I recently became aware of a controversy regarding a house at 405 Lincoln Avenue. The owners want a permit to demolish the house and build a replacement. Several politically well connected preservationists are opposing the permit because the building is listed as a contributing structure in the Professorville Historic District.
I live a block away from 405 Lincoln and walk past it several times a day. It is a pleasant Spanishstyle structure; there are thousands of near copies in Palo Alto. The predominant style of Professorville is Craftsman. 405 Lincoln may be the only Spanish-style structure in the district. To consider it a contributing structure is absurd.
Furthermore, the 400 block of Lincoln is completely eclectic and there is no stylistic tie to the rest of Professorville. In fact, the block was not part of the original district and was added a decade later, probably because two City Council members with active preservationist wives live on the block.
I find this very disturbing. The owners have been forced to spend several hundred thousand dollars on legal fees and the development of a full CEQA environmental review. The viciousness of the preservationist lobby in Palo Alto, its lack of concern for the feelings and well-being of others is frightening.
I have read the project documentation. The key document used by the opponents is a historical evaluation prepared (with city funds) by a consultant. The document is simply regurgitated boilerplate produced for hire. It is completely lacking in specific content.
It is time for the city to approve the project. A lecture to the complainants about the limits of power over the lives of others would also be welcome.
Refuse rates unfair
The City of Palo Alto says that in order to avoid the extra $14.42 per month additional refuse charge for people who live on private streets (in addition to the refuse rate increases everyone would pay under the proposed fee schedule), a majority of all utility customers citywide must protest in writing before Sept. 20.
This is unjust, as those affected by the extra fee are only a minority of all customers. This blanket fee would be added on regardless of the size of the refuse bin or how many bins are used. It is a surcharge imposed depending upon where one lives in the city. These customers would pay the increases everyone would plus an additional $14.42 per month. And it is factually incorrect to say that all private streets are "hard to serve." They are all assumed to be so because they are slightly narrower than most public streets.
Thus, there are two classes of Palo Alto utility customers, the majority who live on public streets and the minority who live on so-called hard-to-serve areas (mostly private streets). Yet those of the latter class, a minority, are at the mercy of the majority of customers.
The people unaffected by the extra $14.42/month fee will not care about it and will not protest the refuse fee increases just for that. Since the refuse increases for those living on public streets are relatively modest, the majority of refuse customers may not protest. This surcharge for living on a private street is not a trivial charge for many people.
In the case of my street, Ellsworth, it isn't at all hard to serve. It is a short, flat, straight cul-de-sac right off a main street, and the GreenWaste worker who collects our refuse says it is not hard to serve and that he makes no more trips to the landfill and SMaRT station than the larger trucks which serve the wider public streets. He has to back out of our street, but finds that very easy to do. His truck is a smaller one, but GW already has these trucks, probably purchased from PASCO.
All the 35 years I've been a Palo Alto utility customer we were never charged extra because our street is private. This added on fee is discriminatory and, because it affects a minority, we may well have it imposed upon us. Our protest letters will not constitute a majority of utility customers in the city.