Around Town | September 2, 2011 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - September 2, 2011

Around Town

LIVE WITH IT ... Residents who live near downtown Palo Alto have been increasingly frustrated by the dearth of parking on their blocks, a problem they blame on downtown employees who refuse to pay for garage permits or to park in colorful two-hour zones. But to Russ Cohen, executive director of the Palo Alto Downtown Business and Professional Association, the parking challenges are, in fact, a sign of a vibrant downtown. While residents in the Professorville neighborhood have argued that they are being forced to subsidize downtown businesses that provide inadequate parking, Cohen countered in a letter to city officials this week that it is businesses in the downtown assessment district that are bearing the greatest burden. "While Palo Alto Business and Professional Association will continue to educate its members to the benefits of purchasing parking permits, the businesses can no longer bear the sole financial responsibility in responding to parking-demand issues," Cohen wrote. "The City of Palo Alto and the residential neighborhoods that border downtown must work together to share the fiscal burden." Cohen also wrote that the proposal by Professorville residents to create a "residential parking permit" program in their neighborhood could be problematic because it could shift the parking problem to another neighborhood and would privatize parking spaces that are currently public, an action he calls "unacceptable." "Living near any town feature (recreation center, school or train station, etc.) has benefits and burdens," Cohen wrote. "Those who choose to live near them accept and acclimate to their unique environs."

TRIPPING OUT ... A proposal by two Palo Alto police officers to curb sales of intoxicating cough syrups officially became law of the land this week. Gov. Jerry Brown on Wednesday signed into law Senate Bill 514, a proposal by state Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, to ban over-the-counter sales to minors of medicines containing dextromethorphan (DXM). When taken in large quantities, these medicines produce intoxication and hallucination — effects known to some as "robotripping" and "skittling." The proposal to limit sales of the high-inducing medicine was launched in 2004 by Palo Alto Sgt. Wayne Benitez and former Palo Alto officer Ron Lawrence, now police chief in Rocklin, as part of Simitian's annual "There Oughta be Law" contest. At that time, the bill stalled in the Legislature. Simitian said the idea was "ahead of its time." "Today, the extent and seriousness of the problem is better understood," Simitian said in a statement. "I'm particularly pleased that Gov. Brown was prepared to step up and address the growing problem." Benitez, who heads the city's largest police union, said in a statement that he and Lawrence "could not be more proud of the teamwork and collaboration shared between the Senator, his staff and the two of us. ... We started on this legislation years ago in hopes of making an impact on public safety. Governor Brown's signature on Senate Bill 514 has done just that."

THE CLEAN UP ... Every few months or so, the issue of contaminated groundwater bubbles up during public hearings on new developments in Palo Alto. Last week, for example, planning commissioners turned down a proposed mixed-use building on Page Mill Road because of concerns over a toxic plume underground. Local resident Bob Wenzlau has been thinking about this issue for years and, last month, helped create a new national standard for long-term care of contaminated properties. His company, Terradex, participated in a six-year study involving the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, state officials, developers and polluters and has recently released a guide for protecting occupants and environments at contaminated sites. Wenzlau, known for pioneering Palo Alto's curbside recycling program, called his company's latest effort "one of the most satisfying accomplishments in my career." "It would directly impact Palo Alto given the extent of contaminated groundwater plumes as well as Superfund sites," Wenzlau said in an email.