Thousands of people in need are helped through nonprofit agencies receiving Holiday Fund grants
December 13, 2013 |
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As the year winds down, giving to the Palo Alto Weekly Holiday Fund is an easy way to support dozens of local nonprofits and the families they help.
City Council begins process of 'recalibrating' policies to reflect community attitudes over development
December 6, 2013 |
New planning director Hillary Gitelman has a big task in front of her: getting up to speed on both the angst in the community over development and the staff's and City Council's credibility problems.
Despite the reviving Silicon Valley economy, children are too often the innocent victims of economic hard times, and we are lucky to have so many well-run nonprofit organizations that are serving their needs.November 22, 2013 | 2 comments
School district's quest for unique system has turned routine policy development into a process quagmire
November 15, 2013 |
Part of the reason the school district has taken so long to adopt required new anti-bullying policies is that Palo Alto wants to create a unique policy that even its own state school boards association strongly advises against.
How the City Council responds to Measure D's defeat is now a critical test of its leadership, and of its commitment to salvaging a senior housing project out of this train wreck.November 8, 2013 | 47 comments
Campaign tactics and emotion marred Measure D debate from the start
November 1, 2013 |
The campaign surrounding Measure D has pitted friends against each other, divided the Barron Park neighborhood and tapped into a festering unease in the community about how zoning decisions are made, who pays the price and who benefits.
With delicate and competing interests at stake, plan for thorough analysis of Newell bridge alternatives is on the right track
October 25, 2013 |
Time spent now involving the affected residents in crafting alternative solutions for what to do with the 102-year-old Newell bridge is well worth it, and City staff deserves credit for pivoting in response to initial reactions from residents.
Zoning changes to enable Maybell senior housing project strike wrong balance and should be overturned
October 18, 2013 |
The proposal to build a four-story, 60-unit affordable apartment complex for seniors was mishandled from the start by both the Housing Corporation and the city staff. The city should have earlier addressed detractors' most legitimate concern: including dense, market-rate housing at the site.
As open space and recreational opportunities become ever more important, a good time to reassess priorities
October 11, 2013 |
Like many planning exercises, the scope of the the Midpeninsula Open Space District's visioning process is so broad that it risks not focusing enough attention on the most important and controversial questions: How much and what types of recreational uses should be allowed and supported within the district's preserves?
With Palo Alto schools in the best financial shape in decades, it's time to wean them from a revenue source intended as a helping hand during a financial crisis
September 27, 2013 |
The financial condition of the Palo Alto Unified School District, like most public agencies, is not very transparent to the average citizen. And that is especially the case when things are flush.
Seeking to show it is listening as election year approaches, Council aims at measures to get workers out of their cars
September 20, 2013 |
With residents expressing increasing frustration with the City Council's approvals of new commercial development projects and delay after delay in addressing the traffic and parking problems they create and exacerbate, the Palo Alto City Council is looking for a way to establish its credentials as good transportation and land use planners.
The massive building developer Jay Paul is proposing is likely to be the largest commercial office development ever built in Palo Alto outside the Stanford Research Park since Palo Alto Square was developed more than 40 years ago.September 13, 2013 | 41 comments
With new overnight parking ban in Crescent Park, East Palo Alto officials express valid frustration with misinformation, outcome
September 6, 2013 |
As the Palo Alto City Council's unanimous vote on Aug. 12 showed, there was little doubt that residents on streets near the Newell Road bridge connecting the Crescent Park neighborhood with East Palo Alto would be successful at obtaining relief from their parking nightmare. That's about all that went right with this process.
Invisible to parents and teachers, cruelty, meanness and explicit online postings have become a way of life for teenagers
August 23, 2013 |
If you are the parent of a middle or high school student, chances are your child is either engaged in, or witness to, online behavior that you would find distressing, if not shocking.
Neighbors and City Council talk past each other, squandering opportunity for a better outcome
August 16, 2013 |
Perhaps it was too much to expect the Palo Alto City Council to demonstrate they understood why many neighbors of a proposed senior housing project on Maybell Avenue across from Briones Park are upset, suspicious and feeling disrespected.
As momentum for a residential parking-permit system grows, downtown property owners embark on odd strategy of blame-and-scare tactics
August 9, 2013 |
The last thing the downtown business community or nearby residents need is a debate over who is to blame for the parking problems in downtown Palo Alto.
From banning overnight car camping to controversial development proposals, council members face complex and emotional issues as they return from summer break
August 2, 2013 |
Palo Alto City Council members will return from their month-long break Monday night, with a volatile set of issues lined up for as far as one can see.
Awash in development proposals, city's aged planning vision takes a back-seat
July 19, 2013 |
Palo Alto's official and legally mandated Comprehensive Plan bills itself as "the primary tool for guiding future development of the city." These days, however, the 15-year-old, 300-page document is treated almost like a quaint historic relic of how things were for the city back in the late 1990s.
With both the city and school district hiring 'communication specialists,' can the public expect more transparency or simply better PR?
July 12, 2013 |
There are two ways of looking at almost simultaneous decisions by Palo Alto City Manager Jim Keene and school district Superintendent Kevin Skelly to hire senior-level help with communications and public outreach.
With the resignation three weeks ago of assistant superintendent Michael Milliken, Palo Alto school superintendent Kevin Skelly was handed an unexpected gift.June 28, 2013 | 27 comments
Council's last-minute efforts to assuage neighbors couldn't make up for a process that failed months earlier
June 21, 2013 |
If there was one lesson that anyone involved in Palo Alto policy-making should know, it is to never assume that something can be quietly approved by keeping it under the radar of affected neighbors and holding back on full transparency.
Considering recent controversies suggesting a lack of sensitivity of current City Council members to the need for transparency and public outreach, the council showed more of the same tone deafness this week in dealing with two very old ideas that suddenly re-emerged as urgent items.June 7, 2013 | 27 comments
After unsuccessfully trying the hurry-up approach, city staff reverts to the classic Palo Alto process and asks, "How slow do you want to go?"
May 31, 2013 |
Just last fall, John Arrillaga's vision for building huge office towers and a theater where the MacArthur Park restaurant and the Red Cross building now stand was on an unconventional and intentional fast track.
After five years, it's long past time for the City Council to take action and prohibit overnight vehicle habitation
May 24, 2013 |
Compassion and support for the downtrodden has always been an important part of the Palo Alto culture, but city leaders have done the community a disservice by allowing the problem of vehicle dwelling to languish for more than five years.
"Not a done deal" defense rings hollow for proposed senior-housing development
May 17, 2013 |
Imagine making a substantial family investment in something before determining its value, how other family members felt about it and deciding if it was the best way to meet your family goals?
Palo Alto school trustees work to move forward in midst of continued controversies
May 10, 2013 |
The poor school board just can't catch a break. Try as they might to follow the advice of their attorney and send the message they won't be "distracted" and are "moving forward" from the controversy over bullying cases, one thing after another drags them back into turbulent waters.
Ad hoc council committees may fulfill mayor's wish for more efficiency, but they threaten the public's right to fully participate
May 3, 2013 |
Palo Alto Mayor Greg Scharff has just a year as the ceremonial head of the City Council, but in just four months he has made some changes that are rankling some of his colleagues and should also concern members of the public.
Uncertainty over potential Arrillaga project shouldn't delay completion of long-planned park improvements
April 26, 2013 |
Palo Alto's Parks and Recreation Commission was right earlier this week when it urged the city staff and City Council to drop the idea of relocating the historic MacArthur Park restaurant building from its current location to somewhere in the park.
Verde magazine courageously and sensitively raises issue of teen sexual assault and its ugly aftermath
April 19, 2013 |
When Palo Alto High School journalism students published its issue on teen "rape culture" last week, they knew it would send shockwaves beyond the campus.
While half-way into the first year of a new school calendar is too soon to make any definitive conclusions, a just-completed survey shows strong support across all groups for moving the mid-year semester break from January to December.April 12, 2013 | 16 comments
In the 1960s, political and community leaders in Palo Alto were among those who stepped up to publicly advocate for federal and state fair-housing laws against red-lining and other forms of racial discrimination in housing.April 5, 2013 | 46 comments
Closure of Miki's market leaves Alma Plaza developer with 37 homes, city with no grocery store
March 29, 2013 |
There is plenty of blame to go around in any assessment of why Miki's Farm Fresh Market will have to close its doors next week, after less than six months as the anchor tenant of the made-over Alma Plaza site near the intersection of East Meadow Drive and Alma Street.
Lack of district leadership continues to impede progress on bringing high school guidance programs to 'comparability'
March 22, 2013 |
For those who don't have kids in the schools or don't carefully follow the nuances of school policy and governance, it must seem surreal that the subject of high school counseling is still an unresolved and controversial topic in this community.
As lucrative lease nears renewal date, school district hopes it can persuade the city to keep the money flowing
March 15, 2013 |
We had high hopes in November, 2011 when the Palo Alto City Council adopted an ambitious work plan aimed at determining a thoughtful path forward for the use and related financing for the 35-acre former Cubberley High School site.
Trustees must act decisively and with clarity to restore public confidence
March 8, 2013 |
Faced with its biggest governance crisis since former school superintendent Mary Frances Callan was fired in 2006, Palo Alto's five elected school board members are on the edge of a precipice.
School board struggles to understand bullying case investigation and depth of district governance problem
March 1, 2013 |
As Palo Alto school officials brace for an inevitable lawsuit stemming from its failure to respond properly to the bullying of a special-education middle school student, the district's handling of the issue became even more bizarre this week.
As Palo Alto seeks reduced targets, Gordon initiates discussion with cities to address concerns over widely criticized process
February 22, 2013 |
Like many cities up and down the Peninsula, Palo Alto is struggling to find the best strategy for standing up to the unreasonable targets for new housing construction imposed by the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG).
Federal investigation uncovers a disturbing failure to respond to repeated incidents of harassment
February 8, 2013 |
Palo Alto school district leaders and parents should be shocked and saddened by the portrait painted in a scathing investigative report from the U.S. Department of Education.
Major push to go green puts Palo Alto on cusp of major milestone
February 1, 2013 |
As President Obama promised to take on the threat of climate change in his inaugural speech last week, Palo Alto residents can take comfort that their city has been focused on the effort to reduce greenhouse gases for quite a few years.
Recent requests by the Almanac for information about police department matters have produced some troubling responses from the city of Menlo Park.January 30, 2013 | 7 comments
Twentieth annual community fundraising campaign raises $390,000 for local nonprofits serving the needs of kids and families
January 25, 2013 |
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Working hard to serve these families are dozens of local nonprofit organizations, and the Palo Alto Weekly Holiday Fund serves as a simple and important funding source for those that serve residents of Palo Alto, East Palo Alto and Menlo Park.
Palo Alto could run afoul of environmental regulations by waiting to cover landfill
January 19, 2013 |
Harking back to the voters' 2011 decision to set aside 10 acres of the city's defunct landfill for a waste-to-energy plant, the Palo Alto City Council decided Monday to take a precarious path that will delay transfer of any acres of landfill to Byxbee Park for more than a year and risk fines of up to $10,000 a day for not capping the old dump.
As other flood control measures move forward east of 101, Newell Road bridge replacement controversy deserves calm exploration of options
January 12, 2013 |
It has taken more than a decade, but finally work is set to begin that ultimately will protect Palo Alto, Menlo Park and East Palo Alto from floods similar to the one that inundated hundreds of homes in 1998.
Vulnerable residents of Palo Alto's only mobile-home park need and deserve support as redevelopment plans evolve
December 14, 2012 |
There has been a certain inevitability to the situation now unfolding at the Buena Vista Mobile Home Park, located behind El Camino Real in the Barron Park neighborhood.
Responding to intense community feedback, City Council hits re-set button on ambitious Arrillaga proposal
December 7, 2012 |
A growing public concern about the magnitude of a proposal made by developer and Stanford benefactor John Arrillaga and the planning process was heard loud and clear by the Palo Alto City Council before and during a five-hour discussion Monday night and early Tuesday morning.
Never has City Hall moved so fast on a development proposal, nor been so awed by a developer, particularly when the stakes are so high
November 30, 2012 |
If you're confused by the process by which the City Council is considering a massive commercial office project put forth by developer John Arrillaga dubbed "27 University" you aren't alone or crazy.
Council approves more studies on downtown parking problems, leaving residents waiting for relief, again
November 16, 2012 |
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Once again, residents of downtown neighborhoods have been told to be patient about the impacts of employee parking spilling onto their streets.
Santa Clara County has been whipsawed by the economic downturn and the state's perennial budget crises. When funding runs short for state-supported safety-net programs that serve low-income residents, legislators pass the problem down to county governments, who at the same time are overburdened by more residents who need services just to survive.October 26, 2012 | 16 comments
The Weekly's recommendations on state Propositions 30-40, as well as Foothill-De Anza College Board, Santa Clara County Board of Education and other local races. Related material:
October 19, 2012 |
ELECTION 2012: Stories, editorials, videos and resources
The last time there was an election for school board in Palo Alto was five years ago, just a few months after Superintendent Kevin Skelly had been hired to bring order to the chaos created by the board's poor handling of the proposed new Mandarin Immersion program and a widespread lack of confidence in former Superintendent Mary Frances Callan.October 12, 2012 | 59 comments
With mixed feelings about Kniss returning to the City Council, we conclude her regional experience could serve the city well
October 5, 2012 |
In the last Palo Alto City Council election in 2009, with 14 candidates, voters overwhelmingly reelected Larry Klein to his second four-year term after he had previously served two terms in the 1980s.
Palo Alto residents to vote on City Council, school board in Nov. 6 election
October 2, 2012 |
Stories, editorials, videos, photos and links regarding the Presidential General Election on Nov. 6, 2012. Palo Alto Online will update results live on election night starting at 8 p.m. Related material:
The Weekly recommends
Arrillaga concept for high-rise offices, theater and new transit center is unprecedented in both exceeding zoning limits and providing public benefits
September 28, 2012 |
The largest and boldest commercial development proposal in the history of Palo Alto, located at one of the worst traffic pinch-points in the city, would have been viewed by most as a non-starter under almost any circumstances.
Tight-lipped, city staff defends closed council sessions to discuss selling small foothills parcel
September 21, 2012 |
In the end, the idea of selling a small, seven-acre land-locked city-owned parcel in the foothills above Arastradero Preserve may have merit. It could bring the city some welcome revenue without any obvious negative impacts. But, alas, it's not that simple.
Palo Alto mulls sale of land near Foothills Park
Other cities' experiences with medical-marijuana shops show it's a bad idea
September 14, 2012 |
With Peninsula cities having almost uniformly passed ordinances prohibiting so-called medical-marijuana dispensaries, Palo Alto has been targeted by medical-marijuana advocates and libertarians as a place where a liberal electorate might be persuaded to overturn that ban.
County districts should have foreseen the problem, communicated with public
August 23, 2012 |
Demonstrating that one never knows where danger lurks, an unprecedented mosquito infestation suddenly erupted across areas within a few miles of the Palo Alto Baylands early last week, signaling a significant problem with the flood-control equipment that protects us against flooding.
Innovative pilot program will allow Caltrain commuters biking option
August 10, 2012 |
A transportation grant designed to provide 100 bikes for Palo Alto-bound Caltrain commuters unfortunately got tangled in a discussion at the Architectural and Review Board (ARB) last week, delaying approval of the sites selected for the automated stations where bikes could be checked out and returned as part of a pilot program.
Non-competitive local races are a threat to democracy and to healthy debate of important issues
August 3, 2012 |
With just 12 days remaining before the Aug. 15 extended filing deadline for candidates running for City Council and Board of Education, the November school board election is in danger of being cancelled entirely and the City Council race is looking uninspired.
With purpose and decisiveness, Palo Alto council moves forward with major improvements for California Avenue and the golf course
July 27, 2012 |
It is infrequent when one can celebrate decisiveness in process-obsessed Palo Alto, but Monday night's City Council meeting demonstrated that the current council is ready and willing to leave some constituents unhappy in order to move forward with important projects after doing their homework.
City's leaders seek ways to bring rising employee retirement costs under control
July 20, 2012 |
Driven by increasingly higher pension and benefit costs, employee compensation now makes up 63 percent of Palo Alto's General Fund budget, an unsustainable situation that could cripple the city in the years ahead.
While Caltrain and the Peninsula come out as winners from high-speed-rail vote, state still can't afford this 'plan'
July 13, 2012 |
In a political drama that has potentially massive financial ramifications for California, last week's razor-close vote to move forward with high-speed rail will keep the uncertain project alive but give the Peninsula the benefit of Caltrain electrification.
Locating antennas at power substations could be start of comprehensive policy
June 29, 2012 |
The City Council has an opportunity to end the often divisive neighborhood fights over installation of small cell phone antennas by simply making space available to install much larger and more powerful antennas at a few city-owned utility substations, and even one on the roof of City Hall.
Without changing downtown garage policy, employees will simply relocate to and impact other streets
June 22, 2012 |
If the city is truly committed to giving Professorville and other residents living in homes adjacent to downtown some protection from the daily invasion of workers seeking a free parking space, it will take much more than the trial run that was unveiled last week.
With rebuke, trustees attempt to reassert their role as policy makers in wake of poorly managed process
June 15, 2012 |
Faced with a mess largely of their own making, Palo Alto Superintendent Kevin Skelly and the school board sought this week to clear the air, put aside emotion and defensiveness and chart a fresh and more deliberate course forward on the subject of high school counseling.
Frustrated council digs in for improvements to large project at Page Mill Road and Park Boulevard
June 10, 2012 |
Developer Harold Hohbach's stubbornness in improving the design of his proposed mixed rental housing and research and development project may get him a defeat next time he returns to the City Council, if comments from council members are to be taken seriously.
Kniss's attempt to rush through plan for using Stanford trail money was a misstep that served no one well
June 3, 2012 |
Without any prior discussion with Stanford University officials and on just a few days notice, County Supervisor (and candidate for Palo Alto City Council) Liz Kniss's proposal to allocate more than $8 million to construct a bike bridge over highway 101 and a bayfront trail fell abruptly on its face last week.
Voters should welcome opportunity to elect effective and experienced candidates on June 5
May 18, 2012 |
With at least one veteran legislator running for seats in the state Senate, state Assembly and the Board of Supervisors, voters will have an easy task when they go to the polls June 5.
Five in running for two Superior Court seats
May 18, 2012 |
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Along with the more publicized races for state legislative offices and county supervisor, Santa Clara County voters also will elect two Superior Court judges when they go to the polls June 5. The Palo Alto Weekly endorses Paul Colin and Cynthia Sevely.
'Sustainable Parks' proposal aims to stop closure of state parks
May 13, 2012 |
As he prepares to leave Sacramento due to term limits, State Senator Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto) is hoping to leave one final legislative mark: saving as many California parks from closure as possible.
Alma-Lytton project offers cash to city in exchange for ability to build an over-sized and under-parked office building
May 7, 2012 |
Today, May 7, the City Council will consider approving the controversial "Lytton Gateway" office building at the corner of Lytton Avenue and Alma Street, a decision that once again points out the need for stronger criteria and follow-up for developments to qualify for Planned Community status, which is awarded to projects that exceed normal zoning but offer offsetting public benefits.
Zoning should prohibit use of industrial toxic chemicals near Barron Park and other neighborhoods
April 28, 2012 |
The six-year conflict between Barron Park residents and Communications & Power Industries (CPI) over the company's use of toxic chemicals illustrates the difficulty of removing a legal non-conforming use from a neighborhood that is threatened by a spill or the accidental release of these dangerous substances.
Culture of defensiveness and secrecy reflects poorly on city and disrepects the public's right to know
April 22, 2012 |
No one has suggested that the death of Judith Goldblatt on the train tracks at Charleston Road a year ago was anything other than a tragic accident, in spite of the secretive and evasive handling of the case by Palo Alto and other officials. Related story:
One year later, questions remain about train/car collision
Skeptical council members continue to question need for client logs and increased regulation
April 15, 2012 |
In what is becoming almost an amusing struggle between city staff and the City Council, how Palo Alto regulates massage therapists once again occupied the time and attention this week of the four-member Council Policy and Services Committee, police and city administrators and a city attorney.
With a facility in need of an estimated $7 million in upgrades and the loss of Mountain View as a partner, Palo Alto has little choice but to outsource animal services
April 6, 2012 |
Palo Altans are big pet owners, and the prospect of not having the convenience and top-level service of the city-run Animal Services Center is not a popular one.
Palo Alto school board asks for major changes to Gunn counseling model
March 30, 2012 |
An unusually impatient and resolute school board made clear this week that it does not believe students at Gunn High School are receiving comparable counseling services to those at Palo Alto High School and asked administrators to return in June with a reform plan.
High-Speed Rail Authority changes course to gain 'bookend' support
March 18, 2012 |
In its struggle to gain credibility in the wake of more than doubling the cost to build a high-speed-rail line between San Francisco and Los Angeles, state rail authority officials Tuesday offered nearly $1 billion to help electrify Caltrain and a similar amount to a Los Angeles rail system.
Arrillaga project will raise important questions over how to trade-off the negative impacts of a large development with the community benefits it provides
March 11, 2012 |
The makings for an unusual public-private-nonprofit development that would transform the city's western gateway at El Camino and University Ave. into a vibrant office and performing arts complex was unveiled with much excitement at Monday night's City Council meeting. Related story:
Downtown plan could give TheatreWorks a home
Police union final hurdle in city's quest to close budget gap
March 2, 2012 |
After years of paying higher and higher costs for salary and pension benefits to its public safety employees, Palo Alto finally gained some leverage when voters approved repeal of binding arbitration last November.
Birge Clark building is surplus, but could be adapted to other uses if price is right
February 24, 2012 |
Palo Alto residents have been picking up their mail and buying stamps at the downtown post office since 1932, but change is coming and with the financial meltdown of the Postal Service, 380 Hamilton Ave. is likely to have a new owner before the year is out.
Former Paly and Harvard basketball wizard takes NBA by storm
February 17, 2012 |
Local basketball fans haven't had this much to talk about since Jeremy Lin helped Palo Alto High School win the state championship in 2006, knocking off a favored team that included a 7-foot-1-inch center and three starters who had signed for Division 1 schools, including Duke.
Decision to rebuild municipal services center, animal shelter would provide opportunities for creative solutions
February 10, 2012 |
If Palo Alto has an Achilles Heel most city officials would say it is the handful of public buildings that easily could crumble when a major earthquake hits the region.
Aligning high school graduation requirements with UC/CSU admissions standards is the first step toward eliminating achievement gap
February 6, 2012 |
After a false start last spring, when a similar plan was met with resistance, the Palo Alto school board took a major step in the right direction last week when it gave its informal blessing to an updated plan for phasing in graduation requirements that are in sync with what is required to attend state universities.
Simitian urging one-year delay, other legislators push bill to halt bond sale
January 14, 2012 |
Strong criticism about the financial viability of the High-Speed Rail project is making it more likely that its funding plan will either be delayed or scrapped.
AT&T's low-power distributed antenna system should be approved
January 10, 2012 |
The debate over whether to allow ATT to improve cell service in Palo Alto using small antenna positioned on the top of existing utility poles will finally come to a head later this month.
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