Around TownWAR OF THE ROSES ... As Stanford University prepares for its Rose Bowl showdown with University of Wisconsin, the mayors of Palo Alto and Madison are raising the stakes with a little municipal trash talking. Earlier this week, the city received a message from the office of Madison Mayor Paul Soglin offering a friendly bet on the big football game, which will take place on Jan. 1 in Pasadena. Soglin's criteria: something that "would benefit that winning community" and that "would not use City funds." At the end of Monday night's council meeting, Palo Alto Mayor Yiaway Yeh unveiled the city's response: a friendly wager with the following terms: The mayor of the city whose team had lost will have to wear the opposing team's hat for an entire City Council meeting in January. The losing city will also have to raise the flag of the winning city and winning team for the entire week in January. Lastly, in a truly Palo Alto touch, the city requested that the losing city hold a tree planting in honor of the winning city and involve a local service organization. "We are waiting to see if they accept our terms." (As of Thursday morning, there had not been a response, possibly because of a blizzard preoccupying Wisconsinites.) The council had no objections to the bet, though Councilman Pat Burt had a concern and a proposal. "There's no cheese bet?" Burt asked. "Maybe they'll supply us cheese and we give them Rick's ice cream, but we don't supply the dry ice?"
ELECTIONEERING ... Palo Alto's "Year of Infrastructure of Renewal and Investment" — as Mayor Yiaway Yeh dubbed it upon taking office in January — ended on a fitting note on Monday night. That's when City Council, in its final meeting of the year, tacitly endorsed the staff strategy for funding the long list of needed repairs and approved a $90,000 contract with a polling firm to gauge residents' appetite for passing a revenue measure in 2014. In approving its contract with the firm Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz and Associates (commonly known as FM3), the council hopes to replicate its victory in 2008, when voters overwhelmingly approved a $76 million bond to renovate city libraries. FM3 conducted the polling for that project as well. The firm will focus on the big-ticket infrastructure items that have long dominated council discussions and that have been the focus of a recent report from the specially appointed Infrastructure Blue Ribbon Task Force. These include a new police headquarters, two fire stations to replace those that have become obsolete, various bike improvements and renovation of the Animal Services Center. The council has until August 2014 to decide whether to proceed with the finance measure.
LOSING ILLUSIONS ... Ready or not, some major changes are on their way to California Avenue. The prominent commercial strip is slated to undergo a major makeover next fall, when the city begins its long-planned and highly controversial streetscape project, which includes reducing lanes from two to one in each direction and which aims to give the long-neglected area east of El Camino Real the pedestrian-thoroughfare feel of Mountain View's Castro Street. That's not all, however. On Thursday morning, the Architectural Review Board voted to recommend approval of a new three-story building that, once built, would be the tallest building on the north side of its block. The building will replace "Club Illusions" , a nightclub whose previous names included "Icon Supper Club," "The Edge," "The Vortex," "Keystone" and "Zinzinnati Oom Pah Pah." Before becoming a music and entertainment venue, the building at 260 California Ave. housed "The New Age Natural Foods and Deli" and, before that, "G and A Super Market." This time, the changes will be much more than cosmetic. The new building will include retail on the ground floor and offices on the top two. At prior meetings, a handful of area merchants had criticized the building for being too tall and out of context with the area's small-business character. Since June, the applicant, Tarob M&C Investors, LLC., has agreed to reduce the building from 40 to 37 feet and to have the third story recessed back, lessening its visual impact. The board gave the new design its thumbs up, with member Lee Lippert saying he's not concerned about the building's size. He cited the city's effort to encourage larger, denser developments near transit stations and predicted that the city will see many buildings in the area that are "taller, bigger and bulkier than this."