Publication Date: Wednesday Jul 14, 1999


Questionable benefits


Lucky has asked the city to allow it to expand its Alma Plaza store to 37,000 square feet, nearly twice the 20,000-square-foot limit on grocery stores in Palo Alto and nearly three times the size of the existing store.

In order for this to come under city guidelines, Lucky has asked that the property be called a "planned community," a special designation requiring that it provide public benefits in return. So now Lucky officials have fabricated several "benefits" to justify the move to an oversized superstore in the heart of a residential neighborhood. These include pedestrian access to Ramona via a long, channeled walkway located just over the fence from neighborhood homes, a public park behind the store on Ramona Street and an additional traffic light on Alma. Let's examine these "benefits."

It would hardly benefit the community if neighbors have to live with the adjacent sound, sight and security risks of a long pedestrian walkway whose design and location are nothing but an invitation to problems.

It would hardly benefit the community to have a public park on the street that would provide a home to neighborhood vagrants and other undesirables, some of whom already inhabit Lucky's back parking lot.

It would hardly benefit the community to have an extra traffic light on Alma when there will be many additional cars screeching down Ramona Street, including new Lucky customers, all seeking an outlet from the intolerable traffic tie-ups on Alma (we already have much experience with these speeding vehicles).

And, most important of all, none of this will benefit the community if we are forced live in the midst of a regional superstore that is out of character with the neighborhood and with Palo Alto as a whole. Clearly, these are not "benefits" but tokens tossed to the city to support an oversized project that a majority of neighbors oppose.

Ruthann Richter Hammer
Jay Hammer
Ramona Street
Palo Alto

Making an effort


Anne Saldich's column "All Peace is Personal" (Board of Contributors, June 30) missed two very important points.

She wants to create a Peace Day. There already is one, created by the California Legislature about a decade ago. But more importantly, there is a very obvious and important option aside from the two she presented: wringing ones hands and crying, or asking forgiveness of ones neighbors.

That option is to actually do something to try to prevent wars and violence. It could be as simple as donating money to political organizations or writing letters to political leaders.

Instead of asking forgiveness of her neighbors and relatives, she should ask them to write letters demanding a significant reduction in our military budget, the end of the sanctions and bombing against Iraq, the end of support for brutal governments, fair trade laws instead of free trade laws, etc.

She could join political organizations that work for peace, volunteer for local groups working for peace or political candidates who promise to work for international peace and social justice.

She is an "executive coach," so perhaps she could coach executives of companies to raise the pay of their lowest-paid workers,--not import or sell things made by sweatshop labor--reduce pollution and not manufacture weapons.

Making personal peace may be more satisfying than crying over problems, but neither will stop war. Our political leaders are not going to change their policy because we improve relations in our family (as desirable as that is), nor will they change (as Anne points out) because of stimulating discussions at the dinner table.

However, if they got letters from 100 million people demanding a reduction in the military budget, or if 10 million people marched on Washington demanding a decent medical system, there is the possibility of peace and justice in our time.

Stephen Rock
Nathan Way
Palo Alto

Don't forget to ask


The well-intended plan to locate a homeless center at the Menlo Park Veterans Affairs Hospital raises as many questions as answers:

Have the homeless been surveyed? If we build it, will they come?

Does a study or pilot project suggest the theorized shuttle bus transportation of the homeless to the hospital will work? Has there been a study of homeless traffic through neighborhoods (and liquor stores on Willow)? Of the cost?

Why presume Menlo Park will be more accepting than Palo Alto? Have Palo Alto residents been polled? Have they turned down support for a project proposed primarily by Palo Alto and Stanford representatives?

Although the hospital center is "temporary," isn't a later move to Palo Alto unrealistic, after settling and paying political and expensive site costs in Menlo Park? Could there be two successful rounds of fund raising?

Why open a new, smaller satellite center in Palo Alto, when merchants oppose it and a heavily utilized homeless drop-in center (where I volunteer) already exists?

Have we adequately evaluated what many consider the superior alternative of using the Urban Ministry drop-in center (or nearby locations) near University and El Camino?

A satellite center already exists. It can be ready for the rainy season, the homeless will use it, it's isolated from businesses and residences and is across from the bus/train station (critical to homeless accessing jobs, training, health care, etc.).

Can't Palo Alto, the landowner (Stanford?), and the nearby leaseholder (the Red Cross, presumably a sympathetic institution) work together to do the right thing for all members of our community?

Gerry Sarnat
Degas Road
Portola Valley

A space of their own


For some time, I have been aware of the school district's disdain for providing lockers for our children, and I still cannot comprehend their reasoning.

A locker is a necessity for storage as well as a place that provides a child's sense of own space. Lockers seem to be a very basic commodity in our schools, or they ought to be.

The notion of buying second sets of books is a shortsighted Band-Aid fix to this problem; will the problem go away after those books are outdated? No.

Let's teach our children "backpack management"--oh, please, how ridiculous can this get?

In an area as affluent as ours, spending $100 for a locker to be installed (and then renting it back at $50 per year) should not be an issue.

Following the notion of a locker as a basic commodity for our schools, I present the following snippets, copied from your article, with the word "bathroom" substituted for "locker." My only fear in presenting this to you and the school district is that perhaps they will remove the already woefully inadequate bathrooms from our schools too.

1. The parent community wants bathrooms for their children.

2. School board members ... seem to be searching for ways to deal with the problem without installing bathrooms.

3. Officials then said the bathrooms caused students to be late to class ... created a racket ... and were vandalized and even occasionally set on fire.

4. Recent threats of violence at JLS ... have made officials concerned not only about the expense of maintaining bathrooms but their safety.

5. Superintendent Phillips cited worries about bathrooms being used for storage of drugs or weapons.

Were threats not spray-painted in the bathroom at JLS recently? And who doesn't recall some sort of vandalism happening in bathrooms at their school? I don't buy the board's argument, not in the least.

The same sort of logic applies to high school kids who have cars on campus. Cars would provide an easy place for kids to store their gear and whatever other contraband that the school officials might fear. Getting (or forgetting) books at a student's car could make them late for class. Cars also provide a place for kids to have sex, something that would be pretty difficult in a locker. Perhaps kids shouldn't have cars on campus, either, according to the school district's thinking.

Gosh, it's stuff like this that makes me ever so thankful that I live in one of the "better" school districts in our state.

Mary Kraemer
Ponce Drive
Palo Alto

No time like the present


Now is the time to become informed about the historic preservation ordinance just passed by six of the nine City Council members--a majority, regardless of some members being unable to participate.

Opponents are trying to collect signatures to put the ordinance on the ballot in March, so voters can "evaluate" the law and then decide.

Neighbors for Preservation urge voters to do their evaluating now, before signing the petition. To make information on the ordinance readily accessible, we are distributing fliers to homes and including key provisions in newspaper ads.

Waiting to decide until March is costly, both in terms of taxpayer dollars to include a referendum in the March election and, worse, in terms of uncertainlty for anyone waiting to sell or remodel their home. Until then, regulation will continue, but the benefits are on hold.

Gail Woolley
Mariposa Avenue
Palo Alto

Do unto others


I agree with Ric Steinberger in his June 30 letter that the eruv controversy is not a religious issue, but that is all I agree with.

His argument distinguishing between temporary and permanent accommodations is specious. Would he support the eruv if the the poles and twine were only leased from the city on a yearly renewal basis? I doubt it. Yet, I believe that the Christian Fellowship leases space from the city at Cubberley.

Similarly, he is appalled that citizens may petition their government to change street signs. Has he never driven on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive or Cesar Chavez Avenue? Who does he think asked for the name change? But then maybe the changes are only temporary.

The question I have for Steinberger is, why is he living in a community of people at all? A community is where people make accomodations to help their neighbors, especially a good neighbor. His philosophy would seem to better suit one living on a mountaintop.

But he needn't worry. If a real issue of "health, safety, economic or quality of life" arises, I promise not to make my way to his doorstep.

Phil Smaller
Wilkie Way
Palo Alto

Expanding community


From my own experience, I'd like to suggest that the eruv is not only harmless but a positive contribution to the larger community.

When I was young, every summer Sunday the Campfire Girls used to take us Catholics from Camp Wasibo into Felton to hear Mass. I can't say it made a better Catholic out of me--I can't remember the name of the church or what the sermon was about, or even if it was Felton and not Boulder Creek.

It did make me a better American. I learned what is supposedly a Christian precept: We are put on Earth to help each other.

We help each other to be healthy and happy, and to be able to make a contribution, and also to take part in the life of the larger community while conforming to parental or religious demands that make it difficult to enjoy life as most folks do.

It's understandable that non-observant Jews are not enthusiastic about integrating Orthodox Jews more closely into secular life. They don't want somebody else in the position of defining their Jewishness for them, and they don't want to accept some nice Jewish boy's offer for their daughter's hand only to find out they're never going to see their grandchildren if they don't throw out all the dishes and start over with a double set and move within walking distance of the daughter.

Yet the eruv is, in the long run, subversive of Orthodox cohesiveness. If you can't ride in a car or carry a child on the Sabbath, people who think the same way you do are the only potential spouses you're likely to associate with.

The eruv is really a tie that binds together, not Jews, but all our people in a common society based on friendly interaction between individuals. Just as Solomon gave the baby to the woman who didn't want it cut in half, without recourse to genetics, individuals tend to give their loyalty to the organization which seems to be more interested in helping them than asserting its own rights and prerogatives.

Certainly we should have an eruv, for the same reason we should have universal health insurance or on-site day care, or night court--because it helps people cope. It's no big favor to organized religion.

Stephanie Munoz
Alma Street
Palo Alto

Stop stewing


The ongoing and ongoing and ongoing discussion, debate or, as it appears, general maundering about the creation of an eruv in Palo Alto is ridiculous.

The number of people writing to the editor, practicing the Palo Alto high art of viewing with alarm, looking askance and voicing concern simply proves that there are a lot of people out there who don't have enough to do.

There are no issues of walled cities, compromised property rights or separation of church and state here. It is simply a matter of accommodating the needs of a tradition in a civil, friendly, neighborly manner.

There is no threat, real or perceived. It's a probable sure bet that if the Orthodox Jewish community had just gone ahead and done it, no one would have noticed.

But then that would have deprived these poor souls of the marvelous opportunity for angst, sturm and drang.

I suggest that if they have so much time on their hands, philosophical or otherwise, that they read Dan Logan's article ("Board of Contributors," July 7) and be inspired to spend some time doing something worthwhile.

Donald Stone
Louis Road
Palo Alto

A place to play

Editor, As a Palo Alto resident for 25 years, I have enjoyed responsible use of our parks for exercising and socializing our dogs in open grassy areas. The only person who has ever complained was a crotchety older woman--whom our dogs had not approached or bothered in any way--who smugly told us she was going to "report" us.

I have no doubt that she and others like her also love to busy themselves writing letters about us "lawless" dog owners, so I'd like to put in my 2 cents.

Dog owners pay taxes just like she does. The only thing my husband and I use Palo Alto parks for is to play with our dogs, and we resent having our right to do so curtailed by people like her. We are fully accountable for everything our pets do, just as we are for our kids.

Don't let these cranks spoil "fetch" for the responsible majority of Palo Alto dog owners.

Oriana Spratt
Palo Alto

Dangers to the dogs


I have had two dogs since moving to Palo Alto. Both were friendly and obedience-trained but always leashed for the comfort of anyone we might meet on public streets or in parks.

I have been more fortunate than some friends, in that I have never been bitten by a dog, but I have had them attack my animal. Three times my dog has been aggressively attacked, once requiring an overnight stay in the veterinary hospital.

The offending dog was whisked away in a car so speedily, I had no opportunity to memorize the license plate, much less discuss the injury with its owner.

When unleashed dogs have rushed my dog, neither my dog nor I know initially if the result will be a belligerent attack or merely a matter of playful curiosity. A leashed dog is always intimidated by the unleashed animal.

I have as yet to see an unleashed dog's owner in such complete control that the confrontation is totally aborted. Because of this very real danger to my pet, we no longer enter a city park should I spot unleashed dogs there.

My entire life has been enriched by a wonderful succession of canine companions; however, I do recognize some sobering facts regarding these formerly wild but now domesticated creatures when considering opening public parks at certain times to dogs unrestrained by leashes.

For instance, currently mentioned in this July's issue of The Atlantic Monthly: "In Baltimore, a city of 80,000 to 100,000 dogs, there were 7,000 attacks on people in one year, according to a classic 1973 study. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, each year in the United States 800,000 people are injured seriously enough by dogs to require medical attention, 6,000 are hospitalized by dog attacks, and about 15, mostly children, are killed."

Marilyn A. Shurtz
West Bayshore Road
Palo Alto

How to reach out


As the director of the Community Association for Rehabilitation, serving over 2,000 people with disabilities each year, I want to thank you for the insightful and honest article "Breaking Down the Barriers" (Cover Story, June 9). The issues raised are vitally important, and you should be congratulated for keeping them in the public eye.

Our three decades of experience here at C.A.R. tells us that the single most significant barrier to overcome is society's attitude toward people who have a disability. As one of our clients told us, "My body makes me disabled, society makes me handicapped."

Fortunately, many barriers including attitudinal ones, are beginning to be overcome. Here are six practical suggestions on how people can help:

1. Never ignore someone who is disabled. Don't pretend the person isn't there.

2. Meet people who are disabled. Visit an organization like C.A.R. Reach out and volunteer.

3. Consider hiring people with disabilities and ask questions to help you reach your decision.

4. Teach your children well. Be honest when they ask about people who are different. Focus on similarities. Reassure them that holding hands, hugging or sharing toys is OK, because disabilities are not contagious. Help find positive experiences for them with disabled children.

5. Be aware of legislation on issues that can affect the lives of people with disabilities. Make your voice heard by your elected official.

6. Call C.A.R. and other agencies serving people with disabilities so that we can speak to your service club, your school, your PTA, your church, your synagogue and build the understanding to create a barrier-free community together.

Lynda Steele
Palo Alto

Now or never


On the evening of June 22, I attended a meeting in Palo Alto conducted by representatives of San Francisco International Airport, who presented plans for expanding the airport by adding new runways and listened to input and concerns from members of the community.

The objectives of San Francisco airport's feasibility study for the proposed expansion were stated as: reduce aircraft noise, reduce delays in bad weather and accommodate new large aircraft.

While I can imagine that the proposed new runways would reduce delays and accommodate larger aircraft, I am afraid that they would only increase aircraft noise by bringing more planes and larger planes over our Peninsula communities, where aircraft noise is already at an intolerable level.

It seems to me that what is needed to reduce aircraft noise are changes in the flight paths currently being used by the airport and that these changes could and should be made now, as a separate process from the proposed new runways. Peninsula residents have been complaining for at least four years about the increasing numbers of commercial aircraft flying at low altitudes, disturbing our peace and disrupting our sleep.

San Francisco airport officials should recognize that these noise problems need to be resolved now, if they are to achieve any level of credibility with local residents and gather support for expansion of the airport.

If noise problems are not resolved now, why should we believe that they will be handled appropriately in the future? In addition, why should people on the Peninsula wait 10 years for noise relief, while new runways are built, when the noise problem is a separate issue that involves redesigning the flight paths--routing planes at higher altitudes and directing them away from the Peninsula's residential communities.

Anne K. Kanerva
Santa Margarita Avenue
Menlo Park

Wrench in the works


The subject is BART, and the direction of these comments is toward those who first blocked the BART extension into San Mateo County, especially Menlo Park, and those who would repeat that blunder.

It has always seemed to me that the south Bay Area would best be served if BART encircled the South Bay and that much of the present traffic congestion would have long been relieved had not Menlo Park in particular worked hard to defeat the basic plan.

Now we again face a decision about BART, and again anti-BART people are blindly trying to ensure that our traffic problems will see no relief. In particular, Steve Schmidt, who works so hard to prevent development that might increase traffic, is at the forefront of opposition to BART coming to Menlo Park. He is on record favoring bicycles over cars as well as BART.

How would he like to bicycle as a commuter from Fairfield, or Hollister?

San Mateo County blocks extension of BART to Santa Clara County and around the bay. How long will these people persist in delaying the inevitable extension at ever-increasing cost?

Tom Huening and Denise DeVille seek 20,000 signatures to get the matter onto the March ballot for San Mateo County and away from those few who have so long stymied the extension.

I hope to see that petition succeed and will do all I can to support it. Please, fellow sufferers, get with this important effort and add your support.

Preston Brown
Chateau Drive
Menlo Park

Government gall


Sally Schuman (Board of Contributors, May 12) would have us weep for the poor but honest scientists forced by nasty corporations to revile the revealed truth of global warming. Don't worry your pretty little head, Sally. If Gore is elected, all those "Leland's Lysenkos" will be assured of all the federal dollars they want just for providing ex post facto color to government programs.

Only government would have the gall to fire a senior atmospheric scientist because he questioned global warming. And only the government would continue to regard as a scientist one whose every prediction has been demonstrated to be flawed or fraudulent.

Walter E. Wallis
Waverley Street
Palo Alto

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