Palo Alto Weekly
20 Years
of Local News

Then and Now

How we began:
Looking back 20 years

20 year Timeline

For families, Palo Alto still has a strong lure

Business as usual?
Not downtown

The serious business
of school

Portraits of a Community



1979: Cubberley High School closes. Palo Alto Weekly begins publication. Palo Alto City Council rejects proposed rent control ordinance prohibiting annual increases of more than 7 percent.

1980: Palo Alto council decides to close city Yacht Harbor. "College Terrace rapist" apprehended. To eradicate Mediterranean fruit flies, Palo Alto rejects intensive spraying of malathion in favor of stripping fruit from trees.

1981: After stripping of fruit trees fails to eradicate Medfly, aerial spraying from helicopters begins. City agrees to buy closed Terman Middle School site for $9 million. Palo Alto voters reject gay rights ordinance.

1982: Three Palo Alto elementary schools closed. Palo Alto council invites private groups to submit bids to operate cable TV system. Stanford proposes 1,200-unit Stanford West housing project and extension of Sand Hill Road to El Camino Real.

1983: East Palo Alto incorporates as a city after a close election. Winter storms cause flooding in Barron Park and other creekside areas. Stanford puts Stanford West on hold after Palo Alto council imposes conditions on the project.

1984: Reagan administration OKs Stanford's terms to build Ronald Reagan presidential library on campus. Olympic soccer games are held at Stanford Stadium. Palo Alto council OKs extension of Sand Hill Road to El Camino Real; Menlo Park council files suit to block the project. Jordan Middle School closed, leaving Wilbur as the only middle school.

1985: San Francisco 49ers win Super Bowl at Stanford Stadium. Cable Communications Cooperative selected to operate Midpeninsula's cable television franchise. Palo Alto council OKs regulations to prevent construction of huge homes. Festival Theater, the Hamilton Avenue movie house where customers sat on beanbag chairs, closes.

1986: Palo Alto council imposes growth restrictions to control commercial development downtown. Tinsley school-desegregation lawsuit settled; Palo Alto and other Midpeninsula districts agree to accept Ravenswood district students. Dr. Edith Eugenie Johnson Park opens in Downtown Park North neighborhood. Palo Alto begins to clamp down on gas-powered leaf blowers because of complaints they violate noise limits. Palo Alto district proposes to merge its two high schools at Paly and convert Gunn to the city's only middle school.

1987: Reagan Presidential Foundation decides not to build its library at Stanford. Joaquin de Monet proposes high-rise office, hotel and shopping complex for Whiskey Gulch neighborhood of East Palo Alto. Plan is later abandoned after Palo Alto, Menlo Park and neighborhood groups sue to block it. Voters reject ballot measure calling for city to become nuclear-free zone.

1988: St. Patrick's Seminary in Menlo Park proposes to subdivide and sell part of its 88-acre property for construction of about 140 homes. After contentious 1987 election, Palo Alto school board reverses decision to merge the high schools. Two-year drought forces Palo Alto to activate its antiquated wells for backup water.

1989: Loma Prieta earthquake causes an estimated $150 million in damage at Stanford, additional damage at the Veterans Affairs hospital in Palo Alto and topples brick chimneys throughout the area. Palo Alto, Menlo Park and Atherton each come up with new rules to assure houses aren't too big for their lots. Palo Alto district adopts plan to reopen Jordan as a middle school and include sixth-graders at both middle schools. After $6 million renovation, Stanford Theatre reopens as a temple to classic movies of yesteryear.

1990: Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev visits Stanford. After four years of drought, Palo Alto mandates 25 percent cutback in water-use levels and hires bicycle-mounted "gush busters" to warn and cite water wasters. Federal officials tighten flood-protection rules affecting some 4,000 residents.

1991: A year of controversy over improper research billings by Stanford of the federal government culminates with Donald Kennedy's decision to resign as university president. Palo Alto council approves 45,000-square-foot expansion of Palo Alto Medical Foundation, but a referendum is quickly qualified for the ballot. Citizens group forms to protest nighttime noise in Palo Alto coming from Mountain View's Shoreline Amphitheatre.

1992: Drug-related crime and street violence in East Palo Alto peak with the shooting of 11 people, one fatally, in a 15-hour period. Medical foundation's expansion proposal is approved in referendum, but foundation begins considering move to Urban Lane. Stanford announces new plan to extend Sand Hill Road to El Camino, along with major expansion of shopping center and construction of 1,200-unit housing project.

1993: Two months after celebrating 100 years of publishing in Palo Alto, the Peninsula Times Tribune closes its doors. East Palo Alto approves Gateway 101, its first major redevelopment. For first time in school history, Paly boys basketball team captures state championship with victory over Inglewood's Morningside High School. Palo Alto Animal Services Department receives anonymous call that a black mamba snake is missing, but the deadly reptile is never found, and some officials wonder if it was all a hoax.

1994: Palo Alto celebrates its centennial at 275 events that attract an estimated 350,000 people. World Cup soccer comes to Stanford. Brazilian fans charm locals with their drums and dancing, and the U.S. team loses to Brazil, 1-0, in a July 4 match. Varsity Theatre shows its final film, "Cinema Paradiso," and a developer announces plans to convert the Spanish-style landmark to a bookstore and cafe. Weekly becomes first newspaper to publish its entire editorial content on the World Wide Web.

1995: Palo Alto voters reject Measure R, which would have frozen the city's building limit for 20 years and prevented the rezoning of residential property to commercial.Palo Alto voters approve Measure B, a $143 million bond to finance the repair and renovation of district schools. Serial rapist sexually assaults five women and attempts to attack two others in less than three weeks in Menlo Park, Palo Alto and Sunnyvale. He is finally arrested in January 1996.

1996: Palo Alto council places strict limits on demolitions of old homes, while work begins on a new historic preservation law. David Packard, the father of Silicon Valley, dies at age 83. Bloomingdale's opens its first store west of the Rockies, at Stanford Shopping Center. Stanford trustees and University of California regents approve a merger of two Stanford and two UC San Francisco hospitals.

1997: Palo Alto council and city voters approve Stanford's Sand Hill Road development projects, but Menlo Park files a lawsuit to block them. Early morning arson fire rips through an East Palo Alto home, killing nine people, including five children, and injuring eight others, including four firefighters. NASA scientist Herbert "Bert" Kay is kicked and beaten to death as he takes an evening stroll through downtown Palo Alto. Six gang members arrested. Palo Alto approves ordinance making it an offense to sit or lie on downtown streets. Accompanied by her parents, Chelsea Clinton arrives at Stanford to begin her freshman year. Palo Alto council approves Medical Foundation's plan to move to new, $100 million campus on Urban Lane.

1998: El Nino storms cause flooding that damages hundred of Midpeninsula homes and, in Palo Alto, sparks criticism over city's preparedness. East Palo Alto council approves University Circle office, hotel and retail project for Whiskey Gulch. Menlo Park ordinance banning gas-powered leaf blowers is rejected in a referendum. First store opens at East Palo Alto's Gateway redevelopment project, renamed the Ravenswood 101 Retail Center.

1999: After three years of contentious debate, the Palo Alto council passes a new historic preservation ordinance; a referendum is quickly qualified for the March 2000 ballot. Cable Co-op board approves sale of system to AT&T for $70 million in cash and $20 million in other considerations. Merged operations of UCSF and Stanford hospitals lose $66 million in current year, prompting calls to end the merger.

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