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Editorial: A broken code enforcement system

Original post made on Nov 30, 2018

The failures of Palo Alto's code-enforcement program are part of a broader problem that we hope incoming City Manager Shikada's operations and engineering experience will solve.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, November 30, 2018, 6:24 AM

Comments (23)

56 people like this
Posted by Abitarian
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 30, 2018 at 8:26 am

Considering the bang-up job he has done, it is unbelievable that outgoing city manager Jim Keene is under consideration for a raise, just weeks before his departure and just in time to boost his retirement pension.


42 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Nov 30, 2018 at 10:20 am

Online Name is a registered user.

I'm still waiting for city officials like Mr. Keene and our City Council to comment on all the non-working systems left by our departing who was too busy with his global junkets to do the job for which he was paid, Instead, we've got 2 CC members (Fine and Tanaka) commenting that the CIO wasn't fired but had quit. That's a defense??

Write the CC and oppose giving Mr. Keene a raise.


14 people like this
Posted by Unenforced & Unenforceable
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 30, 2018 at 12:01 pm

From 'The Treasure of El Palo Alto'...

"City Codes? We don't need no stinkin' City Codes."


15 people like this
Posted by Mark Weiss
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 30, 2018 at 12:14 pm

Mark Weiss is a registered user.

I don't know if this is the best place to put this, but I'm worried about a beautiful tree outside 209 Hamilton, an historic building (Sons of Golden West, Lobdell/Oliveira studios et cetera).
do our arborists always let landlords (Carol and Don Mullen, here) take down trees at will, or do we push back occassionally and say "no".
They say the roots are encroaching the basement. Maybe there is abagement short of killing?


41 people like this
Posted by No Raise for Jim Keene.
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 30, 2018 at 12:31 pm

No Raise for Jim Keene. is a registered user.

A raise is usually given for excellent past performance AND to encourage future good performance. How does that apply here?

City Manager Keene has been very well-compensated for his services. A raise would not encourage future good performance because he is leaving. He is only doing part of the job now as Ed Shikada has already stepped into his role. Giving Keene a raise will fatten his future pension payments while delivering no added value to the community.

City Council members who vote yes on this raise should be shown the door for fiscal malfeasance. We have a structural budget problem related to pension liability. Seriously? A raise for a guy who makes more than $300k/year (plus a stellar benefit package) and will be with us for only three more months?

I'm astonished and disappointed that our "very busy" Council is spending time to even consider this proposal.


26 people like this
Posted by The Fixer
a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 30, 2018 at 1:02 pm

Those who tally council voters will keep track of council members who support Jim Keene's last minute raise tp boost to his already substantial pension.

Voters who support those council members up for re-election in two years can vote them back in. Voters who do not believe they are the wisest choice to represent their best interests will vote them out. As just happened with Cory Wolbach's bed to stay on council despite massively outspending Tom Dubois and Eric Filseth.


6 people like this
Posted by Mark Weiss
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 1, 2018 at 7:32 am

Mark Weiss is a registered user.

Cory Wolbach's "bed'? I guess he switched to "Residentialist".
Let's see where he lands.

And I guess I shouldn't talk having typed "abatement" wrong.
Politics makes strange bedfellows.


7 people like this
Posted by Book 'Em Danno
a resident of Palo Verde
on Dec 1, 2018 at 2:50 pm

Concerned residents should conduct 'citizen's arrests' and/or issue citations to the offenders. The citations should done in triplicate. One copy to the offender, one to City hall and one for your records. Follow-up accordingly.

Arrests are a bit trickier in that you will have to detain the offender until the PAPD arrives. Carry handcuffs and know some martial arts.

By proactively enforcing these codes, you will be doing your fellow residents a service.


7 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 1, 2018 at 9:53 pm

"...the city concluded that the building inspector missed the problem when he signed off on the construction and that nothing could be done because it would be unreasonably costly to force the homeowner to move the garage."

Did the inspector actually visit the property? If so, did the inspector get out of their city truck. If so, did the inspector take any action beyond harassing hapless construction workers over minor details?

In my experience inspectors are very reluctant to actually inspect. Somebody should be inspecting the inspectors.


15 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 1, 2018 at 10:03 pm

[Post removed.]


11 people like this
Posted by Time to speak the truth
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 3, 2018 at 12:09 am

[Post removed.]


7 people like this
Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Professorville
on Dec 5, 2018 at 11:32 am

Since the matter of the Keene pay raise has popped up in this thread, here is the letter I sent to the Council about this:

Giving City Manager Keene a retroactive pay raise on top of his already lavish salary? Really?

This is an outrage. With a salary of over $300,000, depending on how many actual years of CalPERS agency employment Keene has been employed, and depending on the number of years he lives after retirement, he could easily draw over $10M in pension payouts. Isn’t that enough?

Looking at a potential payout for someone exiting the City's employment with a salary of over $300K, and not a police or fire department employee, such a person could start with a pension payout of about $240,000 the first year, with that person seeing over $460,000 a year by year 30 of his retirement. This comes to an average of about $330K per year. (Remember, someone on Social Security will receive between $14,000 and $30,000 per year.)

If the City Council can “spike” this man’s salary, then they can spike every employee’s salary.

Clearly, those Council Members supporting this “spiking” have no sense of fiduciary responsibility to the taxpayers and voters. Would it be a fair bet that not one of those Council Members prepared to vote for this “spike” has an idea how this additional payout will encumber the City via its already large UAL?

Any Council Member who votes for this should be recalled.


7 people like this
Posted by TJ
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 6, 2018 at 9:43 am

Code Enforcement? How about LAW Enforcement!! There are hardly any patrol officers in cars or motorcycles as there used to be. PA Police Officers will be the first to tell you how understaffed they are to the point that drivers in PA are on the "honor system" now and why you see so many speeders, stop sign and red light runners, etc. causing accidents and injuries (and even sadder: death).


9 people like this
Posted by Fiscal Restraint
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 6, 2018 at 9:55 am

> ...outgoing city manager Jim Keene is under consideration for a raise, just weeks before his departure and just in time to boost his retirement pension.
> With a salary of over $300,000...he could easily draw over $10M in pension payouts. Isn’t that enough?

Kind of like winning the lottery...which is probably why being a City Manager is a such a lucrative position.

Besides, when the money is coming out of someone else's pocket (i.e. the taxpayers), it's easy to toss cash around.


12 people like this
Posted by Please Help Safety
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 6, 2018 at 7:45 pm

It takes endless hours, tax payer money to constantly put notices on cars/trucks/campers/trailers parked for longer than than the City of Palo Alto's 72-hour parking policy limit.

After two notices, issue a ticket to the illegally parked vehicle... why doesn't this happen?

Since Nov 28, 2018 a very large oversized truck that advertises roofs, license 8X03051 has been parked on vista next to Congregation Emek Beracha Jewish Temple & Synagogue.

Since Dec 1, 2018 on ElCamino near Vista Ave. am oversized truck, and a large oversized camper, license: CA 2751245 and CA 5MES671.

Since Dec 1, 2018 on El Camino near Maybell Ave., a trailer with no license plate dumped on the street. There was a Uhaul Arizona plates: AG34502, the uhaul gone, but trailer still here. Prior it was parked for over 1 week next to happy donuts on El Camino.

VTA oversized/double-sized and Stanford Marguerite buses, UPS trucks, cement trucks, durt hauler trucks (due to all the construction), cars, etc., need to drive in TWO LANES TO GET PAST THE CAMPERS/TRAILERS PARKED ON EL CAMINO.

A number of pre-schools, elementary and high schools are located in the area from Matadero down past Maybell Avenue.

On this stretch of El Camino Real, bicyclists riding on El Camino, are squeezed between the campers parked on El Camino and vehicles traveling on this road. It's a dangerous stretch of road. Kids biking to school will not be so lucky, and only then will something be done to alleviate this problem.


8 people like this
Posted by eileen
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 7, 2018 at 8:59 am

eileen is a registered user.

I completely agree with >Please Help Safely. Barron Park and the El Camino areas should not continue to be the
RV park of Palo Alto.

If the city continues to ignore what is happening then citizens should encourage our RV residents to use the safe and
quiet streets in Professorville, Crescent Park, and other neighbourhoods in this city to park. Let's spread these
RV campers around! After all, the 72 hour parking limit will be ignored in these areas as well, right??


12 people like this
Posted by RV Dweller
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 7, 2018 at 9:16 am

If the city continues to ignore what is happening then citizens should encourage our RV residents to use the safe and quiet streets in Professorville, Crescent Park, and other neighbourhoods in this city to park. Let's spread these RV campers around!

It would nice to park our RVs in the aforementioned neighborhoods but the proximity to convenient shopping and other amenities is not viable. Barron Park and across from Town & Country Village provide ideal parking sites and serve our purposes to the fullest extent possible. El Camino Real also offers easy access to public transportation which allows us to leave our mobile homes parked on a semi-permanent basis. Since many are not fully operational or roadworthy, this is an important consideration.

Palo Alto though congested, also provides a relatively safe environment for our families and children. If you were forced to reside in an RV, you would probably settle in Palo Alto as well.



9 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 7, 2018 at 10:07 am

Online Name is a registered user.

"Code Enforcement? How about LAW Enforcement!!"

Not when the city idiotically passes, for example, a symbolic an anti-idling law and then when asked about it, our Mayor and City Manager suggest that school kids hand out citations -- the equivalent of telling the kids to play in traffic -- since we don't have any way of enforcing it. If they cared about idling, it could just follow every FEDX delivery truck, ticket them and make some money and stop pleading poverty. And that's just one example of the way the city wastes everyone's time.

But they don't care about fixing anything. But they sure do love going on trips to our sister cities and handing out "road diet" contracts and ridiculous resolutions that PA is really safe for technology companies.

How about REAL performance reviews for our highly paid contract administrators who can't be bothered to respond to residents and leave us with non-working tech systems? How about some accountability? How about some fiscal restraint?


2 people like this
Posted by eileen
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 7, 2018 at 1:34 pm

eileen is a registered user.

>RV Dweller, "It would nice to park our RVs in the aforementioned neighbourhoods but the proximity to convenient shopping and other amenities is not viable. Barron Park and across from Town & Country Village provide ideal parking sites and serve our purposes to the fullest extent possible. El Camino Real also offers easy access to public transportation which allows us to leave our mobile homes parked on a semi-permanent basis. Since many are not fully operational or roadworthy, this is an important consideration."

Many of the streets in Professerville, Crescent Park, Old Palo Alto, etc. are within walking or biking distance of most amenities like markets, drycleaning, pharmacy, etc. Try these areas and see for yourself! Also it will be super quiet, unlike El Camino.

BTW, most things in Town and Country are pretty expensive except maybe CVS and Trader Joe's. Maybe you don't want to park in other neighborhoods because you are worried that the nice friendly residents of the above neighbourhoods will force the city to enforce the parking code? Just wondering.....


26 people like this
Posted by Support Your Local RV
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Dec 7, 2018 at 2:32 pm

> Maybe you don't want to park in other neighborhoods because you are worried that the nice friendly residents of the above neighbourhoods will force the city to enforce the parking code? Just wondering.....

** For one reason or another (quite possibly aesthetic), the majority of these transient RVs seem more appropriate in specific parts of Palo Alto rather than in neighborhoods such as the Palo Alto Hills, Old Palo Alto, Professorville and/or Crescent Park among others.

Frank Lloyd Wright once opined that architecture should blend in with its natural environment and to some extent, these RVs could be considered 'rolling' architecture and some will always appear more 'natural' in certain sections of Palo Alto.

That said, there is an RV parked in our immediate neighborhood...a black Mercedes Sprinter that 'blends-in' nicely with the surrounding homes in the area.








25 people like this
Posted by RVs Look OK In Some Areas of PA
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 7, 2018 at 6:31 pm

> the majority of these transient RVs seem more appropriate in specific parts of Palo Alto...

Yes. There are some Palo Alto neighborhoods where a string of RVs would make nary a difference in terms of detracting from their overall appearances.

Not pointing any fingers...just saying.


8 people like this
Posted by R.Davis
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 8, 2018 at 9:15 am

R.Davis is a registered user.

QUOTE:...citizens should encourage our RV residents to use the safe and quiet streets in Professorville, Crescent Park, and other neighbourhoods in this city to park. Let's spread these RV campers around!
QUOTE: Frank Lloyd Wright once opined that architecture should blend in with its natural environment and to some extent, these RVs could be considered 'rolling' architecture and some will always appear more 'natural' in certain sections of Palo Alto.
QUOTE: There are some Palo Alto neighborhoods where a string of RVs would make nary a difference in terms of detracting from their overall appearances.

Curious. Is this a discussion of art interpretation or blight erradication?



8 people like this
Posted by Just Say NO to Palo Alto Perceived Art
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 8, 2018 at 2:44 pm

> Curious. Is this a discussion of art interpretation or blight erradication?

Hopefully not art. Everyone knows that Palo Alto has absolutely no taste in presentable public art (e.g. the Embarcadero Road 'Friends' sculpture of yesteryear, the California Avenue 'island' sculptures...ad nauseum).


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