Letters to the Editor

Citizens would help


In support of keeping our local libraries open and thriving, much can be done. Most particularly, patrons and indeed the residents of the neighborhood libraries most probably would be willing to help out in any constructive way on a volunteer basis in order to keep them going.

In this era of "downsizing" (a euphemism for firing employees to make way for bigger profits for the management), surely we can afford to keep some more people-friendly organizations. Bigger is not necessarily better, and having a bigger, impersonal outlet will not fill a gap made by wiping out the well-used friendly meeting places for people young and old.

When the City Council seemed to have come to the conclusion, rather casually, to enhance its chambers for $90,000, surely funds could be found to help keep these local assets in use. As well, removing the local libraries will create more traffic, hence more pollution--both air and noise-- because walking to the local library would be viable no longer.

Tibby Simon
Oberlin Street
Palo Alto

Your home, your castle


The Planning Department used to have a large sign on its office wall--"We know that your home is your castle, and we are here to help you keep the moat from falling in, etc." Those helpful sentiments have been replaced by more of a Draft Board attitude, as evidenced by the 2,000 or more post cards sent to homeowners notifying them of essentially a One-A Classification. This may be done in the name of classifying Historic Preservation homes, but it has made homeowner anxiety shoot up to high levels of indignation.

No wonder there was such a mass turn-out of worried homeowners at the forum moderated by Mike Cobb.

The council, thanks to Mayor Rosenbaum, Lanie Wheeler and Sandy Eakins, wisely postponed consideration of a permanent Historic Preservation Ordinance. The overworked Planning Department, without most of its experienced staff, now is run mostly by contract planners, hired guns who apply more generic rules. They also look mainly at architectural history and details, not so much at history of how people lived. "Eclectic" is one of Barbara Judy's favorite adjectives, which means, it is not architecturally pure. Bungalows, which were built in those days, had no need for spaces for TV, VCR, Fax Machines, CDs. I remember seeing our first TV in the election of 1948, when we watched a tiny wavy picture of Thomas Dewey. And of course young families find two-bedroom bungalows a tight squeeze for one or more babies.

Let us hope the new ordinance will be focusing on "family needs" more than that architectural "straight-jacket" purity.

Elsie Begle
Bryant Street
Palo Alto

Impressions from forum


I attended that Joint Venture forum at the Cultural Center--at least I think it was the same one--that inspired your correspondent to such heights of censure, (May 20) but I had a very different impression. It was clear that they had some kind of agenda. I got the impression it was for more business involvement in the schools, but I believe they were on the up and up because they didn't produce their agenda item as the "spontaneous" conclusion of their small discussion groups, which they could very easily have contrived to do.

To my astonishment, what they did elicit as main community concern was "access to good health care." For several years I have promoted, along with health care for all and other groups, the premise that continuing access is only possible if every the patient is a paying patient. You can't support the system only by people with good jobs--if they were sick most of the time they wouldn't have good jobs. Now I know that many more people than I had thought are interested enough to give that idea some serious consideration, perhaps because of the rise of the HMOs

It may be that Joint Venture's shtick is to canvass communities until they find one that, without prompting, has as its main concern more business involvement in the schools, and work with them to accomplish their mutual ends. That's no skin off my nose. The game is definitely worth the candle if it enables other communities to identify what they think is endangered or needs improvement so they can work together to get what they want. My reaction to the Joint Venture forum is "Thank you."

Stephanie Munoz
Chairman, People for Accessible Health Care
Alma Street
Palo Alto

A majority of three


First, I am strongly opposed to proposed ban on leaf blowers in Menlo Park. We hoped for a compromise but in typical fashion the three City Council members ignored the views of many of us.

Statements have been made that rakes are better and their use would cost just little more. I challenge anyone to effectively use rakes when the property has many bushes, shrubs, etc. Yes, we contribute to the greening of Menlo Park.

Cost, just a little more? Typical of the City Council majority of three. Will they agree to subsidize the difference? And, note several letters from a Los Altos resident. Fine, they can express their opinion but let's concentrate on views of Menlo Park residents.

In about an hour and one-half I gathered more than 50 signatures supporting the referendum. Just one of several efforts. I suspect that some of those supporting a ban live in apartments. How much greenery contribution?

Finally, to one who suggested that letters to the City Council were prepared predominately by gardeners: Do not insult my intelligence. I wrote not one, but several letters. Did the three read them? I doubt it.

Edward N. Brown
Santa Cruz Avenue
Menlo Park

Two hours well spent


As president & CEO of Joint Venture: Silicon Valley Network, I would like to respond to Brielle Johnck's comments about our recent Silicon Valley 2010 Community Forum in Palo Alto (Weekly, May 20, Page 26).

More than 135 people attended this forum, to give their opinions on the most important goals Silicon Valley needs to set for the year 2010. (More than 600 people total attended our 10 forums held throughout the region.) Contrary to Ms. Johnck's comments, the audience did create and vote on their own goals, as well as vote on goals drafted by our 2010 Vision Leadership Team. The work done at the forums will be incorporated into the final vision, to be published in September.

Fortunately, not all our forum participants felt the same as Ms. Johnck. In fact, Joint Venture received many words of praise for our excellent process, and many people said they felt the two hours were well-spent.

I'd also like to straighten out another misstatement. The forums were not paid for by the Silicon Valley computer industry and many cities, as Ms. Johnck states. They were funded by the generosity of the David and Lucile Packard Foundation and the James Irvine Foundation.

We don't feel we "bombed in Palo Alto." We simply started a much-needed community dialogue about the future of our Valley.

Rebecca Morgan, President & CEO
Joint Venture: Silicon Valley Network
Almaden Blvd.
San Jose

Preserving the future


Thank you for attempting to put a halt to the slaughter of vintage homes in Palo Alto.

Most of the large houses in the two "R1-B 10" zones are from a time period where building a beautiful home was as important as the size. Nowadays the "monster" homes seem only interested in size. This is our objection to the direction in which people and developers seem to be going. When I walk the neighborhoods I see how out of place these buildings are. If people were honest with themselves, they would see the charm of Palo Alto slowly dying, and we as a community are responsible for not drawing the line to limit the building of huge homes in neighborhoods of small (60 x 100) lots.

We too have received a post card stating our home might fall into Category 2. I am proud of that. Even though our house was built during the Great Depression, it has withstood all the ensuing earthquakes with zero damage. Although it is very small (fewer than 1,100 square feet), I am thankful that other people can see the value in our quaint cottage--for that is what it is to us, a charming home and we are very grateful to live in it.

I understand that people want to have the house of their dreams, but why is it that homes have to be destroyed in order to realize those dreams? It saddens me to see the wastefulness. I offer no solutions, only thoughts and pleas. I recently saw a quote on an American Movie Classics magazine that sums it up for me--"Remember the Past to Preserve the Future."

Christine Clark
Parkinson Avenue
Palo Alto

Unclear editorial from Gunn


If Ruth Moor is serious about establishing a Library Commission, she should at least base her argument on fact, rather than the highly misleading opinion piece that ran in the Gunn High School Oracle last month. The current issue carries a slightly edited version of my response to the student editorial, and I would advise her to read it, as well as anyone else whose impression of Gunn's library is formed by this unfortunate misrepresentation.

I'm a little unclear on how a Library Commission answerable to the City Council is going to affect a school governed by the school board, but that's not really my concern. What does worry me is the way our students, indeed all of Palo Alto by now, view the Gunn Library. I agree with the editorial's plea for more funding for the library program and for a new or substantially renovated building, but I take exception to its implication that I have made educationally unsound expenditures with what limited resources we do have.

In fact, this student hasn't much of a clue how to conduct effective research in this library, nor did he bother to ask me to respond to any of the assumptions he so rashly and arrogantly made. Not one statement I made during the "pop" five-minute interview found its way into the article. Responsible journalism depends on good research. Perhaps that reporter should try it sometime.

Kristi Bowers, Librarian
Gunn High School
Palo Alto

Just enjoy it


The article by Laura Reiley, "Ninety-nine bottles of wine on the wall" (June 5, Home & Real Estate section) was interesting but was somewhat marred by three mistakes that simple fact-checking by an average Palo Alto high school student could have caught.

The calculations by Paul Wyatt and by The Wine Spectator (about the amount of bottles one should store), presented as different, are virtually identical. The statement that "because of the colder temperature, there's a pressure differential--the wine room is at a lower pressure than surrounding areas" is wrong: As soon as you open the door, assuming it was airtight in the first place, any pressure difference would be immediately equalized by a rush of air into the room. And the statement that "for every 18-degree increase in temperature, chemical reaction time doubles" is backwards: the speed of the reaction doubles (the time is halved), which is the inverse of what's written.

Apart from claiming that Ms. Reiley might get an A in oenology and an F in math or physics, I think this proves that people should stop being pretentious about any purported scientific contents to their love of wine or food (and the list doesn't stop there). Enjoy it, don't try to rationalize it--or you might show all too clearly what you do and don't know about.

Claude Baudoin
California Avenue
Palo Alto

Publication Date: Wednesday Jun 17, 1998



I was happily overwhelmed by feedback to my previous letter regarding noisy early morning flights by United, Delta and Continental airlines over our communities on their way to SFO. People concurred that the noise is detrimental to our neighborhoods and signed up with our organization UPROAR at our website www.uproar.org or called and left their comments and support on our voice mail at 482-9742.

These four flights coming from Hawaii arriving between 4:30 a.m. and 6 a.m. have no conflicting air traffic. These flights should follow a noise-free path over the Bay. Their flight pattern could be changed as easily as it was initiated, without warning, about a year ago. Yet the noise still continues. Why?

Do the airlines own the air above us? Do we have to stay inside, close our windows and soundproof our homes? Does an industrial business like the airlines have the right to pollute residential neighborhoods?

I have the flight paths of the above-mentioned flights, given to me by the SFO noise-abatement office, that show the sparse air traffic during early morning hours.

Elizabeth Boudart
Harker Avenue
Palo Alto

Historic homes


I would like to thank Dwana Bain and the Weekly for the article on the renovated house at 936 Scott Street. I was told by members of the homeowners group PAPAHA that this project would not have been allowed under the city's proposed historic ordinance. I've read through the regulations and can find nothing prohibiting the changes and additions made to this historic home.

The new ordinance does require review of projects by the city and the Historic Resources Board; but it is the same process that we went through to get a Home Improvement Exception for the house on Scott Street. In fact, it was the review process that allowed the owner to add the space he needed, resulting in a larger home than if he had demolished the old building and started from scratch.

Palo Alto's HIE process (which has been used as a model by other planning departments) gives architects a lot of flexibility in working with historic or merely old homes if the intent is to maintain the existing architectural style and character of the original building. There are many arguments in favor of this approach; less disruption of the fabric of neighborhoods, fewer building materials in the landfills, etc. Perhaps the most convincing argument is to try to find one historic district anywhere that is not considered more desirable or more valuable than the surrounding area.

K.C. Marcinik
Ben Lomand Drive
Palo Alto

Back up to the Table of Contents Page