ANIMAL HOUSE ... The ambitious and much anticipated reconstruction of the Palo Alto Junior Museum and Zoo received a boost from the city this week, when the City Council approved a $1 million contribution that will allow visitors to mingle with animals at the popular Rinconada Park attraction, scheduled to reopen in October 2020. The council swiftly approved the $1 million transfer to the Friends of the Palo Alto Junior Museum and Zoo, the nonprofit that raised $25 million for the project. The Friends group is matching the council's contributions with $1 million from its own coffers to add two new features to the zoo. One is a "Tree House" feature, an outdoor two-story fortress that will allow visitors to explore the tree canopy and mingle with the animals there. Another is "Loose in the Zoo," a netted enclosure that will allow children to directly interact with birds, insects and other zoo critters. The city's contribution comes from sales of "transfer of development rights" (TDR), a mechanism that provides density bonuses for the rehabilitation of historic buildings and that allows the city to sell these bonuses to developers. Last year, the council approved the sale of nearly $4 million of TDRs, which were associated with reconstruction of the Avenidas building on Bryant Street and the renovation of the College Terrace Library at 2300 Wellesley St. Kristen O'Kane, director of the Community Services Department, called the new features a "really fascinating piece of the new (Junior Museum and Zoo) ... where kids and families will be able to walk around and interact with families and do feedings."
ARTFUL IMPACT ... For the first time in years, two notable contemporary American art paintings from the New York School will be available for public viewing at the Anderson Collection at Stanford University. The works were contributed by Atherton resident Mary Margaret "Moo" Anderson, who died on Oct. 22 at the age of 92 and whose family donated the core of their 20th-century American art collection to Stanford. The new additions, Willem de Kooning's "Gansevoort Street" (c. 1949) and Jackson Pollock's "Totem Lesson I" (c. 1944), come as the museum marks its fifth anniversary. "By donating two of the most sought-after New York School paintings in private hands to Stanford, Moo Anderson continued to exemplify her strong conviction that art is to be shared and to be lived," Stanford University President Marc Tessier-Lavigne said in a press release. The two works were unveiled on Monday before Anderson's daughter, Mary Patricia "Putter" Anderson Pence, granddaughter Devin Pence, donors and friends of the Anderson family. The two pieces were last featured in the Bay Area through an exhibition in January 2001.
ON THE FRONT LINES ... Eight Palo Alto firefighters were among the more than 5,000 personnel working to extinguish the Kincade Fire that sparked north of Geyserville in Sonoma County on Oct. 23. The first strike team included fire Capt. Barry Marchisio, engine driver Jesse Wooton and firefighters Richard Lais and Adam Fortino, arriving to Sonoma County on Oct. 26 in a regular fire engine, according to Battalion Chief Steve Lindsey. They were followed by a second strike team comprised of Capt. Hugo Godoy, engine driver Sunny Johnson-Gutter and firefighters Colin Fraser and Nate Heydorff, who reached the Napa County side of the blaze on Oct. 28 in an off-road equipped engine. The fire has burned 76,825 acres and is 30% contained as of Wednesday morning, according to Cal Fire. Despite the recent progress and improved weather conditions, firefighters from Palo Alto and surrounding cities aren't expecting to rest any time soon. On Wednesday, the Bay Area strike force was redeployed to Simi Valley in southern California to battle the "Easy Fire," threatening 65,000 homes and expected to grow. The Kincade and Easy fires are just two of the many large blazes local fire personnel have traveled to in recent years. Last summer, a four-man team was sent to the Mendocino Complex Fire that burned more than 450,000 acres (becoming the largest fire in the state's history) in Northern California, and the over 13,000-acre Cranston Fire in Riverside County. In October 2017, Palo Alto crews were sent to North Bay to assist crews in extinguishing the Tubbs Fire in the Calistoga area and the Mendocino Lake Complex Fire.