In this week's column, proposed Eichler guidelines are receiving mixed reaction from homeowners, two Olympians have Palo Alto connections and there's a proposal to welcome electric scooters to the city.
GLASS HOUSES ... Few issues unite and divide Palo Alto neighborhoods like Eichler homes, which are generally identified by their low-pitched roofs, glass doors and spacious yards. Since 2015, the city has seen a grassroots movement arise in several Joseph Eichler-developed neighborhoods, where residents have sought zoning changes to effectively ban two-story homes and second-story additions. On the other side of the debate are those residents who believe such a ban would strip them of their property rights and prevent them from creating multigenerational households. On Thursday morning, the city's Historic Resources Board unanimously endorsed a compromise: a new set of Eichler-specific design guidelines that staff would use in reviewing two-story homes. The new guidelines discourage the placement of windows in areas that overlook neighboring properties, building in Historicist styles or using clay-tile roofs, among other proscriptions. Not everyone was in a compromising mood. Though the guidelines were nearly two years in the making, some longtime Eichler owners complained Thursday that they weren't sufficiently notified of the new rules, which they argued aren't necessary. Others countered that the new rules are a good step toward protecting the privacy of Eichler homes from new two-story homes. "We have a concern in our neighborhood about the slow emergence and creeping in of different architectural styles and two-story houses that destroys our privacy and that destroys our daylight plane," said John Melnychuk, who holds the latter views. The issue next heads to the City Council, which is expected to approve the new guidelines.
GAME ON ... The XXIII Olympic Winter Games have been phenomenal for Vincent Zhou of Palo Alto, who made his way into the history books by successfully landing a quadruple lutz in his opening element on Feb. 15. The debut was met with amazement from the crowd and around the world. "Whoa, there it was, clean!" said commentator and Olympic champion Tara Lipinski. The debut, short-program performance earned him a personal best score of 84.53. He placed sixth overall among male figure skaters after the free skate competition on Feb. 16. While the youngest member of Team USA didn't receive a medal, his performance was an impressive feat. "These are memories that I will think back on many decades later and smile an old, withered smile complete with knowledge that I made the most of my life, especially as a 17-year-old Olympian," Zhou wrote in an Instagram post. "I placed 6th among the best skaters in the history of this sport and I am so very proud to do so representing the USA. My place is here and my time is now." Meanwhile, Gunn High graduate Joanne Reid was joined by Tim Burke, Susan Dunklee and Lowell Bailey on the biathlon mixed 2x6 plus 2x7.5 kilometer relay team that finished 15th on Tuesday, three minutes and 31.1 seconds behind France, which won the gold medal in one hour, eight minutes and 34.3 seconds. Reid competed in three biathlon events at the Pyeongchang Olympics. She finished the 15-meter individual event with a career-best 22nd place showing after finishing near the back in the 7.5-kilometer sprint.
WHEELING AND DEALING ... As Palo Alto prepares to adopt new rules for bike-share operators, officials also are getting ready to welcome another form of transportation with a growing following: electric scooters. The new rules, which the City Council is set to approve on March 5, will allow both bike- and scooter-sharing vendors to bring their services to Palo Alto on a one-year pilot basis. According to planning staff, the city was recently approached by Bird, a scooter-sharing vendor with a 750-scooter system in Santa Monica. If Palo Alto gets a similar system, it would be the first citywide electric-scooter sharing system in the Bay Area. Under the proposed ordinance, participating operators would need to have a minimum fleet of 100 bikes or scooters. For bike-share operators, the total number of bikes would be capped at 700; electric scooters would be exempt from this maximum. The new pilot program is a departure from Palo Alto's prior approach to vehicle sharing, which called for a public-private partnership with a single bike-share operator. The advantage of the new system, according to staff, includes a potential for faster deployment and more available bikes.