Letters to the editor | August 23, 2013 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

Spectrum - August 23, 2013

Letters to the editor

In regard to ugly houses


It is absolutely necessary that city commissions be more balanced. Palo Alto is made up of unique neighborhoods. These must be preserved if we are to remain as a nationally known town to be envied for what has been generated here over the years. Our Architectural Review Board threatens to destroy these qualities and innovations by approving anything that will enrich the city's profits without regard of what they are allowing to happen to the neighborhoods.

For example, raise the height limit so Alma Street can become a tunnel for the train station and a corridor of buildings with tiny housing units to rent to low-income worker bees. Aided by allowing the purchase of "outdated" one-level apartments to tear down or build more condos for the younger crowd of professionals eager for the nightlife on University Avenue.

Or approve plans to remodel or take down to build expensive ego palaces. Whatever happened to the requirement that buildings should fit the neighborhood, consider light planes, sight lines, etc.? There have been a few well-done remodels but far too many hideous stucco villas crammed onto lots between smaller houses. The worst examples of new design looks industrial such as the econoboxes that resemble hamster habitats or a telemarketer cube farm that sit on the north end of Guinda and the south end of Ross.

Mary Starner

Edgewood Drive, Palo Alto

Protect neighborhoods


A vote AGAINST measure D this coming November is not focused against low-income senior housing. We respect PAHC's many successful projects all over town. Our differences with the Palo Alto Housing Corporation are peripheral to the Maybell project. Basically, we oppose rezoning neighborhoods.

Planned Community (PC) zoning is City Hall speak for rezoning. It is increasingly used by City Hall to favor developers — developers who are brimming over with a never-ending list of projects. We are in a critical fight for the very soul of the city. Growth can be good. Over-growth, like a cancer, can destroy a community. Join with us to protect all Palo Alto neighborhoods.

Bob Roth

Middlefield Road, Palo Alto

End transplant abuse


Major news headlines reported last week read that China will phase out use of executed prisoners' organs for transplants. On the surface these headlines are heartening and suggest that the PRC, after years of international pressure, is finally going to stop these egregious human-rights violations. Death-row prisoners are not however the only unethical source of organs used in China.

The big elephant in the room that the headlines fail to mention is China's other group of prisoners, prisoners of conscience, who are estimated by some investigators to be the largest source of illegal organs in China. They are not acknowledged or included in China's latest commitment to the international community to meet the basic ethical standards in transplant medicine. These horrific abuses are being raised in U.S. congressional resolution HR.281 recently introduced by Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., and Congressman Rob Andrews, D-N.J. The resolution expresses concern over persistent and credible reports of systematic, state-sanctioned organ harvesting from prisoners of conscience in China, including from large numbers of Falun Gong practitioners imprisoned for their religious beliefs, as well as numbers of other religious and ethnic minority groups including Uighurs, Tibetans and House Christians.

I urge your readers to contact Congresswoman Anna Eshoo to co-sponsor this important resolution. If passed, HR.281 will help our country's doctors, patients and hospitals make informed decisions regarding transplant abuses in China and will also send a strong message to the PRC that these crimes must stop.

Alejandro Centurion, MD

Graduate of Stanford Neurology

Carmel, Calif.

No man is an island


I can't be the only one tired of the battle cries and justifications of why different residences don't mix in Palo Alto. We will always be in the same boat, no matter how many desires of separateness that are expressed. John Donne said many centuries ago that "no man is an island" and it seems to still apply today. We're all human beings doing what seems best, no matter how many disguised desires for a separate enclave are advocated.

Lorin Krogh

Encina Avenue, Palo Alto

By all means


In the wake of the Weekly's superb article on social media and how it can harm teenagers, but before asking why we allow this harm in our schools, let's tote up some things forbidden on campus — at Gunn, for example — because they disrupt, distract or endanger.

If you're a teenager at Gunn, you can't bring your fireworks or water-balloons onto campus. You're forbidden by the student handbook to bring laser-pointers or matches or noise-makers onto campus, because the "presence of inappropriate objects can create a disruption." Nix on the skateboards or bikes, when classes are in session. You can't wear clothing that's too revealing (e.g., bellybuttons banned), because "appearance and dress ... shall not interfere with teaching and learning."

Hazing is out. So are T-shirts with profanity on them, or drug insignia. Lay off the streaking or "excessive affection." Unregistered visitors qualify as trespassers; don't go barefoot; and forget about loitering in a restroom.

"But by all means," we are in effect saying to our children, "make use of your electronic device at school — where during passing-periods, and brunch, and lunch, and prep periods, and when you've skipped out of class to use the restroom and not loiter, you can check social media to send and receive gossip, taunts, lewd comments, subtle harassment, anonymous bullying and naked photos."

"By all means," we say by our silence, "suffer the resulting feelings — which never, ever, will make it hard for you to flourish in class."

Marc Vincenti

Los Robles, Palo Alto

Maybell is the wrong target


The enthusiasm for repealing the City Council's rezoning of the Maybell/Clemo property as a remedy to the city's problems with Planned Community (PC) zoning concessions that result in expanded projects and profits for developers and minimal advantages for the community is wrongheaded.

You'll find wide agreement, among supporters as well as detractors of the PAHC's Maybell project, that the city has failed to stand up for citizens' desires by approving projects that are unattractive and out of scale.

But building affordable housing in Palo Alto appears to require PC re-zoning. Perhaps there are other ways that PAHC, a nonprofit corporation whose sole function is to produce and manage affordable housing, can compete for developable properties, but no one so far has shown us how.

If it is impossible to produce a significant amount of affordable housing without the tool of PC rezoning, the opponents of PAHC's Maybell project are being disingenuous when they insist that they support affordable housing for low-income seniors, but within existing zoning restrictions.

If you believe, as I do, that there is a public benefit in having additional affordable housing in Palo Alto, please use your energy and organization to go after the projects that abuse PC zoning, not this one that doesn't.

Jerry Underdal

Georgia Avenue, Palo Alto

What's happening at Bixby Park?


The city needs to explain what is happening at Bixby Park, the small landfill at the end of Embarcadero. A steady stream of dump trucks has deposited earth over the past few months. As the mountain rises ever higher, what is the height limit? What are the fiscal consequences? Is the city doing this to earn money? Some of the earlier area where we regularly walk is now being reshaped, bushes have been torn out, benches removed. And the small depressions/valleys that made the original Hargreaves design so successful are disappearing into a grandiose plateau that is out of scale with its surroundings. The current mound of earth resembles nothing so much as Hoover Dam, especially when viewed from the south. It has nothing to do with nature.

Finally, what is going to be planted on this vast barren site? Someone was told sod; if true that is unbelievable. Over the past two years Save the Bay has been planting natives. I hope the city isn't going to destroy them.

Betsy G. Fryberger

Middlefield Road, Palo Alto

Noisy new roads


We were quite excited that the city was moving forward with the much needed road repaving. However, we were extremely disappointed to find that we're getting a patchwork of noisy concrete, as opposed to a complete resurfacing of quiet asphalt like the city installed on Alma and Bryant. This is a very unfortunate decision on the part of the city.

Laura Cory

Emerson Street, Palo Alto

A Palo Alto poem


My Palo Alto /My Hometown /Is the best in the West /High Standard of living,/ Educated and cultured folks/ Restaurants galore/ In all shades of ethnicity. Stanford University,/ Tree lined streets,/ A truly Mediterranean climate/ With all of its attributes/ And I say, attributes,/ But our sidewalks are a disgrace,/ A place to trip,/ A place to fall,/A place to slip,/ And break a hip. Priorities are in the wrong place./ Money spent to raise administrative salaries,/ A police department in need of employees/ To enforce laws/ Neglected by lack of people power,/ Sidewalks need renovation/ And not waiting ten years to do a fixing. Put priorities in the right place! Keep on building low-income housing/ And see what we will become; An overly crowded city/ In disrepair and continued disrespect. My city is in competition,/ A city trying to emulate Manhattan,/ But never reaching that higher status. Palo Alto!! Live up to your attributes!

Philip T. Meyerson

Webster Street, Palo Alto


Like this comment
Posted by Love the JCC
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 23, 2013 at 8:26 am

Ms Starner has come up with some new names to denigrate other people's homes or businesses that she does not like ("that resemble hamster habitats or a telemarketer cube farm that sit on the north end of Guinda and the south end of Ross.")
This follows a thread earlier this week in which a poster described homes as " rabbit warrens or ant farms than villages." (Web Link)
This of course follows the long standing tradition of the past when homes were labelled as MacMansions or Taco bell homes""!!
One has to wonder if some PA residents stay up until the wee hours of the night thinking up these terms
But I guess some people actually believe that the older buildings in Palo Alto are something special, when in fact they are pitiful looking structures that are not worth a second glance. I guess insecurity does breed contempt for others that build what they want

Like this comment
Posted by No on D
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 23, 2013 at 8:32 am

"A vote AGAINST measure D this coming November is not focused against low-income senior housing. We respect PAHC's many successful projects all over town."
Just don't build one in OUR neighborhood.

Like this comment
Posted by Eileen Wright
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 23, 2013 at 9:10 am

Nor in mine

Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 23, 2013 at 9:30 am

As the poster who came up with the terms rabbit warren homes and ant farm homes, I did not stay up late thinking about that title.

I wonder if the person who thought of "village" as a suitable descriptive term for one of these big developments spent any longer than I did on that title.

As for the JCC, I haven't found a fitting description for it that suits my impression of it. What goes on inside and the myriad homes within its boundaries is something I cannot comment on. The look on the outside is far from appealing. I agree the previous Sun building was nothing to write home about, but at least it was setback from the street with parking and landscaping which made its size and shape less intrusive on passers by. As I sit as a passenger in a car going by, I am always saddened that the size of this building plus its nearness to the street as well as the larger than life pictures of people advertising its services, is not a pleasant outlook.

I live in an old home which we have updated to blend in with our neighborhood. I think change is a good thing provided change keeps character and charm in mind. We have many old dilapidated homes and buildings in Palo Alto that do need to be updated, but if that means replacing them with rabbit warrens and ant farms is what we are in for, I would rather have the McMansions and Taco Bell homes instead.

There is nothing wrong with a McMansion and Taco Bell home if it is in a decent sized lot with setbacks and landscaping. When they are so close to the lot perimeter and sidewalk, they are just not appealing in any neighborhood.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.