Palo Alto Weekly

News - January 7, 2011

News Digest

19-year-old man dies on Caltrain tracks Thursday

A 19-year-old Palo Alto man was struck and killed at 1:20 a.m. Thursday by a southbound Caltrain in Palo Alto in what was possibly "an intentional act," according to Caltrain spokeswoman Christine Dunn.

The man was not immediately identified, but while he was a Palo Alto resident he had not attended high school in Palo Alto, Dunn said. The Santa Clara County Coroner's Office reported that it had not positively confirmed his identity, as of 6:45 a.m., however.

Dunn said the man was hit about four-tenths of a mile north of the California Avenue station at a location where there is no vehicle or pedestrian crossing.

"A preliminary investigation indicates that this was an intentional act," she said.

Access to the tracks is restricted by a fence bordering the east side of the tracks and houses with fenced yards lining its west side.

Train 198 continued on to the California Avenue station, where its 30 passengers were disembarked. Another local train was dispatched and picked up the passengers at 2:45 a.m., Dunn said.

It was the first Caltrain fatality of 2011, Dunn said. In 2010, there were 11 fatalities on the Caltrain right of way, down from 19 a year earlier.

Rod Diridon could be on track back to rail board

Rod Diridon is philosophical about not being reappointed to the California High Speed Rail Authority board of directors by former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who failed to reappoint him in late December.

Part of his generous "I understand" response could be because he has "hope" that he might be reappointed in the near future — by new Governor Jerry Brown, he said in an interview with the Weekly this week.

That would hinge on two things: a vacancy occurring on the board in one of the five governor-appointed seats, and Brown choosing Diridon. They are longtime friends and Diridon co-chaired Brown's initial campaign for governor in 1974.

The board vacancy could occur because member David Crane was appointed to the University of California Board of Regents by Schwarzenegger Dec. 30. There has been growing attention to "incompatible" appointments on the authority board, and if this is deemed one of those Crane almost certainly would opt for the prestigious regents.

For a longer interview with Diridon, go to www.PaloAltoOnline.com.

Elarms pleads not guilty in David Lewis killing

A man charged with fatally shooting East Palo Alto community leader David Lewis outside a San Mateo mall in June pleaded not guilty to murder in San Mateo County Superior Court Tuesday (Jan. 4) afternoon.

Gregory Elarms, 58, has been charged with first-degree murder in the killing of Lewis, who was gunned down near his car in the parking lot of the Hillsdale Shopping Center on June 9. The district attorney's office has additionally charged Elarms with illegal possession of a firearm and a special circumstance of lying in wait, which could make him eligible for the death penalty if convicted.

"We're a long way from making that decision," Deputy District Attorney Al Giannini told reporters outside the courtroom.

Giannini said the defense would likely bring into question the defendant's mental state at the time of the shooting. Defense attorney Jeffrey Boyarsky declined to comment.

Elarms was arrested on Dec. 20, two days after he contacted San Mateo police with a tip in the case, which investigators said made him a suspect, according to the district attorney's office.

Investigators believe Elarms followed Lewis to the shopping center from the San Mateo Medical Center, where Lewis was conducting HIV testing and counseling. Elarms is scheduled to reappear in court for a preliminary hearing on Feb. 18 at 1:30 p.m.

Palo Alto receives $1.5M grant for California Ave.

Plans to spruce up Palo Alto's California Avenue retail shopping district got a boost after the city received a coveted $1.5 million VTA Community Design and Transportation grant.

The grant was awarded at the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority's board of directors meeting on Dec. 9, according to Jaime Rodriguez, Palo Alto's chief transportation official. The city previously applied for VTA funding in June and was turned down.

The grant will pay the lion's share of the $1.7 million project; the city will add $500,000 in matching funds. Streetscape improvements would include a European-style boulevard with two lanes, a park/plaza at the east end near the Caltrain station, additional landscaping, kiosks, bicycle parking and a 20-seat mini-plaza near Ash Street. The plan would redesign diagonal parking.

The Planning and Transportation Commission will consider staff recommendations for a negative declaration on an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) in late January.

— Sue Dremann

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