Letters to the Editor
Publication Date: Wednesday Sep 20, 1995

Letters to the Editor

Lessons from fire


Recently our family home burned to the ground. At first glance this experience is horrifying. Of all the tragedies to have happen, a fire is perhaps the most frightening because of the speed with which the devastation occurs. However, it is extremely important to step back and gain a larger perspective.

Many lessons are being taught here. With such a costly price, hopefully many of us will learn. The most obvious lesson is: always unplug you hair dryer. According to Bob Mordicai of the Los Altos Fire Department, many fires begin with appliances such as toasters, hair driers, curling irons, and coffee makers still plugged in. How simple it is to get in the habit of disconnecting these potential killers. Start today! Let's make the lives of our children safer by this small discipline. I know these brave compassionate firefighters need our help.

The Woodside, Los Altos and Menlo Park firefighters are gifted professional individuals who do not receive the recognition or appreciation they deserve. Words alone are inadequate to express the comfort and security they provided to our family on August 31st and the days that followed. We are forever grateful for their kindness.

Beyond the obvious lesson is perhaps a more important one. We are not to be defined by the clothes we wear: how many denim shirts or fancy shoes we own. We are not defined by our jewels, our houses or the cars we drive. The only things of true value are our relationships with people.

It is so easy today to become cynical and contemptuous of all just by reading the newspaper and listening to the TV. Our purpose in writing this letter is to say thank you to all for being with us during this time of crisis and to helping restore our faith in humanity.

Since finding out about the fire, the community has rallied around this little Finato family with such vigor and love we are overwhelmed. At a time when we are emotionally and financially bankrupt, we are being renewed by every person we meet.

We can not possibly name all who have come to our aid, but a few must be recognized: The McCarthy family has put a roof over our head; the students at Corta Madera Middle made sure our children, Francesca, Rex and Beau had new school clothes; Mr. and Mrs. Fred Beck and Mr. and Mrs. Kevin Enomoto initiated opening a fire fund at a local bank; Pacific Ridge Pony Club of Portola Valley; Peninsula Bible Church and Peninsula Covenant Church have helped with the cleanup. Coach Ben Parks, all the members of Fitness 101 and Le Boulanger have lent support. We are being restored by all the merchants at the Ladera Shopping Center. This list would not be complete without thanks to all who read this letter. Your tears, hugs, dinners and prayers are the beginning of a new life for us.

Rick and Laurent Finato
Los Trancos Road
Portola Valley

Lost pet tips

Editor, We recently moved from Barron Park to north Mountain View. On Thursday, August 17th, one of my daughter's friends came to visit and inadvertently let our dog out. He was last seen at the Alma Plaza Lucky Supermarket. We was wearing a collar and tags.

We have visited the Palo Alto Animal Shelter, the Santa Clara Humane Society, and the Peninsula Humane Society every other day. We have run lost dogs ads in five newspapers, and we have plastered the community with 1,500 reward fliers for "Phil."

All of the experts (veterinarians and humane societies) have told us the same thing: someone has probably found and is keeping our pet. While they may think they are caring for the pet, why they do not look for the owner or surrender the pet is a mystery, even when the animal is wearing identification.

I was dumfounded and heartbroken to learn that this happens frequently.

Here are some of the myths I've heard and which we'd like the community to be aware of:

The found animal will only be put to sleep if it is surrendered to animal services. Reality: This is where grieving owners go to look for their family member! Animal services does all it can to reunite lost and stray animals with their owners. They keep the animals in protective custody for a minimum of four days if it has NO identification, and 10 days or longer if it does have identification. If the owner cannot be contacted or does not show up to claim the animal, then and only then is it put up for adoption. There is no set time limit that an animal may stay in the adoption kennels. Meanwhile, it is fed, watered, and kept in the company of other animals.

It looks dirty and scared. Someone must have abandoned it, or if the animal got out the owners don't deserve to keep it. Reality: A stray animal does not mean that the animal is not wanted! Most likely, someone misses and is worried sick about their animal's disappearance. I've spoken to at least four such families in the past two weeks! One woman answered my ad just to share her story. She and her family had just lost one of their two dogs from her backyard. The other dog and her child both stopped eating because they missed the lost dog.

Finders keepers, losers weepers. Reality: The law says that a pet is property, much like someone's car. If the rightful owner can prove that someone was negligent in returning a lost animal, the finder may be liable for the value of the pet, the costs that the owner incurred trying to recover the pet (i.e., newspaper ads and fliers and mailings) and perhaps the stress and suffering that the owners experienced during the loss.

We can provide a better home than the people who lost this pet. Reality: Animals also grieve for their family. It is cruel to the animal to keep it. Often the animal will try to escape to get back home, and will end up at the pound weeks after the owner has given up and stopped looking for it there. Owners know their animal's eating and exercise habits, as well as its medical history and needs. Phil for example has age-related problems that require veterinary attention.

Pet owners, keep identification on pets, and keep them indoors or on a leash at all times!

If you or someone you know has found an animal, please do not assume anything about a lost animal's past. Contact the local animal shelter where the animal was found! Ninety percent of lost animals are found within two miles of their home. Check the lost and found ads in your newspaper for at least two weeks. Many newspapers will run a free found ad for you. Adopt lost animals legally.

Bonnie Hale
Mountain View

No on Measure R


As a longtime member of Committee for Green Foothills, I want to express my adamant opposition to its support of Measure R. The board, or whoever made the decision, did not consult the membership, and they certainly do not have my concurrence.

Palo Alto will need to find ingenious solutions to the many critical land use issues that this community will face in the next 20 years. Measure R would severely limit the City Council's ability to respond creatively to these issues. I strongly believe in representative government and its responsiveness to the citizens, who always have an opportunity to write or call a Council member or other Palo Alto public officials--or attend City Council meetings to express concerns and opinions. I especially want neighborhoods to be able to respond to their special needs without having to go to a vote of the whole city.

I urge that Palo Altans interested in innovative and flexible decision-making vote no on Measure R on Nov. 7.

Carroll Harrington
Melville Avenue
Palo Alto

Yes on Measure R


I am responding to the letter from the President of the Palo Alto League of Women Votes ("Unintended results," Sept. 13).

I have just reread Measure R and I find that it reaffirms the current standards for building and land use, except for the California Avenue shopping area, which it brings into line with the standards of the rest of Palo Alto.

It is not a multitude of detailed regulations. Rather, it is an easily readable list of standards now in effect, as adopted by previous City Councils. The claim that Measure R "mandates control of governmental process" refers to the fact that, under the measure, land cannot be rezoned from residential to commercial without voter approval. Since the amount of land already zoned for commercial use is adequate, residential zoning would be protected. Growth through development is not "frozen," as growth is currently legal and taking place. Just look around. Using current limitations does not mean "freezing growth." It means being able to use our streets.

Fortunately, we have the initiative process. Otherwise we could be powerless to move when our "governmental representatives" are not representing our best interests. I am surprised that the Palo Alto League of Women Voters seems to be opposed to this important democratic process. Living in a society where corporate-owned mass media are telling us that it is to our benefit to go along with corporate-pressured and sponsored elected officials, we are encouraged to be passive and obedient.

It is easy to predict the future by honestly looking at what is happening now. As population increases as markets for housing, products and services are encouraged, the pressure on our finite resources by commercial interests will inevitably increase. Much of the habitat of the country is degraded beyond restitution, but, by looking at the amount of space we still have, and by how the use of it affects us and how it will affect our children, we can make good, predictable decisions.

Marilyn Kratt
Wilkie Way
Palo Alto

R is bad for Midtown


We are not Palo Alto residents, but our family has been property owners making a living and contributing to the city tax base since the mid-'50s, so we believe we're truly "stakeholders" in the Midtown neighborhood's future. The following is our perspective on the issues now faced by the residents of Midtown.

Upon review of the proposed ordinance (Measure R) drafted by the Citizens for Affirmative Planning (CAP) it is our opinion that the emphasis is on the development and/or expansion of Stanford-owned property, but the propose solutions will negatively affect all Palo Alto neighborhoods for the next 20 years.

If CAP is concerned about excessive growth, why not take it up with the City Council when Stanford's plans are presented as required by the current planning process? Why institute a change that has citywide consequences, takes neighborhood input out of your hands and negates a reasoned planning process for the next 20 years? Do you want Palo Alto to have the reputation of being anti-growth? Anti-growth may sound seductive, but what is its true impact? Would this attitude draw new businesses and resultant increased employment? What will happen to the tax base? How will you support expansion or development of needed community programs?

The effect, whether planned or not, of initiative R is to drastically limit the development or expansion of all commercial businesses in order to prevent a perceived loss of property available for housing and to reduce traffic. None of these issues relate to Midtown!

The Midtown commercial property owners, residents and the city are trying to revitalize an existing commercial zone, not expanding or building a new area. The property on Middlefield from Colorado to Co-op is and has always been zoned commercial, not residential. We would agree that traffic and parking have been a prime area of discussion in all meetings we have attended. There is no definitive solution to date but we are aggressively working on the problem. What we do know is that the city parking lot at the rear of the Bergmann's building has been vacant for for almost three years.

We have been working with CPAC, the Midtown Residents Association, Midtown commercial property owners and the city for the past two years with the goal of attracting businesses to the area that would continue to make Midtown a desirable neighborhood in which to live; initiative R severely interferes with this process of neighborhood input and reasoned planning.

Midtown commercial property owners are now in the process of hiring (at their expense) an architect to complete a master site plan of the Midtown core area. If a site plan is agreed to by a committee of owners, residents and the city, zoning ordinance and parking allocation changes will be made to allow a renewed Midtown commercial district; this would all be impossible if initiative R passed. Supporters of the initiative believe it is worded to allow for such specific site planning; but "the city's planning director and attorney are not so sure" (San Jose Mercury News, Aug. 6).

Numerous Midtown residents have told us they miss Bergmann's; suppose a business approaches us to put a similar use at this site. Per the terms of the initiative, other residents of the city can vote to determine if this conforms to their standards; if the majority disagrees, Midtown possibly loses something it needs and definitely loses a voice in determining the neighborhood's commercial future.

We know CAP supporters want what is best for their neighborhoods; however the question is how to go about it. The proper governmental process is to let the elected officials do their job; if you don't like their performance, you vote them out of office. We strongly encourage Midtown residents to support this time-proven process instead of resorting to an untested planning system that will reduce the character and appeal of Midtown for the next 20 years. We urge no on R on Nov. 7.

Larry Bergmann
Ann Bergmann Trudell
Tom Trudell
Lincoln Avenue
San Jose

Notice of defiance


May I, through the auspices of your column, give notice to the general citizenry that I intend to defy the proposed ordinance relating to the ban on smoking within 20 feet of a public, or public service building entrance in the City of Palo Alto.

For too long the government has been usurping the rights of a minority to pursue their own course of happiness and has taken unto itself the authority to control the direction that individual business and property owners direct their affairs.

The freedom of the individual to elect for themselves where and when they choose to do business, or seek services, is endemic to our United States Constitution and the Bill of Right. Further, our Declaration of Independence clearly asserts that it is the DUTY of the citizenry to rebel against repressive and tyrannical government.

The City of Palo Alto was, on September 12, 1995, put on notice that I do not intend to submit to their latest act of outright discrimination until they prove that they are not hypocrites in their war against smoking in the guise of public health. I challenge them to prove their sincerity by outlawing the sale and use of tobacco products throughout the city, and then deal with their support of the sale of wine and beer on the open streets at art fairs and similar occasions, because it has been well established that there does exist an alcohol problem, just as there is a smoking problem.

Consequently, when the non-smoking ordinance takes effect on Nov. 1, I intend to operate my business for smokers and non-smokers alike, with deference given to a client who objects, politely, to anyone smoking while that individual is on my premises. A notice stating this policy will be clearly visible and I hope that I will have restored to some the right of choice to decide for themselves whether or not they wish to tender me their patronage, which is always--and has been for the last 27 years--greatly appreciated.

Benjamin Franklin said, "He who would surrender even a portion of his liberties for a portion of safety is not worthy of either." I, as a citizen of these United States of America, am no longer prepared to relinquish any more of my liberty.

Harold Lesser
Hal of London, Barber
El Camino Real
Palo Alto

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