Letters | March 12, 2010 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

Spectrum - March 12, 2010


Complete park as planned


There is a long history of using Byxbee Park for refuse operations, including compost. I was 24 when Byxbee Park was dedicated. With luck I will be 72 when the whole park is finally opened to the public!

Recently staff identified 4.7 acres of the park that could be used for a compost facility. Appendix H-3 of the Composting Task Force Report says, "This site is not recommended for several reasons. The site is on parkland. The site's southern extent would be constrained by the edge of the landfill's lift, ... would interfere with anticipated screening between the Byxbee Hills Park and the water-pollution-control plant, and also be too narrow and small to accommodate a practical operation. Its access would also conflict with the park."

A 2008 Compost Feasibility Study pointed out that a 1,000-foot buffer zone would be required for noise, dust and odors. That buffer would require 138 acres — basically all of Byxbee Park.

After years of waiting for our park, it should not be relegated to being a buffer zone!

Most of the renderings of an anaerobic-digestion facility show tidy rows of containers, usually painted green. What they do not show is the enormous pre-processing building that would be needed for food waste and four days worth of feedstock for a 24/7 operation. Nor do they show the post-processing piles of compost to be cured. Beeping truck traffic and engines generating power from recovered methane are also missing. Once the city commits to a multi-million dollar project like this, operated by a private contractor, it will be impossible to put the genie back in the bottle. Byxbee Park users will have to bear the brunt of the inevitable operational problems and future demands for more space or more lenient rules, etc.

It would be most unpleasant to have an industrial composting facility at the gateway to Byxbee Park and dominating its northerly viewshed. Council should complete Byxbee Park as planned.

Emily M. Renzel

Forest Avenue

Palo Alto

Zero Waste?


After listening to the presentation on recycling and many questions Tuesday night, the actual proposal seems very different from what has been written in some local papers and posted online.

A year will be spent informing everyone what is and isn't recyclable, what to recycle and what not to put with garbage. Trash collectors will not do extensive inspections of garbage, they will just look at what can be seen when they open the can to take it to the truck for dumping. They won't unwrap garbage bags to look inside.

After the first year if the trash collector sees significant amounts of recyclables in the garbage can they will leave a tag plus send another list of what is and isn't recyclable. It's unclear what is significant, but it's more than a small amount of recyclables. If there are more significant amounts of recyclables in the trash will they send a formal warning. A third such event will lead to a small fine. Only if there is a fourth amount of significant recyclables in the trash will they take actions like refusing to pick up the trash.

Zero waste is unattainable. There will always be things that can't be recycled, like Styrofoam. They agreed but prefer calling the program Zero Waste as that is the goal.

Let's see what they what the final proposal is taking into account the comments at the meetings and on the web page. My sense is it won't be nearly as draconian as was suggested.

Bob Moss

Orme Street

Palo Alto

Google fiber


Google is proposing to invest millions in developing and managing Google Fiber for Communities in selected cities.

If Palo Alto is selected, Google is willing to invest approximately $2,000 to hook-up your place as well as every premise in our community. This totals about $50 million of new leading-edge infrastructure in Palo Alto.

Google Open Fiber promises rock-solid reliability, competitive pricing, service choice and speeds of more than 1 gigabit per second. With that capability, each of us has the potential to create new and innovative breakthrough services in technology, health care, medicine, business, entertainment, games and in every conceivable field directly from our homes, garages, offices and businesses.

To merit this Google investment, each of us must make it clear to Google that their proposal is welcome. Simply click tinyurl.com/iWantGoogleFiber and fill in the blanks.

Do it now, the deadline for submissions is March 26.

Help and further information is available at: iPaloAlto.com.

Joe A. Villareal

Sheridan Avenue

Palo Alto

Yellow-light cameras


In Mayor Pat Burt's "State of the City" address he enthused about all the money Palo Alto can make from so-called red-light cameras. Actually they're "yellow light" cameras because they're only profitable when yellow lights are short-timed (usually three seconds). When they're timed properly (around four seconds) the number of infractions plummets permanently, making the cameras lose money, as both the Texas and Virginia departments of transportation discovered (see www.highwayrobbery.net).

As for public safety, those horrendous crashes we read about aren't caused by people trying to beat a yellow light by milliseconds (the norm for red-light camera tickets). They're caused by people completely ignoring the stoplight, roaring through intersections an average of five seconds after the light turned red. Which means the purpose of these cameras is overwhelmingly revenue, not safety. And it's easy to prove. Just install the cameras with four-second yellow lights and see what happens.

But even if they were profitable, it subverts the very idea of justice to treat our police department as a profit center. That's like Third World countries where cops routinely shake down civilians. Such practices ruin public respect for the law. And those whopping fines come out of citizens' discretionary spending. Yellow-light cameras redistribute income from citizens and local retailers to city employees and an Australian company.

Mayor Burt doesn't seem to grasp how immoral his statements are. Our deficit stems from paying city employees vastly more than comparable private-sector workers. Fix that first.

Lee Thé

San Antonio Road

Palo Alto

Pro-anaerobic process


I have been following the discussion around the future of Palo Alto's composting facility with keen interest.

I believe that the anaerobic-digesting process is worth pursuing wholeheartedly. It promises to earn the city money, produce biofuels or electricity to power vehicles or buildings, reduce trucking of compost and municipal and dried effluent waste, and conserve the currently used gas burned for sewage sludge incineration.

I understand that siting seems to be an issue, but fully agree with Walter Hays' remarks (published recently in two local papers) that the greatest good for the greatest number for the longest run would be to have the parkland be a tad smaller or even include the green roof of the building as part of the park, with the added benefit of being able to emphasize Palo Alto's contribution to a livable future through interpretive signs and the wonder of standing atop a hidden facility.

If Palo Alto pursues this sensible solution, we could be at the cutting edge of sustainable waste and energy management and poised to lend our experience and leadership to communities worldwide.

I hope we keep these thoughts under consideration as we go forward in discussing the future of our composting operations.

Lawrence Garwin

College Terrace

Palo Alto


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