Letters to the Editor
Publication Date: Wednesday Jan 1, 1997

Letters to the Editor

The real problem


I have found it depressing reading the local newspapers recently due to the many articles about individuals and developers given permission to build on what is left of the open space we have. There have been articles on the problems of traffic, housing shortages, the desire for a baseball field, noise pollution and logging, to name a few.

It seems to me it is time we all strove to solve the real problem (not the symptoms)--overpopulation. Today, zero population growth is not enough. We need negative population growth. Each one of us can make a major positive difference in a child's (or children's) life. No one can be deprived of love, or of good, by giving to the children who are here now, as opposed to the feeling couples may have that "we must have 'our own' children."

Jackie Leonard-Dimmick
Walnut Avenue

Consensus lacking


I was disappointed to read your Dec. 18 article about the Jordan Middle School Site Council. Despite well-known irregularities in the Site Council's actions since early October, you chose to publish a highly inaccurate account of the events, without even bothering to talk to Pattie Maples or any of the people on the Council that supported her. Had your reporter done so, she would have known that neither Pattie nor Jim Maples spoke to that issue in front of the School Board, nor did they ever accuse the Jordan Council of vendetta. Had your reporter also attended some of these Council meetings as I did, she would have realized that vendetta is one of the few words that fits the situation.

To put things in perspective:

Pattie Maples, an alternate parent member, was unanimously elected as the Site Council's secretary on Sept. 10, 1996.

At the following meeting, on Oct. 2, a clique of Council members decided (given her husband's record?) to remove her from her position as Council's Secretary.

To achieve this, they planned to change the Council's bylaws, explicitly disallowing alternate members to hold council offices. They hid this under an innocuous agenda item "Site Council Organization" without further elaboration. Actions taken under such misleading labeling had been voided in courts.

This clique was challenged at the meeting as to the fact that they proposed a change of bylaws, which needs two-thirds majority and one week waiting period. Their response was to claim that it can be handled as a "side letter of understanding, that can be changed from year to year." (presumably depending on the alternate's name.)

Under the guise of the "side letter of understanding" above, the resolution passed 6 to 4 with one abstention, less than the two-thirds vote needed for a Bylaws change.

The next Jordan Site Council meeting took place on Oct. 8. All the facts above were presented to the Council. Despite that, the same majority chose to ignore them and proceeded to try and re-elect new officers.

The agenda for the meeting was not posted in public for at least 72 hours before the meeting, as required by law. The resulting meeting was illegal. When the Council was presented with this information, it ignored it.

A request to record the meeting, as permitted by law, was denied by the principal. The minutes of these meetings have been suppressed and were still not brought to the Council for approval and permanent record.

Jordan principal is quoted as saying ". . . we're trying to build consensus." Having observed the clique's blatant disregard for the law and for due process, it seems to me not the best way to achieve it.

Ze'ev Wurman
Stockton Place
Palo Alto

Consider alternatives


I disagree with the implication in your editorial of Nov. 27 that quick consideration and resolution of the Sand Hill project should take place. Since this proposal would subject all residents of the area to an impact far more severe than any in our history, it needs to be opened to careful consideration of alternatives to it by us, the residents.

Ours is not an age of wisdom. It's a time of impulsive behavior and persuasion tactics. Developers strike very quickly and have the financial means to do so. So those who are trying to make our supposed democracy work (Palo Alto Civic League, Mid-Peninsula Action for Tomorrow) while most people don't even bother to vote in national elections should be listened to with the utmost respect. They cannot buy the voters or hire the public relations czars. They raise a still, small voice (of conscience, reason?) in the wilderness of a snow-job of a faulty environmental impact report.

The get-there-first, me-first age is in full swing. To stand up to the powerful forces of one-sided profits takes an awakened, self-interested citizenry. Or at least it takes a small, dedicated group who wish to salvage what they can of fast-disappearing earth resources--land, space, water, air, peace. Our last creek is still making its way from hills to bay, even fostering some fish while it trickles along. Our last Indian meadow-artifact is still walkable, still uncovered by a massive high-density population and traffic. Why not save it, keep it as it is? Who would profit? We all would, and those to come in the future. Remember the future? The big landlord can build it all elsewhere. He has plenty of other spaces. Consider the alternatives. Look before you leap. "Marry in haste, repent at leisure."

Marilyn Kratt
Wilkie Way
Palo Alto

Forward-looking plan


OK, now the Menlo Park City Council has had its confrontation with the Palo Alto City Council and gotten a lot off its chest (Weekly, Dec. 18). It is time to seriously consider a reasonable approach to cooperating with our neighbor Palo Alto, and Stanford where much of the credit for the electronic miracle of Silicon Valley belongs. They are looking ahead to try to set up ways to handle the explosive growth that is the near future of the Peninsula, and Silicon Valley in particular.

There are ways to face the future. The least productive and unrealistic way is to stick your head in the sand, ostrich-like, and think problems will just go away. We have large problems involving traffic right now. El Camino is practically gridlocked at morning, noon and evening rush hour. We know that our population is going to grow at a very rapid rate. Prudence tells us that workers should live closer to their workplace, but there is little space left for new homes for them. A major obstacle to traffic solutions is that people can only find affordable homes in areas that are not within the pattern of rapid transit. They are commuting by car from Stockton, Fairfield, and even Sacramento. No wonder we have gridlock.

Stanford is trying to do something about housing by proposing to build a 628-unit apartment house for employees who can walk to work, and a senior retirement facility for those who will merely walk to shop. Both of these efforts would reduce, not increase the traffic threat. Increasing the size of the shopping center accommodates the growing community. There will be an inevitable traffic increase into the area from Interstate 280 and Stanford wants to widen Sand Hill Road to prepare for it. These are forward-looking programs that reflect vision and concern for minimizing the adverse impact of growth.

Your attention is called to an important article in the Dec. 16 San Francisco Chronicle headlined "Silicon Valley--brave new world." Santa Clara County is cited as the third largest export region of the United States. Silicon Valley is ahead of San Francisco as a desirable place to live. In the next three years 11,800 new jobs will be created here. This is real, inevitable growth we face, and it will be wise to prepare for it, as Stanford is trying to do.

As to housing; one of the largest obstacles is the failure to permit high rise apartment buildings close to our industries. There is a mentality which confines much of the area to out-of-date height limits. These restraints grow from a nostalgic addiction to the past and the pastoral nature of the Peninsula of bygone days. It is the future for which we must provide by attempting to solve the problems that lie ahead in housing and traffic. If we do not act now, gridlock is certain within a year or two. Were it not for the early far-sighted building of Interstate 280, how would the valley have grown, and how would traffic have been handled? Highway 101 would be in gridlock at rush hour right now.

Please, Menlo Park council members, do not block efforts to prepare for the future. Give Stanford the benefit of whatever doubts you may have and join along with Palo Alto to make way for the future. Let us keep our eyes on the future, not the past. We should be prepared to share with others the wonderful area we live in. They will make valuable contributions to our community as so many of our transplants from East and West have done.

Preston Brown
Chateau Drive
Menlo Park

Save the trees


Stanford University proposes to cut down 1,198 trees as part of its proposed development projects along Sand Hill Road in Palo Alto. These proposed projects will add 1,000 new apartments and condominiums along scenic San Francisquito Creek, will widen Sand Hill Road to four lanes, and will add an expansion to the Stanford shopping mall along with additional parking structures. Granted, Stanford University will be planting a few thousand new trees, but new trees are no replacement for the cutting of 1,198 mature trees, some of which are over 80 feet tall.

As the old saying goes, "We can send a man to the moon, but Stanford University can't find an architect to design around existing trees." I find it hard to believe that Stanford University, with its reputation for forward thinking and financial resources is unable to come up with a proposal that preserves as many of these existing trees as possible. I am not opposed to new housing in the Palo Alto area, but why do so many trees need to be cut? And if the trees are being cut to make way for a four-lane Sand Hill Road, the shopping mall expansion and parking garages, then maybe we should rethink how desperately our community needs a four-lane Sand Hill Road, the shopping mall expansion and parking garages.

Jonathan O. Scott
Josina Avenue
Palo Alto

Flawed concept


The proposed north-south CalTrain Trail (RT) has been promoted recently at various policy-making and media venues as providing nothing but benefits to Peninsula bicyclists. Representatives of the cycling community see serious problems with this proposal. As an elected official with many years of experience with utilitarian and recreational bicycle use, I offer the following observations:

Existing roadways near the CalTrain right-of-way could provide safe and adequate north-south bicycle access with relatively inexpensive improvements. Pavement repair, removal of abandoned rail spurs, rearrangement of on-street parking and installation of new signal activation loops are modifications that would have great benefit to cyclists and other local road users.

Potential crime problems associated with trail segments that are isolated from public view by fences and buildings were not acknowledged. The constricted urban mixed-use trail along Ballona Creek in Los Angeles County is the scene of frequent muggings and incidents of harassment.

The Rails-to-Trails Conservancy recommends 50 to 100 feet of separation between an active rail line and a trail; the RT would be as close as 8.5 feet to the CalTrain tracks. Anyone who has been on a station platform while an express train passes is familiar with the attendant powerful blast of air, dust and painful debris. Sixty to 86 trains per day would be repeating this unpleasant scene next to the RT.

There will be numerous functional disincentives for the use of the RT as users are forced to detour around station platforms and to intersections of arterial streets and negotiate unprotected intersections with local streets. On weekends, when a reduced number of trains operating may increase the recreational appeal of the trail, friction between cyclists and other trail users will occur, just as it has on the Sawyer Camp and San Andreas Trails.

Potential conflict between other potential users of the rail corridor (i.e. High Speed Rail, CalTrain expansion or electrification, grade separations or BART) were not given sufficient attention in the study.

Any "pilot program" should be considered only in a location where the trail would provide a missing link between north-south surface streets.

It is not surprising that a concept so flawed would come from a process that failed to consult with the primary users of the facility, commuting cyclists. The resources of the C/CAG/Ped/Bikeways Committee were not utilized. I suggest that this wasteful and unnecessary project be abandoned in favor of something that takes a more comprehensive view of the regional potential of the CalTrain right-of-way and the legitimate safety and access needs of San Mateo County cyclists.

Stephen M. Schmidt
Mayor of Menlo Park
Central Avenue
Menlo Park

Back up to the Table of Contents Page