News Digest | March 9, 2012 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - March 9, 2012

News Digest

Private rooftops to generate power for Palo Alto

Private rooftops in Palo Alto could start generating energy for the Palo Alto Utilities Department under a program approved Monday, March 5, by the City Council.

Beginning April 2, the utilities department will accept contract applications from energy generators in Palo Alto, such as solar systems located on large commercial rooftops. Initially, the program will be open to generators with a total production capacity of at least 100 kilowatts.

The purpose of Palo Alto CLEAN (Clean, Local Energy Accessible Now) is to develop small, local renewable energy systems, according to the utilities department.

"We are aiming for this program to generate over 6,000 megawatt-hours of renewable energy every year, enough to power 1,000 homes," Director of Utilities Valerie Fong said.

The CLEAN program is the type known in the industry as a "CLEAN" or "feed-in tariff" program, in which a utility pays a tariff for power that feeds in to the utility grid.

City Council member Pat Burt called it "an important step toward greater energy self-reliance since these renewable resources will be located within the city itself.

"We will avoid costly transmission charges and reduce wasted energy losses from remote transmissions," Burt said.

The utilities department said it plans to eventually expand the program to include smaller sites and a wider range of energy-generating technologies.

More information is available through the utilities department website at or by calling program administrator Jon Abendschein at 650-329-2309.

Palo Alto committee backs trash-rate increase

For Palo Alto residents, garbage bins and trash rates have long enjoyed a simple and direct correlation — the smaller the can, the lower the rate.

This link, however, would be weakened under the city's plan to significantly change its method for calculating trash rates. Under a proposal that the City Council's Finance Committee endorsed Tuesday night, March 6, "conservation pricing" (providing cost incentives for residents to switch to smaller cans) will remain in place, but it will be supplemented by new flat fees geared toward recovering for the city the costs of providing services.

The new method means that instead of seeing a lump sum — based on trash-can size — on their refuse bills, residents will soon start seeing a variety of flat fees. This year, these will likely include an additional $2.09 fee for street sweeping and additional fees to pay for the city's household-hazardous-waste program and its Cleanup Day.

The goal is to bring revenues and expenditures for each type of customer into balance and to comply with Proposition 218, a state law that bars cities from setting rates that exceed the cost of providing services. In Palo Alto, the commercial sector currently pays more than its share for refuse services while the residential sector pays less. The new rate structure aims to fix this problem.

A recently completed "cost of service" study points at the extent of this disparity. The study shows that the revenues from commercial customers exceed the costs of providing service to these customers by 27 percent. The residential sector, by contrast, has expenses exceeding revenues by about 32 percent.

More tire slashings reported in Palo Alto

Three cars on East Meadow Drive and one at the Cubberley Community Center were found with slashed tires this week, according to Palo Alto Police Department records.

The three cars with slashed tires at 480 East Meadow Drive were found Monday morning, March 5, and the fourth car at Cubberley Community Center was found Tuesday morning, March 6.

The slashings follow a string of similar incidents March 3 in which 51 vehicles in Palo Alto were found with their tires slashed. Three of the recent tire slashings were listed as misdemeanors, and one was listed as a felony, according to the Palo Alto police report.

Investigating officers located a number of other damaged vehicles in the neighborhood that had not yet been reported. At the last count, police had found 51 vehicles that had at least one punctured tire.

Damaged vehicles have been found in the 200 block of East Meadow Drive, the 4000 block of Park Boulevard, the 200 block of Maclane Street, the 3900 block of Ventura Court, and the 300 block of Ventura Avenue.

The vandals slashed multiple tires on many vehicles using a knife or other sharp tool, mostly on the sides of the vehicles closest to the sidewalk. No exact damage estimate is available, but it is thought to be in the thousands of dollars, Lt. Zach Perron said.

The department is asking anyone who sees suspicious activity to call 911. Anyone with information on these cases can call the 24-hour dispatch center at 650-329-2143.

— Bay City News Service and Eric Van Susteren


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