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June 23, 2004

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Palo Alto Online

Publication Date: Wednesday, June 23, 2004

News digest News digest (June 23, 2004)

Stanford loses a star

Nobel-Prize-winning physicist Steven Chu is leaving Stanford to become the director of the prestigious Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

"Professor Chu has done path-breaking work for more than 15 years at Stanford, and while we are sorry to see him move on, we understand that the directorship of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory is a unique opportunity that presents itself once in a lifetime," said Stanford President John Hennessy.

Chu came to Stanford in 1987 after receiving his doctorate in physics from the University of California-Berkeley in 1976 and then working for AT&T and AT&T Bell Laboratories.

He won the Nobel Prize for physics in 1997 for using a laser to trap atoms.--Don Kazak
Downtown demolition scheduled

The walls will come a-tumblin' down next week for the Congdon & Crome building at 270 University Ave. in downtown Palo Alto.

The unreinforced-masonry structure, built in 1920, will make way for a new three-story facility with office space in the basement and on the second floor. The Congdon & Crome office-supply store will return to the first floor.

The style will be modern, according to the architect, Ken Hayes of the Hayes Group, featuring glass, steel and poured concrete.

Construction is scheduled for completion by August 2005. In the meantime, the 100-year-old business is relocating to 552 Waverley St., former site of Upstream, the flyfishing and clothing store, next to the Prolific Oven.

The new structure will open in the rear to Ramona Plaza as well as to University Avenue, with a glass rear-store window and second-floor balconies in both front and back.

A model of the new building is on display in the old store window.

Congdon & Crome is owned by Patrick & Co., a San Francisco office-supply dealer that purchased the business in the late 1960s. Liberty Mutual Bank of Palo Alto is providing financing for the project, reported to cost about $1.1 million. --Jocelyn Dong
Transit board passes fare increases

Some bus riders will pay up to 63 percent more for their passes after the Valley Transportation Authority board of directors' recent passage of fare increases. The hikes will take effect on Jan. 1, 2005.

All of the fare categories will see increases with the exception of the single rides for seniors and the disabled. A single adult ticket will change from $1.50 to $1.75, with monthly passes increasing from $52.50 to $61.25.

"Historically, VTA and our predecessor were underpricing certain fare categories," said VTA spokeperson Anne-Catherine Vinickas.

VTA recovers about 13 percent of its fares but wants to be earning 20 to 25 percent, she added.

"Reaching that (fare box recovery rate) is a noble goal, but we think they're trying to reach it too fast," said Christopher Lepe, South Bay organizer for the Transportation and Land Use Coalition. He joined about 100 people who attended the VTA board meeting to protest the fee hikes.

Lepe was particularly disturbed by the monthly fare increases for youth riders, which are going up from $30 to $49, and said he will continue to protest to VTA.

VTA, the transit agency that operates buses and light rail trains in Santa Clara County, has been reviewing its finances in an effort to stabilize them. The dot-com bust and higher unemployment have been credited with its decrease in revenues.

VTA last increased fares in August 2003 and will continue to reexamine them on a regular basis, said Vinickas. The transit operator's board is also considering putting a new county tax on a future ballot to help fund public transit.

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-- Candice Shih

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