Letters to the editor | September 6, 2019 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

Spectrum - September 6, 2019

Letters to the editor

Opposed to Castilleja expansion


I am a 40-year resident of Old Palo Alto, not in the immediate Castilleja School neighborhood but close enough to have a good idea what Castilleja's proposed expansion plan will mean for this community. But first, let me say that I have three adult daughters and value educational opportunity for women. I value Palo Alto's dynamic culture and accept that new developments are inevitable and often desirable, but I do not support Castilleja's present plan.

The Draft Environmental Impact Report validates what we probably already knew: Embarcadero Road and surrounding streets will be adversely impacted by the greater density of traffic resulting from the proposed major construction and from an increase in Castilleja's student population.

Castilleja can expand in another location if it chooses to do so. Many educational institutions that started in Palo Alto have done just that. Neither the people who work and/or live in Palo Alto — nor the children who travel by bike and on foot to Paly, Greene and even Walter Hays — should be adversely affected by Castilleja's desire to expand.

Current congestion on Embarcadero will inevitably increase due to Stanford University's continuing expansion plans and the growth of business in our town. We must not let Castilleja's expansion add to this already difficult situation.

Castilleja's "100-year legacy" is a poor reason to support a grandiose development adverse to the neighborhood and broader community. Only 25% of Castilleja students are Palo Alto residents.

I do support a reasonable plan of modernizing current facilities, but increasing the student population by 30% (most of whom likely would come from outside Palo Alto and need transportation to the school), creating an underground garage and changing dramatically the neighborhood character by tearing down nearby homes and stately trees is not anything I or this community can or should support.

Donald Drumright

Cowper Street, Palo Alto

Fixing the housing-jobs imbalance


Plan 2040 has not worked out well — 750,000 jobs were added and only about 100,000 housing units during the period 2010 to 2018 (Metropolitan Transportation Commission paper).

We see and feel the results everyday with traffic, high housing prices, frustration and a declining quality of life as density increases.

Priority Development Areas are their answer, but who controls the jobs and housing within? Apparently, cities and counties, not the MTC/Association of Bay Area Governments, if I read their FAQs right. "Local land-use authority is retained by cities and counties" and "Local jurisdictions will continue to determine where future development occurs."

If this is so, then aren't we (cities) to blame for this imbalance situation?

I feel we must have a permanent cap on office/commercial development, maintain our 50-foot height limit (no exceptions like clock towers and roof gardens, etc., that set precedents for other developers). Also, I think we need to stop excepting "in-lieu" payments and so-called "public benefits" like the public patio taken over by a restaurant.

Since we are space constrained, construct an integrated mix of new rental housing units — both market-rate individual housing and low-cost shared-facility dorm-style units — in new or vacated buildings until we bring the jobs/housing imbalance down from almost 4:1 (Palo Alto) to about 1.5:1 or lower. Consider contracting with Stanford University to manage the "dorm-style" portion; they know how and have the resources to do this.

Stuart Hansen

Walter Hays Drive, Palo Alto

Remembering the Prolific Oven


Throughout the 1990s, I worked on and off at the Prolific Oven Bakery and Coffeehouse. I will never forget the time, the place and the people. Starbucks was fast on the rise, and the fiercely independent "P.O." was all heart and principle in the face of a quickly changing downtown. Its top notch products, devoted customers and real-life quirkiness made it far more than just a great place for coffee and cake.

Strong women made up the Prolific Oven top echelon. Harriet Spier, the original owner, founder and prime mover, leaned on two wonderful, master cakemakers: Renee, who smiled even when relating bad news, and Irish Mary, whose forearms were thick like Popeye's from meticulously decorating thousands of cakes, hand-squeezing the icing out of heavy canvas piping tubes.

The gruff manager Jade put herself through law school at night while working full-time at the P.O. Julie, the other manager, wanted to go to Oaxaca, Mexico, and open an imports business in her northeastern hometown.

The coffeeshop staff were a ragged band. People there were strange and unique, artists and skateboarders, and occasionally people who seemed normal at first. They were too varied to describe as a group but the team was united by one thing: They grew to seriously care about Prolific Oven.

At some point during each person's tenure they were drawn into the vision and worked for the place to thrive. People went above and beyond. They genuinely liked their bosses and treated the customers with sincere friendliness. For nobody was it "just a job."

When the Chan family took over, they made the place their own while keeping its spirit. They kept the good cakes coming out nearly another quarter century, and they never let slide Harriet's insistence on quality. They deserve Palo Alto's thanks for that.

Nicholas Wright

Louis Road, Palo Alto

Stance on SB50


If SB50 and other "housing bills" are enacted, they'll strip local control from cities (principally suburban cities) in favor of a long list of state-mandated allowances, which are a developer's dream.

Single-family neighborhoods, part of the "American Dream," will change into much more urbanized, higher density neighborhoods. Taller buildings (some 55 feet high) would be next to one- or two-story homes, with the attendant crowding (on-site parking may not be required at all, particularly if close to a Caltrain station, or may be extremely limited below what will actually be needed) and loss of privacy.

For what purpose? So developers can propose, and elected officials can approve, more and more financially rewarding office developments without commensurate housing to offset the new jobs being created, let alone make any significant dent in the shortage of "affordable" housing we currently have. Our roadways will continue to have massive traffic jams as public transportation remains inadequate for the foreseeable future.

What is needed is a moratorium on large-scale office developments that create jobs but exacerbate the current "affordable" housing shortage. Then, we can start working on ways acceptable to the various communities to encourage the development of housing "affordable" to low-income, service workers, not high-paid tech workers.

Joe Hirsch

Georgia Avenue, Palo Alto


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