by Paul Gullixson

Our Town: News of 1997

Publication Date: Wednesday Jan 1, 1997

Our Town: News of 1997

Yes, I realize I failed miserably in my predictions of 1996. Although President Clinton did come to town in '96, his public appearance was not at Cubberley Community Center and he was not forced to share time with a class on dairy-free vegetarian cooking.

And although trendy new stores that sell artwork, custom-made slipcovers and a variety of exotic coffees did open downtown, none of them were named "Sam's Plumbing Supplies."

I don't know how I could have been so off.

Anyway, I've oiled my Magic 8-ball, spun around a number of times and have come up with a list of stories you can expect to be reading about in the months ahead. It should be an exciting year.

Things kick off in January when the City Council approves a new ordinance banning "sitting and lying" along University Avenue. The law is later amended to include "kneeling, squatting, crouching, stooping, genuflecting and anything that suggests 'hunkering down.'" Curtsies are still allowed if posture is maintained.

In March, the Peninsula will be buzzing with the news that director Oliver Stone has arrived in the area to begin filming a new blockbuster movie. The film, starring Robert De Niro, Julia Ormond and Clint Eastwood, is billed as "high intrigue and suspense in the world of academia," and will be filmed on location in and around Stanford University. All is well until Stanford officials learn that Eastwood will be playing the part of Paul Biddle.

After much fanfare and several speeches, in June crews begin demolishing the long-debated house on Arastradero Preserve. But just as demolition nears completion, work comes to a sudden halt when a young city planner discovers that the Arastra home was built prior to 1940 and that the city was in violation of its own demolition moratorium. As mitigation, the city requires itself to rebuild the house and restart hearings on the building's fate.

Palo Alto police install high-tech automatic cameras at various intersections throughout the city. The cameras take photos of the license plates of drivers who run red lights. The drivers are then mailed tickets. But the cameras create only more problems as brazen scofflaws catch on to what is happening and slow down only enough to pose as they run red lights. The police are really angered and overburdened when owners of vanity plates request reprints.

Two major issues are resolved in May when the Palo Alto School District decides to open a 12th elementary school at the site of the 79-foot city water tower at Alma Street and Hawthorne Avenue. Funding for the project is provided by a major cellular telephone company in exchange for permission to erect a series of modest 250-foot antennas on the tower. The new GTE Mobilenet Elementary School includes state-of-the-art circular classrooms and a fenced-in rooftop dodge-ball ring and educational water temple.

A 16-year-old Menlo Park boy makes headlines in August when he sues BASS over "extra" charges he is forced to pay for a pair of $30 tickets to see the Crash Test Dummies at Shoreline. The BASS Ticket charges included the usual: a $5 per ticket processing fee, a $3 mailing fee, a $6.50 weekend administrative overhead surcharge, a $2.50 per ticket caller-used-a-rotary-phone fee, a $3.50 envelope-licking assessment, a 15 percent tip and a one-time $8 penalty for refusing a subscription to the Bill Graham Presents magazine. BASS Tickets retaliates by filing a countersuit against the youth alleging "corporate harassment" and seeks damages. When served with the legal papers, the youth is required to pay a $14.50 courier fee and is offered a Metallica calendar for $12.95.

Atherton and Menlo Park residents continue to voice their concerns about escalating noise from low-flying aircraft landing at San Francisco International Airport. As evidence of the problem, residents cite an increased loss of hearing, interruptions of sleep, and a rash of missing rooftop antennas. But their complaints fall on deaf ears: Officials at SFO blame the noise problems on the inversion layer. Finally hearings are called in November when a Suburban Park man produces a close-up photograph of a woman in a patterned dress waving from inside a United DC-10 and holding up a sign that clearly says "your azaleas are droopy."

Paul Gullixson is editor of the Weekly. 

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