Around TownSOCIAL HYPE ... Palo Alto is no stranger to social media, boasting a host of start-ups and, until recently, the industry colossus, Facebook. Now, City Hall is getting in on the fun. Last month, the city launched its partnership with the company rBlock, which provides social-media services on a block-by-block basis. City Manager James Keene said the city has been talking to rBlock for close to two years on developing a pilot program of a "geographic web-based communication program" in several local neighborhoods. In late January, the program kick-started in the neighborhoods of Greenmeadow, Old Palo Alto and University South. Keene said the platform allows residents within a neighborhood area to share and manage information and to set their own privacy controls. It also allows the city to target information to specific neighborhoods. These will include press releases, events, public-service announcements, construction updates, street closures, emergency-preparedness events and information about police incidents. "We're looking forward to working in partnership and test-driving this new communication module for both the city and the community," Keene told the City Council Monday.
ADA'S CAFE ... Construction bids are typically humdrum affairs in Palo Alto, but the city's quest to bring a cafe to the soon-to-be-completed Mitchell Park Library and Community Center has attracted an unusual amount of interest from the community. In September, more than a dozen students and residents lobbied the City Council to select Ada's Cafe, a nonprofit group that hires disabled adults and children, as the vendor at the library. Speakers heaped praise on the organization and its founder, veteran school volunteer Kathleen Foley-Hughes. Their voices have apparently been heard. The council on Monday is scheduled to vote on a staff recommendation to select Ada's Cafe from a pool of applicants that also includes Coupa Cafe, KJ's Cafe and Sanghee Lee. Tommy Fehrenbach, the city's economic development manager, wrote in a report that Ada's concept is to operate a cafe while providing jobs and job training for disabled workers and for those who assist the disabled. "Their unique concept of matching compassionate employees with disabled workers while focusing on quality food and customer service has garnered them significant support in the community, and even a notice by the White House Office of Public Engagement," he wrote. "Through their proposal it was very clear to City Staff that Ada's Cafe is making a significant investment in time, talent, and funds to make the cafe a commercial, environmental and social services success." The cafe is expected to open at the same time as the new Mitchell Park facility, which is scheduled to be completed this fall.
GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN ... Early next week, an old and popular oak tree named "George" is scheduled to meet his Waterloo. The Cowper Street fixture has been occupying its present spot near Homer Avenue for longer than a century, but time has taken its toll on the coastal live oak. After a community meeting and consultation with various arborists, the city decided that the tree now presents a safety hazard because of its weak root system. On Feb. 6, the process of taking George down will begin and will last about four days, City Manager James Keene said Monday. But George will not go gentle into the good night. Keene said "significant parts of the tree" would be provided to the Palo Alto Historical Association to be used for posterity as a bench or a plaque at the site. The city also plans to plant a valley oak in George's former spot.
CELEBRATING THE CHAMPIONS ... Palo Alto High School's victorious girls volleyball team will be the toast of the town when the City Council convenes this week. The varsity girls won their second consecutive state title on Dec. 4 at Concordia University and, in doing so, became the first high-school team in Palo Alto ever to win back-to-back state champions. The council plans to pass a special proclamation Monday celebrating the teams' accomplishments and proclaim Feb. 6 as a "day of celebration for the unprecedented success of the Palo Alto High School Girls 2010 and 2011 Volleyball Teams."