Town Square

Regarding Spare the Air Days

Original post made by 100% bicycle commuter on Dec 25, 2013

Reports of Spare the Air Days (henceforth SD) in this and other newspapers often elicit comments having three basic themes: 1. Appreciation that regulation can tackle the issue of local air pollution. 2. An observation that the air seems fine, so the SD seems unnecessary. 3. A wood fire is a basic right that cannot be regulated away; I'll have one if I want to.

Let me say up front that air pollution does not bother me personally. I am lucky to have good lungs. I probably accumulate long-term damage to my respiratory system at the same rate as most healthy people, so I have a few decades more before I notice anything amiss, if ever there is. I also don't have wood fires in my home, though I understand their attraction. And air pollution of this sort is not particularly bad for the environment at large. So I have no personal interest in the issue itself one way or the other.

Concerning type-2 comments. Look at a landmark on the horizon when the sun is near zenith on a sequence of days. On windy days, the landmark will be clear. On subsequent still days, especially when there is an inversion layer above us, the landmark grows increasingly smudged. Importantly, a blue sky above does not correlate with air quality; looking at a distant landmark is necessary. My observation has been that, if anything, SDs are not called frequently enough. My guess is the regulators maintain a higher threshold than they would like so SDs do not become too onerous.

Now for type-3 comments. Here Benjamin Franklin's oft-quoted observation is germane: "Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety." The context of this quote, by the way, is quite interesting; it lends it some meaning that I think is not otherwise readily apparent; see Web Link . The two words "essential" and "temporary" are I think particularly relevant. Is burning wood an essential liberty? Is the benefit of not burning it only temporary?

I want to argue that, in fact, it is not giving up an essential liberty to comply with local regulations of air quality. (Certainly the safety is not just temporary.) Rather, we trade one benefit (burning wood) for another (cleaner air). That is the purpose of regulation in a society. We rank, by majority, the various goods we perceive to be possibly in our possession; recognizing that some goods conflict with each other, we then, according to the ranking (though the ranking is not always explicit), establish regulations to favor the better goods over the worse. We cannot have both wood fires regardless of weather and clean air, and we have, by majority, agreed that clean air is the better good.

An interesting problem arises for the individual who disagrees with a particular regulation. If it is not enforced effectively (as SD is not), is there a good reason not to violate it? It depends on the regulation. I want to argue as follows. If the trade-off the regulation makes is clear and reasonable, and one simply disagrees with it (by ranking the traded goods oppositely of the majority), then it is reasonable to comply with the regulation anyway (I'll say more about this below). In contrast, if the trade-off is unreasonable (for example, because an essential liberty has been traded for a temporary safety), then there is good reason not merely to ignore it, but also to fight it as wrong. In the case of wood fires, one might prefer the fire to cleaner air. But one certainly must recognize that both are goods. So this is the type of regulation to which one reasonably must assent despite one's preference.

Why is it reasonable to comply with a regulation that is reasonable even if not preferred? Complying with regulations is part of being in a society. It is both a burden and a benefit. To violate a reasonable regulation is simultaneously to enjoy the benefits of society without bearing all of its burdens. If everyone violates reasonable regulations according to their preferences, then we no longer have a society, and so we no longer can enjoy the benefits of society. To be plain, if there is no society, then one no longer owns a house; anyone can take it by force, and if one has not sufficient defense, one has no recourse when the house is lost.

By the way, it's worth mentioning that we can in fact have fires going in our fireplaces on Spare the Air Days: just retrofit a gas fireplace. A bit of incense and one can have a nice aroma, too.

Happy holidays, all.


Posted by Rupert of henzau, a resident of Midtown
on Dec 25, 2013 at 6:53 pm

You can also have a fire going in your wood fireplace if it is your only source of heat.

Posted by Anonymous, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 25, 2013 at 8:59 pm

Wood fires = breakdown of social order. Interesting argument. How is it that jaywalking, littering, free shopping bags, overtime parking and all other lightly-punished, daily misdemeanors don't lead to chaos?

Posted by parent, a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 25, 2013 at 9:00 pm

The pollution affects children and the elderly far more harshly than healthy young adults.

Posted by Anonymous, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 25, 2013 at 9:25 pm

The local PM2.5 sensor is on Barron Ave in Redwood City. This is a light industry section of town and not an area of residential wood burning or BBQ's. If anything, the PM2.5 reading for this area is underestimated in the winter.

Posted by CrescentParkAnon., a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 25, 2013 at 10:25 pm

When my family and I moved to Palo Alto in 1970 I went to Terman Jr. High School. On a normal day one could not see, let alone tell there were hills off in the distance in Palo Alto the air was so smoggy. Driving across the "old" two lane Dumbarton draw bridge was like driving off into an eerie fog. You could be standing anywhere in the BayLands and not even know there was any land east of the bay. On a very rare clear day you might see the East Bay about as clearly as we see it on the haziest of days. We have done a helluvalot to clean up the air in California to where the typical dopes who do not pay attention think that air pollution is no big deal. I think it's great and I think we should move forward and ban wood burning fireplaces in the city limits whether or not you have any other type of heating. Property rights are important, but when they start interfering with human rights there needs to be a reasonable trade-off made.

Posted by Chris Zaharias, a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 26, 2013 at 1:02 am

We have wood-burning fires all the time, and as much as my family and I like to have those fires, it's a guilty pleasure. I hereby promise to not have one out of every 3 fires we'd otherwise have.

Merry Christmas

Posted by parent, a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 26, 2013 at 10:27 am

It is 70 degrees today, with no end to this warm weather in sight. Why do the Tea Partiers want to keep pumping smoke into the atmosphere? Just to condemn our kids for your pleasure?

Posted by musical, a resident of Palo Verde
on Dec 26, 2013 at 11:04 am

Maybe 70 in Los Angeles. My outside thermometer here still says +45F at 11:00am.

Posted by Weezer, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 26, 2013 at 2:14 pm

There are a lot of people in my neighborhood who light their fireplaces in spite of SDs. I have been hospitalized three times with severe asthma attacks, two of them due to air pollution. I do not appreciate wood-burning fireplaces in the least. We had ours converted to a gas- burner, so we can still have flames on occasion, such as Christmas Eve.

However, I really get angry when! during the fall, winter! and early spring! I have to go to the doctor or to urgent care or even the emergency room because of selfish clods who insist on lighting their wood burning fireplaces. This does continual damage to my lungs, pushing me closer and closer to emphysema ( I have never smoked anything) and greatly enlarging my medical bills--especially on weekends and holidays when I have to pay after-hours charges!

I would love to move somewhere with cleaner air, but as we have jobs that tie us to Silicon Valley, we are stuck here. I am thankful I do not live in SJ or SF, where the pollution is worse.

Please, people, have a care: wood smoke is a pollutant. A large percentage of the population know has asthma, which until the seventies, when I developed it, was rare. Do not contribute to the increasing number of people, especially children, who are developing asthma due to pollutants in the air.

Posted by Jan Ducati, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 26, 2013 at 2:38 pm

Weeper--report them to the police. If as you say, there a lot it should be no problem to catch them. I live in old Palo Alto and have noticed any SD scofflaws.

Posted by Anonymous, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 26, 2013 at 3:03 pm


The Air Quality in consistently better in SF than Palo Alto. There's more wind. It's not as cold at night. Most apartments don't have fireplaces. The average resident isn't as wealthy and doesn't have space to store wood for burning.

Posted by Spare the Logic, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 26, 2013 at 5:08 pm

It's easy to get lost in all the rhetoric around Spare the Air Days. C'mon, 100% bike commuter, I don't know anyone who would argue that having a wood-burning fire is an essential liberty. You're setting up a straw man, a flagrant error of argument. Make an argument that nobody in his or her right mind would make, and then demolish that phony argument. Then, declare victory.

But Spare the Air Days, which would perhaps better be abbreviated as SAD, raise some interesting questions. For example, is the science quoted on their website good science? They cite a number of studies; I'd like to see a real analysis of the value of those studies.

Or how about the standards they set for declaring a SAD? The SAD maps often show bad air quality in the north bay and inland. We peninsula dwellers are luckier, but our fires are still banned. Tarred with a broad brush, I'd say.

Then there's the trifling problem of the origins of really bad pollution. Do they reduce traffic on SADs? Do they limit the emissions of oil refineries and industrial sites? Or did some fancy-dancy politicians decide that they could form this SAD body to make it look like they were concerned about air quality without offending their big donors?

Yes, folks, I did slip in a few rhetorical flourishes there. Just couldn't resist. So sorry.

There's a real issue here: The people who suffer breathing problems deserve to be protected. Will the existing SAD structure protect them? Not very well, I'm afraid. How about we stop debating the nuances of fireplace shutdowns and make fireplace regulation a part of real pollution abatement efforts?

Posted by plastique, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Dec 26, 2013 at 5:11 pm

[Post removed.]

Posted by Midowner, a resident of Midtown
on Dec 26, 2013 at 5:39 pm

@ Weezer - So, let me get this straight. Only fireplaces trigger asthma attacks in you. When we have Spare the Air Days in summer, when it's hot and no one makes fires, you don't have asthma attacks?

Pollution from diesel engines, lawn mowers or leaf blowers does not affect you?

I find this very hard to believe.

I have a fireplace where we make a fire once or twice a year, never on Spare the Air days (we do check and abide by the rules). I would like to express my skepticism that our fireplace is a major contributor to local pollution as opposed to industrial fumes, vehicle exhaust and gardening tools. Not to mention BBQs of course.

I really think it's just an attack on a symbolic easy target, fireplaces.

Just like banning foie gras in no way solves the mistreatment of chickens and cattle produced in industrial farms.

Posted by Outside Observer, a resident of another community
on Dec 26, 2013 at 6:26 pm


When dealt a bad hand, the proper thing to do is fold. Not try to change the rules of the game.

Posted by Weezer, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 26, 2013 at 6:55 pm

@Midowner: I have attacks in late spring, early summer, mid-fall, usually,,because I am allergic to grass pollen. However, when we lived in willow Glen, I began wheezing as soon as people started lighting wood-burning fireplaces and stoves. It was then that I started wheezing in the winter, which I had not previously had problems with.

When we lived in the East Bay, I only had problems in the spring! as there is not much vegetation there! and the air states clean because of the near-constant wind from the bay. However, the crime in the East Bay was outrageous, the schools horrible, and my husband could not tolerate the parking lot that is 880.

So we moved to Palo Alto, where my asthma is almost as bad as in San Jose. And yes, I do have attacks when smog level is high, which is why we put air-conditioning in our house. A few years ago, it was so bad in the late summer and early autumn that I could.not leave the house for a week, between the smog and the smoke from various fires.

@Jan Ducati: Yes, I have called the police on houses where I can see smoke coming from chimneys. But I don't go out looking for scofflaws, it would make me sicker. I am actually happy to go to work outside of Palo Alto in the winter.

Posted by 100% bicycle commuter, a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 26, 2013 at 6:57 pm

@Spare the Logic:

It was an oversight to omit the fourth category of comments: 4. I don't think the science is right, or it's not reported or interpreted correctly, so I can ignore the issue.

We always have to reason under uncertainty; this situation is no different. The available data support the assertion that reducing wood fires is a meaningful action.

For rather comprehensive reporting on the issue, see this site: Web Link

In particular, follow the "Air Emission Sources" link to drill down, at the state level, to the contributions of the various sources of PM_{2.5}. Fuel combustion is second only to dust (entrainment, presumably), and residential wood burning makes up approximately half of fuel combustion, or roughly 1/5 to 1/4 of the total.

I don't think I made a strawman argument; my argument simply does not address the one you make. Perhaps these data do.

Posted by 100% bicycle commuter, a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 26, 2013 at 7:04 pm


I might be wrong, but I don't think calling the police (even non-emergency) is the right action. The Bay Area Air Quality Management District site has a link to make a report: see Web Link

I think these local papers ought to list links to these sites in every report they make of an SD so that useful information is always immediately available.

Posted by Midtowner, a resident of Midtown
on Dec 26, 2013 at 7:24 pm

@ Weezer

I have very bad allergies and they are particularly bad in late summer and fall, but it has nothing to do with pollution. They are due to tree pollen that time of year. At that time, like you, I barely can go outside. We too had to install air conditioning. However, none of that is actually due to pollution.

It's due to pollen. We get an overload of pollen in Palo Alto with all the vegetation and trees. As soon as I leave Palo Alto for a less vegetated area, my allergies instantly decrease and I immediately feel better.

Posted by OPar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 26, 2013 at 11:55 pm

Let's see, there are recent reports that 29 percent of the Bay Area's air pollution is from China. Maybe we ought to see about cutting back our coal shipments there instead of fussing over fireplaces.

With the lack of rain and that lovely industrial fire in Redwood City, the air quality has been crap lately, but wood smoke is the least of it.

Posted by musical, a resident of Palo Verde
on Dec 27, 2013 at 1:55 am

A topic for a whole nother thread -- disaster preparedness. If an earthquake knocked out utilities for a week or two, I'd expect air quality to go out the window as a million people in the Bay Area start burning anything not nailed down to stay warm at night.

Can anyone know how fragile our infrastructure might be? As we stack up denser population, we'd better get a handle on it. The studies and guides I've seen are downright pathetic and out of date ("Keep coins in your go-bag, payphones are more likely to work before other phone lines").

ABAG has held some workshops, with statements like "Current understanding of infrastructure interdependencies is very limited. Significantly more in-depth analysis is needed to understand the extent of damage to equipment, systems and structures, and to determine realistic timelines for restoration after a disaster," and "A major earthquake affecting the Bay Area could make Hurricane Katrina look like a garden variety flood."

Posted by Weezer, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 27, 2013 at 9:26 am

@Midtowner: I have seasonal allergies, as listed above. I have been tested for allergies and the problem is grass pollen, and to a much lesser extent, tree pollen. However, when I lived in Willow Glen and since living here I have had UNSEASONAL allergies in the winter, which recently tested as non-pollen related. When I lived elsewhere I NEVER had asthma in the winter, as I do now. Smoke displaces oxygen in your lungs, and if you are asthmatic, that is bad news, since asthmatics produce an abnormal amount of lung mucus. That mucus makes it hard to get enough oxygen, but the presence of smoke makes it harder still, in addition to the fact that any irritant will cause bronchial swelling and spasming.

Asthma CAN be fatal--my grandfather died of it. It also can develop into emphysema in the long term. I did much better the East Bay, due to less vegetation and smog, but the crime problems were intolerable and my husband could not deal with the slow arduous commute.

I love the beach because I feel like I never had asthma--highly oxygenated air coming off the water, no smog, no pollen.

Posted by Curious, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 27, 2013 at 10:52 am

So you seem to have made a tradeoff, your husband's commute vs your health. I have to ask, if your husband is not willing to inconvenience himself for your health needs, why are you asking strangers to make sacrifices on your behalf that your husband seems unwilling to make?

Posted by Jan Ducati, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 27, 2013 at 10:57 am

Weezer-- it could be worse, you could have ankylosing spondilytis like I do. Also your claims about crime on the east bay and they are grossly exaggerated.
BTW, good point, curious.

Posted by Weezer, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 27, 2013 at 11:02 am

@Curious: the crime problems in the East Bay were truly intolerable--a.crack house in the neighborhood, two drug dealers on the sme street as us, a. Lot of burglaries, robberies, a couple of murders, a murder-suicide. It affected both of us and our child. The schools were awful. My husband had a lot of "freeway burnout". When he came home late at night, which affected our marriage.

We simply did not know how bad the smog and woodsmoke are in PA. The pollen allergies can be successfully treated, the meds are pretty effective these days. The displacement of oxygen by smog and smoke cannot . Also, my husband was convinced that "Palo Altans would never let this ( the pollution ) happen".

The alternative would be to move to the coast, which is expensive and would also entail a long and rather dangerous commute. We will shortly be buying a vacation/weekend cottage near Half Moon Bay so that I can get some relief.

Posted by Jan Ducati, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 27, 2013 at 11:09 am

"@Curious: the crime problems in the East Bay were truly intolerable--"
The entire east bay?? Talk about painting with a broad brush and tarring millions of people. [Portion removed.]

Posted by Anonymous, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 27, 2013 at 11:15 am

People who claim that smoke from burning is not a significant contributor to air pollution are employing magical thinking to rationalize their bad behavior.

Posted by Weezer, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 27, 2013 at 11:16 am

@Jan Ducati: I did not wish to name the exact city, but for you I will narrow it down to Alameda County. That means Oakland, Hayward, Fremont, Union City, San Leandro, San Lorenzo, Alameda. Lots of drugs and drug-related crime in most of those cities.

Posted by Jan Ducati, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 27, 2013 at 11:18 am

[Post removed.]

Posted by Weezer, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 27, 2013 at 11:27 am

[Post removed.]

Posted by pares, a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 27, 2013 at 11:42 am

I think Weezer is accurate about wood burning smoke affecting her adversely. Some years there have been fewer Spare the Air days, and I noticed an awful smoke smell clearly coming from fireplaces in our neighborhood on very still days. This year, I haven't noticed that since there are more Spare the Air days. I do not have asthma but I still don't want to be breathing that bad air.

And I like to hike a lot and on Spare the Air days, you can clearly see smog settled thickly over the bay. Of course those of you who are pointing out that most pollution comes from other sources, I agree you are right. But on very still days, it is best not to add to it. I love my fireplace but so far this year have not used it once. It's for special occasions and only on days where it's ok, and only with Duralogs (they pollute less).

As for crime in Oakland, I think it's not as bad as that everywhere. I have a son and daughter in law who live in Oakland and they feel safe.

Posted by Wendy, a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 27, 2013 at 12:08 pm

What are you all yapping about? A bit off topic it seems. Spare the Air Days relate to the Particulate Matter in the air if I remember correctly along with increased carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, trace levels of heavy metals etc. The "PM2.5" that you see in some of the posts refers to Particulate Matter 2.5 microns and greater in the air. It used to be PM10's until they realized that the even smaller particulates were worse lodged in the lungs. Wood burning, coal burning, diesel burning, rubber coming off tires on asphalt, dust in the air off deserts and empty farming fields all produce Particulate Matter in microns of 2.5 or greater. It also produces microns even smaller but measuring instruments able to detect PM's less than 2.5 is even more difficult. Yes, coal burning power plants and refineries all produce PM's which is why scrubbers are required and mandated while the power companies and oil companies squeal all the way to the bank when they are fined. Combine the PM's with the other gasses and you have a soup that is very detrimental to the human lung, I don't care how old you are. These PM's are never cleared out of the lung tissue. They get stuck. So, happy illegal wood burning, presta log burning (both contribute hugely to the PM levels in our area), happy driving, happy breathing. And by the way, to answer one illogical remark, Spare the Air Days also include the request/suggestion/plea that driving your car be curtailed as well. For many years I heated with wood and have sympathy for those that have that as their only source of heat. Their indoor pollution is even worse than the outdoor pollution they contribute to. It is often evidenced by the amount of black grit that is washed off of the inside of their windows in the spring.

Posted by Jan Ducati, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 27, 2013 at 12:18 pm

[Post removed.]

Posted by OPar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 27, 2013 at 12:18 pm

This characterization of the East Bay is sort of insane. The Berkeley Hills, for example, are not crime-ridden. Neither is Orinda, Moraga, Pleasanton or Piedmont. But, then, they're also not lacking in vegetation. If you're affluent enough to live in Palo Alto, you can certainly afford the coast--and certainly if you can afford a weekend house.

And, yes, I know the East Bay well. Oakland's actually an up-and-coming city and parts of it are quite safe.

Anonymous, no bad behavior here--we've had no fires during spare-the-air days and I'm not smelling much either--but the air quality is still rotten (smelled like burnt rubber last night) and there are a couple of big external factors (besides the atmospheric ones)--one is no rain since that second industrial fire in RWC and an overall one is the pollution coming across the Pacific from China. Think about it--nearly a third of our air pollution--or, if there were no pollution from China it would mean our air quality index would be in the 70s-80s (moderate) instead over 100 (unhealthy for sensitive groups) as it has been.

Posted by Midtowner, a resident of Midtown
on Dec 27, 2013 at 1:08 pm

@ Weezer

When I was first tested for allergies I did not have severe tree allergies. Then I became absolutely miserable in late summer and fall in spite of my allergy shots (recurring sinus infections, etc.). So, I was tested again. Lo and behold, I now had severe tree allergies as well as all my other allergies. Another shot was added to my regimen in order to fight tree pollen allergies. Allergies do evolve, sometimes for the worse unfortunately.

I am sure you know what your status is for allergies. I wish you well in your fight against asthma. My brother has asthma and it's a very nasty thing to have, especially where he lives which is much, much worse than here pollution-wise.

I still think that wood fires are a very small part of the pollution in this area (have you ever been in the Tahoe basin around Christmas? Now it IS very bad there), although, as I already said, I abide by all the rules and we have fires at my home only a couple of times a year. I just wish there were targets to decrease pollution other than wood fires that are largely a symbolic target in this area in my opinion.

Posted by Donald, a resident of South of Midtown
on Dec 27, 2013 at 1:46 pm

According to the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, this is the breakdown on winter sources of fine particulates in the Bay Area:
38% wood smoke
15% on-road motor vehicles
12% geological dust
11% combustion from stationary sources
9% other mobile sources
7% industrial/commercial processes
4% commercial cooking
2% animal waste
2% wildfires

Posted by Midtowner, a resident of Midtown
on Dec 27, 2013 at 2:20 pm

How about diesel fumes which are as bad for you as wood smoke and not targeted?

How about the other 50% or so of sources of winter particulate matter that are man made and not addressed?

What about summer spare the days, where wood smoke is not a factor, and where nothing gets banned?

Again, I abide by the rules, but there is a lot of hypocrisy here.

Posted by pat, a resident of Midtown
on Dec 27, 2013 at 2:27 pm

Sticking to the topic of woodburning (vs. east bay crime and what triggers allergies):

Inside the house, a fireplace can be pleasant. But go outside and take several deep breaths. Not so pleasant. As bad as that smoke feels to you, imagine what it's like for someone who can't take a deep breath.

Residential wood combustion accounts for nearly 25 percent of source air toxic cancer risks and 15 percent of noncancer respiratory effects. It can increase particle pollution to levels that cause significant health concerns (e.g., asthma attacks, heart attacks, premature death). Pregnant women and newborns may also be at increased risk. Web Link

Posted by Stat Guy, a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 27, 2013 at 2:42 pm

38% wood smoke
15% on-road motor vehicles
12% geological dust
11% combustion from stationary sources
9% other mobile sources
7% industrial/commercial processes
4% commercial cooking
2% animal waste
2% wildfires
1% vapor emitted from me rolling my eyes

Posted by Spare the Logic, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 27, 2013 at 5:08 pm

Just a couple of comments.

First, it's offensive to question somebody's suffering. People with asthma, COPD, and other issues are not in good shape when there's a lot of pollution. I have a son-in-law in Portland OR who can't go outside when the wood stoves are belching out their particulate matter. That does not negate concerns with other forms of pollution. We in California are cursed with politicians who ignore serious issues and play to the grandstand. Other states are undoubtedly in the same situation.

Second, it's good to hear people quoting facts and figures. It's less good to hear 100% Bike Guy suggesting that anyone who asks for a closer look at the so-called science behind the SAD organization is ignoring science entirely. Taking a closer look at the facts and figures is not the same as kissing it off, Mr. Bike Man. Once again, you're setting up a straw man.

It would be great if we could show compassion for others, while also following the principles of reasoned discourse!

Posted by Jan Honda, a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Dec 27, 2013 at 6:32 pm

[Post removed.]

Posted by Jan Ducati, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 27, 2013 at 6:38 pm

[Post removed.]

Posted by Curious, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 27, 2013 at 9:00 pm

"Also, my husband was convinced that "Palo Altans would never let this ( the pollution ) happen"."

But this is not a Palo Alto specific problem, its a bay area wide issue. If you need to escape it for your health, why not be in Santa Cruz near the ocean which is a cheaper area to live in or you mentioned Willow Glen worked for you which is also a cheaper place to live in. Why expose yourself to air that you say is causing you major health problems and live in one of the most expensive cities in the Bay Area? I am not following your logic.

Posted by Weezer, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 27, 2013 at 9:32 pm

@Curious: if you read correctly, you would have read that the fireplace smoke in Willow Glen made me ill. That was the first time I had ever been asthmatic in the winter. We moved to the East Bay because of the cleaner air ( it is windy) and the lesser vegetation ( little grass, few trees).

At the time we first moved to Palo Alto, my husband had a lot of clients who lived in Palo Alto and Los Altos Hills, and of course, they wanted him closer than the East Bay. We were able to afford Palo Alto at that time, as there had been a real estate crash.
My husband honestly believed that Palo Alto would never let the air here get so polluted, that the residential neighborhoods were " protected", because his clients assured him of this. However, many of those clients have left Palo Alto for Atherton and Woodside and even Hillsborough!

We are currently looking to buy a small vacation/weekend home in the vicinity of Half Moon Bay. However, to live on the coast is a lengthy and somewhat dangerous, unlit drive. Getting away from the smog and smoke part-time is better than not at all.

Posted by Weezer, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 27, 2013 at 9:39 pm

*****This is why we chose Palo Alto, specifically. We left the city we lived in due to crime levels and the long, arduous commute on 880, as well as the bad school district ( including elementary school kids armed with knives and middle schoolers armed with guns). The air was great but the crime was unbelievable. One of my Son's friends had his house vandalized while the boy was at our house. We later learned that the boy's older brother was selling drugs. Which provided the down payment for the house the mother bought! No way were we raising our son in this town--he was getting the wrong ideas on how to achieve wealth!

Posted by Nora Charles, a resident of Stanford
on Dec 27, 2013 at 11:15 pm


I'm sorry a few have ganged up on you or misread your posts. (What's with some people here?!) I also have asthma and allergies, so sympathize with you and other fellow sufferers. Often I smell chimney smoke in the colder weather, but feel uncomfortable calling the police to report neighbors' fires on Spare the Air Days or wandering around at night trying to see who's to blame. Anyway, hope your allergies will stay under control.

Posted by CrescentParkAnon., a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 28, 2013 at 12:20 am

> (What's with some people here?!)

This is the typical arrogant more wealthy modern Palo Altan that has no regard for anyone else and society in general he or she holds in contempt. This is the reason this city is turning into a miserable place, not to mention any town forum as this new Palo Altan has no understanding for the idea of manners, politeness, and somehow thinks in this world he or she is only thing that matters, that whatever nasty rhetoric they can spew is just as valid as any number or scientific studies and that science is a game rigged by Liberals to rob him or her of their freedom.

The rapidity with which they defend polluting the air is nothing to compared to most of the other things they do in their lives that has negative effects on others, but so far, money and disregard solves all those problems for them.

Posted by Outside Observer, a resident of another community
on Dec 28, 2013 at 12:46 am

[Post removed.]

Posted by Curious, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 28, 2013 at 7:32 am

Ok,, Weezer, then you get even if no one burned in palo alto, you would still have his issue. It's a problem brought on by lack of wind, rain, unseasonable heat, the big sur fire smoke that has yet to clear, the Sims recycling fire smoke, and the low mountain ranges. This would not go away if only the wood burning ban was 100% adhered to in PA. This is an annual event in this valley now. Sorry.

Posted by Jan Ducati, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 28, 2013 at 7:56 am

[Post removed.]

Posted by Oscar, a resident of Mountain View
on Dec 28, 2013 at 8:13 am

Leaf blowers leaf blowers leaf blowers leaf blowers leaf blowers.

I can only imagine the lung damage that is being done on a daily basis to Palo Altos gardeners. The particle matter that is blown into the air on a daily basis by leaf blowers makes fireplace smoke look unimportant. [Post removed.]