News Digest | June 1, 2012 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - June 1, 2012

News Digest

City to consider limiting hazardous materials

Palo Alto's effort to curb the use of hazardous materials near residential neighborhoods will be the focus of a public hearing Monday night, when the City Council considers changing the city's zoning rules for industrial operations.

The council decided on April 23 to further analyze the city's hazardous-materials regulations and to consider changing the rules after hearing a litany of complaints from the Barron Park neighborhood. Concerns centered on Communications and Power Industries, a manufacturer of microwave and radio-frequency equipment. The company expanded its plating shop in 2006 and faced criticism from the neighborhood after it accidentally released nitric acid into the air, spilled water containing hydrochloric acid in the driveway and dumped wastewater into Matadero Creek.

The city had commissioned an amortization study to determine a reasonable length of time for CPI to phase out its plating-shop operation. The study concluded that it would take about 14 years.

CPI has consistently rejected the city's proposal that its operations be phased out. On May 4, the company's attorney Mark Steres wrote the council a letter stating that CPI has always been in compliance with all regulations. The company also rejected the findings of the amortization study, claiming that it would have to move all of its operations, not just the plating shop, if the city were to pursue a zone change prohibiting the shop.

"While we agree that it is the City's responsibility to protect its citizens, it is also the City's responsibility to act rationally and not to defer to unfounded and overly exaggerated fears," Steres wrote.

PG&E to start Palo Alto gas line replacement

A 76-year-old PG&E gas-transmission line scheduled for replacement starting June 11 could cause traffic delays, noise and foul odors in Palo Alto through the summer, Pacific Gas & Electric has announced.

The gas pipeline, called Line 109, is one of three running up and down the Peninsula that are part of the company's aging infrastructure.

Line 109 has concerned city leaders because it has only one welded seam, and PG&E has no record of testing the pipe. Other local pipelines have a double-seam weld, which secures the pipe inside and outside, according to a PG&E report.

PG&E will replace part of Line 109 along Charleston Road, west of Nelson Drive to Alma Street. Another segment next to Foothill Expressway at Miranda Avenue will also be replaced beginning in June.

Residents and commuters should expect traffic, noise and gas smells near the construction, but gas service in most cases will not be disrupted, PG&E noted. The north side of East Charleston will have partial lane closures throughout the project, although two-way traffic will be maintained. Some driveways could be blocked, but crews will provide access within a few minutes of a request.

Anyone with concerns about the smell of gas during the testing or replacement of the pipeline can call the 24-hour PG&E number at 800-743-5000. Residents and businesses wanting a phone call before gas venting begins can call Lizz Williams at 408-282-7640, no later than June 20.

Suspected burglar nabbed near Stanford Dish

Palo Alto and Stanford University police arrested a suspected burglar late Wednesday morning, May 30, after finding him hiding in a shed near the Stanford Dish.

Faculty housing in the area has been burglarized several times in the past week, and officers were in the area looking for suspicious activity when a captain spotted a vehicle driving erratically on the 700 block of Frenchman's Road at about 10:30 a.m., Stanford Department of Public Safety spokesman Bill Larson said.

The officer pulled the car over, but the driver then drove off, abandoned the car and fled on foot. Stanford and Palo Alto police set up a perimeter at Junipero Serra Boulevard and the neighborhood. Three officers jogged up a hiking path toward a house where they suspected the man was hiding, according to an eyewitness. Upon approaching the house, the officer in the lead was tipped off by a man working at an adjacent home that a stranger was hiding inside the shed next door.

After scaling the fence, the officer approached the shed and shouted: "Come out with your hands in the air!"

Seconds later, a lanky man wearing a loose T-shirt, baggy jeans and a baseball cap was escorted from the shed and taken into custody.

Stanford police are still investigating the man's possible connection to up to four burglaries, including one on Wednesday morning, but he is only a suspect at this time, Larson said. Some property in the vehicle was similar to items taken in one of the burglaries, he said.

Police did not release the man's name prior to the Weekly's press deadline Thursday, but he is a Southern California resident in his 20s, Larson said. He was arrested for violating parole, evading and resisting a police officer and was booked into the Santa Clara County Main Jail in San Jose.

— Gennady Sheyner and Sue Dremann