Year in Review: Odds 'n' ends

From the unusual to the downright weird, the year saw its fair share of strange news stories

With 2015 concluding, the Weekly is taking a look back at some odd news stories that stood out during the past year. Here is a roundup of the top 10 -- from a missing giraffe to bed bugs to a dispute over a clay pot.

1. HAVE YOU SEEN ME? ... In September, a 5-foot-tall bronze giraffe was stolen from The Wonder Years Preschool courtyard in Palo Alto. When staff and students returned after the Labor Day weekend, they noticed Gila was missing. "The kids started asking, 'What happened to it?'" Assistant Director Julie Fernandez said. "I said, 'I don't know. Maybe it went to the zoo.'" Staff checked the school's security cameras and saw two men picking up the 90-pound statue and carrying it off.

2. 'SHARDGATE' ... Responding to residents' complaints about the dangers of polished glass pieces embedded in California Avenue's new sidewalks, Palo Alto officials directed the $7 million streetscape project's contractor to remove and re-embed the glittering yet semi-pointy glass. Resident Ronna Devincenzi notified the City Council about shards coming loose from the aggregate and creating a hazard for people wearing sandals or walking barefoot through the eclectic business district.

3. 'POT BANDIT' ... In February, Palo Alto Architectural Review Board member Catherine Ballantyne felt compelled to resign after she walked up to the front porch of a neighbor's house and took a clay pot filled with soil. A surveillance video of the incident was posted to YouTube and social media website Nextdoor with a note titled "Pot thief." Ballantyne said she thought she was salvaging the pot from an abandoned home, but the homeowner accused her of theft.

4. FUZZY FEELINGS ... The city got a new icon this year in the form of a 3-foot-high stuffed donkey named Palo Alto Perry. Sporting a gray coat and promoted as the new Neighborhood Ambassador of Palo Alto (sorry, El Palo Alto), Perry flew in a plane, sang at a San Francisco Giants' game and searched for Palo Alto's most endearing places and things.

5. BUGGING OUT ... Palo Alto's Mitchell Park and Rinconda libraries got new patrons in September, but the libraries weren't happy about these reading bugs. City staff were notified that bed bugs had been discovered in chairs in the libraries, which were then cordoned off from the public to allow a pest control company to inspect and treat the infested areas.

6. BRAZEN BURGLARS ... Thieves sought a new way to burglarize businesses in 2015: Two men rammed a van into the front of Keeble & Shuchat Photography on California Avenue in February and made off with thousands of dollars worth of merchandise. Four people drove a stolen SUV through the front glass doors of Bloomingdale's at Stanford Shopping Center in May and swiped loot from the jewelry counter, police said.

7. CITIZEN'S ARREST ... A burglar picked the wrong vehicle to rummage through in April: the truck of East Palo Alto Boxing Club owner Johnnie Gray. Gray was in his home when he heard a suspicious sound and went outside to investigate, he said. The thief took off running but Gray chased after him, eventually tackling him to the ground. Residents, alerted to the commotion, called police.

8. THE CASE OF THE POISONED WATER ... A former Stanford University graduate medical student accused of spiking her lab mates' water with paraformaldehyde and sabotaging the research of a senior researcher pleaded no contest to all charges in December, according to court documents. Xiangyu Ouyang, 26, of Singapore faces a maximum sentence of one year in county jail.

9. THEY'RE ON A STREAK ... Two streaking incidents at Palo Alto High School in October were the first since the administration cracked down on the student tradition in the 2013-14 school year. A student ran nude across the football field during a Spirit Week rally and another bared it all at a night rally, student news outlet the Paly Voice reported. Principal Kim Diorio reminded students that anyone involved in the "illegal activity of streaking will be subject to disciplinary action," which may include suspension.

10. CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW? ... In what Palo Alto police called "an unusual robbery" in downtown Palo Alto in August, a man stole a woman's cellphone out of the hand of a teenage girl who had asked to borrow it to make a call. The girl had taken the phone, dialed a number and held the phone to her ear when the man walked up behind her, snatched the phone and fled into a city parking garage, police said.

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2 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 31, 2015 at 11:13 am

It would in fact be nice to have some updates on these stories. For example, was the giraffe ever found?

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

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