Around Town | April 9, 2010 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - April 9, 2010

Around Town

LET THERE BE LED LIGHT ... Palo Altans may soon see their city in a new light — a whitish hue, to be exact. The city is planning to replace all 6,300 of its existing streetlights with the more efficient LED lights, a project that is expected to take several years. The first 600 or so are slated for replacement early next year. A pilot project last summer found that LED (which stands for Light Emitting Diode) streetlights are 40 percent more energy efficient than the currently used high-pressure-sodium lamps and would have a lower maintenance cost because of the longer lamp life. The Utilities Department is currently testing LED lights from six different manufacturers and it's asking residents for feedback. The new lights were recently installed around City Hall, on Ramona Street, Bryant Street, and Forest and Hamilton avenues. Residents are encouraged to e-mail the Utilities Department at to offer feedback on the new lights. The city is also trying to get customers to buy LED lights for household use. The Utilities Department has been mailing out $8 coupons for the purchase of two different styles of LED lights at Palo Alto Hardware, Peninsula Hardware and Stanford Electric Works.

RAMBLE ON ... Palo Alto's elected officials have a reputation for thoroughness and eloquence — two traits that often turn Monday night meetings into Tuesday morning meetings. Council members frequently use their question period to give lectures and to ask staff rhetorical and meandering "questions." Every now and then, members launch into philosophical monologues to explain a vote they're about to make. So it was this week, when the City Council debated the city's plans for a new composting facility. After four hours of discussion stretching well past midnight, Mayor Pat Burt reproached his colleagues for talking too much and suggested that it might be time to consider imposing time limits for council members. "I had really hoped we can exercise self-responsibility and distinguish between focused comments on subject matter and what we saw tonight, which was some very long monologues that I certainly believed were beyond what was necessary," Burt said in a relatively brief monologue following the composting discussion. "I just don't think we can conduct our business effectively if we continue in that way. ... If we basically can't exercise the self-responsibility, we'll have to make rules for ourselves."

WHO WANTS TO BE A WATCHDOG? ... The Human Relations Commission has a sweeping mandate that includes police oversight, discrimination complaints and fostering civic engagement. The commission's recent efforts include introducing a Civic Engagement Award and bringing World Music Day to downtown Palo Alto. But now, the commission is facing an HR problem of its own. Commissioners Jack Hamilton and Olana Khan had both recently moved out of the city and resigned from their positions. Commissioner Shauna Mora's term has expired and she decided not to reapply, leaving three vacancies on the seven-member board. With only four members, the commission is in danger of not having a quorum if any member is absent. The City Council was scheduled to appoint new members to the commission Monday night but decided not to do so because of a dearth of applicants. Only five people, Masuma Ahmed, Theresa Chen, Robert Kuhar, Diane Morin and Jill O'Nan applied for the three seats. Councilwoman Karen Holman suggested reopening the application process in hopes of attracting more applicants. Her proposal passed 5-4, with Sid Espinosa, Nancy Shepherd, Greg Schmid and Yiaway Yeh dissenting. Anyone interested in applying can contact the City Clerk's Office at 650-329-2571.

FARMERS WANTED ... Fresh produce returned to downtown Palo Alto last week, when the city's newest farmers market opened at Lytton Plaza. The enterprise, spearheaded by the Yolo County-based cooperative Capay Valley Growers, originally opened in front of City Hall as a pilot project last year but shut down because of lackluster demand and the City Council's decision to stop subsidizing the market. Capay Valley will continue to supply produce for the Wednesday afternoon market, but City Manager James Keene said the city is soliciting additional farmers to attend the market, including ones from Marin, Los Altos and Pescadero. Keene said the city hopes to have six farms participating in the project, which is no longer receiving city funds.


Posted by JOBST bRANDT, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 16, 2010 at 5:29 pm



Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 17, 2010 at 6:31 am

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

Let's see if some street lights can be heat or motion detector activated.

Posted by Anon, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 17, 2010 at 10:31 am

The point that the naysayers miss is that conservation is the cheapest form of energy you can buy. Every new power plant will raise your rates. This city program is just a try-out, but, LED lights definitely look a winner long-term. Yes, today, they are too expensive, but, if volumes go up and prices go down, this could be huge.

Posted by Catherine, a resident of Community Center
on Apr 18, 2010 at 10:01 pm

The new LEd street lights I have seen in Palo Alto are garish, very white, and very offensive. Street lights were changed all over the Santa Clara Valley so that they would not interfere with astronomy research on Mt. Hamilton. When flying in or out of area airports, the few places that still have the old incandescent lighting really stand out. But for the most part, all the area cities have the warm toned-down orange-glow lights. Anyone know what the effect will be on scientific research?

Posted by Well,..., a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Apr 18, 2010 at 10:27 pm

It turned out that all those replaced street lights had no impact on Mt. Hamilton research. So it does make sense to revert to energy use and brightness as priorities. I suppose the aesthetics around garish and offensive lighting matters as well, but I don't personally think that matters as much as energy use and safety given the rapid growth of problems with those two. (I do agree that there's rapid growth here in the garish and offensive.)

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