Tidbits collected by the Weekly staff on Palo Alto people, events and other happenings.
TOUGH LOVE ... Palo Alto's long and circuitous debate over best ways to protect retail began shortly after 7 p.m. Monday night and spilled into the first hour of Valentine's Day. The length of the discussion didn't sit well with the dozens of residents who came to the meeting for another contentious topic: proposed changes to the downtown Residential Preferential Parking program. Residents from various downtown neighborhoods, including Downtown North, Professorville and Crescent Park, sat through hours of the retail debate only to learn at about 10:40 p.m. that their item will be rescheduled to Feb. 27. At that point, the Council Chambers largely emptied out, with many frustrated audience members grumbling on their way out about the council's poor time management and disrespect for constituents. While Mayor Greg Scharff gave those who attended the hearing to talk about parking a chance to offer their comments on this topic Monday night (with the understanding that they will not repeat these comments on Feb. 27), there were no takers. The delay likely won't have much impact on the timeline of the modified parking program, which won't roll out until April 1 anyway. It will, however, make irrelevant many of the heart-themed signs that supporters and opponents brought to the Monday hearing. A coalition of Palo Alto dentists, who have been arguing that the program should allocate permits for them, came in with "Dentists Love Palo Alto" signs (with a red heart substituting the middle word). Neilson Buchanan, a downtown resident who has been at the forefront of the grassroots effort to solve the area's traffic problem, brought his own (much larger) sign with a bunch of little hearts arranged in the shape of a larger heart. The sign asked the council to "Please be our Valentine!" "Enduring love means promoting commerce but not at the expense of residential neighborhoods," Buchanan's sign stated.
REPORTING FOR DUTY ... Appointments to Palo Alto's influential Planning and Transportation Commission can be tense and politically charged affairs, as became clear in 2014, when the outgoing City Council used one of its final votes to remove veteran Arthur Keller from the commission and replace him with the more growth-friendly Adrian Fine. In November, Fine was elected to the council, leaving another opening on the commission. On Monday, the council was tasked with finding his replacement. Despite the depth of the 12-candidate field, the council reached its decision swiftly and with relatively broad consensus, with seven of nine members choosing to appoint Susan Monk, an attorney who last year served as campaign manager for Vice Mayor Liz Kniss' re-election campaign. Her strong affiliation with Kniss notwithstanding, Monk won support from both camps in the council's ideological divide, with Tom DuBois and Eric Filseth each voting for her (Lydia Kou and Karen Holman voted for candidates Christian Pease and Greer Stone, respectively). In her candidate interview earlier this month, Monk pledged to the council not to "make decisions based on feelings or ideology." "I'm going to look at facts and present those facts to you." The council took a bit longer to add five members to the Parks and Recreation Commission. After the council appointed incumbent Keith Reckdahl to a fresh term and named Jeff LaMere and Ryan McCauley to the commission, it went through a few more rounds of close votes to settle on the other two spots. At the end of the day, the appointments went to Don McDougall and Jeff Greenfield.
TAKE A WALK ... While driving is the main mode of transportation to get around Santa Clara County, Palo Alto claims the most employees 16 years and older who walk to work among the 15 cities at 5.4 percent, according to the Public Health Department's Walking for a Healthier Santa Clara County report released this week. Though it may not be the first choice for many in the county, walking to work once a week for a whole year equates to saving 1,200 miles behind the wheel and reducing carbon dioxide emissions by half a ton, the Federal Highway Administration reports.