News Digest | July 29, 2022 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - July 29, 2022

News Digest

Pedestrian dies in Caltrain collision

A train struck and killed a pedestrian on the Caltrain tracks in Palo Alto on Saturday afternoon.

The collision happened at approximately 4:47 p.m., when northbound train No. 253 collided with the individual near West Meadow Drive, Caltrain spokesperson Dan Lieberman said.

There were approximately 200 passengers on the train at the time of the collision, Lieberman said.

The San Mateo County Sheriff's Office's Transit Police Bureau is investigating the incident.

A staff member with the Santa Clara County Medical Examiner-Coroner's Office said the person had not yet been identified.

The southbound track of Caltrain through Palo Alto reopened Saturday evening but at reduced speeds. Trains were being single-tracking through the affected area, Lieberman said.

— Bay City News Service

Ecumenical Hunger Program collects school supplies

With the start of the new school year just weeks away, the Ecumenical Hunger Program is hosting its annual back-to-school donation drive. The East Palo Alto nonprofit is asking for school supplies, as well as clothes, books and other items.

The organization stressed the importance of making sure no student is left behind. Last year, the organization distributed school supplies to 412 students in the greater East Palo Alto area. This year, the nonprofit expects the demand to be even greater based on the current volume of requests, according to Lesia Preston, executive director of the Ecumenical Hunger Program.

In addition to clothes, backpacks, hygiene products and school supplies, the nonprofit also is requesting gift cards that families will use to shop for their children. Amazon, Walmart, Target and Costco are the most popular choices, according to Preston.

The annual event serves hundreds of students in East Palo Alto and Menlo Park's Belle Haven neighborhood.

Families who wish to benefit from the program can register with Ecumenical Hunger until supplies run out, according to Preston. Anyone who wishes to donate is encouraged to do so as soon as possible, although there is no deadline.

Gift cards and donations can be dropped off at 2411 Pulgas Ave. in East Palo Alto on Mondays through Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, call 650-323-7781 or go to

— Miles Breen

Google gives housing crisis commitment update

Three years after pledging to invest $1 billion toward increasing the Bay Area's housing supply and supporting organizations that combat homelessness, Google released an update on how this commitment is unfolding.

So far, the tech behemoth has allocated $128 million of a $250 million investment fund to 18 organizations, which resulted in the development of 23 affordable housing projects across the Bay Area, according to a July 25 statement. The other chunk of the $1 billion commitment will be in the form of land — the company is pushing forward a number of housing projects on Google-owned land worth $750 million.

"We've worked closely with elected officials and residents to propose plans where residential units, offices, retail spaces and open space will coexist on our land," Google said in the statement.

All together, Google aims to build close to 13,000 units of housing across the south Bay Area, the majority of which are planned for Mountain View. The San Jose City Council approved Google's Downtown West project in May 2021, which calls for 4,000 housing units. The company has also submitted plans for two mixed-use developments in Mountain View — the Middlefield Park and North Bayshore master plans — which together will generate nearly 9,000 housing units in the coming decades.

The company announced that over the next three years, it will be distributing more than $10 million to Bay Area nonprofits in grants and pro bono support in the form of technical expertise provided at no cost, said Google Communications Manager Bailey Tomson.

— Malea Martin


Posted by Bystander
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 23, 2022 at 10:41 pm

Bystander is a registered user.

This is sad news, again.

However, I am confused why I should receive 9 emails from PAW online about it.

Posted by MyFeelz
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Jul 23, 2022 at 11:27 pm

MyFeelz is a registered user.

The area of investigation stretched for quite a distance. The line of San Mateo County official vehicles was 6 or 8 cars. I thought they were installing forward facing cameras on the trains that could see 1000 feet down the track? What's all the recent "improvements" in that intersection for, if not to prevent such occurrences? It's a major route for bicyclists and kids who cross the street during the school year. The lights, the arms that barricade, the train horns blaring....... all of the barriers to what happened can't prevent it if someone is really determined. Yes it's sad and Bystander, how annoying for you that you received emails about it. Perhaps turn off your notices so you won't be bothered with local tragedies.

Posted by Reality Check
a resident of another community
on Jul 24, 2022 at 12:25 am

Reality Check is a registered user.

Caltrain has long had forward facing cameras and event recorders. While these have been invaluable in discouraging lawsuits by survivors claiming their loved ones were accidentally killed as a result of some claimed negligence or hazardous condition on the crossings, and just as with the costly human crossing security guards Palo Alto tried using, they unfortunately cannot and do not prevent a suicidal person from simply stepping from a normal position of safety into the path of an oncoming train only seconds before impact.

Posted by vmshadle
a resident of Meadow Park
on Jul 24, 2022 at 7:49 am

vmshadle is a registered user.

Bystander, we all received multiple notifications as well, but I daresay we had a far better day than the person who died. [Stuff] happens; but at least I am still alive to read the alerts.

Posted by jvpadojino
digital editor of Palo Alto Online
on Jul 24, 2022 at 9:20 am

jvpadojino is a registered user.

@Bystander Palo Alto Online apologizes for the duplicate messages sent on Saturday night. We did not intend to push out the email multiple times.

Posted by rita vrhel
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 24, 2022 at 11:51 am

rita vrhel is a registered user.

People certainly have the right to commit suicide and the tracks are closer than the Bridge. There really is no way to stop a determined person; a matter of time and opportunity.

But it is too sad for all involved; those remaining who will likely spend the rest of their life wondering what they could have done to prevent this event.

Wish the message that for most, life usually improves with time and professional help was more widespread.

With all the serious problems in the world, seems like receiving multiple emails is the least of them. Maybe instead we can be grateful for electricity, internet connections and the leisure to read.

Posted by Jennifer
a resident of another community
on Jul 24, 2022 at 11:55 am

Jennifer is a registered user.

How sad that someone chose to end their life. No comment on people who make this all about them.

Posted by Keith R
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jul 24, 2022 at 12:22 pm

Keith R is a registered user.

This is very sad.  My condolences go out to the family and friends.  I also want to recognize the impacts on the City’s first responders who are called to these heartbreaking scenes.

Eliminating our railroad crossings will improve both the community’s safety and traffic flow.  But this requires the City to develop a funding source for the City’s portion of these projects.

I am tired of reading these tragic stories over and over again.  We must find the money to eliminate our railroad crossings.

Posted by MyFeelz
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Jul 24, 2022 at 2:03 pm

MyFeelz is a registered user.

Long after the investigators left the scene, every time a train went by last night the engineer slowed down and laid on the horn before, during and after passing the scene. It could be heard from quite a distance. The engineers are the first and most affected after such an incident. It's not their fault. No matter what barriers they build, a person with enough angst will be able to circumvent them.

Posted by Reality Check
a resident of another community
on Jul 24, 2022 at 5:10 pm

Reality Check is a registered user.

@Kieth R: as regularly seen with BART and similar systems with completely fenced tracks, eliminating crossings unfortunately does not eliminate access to the tracks and oncoming trains from station platforms. This requires what are known as platform screen doors, such as are commonly used on people movers and, increasingly, other, often driverless, new train lines and systems being built overseas.

Posted by Consider Your Options.
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 24, 2022 at 7:46 pm

Consider Your Options. is a registered user.

Solution: Grade separation. Separate the street from the railroad by elevating one or the other. This will improve safety, reduce auto congestion on cross streets caused by trains coming through, enable more trains to run, eliminate the need for those awful train whistles. Expensive, but worth the investment for the long-term needs of our community and other communities on the rail corridor. Get these projects moving so we don't miss out on fed funding.

Posted by Reality Check
a resident of another community
on Jul 24, 2022 at 9:13 pm

Reality Check is a registered user.

@Consider: as previously mentioned, grade separations can only stop unintended deaths. As with BART and similar systems around the world, intentional deaths can and do occur at stations (as they occasionally already do at Caltrain). As in Atherton and north bay cities along the 45-mile Larkspur-Santa Rosa SMART rail line, and at over a thousand crossings around the country, local jurisdictions can establish train horn quiet zones (QZs) to relatively inexpensively eliminate the otherwise federally-mandated and mindless 95-110 db horn blowing at crossings (as it is with our cars & trucks, QZ horn use is only allowed for cause).

Because long sought grade separations are so costly and therefore often take a decade or more to be designed, funded, and built, Menlo Park recently OK’d a city-wide QZ implementation study which will also include the Menlo Park-adjacent Palo Alto Ave. crossing. Meanwhile Atherton together with Caltrain already has a project in the works to extend their existing QZ to their only other crossing at Watkins Ave.

Posted by LKA
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 25, 2022 at 11:02 am

LKA is a registered user.

Why has the boilerplate “help is available” message not been updated with the new 988 number?

And how did pointing out to the administrator of this site that there was a problem of multiple emails mean the poster didn’t care about the tragedy?

Posted by Jon Keeling
a resident of Community Center
on Jul 25, 2022 at 11:12 am

Jon Keeling is a registered user.

Reality Check wrote: "Caltrain has long had forward facing cameras and event recorders. While these have been invaluable in discouraging lawsuits by survivors claiming their loved ones were accidentally killed as a result of some claimed negligence or hazardous condition on the crossings, and just as with the costly human crossing security guards Palo Alto tried using, they unfortunately cannot and do not prevent a suicidal person from simply stepping from a normal position of safety into the path of an oncoming train only seconds before impact."

I used to bike across the nearby Charleston intersection often. And quite a few times I stopped to chat with the crossing guard there. I really liked Jordan. He had such a great attitude. Once, he excitedly told me that he had been interviewed by a local TV news group, after they heard he had talked a student out of taking his life at the tracks. I searched around the web and then reached out to the TV station, who indicated that it didn't air because it wasn't news-worthy enough. This is a big problem, in my opinion. I have talked people out of suicide as well. There is only so much we can do to prevent suicides. But I believe we should do everything we can.

If you are reading this and need help, it is pretty easy to find my contact info online. For those who would like confidential, anonymous help 24x7, CrisisTextLine is 741741. I volunteered with them for a couple years and they are a great resource.

Posted by Frieda Stein
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jul 25, 2022 at 11:16 am

Frieda Stein is a registered user.

In lieu of 1-800 suicide phone lines, Palo Alto should assign the PAPD to monitor sections of the RR track.

The Reserve PAPD officers do little more than directing Stanford football traffic...they could easily be utilized as suicide prevention officers

Posted by WhatAboutme
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 25, 2022 at 11:23 am

WhatAboutme is a registered user.

[Post removed.]

Posted by Marc Vincenti
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jul 25, 2022 at 12:08 pm

Marc Vincenti is a registered user.

All condolences to the family, friends, and loved ones.

Posted by Green Gables
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 25, 2022 at 3:42 pm

Green Gables is a registered user.

Believe the PAPD Reserve people have other jobs during the week. Track elevation is not going to detour people who are wanting to take their lives.

Posted by Alice Schaffer Smith
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 26, 2022 at 10:13 am

Alice Schaffer Smith is a registered user.

[Portion removed.]

My sister went to Dignitas in Switzerland after she reached stage 3 of Alzheimers for assisted suicide which her daughter wrote about on her facebook page afterwards. She made an informed decision, known by her family and close friends with great dignity. She spent at least a year before they tracked down this organization. There are organizations now in Holland and Germany I believe as well. It costs money, to be sure. Why not this solution in the USA ? Sally knew she might live for 12-15 years (as my grandmother did) going from witty to witless and said she had been brilliant all her life and she wasn't going to end as a vegetable (this argued by a very forthright woman).

I don't know the solution but perhaps others do.

Posted by
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 26, 2022 at 5:39 pm is a registered user.

Can't waste PAPD on track watches, don't be insulting. They have too much training to be simple security guards. PAPD officers need 4 year college degrees to qualify for a job in the department.

Remember when they had track watchers? They were one step above felons; one of them even burglarized a house while he was supposed to be at the tracks. And they were not allowed to intervene if a person were to stand there and wait for the train to hit them. It was a complete waste of money.

As for Alice's posting, when a person is suicidal, they don't care about how it affects others. Perhaps if they are terminally ill, they would seek assisted suicide but others who are mentally in pain do not care, they just want to leave.

How can we justify spending billions of taxpayers' dollars to save the few people who will find another way to commit suicide if not the train? Get real.

The root cause of such distress (if not bipolar or schizo) is the lack of respect and love for children and the death of nuclear families. No more "Leave It to Beaver" families where the mom and dad nurtured the family life. Divorces, stepparents, stepchildren, children being ignored due to the internet and social media, lack of parent guidance, children feeling unloved and disrespected by their parents.

Posted by Bystander
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 26, 2022 at 5:56 pm

Bystander is a registered user.

As we have no idea who the person was or the cause of their decision, it is natural to theorise.

I tend to think we are doing our young people a great deal of damage and agree with the summing up last paragraph in the previous comment. We are giving young people, particularly boys, no hope for the future and no life skills on how to deal with disappointment in their lives. We are giving them no knowledge of failure, they all get trophies, no scores kept in sport, everybody passes just by handing in the homework/test. We are telling them they have privilege because of the color of their skin (or the opposite) and boys get less support in STEM as it goes to girls, or have to have girls in their BoyScout troops. Additionally, boys are getting a negative message about being normal teens who want to flirt with girls who report them for sexual harassment.

As for older people, I read recently of an older man who recently lost his wife and felt that life was too lonely without her. He had not seen his kids apart from her funeral and was not looking forward to years of being alone and forgotten. Suicide reduced his pain.

As I said, we can always theorise, and that's all. But misery can cause depression and depression is often mistaken as mental illness. We really do have to take a fresh look at why people have no hope in life and get back to basics and make everyone feel valued.

Posted by MyFeelz
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Jul 28, 2022 at 2:17 pm

MyFeelz is a registered user.

It's obviously not going to make this publication, but there was another "trespassing" fatality at the Rengstorff intersection this morning. Cal Train didn't list it as a "pedestrian", nor should the Meadow incident have been called a "pedestrian" incident. There are so many barriers, barricades, gates, lights, horns, etc that a pedestrian would have to be deaf, dumb and blind not to notice when a train is coming. Trespassing is when you ignore all of the obvious signs and go where you aren't supposed to go. No matter what they call it, it is TRAGIC that so many people are so despondent, their only option seems to be to jump in front of a train. There are numerous phone lines, online chat options, and a new 988 hotline, as well as medical options to help with depression. This publication probably isn't the place where someone in desperate need looks to for advice. But just in case you are, and you're making a plan, please call someone.

Posted by Darby Daniels
a resident of another community
on Jul 29, 2022 at 8:33 am

Darby Daniels is a registered user.

Deep rooted loneliness and the feeling that no one cares or understands is another reason that some people take their lives and in many cases, they are correct in their assessment of the situation.

[Portion removed.]

Posted by Sam Larson
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 29, 2022 at 8:41 am

Sam Larson is a registered user.

If the duties of the PAPD Reserve Officers are far too important for them to serve as track watchers, then assign the task to JC police cadets as part of their curriculum.

Make it a 'laboratory' assignment.

Posted by Bystander
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 29, 2022 at 11:13 am

Bystander is a registered user.

With another fatality on Caltrain yesterday in Mountain View, and news that suicide rates in certain demographics are now the leading cause of death, this has to be looked at without too much emotion and we have to discuss the issue.

Monkeypox is the latest buzz topic for health concerns and of course Covid hasn't gone away, but with suicide rates rising, it is time to do something to prevent these permanent solutions to temporary misery as these are.

People have been suffering so much in the past couple of years. The economic and social despair brought on by the pandemic have only added to the misery that many people felt. Additionally, more people have fallen into the misery for the first time due to life changes forced on them by pandemic and the inability to socialise, earn enough money to live on, or a feeling of low self esteem and self worth.

The new suicide number is a good move. However, people need people in their lives and they need to feel part of community. Social media is a big problem for certain segments, trolls, likes and stupid challenges, taking over from genuine friendships and relationships.

We must all do our part to make sure that those we love, those we move in social circles with and those who are living near us, are feeling positivity rather than misery.

Posted by MyFeelz
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Jul 29, 2022 at 5:01 pm

MyFeelz is a registered user.

Bystander, it feels like new strains of COVID and new transmissible infectious diseases are old hat. Nobody's listening any more.

Kind of like when war erupted in Ukraine, and all of a sudden everyone was flying the Ukraine flag, and setting up gofundme's to support displaced civilians. It was never going to be a one-day skirmish and we were asked to do our patriotic duty and suck it up at the gas station and the grocery store. Now that the novelty has worn off, we have double digit inflation and staggering energy costs, and the government wants to force us to buy electric cars that the majority can't afford.

It's easy to see how one could get swept along in the flood of misery that leads down a very dank bubbling pool. Phrases like "we're in this together" and "I'm masking for my health and for you, too" were quaint at first and seemed to solidify society's resolve to "beat COVID". I know more than one person who has "long covid". They don't feel like anybody's with them on this, and they don't feel like they can beat it.

So goes, also, the economic situation. I know people living off of PPP loans and the oversight has been lax, but it's picking up and some of those people are worried about their ill-gotten gains. To add to that, unprecedented housing shortages with no viable solution with wildfire season now added to the previous four we've always been used to, lead to more housing instability with more people living on the streets breathing unsafe air and in incomprehensibly hot weather.

Yes, as you said, "We must all do our part to make sure that those we love, those we move in social circles with and those who are living near us, are feeling positivity rather than misery." I can only try to prop up the people I know who I feel are at risk of chucking all of it. But every time the train slows down or worse, stops altogether with that tell-tale hum that says "unscheduled stop" all I can do is pray for those who are experiencing it.

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