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Inside Stanford's bid to expand -- and how it came undone

Original post made on Nov 8, 2019

The largest project in Santa Clara County's history got the axe just before noon on Nov. 1, a casualty of fundamental disagreements and accusations of "lack of good faith" between county and Stanford University leaders.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, November 8, 2019, 6:57 AM

Comments (30)

12 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Nov 8, 2019 at 7:38 am

Stanford is taking its marbles and going home. It's no better than a schoolyard bully.

It's too bad. That would have been a lot of non-tech jobs for the region. These jobs don't go away during a recession and help even out the bubbles that form in this area. Your house price, your job and your retirement account are all tied to Google/Facebook stock price.


14 people like this
Posted by Who's the bully?
a resident of Los Altos
on Nov 8, 2019 at 8:16 am

Who's the bully? Stanford is the only regional employer the county expects to provide concessions on this scale. Why don't we expect the same from Facebook, Google, Apple, and other large employers in the region who are expanding at the same rate and with similar negative externalities? All regional mega-employers should be expected to add no-net new trips, contribute to public transport, contribute land for school campuses or other non-profits, and help solve the housing crises they create. Stanford already gives back way more than other employers in the form of school campuses, the Marguarite shuttle, recreational and enrichment opportunities for the public, public service, etc. I'm glad Stanford pulled out of these negotiations because Stanford was being bullied by the county, but it is a lost opportunity for the region. The county bungled this one.


5 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 8, 2019 at 9:08 am

Posted by Who's the bully?, a resident of Los Altos

>> Who's the bully? Stanford is the only regional employer the county expects to provide concessions on this scale.
Why don't we expect the same from Facebook, Google, Apple, and other large employers in the region

Google, Facebook, Intel, and Cisco have been involved in the housing/transportation discussion. Google seems to be doing the most. They certainly haven't done full mitigation, but, at least they are discussing housing and transportation in public. Facebook has been talking about it. Apple is another story: "We pay taxes." Web Link

In the Weekly article, I particularly liked this:

==

Speakers talked about the need to keep the university accountable for the impacts of its growth. Erica Scott, president of the Associated Students of Stanford University, drew applause from the assembled crowd after she accused the university of having an "incredibly conservative bias."

"It means that whenever Stanford is making a decision, it will always prioritize its interests first. That's how institutions operate," Scott said. "Student pressure is absolutely vital in forcing Stanford to create decisions that are inclusive in their scope and that take into account repercussions that echo beyond Stanford campus."

==

Wise beyond her years. Unfortunately, and predictably, Stanford's GSB confirmed her view exactly:

==

Jonathan Levin, deal of the Stanford Graduate School of Business, made the same request.

"Growth is intrinsically tied up with the excellence of the university," Levin said.

==

Grow or die. What else would you expect from the conservative GSB?


14 people like this
Posted by Joe is not the hero
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 8, 2019 at 9:49 am

Maybe you should just put Simitian on the masthead and get it over with.

Simitian was both arrogant and incompetent. His hubris is matched only by Stanford's.

Now no one will get anything, an abject and predicable failure by Simitian and yet the Weekly is helping Joe to spin it as a victory for "the community."

I take great comfort in the fact that he will never be elected to Congress from this district [portion removed.]




12 people like this
Posted by Ray Price
a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 8, 2019 at 11:01 am

Joe is not the hero: "I take great comfort in the fact that he will never be elected to Congress from this district [portion removed.]"

I know it's tough for Stanford employees having a very emotional reaction to learning they will have to follow the rules for once. But this could not be more wrong, and the evidence is there if you choose to look at it (trigger warning: it may hurt your feelings). The exits from past elections consistently show Simitian pulling down a higher vote share than other candidates (Clinton, Harris, Eshoo, etc) in NON-Palo Alto cities.


12 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Nov 8, 2019 at 11:09 am

mauricio is a registered user.

I suggest Stanford deal with their campus rape culture before they resume their 'Bigger is better, we must engage in massive growth or we will crumble and die' hysteria.


8 people like this
Posted by eenee
a resident of another community
on Nov 8, 2019 at 11:33 am

eenee is a registered user.

They should just build in Redwood City. Evidently we have a city Council that has no concern at all for traffic mitigation or affordable housing


7 people like this
Posted by Crescent Park Rez
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 8, 2019 at 11:33 am

I agree with Who's the Bully? What's interesting to me is that I haven't seen a discussion of the feasibility of the County's mandated traffic restrictions or the desirability of the outcome. This article glosses over the issue just stating, "Geoff Bradley,...acknowledged that the university would need to add new transportation services but suggested that Stanford University is "one of the few places in the county where you can do this, where all of these pieces come together...The goal really is to create a dense, compact, comfortable environment."

What does this mean? It means the County's goal was to re-engineer Stanford into a self-contained/closed campus - essentially a "dense, compact" island where public transportation (which we don't have) would be the only option for people living in new the ee housing. Not Ubers or Lyfts, as that would be a vehicle. Over 2000 new homes and no cars.

It works in an urban area where there is extensive public transportation - like Boston or New York or Chicago.

I can't even imagine the uproar Palo Altans would have if the County mandated that Crescent Park needed to add over 2000 new housing units - which would make us dense and compact instead of suburban with R1 zoning throughout - and then say, and we're monitoring all of your traffic and there can be no increase in traffic. If there is, then whatever project you're working on, you have to stop, you've violated the terms of our mandate. Citizens of Palo Alto are in a panic that the State may mandate higher density near public transit. Yet, it's fine for the County to turn Stanford into a "dense, compact" island.

Of course every engineering company Stanford had analyze the scenario said it wasn't feasible. I don't think it was desirable either.





6 people like this
Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 8, 2019 at 11:59 am

To build on @Crescent Park Rez, the draconian levels and impractical nature of the mitigations would probably cause them to get thrown out in court, if Stanford wanted to go that route.

You want to build office space, but to do so you need to *build* on your *own land* sufficient housing for all the workers? And once they live there, they can't generate any traffic, ever? If either of these standards were applied to anyone else, there would never be any commercial development in Silicon Valley again - all that could exist would be self-contained company towns.

That's not planning, that's nonsense. Joe, maybe you can hurry back to PA City Council (like your friend Liz Kniss) and muck things up there.


12 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 8, 2019 at 1:03 pm

Posted by Neighbor, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis

>> To build on @Crescent Park Rez

A question for both of you: Is there any limit to the number of office jobs that any employer, whether it be Stanford, Google, Cisco, Facebook Apple, or anybody else, jobs that any employer can add? Because, it is so easy to add 10,000 jobs now that all you need is a desk and a chair and a laptop. Unlike the old factories and labs, and even offices with lots of filing cabinets and paper files, it takes a tiny amount of space per employee using laptops. You can probably house 10-20 people in your condo or house yourself. Maybe 30-50 for a large house. So, where are they going to live? How are they getting to work? Are they going to drive? Where will they park? Do you have room for 10, 20, 30, or 50 cars to park on your property?

The big companies have made it clear that the reason they are here is because of the advantages of having a huge labor pool of 25-50 year old at-will employees.

There is no natural limit such as there used to be on concentration of employees. For that reason, it is perfectly rational for the city and county to focus on the housing and transportation required for people to live and to get to work.


17 people like this
Posted by Only Reasonable
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 8, 2019 at 1:11 pm

The point is not Joe Simitian, although our city owes him our immense thanks for his bold, skilled and faithful leadership on this issue.

The point is that development causes impacts, big development causes big impacts, and developers must be held responsible for mitigating those impacts. Nothing unreasonable there.

So for now Palo Alto and nearby towns will be shielded from contending with the increase in employees, students, traffic, etc that would have come had the Supes caved. Should Stanford grow up and be ready to act more responsibly for its actions, then it can expand. No one other than Stanford is to blame.


4 people like this
Posted by Crescent Park Rez
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 8, 2019 at 1:26 pm

@anon. I didn't say it wasn't rationale for the County to focus on housing, transportation and employee count, I said that in looking at the Conditons of Approval for traffic, I could see how it would be impossible for Stanford to comply with the County mandated conditions and therefore, understandable that they would withdraw their application.

If you are offered a permit that has conditions that you cannot meet, why would you accept the permit?

Regarding altering or reducing the size of the development itself, that never came up because the County absolutely refused to engage with Stanford. There were no discussions.I don't know why the Weekly keeps reporting that negotiations/discussions were stopped - they never started. See the County's record on this. Supervisor Wasserman wanted to know why no one at the County ever responded to letters and proposals submitted by Stanford. No one even acknowledged them. He felt that they had not done as they had been directed to do - that they basically defied orders. Watch the meeting online. Maybe the Weekly should watch that one and do a story on it. That would be news.


1 person likes this
Posted by Net of what
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 8, 2019 at 1:34 pm

What does "no net new commute trips" mean?

Net of what?


5 people like this
Posted by Nanny
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 8, 2019 at 1:38 pm

Mauricio- is that your excuse of the day why Stanford should not expand???? Surely you can do better. Plus over the years you have claimed that Palo Alto is a dump- surely Stanford’s expansion would have improved the city.
I do hope that the weekly- Simitians publicity agent and head cheerleader is negatively impacted by this action of Stanford’s. Expect even more emails and pop ups asking for money from the weekly


5 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 8, 2019 at 1:50 pm

Posted by Crescent Park Rez, a resident of Crescent Park

>> t wasn't rationale for the County to focus on housing, transportation and employee count, I said that in looking at the Conditons of Approval for traffic,

>> Regarding altering or reducing the size of the development itself, that never came up because the County absolutely refused to engage with Stanford. There were no discussions.

Stanford, though not-for-profit, as a corporation-like private entity, seemed to have forgotten that negotiations with public entities require a lot of transparency. I don't want to engage, -again-, in a 'he-said she-said" regarding the school board negotiation attempt, but, while Stanford may be private and may expect that private-party negotiations are private, it doesn't work that way with public entities. [Brown Act, Bagley-Keene Act, Public Records Act, etc. etc. etc. etc.]

Now, regarding what Stanford needs to do to get things (re-)started: if there is to be a major expansion in number of employees, then, present a realistic transportation plan regarding where those employees likely will live, and, how they will get into Stanford through Palo Alto and Menlo Park. Once -the public- knows what the -real- plan is, then, the representatives of the public- the city councils, the SCC board, etc., can respond, as can PAUSD, Menlo school boards, etc.

Simply put, Stanford needs to be transparent regarding its public dealings.


9 people like this
Posted by Crescent Park Rez
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 8, 2019 at 2:23 pm

@anon. You missed the point. The Board voted on and approved the County engaging in development agreement discussions. It did not mean that a development agreement would be used, but that the County was to meet with Stanford and discuss concerns of the County and communities, their needs, etc. It was a unaminous vote. Board members were very surprised to find out that not one discussion had taken place that the County staff did not even acknowledge letters with offers from Stanford.

Stanford kept saying we want to discuss a Development Agreement. And, since the Board had voted unanimously to engage in discussions, this wasn't an unreasonable request on Stanford's part.

Then County Staff said no, we don't do development agreements so there's nothing to discuss. And, others start talking about "negotiations" in public and transparency.

What negotiations? There were no negotiations. They never even had a discussion even though the County Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to engage in discussions.




19 people like this
Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 8, 2019 at 3:35 pm

Did we all forget? Here's the headline from a year ago, Oct 17, 2018: County agrees to negotiate a development agreement with Stanford behind closed doors Web Link The vote was unanimous. Simitian said he felt "optimism about the exercise.”

Now history is being re-written. Simitian and his shills say: "the County has never done a development agreement in its history, why would it do one now? And if it did, it would have to be negotiated in public!" It takes a real pro to pull off a flip-flop like that with a straight face.

Hard to blame Stanford for getting whiplash when the agency changes the rules in the middle of the game. The two sides literally never negotiated, not once. What drove the change?

Simitian threw a tantrum over Stanford working out an agreement with the PA schools, which he had planned to sell out in the DA negotiation. He couldn't sell out the housing advocates and the unions - Chavez and the other Supes would never have agreed.

So, with no cards left to play, he just jammed up the process and everyone ended up with nothing. Which is fine for all the Palo Alto NIMBYs (Simitian's base) but basically a zero for everyone else. 'Atta boy, Joe!


9 people like this
Posted by Thanks Joe
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 8, 2019 at 5:01 pm

According to Collins and Dauber, Simitian was willing to take less for the schools than PAUSD negotiated! And didn't bother to tell them he was throwing them under the bus!

It's pretty remarkable what Simitian fans are willing to excuse. [Portion removed.]


13 people like this
Posted by Eric Filseth
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 8, 2019 at 6:06 pm

In my opinion, the County Supervisors and Stanford -- yes absolutely, Stanford -- have together done the region an immense service.

The costs of economic expansion, and who should bear those costs, is the Bay Area’s central challenge today.

The County-Stanford dialogue has been by far the most through, quantitative, and public discussion of this challenge that the Bay Area has ever had, and it’s been overdue. For too long, the costs of commercial expansion -- most recognizably housing and transportation, but also utility services, public safety, parks, schools, and a host of other downstream issues -- have been simply ignored as the Valley has grown.

With almost no exceptions (Mountain View’s North Bayshore planning process with Google is one), regional development has proceeded under the apparent rubric that these things are all unconnected, and therefore dismissable. But in reality they are =completely= connected; and the denser the Valley gets, the more those connections matter, and cost. The neglect of this fact has come back to us all, in the form of the region’s legion of social ills from traffic congestion to the flight of the missing middle to the growth in RV- and tent-dwellers. It’s been high time all this was dragged into the light, and the County-Stanford process has done that.

This situation is particularly challenging because it requires a “system” view, and approach. I’m not optimistic we’ll get that from Sacramento, which strikes me as having a few too many political gunslingers making opportunistic deals with special-interest silos, while offering symbolic thoughts and prayers to everybody else. So our region will have to fix this ourselves, and the very first step is surely to measure what we’re dealing with.

The GUP dialogue has laid out by far the clearest accounting of this landscape ever seen in this region: this many technical jobs, that many non-technical jobs, this much housing, that much -affordable- housing, this much traffic, that much reverse traffic, this many kids in schools and where, that many people in libraries, how much fire service from where, how many people through the train station, and so on and so on and so on.

That accounting is going to be critical if we’re ever to achieve sustainability as a region, because right now we’re clearly not there.

So thank you Joe and the Supervisors and Staff for forcing the discussion, and thank you Stanford for wholeheartedly engaging in it. Wherever the GUP expansion ends up, your many person-years of joint effort has given us tools and processes we’re going to keep needing for a long time to come.


6 people like this
Posted by chris
a resident of University South
on Nov 8, 2019 at 7:10 pm

Eric,

There is important point that you do not address. Facebook and Google will continue massive development. There is no way Menlo Park and Mountain View will completely shut them down, but they are not going for a 15-year GUP either.

If Stanford goes to one-off approvals, do you think these systemic mitigations you seem to envision will really take place? How much consideration will Menlo Park and Mountain View give Palo Alto in the mitigations they require of their developers and companies?


4 people like this
Posted by Mary Ruth Leen
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 8, 2019 at 9:56 pm

Mary Ruth Leen is a registered user.

Thank you, Mr. Simitian for swing through the attempts by Stanford to do an end run. Appreciate your continued caring for the citizens of Santa Clara County.
Keep up the good work!
From,
A 30 Year Homeowner in Palo Alto.


6 people like this
Posted by Stanford is the #1 Commercial Property owner in SCC
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 9, 2019 at 11:00 am

From the SJ Merc: Stanford is the #1 Commercial Property owner (apart from their academic, housing, and open space real estate holdings) in Santa Clara County--ahead of Google, Apple and all other commercial property holders.

The reason the county controls the GUP environmental review process is that Stanford sits on county-controlled land. Google dealt with Mountain View as the controlling agency. Facebook dealt with Menlo Park. Each of these agencies has local policies that apply.


6 people like this
Posted by Lost Opportunity
a resident of Los Altos
on Nov 9, 2019 at 4:00 pm

Stanford can still add more employees and more students without constructing more space by packing more people into existing space. Stanford can also continue to expand facilities by buying and building elsewhere on the Peninsula.[From Redwood City to Mountain View, Stanford has already purchased/built/leased office complexes and apartments complexes for students/staff.] But now the additional students and workers will have to commute between communities. The result will be worse traffic, more demand for housing, and higher housing costs with no additional community benefits. County: how is this helpful?

At the same time, the County shouldn't expect Stanford alone to solve regional problems that have been created over time by a handful of very large employers. Why should Stanford face stringent requirements that other large regional builders like Facebook and Google do not have to provide? (such as no new net trips, constructing affordable housing, providing child care services, providing bus service to non-company-affiliated people...) The inconsistency is baffling and disturbing, especially since it is my opinion that Stanford already provides far more community benefits than those other companies. We should not ask more of Stanford than we ask of all the other companies that have a similar number of employees in this area. "Full Mitigation" on a regional level should be expected of all employers, and not applied randomly or inconsistently.


4 people like this
Posted by Mary
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 9, 2019 at 8:35 pm

@Mayor Filseth. Thank you for acknowledging the incredibly detailed analysis and plan that was developed by Stanford and then evaluated by an independent contractor in the EIR. If only every project had to project their growth twenty years out and determine everything from traffic impacts to the potential number of school children to attend PAUSD.

But, my gratitude stops there. Because, thanks to your work and the work of others back in 2013 to stop 60 affordable housing units for seniors from being developed (I believe that there are now just 16 homes planned for the space) SB50 is currently being re-written to target cities like Palo Alto. See: "Filseth also took part in the residents' campaign that successfully overturned the council's approval of a housing development on Maybell Avenue last year." Web Link

How is your "no growth" mentality any different from all those auto factory workers in the rust belt who are waiting for their good jobs from the 70's to come back? Or the miners in Kentucky and West Virginia who want to hang onto their coal mining jobs and are climate change deniers?

The "I don't want things to change/must cling to the past" mentality is how Trump got into office.

Should Stanford's GUP application have gone through? I don't really know. There was so much demonizing of Stanford that it was impossible to get a clear sense of what was proposed. And, our City Council was pretty clear that Stanford should not be allowed to add one more student or one more job. Wasn't there a middle ground? I can tell you that if we, as a community were given a choice between allowing growth at Stanford OR allowing more tech companies to expand, I'd choose a university anyday. Tech companies come and go; a university rarely does a massive layoff.

How much has Palo Alto changed since the 1970's when my husband took a job here? It's been a lifetime of changes. And, we embrace it. Change happens. Fight it. Ignore it. Or work to shape it.

We missed an opportunity to work towards shaping our future. I hope we don't miss the next opportunity (thought doubtful it will be with Stanford). Oh, wait. SB50 will be shaping our future. Thank you for that.


4 people like this
Posted by lili li
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 10, 2019 at 7:32 am

Stanford can play hardball too if it wishes to do so. Close the Dish to outsiders. Close all its roads to outsiders. Close those two PAUSD schools on Stanford property. Fill the football stadium with events day and night every weekend. Fill Bing concert hall every night. Fill the amphitheater as often as possible. Shut down the free Margureite shuttle service except to those with a university id. Invite in restaurant-competing food trucks every day and night. Open up the open space for events, any group that can pay. Refuse to allow tourists on campus. Lock down all the buildings. Beef up security to keep outsiders out. Etc.


6 people like this
Posted by common sense
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 10, 2019 at 7:35 am

@Who's the bully? - Stanford doesn't pay property taxes on much of what it owns, as opposed to the regional employers you mention. Those property taxes the regional employers pay, help fund the social services, education and transportation (roads, etc).


8 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 10, 2019 at 11:19 am

Posted by Mary, a resident of Crescent Park

>> But, my gratitude stops there. Because, thanks to your work and the work of others back in 2013 to stop 60 affordable housing units for seniors from being developed (I believe that there are now just 16 homes planned for the space) SB50 is currently being re-written to target cities like Palo Alto.

So, because a poorly-conceived project was blocked, it SB50 is the opponents fault? BTW, why isn'f affordable housing being built in the Fry's site?

>> Should Stanford's GUP application have gone through? I don't really know. There was so much demonizing of Stanford that it was impossible to get a clear sense of what was proposed.

From this and your previous posts, I don't think you really grasp that "Stanford, Inc." is not a poor, underfunded "university". It is a modern, large scale enterprise. Not-for-profit, and, it enjoys all the benefits therefrom. But, it is a large employer, a large landowner, and has a significant impact on local transportation requirements. It is appropriate for Santa Clara County, which has the -responsibility- to oversee development on non-incorporated lands, to consider the transportation impact of a large increase in Stanford employment.

Oh By The Way, I would and do say the same about Facebook, Google, Cisco, and Apple.


4 people like this
Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
8 hours ago

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

We keep referring to "the county". Please note that the biggest city in the county is San Jose which is currently being gutted by Google to build it's "modern city". It is buying up county owned land and converting it to a giant metropolis.

Within the county Palo Alto is a small city and SU is a giant university which provides many of the amenities, including employment of all type people required to run a city. SU is a non-profit while Google is a commercial entity which has a tax base that still needs to be reviewed as to what the county has given away for their presence.
So evaluating the pluses and minuses at the county level you have very different outcomes regarding how land is used and appropriated. The county has big players and big issues. All of those issues implode onto our small city as to what we are willing to give away and what we want. Not an easy task - so let the people who have all of the facts regarding land use and tax base a break here. A giant balancing act in which you cannot isolate a topic relative to outcomes since it is all inter-related. Giving concessions to on side and not to the other leads to poor management of land use.


Like this comment
Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
7 hours ago

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

Note in the SJM today 11.11 - "Upcoming bond christened as Prop 13". It is specific to Bond supported construction costs for California schools - K-12, and includes community colleges, CSU, and the UC system. So at the "County" level this is another qualifier in a negotiation as to how PAUSD schools can proceed on their long term goals - which includes the implosion of SU growth and it's affects on our schools. It is also a qualifier in a negotiation with SU in that that state is going to fill in the blanks here so SU does not have to pony up more money.

No - the state is starting over with the prop numbers so it is not the Prop 13 of yesteryear. CA Gov trying to create more confusion which will have an effect on the bond fund coming up in the next election. So a wait and see here as to how much the PAUSD can justify getting from the bond fund - should it pass - another source of income regarding our schools. Note that Foothill CC is not in the city of Palo Alto so the negotiation regarding growth on that campus will fall into the hands of other city and county officials who are also working issues with De Anza CC that now has severe building issues - their performing arts center and main garage. Foothill and De Anza are politically tied up together within the county.
Yes - this has everything to do with SU since the cost on their growth can be offset by other contingencies. So there is a balancing act here at the county level with a lot of big time players moving land and construction around.

As a side issue RWC is in San Mateo County and will be promoting their own issues concerning SU growth in that county.


3 people like this
Posted by Lisa
a resident of Crescent Park
4 hours ago

Terrific analysis, Palo Alto Online. We're lucky to have you. The whole issue has been profoundly complicated.


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