Letters to the editor | March 14, 2014 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

Spectrum - March 14, 2014

Letters to the editor

Affordable housing loss


I have lived in Barron Park for 27 years, and I've come to know the residents of the Buena Vista Mobile Home Park in our neighborhood as hardworking people who know and care about each other and the neighborhood, and who are important constituents of Barron Park. I'm very concerned about the possibility that residents of Buena Vista will be dispossessed of the homes they own, their children's schools, their extended families and community, and their livelihoods if they are forced to leave the area in search of affordable housing.

Closing Buena Vista would mean the loss of 108 units of affordable housing with no plan for replacement. This loss would affect not only the Buena Vista residents but our entire city. Where are the people we depend on to provide services, to staff our restaurants and shops, supposed to live? Do we really want a city where everyone who works here has to commute from a distance, causing us ever more traffic congestion and parking problems? In a city inhabited by several billionaires and many multimillionaires, a city which is projecting a tax income bonanza in the years ahead, can we not find a way to preserve this longstanding community in our midst instead of "scraping" it and replacing it with luxury apartments?

Surely we can and must do better than that.

Don Anderson

Alta Mesa Avenue, Palo Alto

About time


We moved to Menlo Park from Seattle in 1955 and that winter we were very surprised to read about San Francisquito Creek flooding parts of Menlo Park, Palo Alto and East Palo Alto. There was agreement that immediate improvements needed to be made to the creek to prevent it from happening again. Fifty-nine years later there is still that worry, and San Francisco Bay Water Quality Control Board has decided to block the improvements planned. Palo Alto agreed to giving up some of the golf course land to help with the creek improvements, temporary reconfiguration of the golf course has been done, stockpiling of dirt has started on the course. Residents in the area still have to worry every time there is a threat of heavy rains and pay high premiums for flood insurance with threats of increases every year.

In the meantime, we have raised two daughters, become grandparents and now great grandparents and hope to see something accomplished in our lifetimes.

Requiring many studies and approvals, BART was built, Stanford Shopping Center, Stanford Hospital, AT&T Park, Foster City, Redwood Shores, Devils Slide tunnels, two Half Moon golf courses, San Mateo golf course was closed and rebuilt, and now a new 49ers stadium is being built. The list goes on. Something is very wrong if the San Francisco Board is refusing to allow the flooding problem to be solved by our communities.

Don and Bonnie Miller

Lois Lane, Palo Alto

Whose best interest?


(The) Daily Post reported that the Palo Alto City Council is considering extending Turner Construction Company's management to oversee a new contractor for completion of the Mitchell Park Library. But Turner is the same company that oversaw Flintco Pacific's failure to complete the Mitchell Park project on time! Why would the City Council pay a company $460,000 to do in the future what they have already failed to do? Are there no better options? Are there possible conflicts of interest?

We citizens of Palo Alto trust our Council to manage our tax money responsibly. Actions such as this make us wonder how we should vote in November.

Rich Stiebel

Talisman Drive, Palo Alto

What online courses can't do


In the 1990s, Marc Vincenti, the English teacher of my younger son, returned essays replete with provocative questions, insight-inspiring observations and judicious praise, as well as suggestions for improving wording — all invaluable responses beyond the capability of unresponsive online courses. After becoming a writing and literature tutor who regularly sees student essays marked with sparse and perfunctory comments of English teachers within and outside PAUSD, I ruefully observe that mastery of English cannot be assumed of those who teach it. Superb teachers, like Mr. Vincenti, cannot be replaced by software.

Anne Knight

Roosevelt Circle, Palo Alto

Caring about residents


I have been a resident of Palo Alto for 12 years and a homeowner in Barron Park since 2005. My three kids attend Gunn and Terman, and I am a minister in a local church. I'm writing to strongly urge the city to step in and act on behalf of our neighbors and friends at Buena Vista mobile home park. I would ask the city to do all it can to encourage and persuade the owner to sell to the residents or a nonprofit developer for a fair price in order to preserve the low-cost housing in Palo Alto, and most importantly to allow people who are already thriving and part of our community to stay in their homes and schools.

I understand the need and right for the property owner to receive a fair price, but I believe a mutually beneficial solution can be found if all are willing. In addition I would ask the City to consider using the Maybell loan money to support the residents during this time of upheaval. It is incumbent on every member of the community to care for and care about every resident and the situation they are facing, especially when money and power are not on "their side." This is a community issue and one we are all part of whether we are residents or not. I implore the council to act on the community's behalf in this situation.

Liz Milner

Julie Court, Palo Alto

Public servants or masters?


Recall that Thomas Jefferson warned us that liberty requires vigilance — that's We the People keeping watch over the politicians, not the other way around. What happens when public servants become public masters? Here are a few examples:

By governmental decree: Thou shalt rezone thy suburb for high-density housing projects alongside the "transit corridor" (i.e., train), though these foist urban squalor on suburbia, and no one in his right mind wants to live in them. Thou shalt be a steadfast pedestrian or bicyclist or take the bus instead of driving, though driving is the most convenient and efficient means of transportation. Thou shalt not purchase incandescent light bulbs, though they are the cheapest and safest, and provide the best quality light. Thou shalt not speak critically of thy all-benevolent government, including comments on Facebook et al., on pain of arrest, indefinite detention, prolonged interrogation, etc., as befits likely terrorists or other enemies of the State.

Maybe time to get some new folks in office and try becoming a free Republic again, under that long-forgotten document, the Constitution.

Cherie Zaslawsky

Oak Lane, Menlo Park

Breaking the rules


Laws are made to be broken? Really? How about when a high-priced private girls school like Palo Alto's Castilleja admits to violating since 2002 a city ordinance limiting student enrollment to 415? How about the City's Code Enforcement failure to compel over-enrollment reduction from 448 to 415 that has continued illegally now 12 years later? How about the City Manager and Planning staff allowing anyone to defy and make a mockery of its Conditional Use Permit by interpreting the conditions as it wishes? How about the laws of honor and integrity that a school purporting to build character and good citizenship flunks Ethics 101 by cheating on enrollment and breaking scores of forgotten promises including a parking garage and alleviating traffic, parking and safety woes of its neighbors? Is it moral for a group with wealth and power to pursue its ends of expansion if it must trample the laws of society?

Vic Befera

High Street, Palo Alto

Buena Vista appraisal


The 2013 appraisal of the Buena Vista Mobile Home Park, commissioned and paid for by the owner, Joe Jisser, claims that the appraised value as a mobile home park is the same as it was in 2012, and includes an estimated 3-6 months probable marketing time (this could be much shorter and simpler with ready buyers who have already made an offer). It also alleges that with the current RM-15 zoning and with the proposed increased RM-40 zoning it has exactly the same appraised value. The claim is that higher construction costs exactly offset the increase in value due to the proposed increase in density. If this were true, there would be no reason to apply for a zoning change. There is no update since 2013.

Margaret Fruth

El Camino Way, Palo Alto

Auditor's assignment


Here is a new and very important project for the Auditor's Department, one that can save the City and its residents millions of dollars.

The downtown Parking Assessment District (AD) arrangement is flawed, favoring one group — the commercial property owners and developers — who use it primarily to avoid providing the parking needed to support the increasing intensity of downtown development. How? Why?

The City credits parking for AD members based on a ratio of 1 parking space for each 250 square foot of commercial building (1:250). However the actual parking provided in the last decade is closer to 1:2,500, only 10 percent of the need, saving the property owners millions and transferring the costs and traffic to others. No one — Planning staff and City Council, the Business Association, the Chamber — seems to understand how the district works, what it promised, what it provides or how assessments are transferred from the property owners to businesses and employees — owners paying virtually nothing for the parking solutions needed for their buildings, buildings demanding among the highest lease rates in the nation.

Everyone but the owners suffer from this faulty logic including employees, local businesses, commercial tenants, residents and the adjacent neighborhoods extending from Embarcadero and across Middlefield Road.

Sounds like a job for the Auditor to find out the facts, if only the City Council will assign them the task.

Ken Alsman

Addison Avenue, Palo Alto


Posted by Inge Infante, a resident of Addison School
on May 8, 2014 at 9:01 am

I was happy to see the construction of the house on 1130 Middlefield finally nearing its completion. I was not so happy to see an oak tree delivered to be planted in the front lawn. Oak trees are "dirty" trees. They drop leaves, caterpillars and acorns constantly. The acorns are distributed in the neighborhood by blue jays and dug up by squirrels, destroying what is growing, including the lawn. My immediate neighbor planted a lawn under an existing oak tree. The lawn died within a few months for lack of sunlight. So my neighbor had to spent a lot of money installing artificial turf. Along my driveway I just counted 30 oak seedlings. If I let them grow, they can easily lift the sidewalk.
Why not plant a tree that does no damage and people will actually enjoy, like a dogwood?

Posted by Erwachsen, a resident of Community Center
on May 8, 2014 at 6:37 pm

It seems the city has themes of certain trees on certain blocks of streets. For some, the theme is magnolias, which are fragrant, for others, it is sycamores, which drop branches on parked cars. Apparently your block has an oak theme. However, it should be planted on the parkway, not on the front lawn. Although redwoods and oaks are native trees, they wreak a lot of havoc with concrete sidewalks, which the city has been sued over at least a couple of times when pedestrians tripped over the cracks and bumps where the roots lifted up the pavements.

Call the city arborist and complain! A neighbor of mine tripped over a sizeable root protruding from a sidewalk ( the trees' canopy also obstructed the street light, so he never saw the root). He broke his shoulder badly and had to have two surgeries.
The city had recently been sued over a similar occurrence with an elderly person, so they were quick to pay his hospital and doctor bills, as well as shave down the root and pave over it ( though they did not trim the canopy). Let the arborist know this is a safety issue as well as a maintenance nightmare.

This also seems especially weird, since we were recently sent a letter from the Utilities Dept informing us that this was NOT the year to plant our annual vegetable garden or do any landscaping, due to the drought!

Posted by Deb, a resident of another community
on Aug 6, 2014 at 3:10 pm

So today I was taking the University exit off 101 going north and then was getting back on 101 from University to go south.
I am pretty sure I have been reading nothing but drought drought drought..
And I am certain we are still in the grips of summer heat and NO water.

Can anyone tell me how and why the highway exit ramps are being planted with 100's and 100's of new 1 gallon plants.. with the sprinklers.. NOT DRIP.. on full blast watering them IN THE MIDDLE OF THE DAY???? And not just this exit.. there are numerous areas around that are being planted now. WHY?? Residents are chastised for using too much water.. and then we see this going on.
Planting in the summer, planting at all, OPEN WATERING in the summer.. during midday.
Seriously.. this is crazy. The plants couldn't wait till November or December when we MIGHT get rain????
I'm disgusted..

Posted by Nancy Ng, a resident of Meadow Park
on Dec 6, 2015 at 11:02 am

On Saturday evening some of my children and grandchildren and I were privileged to be part of the Posada at Buena Vista.. It was a wonderful community event which reminded me of the old, imperfect but less-shallow Alto. I thought of Ventura School where all were welcomed and honored; where multiculturalism was not a subject but a way of life. I remembered the vibrant barrio that flourished at Meadow and El Camino. I recalled schools where learning was more important that test scores.

Buena Vista is a community treasure in a time and place where it is easy to lose our way. Thank you to our neighbors at BV for their welcoming humanity. Let us all pledge our support for their future.

Nancy Ng

Posted by Curmudgeon, a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 6, 2015 at 2:01 pm

"Closing Buena Vista would mean the loss of 108 units of affordable housing with no plan for replacement."

The family that owns the property has chosen to "close their mobilehome park in the hope of someday putting their land to other uses to secure their family’s financial future."

It might be more appropriate to address your commento to these community minded folks.

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