The letter submitted by the Cities Association of Santa Clara County reflects a growing concern among local officials about the county's slow ramp up in testing capacity, even as stay-at-home rules are starting to loosen and city leaders are formulating strategies for reopening business. Testing in the county remains largely limited to people with symptoms, health care professionals and other front-line workers. Even as other jurisdictions have made testing more available for the general population (Los Angeles announced Wednesday that any resident who needs a test can get one for free), the county has been testing about 600 people per day over the past month, a fraction of what officials believe is needed to safely reopen the economy.
The numbers have been slowing climbing. County had conducted an average of 898 tests daily over the past seven days, an improvement from mid-April, when there were fewer than 400 tests conducted on some days, according to the county's dashboard. But city leaders and some members of the Board of Supervisors underscored this week that much more needs to be done.
"Our businesses and schools must have some certainty for their plans to reopen, which appears directly tied to the availability and the amount of testing," states the letter that is signed by 15 mayors, including Adrian Fine of Palo Alto and Margaret Abe-Koga of Mountain View. "It's not clear how much testing is sufficient, and that is of concern to us."
Ventura redevelopment faces complications
Palo Alto's ambitious, but uncertain, plans to reimagine the Ventura neighborhood confronted a stark political reality Wednesday night, when neighborhood residents and some planning commissioners warned that the latest alternatives fail to reflect community's perspectives or account for the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The concerns came out during the Planning and Transportation's public hearing on the North Ventura Coordinated Area Plan, a land-use document that will create a new vision for the 60-acre area.
Commission Vice Chair Giselle Roohparvar argued Wednesday that the city should pause the process until the pandemic ends and the city has a better understanding of the new reality.
Commissioner Michael Alcheck took the opposite view and argued that many of the issues at the heart of the debate — including height and density of buildings — were contentious before the pandemic and will remain so after.
Alcheck and most of the other commissioners agreed that the city should go big on housing but faced a larger question: How big? Staff presented on Wednesday three alternatives, which would add 386 units, 979 units, and 2,475 housing units to the site, respectively.
Stalled history museum wins grants from county
Santa Clara County has approved a pair of grants totaling more than $300,000 to restore and refurbish the 1930s-era murals and red clay roof at the historic Palo Alto Medical Clinic building that the city owns and that the Palo Alto History Museum has been working to restore and make its home. The grants will give a boost to the project, which has stalled due to a lack of funding.
The renovation of the Roth Building hasn't been a particularly high priority for the Palo Alto City Council. While council members have talked for years about the need to fix up the aged but valuable city asset, they have delegated much of the fundraising task for these repairs to the Palo Alto History Museum, a nonprofit that has been raising money for the effort and that worked with the city on the grant proposal.
The council's hopes that the nonprofit would raise the funds needed to advance the project diminished last month, when an independent review commissioned by the city concluded that the Palo Alto History Museum needs to raise between $2.36 million and $2.85 million to fund the renovation. The council voted on March 2 to let other nonprofits and developers propose uses for the city-owned building, including ones that would require a zone change.
Council members also said on March 2 they would consider an arrangement in which the nonprofit shares the facility with another group, or with the city.
While the two grants don't explicitly require the building to be occupied by the museum, the county program requires the projects being funded to be "open to the public and visible," a requirement that is aligned with the nonprofit's vision for the museum.
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