News

VIDEO: Protestors march against high-speed rail

'Rolling wall' of trains would divide community, residents say

Comparing high-speed rail along Palo Alto's transit corridor to the Berlin Wall, more than 50 protestors marched from Lytton Plaza to City Hall tonight to protest the California High Speed Train San Francisco to San Jose Project.

The 6 p.m. march preceded a discussion on the project by the City Council, which is reviewing draft-scoping comments to the project's Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement.

But residents, many of whom live near the rail line, fear they could be displaced or have their quality of life severely impacted. They said high-speed rail has no place in Palo Alto.

Holding up a golden spike given to his grandmother for 40 years' work for Southern Pacific railroad, resident Tom D'Arezzo said he is opposed to the high-speed project.

"The railroad is in my family history. I live adjacent to the tracks. It doesn't bother me or my family." … But high-speed rail would "alter Palo Alto forever," D'Arezzo, a Southgate neighborhood resident, said.

The number of trains that would come through the area during peak hours -- as many as one train every three minutes -- would make it impossible for vehicles, bicycles and pedestrians to cross the tracks during those times, protestors said.

"It's like the Berlin Wall coming down the middle of Palo Alto. It would create an incredible space for graffiti," former Palo Alto Mayor Gail Woolley said.

Caltrain currently runs eight trains per hour during peak times, according to a city manager's report, but City Planning and Transportation Commissioner Arthur Keller, who attended the march, said Caltrain's 2025 plan calls for doubling its train traffic to 10 trains per peak hour in each direction.

The expected high-speed-rail plan would add an additional nine trains per hour, according to the city manager's report.

Keller said many residents have voiced concerns that the density of trains would create "a rolling wall" that would cut Palo Alto in half. Four tracks would be needed along the Caltrain right-of-way instead of the current two, and the tracks could be set on a 20-foot-high elevated grade, making noise pollution and diesel fumes from Caltrain spread far into the surrounding community, residents said.

Robert McGinn said he worries about the project reducing property values to adjacent homes. The elevated tracks would create visual pollution, he said.

The project would create a "bifurcation of the community. … It's a recipe for dilution of the residential character of the surrounding neighborhoods," he said.

Keller said undergrounding the tracks could appease many in the community. Part of the funding could come from overpass funding. Mixed-use developments with retail and housing could take up some of the space, he said.

D'Arezzo said undergrounding would be a more palatable alternative, but how that would be achieved – either by boring a tunnel or by excavation – would determine how much the surrounding neighborhood would be disrupted. Residents planned to ask the council to join Menlo Park and Atherton in a lawsuit, he said.

Comments

Like this comment
Posted by Spokker
a resident of another community
on Mar 2, 2009 at 11:02 pm

"The number of trains that would come through the area during peak hours -- as many as one train every three minutes -- would make it impossible for vehicles, bicycles and pedestrians to cross the tracks during those times, protestors said."

You've got to be kidding me. It's going to be entirely grade separated. It was always going to be entirely grade separated. Not one high speed train will cross a single road. It will go either over or under every single road on the route.

How do people get off spreading such lies?


Like this comment
Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 2, 2009 at 11:18 pm

It is a dead end pork project.

You can go from SFO to Union Station in LA in 1.45 hrs for $40.25 now on SW

No one will use HSR it will costs 100s of dollars more than current options and will take much longer.

Developments in IT have made most business travel redundant, $40.25 is cheaper and much faster than driving or any train


Like this comment
Posted by Spokker
a resident of another community
on Mar 2, 2009 at 11:26 pm

"You can go from SFO to Union Station in LA in 1.45 hrs for $40.25 now on SW"

As of 03/02/09 at 11:22PM the "Wanna Get Away" price is $49 + taxes and fees for a grand total of $59.60. It won't take 1.45 hours if you include door-to-door, including security and actually getting to the airport.

This fare requires eight day advance purchase at the moment. If you want to head out tomorrow it will cost you $134 + fees. If you want to go three days from now it will cost $59 + fees.

Not to say $49 + fees isn't a bad deal, but it doesn't cost $40.25 and it doesn't take 1.45 hours.


Like this comment
Posted by Clem
a resident of another community
on Mar 2, 2009 at 11:32 pm

> SFO to Union Station in LA in 1.45 hrs

With a suitcase?
In the fog?
While talking on a cell phone?
Without taking your shoes off?


Like this comment
Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 2, 2009 at 11:41 pm

I took the $39 flight last Monday and booked it the day before, Sunday night at 10pm, you are wrong.

All La need to do is to extend the light rail 1/4 mile to LAX, then you cut the time, the local parking companies oppose that, what else is new.

Extend the link and you can get to Union Station LA from LAX in 20 minutes

HSR is a pork project that should be killed in the cradle

No one will use it and it is a 19th century solution


Like this comment
Posted by Brian
a resident of another community
on Mar 2, 2009 at 11:44 pm

"the tracks could be set on a 20-foot-high elevated grade, making noise pollution and diesel fumes from Caltrain spread far into the surrounding community, residents said."

I feel it right to mention here that Caltrain also plans to electrify its trains, removing the so-called "diesel fumes", greatly reducing noise pollution, and increasing the speed of the trains.


Like this comment
Posted by really?
a resident of another community
on Mar 2, 2009 at 11:46 pm

"HSR is a pork project that should be killed in the cradle"

Killed in the cradle? San Mateo voted for it overwhelmingly. It is fact. It is law. You do realize what democracy is, don't you?


Like this comment
Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 2, 2009 at 11:51 pm

If SM wants HSR between SF and SM they are crazy


Like this comment
Posted by Spokker
a resident of another community
on Mar 2, 2009 at 11:54 pm

"I took the $39 flight last Monday and booked it the day before, Sunday night at 10pm, you are wrong."

Great. I'm simply going by what I can do right now on Southwest's web site. Eight days out I get a $49 fare. That fare won't last forever.

"All La need to do is to extend the light rail 1/4 mile to LAX, then you cut the time, the local parking companies oppose that, what else is new."

That would be great, but I don't think airline travelers want to ride through South LA to get to their final destination.

There's a direct bus to LAX. There are also preliminary plans to develop the Harbor Subdivision which would include a link to LAX.

I still don't see how that negates the need for HSR. One of the biggest problems with short-haul flights is the enormous energy it takes to take off and the short amount of cruising time (where the real energy savings are). Flying is better suited to longer flights. HSR is better suited for intrastate travel.

"HSR is a pork project that should be killed in the cradle"

By definition it's not pork. It's not an earmark. Voters approved it fair and square. Voters on the peninsula voted for it in even higher numbers than the rest of the state.

"No one will use it and it is a 19th century solution"

Which is why electric trains are pretty much standard in most industrialized countries, especially those in Europe and Asia?


Like this comment
Posted by Spokker
a resident of another community
on Mar 2, 2009 at 11:55 pm

I don't understand this article.

Protesters are trying to use two diametrically opposed situations to instill fear in area residents. First, protesters complain about 20 foot high grade separations. But then they complain that nobody will be able to cross the tracks because there will be so many trains per hour.

Wait, which is it? Those two statements were said at the same protest.


Like this comment
Posted by Nate
a resident of Ventura
on Mar 3, 2009 at 12:30 am

The lies and disinformation being spread by misinformed or disingenuous NIMBY opponents of the HSR project are almost beyond belief. "Berlin Wall"? "Moving wall of trains"? You cannot be serious.

Of course, everyone has a right to protest the project if they see fit. But *please* bother to inform yourself slightly so you're actually protesting about the real project, not a fictional project invented by some NIMBY propagandist to scare you.

If you actually examine the proposal, you will see that the HSR project will make the rail corridor through Palo Alto *better*, not worse.

Thunderously loud diesel Caltrain engines will be replaced by quieter electric trains (both for HSR and Caltrain).

Stinky, exhaust-belching diesel engines will be replaced by clean electric engines.

Obnoxious horn blowing and ringing bells of crossing gates will end due to total grade separation (which will also keep trains from blocking traffic).

Deadly, unsafe railroad crossings will be eliminated.

How is any of this going to ruin Palo Alto? It will make Palo Alto better. Rather than making disingenuous arguments to try to kill this project, why don't we fight instead simply to make sure that the new grade-separated railroad is actually well-designed. It doesn't have to be a Berlin Wall. This kind of unhinged, dishonest, hysterical protest will not accomplish anything but making us look like a bunch of twits.


Like this comment
Posted by rick
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Mar 3, 2009 at 2:33 am

It is interesting that out of over 30 speakers at the City council meeting only about 3 thought the HSR was a good idea.

Most felt there was a vote for it because it was just a concept at this point and there were no details available at the time of the vote.
Almost everyone felt it should be in a tunnel or not go where the Cal Train goes, but near Hwy 101 or it should end at S.J. as it just duplicates a new ;modern Cal Train that could carry the forseable passenger load.

For some unknown reason the concept of running trains at ground level and having tunnels for auto and foot traffic has never been mentioned.
Since only having 3 additional auto tunnels would take care of Palo Alto it's not clear why this has not been considered or talked about.

If auto tunnels under the tracks and Alma, etc along the route were used the current overpasses would not have to be torn down. I think there are many overpasses between S.F and S.J.

I don't think anyone at the meeting supported raising the 4 tracks to 20 or so feet above the ground with high voltage power lines above that. If that type of structure fell over in a major earthquake what a disaster that would be for the homes and the trains coming along at 3 min intervals.

I would predict the actual cost to taxpayers for each person riding the train to be $200 to $300 per trip considering the cost actually be between $80 to $100 billion dollars not including interest.

Has BART or light rail been built at the estimated cost? I would bet it has been 200%over cost estimates or even more. And the ridership numbers have never met the projected numbers..
Every VTA rider is subdized about $10 each trip. This is just yearly oprating costs.
The HSR $45 billion cost dosen't include operating costs and probably not tunneling either.


Like this comment
Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 3, 2009 at 2:54 am

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

Please, please, PLEASE!!!
The damn tracks are THERE!!!
Any taking will be minor. I agree with rick that the option of staying at grade needs consideration. Just close all grade crossings and deal with the traffic. The only deal breaker for me would be if the line was passenger only. Imagine 4 hour container time, LA to Frisco.


Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 3, 2009 at 2:58 am

A bit ironic, but speaking of The Berlin Wall, here is a picture of Rod Diridon, Jr. on the graffiti covered Berlin Wall, chipping away . . .

Web Link


Like this comment
Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 3, 2009 at 7:07 am

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

But no Stasi. [sic?] It makes a difference.


Like this comment
Posted by Marvin
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Mar 3, 2009 at 7:28 am

NIMBYists in Palo Alto have long ago learned that the truth is something that can be played with fast and loose. Remember the measure to widen Sand Hill Road--the NIMBYists where claiming that children would be run over in Palo Alto due to increased traffic. They opposed the Ikea in EPA claiming it would create traffic nightmares in PA. They drove the Hyatt out of town and ended up with homes that they complain about non-stop. They managed to kill development at Alma Plaza. the list goes on and on.
Naturally the Council will not stand up to them.


Like this comment
Posted by Jenny
a resident of South of Midtown
on Mar 3, 2009 at 8:15 am

Rick says: "It is interesting that out of over 30 speakers at the City council meeting only about 3 thought the HSR was a good idea." But what amazed me was how many of those people admitted they'd voted for HSR!! I voted against it because for one thing I realized that this was bad news for Palo Alto. But my main reason for voting against HSR was the inevitable cost to an almost bankrupt State.

Contrary to what bloggers have been saying Diridon said loud and clear last night that the route will not change it will go up the Peninsula because the decision has been made, and it would cost millions at this late stage to change it. And, it will definitely be built between LA and SF no ending the route in San Jose.

As for tunnelling Diridon emphasized that this would only happen if we as a City pay for it. Will Palo Altans vote to pay in excess of $350 Million in a bond measure to tunnel under the City?

I was also disturbed at the way Diridon played one City off against another (typical political maneuvering). If Palo Alto doesn't want a train station Visalia will take it, they've had representatives at all the meetings. In other words, where was Palo Alto's representative? Also, he said, for legal reasons it is too late to join Atherton and Menlo Park in their law suite. At times he was almost hostile to PA.


Like this comment
Posted by An Observer
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 3, 2009 at 8:39 am

Don't believe that Diridon endless "this will be built". Thats the same tact Walmart uses to squelch grassroots efforts. The intent is to make the opposers think there is no point opposing this and back down. It worked for a while for Walmart and then stopped working. Thats what Diridon is doing. When you see him up there just think of Walmart, or if you are really bold let him know that using walmart tactics will not work with this constituency, sorry.

Now the San Carlos residents are getting organized, which I believe is a new group and there is some kind of showstopper regarding the Holly Street bridge. The whole issue is this route, through residential areas, which cannot support 200 mph high speed rail. Its just that simple, and Diridon will not win this.


Like this comment
Posted by Robert
a resident of Southgate
on Mar 3, 2009 at 8:52 am

Several posters expressed surprise that some opponents of HSR at the CC meeting last night had voted for Prop. 1A. Are you not aware of how deceptive that ballot measure was? Seemingly just a bond measure and a request for approval at the general conceptual level, Prop. 1A did not make clear to voters the concrete decisions that had already been taken by HSR potentates, viz., to run HSR down the spine of the Peninsula, to rule out 101 and 280 corridors, and to go via Pacheco Pass rather than Altamont Pass, all this decided in-house by CHSRA and then kept effectively hidden until AFTER the state vote last November. This effectively denied voters a fair opportunity to give or withhold their INFORMED CONSENT to the measure, thereby invalidating the vote on Prop. 1A, which Diridon now crows about, along with their in-house "program EIR/S" and the fact that it got "environmental certification" from a government agency without any scrutiny by the public. This is political power at its deceptive worst. Diridon and company steadfastedly refuse to reopen the key decision to run HSR down the CalTrain corridor because it would increase the cost of the project, when they were the ones that made those choices in an essentially secretive, unilateral way that would foreseeably lose the trust of the public once it came out. I am increasingly confident that HSR's deceptive and condescending conduct will eventually become clear to the larger public and that Diridon will be sent packing back to his 'transportation institute' having torpedoed his own dream project.


Like this comment
Posted by Colin
a resident of another community
on Mar 3, 2009 at 9:32 am

Quote: <i>"It is interesting that out of over 30 speakers at the City council meeting only about 3 thought the HSR was a good idea."</i>
It is interesting, given the level of misinformation out there that there were even 3 who dared speak in support of the project.

<i>
"Most felt there was a vote for it because it was just a concept at this point and there were no details available at the time of the vote."</i>
Except for the extensive Environmental Impact studies that were done all before the vote even happened. I knew in 2007 that the entire run would be grade separated, and that it would probably run in the Caltrain corridor between SJ and SF. Your ignorance isn't my problem. Web Link

<i>
"Almost everyone felt it should be in a tunnel or not go where the Cal Train goes, but near Hwy 101 or it should end at S.J. as it just duplicates a new ;modern Cal Train that could carry the forseable passenger load."
</i>The HSR has always been for SF to LA. That's where the market is. Taking a commuter train 1 hour from SF to SJ before boarding the HSR would torpedo their ridership.


<i>
"If auto tunnels under the tracks and Alma, etc along the route were used the current overpasses would not have to be torn down. I think there are many overpasses between S.F and S.J."
</i>
i assume you're talking about train bridges? They wouldn't have to be torn down if they're wide enough to take 4 tracks. That's how many tracks will be needed by HSR + Caltrain.


<i>
"I don't think anyone at the meeting supported raising the 4 tracks to 20 or so feet above the ground with high voltage power lines above that. If that type of structure fell over in a major earthquake what a disaster that would be for the homes and the trains coming along at 3 min intervals."
</i>
What does the interval have to do with anything? It would be a disaster if the trains were coming along at 60 minute intervals and the structure fell over. You think they're going to design the structure so it can't withstand an earthquake? I guarantee any new structure they build is going to withstand an earthquake much more readily than the current railroad will.

<i>
"I would predict the actual cost to taxpayers for each person riding the train to be $200 to $300 per trip considering the cost actually be between $80 to $100 billion dollars not including interest."
</i> Well, i'm sure we can trust your predictions. You have a degree in traffic analysis, i assume? How long have you been making ridership projections?
<i>
"Has BART or light rail been built at the estimated cost? I would bet it has been 200%over cost estimates or even more. And the ridership numbers have never met the projected numbers.."
</i>
HSR is not light rail. Look in any other developed country. HSR consistently makes money EVERYWHERE IT IS IMPLEMENTED. France, Japan, Spain, Germany, everywhere. In those countries, light rail & public transit are subsidized in part by HSR earnings. As for construction costs, if the cost rises it's because ignorant NIMBY's like you whine about everything and significant additional tunneling winds up having to happen.
<i>
"Every VTA rider is subdized about $10 each trip. This is just yearly oprating costs."</i>
HSR IS NOT PUBLIC TRANSIT. See above.
<i>
"The HSR $45 billion cost dosen't include operating costs and probably not tunneling either."</i>
it doesn't include tunneling through Palo Alto, that's for sure. If Palo Alto wants a tunnel, they can pony up the extra money themselves.


Like this comment
Posted by more of the same
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 3, 2009 at 9:42 am

Now Spokker and the HSR trolls have invaded this board. Haven't you realized that your tactics don't work? People around here aren't stupid or easily scared.


Like this comment
Posted by Jenny
a resident of South of Midtown
on Mar 3, 2009 at 10:18 am

Robert says: "they were the ones that made those choices in an essentially secretive, unilateral way that would foreseeably lose the trust of the public once it came out."

I am sure the HSR Authority complied with the Brown Act in it's deliberations. It was up to the the residents and City Council to have appointed a representative to attend their meetings. If Visalia had a representative at all the meetings, so can Palo Alto.

They certainly were not deceptive because I was well aware they wanted to put the HSR along the Caltrain's corridor well before the vote last November, that's why I voted against it. In fact Caltrain's openly lobbied for it so they could get their train tracks electrified by 2014. This was written about in several articles in the local press well in advance of the vote on Prop 1A.

To claim ignorance after the fact because you did not do your homework simply indicates that you did not bother to stay informed.


Like this comment
Posted by Jack
a resident of Los Altos
on Mar 3, 2009 at 10:51 am

if you aren't "stupid or easily bored" then check this out :

Italy, Germany, England. What REAL high speed rail grade separations look like. that first picture that Palo Alto is sending around is just false. that won't happen. ignore the text, just look at the pretty pictures.
Web Link

that's what high speed rail will look like. Now if that doesn't IMPROVE your community, by eliminating diesel fumes, horns blaring, and dangerous at-grade crossings, replacing them with much more pleasing architecture (and potentially more unobstructed underpasses, even better than a tunnel under at-grade tracks, as they are now), then man, I don't know what to tell you.

I heard those kids down at Stanford are pretty smart, why don't they help you understand the benefits, instead of these lies?

Oh, and by the way, I voted AGAINST HSR for the budget but I have to say, having ridden it in Europe and Asia, if I were Palo Alto, I would be making sure that it was done RIGHT, because if you've even ridden, or even seen a train pull into a European city, you know that we're goddamn lucky that bond measure passed, because it is going to be our lifesaver when oil prices shoot up again, and southwest no longer costs $40, rather $100 to go to LA and back. then $55 for a train won't seem too shabby, especially when I can show up 15 minutes before and read or surf the internet, while enjoying the scenery...

I hope to God Palo ALto learns to cooperate.


Like this comment
Posted by An Observer
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 3, 2009 at 11:15 am

Jack, its easy for you from Los Altos to claim that grade separation (done right) won't blight a community. That is just false. We already know it, from the 50s when the Embarcadero and numerous other freeways were interjected inside the city of SF in a modernization attempt. Fortunately for SF, they just managed to get the last of these town down. Elevated transportation corridors do not belong in small town locations. You can dress these concrete walls up all you like, but the fact is, blaring high speed trains are going to ram through every few minutes. Whoever chose the Caltrain route for long range commuting needs their head examined or they had an agenda. take your pick.


Like this comment
Posted by Nate
a resident of Ventura
on Mar 3, 2009 at 11:50 am

To compare even the worst-case-scenario (in the eyes of many, it seems) for HSR in Palo Alto -- an elevated railway -- to the freaking Embarcadero Freeway is so ridiculous that it simply cannot be taken seriously. Size, sound, smells, aesthetic... there is no comparison. It is blatant, absurd fearmongering. The people spewing these lies should be ashamed of themselves.

Push to get it done right -- get it done as a nice arched viaduct, for example. Much cheaper to build than a tunnel, opens up much easier passage from one side of the tracks to the other than we have now, you can even put shops under the arches in the section adjacent to downtown. Get rid of dangerous grade crossings, poor kids getting killed trying to run across the at-grade tracks, loud train horns, and crossing-gate bells -- it will be a million times BETTER than what we have now.

So, *please* *please* *please* get informed with FACTS rather than ludicrous NIMBY deceitful propaganda, then push to get this thing done right rather than making a quixotic effort to stop it in its tracks. (Sorry for the mixed metaphor/bad pun there.)

We have every right -- indeed, a responsibility -- to fight that no concrete monstrosity that looks like the Berlin Wall (or, if we want to continue the ludicrous comparison, the Embarcadero Freeway) gets built through the heart of Palo Alto. But that's not what the HSR plan calls for; if we act like rational adults, we can surely win construction of something aesthetically beautiful and much *more* functional than what we have today in terms of allowing people to move freely from one side of the tracks to the other. But if we act like petulant, lying, spoiled children, we're likely to lose a frivolous lawsuit and then be stuck with whatever a (rightfully annoyed) CAHSRA wants to give us.

Let's work *with* the HSR authority to get this thing built right -- for California *and* for Palo Alto -- rather than making these kinds of ludicrous and dishonest arguments in some vain and self-centered effort to obstruct the project.

The rhetoric coming out of the anti-HSR camp over the past couple of weeks has just been shameful. Almost makes me embarrassed to say I live here.


Like this comment
Posted by An Observer
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 3, 2009 at 12:35 pm

Shops under the arches? This is residential zoning Nate. The issues are not with the commercial areas. There will be no shops because there is no parking. And there will be no parking because there is no space, period.

You have got to love Rod Dididon, dismissing the concern as "people living near the tracks". Well, that would be the ENTIRE PENINSULA Rod, or anybody that sends their kids to schools on the peninsula, or anybody that ever visited downtowns on the peninsula.


Like this comment
Posted by Nate
a resident of Ventura
on Mar 3, 2009 at 12:46 pm

I mean in the section adjacent to University Ave, right be the station. You know, the place where we already have a really nasty underpass that is unpleasant to travel through on foot or on bicycle, which does act much like a wall in separating the nice downtown area from El Camino and Stanford.

And there wouldn't need to be new parking for those shops because it's already a pedestrian-oriented shopping district, with a big parking structure just across the street and more parking lots adjacent to the Caltrain station.

Obviously there wouldn't be shops two miles down the line at Meadow or Charleston... but a well-designed structure that would allow greater pedestrian and bicycle mobility, at least, would be way better than the current setup, which really does act as a wall, completely segregating my neighborhood from midtown just across the tracks for the whole huge distance between Oregon and Meadow.

I live a block from the tracks. I hear the thunderous diesel engines and the stupid whistles and bells all the time now. I've actually taken the time to educate myself by reading the HSR and Caltrain Electrification project documents. (All of which were available long before the election, by the way; I voted yes on 1A specifically *because* of the improvements it would bring to Caltrain service and to Palo Alto's urban design - I doubt I'll travel to LA on it very often. So saying that HSR has suddenly sprung all of this on us is just another lie.) Because I've educated myself on what this project really is, I understand that it will make Palo Alto a much, much BETTER and more livable place than the current Caltrain setup.

I wish all you ridiculous NIMBYs would do the same instead of just spewing out reactionary propaganda.



Like this comment
Posted by Joe
a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 3, 2009 at 12:51 pm

To paraphrase Scott McNealy of Sun Microsystems on Palo Alto's late-blooming resistance to high-speed rail:

You have no leverage. Get over it!


Like this comment
Posted by Berms work great here
a resident of another community
on Mar 3, 2009 at 1:05 pm

1) The three airports in the Bay Area and those in Southern California are already maxed out with flights. Either a high speed train or new airports will have to be built to carry the increased passenger demand. The high speed rail system cost much less than building new airports. That's why it has Federal approval and new airports don't.
2) A raised berm can have ample pass throughs designed into it and can actually enhance pedestrian and bicycle traffic and safety. Raised berms in San Mateo County are primarily nicely landscaped slopes, not "walls".
3) Global warming will raise the mean sea level and no one knows how much or how fast. The tracks on the peninsula are shared and will continue to be shared with diesel freight trains. This requires a grate covering versus a true tunnel, due to the exhaust and could be at risk of flooding within 100 years (according to published reports), requiring an above ground berm rebuild at that time.

I lived in Palo Alto for thirty years before moving to San Mateo County and living with berms has enhanced the community here, made it quieter (honestly) and much, much safer for school children. I still care about Palo Alto and truly believe berms are best for the city and it's residents. Words from someone who has experienced both styles.


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Posted by An Observer
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 3, 2009 at 1:07 pm

Not sure why McNealy would say that. These towns have tremendous leverage. It appears to be relatively easy to sue and win based on environmental concerns, plus with the state budget so in the red, repealing prop 1a is probably a snap.


Like this comment
Posted by An Observer
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 3, 2009 at 1:08 pm

There is no room for the raised berms. Its a wall or nothing, right next to the schools.


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Posted by Spokker
a resident of another community
on Mar 3, 2009 at 1:30 pm

"plus with the state budget so in the red, repealing prop 1a is probably a snap."

The state budget was in the red when the thing went for a vote in the first place.

"The tracks on the peninsula are shared and will continue to be shared with diesel freight trains."

Okay, I'm not disputing this or attacking you, but I just want to clarify that IF the small number freight trains that operate on the peninsula today continue to operate after Caltrain electrification and HSR construction, they will do so late at night when passenger trains are not running, as some do now (there is also an off-peak afternoon run these days).


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Posted by Berms work great here
a resident of another community
on Mar 3, 2009 at 1:34 pm

I went to those schools (Paly '77). Raised berms will make it much safer (and quieter) for students. There is enough room for raised berms, although some homes may have to be removed. The football field can be moved. Eminent domain won't happen unless reasonable offers are refused, and current homeowners who might be affected will notice in their deeds that this was always a possibility for those homes. That's why they cost less, not the noise, the fact they were subject to removal.
Seriously, things are nicer now with the berms. Come up and check it out yourself, go for a walk between the San Carlos and Belmont stations. It's nice!


Like this comment
Posted by P.A. Native
a resident of Mountain View
on Mar 3, 2009 at 1:47 pm

Observer,

Yeah, let's repeal Prop 1A. Who cares if California voted for it, Palo Alto is against it! Remember when we recalled Gray Davis??? Man, did that turn out to be a great call or what!?!


Like this comment
Posted by Nate
a resident of Ventura
on Mar 3, 2009 at 1:50 pm

Actually, a large majority of Palo Alto is for HSR and voted for 1A too. What we're seeing here is just the hysterical rantings of an obnoxious and pampered minority, used to throwing hissy fits and getting their way. Hopefully it won't happen again this time.


Like this comment
Posted by David Richoux
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 3, 2009 at 2:04 pm

One thing I am not clear on - if the degree of slope the trains need to take for a rise to cross Churchill, Meadow and Charleston is the same if there was a trenched "under-crossing?" Seems to me there is enough room south of Embarcadero to pass under Churchill, rise to the California Ave station, drop to pass under Meadow and Charleston and return to grade to go under San Antonio Road.

I am still not in favor of 4-track HSR from SF to SJ, but this may be the way to handle electrification and improvement of Caltrain in Palo Alto. Trenches wide enough for 2 tracks would not impact Southgate houses any more than the existing surface level tracks - and with proper design they might actually improve noise and dust problems.

It does not help Menlo Park and northwards, but there may be similar solutions that can reduce the "Wall Problem." If the trains pass over University as they do now they would probably still have to rise to cross over Alma and San Francisquito Creek. Engineering an Alma underpass so close to that creek (and El Palo Alto) would be very difficult, but not impossible.


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Posted by Clem
a resident of another community
on Mar 3, 2009 at 3:43 pm

> One thing I am not clear on - if the degree of slope the trains need to take for a rise to cross Churchill, Meadow and Charleston is the same if there was a trenched "under-crossing?"

The issue is that the train needs 30 feet of vertical clearance (AAR Plate H + electrification), versus trucks & buses only 15 feet. That lengthens the approaches and greatly increases the volume of earth moving required to build the grade separation.

You can also avoid elevated structures by trenching the roads entirely under, and leaving the tracks at grade, as Mountain View is planning at Rengstorff. This has greater impact on properties around the intersection. (Menlo Park has also studied this option.)

There's no way to do it without impact; even those tunnels that everyone keeps fantasizing about are very disruptive to build.


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Posted by WilliamR
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Mar 3, 2009 at 3:56 pm

Some posters on these forums have proposed terminating the HSR line at San Jose, and transferring passengers to Caltrain to complete the trip to San Francisco. How do they plan to deal with the grade crossings along the Peninsula? Caltrain service (electrified) will have to be much more frequent to carry the additional passenger load, resulting in more traffic tie-ups at intersections and more potential for trespasser/suicide deaths. If the answer is to replace the at-grade crossings with grade separations, why not let the HSR trains go through?


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Posted by David Richoux
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 3, 2009 at 4:41 pm

Clem,

I live on Churchill, very near the grade crossing. If the street crossing here was to go under the tracks it would have to be done like Embarcadero Road, with Alma crossing over Churchill as well. The tracks are only a few feet from Alma. All of the homes on the Churchill blocks on either side of Alma would probably loose access to the street. Eliminating the Churchill crossing altogether would make all of the students at Paly have to use Embarcadero (not impossible, but traffic impact on that major street would be huge.)

Eminent Domain nightmare time! Tunnel or Trench seems to be the only way here...


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Posted by zanon
a resident of Esther Clark Park
on Mar 3, 2009 at 4:43 pm

HSR is a nightmare. It will ruin this area.

Thank god it will never be passed! Go Palo Alto process!

And no, I am not a NIMBY


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Posted by Booklover
a resident of another community
on Mar 3, 2009 at 4:46 pm

The European system works well, is heavily used, and goes through towns and the country side.

By the time we get around to building this much needed railway, there will be something newer and maybe better. We lag as a country as far as building and using mass transit, don't we?


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Posted by Mike
a resident of another community
on Mar 3, 2009 at 5:18 pm

You NIMBY's are not going to live forever, 25 years from now when this thing has become commonplace no one will even remember what all the whining was about. Not even your children, they are way more hip than you.


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Posted by An Observer
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 3, 2009 at 5:22 pm

PA Native,

>>Observer,
Yeah, let's repeal Prop 1A. Who cares if California voted for it, Palo Alto is against it!<<

Is high speed rail on the Caltrain tracks what people voted for when they voted for 1A? Really? Where exactly, in this initiative, is a route that involves the Caltrain tracks, imminent domain, above ground 125 mph trains through bedroom community cities, mentioned exactly? This proposition simply approves the 9 billion bond. That was it. Nowhere did it say Pacheco was authorized and the final route and this meant 200 mph trains on the Caltrain tracks. If it did say that, 1a would have gone down.

Here is the ballot.
Web Link)

All it says is this,
As it is currently written, Prop 1 gives top funding priority to a route between Los Angeles and San Francisco. If AB 3034 becomes law, Prop 1 would be:

* Amended to give all high-speed rail corridors, including the route through Altamont Pass, an equal opportunity to compete for a share of the $9 billion.


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Posted by RXR neighbor
a resident of Ventura
on Mar 3, 2009 at 6:42 pm

With the uncertainty of the HSR impact on our properties, I suggest we ask the County tax assessor for a waiver for paying any property tax since our properties are now worthless.


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Posted by menloparkarrogance
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 3, 2009 at 6:53 pm

Well from the picture that 50 people.. includes many kids...Gee I did not know they got to vote NO on Prop1a. looks like some Parents dug them up ..you know kids.. anything like this is a ball!!


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Posted by Unknown
a resident of another community
on Mar 3, 2009 at 7:46 pm

Maybe you should research things you vote for. It pretty clearly stated on the website before Nov 4th that this was the preferred alignment. Anyone who says that they are not a NIMBY, well, this is the definition of a NIMBY.


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Posted by Fast Train
a resident of another community
on Mar 3, 2009 at 10:01 pm

"And the ridership numbers (for BART, etc.) have never met the projected numbers.."

That's because there's never been a concentrated effort to create really good, networked, mass transport HSR - in MANY states - is just one more "inconvenient truth" that we must adapt to in order to get people out of their cars. I love BART, and CalTrain, and the idea of HSR. As gasoline prices and pollution continue to rise to unacceptable levels, HSR will seem like a godsend. Change is difficult, but we're smart enough to adapt. If we don't, then we risk hypocrisy


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Posted by Jay Tulock
a resident of another community
on Mar 3, 2009 at 10:52 pm

This was carefully engineered by the Authority. Altamont was included only as a connector, so the word Altamont would appear on the ballot. It was a carefully crafted political campaign of deception by San Jose interests and the Authority. In order to strengthen their argument of choosing Pacheco, they leaked drawings to the Altamont Route cities of Fremont, Pleasanton and Livermore - imposing drawings of overhead cement structures and catenary wires carrying trains through their towns, causing these cities to revolt against the proposal. This gave the Authority political cover to choose Pacheco. Their environmental report on the route choice stated "Both the City of Fremont and the City of Pleasanton are opposed to high-speed train alternatives through these cities because of potential environmental issues, right-of-way constraints, and other logistical issues." So what are Palo Alto's concerns, chopped liver? But Palo Alto didn't complain, because Palo Alto was purposefully kept in the dark. The same greedy demons carefully didn't leak any such drawings to Peninsula cities regarding the Pacheco Route. If they had, Atherton, Palo Alto, Menlo Park and Willow Glen would have shouted even louder than Fremont and Pleasanton, and that wouldn't have steered the route choice the way that King Guardino and Prince Diridon wished. The Authority never cared about Fremont and Pleasanton's concerns, and they don't care about Palo Alto's or Willow Glen's either. A commenter on another article said she thought there was some hidden agenda that we just couldn't quite grasp. Is it all becoming clear now?


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Posted by USA
a resident of Mountain View
on Mar 4, 2009 at 12:27 am

Ever notice how people who talk big about the need to throw taxpayer money at public transit usually don't take it themselves?


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Posted by Nate
a resident of Ventura
on Mar 4, 2009 at 1:00 am

@ Jay Tulock:

What's up with the bizarre conspiracy theories? I am nobody special, just an ordinary resident, but I was fully aware long before last November's election on 1A that Pacheco Pass had been chosen over Altamont and that the HSR mainline would be along the Caltrain right of way on the Peninsula.

There was no grand evil plot to hide the facts here. Palo Alto was not "purposely kept in the dark." That's just ridiculous. (If Palo Alto was purposely kept in the dark, how did Menlo Park and Atherton find out enough about the plan to file their own misguided and frivolous lawsuit against HSR *before* the election?) There was and is no "hidden agenda". There was and is, to the contrary, a very obvious, transparent agenda: build HSR to connect San Francisco to Southern California, via Silicon Valley, San Jose, and the Central Valley. An agenda, mind you, that won overwhelming support from Peninsula (and Palo Alto) residents in the little democratic process we call an election.

It will be an unbelievable travesty if a tiny minority of ill-informed and/or deliberately deceptive NIMBYs railroad their timid city councilpeople into taking some kind of ill-advised action to derail this much-needed project, which will bring massive benefits to the entire state of California and to the city of Palo Alto in particular.

I live a block from the Caltrain tracks. Caltrain SUCKS right now for those of us who live along it. HSR will give us probably the only chance we'll ever have to fix all the problems with the existing railroad that divides our community in half -- dangerous and traffic-snarling grade crossings, thunderously loud diesel train engines, obnoxious blowing of whistles and ringing of crossing bells, easy access for children and suicidal individuals to get onto the tracks where they can be hit by trains, smelly diesel exhaust, etc. By bringing electrification and full grade separation, HSR will get rid of all those problems. The new railway through Palo Alto will be cleaner, quieter, and safer. It simply boggles my mind that all you people are going to such lengths -- and often resorting to such dishonesty -- to try to preserve the far-from-perfect status quo and block these improvements from being made. Crazy.



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Posted by tiger
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 4, 2009 at 9:06 am

i think i remember a president saying once (tear down that wall) how about not building in the first place........













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Posted by An Observer
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 4, 2009 at 9:20 am

MR DIRIDON, TEAR DOWN THAT WALL!!!!!

good one tiger


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Posted by An Observer
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 4, 2009 at 9:46 am

Unknown, Nimby is "not in my backyard" meaning the definition apples to YOU, SPECIFICALLY because some proposal is going to damage you.

I live in Barron Park. I do not live near the train. I am against this because we already saw what happened to cities when they put those freeways into the middle of SF in the 1950s. Major transportation corridors do not belong downtown, in any city. They belong - let me emphasize this- on existing MAJOR TRANSPORTATION CORRIDORS. These are the freeways. Thats where people assumed this was going. Not downtown, through residential neighborhoods.

Its very convenient for LA based HSR supporters to blanket the entire bay area as Nimbys, but there are not too many Nimbys here. BTW I would feel the same way if they were going to put this above ground right through Union Street in SF, or through the Castro or Noe. Its ridiculous.


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Posted by Andrew Bogan
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Mar 4, 2009 at 11:09 am

Yes, HSR should be along a "MAJOR TRANSPORTATION CORRIDOR", which is precisely what the Caltrain right of way is.

Roughly 4,000 people ride Caltrain from University Ave (3,300) or California Ave (~1,000) every weekday. Many more ride through those stations without getting on or off.

HSR should *definitely* be on a major transportation corridor and that is why the Caltrain right of way alignment was chosen in the Program EIR by the State. It is the one major transportation corridor from SF to SJ that goes through dense town centers where riders could reasonably easily get onto HSR without having to drive to it--by either riding Caltrain a couple stops to a HSR transfer station or by taking VTA or SamTrans to a Caltrain or HSR Station. Our public transit (as limited as it sadly is) already concentrates on the heavily populated strip along the Caltrain right of way. It is easy to walk or ride a bus to Palo Alto Station already. It is not easy to take public transit to 101 or 280--those freeways are specifically designed to be driven to and then driven on by individuals in cars, which we all agree produces pollution, noise, and traffic.

Would Palo Alto real estate be so valuable if 101 and 280 were never built? It has certainly become vastly more valuable since those additional corridors were added to the Peninsula. Similarly, HSR is very likely to add value to our community, and not only in increased property values (see Brain Sands 1993 paper from UC Berkeley, linked in other posts for analysis showing property value increases >20% in cities with HSR stations in Japan, France, and Germany).


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Posted by Anna
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 4, 2009 at 12:09 pm

"It is easy to walk or ride a bus to Palo Alto Station already."

This shows how totally out-of-touch the HSR fantasists are about HSR and its likely effects on PA.

I took Caltrain for years to SF. The percentage of people taking public transportation to and from the Cal Avenue station was never even in the high single digits. From Palo Alto, except for a few Stanford Students, the percentage was similar. It may be easy to walk or ride a bus, but few do. What makes anyone think HSR would change this?

HSR is intended by its supporters to substitute for air travel to LA. Bogan seems to imagine that when people start taking the train to LA, they'll suddenly go all green on us and take public transportation to the train and take it again at their destination. This is hooey. To the extent that business people take HSR to LA, they'll do just what they do now when flying: they'll drive to the station and then rent a car at the other end.

When we have an HSR station here, get ready for the streets to be crowded with businessmen from Fremont rushing to make their trains, and with LA lawyers lost in rental cars trying to find their way to 101.

I just hope none of them hits Bogan on his bike.


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Posted by Andrew Bogan
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Mar 4, 2009 at 12:33 pm

Not likely, I do not own a bike.

I am pleased to learn that some of the outspoken opponents of HSR "took Caltrain for years to SF". If they don't want trains, why do they ride them?


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Posted by An Observer
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 4, 2009 at 12:53 pm

Mr Bogan, the fact that you think CalTrain is a major transportation corridor is a non starter right there. Caltrain is basically a big streetcar, that is how residents see it. It is noisier and bigger than a streetcar but closer to a streetcar than say, an Amtrak train simply because it goes 40mph through all of these towns. You are basically calling a streetcar a *major transportation corridor*, which is just plain silly. Until the HSR supporters have a come to jesus moment about these realities we can never make progress.


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Posted by bikes2work
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 4, 2009 at 12:55 pm

Anna writes "get ready for the streets to be crowded with businessmen from Fremont rushing to make their trains, and with LA lawyers lost in rental cars trying to find their way to 101"

Anna - Do you really live Downtown? Where are you at rush hour everyday? University Avenue is already bumber to bumper by 4pm everyday.

I agree wholeheartedly with Nate's response to Mr. Tulock above. I think Tulock has a personal vendetta against Mr. Diridon.

I live within walking distance to San Antonio station. I welcome the opportunity to eliminate all the grade crossings in Palo Alto and Mountain View. This is a win win. I feel bad for South Gate, but they can get a good price for the property through eminent domain.


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Posted by Andrew Bogan
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Mar 4, 2009 at 1:05 pm

"Mr Bogan, the fact that you think CalTrain is a major transportation corridor is a non starter right there. Caltrain is basically a big streetcar, that is how residents see it. It is noisier and bigger than a streetcar but closer to a streetcar than say, an Amtrak train simply because it goes 40mph through all of these towns. You are basically calling a streetcar a *major transportation corridor*, which is just plain silly. Until the HSR supporters have a come to jesus moment about these realities we can never make progress."

Caltrain is in fact an Amtrak train. Though, sadly, you are correct that it is a loud, slow, polluting one with maximum speeds of 79 miles per hour on the Peninsula.

From Amtrak's website:

"Amtrak operates more contract commuter services than any other company.

Amtrak currently provides commuter service for the following state and regional authorities:

Caltrain (California)
MARC (Maryland Area Regional Commuter)
Shore Line East (Connecticut)
VRE (Virginia Railway Express)"

Web Link


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Posted by Anna
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 4, 2009 at 1:08 pm

"University Avenue is already bumber to bumper by 4pm everyday."

Exactly right. So why in the world would we want to add thousands of trips - many by car to this bumper-to-bumper situation?!

"This is a win win. I feel bad for South Gate, but they can get a good price for the property through eminent domain."

It's a win-win, but you feel bad for those who will lose their houses?! Somehow you've kind of lost track of what you're trying to say.... not that this is a big loss to the discussion.


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Posted by Andrew Bogan
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Mar 4, 2009 at 1:24 pm

2008 Caltrain system-wide average weekday ridership was 37,000 (see Caltrain website)

So 37,000 X 5 weekdays per week X 52 weeks per year = 9,620,000 weekday riders per year.

Not a major transportation corridor?

The Caltrain tracks along the Peninsula mostly follow the route of El Camino Real, which has been a major transportation corridor since its establishment during the Spanish Mission expansion up the California coast from 1683 to 1834. The Caltrain tracks have been on the existing right of way for >100 years. If was the Caltrain right of way that led to the establishment of most Peninsula towns and cities in the first place, which is why so many of our downtowns are adjacent to the tracks.


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Posted by P.A. Native
a resident of Mountain View
on Mar 4, 2009 at 1:27 pm

I'm surprised at the amount of people claiming they did not know the HSR plans before they voted. We are a community of educated people so it's hard for me to imagine this many clueless voters. Pacheco was already picked for the route before Nov. 4th and the HSR was shown in plan designs going up the Peninsula. 101 and 280 have been ruled out completely and they aren't revisiting those choices. The decisions have been made.

So for the love of God, please stop drawing comparisons to the Berlin Wall. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by wary traveler
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 4, 2009 at 2:54 pm

P.A. Native, what voters deserved was an honest, forthright Prop 1A text. Read the Voter Info Guide Web Link and tell me where it says that the route was already chosen and that 101 and 280 were eliminated. Those are both true facts, but Prop 1A didn’t disclose either.
Here’s a trivia question for you. Which ONE of the following words can be found in the Voter Information Guide material? A) Altamont; B) Pacheco; C) Caltrain; D) 101; E) 280.


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Posted by WilliamR
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Mar 4, 2009 at 3:05 pm

Just an observation that this HSR controversy is beginning to sound like the rebuilding of the eastern part of the Bay Bridge: San Francisco, Oakland and the State couldn't agree on the design and the route, resulting in years of delay and billions of dollars in increased costs.


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Posted by P.A. Native
a resident of Mountain View
on Mar 4, 2009 at 3:33 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by wary traveler
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 4, 2009 at 4:37 pm

Self-congratulations are in order, P.A. Native. You can add yourself to the minority of voters who follow propositions to a deeper level than the basic voter information the government gives us. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by Jay Tulock
a resident of another community
on Mar 4, 2009 at 5:09 pm

"I think Tulock has a personal vendetta against Mr. Diridon."

Hey, I resemble that remark.

Jay L. Tulcok, Vacaville


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Posted by jtSF
a resident of another community
on Mar 6, 2009 at 7:11 pm

In the castro or Noe valley? I'd be glad to have the station in my back yard. The shorter the walk the better. The folks down there are totally overreacting. Like this is an asteroid coming to destroy them. Stop with the drama already.


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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