world, I am confident that we can come up with a design that is technologically, environmentally and financially sound. The E-opponents resort to delay and fear tactics and ad hominem attacks, but their position boils down to -- Palo Alto should export its green waste to poorer communities so that we can have 10 more acres of open space (never mind that they abut the sewage treatment plant), in addition to the other 1,900 acres of Baylands. There is no doubt in my mind that Yes on E is the more socially-responsible choice.
Posted by Why I'm Confused, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Oct 21, 2011 at 11:17 am
I just can't determine the mix of the following reasons for E:
a) A way to save money; i.e. as custodians of the public money this is the lowest cost solution to our waste processing.
b) A way to help the environment; i.e. we are doing our share to prevent global warming or something like that.
c) A PR activity to show that we care about the environment as an independent consideration from whether or not we actually help the environment. This is something like showing to other cities that Palo Alto can process its own waste and be the first to use a particular waste processing technology.
BTW, does anyone else care about the difference between feasibility and desirability?
Posted by Me Too, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Oct 21, 2011 at 11:33 am
"And since we live in the innovation capital of the world, I am confident that we can come up with a design that is technologically, environmentally and financially sound"
This kind of thinking shocks me. Do you really think that because we live in Silicon Valley that our tiny town can come up with the world's first successful plant of its kind using the technology being promoted? And that our city should be the venture capitalist behind it? I like innovation too, but our little town should not be the one bankrolling it.
When you don't know what you should do, delay is the right course. We are being asked to push ahead now, when, as the editorial points out, there really isn't any plan yet. We lose nothing by saying "NO" - they can come back when the answers are more clear.
Posted by well not really, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Oct 21, 2011 at 12:01 pm
I think if you want to keep your options open to a facility, you vote yes to set aside the land now. If you want it to be a park and only a park you vote no. Its pretty much that simple.
Sort of like the library, there was no real finished plan when Palo Alto voted yes and that was higher risk with a stated price tag and only fuzzy plans.
This is just setting aside the land for the waste facility. The price and the plans are the subject of a future city wide battle. I have yet to hear a compelling argument to not setting aside just the land for the option of doing this, but my mind is open convince me that reserving this land is a bad idea. Just the land issue, not the project that this vote does not authorize.
Like the library, we voted on buiding improvements not increaing the collection size, so adding to the collection remains an open issue. This is about the land use zoning, but not actually funding any project. So I'll ask again, why is it so bad to set aside the land, so we can take that possible use into consideration when doing grading projects and hiking trails through the park? There is plenty of new park that needs development before this 10 acres becomes an issue.
Posted by Jean Hurrle, a resident of another community, on Oct 21, 2011 at 1:04 pm
As a former resident of Palo Alto, I have a deep interest in the community. The local voters were asked to approve a measure that opens the door for procurement of the parkland by entities other than those supported by local citizens. Few would argue that "green projects" are a bad idea. However, implementing a waste-to-energy facility requires some intensive consideration before spending scarce public monies. Speaking from my perspective as an environmental scientist, I agree that the cart was placed well before the horse in this instance, putting the wishes, and the best interests, of the local citizens at risk.
Posted by Me Too, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Oct 21, 2011 at 1:38 pm
@well not really - I'll take a shot at answering your question. Maybe instead of the libraries, think of the recent High Speed Rail (HSR) bond. That is a better analogy, I think, since building libraries is fairly well understood while building US HSR lines is a new art. We were asked to support a bond issue that didn't mandate anything about the route, technology, funding, etc., simply authorized selling bonds - why, not? Afterall, they wouldn't be able to figure all the rest out without knowing the money is there, right? But roll the clock forward, and you realize that the plan was a disaster, the economics were way off, the impact on Palo Alto and other Peninsula towns unacceptable - and the voters had no further say! In fact, we have to fight tooth and nail to stop bad things from happening.
That in my mind is what is happening here. If Measure E passes, the city or utility need NEVER ask the voters again what they want - regardless of cost, appearance, environmental impact, alternatives, etc. - it is up to future, not yet elected, city councils. And if experience is any guide, compared to what's been advertised, the costs will be high, the benefits lower, and the alternatives more numerous and attractive.
On the other hand, if Measure E is defeated, further research and planning can be done, both on local and regional alternatives. If we decide in fact there is a plan that works, we can go ahead an un-dedicate the land - it isn't going anywhere. But, we aren't just freeing up land, we are giving up any say the voters can have it what gets spent and what gets built - just as with HSR. That's makes me concerned.
Posted by Walt Hays, a resident of the Greenmeadow neighborhood, on Oct 21, 2011 at 2:06 pm
As the editorial points out, Measure E does not commit the city to build anything, but only to explore the many potential benefits of converting waste to value, an exploration that would make no sense unless land was available. The Council will also not make such a commitment unless and until its benefits are proven out, and if not so proven in 10 years, the Council can rededicate. Measure E therefore offers the possibility of enormous savings, in both money and emissions, and zero risk. Vote YES!
Posted by svatoid, a resident of the Charleston Gardens neighborhood, on Oct 21, 2011 at 2:19 pm
"As the editorial points out, Measure E does not commit the city to build anything, but only to explore the many potential benefits of converting waste to value, an exploration that would make no sense unless land was available. "
Seems to me that the Pro-E crowd loves to talk out of both sides of their mouths. Hays states, above, that Measure E does not commit the city to build anything, yet Drekmeier and the other friends of Hays are pushing a specific method that has never been used before.
So which is it?
Besides the reasons I previously stated for not voting for Measure E, here is another one.
Posted by curmudgeon, a resident of the Downtown North neighborhood, on Oct 21, 2011 at 2:48 pm
One more thing: read the letter by David Bubenik in today's Daily News. It claims that the State of California owns this land, not the City of Palo Alto. And the state stipulates this land can only be used for a "passive pastoral park."
What does this do to the grand designs for this real estate, or, more precisely, the grand fantasies? Shouldn't we have got the state's permission before we try to repurpose this property?
Someone in the Measure E group or City Hall should have done that before the city committed hundreds of thousands of dollars for its "feasibility" study and for this election that will probably be moot anyway. As Bubenik's letter says, somebody needs to do their homework, and nobody has.
Posted by Tom Jordan, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on Oct 21, 2011 at 2:51 pm
Measure E is the last and only chance that Palo Alto voters will get to have a say on whether we have an expensive large garbage factory at the entrance to our Baylands Park and whether Pal Alto refuse rates remain only the second highest in the Bay Area or climb out of sight. A No vote ends the wasted money and time spent to date on this completely unproven (it has never been used anywhere else in the entire world -- nowhere) process. This editorial recognizes that it is unproven and proceeds on Hope that a good process can be developed. Hope is not a Plan.
If E passes the existing Council majority of 5 (all Council votes on this matter have been 5-4, with the same 5 unwavering in their determination for a Plant) which seems determined to have this large Garbage Plant in the park will push this matter ahead, with the full throated support of the E Proponents and the Department of Public Works which has been trying to build its empire on this park land for decades, and will sign a contract with a private company to build and operate the Garbage Plant, charging the $200M construction cost of the Plant, the private company's profits (assumed in the Feasibility study to be 20% a year on invested capital) and all operating expenses to our individual Refuse bills, which are already the second highest in the Bay Area. All of the players presently on stage who want it to happen are then in a position to make it happen. WITHOUT ANOTHER PUBLIC VOTE AND NONE OF THE ABOVE ACTIONS ARE EVEN SUBJECT TO REFERENDUM !! The Council will not go for a public vote on a bond issue to build a Garbage Plant because, like the proposed Public Safety Building they know that they cannot get the 2/3 vote required. That is what E proponents want, not the ten acres but the Garbage Plant that has never been built anywhere else in the world, and they will make it happen. To pretend otherwise is delusional. NO ON E !!
Posted by Douglas Moran, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Oct 21, 2011 at 3:02 pm Douglas Moran is a member (registered user) of Palo Alto Online
I urge a NO vote on E to repudiate the conduct of the sponsors of this measure. The sponsors of a measure owe it to the electorate to provide a well thought out proposal that can be debated, and to provide answers to the questions that arise. That has not happened with E.
The sponsors of Measure E tell conflicting stories to different audiences. Nowhere is this more obvious than what the intent of the measure is. To those that agree with them, it is "Measure E, the Palo Alto Green Energy and Compost Initiative will repurpose 10 acres of the landfill (link to map) for a state-of-the-art anaerobic digestion composting facility." (from the home page of the sponsor's web site Web Link). But to audiences that are skeptical of AD, E is only about undedication for future consideration of alternative and options.
I have also heard the sponsors change their story within a presentation in response to questions from the audience.
Legitimate basic questions about the claims made by the sponsors are still unanswered a year later. Similarly for many obvious follow-up questions to those claims.
In their presentations and writings, the supporters make it abundantly clear that they oppose a regional solution even if it is more cost-effective and better for the environment, even one using the very same technology they advocate. They are ideologically wedded to having the facility located in Palo Alto.
I would have expected the PA Weekly to have remembered an earlier fiasco imposed on Palo Alto by many the same leaders. From 1999 to 2005, they fought to have Palo Alto build a trash sorting facility in the Baylands, taking away business from a facility we co-owned with MtView and Sunnyvale that was located in Sunnyvale. Despite never having a remote financial or environmental justification, they kept this battle going for over 5 years, costing PA many millions in studies and financial penalties (contract violations). And an uncalculated amount in terms of reduced value of our recyclables and increased costs to process them.
The PA Weekly seems to acknowledge that this is not a good proposal (premature, ...), but that we should pass it and hope that it gets fixed later. Given how many times we have been burned by this attitude -- High Speed Rail anyone? -- it is inconceivable to me that anyone would be saying "But this time it will be different".
Posted by Me Too, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Oct 21, 2011 at 3:14 pm
"The Council will also not make such a commitment unless and until its benefits are proven out..."
@Walt Hays - really? What an extravagant promise for you to make on behalf of the city council! In fact, we have no idea what the Council will commit to or why. The only thing we know for sure is that they won't have to ask the voters to agree - once the land is undedicated, the council and utility department can do WHATEVER THEY WANT. And that the zealots who support a local-only solution will continue their pressure campaign to make it so, regardless of cost or alternative solutions.
As the editorial said, it would be better, far better, for the plan to be worked out, and then the plan and land allocation to be decided as a package. Don't you agree?
Posted by Reality Check, a resident of another community, on Oct 21, 2011 at 4:08 pm
Wow - this is so very typical of Palo Alto in dealing with issues. It seems like to proceedure is "We expect to have all of the answers to everything before we can decide on anything"!
That kind of rationale is what prevents progress from taking place in Palo Alto. Tom Jordan and Emily Renzel are stuck in a kind of 1970's time warp mentality. Look how well that has worked out - declining tax base, reduced services, etc. while communities like Mt. View have prospered. Sure let's just do nothing and hope that things will always stay the same.......
As for those who say "vote no now and study it later", that kind of strategy is so transparent as to be laughable. You KNOW what the next step would be after a no vote, right? I can hear their position now - "The idea was already voted down, so there should be no further study". That will be the next step by the Measure E opponents - you can bank on it!
Palo Alto always seems to strangle its own future. It's a good thing the City fathers in the early 1900s didn't think that way. They would've been saying - "Electricity? We can't afford the infrastructure. Besides, gas lamps work just fine..."
Good luck, Palo Alto. It's time to stop resting on your 1970s era laurels and move into the 21st Century.
Posted by No on E too, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Oct 21, 2011 at 4:41 pm
Do people really want their poop to be composted, which will produce compost with heavy metals and chemicals (yes, that's right) that will then be peddled to agriculture (and transported to farming areas by the way) ?
Posted by Craig Laughton, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Oct 21, 2011 at 4:59 pm
Tom Jordan is spot on. A vote for "E" is a vote for an anerobic digestion factory in the park, even if it doesn't work very well. This turkey is being driven by ideological zealots, with a political agenda as the fundamental purpose. The proponents think that have the political power to push it through, and that determines their actions. A NO vote would deny them their political agenda.
Posted by Bryan Long, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Oct 21, 2011 at 5:01 pm
All this talk about the City Council doing "whatever they want" regardless of what the public wants is kind of crazy, isn't it? Every one of the City Council members are responsible people who were democratically voted into office by us. They each have their own opinions, but are sensitive to the concerns of the voters who put them into a temporary office. They seem to have a broad range of personal opinions on things, which reflects the diverse opinions of the voters. We elected them, I think we can count on them to make reasonable decisions representing the interests of the majority. So the public vote to undedicate the parkland for the express purpose of an organic waste transformation facility clears up the overriding issue about the land availability, AND indicates general support for the idea. It does not require the Council to proceed to build such a facility if it doesn't make financial and environmental sense. Check out the pagreenenergy.org website for more information and look at the list of endorsements. YES on E just makes sense. To me,anyway, and to a lot of other Palo Altans.
Posted by Craig Laughton, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Oct 21, 2011 at 5:27 pm
" They seem to have a broad range of personal opinions on things, which reflects the diverse opinions of the voters".
Is that why they voted, unanimously, to support high speed rail (HSR)?
The truth is that our elected representatives are much more powerfully swayed by political forces than by sound, rational thinking on technological issues. I voted against HSR, because I could easily see that it would not pencil on a variety of levels, including enviornmental. I am no luddite, I support high tech and medium tech solutions, where they make sense. Anaerobic digestion (AD) simply does not make sense, but our council members will ignore that fact, and vote according to political forces that push them.
A vote for "E" is a vote for a reflexive political decision in favor of AD. You can bet the ranch on it.
Posted by RB, a resident of the Greenmeadow neighborhood, on Oct 21, 2011 at 5:34 pm
Does anyone know whether Palo Alto has any existing regional commitment to Greenwaste, Z-Best, or someplace else in terms of amount of food scraps and yard trimmings to be delivered to a facility in future years?
Does anyone know whether the Palo Alto Energy-Compost Feasibility Study (Web Link) considered the carbon sequestration of a 10 acre park of trees in its research?
One study shows that Modesto saves 336 lb of C/tree annually (Web Link). My suspicion is not enough trees can be planted in the 10 acres to make up the difference but would at least reduce the difference by 25%. Of course trees provide other benefits as stated in the abstract - air-pollutant uptake and stormwater runoff.
The California Statewide Property Inventory Search, Web Link, does not show the property in question to be owned by the State.
Posted by Diogenes, a member of the Addison School community, on Oct 21, 2011 at 8:19 pm
Wow !! That is blandest most underwhelming endorsement that I have ever read! The first time through the editorial I thought that the headline, saying Yes, was a mistake. The text made no case at all for either side. Just a recital about the people involved. No facts. No analysis. No reference at all to the Feasibility Study. it was as though two different individuals wrote it -- one the text and another the headline -- with no communication between them.
Then, on second reading I saw the one paragraph that pushed it to Yes, saying as its main, and only point: " there is a reasonable chance that with further study an exciting, low risk and financially and beneficial plan can be developed." Wow !! That's a clincher !! The City has just spent $250,000 with a consultant who is supposed to be an expert on this -- who comes up with an alternative using wet sewage sludge in a dry anaerobic process which has never been done anywhere in the world in the thousands of municipal waste facilities that exist (wet with dry? does not that create a problem?) -- and the best The Weekly can do is to "there is a reasonable chance..." with no explanation of Why? Who will find this "beneficial plan" When? And at what cost?
The E Proponents have been at this for three years, entirely with the City's money and none of their own. If there is something to this, where is our vaunted private companies? Do you see any standing in line? Do you see any HSR private companies standing in line? The Post gave time and thought to this and wrote a solid analytical editorial recommending a No vote which was of real help to the busy citizens. The Weekly follows the same path that Pro E does: No specifics. Ignore the Study that you forced the City to spend $250,000 on because it is against you. Speak of HOPE.
Just dandy. That's leadership? That is fearless journalism on which democracy depends? That is a lazy cop out. Palo Alto deserves better.
Posted by JT, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Oct 21, 2011 at 8:36 pm
I think Solyndra executives would appreciate this editorial. If Measure E wins, the city council will have to go forward on this project (who can say "no" to the voters?) and guarantee it's success. Can't you see all the investors who, knowing the city will guarantee they won't lose a dime, backing this thing? But who needs all this parkland? Parkland is overrated!
Posted by JT, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Oct 21, 2011 at 8:57 pm
Developer Jim Baer is the major contributor to the "Yes on E" campaign. He wants to portray himself as the "environmental developer" even though he didn't projects like the JCC. He also built and financed the building for the Weekly at 450 Cambridge Ave. I got a feeling that the Weekly, which is begging for money from the public, wanted to do an editorial that Baer would like. After all, he controls their rent.
Posted by Bill Johnson, publisher of the Palo Alto Weekly, on Oct 21, 2011 at 9:53 pm Bill Johnson is a member (registered user) of Palo Alto Online
Thanks for your comments, JT. Just to set the record straight, the Weekly owns its building on Cambridge and pays no rent to Jim Baer. Baer has no ownership in the building, nor has any business relationship with the company. He did manage the construction of the building for us, and guided us through the process of obtaining our LEED gold rating. But for those wanting to believe the Weekly would take positions because of who our friends are rather than our assessment of the issues, there is another connection to Jim Baer you should know: he was a resident assistant in my freshman dorm at Stanford 40 years ago.
Posted by Paula Sandas, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Oct 21, 2011 at 10:07 pm
How does one vote "with Caution?" It's either yes or no... took a lot of weeding through hemming and hawing to figure out that the Weekly endorses Measure E. And even then, with caution, whatever that means...
Posted by Me Too, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Oct 21, 2011 at 10:08 pm
@Bryan Long - "kind of crazy" - well, I guess when if you can't win with argument, name calling begins. I don't know you, but I'm sure you are better than that. No, I don't think it is crazy at all - our City Council has often been swayed by small groups with loud insistent voices. If your argument boils down to "vote away your right to decide, just have faith in the Council," that at least is an honest statement of what Pro-E is about. As with the HSR bond, where we voted for the money and have to trust in the legislature. Does that example give you confidence, Bryan?
Measure E is bad policy and bad process. Vote it down, and if there is a real plan later, we can consider it then. It is really the only way that makes sense.
Posted by Douglas Moran, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Oct 22, 2011 at 1:30 am Douglas Moran is a member (registered user) of Palo Alto Online
Did anyone else notice that this editorial shows how out-of-touch the PA Weekly is? It characterizes the opposition to E as being people who want to preserve parkland, but if you look in a range of forums you see that much of the opposition is from people who see it as bad economics and false environmentalism, and who are worried that the intent is to force a bad decision on Palo Alto.
While the editorial worries about a NO vote sending a wrong message, it expresses no such concern about a YES vote. Yet much of the anger at the proponents is based upon the perception that they are using their constantly changing stories to get voters to send a message that those voters don't intend.
Posted by Cedric de La Beaujardiere, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Oct 22, 2011 at 2:28 am Cedric de La Beaujardiere is a member (registered user) of Palo Alto Online
@Me Too: Bryan pointed out that it's "kind of crazy" to claim that a Council, elected by the people, would act without heeding public sentiment. In response you complain that he's "name calling", and yet you were the first to call Measure E supporters "zealots", repeating that insult 3 times, echoed by the usual suspects. Yeah, there's a name for that, it's called being a hypocrite.
Posted by Cedric de La Beaujardiere, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Oct 22, 2011 at 3:27 am Cedric de La Beaujardiere is a member (registered user) of Palo Alto Online
@Doug Moran: Thank you for finding the typo on our web page, I have corrected it. The text of the initiative is clear: Measure E rezones 10 acres of the 126-acre former landfill from parkland "for the exclusive purpose of building a processing facility for organic waste." (Web Link)
Measure E does not require any particular technology. The only limits are that the conversion must be by "biological and/or other equally environmentally protective technology," and that E "mandates that the Compost Facility should include all feasible methods for mitigating any significant environmental impacts identified during environmental review, including visual, sound and odor impacts and specifies that access to the Compost Facility shall be by Embarcadero Way." The Feasibility Study had the same stipulations.
It doesn't even need to be as high-tech as Dry Anaerobic Digestion. For instance, Aerated Static Piles (ASP) is a cheap, compact, and fast composting method, in which compostable materials are placed in covered piles and air is pumped through to speed things up.
However, as small as an ASP footprint can be (about 6 acres for our food and yard waste), there is only one site in Palo Alto where this can be done, and that is at the former landfill. I was on the City's Compost Task Force (as were Bryan Long and Hilary Gans) and I can assure you that no other site in Palo Alto is available.
Doug, you claim that "supporters make it abundantly clear that they oppose a regional solution even if it is more cost-effective and better for the environment". Your claim is based on a false premise. The cost of sending our food and yard waste 53 miles away for composting in Gilroy is $2M in the first year (or $2.3M if we send the food portion to the Dry AD in San Jose), plus another $1M a year to send away sewage digestate. All those costs go up over time. For yard trimmings composting alone (an easy comparison because we have actual figures of about $0.5M/year for the city's recent local green waste composting), sending it away costs 35% more than composting it locally.
Don't be fooled by the opponents. If Measure E does not pass, we'll be stuck with $3M+/year for ever to send our wastes away, (not including sewage treatment costs). The city will not "try again" with a firmer study and a new election. It's now or never. If E passes, the land will be available for this purpose and this purpose alone, and the city will get firmer proposals, and if a project looks good, all the usual Environmental Reviews will be required before any project can move forward.
Posted by Cedric de La Beaujardiere, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Oct 22, 2011 at 3:47 am Cedric de La Beaujardiere is a member (registered user) of Palo Alto Online
@Tom Jordan: You know very well that you constantly quote inappropriate costs figures. The feasibility study authors were very clear that the "high cost" figures were for technologies which are designed to move much larger amounts of material than what Palo Alto has to deal with. That's why they are so much more expensive. It would be like taking an 18-wheeler to pick up some milk from the local grocer, when a bike would do just as well. From top of page 2-5 of the Report (Web Link), "It is likely that the lower cost options would
provide a suitable system for the City with the quantities of food scraps and yard trimmings available in the City. The higher cost systems typically become more economically competitive when larger quantities of these materials are available."
But that doesn't stop you and your cohorts from quoting those figures that are between $80M to $150M more expensive than they would need to be. And yet it is your own "No on E" signs which claim E is "misleading". I think the E opponents behavior was the inspiration for that sign wording.
Posted by Publius, a member of the Walter Hays School community, on Oct 22, 2011 at 5:37 am
Measure E Promoters are Tokenists and the Measure itself is Tokenism, as bad a word to true environmentalists as Pollution and Polluter. Tokenism is defined as"making only a superficial effort or symbolic gesture toward the accomplishment of a goal". Let us assume Measure E passes and the Garbage Plant is built: There is the promise of generating 1% of the City electricity and the promise that it will reduce the City's total greenhouse gas emissions by 0.3% .Are those significant numbers to be "promised" by a major City project costing from $111M to $268M over 20 years? Do the math yourself. What multiplier of that $111M to $268M cost figure is necessary to increase the "promised" benefits into significant numbers? Is the City to do this Garbage Plant and stop, exhausted and spent, to do no more? If so, has the City achieved anything worthwhile. In this sense Measure E is a Token only and a very very expensive one at that.
Posted by Tom Jordan, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on Oct 22, 2011 at 6:47 am
Re what the Council majority will do if E passes: Some have said "have faith the Council majority will be responsible". Why? This exact same Council majority, the same five people, recently and on this exact same subject, have ignored completely and without even the courtesy of acknowledgement and discussion the unanimous decisions of the City Parks & Recreation Commission and the City Planning & Transportation Commission AGAINST using park land for a Garbage plant, with the verbatim minutes of the latter showing three separate Commissioners criticizing the Department of Public Works for heavily slanting its reports to favor the Plant. The same Council 5 then ignored completely the unanimous Final Report of its own hand picked Solid Waste Task Force "to not place the Plant on park land if at all possible". No discussion in any of these cases of ignoring the recommendations of appointed advisors. How imperious can they be? They confuse the fact that they have the POWER to act that way with the conclusion that they SHOULD act that way. Facts and actions are powerful. They should not be ignored.
Posted by common sense, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Oct 22, 2011 at 7:53 am
My concern is that if Measure E passes, then the city council will proceed with building the 10 acre processing plant irrespective of the risk & costs, especially since all they have to do is raise the utility bill. How do I reach this conclusion? Look at past decisions:
* Endorsed the $9 billion High Speed Rail Bond on an 8-0 vote (they didn't even bother to delay the vote to investigate concerns raised during oral communications from citizens). If they can treat a $9 billion decision so casually, it means they will treat a $100 million decision with less thought and care.
* The $6 million dollar deficit in the refuse fund, because Palo Alto is not shipping enough garbage to the landfill; we the utility customers pay to make up the poor decision making on this
* The $21 million dollars paid to a bankrupt Enron to avoid a going to court - other utility providers challenged Enron and won. We the utility customers pay for this.
* The hiring of an "Assistant to the City Manager for Sustainability" at $150,000/year while we are cutting back on services like library hours, and police staffing; the major accomplishment was to set up a 3rd farmer's market which has since been discontinued.
* The leasing of various land parcels from Stanford each, for $1/year, and "renting" it out to the utilities for millions, charging the utility customers.
My conclusion is that the city council will vote to incur the utility customers with a $100 million debt to finance this 10-acre plant; and given the admission of the Pro-Measure E folks of the lack of details and planning, miscalculations will like cost overruns will be incurred by the utility customers just to build the facility. Then the operational costs will be another ongoing expense, which will raise the utility bills even more.
Posted by Really now or never?, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Oct 22, 2011 at 9:34 am
Would you please elaborate on, "It's now or never."
It seems to me this is a bad time to vote on this, because we don't really know what we'll get as a result of voting for this.
And many don't trust the council to make correct financial, technical or legal decisions, or judge who to trust along those lines. They seem to be too easily swayed by political or ideological considerations.
So it's a no-brainer to vote, "no."
But if there is a good reason to believe it's now or never, it's worth another look.
Why is it now or never? Couldn't we simply undedicate park land later when we know what we would do with it and why, with high confidence in relevant technology, finances and law?
Posted by yep, now or never, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Oct 22, 2011 at 1:25 pm
It's the right time to vote before we spend millions turning the dump into a park. Yeah, I really want my kids running around on top of a toxic dump. Use the land as it's been used for the last 50 years. The baylands is big enough without this tiny parcel being added.
Posted by Cedric de La Beaujardiere, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Oct 22, 2011 at 1:57 pm Cedric de La Beaujardiere is a member (registered user) of Palo Alto Online
At all posters, don't hide behind anonymity. Use your real name, which may provide a small check on incivility as you seek to retain the respect of your friends and neighbors.
@Publius: Locally digesting and composting food and yard emit 1600 to 2600 fewer tons of CO2 each year than the sending them "away". Comparing projects to projects, the non-parkland options emit 10 to 20% more CO2. Tokenism? Tell me how you would reduce our CO2 by 2000 tons/year.
@Tom Jordan (and @common sense, whoever you are, this applies to your comments as well): To set the record straight, when the Council formed the compost task force, we were directed to avoid using parkland if at all possible. We looked all around the city and could find no other location large enough to compost our food and yard wastes. Then we were informed that the airport had a piece of land near the sewage treatment plant which they couldn't use and we probably could. So, jubilant we unanimously recommended using that site. Awesome, it's big enough, it's city-owned, it's not parkland, and it's next to the sewage plant. One of our other recommendations was to locate a facility near the sewage plant for greater synergy and savings. We reported our preliminary recommendations to Council, and the airport community freaked out, saying they had all sorts of plans for that land. We did more work and discussions with the airport community, ID'ing their needs and trying to find a win-win. Then back to Council, whereupon the Council was responsive to the community and said, well, OK, we forbid the city to use airport land. Finally they came to understand that the 10 acres of dump (years from now to be converted to usable park), next to the sewage treatment plant, really was the only viable location if Palo Alto was to be responsible for its own waste, and possibly save money too.
So, you say it's far fetched to think the Council would be responsive to the community, and yet history, which you and I both observed first hand, bely that claim three times:
1) they were responsive to our pressure to study local composting options in forming a task force;
2) they were responsive to your pressure to direct that task force consider parkland as a last resort;
3) they were responsive to the airport's pressure to not use the airport land;
4) they were responsive to our pressure to study the economic and GHG impacts of the task force's recommendation of Dry AD, so that the voters could be better informed come November 8;
5) they were responsive to your pressure to ammend the study to include Wet AD for sewage at the sewage plant as an option;
6) they were responsive to your pressure and economic concerns in denying a mere $18,000 that would have enabled the staff to answer further questions and clarifications on the feasibility study.
Along every step of the way, Council has been responsive to both the community, as well as economic and environmental needs of the city, so there is neither evidence nor justification to assert that after the election to make the land available for composting, they will suddenly stop being responsive to community.
@"Really now or never?" (whever you are): I already said why it's now or never. For the city to put it on the ballot, they first will be required to spend about $100,000 or more on a program-level EIR, just to permit it to go to the ballot (the citizens' initiative does not have that constraint, so we saved the city money there). If voters vote no on E, what confidence would they have that the people would say yes "next time"? The council will never risk that money on a dubious second election. The election is now. Vote Yes on E: it just allows the land to be used for this purpose (and no other purpose). If Council decides that the project is too expensive, they won't do it. Ten years from now, Council is permitted to rededicate as parkland any unused portion of the 10 acres.
Posted by Douglas Moran, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Oct 22, 2011 at 1:58 pm Douglas Moran is a member (registered user) of Palo Alto Online
"Yeah, I really want my kids running around on top of a toxic dump."
This -- the unsuitability of the site for parkland -- is an example of the mass of falsehoods deployed by the proponents. For example, Shoreline Amphitheater (in Mountain View) is build over a similar site. All along the peninsula there are similar parks -- San Mateo and Sunnyvale spring immediately to my mind.
Measure E opponents have long and repeatedly pointed out this fact. If the proponents are so impervious to facts on something so peripheral and trivial, it is easy to understand why facts have no influence on their ideology.
Posted by svatoid, a resident of the Charleston Gardens neighborhood, on Oct 22, 2011 at 2:08 pm
Cedric is back lecturing posters and providing a long list of factoids (which the pro-E crowd is famous for). Interesting that we have not heard from Peter on this or any other thread about Measure E. Why is that?
Do not be fooled by Cedric's postings--the pro E argument is full of wholes. Cedric, Bryan and Alex are trying to pull the wool over the voters eyes--Peter can not be bothered--too much work.
Would you vote in favor for a measure who's chief backer does not bother to address the concerns of the voters??
Posted by common sense, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Oct 22, 2011 at 8:18 pm
Cedric did not address my issue - how much will our utility bills go up to finance the construction, and operate the 10-acre plant?
The Pro-measure E people won't ever address this issue, because they know our utility bill will increase by alot to finance a $100 million dollar plant, and it's also going to cost alot to operate the plant.
Based on what an average household pays to finance the recent $76 million library bond, then the city would need to raise the refuse rates 56% to finance the cost of building this $100 million, 10-acre factory - it just doesn't make much sense to me, given the minimal reduction in carbon emmissions.
Posted by Robert , a resident of the Professorville neighborhood, on Oct 22, 2011 at 10:49 pm
And Palo Alto doesn't even own the land. It belongs to the State of California!! The lease says if not used as a dump, it must become a pastoral park. Try changing that through legislation - if you want to spend more taxpayer's money in a worthless cause.
Posted by bill kelly, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Oct 23, 2011 at 9:54 am
Have any of the opponents to the proposition looked at a map, or gone to the recycling center? It's next to a sewage treatment plant! The 10 acres creates a buffer between the sewage treatment facility and the 'park'. This area wreaks of sewage treatment! This isn't your shoreline park, this is an ex-dump next to a sewage treatment plant! It's not like it's yosemite park. I don't get the park people; I'm all for open space and parks, but we created this park by shipping our garbage to someone else; I always thought it was instructive to my kids to say "The reason we don't buy crap that we won't use is that we'll throw it on top of mount Palo Alto". Now we can live our disposable lives knowing that we don't have to see the folly of our ways. How wonderfully suburban!
Posted by Phil, a resident of the Fairmeadow neighborhood, on Oct 23, 2011 at 10:00 am
I would agree that it is "now or never." From some of the arguments here and elsewhere, it would not matter how feasible or how tested or how economic or environmentally beneficial a garbage/compost digesting plant would be, there would be strong opposition from many based on the idea that we should never undedicate future parkland no matter where, and that the city utility cannot be trusted not to waste our money. If proposition E fails now, a mandate will be claimed and there will never be another study. There would be no possibility that we would "simply undedicate park land later" as really now or never or numerous other opponents have claimed. Now the area in question is still old dump, but once it has a few trails and decorative "telephone pole" artwork on it, it would be even harder to rededicate it to a different use. On the other hand, the proponents of E have clearly stated that if the plant proved unsuitable, the land would revert to "park." And the local press has vowed to hold them to that promise.
I would add, based on Cedric's post, it appears that the airport land would have been a good location and it is too bad it was ruled out by the council. Do we really need or want to expand the airport? I would also add that even though I may have strongly disagreed with Peter D.'s stand against Stanford being able to build housing on their land some years back, that doesn't mean he can't be right this time around and we should at least make it possible to proceed with further study.
Posted by promises, a resident of the Greater Miranda neighborhood, on Oct 23, 2011 at 11:21 am
The press is incapable of holding a city to a non-binding promise.
The press cannot even hold a city to a binding promise, such as parkland dedication. That's because situations change and city government is not accountable in the future for its current actions; not accountable in the present for its past actions.
It is being opined on this topic that this is a "now or never" proposition. It seems to me, that implies that the more we learn about the implementation of this untested technology (or alternative technologies) and its costs/impacts/application in our environment, the less attractive it will be.
Otherwise, the proposal would become more attractive over time rather than less.
It's like a phone salesman or browser popup window telling you the price of something is only valid right now.
This sort of long-term decision should be made deliberately and calmly, not as if buying a pig in a poke with a "now or never" ultimatum.
Someone suggested that PA will never go for a cheaper, greener solution once it votes down a proposal to give up parkland on a "trust me, we'll do the right thing" basis. I've been watching PA government for 30 years. PA will indeed find a way to implement a cheaper, greener solution, if that solution shows itself as clearly cheaper and greener.
Posted by Dumb measure, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Oct 23, 2011 at 2:32 pm
The 10 acres of land in Byxbee Park proposed for undedication doesn't even belong to the City of Palo Alto and therefore the City has no power to un-dedicate it.
The land in question belong to the State of California and is leased to the City of PA. Therefore, the City has no control over how it is used in the future except to comply with the lease agreement which requires that it be kept as a "passive pastoral park."
The City will presumably have to buy the land for many millions of dollars.
Posted by Cedric de La Beaujardiere, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Oct 24, 2011 at 12:05 am Cedric de La Beaujardiere is a member (registered user) of Palo Alto Online
The City has never agreed with the state's claim of ownership for that land, and my understanding is that staff believes it is likely the state would support the city in generating energy from organic waste. After all, they've permitted a dump and compost operation for decades, and here we've got a chance to reduce green house gas emissions, a state mandated goal imposed upon cities.
Posted by Allan Chin, a resident of the Leland Manor/Garland Drive neighborhood, on Oct 24, 2011 at 2:06 pm
My wife and I love to walk in the Baylands, which we try to do every week. We rarely see any more than a dozen or so other people. We consider this our private park. We don't understand the hubbub of setting off 10 acres out of hundreds for a potentially positive development. The present park is more than we need, and will be greatly expanded since the dump has closed. We wonder how many of those voting NO on E have actually been to the Baylands Park. Without any expansion, the Baylands could easily accommodate thousands of additional visitors.
Additionally, we enjoy the several times a year we can get free compost at the current site. It would certainly be inconvenient to go to San Jose, or other distant location, where the compost may not be free.
There seems to be plenty of room at the Baylands to satisfy both sides. Ten acres out of hundreds should be permissable. Vote yes on E.
Posted by svatoid, a resident of the Charleston Gardens neighborhood, on Oct 24, 2011 at 2:15 pm
"Then they better get that settled before this goes any further. One does not acquire land (or much of anything else) simply by disagreeing that someone else owns it."
But ,Cedric, speaking for the por E gang says:
"The City has never agreed with the state's claim of ownership for that land, and my understanding is that staff believes it is likely the state would support the city in generating energy from organic waste."
There you have it--the city does not agree with the state and Palo Alto can do what they want.
Posted by Douglas Moran, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Oct 24, 2011 at 4:00 pm Douglas Moran is a member (registered user) of Palo Alto Online
Bill Kelley's comment above is a good example of the proponents being unwilling to listen to what the skeptics and opponents are saying, and to respond appropriately.
1. In response to a comment asserting that that parkland over the dump would be unsafe for children, I refuted this with a number of examples nearby, including Shoreline Amphitheater. Kelley says "This isn't your shoreline park ..." as if anyone is proposing any similar thing for this parcel.
2. Kelley: "Have any of the opponents to the proposition looked at a map, or gone to the recycling center?" He well knows that they have. A similar rhetorical introduction could have been used that wasn't a slur on those that don't agree with him.
3. The misrepresentation that the opponents object to that particular site. I have heard only one minor argument specific to the site: That it would eliminate a long-established wildlife corridor that would be difficult to replace. I don't know if this is a valid point, but every time I know of it being raised, the E-proponents have offered no response. Most of the arguments about locating such a facility in the Baylands are site-independent, for example, various serious side-effects of the excavation required to provide the necessary footings in a landfill for the desired facility. Again, the proponents offer no response.
4. Kelley "...we created this park by shipping our garbage to someone else;". Hilariously false. How do you fill up a landfill by sending your garbage elsewhere? Bixby Park has been created incrementally as sections of the landfill have reached capacity and been closed. As the final sections neared capacity, the City extended the intended lifespan of the landfill in order to continue the more important operations by reducing the amount of waste accepted by redirecting various categories to other sites. Final closure came when it was determined that even this was no longer economically justifiable. The E-proponents implication that a landfill is being arbitrarily turned into parkland is patently absurd.
5. Kelley: "Now we can live our disposable lives knowing that we don't have to see the folly of our ways." as a counterpoint. This is an example of the emotional arguments where they proponents fail to recognized the illogic. First, the proponents claim that the facility will have muted impact, so how will we "see the folly of our ways". Second, the facility is for composting and recycling, which I don't think the proponents mean to classify as a "folly". Third, the "folly" to which he seems to be referring -- things that go into landfill -- is unaffected by Measure E.
6. The E-proponents unquestionable assumption that such a facility needs be located in Palo Alto: They have not explained how their favored facility would produce more electricity for Palo Alto (population 65,000) than a similar facility being built in San Jose (population 1 million), one that they point to in claiming that the technology is "proven". Nor have they been willing to explain why it is good for a garbage truck to travel 12 miles within the SJ city boundaries to such a facility, but unacceptable for such a truck to travel that same 12 miles from Palo Alto to that facility. Or to travel a shorter distance to a facility in Sunnyvale.
Undecided voters: Do you really want decisions about >$100M to be heavily influenced by the E-proponents who have demonstrated a pervasive disdain for facts, logic and analysis throughout the campaign?
Posted by Bob, a resident of the Community Center neighborhood, on Oct 24, 2011 at 11:30 pm
Toxic dump? Give me a break. if this is a concern, then don't play golf at Shoreline in Mt. View. Don't attend a concert at Shoreline, Don't stroll or walk or even eat at Shoreline. THAT was once upon a time Mt. View's huge dump. Shoreline had vision.And look at the gem it created.
Shoreline is where PA city employees have city parties. From ugly to beautiful. Palo Alto once had vision and could have vision again if the green fog gets out of City Haul. But this council sways with whatever 'cause' is blowin' in the wind and what developers are waving the money. But remember that the Parks and Rec Department and the Planning Commission both voted against putting a 'factory in the park'.
Posted by Douglas Moran, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Oct 25, 2011 at 1:53 am Douglas Moran is a member (registered user) of Palo Alto Online
To "yep, now or never"
The moderator threw out your previous comment as rubbish. Yet you persist in trash-talking. This is one of those instances where recycling is not good. If you actually supported sustainability, you would try to not generate unnecessary waste products to begin with.
Posted by Douglas Moran, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Oct 25, 2011 at 3:26 am Douglas Moran is a member (registered user) of Palo Alto Online
To "yep, now or never"
Do you have a citation for your claim that the PA landfill is a "toxic dump" (something that I have never said, much less "admitted")? The 1980 Superfund law requires cleanup and/or mitigation of such sites, yet I haven't heard of this being an issue.
Posted by Karen White, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Oct 25, 2011 at 10:03 am
Cedric says the 6 acres are needed and are not available anywhere else in the City. I'd challenge this assertion.
Palo Alto owns the 13-acre site that formerly housed the Los Altos Treatment Plant. Six acres of this land is said to be developable. It's at the eastern end of San Antonio Road, is not dedicated parkland and sits in a light industrial area that would be perfectly suited to a composting operation. This site is even more appropriate when one considers, as I have been told, that the long-range plan is to have Los Altos and Menlo Park also bring their compostables to a Palo Alto facility, for a sub-regional operation. I understand that any compost operation would now be handled separately from sewage treatment, so there is no need for compost to be physically adjacent to water treatment.
Stepping back, it seems ridiculous to have put parkland conversion on the ballot when ownership of the land hasn't been clearly established!
Posted by So, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Oct 25, 2011 at 11:26 am
Well thanks for the response, but I was hoping for a formal written up plan or a pointer to a something official. A park, could be wetlands, soccer fields, a giant weed filled trail less lot. We could spend nothing on it, or a billion. Just seems like a poorly defined park plan then and hard for a voter to make tradeoffs of infrastructure use vs recreational use
Posted by Craig Laughton, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Oct 25, 2011 at 6:43 pm
The dump is a toxic leach pile. No amount of covering it up will prevent the slow leach of all those toxins into the Bay. This is a simple fact. No need to be in denial about it, be it our own dump or Mt. View's dump (aka Shoreline Park).
There is only one technology that I am aware of that will reverse this process, and that is plasma arc. However, the current election is about a very inefficient process, anaerobic digestion, that does absolutely nothing to contain or reverse our own toxic pile. In fact, it willingly provides the context to export our own toxic pile to somewhere out of sight...which means somewhere next to relatively poor people.
This is really pathetic stuff, if we are claiming that we Palo Altans claim to be sensitive to environmental concerns. How did this all come to pass, except as part of a political agenda?
Vote NO on "E"...but keep your eyes and ears open to a much better solution.
Posted by Cedric de La Beaujardiere, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Oct 25, 2011 at 11:27 pm Cedric de La Beaujardiere is a member (registered user) of Palo Alto Online
@Karen White: In the Compost Task Force, we did look at the former Los Altos Treatment Plant, which Palo Alto now owns, but we were informed that the city has other plans for that site, and that it was not available for composting.
Furthermore, there is a benefit to having a site adjacent to Palo Alto's Regional Water Quality Control Plant (RWQCP): With Measure E's site, we could, for instance, receive food waste from restaurants, prepare it, and add it to the digesters, which we could not practically do if the sites were distant from each other. Palo Alto's food waste has the potential to generate about 1.5 times more energy than the sewage (food produces 3x more energy than sewage, and there's half as much food as sewage). The RWQCP only has enough room to accomodate Wet Digestion of sewage, and possibly Fats, Oil and Grease (FOG), but not food in general.
In addition, without Measure E's site, Palo Alto will have no choice other than hauling away the digestion residues, either to a landfill or to be composted by others, at a cost of over $1M/year. In contrast, with Measure E, we could compost the digestate locally for about half the cost.
(References: Web Link, Inputs tab, cells G175 & G176 for sewage digestate hauling and disposal; row 146, line item for "Other (Equip. Leasing, Compost Treatment, Mgt. Fee, Admin., Ins.)".)
As to the question of ownership, this has been a case where the state and city have agreed to disagree for decades, during which time the state permitted landfill, composting, and recycling operations on the land. The State Lands Commission, when informed about Measure E, responded that composting is a permitted use. The Commission has also adopted strong resolutions urging action to deal with climate change, which is a primary purpose of Measure E. So you can vote yes on E and have the tiny risk that the Commission would reverse policy and object to the Measure's intent for the land, in which worse case it can go back to being parkland, or you can vote no on E and guarantee that the land will never be available.
Posted by curmudgeon, a resident of the Downtown North neighborhood, on Oct 26, 2011 at 9:39 am
Cedric needs to read the latest posts and the official documents they contain on the companion blog Checking the Facts on Measure E. So should everyone else. There is no support for his statement: "The State Lands Commission, when informed about Measure E, responded that composting is a permitted use."
OK, I'm from Kansas, right next to Missouri. Show me.
Also, show us that the Lands Commission specifically approved a food and sludge digester facility that looks like a chemical plant, and not just the passive yard waste windrow composting the city was doing.
Posted by common sense, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Oct 26, 2011 at 1:06 pm
Spending $100-$200 million to build a 10 acre factory for compost processing is probably one of the LEAST effective ways to spend our money to be green.
For example, the same amount money spent on solar panels, would product 15-30 times the electricity than what the compost factory would produce, and and a much greater reduction in Green house gas reduction.
Posted by Craig Laughton, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Oct 26, 2011 at 2:30 pm
"For example, the same amount money spent on solar panels, would product 15-30 times the electricity than what the compost factory would produce, and and a much greater reduction in Green house gas reduction."
High efficiency solar panels are not a bad idea, but why should we Palo Altans pay for them, if they are so good? The marketplace will buy them, if they pay for themselves.
The issue at hand is the dump site. It is a toxic pile, and it is NOT going away, it will simply leach into the Bay, no matter what it is covered over with. Anaerobic digestion (AD)does NOT solve this problem. AD is a political boondoggle, driven by political zealots, namely the 'zero waste' crowd. It is a license to spend our taxes, and to increase our taxes (through utility fee increases), on an unproven and inefficient technology.
If "E" passes, it WILL be a green light to build an AD factory, make no mistake about it.
Posted by common sense, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Oct 26, 2011 at 4:04 pm
@Craig Laughton - Part of the Pro-measure E people's arguement is the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions; my point is if the city wants to spend $100 - $200 million to reduce greenhouse gases there are other projects which are would reduce those greenhouse gases to a much greater extent, but it shows the pro-Measure E people are so fixated on the factory and AD process, that they won't be able to look objectively at what makes sense financially. And with the city council being able to approve rate increases without a vote of the people, this could be a heavy financial burden for all of us for the next 30 years.
Posted by Not surpised, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Oct 26, 2011 at 4:06 pm
Referring to Bill Johnson's posting of Oct 21, pasted again below(with pertinent parts highlighted between ***), my comment is that managing the construction of the Weekly's building and guiding the Weekly's company through the process of obtaining a LEED gold star rating sounds to me like a business relationship. Or is a Clinton-esque definition of a "business relationship" being applied here? I also noted that the Bill Johnson's posting did not preclude other present or past dealings with Jim Baer that were not listed.
Posted by Bill Johnson, publisher of the Palo Alto Weekly, on Oct 21, 2011 at 9:53 pm
Bill Johnson is a member (registered user) of Palo Alto Online
Thanks for your comments, JT. Just to set the record straight, the Weekly owns its building on Cambridge and pays no rent to Jim Baer. Baer has no ownership in the building, nor has any business relationship with the company. *** He did manage the construction of the building for us, and guided us through the process of obtaining our LEED gold rating.*** But for those wanting to believe the Weekly would take positions because of who our friends are rather than our assessment of the issues, there is another connection to Jim Baer you should know: he was a resident assistant in my freshman dorm at Stanford 40 years ago.
Posted by Craig Laughton, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Oct 26, 2011 at 5:50 pm
"my point is if the city wants to spend $100 - $200 million to reduce greenhouse gases there are other projects which are would reduce those greenhouse gases to a much greater extent, but it shows the pro-Measure E people are so fixated on the factory and AD process"
@common sense: I understood your point, and I agree with it, fundamentally. However, my point is that solar should stand on its own merits (I am a long-term solar panel user, off the grid).
I am opposed to our city spending any money to foster green wet dreams. A fundamentally good technology, namely plasma arc, can solve most of our issues, and I only support it if private companies want to take on the financial risk/reward. Anaerobic digestion is a real turkey, and it should NOT be supported, under any circumstances.
Posted by Milt, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Oct 26, 2011 at 9:54 pm
I will vote no on E for a variety or reasons. While it seems like it could be a decent idea, it's unproven, and will very likely cost the city millions. I see no reason why Palo Alto tax payers should foot the bill for someones experiment. In particular, I refer to Drekmeier, who has made a career out of getting others to pay for his 'green' vision. That he pretty much tossed the city on the tracks as Mayor, and encouraged High Speed Rail to bisect the SF Peninsula by endorsing the High Speed Rail initiative, simply because it was advertized as 'green', continues to resonates as incredibly poor judgement on his part. I read the ballot initiative, I was not fooled, and voted no. Accordingly, Drekmeier's endorsement of E was quite enough to pursuade me to vote no.
Posted by Walter Sedriks, a resident of the Downtown North neighborhood, on Oct 30, 2011 at 4:19 am Walter Sedriks is a member (registered user) of Palo Alto Online
"For voters adamant about preserving parkland no matter the merits of alternative uses, Measure E is an easy "no" vote. "
Seems to me that some of the main supporters for keeping all the land dedicated as park are very selective in their commitment to parks. The current conflict dividing the community brought to mind a similar episode back in 1980, which involved some of the same key players, but interestingly, now on a different side.
The city had bought a block in Downtown North designated for a neighborhood park, but left it undedicated. Seems that a small park in Downtown North doesn't provide sufficient environmental cachet, so in 1979, with low-income housing having become the flavor-of-the-month, even for the "environmentalists," the majority on the council wanted to change the designation of the land to PC, opening the possibility of high-density blocks of flats being built there instead. The majority against park dedication included Byron Sher, Alan Henderson, Emily Renzel and Gary Fazino, who are now fighting for park dedication and opposing Measure E.
The neighborhood organized to try and overturn the council vote. If I remember correctly, it was Tony Badger, Bob Freedman, Tom Reid, John Flather and myself who dipped into our pockets to pay for some legal advice and our counsel, Kent Michel, advised that we should gather signatures for a ballot initiative to reverse the council decision. Sterling efforts by the neighborhood succeeded in getting enough signatures.
To his credit, at this point Byron Sher reversed himself and provided the vote needed to dedicate the land as park. Emily Renzel then also switched sides to provide us with what eventually become the delightful and highly used Johnson Park: A park that has provided a critical breathing space for the crowded Downtown North neighborhood and has served to maintain the residential character of this wonderfully eclectic community, yet at at the time was opposed by some of those now "adamant about preserving parkland no matter what."