Publication Date: Friday, January 30, 2002|
(January 30, 2002) Dot.coms and dry cleaning
I was joking with a San Jose resident the other day about how all we have left in Palo Alto are dry-cleaning stores and salons. After years of watching our local retail be decimated or pilloried by astronomical rents, I can't get too put out by the post-dot.com vacancy "problem."
Many innocent people got hurt (and are still hurting) when that bubble burst, but many pigs got slaughtered at the same time and for them I'm not shedding any tears. Hoping that further articles on office vacancies will include input from sources other than the developers.
Compaq merger needed
As a 19-year veteran of the Hewlett-Packard (HP) Company with a sizable holding of HP stock, I have been following the proposed merger with Compaq very closely and I must say that I find the behavior of Mr. Walter Hewlett in this matter simply abominable.
Walter Hewlett claims that the merger makes no sense and would do nothing more than make the combined company more susceptible to the travails of the PC industry and would just dilute the earnings from HP's printer franchise. Well, that's interesting, because Dick Hackborn, the former HP executive who built HP's imaging business from the ground up, is very much in favor of the merger with Compaq, and so is the rest of HP's Board of Directors, except for Walter Hewlett.
Hackborn, Carly Fiorina and the rest of HP's board, except again for Walter Hewlett, are all accomplished businessmen and women, so I trust their business judgment much, much more than I trust Walter Hewlett's.
The vaunted HP Way can and will survive the Compaq merger. But if Walter Hewlett is successful in derailing the merger, he could very well be irreparably damaging the venerable company founded by his father and Dave Packard. I dearly hope that sanity prevails in this matter.
Thank you for writing your cover story about office leases (Weekly, Jan. 9). I myself am a small-business person. In 1999, we were paying about $2/sq. ft. in rent. When we shopped around in the summer of 2000, it was impossible to find anything, so we finally got an old, not-very-impressive house in downtown for about $6/sq. ft.
The landlord suggested we were getting a real bargain (I would point out this rate is double what prime midtown Manhattan office space goes for, which is a far step removed from an old house).
Those showing property around this time were absolutely obnoxious, expressing a very strong "take it or leave it" attitude. I even remember a greasy, smelly, out-of-business restaurant space on a dingy part of El Camino that wanted over $5/sq. ft. I was amazed two months later when I saw a startup actually took the space (that startup went out of business a few months after).
Mercifully, I made the lease short -- one year -- and we signed on for another year at a reduced rate. But even at this reduced rate the market has collapsed so quickly that the check I write every month is two or three times what the true value of this space it. As a small-business person, that really hurts.
The good news is that our lease is up this summer, and we'll be at liberty to pick and choose amount premium office spaces at a fraction of what we're spending now. How quickly the tides can turn! I can also say I pity those who signed long leases at the top of the market.
Fair Oaks Avenue
In last month's Guest Opinion piece (Weekly, Dec. 12), a Stanford emeritus administrator practiced some community bashing and waxed ecstatic about the current Stanford Management's (SM) environmental policy in the Dish area. Unfortunately, the reality doesn't match the picture presented.
There is now a biologist working very visibly on restoration of the hill that was torn up for drainage work, and a much-publicized tunnel has been constructed that will hopefully be used by the Salamanders to cross Junipero Serra Boulevard. However, in overall terms there is very little consistency in SM's environmental actions.
The ban on on-leash dogs from the hiking trails, for example, was touted as a major feature of an environmentally driven initiative, but appears to have been more the result of some influential dog-hating people cleverly trying to exploit their prejudice to gain kudos.
The lie to SM's position is given by: (1) Continuous patrol of the area by motorized vehicles, plus the usual service machinery and research traffic (in a recent half-hour walk a friend of mine was passed by no less than six vehicles!); (2) tearing up the hillside to lay down drains (for the public good, but nonetheless environmentally very destructive); (3) continued access to the hills by livestock, both cattle and horses; (4) freedom for the hounds of the Los Altos hunt to roam the hills off-leash; and (5) lack of any credible evidence for the harm done by dogs.
Strangely, for an institution that leads in scientific advances much of SM's position is based on hearsay. We now frequently see reports by Stanford related sources about the amazingly rapid return of wildlife which supposedly had disappeared.
That contrasts with my own experience. I have jogged the hills for 20 years and have noted no significant change in the presence of wildlife, which has always been there to see. Both views are, of course, anecdotal, and we will never know for sure because SM chose not to establish a baseline on which valid comparisons can be based.
It is particularly sad to see Stanford University's many positives being overshadowed by the disaster in community relations, to which the new, mean-spirited Dish policies have been a major contributor.
Chris Verrill makes some very good points (Guest Opinion, Jan. 2) about the need for energy independence. Energy independence and the increased use of renewable energy will go a long way to stabilize the world in many ways.
The increased use of renewable energy will also decrease greenhouse gas emissions. But what can we do about it if Washington is unwilling to increase the use of renewable energy and has rejected the Kyoto treaty?
Support Assembly Bill 1058. This bill instructs the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to adopt regulations that achieve the maximum feasible, cost-effective and technologically achievable reductions of greenhouse gas pollution emitted by passenger vehicles.
Regulations must be adopted by Jan. 1, 2005. The CARB must study potential impacts to the state's economy and must provide, to the maximum extent feasible, flexibility in the means by which automobile manufacturers may meet the requirements of the regulations.
Most likely these reductions will rely heavily on increasing gas mileage and the use of alternately fueled vehicles. This is a win-win situation locally and nationally. Where California leads, the nation will follow. Please urge the Assembly and the Governor to pass this much-needed bill.
David Coale, Acterra Board member
A good candidate
We, the grassroots opponents of melding the San Mateo County Coroner's office with the Sheriff's office, have an outstanding candidate for coroner at the March 5 primary. He is Ron DeMaderios of Redwood City who for the past 11 years has served as State of California consumer affairs specialist dealing with the coroners' offices, mortuaries and cemeteries of Northern California.
We couldn't have found a more qualified or experienced candidate. Ron is a warm and caring human being dedicated to serving the residents of San Mateo County as coroner. He was a strong opponent of Measure A at the Nov. 6, 2001 election, when more than 60 percent of those who went to the polls agreed with him.
Unlike his opponent, who wanted the sheriff to become coroner and now has the fiscal support of the sheriff and his other county official cronies, Ron DeMaderios is his own man, strong enough to keep the coroner's office independent of those who are still working to make the coroner's office part of the sheriff's.
Ron DeMaderios is the only coroner candidate who will fight to keep the office out of the hands of politicians and beholden only to the electorate. If you voted against Measure A in November, remember to vote for Ron DeMaderios for coroner on March 5.
Taking the Weekly at its word in the introduction to "Palo Alto Neighborhoods: 2002 edition," let me tell you about two neighborhoods you forgot:
First is South Ramona Street -- a small but active neighborhood group for families living on Ramona Street between El Verano Avenue and East Meadow Drive.
The group first came together about five or six years ago to help keep the Alma Plaza renovation within the guidelines defined in Palo Alto's Comprehensive Plan. It continues today with a yearly block party and an E-mail list server.
The second is a neighborhood that was dubbed "Vatican Row" in the 1950s -- a tract of maybe 60 to 80 homes on Saint Claire Drive and Saint Michael Street. Today some call it the tiny town time forgot.
Stroll the streets and you will see kids of all ages playing kickball outside after school or playing kick-the-can on a summer evening after dark. Almost any afternoon you will hear the sound of children practicing trumpet, piano and violin. The families host a yearly New Year's Eve party, an occasional summer weenie roast, Christmas caroling and other special events as they occur.
It's home to many longtime Palo Alto residents. Families move around to different houses in this neighborhood, but few ever seem to move out completely.
Thanks for the survey of the other neighborhoods and I hope you find space for these two in your next summary.