Palo Alto boasts a plaza named after a flamboyant banker, and streets named after tree species and Victorian writers, but it would be a vain search for a street sign honoring one of the city's most illustrious residents, David Packard.
The City Council balked Monday night at naming a small cul-de-sac in the Barron Park neighborhood after the philanthropist and Hewlett-Packard co-founder, whose home and garage on Addison Avenue are widely recognized as the "Birthplace of Silicon Valley."
"I find myself offended that we'd choose David Packard's name to apply to about the smallest street you can have in town," Councilman Larry Klein said. "This is, after all, David Packard, founder of the most iconic company in our history."
The city's planning staff and the Palo Alto Historical Association both recommended that the council name a street in a new four-lot subdivision near the 700 block of Matadero Road "Packard Court."
In addition to the street size problem, Klein criticized the city's overall policy for naming streets and parks, noting that some are named after individuals of little significance while others have generic or vague names. He cited Heritage Park at Homer Avenue and Waverley Street as an example.
"It seems like we're all over the place without guidance and guidelines on that," Klein said.
The council unanimously voted to direct its Policy and Services Committee to take a fresh look at street-naming practices. Currently, the council receives a list of names from the Palo Alto Historical Association and then votes on the association's recommendations. In this case, "Packard Court" was the only street name recommended, Advance Planning Manager Steven Turner said in a report.
Karen Holman, who had served on the Palo Alto Historical Association's board of directors, said the process of naming streets is challenging for the association because of the "availability of locations to name."
"Opportunities for naming sometimes don't present themselves in a way that accomplishes the goals of the association either," Holman said.
The council agreed with Klein's assertion that the city needs to "establish a more rational naming system for streets, parks and everything among us -- so we don't name one of the smallest things after our all-time giant."
The Policy and Services Committee will take on this task early in 2011.