News Digest | March 18, 2011 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - March 18, 2011

News Digest

Budget deficits forecast for Palo Alto

Recent layoffs and salary freezes will not save the City of Palo Alto from years of budget deficits as health care and pension costs continue to spike across the state, the city's finance officials said Monday night (March 14).

Despite two years in which the city eliminated about 60 full-time positions and privatized various services, Palo Alto is projected to face a cumulative deficit of about $100 million over the next decade, according to a new 10-year financial forecast. The document, which the City Council discussed Monday, indicates that the deficit would climb to about $215 million over 10 years if the council were to add $10 million a year in infrastructure spending, as some have advocated. The city's infrastructure backlog is currently estimated at about $500 million.

The numbers would've been even higher if not for the fact that the council trimmed the city's ongoing expenses by $7.3 million last year and instituted salary freezes on most city workers to close recent budget gaps. But city officials pointed to the new forecast as an indicator that city employees will have to make further sacrifices in the years to come.

Public-safety workers — notably the firefighters — present a particular concern to finance officials. Perez said if the city's public-safety unions agreed to the same type of concessions that other bargaining groups have accepted, the city would not have a deficit in fiscal year 2012. Under the current projections, Palo Alto is slated to have a deficit of $937,000 in the current fiscal year (which ends June 30) and deficits of $2.3 million and $6.7 million in the next two years, respectively.

City changes rules for Professorville demolitions

Palo Altans often gripe about the frustrations and complexities of the city's permitting process, but few can match the ordeal that Alan Akin and Michelle Arden slogged through as they tried to demolish their home in the historic Professorville district.

Though their home at 405 Lincoln Ave. was found to have no significant historic value, it took Akin and Arden three years and $500,000 to get the city's approval for the demolition.

On Monday (March 14), the Palo Alto City Council began an effort to reform Professorville rules to clear up some of the issues that muddied up the permit process for 405 Lincoln Ave. Among the main questions the council wrestled with was: How hard should it be to demolish a home that, in of itself, isn't considered "historically significant" but that contributes to the character of a historic district?

Several members of the Historic Resources Board argued Monday that the city should consider the district as a whole, rather than focus on individual projects. Some homes, such as Akin's and Arden's, are listed as "contributing structures" rather than historically significant ones. Under a staff proposal, which the council unanimously endorsed Monday, applicants seeking to demolish homes with no significant historic value would not be required to complete an Environmental Impact Report (EIR), as Akin and Arden had to.

New family to run JJ&F grocery in Palo Alto

A new family has taken over operations of JJ&F Food Store in Palo Alto and may purchase the store, according to one of the new managers.

The 62-year-old Palo Alto market was owned by John, Dennis and Lloyd Garcia until November 2010 and was sold to Emerald Market in Redwood City, John Garcia confirmed Tuesday (March 15).

But he learned last week that JJ&F was either being sold or that Emerald's owner was going into a partnership with a family, the Khourys.

Five brothers — Mark, Chris, Ronnie, Johnny and Issa Khoury — hail from three generations of grocers and are operating the business, Mark Khoury said.

On Tuesday, Khoury said his family is buying Emerald Market and had agreed to operate JJ&F at the request of Emerald's owner. The family is trying to purchase JJ&F from Emerald, he said.

Khoury mistakenly stated in an interview on Monday that the College Terrace neighborhood store was still owned by the Garcias, who were helping to run the store.

"I apologize for the confusion," he said, stressing that the brothers want to work hard to make the store fresh and appealing, with excellent customer service.

The Khourys took over management of the store at 520 College Ave. on March 9.

The five brothers range from 26 to 35 years old and have experience in running grocery stores, Khoury said.

JJ&F will get a new name — Jojo's Market, he said.

— Sue Dremann


Posted by Roger, a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 18, 2011 at 2:41 pm

I am glad there may be improvements at JJ&F, or Jojo's, as it has gone downhill since the Garcia's left.

Regarding the City's deficit, I am so tired of 10 year deficits being published instead of annual deficits. Governments budget annually so why not say the deficit is $10 million per year instead of $100 million over 10 years? I can tell you why, because it scares people more since most people see $100 million and miss the 10 year detail. Citizens then say how can we deal with all that this year and they demand drastic cuts? The 10 year deficit is a deceptive practice used statewide but it is a fallacy because none of us knows the future.

Posted by Old Timer, a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 18, 2011 at 7:11 pm

I was so sad to see the Garcias leave and was very put off by the Emerald management and workers (who blew their nose at the register and smoked outside in front). I had to stop in this past week to grab a sandwich and was delighted by the warm service at the sandwich counter, and at the check out counter. After paying for my sandwich I learned that the very gracious and polite man who was at the register is the new owner. I'm very optimistic and look forward to seeing what they will do!

Posted by Heather, a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 19, 2011 at 1:44 pm

I stopped for some groceries at JJ&F this morning and met Chris Koury at the register. He was very friendly, asked if I had any special requests or orders to stock, and emphasized his family's desire to return the grocery to a neighborhood gem.

The store had become very emptied out under Emerald; I hope the Kourys venture succeeds and welcome the new ownership and its desire for excellent service.