Around Town | July 12, 2013 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - July 12, 2013

Around Town

CIVIC ENRAGEMENT ... Palo Alto has been awash in neighborhood events this summer, with block parties, foodie gatherings and emergency-planning exercises all coming on board thanks to the City Council's recent decision to subsidize these events through a "neighborhood grants" program. But the two neighborhood parties set for this Sunday were sparked by another council decision — its June 28 vote to rezone the site at 567 Maybell Ave. to enable construction of a 60-unit apartment complex for low-income seniors and 12 single-family homes at the former orchard site. In approving the project despite major opposition, the City Council has succeeded beyond its wildest dreams in sparking civic engagement, promoting democratic participation and bringing neighbors together (albeit in opposition to the council). On Sunday, July 14, opponents of the rezoning decision are hosting two events geared at getting the needed signatures to bring the decision to a November referendum. From 4 to 6 p.m., there will be a wine and cheese party (it's still Palo Alto, after all) at a residence at 1121 Harriet St. Those who prefer lemonade and cookies can attend another referendum party at Mitchell Park, near the East Meadow Drive side. That event will be held from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.

REPRESENT ... Palo Alto has no shortage of opinions when it comes to the rail issues. In recent years, the city has been one of the state's most vocal critics of the proposed high-speed rail line even as it remained a staunch advocate for Caltrain improvements. The city's Caltrain station on University Avenue is the second-busiest in the entire system, and the council has been increasingly requiring developers to prevent new traffic problems by buying Caltrain passes for their tenants. But when it comes to having an actual say in Caltrain policies, the city's voice has been muted by the agency's bureaucratic structure. Neither the city nor its neighbors in the Midpeninsula have any representatives on the nine-member Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board, which owns and oversees Caltrain. While the board includes three representatives from each of the counties Caltrain serves — San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara — none of the current members representing Santa Clara County are from the northern part of the county (they are Santa Clara County Supervisor Ken Yeager, San Jose City Councilman Ash Karla and Gilroy City Councilman Perry Woodward). Now, Palo Alto hopes to change that. To that end, Mayor Greg Scharff has written a letter to the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority, which appoints members to the Caltrain board, asking the agency to devote at least one of the three spots within its purview to the northern part of the county. "There is no representation for Santa Clara County north of San Jose despite over 75 percent of Santa Clara County boarding north of San Jose."

CANCELED FLIGHTS ... Surf Air, the "all-you-can-fly" airline service that was supposed to take off from the Palo Alto Airport instead made a flyover, putting down wheels at the San Carlos Airport. Santa Monica-based Surf Airlines Inc., or Surf Air, is the Netflix of air travel, but it's aimed at serial travelers rather than couch potatoes looking to binge on serial dramas. It offers its members unlimited flights between smaller airports — in San Carlos, Santa Barbara and Burbank — for a monthly fee that will run you a tad more than a Netflix episode binge — $1,650. Surf Air CEO Wade Eyerly said he liked the Palo Alto Airport, but practical matters made him decide on San Carlos instead. "The runway was 500 feet longer, and that turned out to matter," he said. "Plus it kind of splits the difference between the Palo Alto crowd and downtown San Francisco crowd. It's a little easier to go four miles south of SFO, where the airport itself and facility is." He said the upcoming transition of ownership from Santa Clara County to the City of Palo Alto didn't have any bearing on the decision to switch airports.