News Digest | September 9, 2022 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - September 9, 2022

News Digest

AG asks Supreme Court to review appeal in inmate's death

The California Attorney General's Office has filed a petition with the state Supreme Court asking the justices to hear a case involving an Appeal Court opinion that overturned the second-degree murder convictions of three former correctional officers for the beating death of Santa Clara County inmate Michael Tyree on Aug. 26, 2015.

Tyree, who suffered from mental illness, was booked into Santa Clara County jail on July 11, 2015, for an alleged probation violation. While in jail, the 31-year-old man was fatally beaten by officers Matthew Thomas Farris, Jereh Catbagan Lubrin, and Rafael Rodriguez.

A jury convicted the three men of second-degree murder in 2017. They were sentenced to 15 years to life in prison.

Their attorneys appealed the conviction in 2018, claiming the primary legal theory prosecutors used had been invalidated by changes in state law.

In an Aug. 1, 2022, opinion, state Court of Appeal Judge Thomas Goethals, associate justice of the Fourth District Court's third division, overturned the men's convictions because Senate Bill 1437, which passed in 2018, declared invalid the "natural and probable consequences" theory that the jury considered when deciding whether to convict the deputies. Goethals said in his opinion that the law is retroactive.

On Aug. 23, the Court of Appeal denied the Attorney General's petition for a rehearing. Two additional judges declined to change the Goethals' judgment. His ruling also allows prosecutors to retry the three defendants "on a valid theory or theories of homicide with a properly instructed jury."

Sean Webby, a spokesperson for the Santa Clara County district attorney, said the office is waiting on the results of the attorney general's petition for review with the Supreme Court before deciding whether to retry the case. The petition for review is due Sept. 12.

— Sue Dremann

City mulls raising zoo ticket prices

With revenues falling below expectations, Palo Alto is once again considering hiking ticket prices at the newly rebuilt Junior Museum and Zoo.

The topic of admission prices proved to be thorny last year, as staff proposed charging $18 for admission to a museum that historically allowed visitors to walk in for free. After backlash from the Friends of Junior Museum and Zoo, a nonprofit that raised $25 million for the museum's reconstruction, the council settled on a more modest fee: $10 per visitor.

The decision has, however, come at a cost. According to a new city analysis, the museum's operations are costing the city more than $1.2 million annually. While the city had projected the museum to recover 65% of its costs through ticket prices and membership purchases, the actual cost recovery level between the museum's opening date of Nov. 12 and the end of June was just 54%.

On Tuesday, the council Finance Committee considered various scenarios for raising revenues, all of which call for hiking ticket prices. Even the most modest proposal from staff would result in a 50% increase, with tickets for general entry going up from $10 to $15. Other scenarios contemplate ticket prices of $16, $17 and $18.

The new report does not propose any ticket price increases at this time, though it notes that staff is monitoring the museum's resource needs and that any recommendations about adjustments will be presented to the Council as a part of the city's annual budget process for fiscal year 2024.

— Gennady Sheyner

Dispatcher error triggered Tuesday outage

When the city of Palo Alto shut off power to about 1,700 customers in the Midtown, Old Palo Alto and Industrial Park neighborhoods on Tuesday afternoon, utilities officials believed they were following an urgent order to conserve power from a state agency that oversees independent utility operators.

Now, however, it appears that the power outage was premature, unnecessary and based on a dispatcher's misunderstanding. The outage, which came in the midst of a sweltering heat wave, hit Palo Alto customers at about 6:30 p.m. and lasted for about 30 minutes before city officials learned about the error and restored power.

At 5:17 p.m., Palo Alto was asked to cut off power by the Northern California Power Agency (NCPA), a not-for-profit organization that represents numerous municipal utilities and that serves as an intermediary between these utilities and the California Independent System Operator (CAISO), which manages electricity flow.

In receiving the order, however, a dispatcher with the Northern California Power Agency misinterpreted it as a request to shed 46.02 megawatts of electricity to prevent widespread outages, according to a statement from the agency. The dispatcher then immediately communicated the directive to utility officials in Palo Alto, Alameda, Lodi, Santa Clara, Healdsburg and Ukiah, prompting them to turn off power.

Once the dispatcher contacted CAISO to inform them about the action, the individual was notified that there was a misunderstanding around the order. The NCPA then began the process of returning the load back into the system, according to its statement. The longest outages lasted about an hour, the NCPA reported.

— Gennady Sheyner


Posted by resident3
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 7, 2022 at 12:31 pm

resident3 is a registered user.

"Vice Mayor Lydia Kou suggested hiring an expert in pricing optimization to evaluate whether and when ticket prices should be raised.She also suggested a program to subsidize entry fees for those who cannot afford ticket prices."

Prices should never be raised. Charging kids "over 12 months of age" seems arbitrary. Serious fundraising should start, to have have a limited number of FREE tickets for pre-school children, every day the museum is open, first come first serve. Parents need to have places to inspire toddlers. Please eventually make this museum free for kids.

Posted by Old teacher
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 7, 2022 at 1:29 pm

Old teacher is a registered user.

As a community center resident for more than 50 years, I am horrified by the high price of admission. When my children and grandchildren visited with me, it was free and we could visit as often as we liked. What happened? I remember contributing to fund raisers to rebuild the facility, but I never dreamed it would have high ticket prices like $10! What a horror. The Children's zoo has been a treasure for so long; why is Palo Alto charging such outragious prices for this important learning facility?

Posted by Green Gables
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 7, 2022 at 1:47 pm

Green Gables is a registered user.

Government is very inefficient and that definitely includes the City of Palo Alto. How about using volunteers to do some of the staffing at the museum and zoo? Yes, it use to be free when the City was better at being almost efficient.

Posted by Native to the BAY
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 7, 2022 at 3:05 pm

Native to the BAY is a registered user.

Return to the no cost to enter legacy. Like the Junior Museum community benefit was historically set up for. This is an FDR era legacy supported by the likes of Lucy Stern. Hello! There are very few benefits that come with living in Palo Alto. This is one of them. Ms. Holman where is your leadership in said women centered history of our local Junior Museum?

Lydia Kuo and her embarrassing "cooing" to "hire" consultants to study fee based entrances. Vote her out. Plus she's always too distracted looking at her next multi million dollar real estate transaction just posted to Zillow and on her computer then listening to true community needs and demands from our long time residents. Can't wait for "Phony" Filseth and "Do Nothing" DuBois" City Hall eviction by the CC gavel's Dias. They've done a Century of damage with their culture crashing demeGod decisions un serving the deserving. Instead of raising taxes, they take organically grown, health and education from babies. If only I could post a beautiful picture of my toddler having a fun filled, no cost afternoon looking, touching, seeing, hearing the sights and sounds of our Natural and Scientific world of existence.

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Sep 7, 2022 at 3:25 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

Not defending Lydia in this case because I don't know enough about her recommendation, but she's one of the pathetically few CC members who goes to bat for the people who live here and who tries to track down answers for us. Note it was Ms. Cormack, not Ms Kou who forced the hugely expensive, hugely impractical Mitchell Park Library on us because she was "ashamed" of the more modest one it replaced. Who in their right mind puts a noisy children's playroom near the entrance so the noise of the playing children echoes throughout the building??

I doubt you want to compare Ms Kou's real estate dcommissions with that of the commercial real estate and real estate law practices of other CC members and mayors, especially when they so often serve the interests of the billionaire developer and landlords.

Remind me again which CC member wanted to convert town & Country Shopping Center into "medical/research" properties thus depriving the city of sales tax revenues mere weeks before the pandemic ended and which CC member actually talked to the small-business owner tenants at T&C!

Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 9, 2022 at 1:48 pm

Annette is a registered user.

I would love to know how many of the City's senior staff live in Palo Alto and how many have children here. With increasing frequency I read what is being proposed and find myself wondering HOW they can even think about doing whatever it is. There are so many examples, with this idea about hiking the entrance fees to this museum and zoo being just one. The disconnect is concerning.

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