Around Town | July 27, 2012 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - July 27, 2012

Around Town

BEATING THE DEADLINE... Three new playing fields. A redesigned Baylands golf course with a "Wow" factor. New plazas and wider sidewalks on a soon-to-be two-lane California Avenue. A revised massage ordinance. A refreshed Cogswell Plaza. New contracts for workers represented by the city's largest labor union and by its police-managers union. These are just some of the big-ticket items the Palo Alto City Council green-lighted Monday in its final meeting before a month-long break. There was one item, however, that the council didn't get to during the seven-and-a-half-hour meeting: high-speed rail. Lawmakers were scheduled to consider endorsing a citizens' initiative to cut off future funding for the locally unpopular $68 billion project. Shortly before midnight, the council agreed to address the issue at its first meeting after the break. Even this proved to be a blessing in disguise. The two Republicans leading the initiative announced Wednesday that they are suspending their campaign for the revote. Former U.S. Rep. George Radanovich and current state Sen. Doug LaMalfa issued a statement on the campaign website that the initiative is suspended "while litigation brought against high-speed rail in Central Valley moves through the court system." They vowed, however, that the effort is not dead, just delayed for a while. Radanovich called the decision to suspend the campaign "a postponement of what I see as a future initiative allowing voters the opportunity to tell politicians in Sacramento that they don't want a California high-speed rail system plagued with budget overruns and repeated failure to meet every deadline."

MIT OF THE WEST? ... Is Stanford getting a reputation as the "MIT of the West?" Stanford philosopher Debra Satz, a popular teacher and senior associate dean for the humanities and arts, worries that this reputation could deter talented students in the humanities. One strategy to broaden the image is to invite talented, humanities-oriented high school students to attend a summer program at Stanford — possibly leading them later to apply for undergraduate study in something besides engineering. This year Satz launched the Summer Humanities Institute, in which 50 high school students from across the country immersed themselves in the American and French revolutions. The Cost of the three-week institute, which ended July 13, was $5,150, but funding from the School of Humanities and Sciences and the provost's office enabled the program to offer "need-blind admission," Stanford said.

WHAT MAKES ME TICK ... Hey, high school seniors out there, it's college-essay time! Twenty-seven Gunn and Palo Alto high school students assembled this past week to get a jump on the task of trying to explain themselves, in writing, to admissions officers. The goal by week's end was to have working drafts of the Common Application essay as well as "clear direction for how to work on UC and supplemental essays," said Paly English teacher Shirley Tokheim, who led the group. The class was part of a stated effort by the school district to boost support for seniors writing their college essays. In the past, that work has been done in some English classes, at the discretion of the teacher. This fall, at least at Paly, an after-school essay-writing workshop will be offered and essay-writing help also will be available on College Awareness Day, scheduled for Oct 17, Tokheim said.

PLANNING AHEAD ... Palo Alto's Planning and Transportation Commission will exchange institutional knowledge for fresh eyes next month, when Vice Chair Susan Fineberg concludes her tenure on the famously thorough and painstakingly detail-oriented board. Fineberg is best known for her encyclopedic knowledge of the Comprehensive Plan and a general skepticism toward major new developments that could impact existing neighborhoods. On Monday, the City Council voted 6-3 to appoint Michael Alcheck, a real-estate attorney who works as general counsel for the Loyola Management Company, as its newest commissioner. According to his application, Alcheck is involved in the San Francisco chapter of Urban Land Institute and sits on the San Francisco board of directors of the Jewish Community Relations Council. At a prior meeting, both Fineberg and Alcheck received four council votes. This week, with all nine council members present, Alcheck received six votes (Karen Holman, Greg Schmid and Yiaway Yeh voted for Fineberg). His isn't the only new face that will soon be making its commission debut. Earlier in the month, the council named Alex Panelli to replace architect Dan Garber, who recently stepped down to work on the proposed office-and-theater development near the downtown Caltrain station.


Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 27, 2012 at 2:49 pm

Another REAL ESTATE ATTORNEY on the Planning Commission and a highly competent expert booted out.
Burt, Scharff, and Klein are leaving their scars on the city and the developers can have a party. The 1 percenters take care of one another.

Like this comment
Posted by Fred Balin
a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 27, 2012 at 4:15 pm

Fred Balin is a registered user.

.. know almost nothing about the new P&TC members, yet am still shocked over the council's decision to not reappoint Susan Fineberg.

She was a model commissioner ...
... extremely intelligent
É and dedicated É
... always exceptionally prepared,
... fluent in the Comp Plan, Zoning Code, overarching statewide rules and legal constraints,
É always asking thoughtful, relevant questions of staff and colleagues
... always interacting in the most respectful manner no matter how contentious an issue

Low key, while also clear and direct,

She took her role as a "chief inspector" for the council and representative of the public interest very seriously

She believed strongly in proper process, transparency, and inclusion ...

and she was her own person, not afraid to make to her own, best judgment

Maybe these were part of disappointing reasoning by which she was not reappointed: the desire for more malleable, quicker, pre-planned outcomes over thoughtful, studied, independent consideration

.. her departure over a series of votes, and until proven differently, rests unfavorably on this council.

Like this comment
Posted by common sense
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 27, 2012 at 8:03 pm

Susan Fineberg was a commissioner who represented the residents of Palo Alto rather than the developers. Her most recent votes on the Lytton Gateway and other high density projects most likely irritated the developer crowd who are represented by Jim Baer. That's why a majority of the council voted Susan out. They don't like anyone on the Planning Commission asking tough questions - it puts the council on the spot.

Return the favor - don't vote for Pat Burt this November.

Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 28, 2012 at 4:02 pm

Susan Fineberg was a commissioner who represented the residents of Palo Alto ...
By appointing a REAL ESTATE ATTORNEY, Burt, Scharff (Real Estate attorney), and Klein (investment attorney) can be assured that developers will sail through the commission.

Like this comment
Posted by PA Tax Payer
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 1, 2012 at 10:59 am

Three new soccer fields east of H.101 for whom? Whose going to use them, residents of EPA? And, Palo Alto will be paying for all this!! Meanwhile, it's revealed that the soccer fields at the corner of El Camino Real and Page Mill are left empty most of the time, nobody is using them because there's nowhere to park!!!

Another dumb, dumb, decision on the part of our out of touch CC.

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