Letters | February 25, 2011 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |


Palo Alto Weekly

Spectrum - February 25, 2011


Caltrain vs. traffic


Although I normally take the Caltrain to work, I recently needed to drive to San Francisco on U.S. Interstate 280 at the end of the morning commute. I was surprised to see how crowded the freeway still was, especially in the southbound direction.

Peninsula commuters who use the well-subsidized public roadways to drive to work might want to stop in at the train stations during commute hours to watch the substantial flow of people on and off the trains. This exercise would make it easier to visualize the impact of the extra cars on the road if all those people are forced to drive.

Nearly everyone who takes the train is a driver with a car, or could be if necessary. Public tax money builds and maintains the roads. Drivers should be aware that it is in their best interests to make sure the trains also have enough public support to continue to run and to run effectively.

Commuters, you don't want all of us joining you on the roads. You may want to let your county officials know that.

Christy Junkerman

Chaucer Street

Palo Alto

Renzel rebuttal


Emily Renzel's letter regarding the cost of composting in Palo Alto (Feb. 18) is disingenuous.

She used to argue that proponents of composting were relying on one cost estimate from one vendor to make our case, but now she's doing the same thing. The vendor whose figures she cites hopes to build a facility in San Jose. They also own the other major regional composting facility in Gilroy, so they would have a monopoly on composting and could charge whatever the market will bear. While the city's consultant assigned a whopping 30 percent contingency cost on an anaerobic digester in Palo Alto, he failed to do so for the San Jose facility, a flaw city staff has acknowledged and will correct.

The high-end estimates Renzel quoted for a Palo Alto facility are based on overly sophisticated technologies that staff has ruled out as not being necessary for our local needs.

Renzel used to promote an anaerobic digester for sewage sludge alone at the wastewater treatment plant that would allow us to retire our dirty incinerator. By scaling up such a facility to handle food waste and later yard waste in the composting process, we could dramatically reduce the cost per ton while doubling the amount of green energy produced and greenhouse gases reduced. This option has yet to be studied.

In April, Renzel opposed the composting feasibility study and now she opposes studying what could be our best and cheapest option. Come on Emily, let's compare apples to apples.

Peter Drekmeier

Fulton Street

Palo Alto

Green energy


I am supporting the Palo Alto Green Energy Initiative for the following reasons:

1. I think it's important to keep our options open. By setting aside ten acres of the present dump when it closes, the city has ten years for the development of a biological and/or other equally environmentally protective technology to convert our sewage sludge, yard trimming and food waste into compost and renewable energy.

2. I was taught that if I make a mess, it's my responsibility to clean it up. With that ethic in mind, it seems not only environmentally appropriate not to dump our waste on others, it's also ethical. If we produce the sludge, the trimmings and the waste, we should clean up our own mess.

3. We have the opportunity to turn a bad thing into a good thing. The piece of land that is slated to become an expansion of Byxbee Park is so large (that's the bad thing — too much trash!) that there's room for park expansion and an environmentally protective technology (that's the good thing!); to convert our waste (the bad stuff) into compost and renewable energy (the good stuff).

At this point in the process, I see it as a green and green initiative. And for that reason, I support it.

Penny Barrett

Patricia Lane

Palo Alto

Compost feasibility


As the compost-feasibility study has progressed, the numbers Emily Renzel cited in her letter of Feb. 18 opposing local composting have become irrelevant.

First, the study doesn't fully deal with the issue of incineration. Palo Alto is one of only two cities in the state that incinerate sewage sludge (also called "biosolids"). That process costs the city $2 million/year in fuel and maintenance, plus another $200,000 a year to truck the ash to a toxic dump.

It also emits both 6,000 tons of CO2 and many toxic pollutants. And the incinerator is old, but the study's cost figures did not include any estimate of the enormous costs that would be incurred to rebuild it to current standards.

Second, there is a method by which wet anaerobic digestion can combine biosolids with food and yard waste to produce landscaping compost and energy. That method could be applied here, but it would require the 10 acres covered by the Initiative, and the consultant has not yet studied it.

Third, even though application of such wet anaerobic digestion may involve high costs, those costs can't be charged to the initiative, because the city would have to incur the cost of replacing the incinerator to deal with its biosolids in any case.

So sign the initiative now if you haven't already; all signatures will definitely be turned in.

Walter Hays

Parkside Drive

Palo Alto

Wi-Fi plans


I feel a need to enlarge on my remarks in the story in the Feb. 18 issue about AT&T's plans for a Wi-Fi network in Palo Alto. I am quoted as saying that we have been surrounded by radio waves for a long time with no apparent ill effects. That's true. Also the article says I am not certain there is no risk. That's also true. But no serious scientific study shows negative health effects from the radio frequencies and power used in Wi-Fi networks.

International standards concerning health effects of the electromagnetic field created allow for field intensities far greater than experienced in Wi-Fi networks. These standards are based on extensive studies. The probable health risk is nil. I can find many things about AT&T's business practices to dislike, but this is not one of them.

Of course I am not certain there will be no risk. Nothing is certain. I'm not certain the earth will continue turning and the sun will come up tomorrow, but I consider it very likely.

Joe Rolfe

Emerson Street

Palo Alto

Car burglaries


We flew in to visit Stanford for a college tour with our kids and stopped by the Stanford Shopping Center to shop at Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom. After a brief 45 minutes we came back to our rental and discovered all our belongings stolen from the trunk. In the middle of the day.

No purses, camera, money lying on the seats to alert the bad guys. They target rentals. We were one of three cars that were discovered to have been broken into Saturday afternoon. So far. No ID, clothing, medicine. Had to go home two days early.

How about some warning signs to innocent college parents who go shopping to say that if they drive a rental, they may as well leave it unlocked? The thieves just popped the lock on our car like they were locksmiths.

Where is mall security patrol? This was mid-day! Maybe someone should put a billboard up warning others of the high-crime area in the Stanford Shopping Center parking lot.

Robin Lucas

Denver, Colo.


Posted by Nora Charles, a resident of Stanford
on Mar 2, 2011 at 11:13 pm

To Robin Lucas of Denver,

I was sad and angry to read about your car burglary. I always thought the trunk was safe to stash packages, but apparently not. I sympathize with your feeling of violation, and then the terrible inconvenience, having to cut your trip short. And I didn't realize that rentals are targeted. I'm so sorry you had such a bad experience here.

In my many years of going to the Stanford Shopping Center I have never had my car broken into, nor has anyone I know. When I am there I see security vehicles constantly circling the parking lots, as well as many security officers on foot. It is normally very, very safe. No comfort to you now, of course, but what happened that day is not a common occurrence.

Posted by Robin Lucas, a resident of Stanford
on Mar 3, 2011 at 7:54 pm

To Nora Charles ,
I do appreciate your empathy regarding the auto burglary we were victim to at the Stanford hopping Center, however I must disagree with your comment that what happened to my family is not a common occurrence. Check the Palo Alto Police Blotter and you'll find a consistent and disturbing trend of car thefts at 180 El Camino Drive which is the physical address for the shopping center. Residents of the area are probably exempt from the car break ins as the thieves apparently just target visitors in rental cars.
Robin Lucas

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