Letters to the editor | July 11, 2014 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

Spectrum - July 11, 2014

Letters to the editor

Hard work paying off


I would like to point out the efforts of the League of Women Voters (LWV) over the years in supporting the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District. The LWV Palo Alto was very active in the formation, and our League in South San Mateo County supported the annexation to our area later. I remember the decisions that were made. This is why the seven LWVs in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties were major supporters in this current campaign.

We believe in the vision to preserve open space in our area and worked hard on this campaign. A few of those squeak votes were due to our efforts this time, although probably not boots or leather.

Linda Craig

Rondo Way, Menlo Park

Thousands of gallons


I recently noticed several construction projects in Palo Alto where the house has been completely demolished, and apparently, the new home on the site will have a basement as a deep hole has been dug. The projects are pumping water from the sites to lower the water table to make the basement possible. The water is pumped to the storm sewer 24 hours a day, seven days a week for months. A rough estimate is that 150,000 gallons per month per site are lost. This is equivalent to the normal water usage from about eight to nine homes.

California is currently in a historically severe drought, and we have been asked to conserve water. The City of Palo Alto put extra information in the recent utility bills encouraging residents to conserve water.

Yet these sites are pumping water down the drain. I am appalled at the practice of pumping down the water table in Palo Alto so that new homes can be constructed with basements. I have seen this practice at several other construction sites in recent years. The new hotel to replace Ming's restaurant proposes to do the same thing.

I recently brought this issue to the attention of the City Council. The response was essentially, "Don't worry about it, the water is not potable." Even if the water is not potable, other uses can be found in severe drought conditions.

William Brew

Greer Road, Palo Alto

Not broken, but 'fixed'


So "to better serve the community," the Page Mill YMCA is closing after 35 years in the same location. Three thousand members are sent to far-flung and/or badly overcrowded branches because of "no natural light or room for expansion" at Page Mill. This makes no sense.

In just a few days there were over 70 posts about this on Town Square, many distressed and angry. I'll focus on the location question. Palo Alto sprawls out over several miles, with half an hour's driving time from one corner to the opposite one. The Page Mill Y is right in the center of town, serving the population most conveniently. Without it, the members who rely on this gym for community, exercise and health education will have to expend more time and (fossil-fuel) energy going elsewhere. Many will give their business to private gyms or other organizations that are geographically closer to their homes.

I sadly predict a large net loss of members to the Y (and not much gain, if any, to other branches). This is a situation where something that wasn't broken was "fixed."

M.B. Phillips

Old Adobe Road, Palo Alto

What parking problem?


On Friday, June 27, at 10 a.m. I went to the Bryant Street garage, took the elevator to the top and walked down, counting the number of unused parking spaces. In the reserved all-day section I counted 119 unused spots. In the unreserved three-hour area there were more than 200 empty spots. In other words, a 500-car garage was close to empty while nearby residential areas were clogged with cars.

Palo Alto does not have a parking problem; it has a major stupidity problem. Is anyone at City Hall aware of the relationship between supply, demand and prices? Are they aware that a day-use parking permit at $17.50 is more expensive than downtown San Francisco and comparable to Manhattan? How many do they sell in a day? If it is more than 10 I will eat my hat on the steps of City Hall.

Reduce the price of parking in city garages to zero. Make all the three-hour spaces free and unlimited in time. Immediately, all the city garages will be full and the neighborhood parking issue will disappear. The city will save oodles of money: no concierge parking fees, no meter maids, no permit sellers.

Just do it.

David Lieberman

Kingsley Avenue, Palo Alto

A young city


East Palo Alto, a small but prominent part of the San Francisco Bay Area, became a city in June 1983 and on June 28 it celebrated its 30th-year anniversary as a city. Its turbulent past, including being known as the nation's murder capital in 1992, is no longer holding this young city back from progress. Currently Facebook headquarters sits on its border with Menlo Park, amongst many other developments, and East Palo Alto is quickly becoming an unknown boom town in Silicon Valley.

Residents who have experienced the city bloom, cheered from their neighborhood lawns and greeted each other as the thunder from the fireworks brought the small community together. Having endured 30 years as a city, the fireworks are as exciting as the future to come for East Palo Alto.

David Cruz

Gloria Street, East Palo Alto

More integrity needed


I am a rising junior at Gunn High, and I would like to respond to the article "Paly algebra finals invalidated after cheating found." The cheating incident at Paly is a manifestation of a larger culture of dishonesty in Palo Alto, caused by incredible pressure to perform well academically in our district. While blatant cheating like what occurred in the algebra final is usually appropriately investigated and resolved, more subversive forms of cheating are not only widespread, but also quietly tolerated. For example, a common practice among my classmates is providing and receiving exam information by word of mouth. Although some teachers caution students against it, this behavior is nevertheless pervasive.

While invalidating the exam is a start to undisclosed disciplinary actions, there has been no mention of creating a greater, lasting impact on our academic environment by tackling the root causes of cheating. I would like to see a renewed commitment to ensuring a culture of integrity in our schools.

Vivian Zhou

Los Palos Avenue, Palo Alto

I don't get it


What's wrong with this picture: California is in a drought. Saturday, June 28, I'm driving on Oregon Expressway to go to 101 North. At the on-ramp, workers (Caltrans? ... I'm not really sure as I was so infuriated by what I was seeing) were planting ice plant, sprinklers going full force, 12:29 in the afternoon (worst time to water on a very hot day) ... so much for conserving. Government at its best. What's wrong with gravel?

Karen Froniewski

Jackpine Court, Sunnyvale

Why not have it all?


Despite tremendous growth in population and industry since the second world war, Paris — the one in France — remains one of the most beautiful and habitable cities on the planet.

Dwellings, workplaces, gardens, shops and eateries blend seamlessly throughout walkable arrondissements that manage to retain a truly human scale.

Of course, this kind of quality living doesn't happen by accident. City planners had the foresight to designate a district on the outskirts of town known as "La Défense." The area, readily accessible by public transport, is essentially an urban forest of skyscrapers. Most of the structures in this vicinity are purposed for office use. In addition, residential towers, hotels, restaurants, retail, parks and other amenities crisscross the quarter.

Interestingly, high-profile design competitions attract local and long-distance property developers to vie for the glory of erecting steel and glass landmarks within this soaring sector.

The Parisian solution suggests a best-of-both-worlds alternative that might make sense for Palo Alto. By creating a separate space for high-density buildings, and controlling expansion in the existing neighborhoods, citizens could choose between a small-town setting or a more metropolitan atmosphere. And municipal officials could pursue an advancement agenda with less controversy as long as they keep inside the confines of the concrete community.

Everybody wins!

Jaclyn Schrier

Alma Street, Palo Alto

Shopping bag solutions

Since local government has banned plastic bags and now forces merchants to charge $0.10 per paper bag or take no bag at all, I find myself loaded with bags at home. Most of us are pretty good at remembering to take our bags in at the grocery store, but when I go to the mall — not so much. As a result, we all end up with mountains of large, single-use paper bags. Now Stanford Shopping Center has created a totally unserviceable policy where you can take your bag and park it at a store and get it somehow when you purchase something, or some such policy. I would like to suggest something far easier.

Set up some attractive collection receptacles throughout the mall whereby we could bring back our perfectly clean bags and deposit them. If we find we need a bag, we can take one from the receptacle. Obviously when they get soiled or worn-looking they can be recycled, but why not get a few more uses out of them before recycling?

Carol Gilbert

Byron Street, Palo Alto

Packaged without care


I just returned to town to find a terse, matter-of-fact letter from the Page Mill Y indicating that the "Board of Directors determined that the best way to serve the Palo Alto community going forward is by focusing our resources and investments on ... other nearby Y facilities. As a result, we will be closing the Page Mill YMCA" at the end of September.

As shocking as the news itself was the way in which it was packaged. There was never a hint that the Y, which continually touts itself as responsive to members and eager to inform them about Y services, was considering closing. What about consulting us about this plan? What about offering members reduced services or shorter hours or the opportunity to brainstorm — as a community — a way to keep the Y open?

As recently as three months ago I was solicited for a donation. As a longtime member and past donor, I feel betrayed by the Y management. Like many, I'm disappointed by the insensitive way this matter was handled. It seems sadly inconsistent with the values and standards that the Y purports to uphold.

Rena Shaw Davidow

California Avenue, Palo Alto


Posted by Marc Vincenti, a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 11, 2014 at 4:56 pm

Dear Readers,

The letter from Vivian Zhou, the Gunn High junior, is timely, well-written, and important.

Ms. Zhou puts her finger squarely on a school problem—continual, everyday cheating—that is debilitating for these very competitive students to have to face.

The problem is a source of worry for students—of anxiety, resentment, and in particular a sense that the adults of the community are not interested in taking care of their well-being by protecting them from this.

Cheating is not so much a moral issue in our high schools as an emotional, mental health issue. The adults in the community make it worse by doing their children's homework for them, or hiring tutors who do the homework (e.g., heaving "editing" of an English essay).

In an town that cares about "student stress," it is striking that the stresses caused by cheating are not of greater concern.

This issue, right now, occupies the same place as steriods in the Major Leagues or doping in the Tour de France once did. It's plain as day that it's happening, but no one will act to stop it.

Ms. Zhou is brave to take a stand on this issue, worth of praise for having written about it so well, and deserving of the people who will listen to her on this issue.

Marc Vincenti
Gunn English Dept. (1995-2010)

Posted by Lotsa Cheaters, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jul 11, 2014 at 7:07 pm

Vivian Zhou neglects to mention one of the biggest causes of cheating: reprisals from patents who set impossibly high standards and goals for their kids. Some of these parents threaten their teens with sending their dog to the pound, or grounding them for a year, or worst of all, with disowning their own child!

Many school cheaters are motivated by fear: specifically. What their parents will do NOT if they fail, but if they merely do not score highly enough to please the parents. These are parents who also give their kids additional homework after school, force them to spend an extra 1-3 hours per day with tutors, and forbid their kids any extracurricular activities that are not purely academic ( forget any clubs, athletics, or fun).

At some point, this must become a case of diminishing returns and stained relationships with parents.

It is unfair to blame the rampant cheating in Palo Alto Schools totally on the schools themselves.

Many of the colleges must share the blame, especially the UCs, because they play favorites, and their favorites are NOT the California native students they are legally required to give priority to

Posted by Lotsa Cheaters, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jul 11, 2014 at 7:22 pm

RE: "Thousands of Gallons"....... I have seen this wasteful phenomenon, too, not only in new constructions, but also in remodels where a partial or full basement are added to an existing home. The water table is pumped put for months. Doesn't it return when there is enough rain and cause problems to the basement? One neighbor, who did this in the late nineties, has to pump water out of the water table whenever it rains for more than a day or two, or her basement will flood! This has been a terrible waste, losing water that could have been stored or diverted!

The absolute worst, though, was when Larry Page's house was being built: water was pumped out and diverted to a storm drain on Bryant for nearly TWO YEARS!

Such homeowners should be forbidden from digging basements if the have the bad judgment to build over an aquifer!

Posted by Lotsa Cheaters, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jul 11, 2014 at 7:41 pm

Jaclyn Schrier neglected to mention one VERY big problem with Paris: smog so thick you could almost cut it with a knife!

Not as bad as Beijing, but on many days in the late spring through early autumn the smog lessens visibility. If you go to the top of the Eiffel Tower, you are above the smog level and you can look down on a thick brown layer obscuring the whole city.

The historical buildings in Paris ( Versailles, too, for that matter), especially the medieval cathedrals, are having their fine ornamental details literally eaten away and dissolved by the sulfur in the air pollution. The famous rose window of Notre Dame Cathedral is now so blackened with smog residue that unless it is cleaned, it lets no light through to the interior. I have been disappointed on two trips to Paris, a decade apart, by not being able to see this famous stained glass from the interior of the cathedral--something I had read about and anticipated seeing since high school!

Another neglect of Ms Schreier is the crazy Parisian traffic--worse in some arrondissements than others, but absolutely terrifying in the area surrounding the French government offices. Drivers ignore the traffic lights and speed lights, endanger pedestrians, and change lanes far too frequently trying to get ahead of the heavy congestion. Lots and lots of accidents and many pedestrian deaths in this area.

Parisians we have been acquainted with think Palo Alto drivers are wonderfully safe and polite by comparison, and think Palo Alto has NO traffic congestion worth complaining about! They also think we do not have a smog problem.

Ms Schreier, pay more attention next time you visit Paris: I used up a month's worth of rescue inhalers in one week, when we were there just two years ago!

Posted by Lawrence Dorfman, a resident of Menlo Park
on Oct 6, 2014 at 11:57 am

In reference to your September 26 article “The Ecstasy of Embodiment”, I am glad to see this enriching movement practice through expressive, ecstatic, meditative dance reaching the general public through your publication. I have been involved in this practice for over 18 years, taking a weekly class right here on the mid-peninsula for 14 years. Yes, ecstatic dance has been available in this area for much longer than the 4 years your article implied. I was perplexed by how your Arts and Entertainment Editor failed to uncover or mention that ecstatic dance in the form of Gabrielle Roth’s 5Rhythm dance practice has been thriving on the mid-peninsula since 2000 under the tutelage of Claire Alexander (Ecstatic Productions).

The ongoing, year around Monday night class provides skillful guidance by Claire, a Roth trained, certified 5Rhythm teacher for 20 years, to between 60 and 80 people from all walks of peninsula life. A large proportion of the attendees have been dedicated to this practice for many years. Monday night is not only a deeply nurturing, personal experience, but has grown into a community that comes together to celebrate and support each other in their life experiences and has spawned many activities outside of Monday nights from political and social events to the healing arts.

Lawrence Dorfman
Menlo Park

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