News DigestBudget deficits forecast for Palo Alto
Recent layoffs and salary freezes will not save the City of Palo Alto from years of budget deficits as health care and pension costs continue to spike across the state, the city's finance officials said Monday night (March 14).
Despite two years in which the city eliminated about 60 full-time positions and privatized various services, Palo Alto is projected to face a cumulative deficit of about $100 million over the next decade, according to a new 10-year financial forecast. The document, which the City Council discussed Monday, indicates that the deficit would climb to about $215 million over 10 years if the council were to add $10 million a year in infrastructure spending, as some have advocated. The city's infrastructure backlog is currently estimated at about $500 million.
The numbers would've been even higher if not for the fact that the council trimmed the city's ongoing expenses by $7.3 million last year and instituted salary freezes on most city workers to close recent budget gaps. But city officials pointed to the new forecast as an indicator that city employees will have to make further sacrifices in the years to come.
Public-safety workers — notably the firefighters — present a particular concern to finance officials. Perez said if the city's public-safety unions agreed to the same type of concessions that other bargaining groups have accepted, the city would not have a deficit in fiscal year 2012. Under the current projections, Palo Alto is slated to have a deficit of $937,000 in the current fiscal year (which ends June 30) and deficits of $2.3 million and $6.7 million in the next two years, respectively.
City changes rules for Professorville demolitions
Palo Altans often gripe about the frustrations and complexities of the city's permitting process, but few can match the ordeal that Alan Akin and Michelle Arden slogged through as they tried to demolish their home in the historic Professorville district.
Though their home at 405 Lincoln Ave. was found to have no significant historic value, it took Akin and Arden three years and $500,000 to get the city's approval for the demolition.
On Monday (March 14), the Palo Alto City Council began an effort to reform Professorville rules to clear up some of the issues that muddied up the permit process for 405 Lincoln Ave. Among the main questions the council wrestled with was: How hard should it be to demolish a home that, in of itself, isn't considered "historically significant" but that contributes to the character of a historic district?
Several members of the Historic Resources Board argued Monday that the city should consider the district as a whole, rather than focus on individual projects. Some homes, such as Akin's and Arden's, are listed as "contributing structures" rather than historically significant ones. Under a staff proposal, which the council unanimously endorsed Monday, applicants seeking to demolish homes with no significant historic value would not be required to complete an Environmental Impact Report (EIR), as Akin and Arden had to.
New family to run JJ&F grocery in Palo Alto
A new family has taken over operations of JJ&F Food Store in Palo Alto and may purchase the store, according to one of the new managers.
The 62-year-old Palo Alto market was owned by John, Dennis and Lloyd Garcia until November 2010 and was sold to Emerald Market in Redwood City, John Garcia confirmed Tuesday (March 15).
But he learned last week that JJ&F was either being sold or that Emerald's owner was going into a partnership with a family, the Khourys.
Five brothers — Mark, Chris, Ronnie, Johnny and Issa Khoury — hail from three generations of grocers and are operating the business, Mark Khoury said.
On Tuesday, Khoury said his family is buying Emerald Market and had agreed to operate JJ&F at the request of Emerald's owner. The family is trying to purchase JJ&F from Emerald, he said.
Khoury mistakenly stated in an interview on Monday that the College Terrace neighborhood store was still owned by the Garcias, who were helping to run the store.
"I apologize for the confusion," he said, stressing that the brothers want to work hard to make the store fresh and appealing, with excellent customer service.
The Khourys took over management of the store at 520 College Ave. on March 9.
The five brothers range from 26 to 35 years old and have experience in running grocery stores, Khoury said.
JJ&F will get a new name — Jojo's Market, he said.
— Sue Dremann