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February 20, 2004

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Palo Alto Online

Publication Date: Friday, February 20, 2004

News Digest News Digest (February 20, 2004)

'Cordell bill' going to Schwarzenegger's desk

The state bill that will allow LaDoris Cordell to continue serving on the Palo Alto City Council has one hurdle left -- his name is Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The bill unanimously passed the California Assembly today, and is headed for Schwarzenegger's desk.

"Moving on to Arnold," a pleased Cordell said after hearing of the victory.

If someone had told Cordell months ago that her political path would cross Arnold Schwarzenegger's, she would have had three words for that person: "You're on crack."

"It's going to happen," Cordell said, laughing. "It's totally bizarre."

Once the bill reaches the governor's desk, he has 12 days to sign it. Cordell admitted to a fantasy: A photo-op with her standing next to the governor as he signs the bill.

The bill, which passed the California Senate last month, aims to resolve the conflict-of-interest dilemma that has plagued Cordell and the city ever since her election to the council in November.

Under current California law, cities are prohibited from entering into contracts with the employers of its council members. Stanford University -- where Cordell works as a vice provost -- does not fall under any of the law's exemption for nonprofits. Senate Bill 1086 would expand the types of nonprofits exempt to include Stanford. --Bill D'Agostino
School board praises, scrutinizes state of the district report

Instead of fretting over future budget concerns the district took a fairly satisfied look back at Tuesday night's annual state of the district meeting.

The school board commended the district's work on issues like student stress and the positive strides of minority and non-minority student groups on achievement tests. On a state standardized test on English and language arts, the achievement gap was closed by 12 percent for African American students and 9 percent for Latino students. The gap was also narrowed by 18 percent for African American students and 9 percent for Latino students on a state standardized math test.

The report gave updates on a variety of goals the district set last year and in previous years. The board is expected to discuss next year's goals on March 30. Board member John Barton was not present at Tuesday's meeting. -- Rachel Metz
City will sharpen code violation law

Trying to avoid another situation where the city is named in a lawsuit for allegedly not enforcing its laws, the Palo Alto City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to let its Policy and Services Committee develop criteria for code enforcement.

At the same time, the city is likely to change its law so it can't be named a co-defendant in such lawsuits.

The changes are being prompted by a lawsuit two residents filed against Safeway for noise and other alleged code violations that also named the city as a co-defendant. The Safeway aspect of that lawsuit has been dismissed, but the city portion is scheduled to go to trial soon.

Councilwoman LaDoris Cordell said the city should develop objective criteria for code enforcement "so the public can see (the decisions) aren't arbitrary."

"This will allow us to make a thoughtful decision rather than making a knee-jerk reaction tonight," said Councilwoman Yoriko Kishimoto.

--Don Kazak
Foothills home expansion denied

The Palo Alto City Council voted Tuesday night to reject an application to expand a foothills home, saying the case against granting the variance from the city's zoning regulations wasn't strong enough.

The proposal was for a 1,677-square-foot addition to a 3,433-square-foot home at 4010 Page Mill Road. The proposal did not exceed allowable square footage on the site, but did have less than required front and side setbacks and would have more impervious surface than is allowed.

But granting a zoning variance requires legal findings that "extraordinary circumstances apply to the property" and that not granting the variance would prevent "unreasonable property loss or unnecessary hardship."

The council vote was 6-2, with Councilman Jack Morton and Councilwoman Dena Mossar dissenting, and Councilman Vic Ojakian absent.

--Don Kazak

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