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