Letters to the Editor
Publication Date: Friday Jul 29, 1994

Letters to the Editor

Health help is available


I am writing in response to the article titled "Alarming results of health survey" (Weekly, July 1).

I am very pleased that the recent health survey has clearly and emphatically revealed the high numbers of Palo Alto teens who are struggling with stress, anxiety, depression and family problems. Those of us who are parents and professionals in the field need to honor the importance of the information communicated and remember that teens may not be feeling as good as they are looking.

Adolescent Counseling Services board and staff are particularly concerned about the high percentage of youngsters (28 percent-37 percent) who are driving in a car with an intoxicated driver. These statistics beg for answers to several questions. Why are so many teens willing to put themselves in this kind of danger? Do students need to be reminded of the Safe Ride Program available through the Red Cross for alternative rides home? Do they need to problem-solve solutions about how to handle a situation in which an intoxicated friend is getting behind the wheel?

I was glad to read that the school district, as reported by Irv Rollins, will be giving students a guide to health services. It struck me that a sizable gap exists between what services students think are available to them and what actually is available. In the article, a Gunn junior and member of the Youth Council says that the Dynamic Living Skills class is the only place to talk about emotional and health issues. Adolescent Counseling Services, in collaboration with school guidance counselors and other school staff, offers students and their families free counseling on all four secondary school campuses. We offer individual and group counseling as well as topic-focused workshops. I am optimistic that the health survey, the media's coverage and the district response will help close this information gap.

To the students and parents who are reading this letter, come and talk with your school counselor or the on-campus ACS program director. We are available to you.

Sue Barkhurst
Executive director, Adolescent Counseling Services
Middlefield Road
Palo Alto

Curfew sets bad tone


I am writing to express my deep disappointment in the City Council and Police Department of this city in regard to the teen curfew (Weekly, July 20). I am a member of the Youth Advisory Council and one of the authors of the Youth Council proposal. We proposed a diversionary program including counseling and curfew restrictions targeted at the teens who have committed some gang-related illegal action, in lieu of a blanket curfew. I would like to thank those Council members who strongly opposed the curfew, and acknowledge that both the police and the City Council gave credence to our suggestion and said they would look into it further.

However, both groups missed the point. Our proposal was designed to be an alternative to the curfew, a more creative, pro-active approach. By turning to a curfew as an initial solution, we have set a negative tone for our city, especially coming from a town that prides itself on looking for the creative solution and taking the pro-active, rehabilitating approach rather than immediately cracking down with oppressive laws. The curfew should have been a last resort, passed only after all other avenues had been explored and other implemented solutions had proven ineffective.

I'm disappointed to see the City Council and Police Department so quick to restrict the rights of youth when we have worked so hard to earn the trust of adults and provide alternative solutions to the youth-related problems in the city. An adult-imposed curfew will only serve to alienate teens from older generations and create resentment. Rather, we should be taking steps to repair this estranged relationship, as trust and communication between youth and adults are the first steps to solving youth-related problems.

Katie Stone
Member, Youth Advisory Council
Ramona Street
Palo Alto

Don't override ARB


I would like to comment on the appearance of 300 Hamilton Ave., which recently was painted a bright yellow (Weekly, July 27). In my opinion, this color on a building as large as 300 Hamilton is inappropriate and garish. It does not appear to be consistent with the mood of the other buildings in the vicinity.

It is my understanding that buildings of this size require approval from the Architectural Review Board before owners can go ahead with improvements. I learned that the board denied the owner's request to paint the building yellow on the grounds that the color was inappropriate. The building's owners then appealed the board's decision to the City Council. Their appeal was granted and the building was painted yellow. I also learned that it is not uncommon to bypass the board's recommendations in this manner.

I am very appreciative of the efforts of the professional people who sit on the Architectural Review Board and give considerable voluntary time and thought to the preservation of Palo Alto as a coherent and civilized community. The board is important to the quality of life in Palo Alto, and is an integral part of the ongoing effort to achieve balance between growth, change, innovation and preservation. When the recommendation of a professional review board is overridden by the City Council, who are apparently responding to political pressure from the developers, the confidence that citizens of Palo Alto place in the City Council is eroded.

Ellen Fox
Barbara Drive
Palo Alto

Democracy at work


Last summer, one of our sons had been selected for a summer job with the city, but the hiring manager could not offer the job because our other son already had a summer job with the city. The hiring manager said that a city "nepotism" law prevented two siblings from city employment, even though separate hiring managers in different departments each wanted to offer the jobs.

We called Council member Joe Simitian last summer to ask if there was an appeal process. He reported a few days later that the Council policy offered no latitude. He called back this spring to report that he had raised the issue before the Council, and the Council had voted to change the "nepotism" law. Thanks to Joe Simitian and the Palo Alto City Council. Democracy works, at least in Palo Alto.

John and Gay Kunz
El Cajon Way
Palo Alto

Clearing the air


Summer is here, and it should be a time for everyone to be able to relax and enjoy the long daylight hours outside. But is it possible for us to enjoy the outside when the air is thick with the odor of lighter fluid? With the close proximity of neighbors in Palo Alto, the use of lighter fluid for charcoal barbecues is obtrusive and noxious and adds another toxic substance to the atmosphere.

Every night at about the same time (twice this evening) the odor of lighter fluid creeps into my living space through my garden and into my kitchen window. It then permeates throughout my home and into the bedroom where my child has been put to bed. I resent this intrusion.

There is a simple solution to this problem: the ingenious invention of the barbecue chimney. Is it possible that such a simple device could replace the miracle of lighter fluid? Does it really work as fast as the chemicals? Yes, indeed, the chimney does get the coals going in the same time or less than lighter fluid. And it does not take a lot of skill; simply set the chimney upright in the old grill, stuff in a few sheets of newspaper, fill to the brim with charcoal, light the paper, wait 15 minutes, and, viola, fully lit ashen white coals. The added advantage is that with the one-time purchase of a $10 chimney you save money from not buying lighter fluid again. What a deal!

Have I convinced my neighbors in Midtown? I hope I've gotten through to many of you throughout Palo Alto. Let's clear the summer air so we can all enjoy the outdoors.

Mimi Wolf
San Carlos Court
Palo Alto

Sand Hill alternative


Stanford advocates extension of Sand Hill Road to El Camino. The proposed four-lane extension will look like another Page Mill Road and have a similar capacity. The threat of this enormous number of cars dumping onto El Camino from the proposed Sand Hill Road Expressway has motivated local citizens to explore alternatives that are less likely to gridlock the street networks in Palo Alto and Menlo Park.

Stanford sponsored a series of public forums addressing development issues in the Sand Hill corridor. One particularly innovative alternative that came out of these forums has been consistently ignored in the summaries Stanford has so far given.

The ignored alternative to the proposed four-lane Sand Hill Road Expressway is a new road running from the existing Alpine/280 intersection across Stanford lands on the south side of the golf course. The new road would connect with the existing Campus Drive West at the current signalized intersection on Junipero Serra. This extension of Campus Drive West would provide direct access to the hospital and campus for the very substantial number of cars that currently come down Sand Hill. The new road should be designed to handle a significant fraction of the existing Sand Hill traffic and all traffic from new developments at the hospitals and campus. Sand Hill would then primarily serve the shopping center. The new road would eliminate the need for additional capacity on Sand Hill Road and the improvement of the existing Sand Hill/Alpine Road/Santa Cruz Avenue intersection.

Santa Clara County actively supports developments at Stanford; they should be expected to provide some funding for the new road. San Mateo County can be expected to divert some of the funds they would have to spend on mitigating the congestion in the Alpine/Sand Hill/Santa Cruz intersection to pay for a fraction of the costs of the short section of the proposed road lying in San Mateo County from the 280 intersection to a new bridge over San Francisquito Creek. Naturally the developer, Stanford, will have to pay a significant part of the costs of the needed infrastructure to support its proposed revenue-generating projects in the Sand Hill corridor.

Bill Peterson
Fulton Street
Palo Alto

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