News Digest | May 28, 2021 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - May 28, 2021

News Digest

La Comida seeks new site

Amid growing demand and a pandemic that has upended the organization's communal dining service, La Comida is confronting yet another dilemma — finding a new site for its nutrition program.

During the past year, the nonprofit pivoted from its traditional model of serving food in a dining hall where seniors could eat and socialize in a communal setting to distributing prepackaged meals at two drop-off locations: Stevenson House, the Charleston Road senior housing facility where La Comida normally hosts it meal program, and the Masonic Hall in downtown Palo Alto. It then partnered with Lytton Gardens, an assisted-living community, and the nonprofit Alta Housing to distribute additional meals to seniors with nutritional needs.

In October, the nonprofit, which serve about 1,700 meals to seniors every week, learned that the Masonic Hall in downtown Palo Alto won't be extending its agreement with the organization for use of its space as a distribution point. Bill Blodgett, co-president of La Comida's board of directors, told the Palo Alto City Council during its May 17 meeting that the nonprofit is looking for a new downtown location that could accommodate the hundreds of seniors who live in north Palo Alto and rely on its program.

Since that meeting, the organization has received some good news. Blodgett told this news publication that La Comida has reached an agreement with the First United Methodist Church on Hamilton Avenue to use the church's courtyard for meal distribution. But while the partnership will allow La Comida to continue to distribute its prepackaged meals in a downtown location, it does not solve its long-term issue: the need to find space for congregate dining in northern Palo Alto.

The ideal solution, Blodgett said, is Avenidas, the nonprofit that provides a host of senior services out of its recently renovated downtown headquarters on Bryant Street. The two nonprofits have a long history together, with La Comida running its nutrition program at the Avenidas site for nearly four decades. The partnership came to an end in 2017, once Avenidas moved ahead with its reconstruction project and made it clear that it would no longer have the space to accommodate La Comida's lunch program.

Kari Martell, an Avenidas spokesperson, said in an email that her organization has instead suggested three different ideas with which it could help: act as a distribution site for La Comida meals; include a La Comida meal option at the on-site cafe; or use the Avenidas transportation program to drives seniors to the La Comida dining site.

La Comida told Avenidas that those options "don't meet the socialization objectives of the La Comida program," Martell said. She said John Sinks, interim CEO of the Avenidas board of directors, has expressed to Palo Alto officials his nonprofit's interest in "keeping the ideas flowing." Blodgett said La Comida is also looking forward to "a good dialogue" with Avenidas.

"After having a good collaboration for years, I don't see any reason why that can't happen again," he said.

— Gennady Sheyner

Convict arrested for assaulting man in his 70s

A 34-year-old man was arrested for allegedly beating and robbing a man in his 70s at the downtown Palo Alto Caltrain station on the morning of May 21, Palo Alto police said Tuesday.

The older man told officers that he had been assaulted and robbed at the station, located at 95

University Ave., while he was getting ready to sleep on the train platform at about 1:40 a.m., according to a police press release. The suspected assailant approached him and accused him of stealing his cellphone before kicking him in the leg and punching him in the head. He also removed his belt and used it to strike the older man in the face, police said.

The alleged perpetrator stole the man's backpack, which contained an iPad and blankets, and fled on foot. The older man and a witness chased the reported robber, but lost sight of him as he ran east on Lytton Avenue. The victim had no visible injuries, police said.

The suspect was later located around 3:30 a.m. outside the downtown 7-Eleven store at 401 Waverley Street by a patrol officer. He was placed into custody after resisting arrest and refusing to comply with the responding officers' instructions.

The man, an Oakland resident, was booked into the Santa Clara County Main Jail on suspicion of robbery and elder abuse — both felonies — and a misdemeanor of resisting arrest. He is currently on parole for a prior robbery conviction. Police also placed a parole violation hold on him at the direction of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

— Sue Dremann

Man dies in East Palo Alto shooting

Police are investigating the death of a man who was shot in East Palo Alto on Sunday night, nearly three weeks after another man was killed a block away. The San Mateo County Coroner's Office identified the victim on Wednesday as 19-year-old Sebastian Anguiano of Redwood City.

Officers dispatched to the 1800 block of Woodland Avenue at about 10:20 p.m. found a Hispanic male suffering from gunshot wounds. They attempted life-saving measures before fire personnel and paramedics arrived. He was taken by ambulance to a hospital; he died a short time later, police said.

Relatives have set up a GoFundMe page to help with Anguiano's funeral expenses.

The fatal shooting is the second in the Woodland area on the city's west side in almost three weeks. On May 4, Christian Garcia-Torres, 25, also of Redwood City, was found shot in a parking structure at an apartment complex a block away in the 1700 block of Woodland Avenue. He later succumbed to his wounds at a hospital, police reported at the time.

— Sue Dremann


Posted by Mama
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 27, 2021 at 10:47 am

Mama is a registered user.

How about putting a canopy over the small park on Lytton? That area is pretty useless. Could still be used for other events.

Posted by Logan Arenado
a resident of another community
on May 27, 2021 at 6:45 pm

Logan Arenado is a registered user.

The small park on Lytton Avenue would be a good site for senior outdoor dining but it is also frequented by the PA homeless.

Would this pose a potential problem?

Posted by JS1
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 29, 2021 at 10:31 am

JS1 is a registered user.

La Comida does not share space well. They want exclusive use of a commercial Kitchen and exclusive use of a dining room large enough to serve 80 or more people. This is likely why they are not able to operate out of the Masonic Hall, the Methodist Church or the Avenidas building. La Comida should consider leasing or buying a defunct restaurant space where they will have exclusive use of the space. Restaurant spaces are already equipped with kitchen facilities, food storage and dining facilities and there are many located in downtown Palo Alto. The former Lemonade space at University and High Street is currently for lease.

Posted by Annies biped
a resident of Midtown
on May 29, 2021 at 6:45 pm

Annies biped is a registered user.

Suggesting that La Comida doesn't share well belies it's history. While colocated at Avenidas for 40 years La Comida used the kitchen from 8am to 2:30pm 5 days a week, and the dining room from 10:30 to 2:30. Avenidas frequently rented the space for other uses on the weekends, or had movies, classes and bridge groups in the late afternoon as well as early morning coffee meetings. Unfortunately when Avenidas remodeled the city owned Bryant Street facility, the dining room space went from an occupancy of 140 to an occupancy of less than 80, and the building was closed for two years while the renovations were being made. Avenidas went to Cubberley for the interim while La Comida went to Stevenson House on a more permanent basis. Cooking and serving at Stevenson House means La Comida no longer needs a large 140 occupancy dining room to serve seniors who live closer to the downtown area. Wouldn't it be great to have a downtown city sponsored senior center (Avenidas) that included the city & county sponsored senior nutrition program (La Comida) for downtown seniors?

Posted by JS1
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 3, 2021 at 8:08 pm

JS1 is a registered user.

Annie’s, The “La Comida does not share well” comment merely reflects the fact that La Comida is apparently not being welcomed back to share space where they have been located in the past. La Comida certainly offers a valuable service to local seniors. The problem is a real estate problem. La Comida needs a facility with both a commercial kitchen and a large dining room - and La Comida seems to want someone else to provide that kitchen/dining space to them at little to no cost. It is unrealistic to expect that other organizations will sacrifice such facilities (if they even have such facilities) for La Comida’s exclusive use. That is probably the reason that La Comida is looking for new space again. It is obvious that La Comida needs their own space and not shared space. La Comida board should start a capital campaign and/or they should approach the City or County for assistance. The more money that La Comida can raise on their own may provide greater motivation on the part of City or County to assist. The sooner that La Comida raises the funds, the sooner they can control their own fate.

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