Letters | February 19, 2010 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

Spectrum - February 19, 2010


High-speed rail vote


An insightful comedian said to me that voting against high-speed rail is like voting against the future.

I must make a few points regarding HSR. At the Palo Alto forum, many skeptics offered their "constructive" feedback, but as a Caltrain and BART rider many of these missed their mark.

Having HSR stop in San Jose requires a transfer to get to San Francisco. Have any forum skeptics ridden Caltrain to SFO before? If so, they'd remember taking three separate trains to get there with their luggage. Transfers are the bane of quick and convenient public transit.

Why should we listen to longtime residents of Palo Alto when planning for future transit? Their lack of vision years ago left the Peninsula with crowded highways and without BART!

Palo Alto should support HSR for the future of Peninsula transit and with a Palo Alto. station we might even get a true Destination Palo Alto.

Leo Hochberg

Hamilton Avenue

Palo Alto

Destination Palo Alto


Your editorial saying of the Destination Palo Alto program, "all's well that ends well" ignores an obvious and serious error in CMR 138:10, from which the council concluded the program was a success.

It is a good thing the council voted to end the program and transfer it to a regional business group, but the data suggests the program has been an abysmal failure from the beginning.

CMR 138:10 was prepared by Susan Barnes, manager of economic development, and sent to council prior to last Monday's meeting. Staff and consultant agreed there was no way to measure the results of the consultant's year long activities. Any revenue coming from the hotel tax (TOT) and retail sales taxes might have happened without the program. The staff report summarized data in a chart showing the first year program cost of $240,000 , revenue of $187,061 and a return on investment (ROI) of 78 percent.

While it is true that $187,061 is 78 percent of $240,000, this is not a ROI. A ROI of 78 percent would have yielded revenue in the first year of $427,200.

The city did not "invest" $240,000 in the Destination program; it spent that amount as a fee to the consultant. It is gone, forever! The result of the first year is a loss of $52,939! How can this be considered a success?

But it gets worse. The city has spent another $120,000 on the program for the first half of the current fiscal year, bringing the "investment" to $360,000. Add the $350,000 the city spent on the Senior Games, the total the city has spent on promoting Destination Palo Alto is $710,000.

Too bad council members (and the Weekly) didn't catch this error. I can only hope council members will refrain from believing the unbelievable, be more diligent in their oversight obligations and be more temperate in showering praise in the future.

Richard C. Placone

Chimalus Drive

Palo Alto

Freedom to marry


Last Friday, Feb.12, was National Freedom to Marry Day. Local rallies took place at county clerk-recorder's offices in Redwood City and San Jose to support same-sex couples that wish to marry.

Before last summer, when people would ask whether our daughter Kristina, a 1994 Gunn graduate, was married, I would respond "as married as she can get in California." I explained that she and the woman she loved had a beautiful wedding at Hidden Villa in 2005, with family and friends in attendance. But since they were a same-gender couple they had to settle for registering as domestic partners.

Then last summer they proudly walked up the steps of City Hall in San Francisco to lay claim to their newly acknowledged right to marriage and in a brief but moving civil ceremony became married spouses.

It didn't change their love for each other, or ours for both of them, but it's wonderful to be able to answer the question, "Is Kristina married?" with an enthusiastic "yes" and follow up with how wonderful it is to live close enough to be able to help out with their 1-year-old twin sons.

Sadly, the doorway to equal rights was closed by passage of Proposition 8. For now, argument focuses on who should prevail in the federal court case challenging the validity of the measure. Less attention has been given to the status of marriages performed before its passage, but foes of same gender marriage are unlikely to settle for any exceptions to their vision of marriage as exclusively between a man and a woman..

I cringe when I think of the assaults on marriages like our daughter's should the spirit of Proposition 8 prevail.

Someday, we won't need a National Freedom to Marry Day each year, but until then the Valentine's Day season will continue to be a time to remind Americans of our constitution's promise of equality before the law. Please support the right of all Americans to marry the person they love.

Jerry Underdal

Georgia Avenue

Palo Alto


Posted by George, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 19, 2010 at 1:19 pm

Mr Hochberg wonders "Why should we listen to longtime residents of Palo Alto when planning for future transit?" Now there's a forward looking sentiment!
If I'm not mistaken this is the Library Commissioner who also wouldn't listen to the public when they wanted more books in the library. He didn't see any reason to dedicate space to "dead trees."
Great way to run a democracy there.

Posted by Leo, a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 20, 2010 at 1:56 am

Hi George,
My point is that these longtime residents have a history of bad judgement on transportation issues, as evidenced by our present-day transit issues. I'm suggesting that those are screaming the loudest for delaying HSR have the same mentality of the people who prevented BART from going all the way to San Jose many years ago.

My point is why trust the judgement of those who were so wrong on this issue before?

Posted by bill, a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 21, 2010 at 5:43 pm

Every transit system in the world (except part of the British Inter City Railway which is now privatized!!!) is subsidized by the taxpayer. This includes the HSR systems in France and Japan. There is no reason to think the California HSR will be any different.

The major problem I see - aside from the bond voted on which forbids public money from being used - is the relatively few California residents who live within walking or biking distance of a stop. This means hundreds of acres of parking area or huge parking structures to park the cars of those traveling to use the system. And how do the people at the end of their journey continue to their final destination? Thousands of rental cars in their parking areas. Ah, me. I guess I don't understand the rational.

Posted by George, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 22, 2010 at 11:55 pm

"those who are screaming the loudest..." I think you aren't actually paying attention to what they are saying, or where the objections are coming from.
The people at the center of the opposition are relatively young, smart, educated, well mannered people. They present evidence about the bad business plan, the inadequate EIR, the fantasmagoric projections of ridership, the absence of maps, and more. They include Atherton residents, Menlo Park councilmembers and Palo Alto councilmembers. And questions about where the additional billions of dollars will come from. They present facts and evidence, not, ahem, loose language.
About the parking, last I heard a station would require a parking structure to hold 800-1000 cars. And car rental businesses.

Posted by Leo, a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 23, 2010 at 10:34 pm

How is an 800-1000 car parking structure any different than the thousands of cars "parked" on 101 during rush hour?

"The people at the center of the opposition are relatively young, smart, educated, well mannered people."

I'll agree that they're relatively well-mannered, but tell me how young all those 40-60 years residents of Palo Alto are? I saw a lot of gray hair in that crowd.

Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.


Post a comment

Posting an item on Town Square is simple and requires no registration. Just complete this form and hit "submit" and your topic will appear online. Please be respectful and truthful in your postings so Town Square will continue to be a thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

We prefer that you use your real name, but you may use any "member" name you wish.

Name: *

Select your neighborhood or school community: * Not sure?

Comment: *

Verification code: *
Enter the verification code exactly as shown, using capital and lowercase letters, in the multi-colored box.

*Required Fields


Save $5 when you register by Monday, July 24

Registration is now open for the 33rd annual Palo Alto Weekly Moonlight Run and Walk. This family-friendly event which benefits local nonprofits serving kids and families will take place on Friday, Oct. 6 at the Palo Alto Baylands.

Register Here