Palo Alto Weekly

Spectrum - March 18, 2011

Letters

Arastradero experiment

Editor,

By creating a cute and colorful batch of yellow lane markers, white direction arrows and yellow-and-white words of warning, the city traffic department's one-year experiment has now frazzled the nerves of 18,000 cars a day.

The real excitement has to be witnessed on Maybell, Donald and Georgia in the early morning hours. There is virtual ballet of hundreds of cars, hundreds of bicycles, a few skateboards and even some in-line skaters — all dodging each other.

I have talked to students, crossing guards, Gunn High School staff and neighbors on Georgia who will all attest to the increased, terrifying, at times, parade to school. All caused by the Arastradero experiment.

We used to have an 11-foot bike lane on Arastradero. Now it is about four feet wide. Some kids prefer this to the melee on Maybell. The increased traffic on Georgia at the point of the pass-through from Georgia to Gunn is an adverse result from closing the various lanes on Arastradero.

It is a miracle thus far that no child has been severely injured, or worse.

Do we wait for that to happen or can we terminate this Arastradero nonsense right now?

John Elman

Hubbartt Drive

Palo Alto

Byxbee battle

Editor,

The Weekly's editorial depicts the controversy around reclaiming land from Byxbee Park for a bio-digestion plant for yard trimmings and food scraps as a "spat." With all due respect, this opposition of deeply held beliefs, values and facts is no trivial matter.

The polar positions — increasingly identified with Peter Drekmeier and Emily Renzel — appear uncompromising. Much is at stake here, including a process of creative thought and compromise.

Gary Snyder, poet and advocate for wildness, once suggested that we need a senator for wildlife. In the instance of the Byxbee controversy, Snyder would certainly be calling for representation for flora as well as fauna, for the waterways and marine life, for the clouds mirrored in the spring currents moving through the marshlands.

Certainly there must be people who do not take delight in the integrity and beauty of the Baylands, or find the everyday walks there nourishing. For those who do, however, the prospect of silos close to the pathways and any mechanical sounds associated with the process of churning garden waste into methane is not only an aesthetic matter. In terms of stewardship of a beloved park preserve, and the carving away of even a fraction of its land, this is a profoundly disturbing matter.

Advocates for this new mode of digestion and for the use of a small percentage of the park's acreage, on the other hand, appeal to compelling principles based on economics, local autonomy and constructive, progressive green technologies. Some of the pathways through Byxbee Park have indeed come about through waste reclamation and landfill.

This matter needs sound discussion. As citizens in our local democracy we need to listen intently to each other's perspectives and find the points of wise judgment.

It does not serve this many-layered issue to trivialize it.

Randall Weingarten

Middlefield Road

Palo Alto

Cell-tower concerns

Editor,

How did a federal law get passed that says a municipality — that exists to insure the safety and wellbeing of its citizens — may have no say based on health concerns in the placement of cell or wireless towers?

Only aesthetic concerns are legitimate? Coincidentally, at the same time the 1996 Telecommunications Act was passed (lobbying: $39 million) disempowering local government, funding was also cut for EPA electro-magnetic-radiation health-effects studies. Draw your own conclusions.

AT&T, a commercial enterprise, is proposing action that can harm the health of people in Palo Alto for the possible convenience of customers. Regardless of what the numbers say, there are people who experience symptoms or become ill in proximity to cell phone and wireless devices.

The early science on health effects of commercial products is rarely definitive, often biased, or simply wrong. Remember, at one time DDT, thalidomide, and cigarette smoking, was thought to be safe. We simply don't know enough about subtle and long-term health effects. Even now, evidence linking cell phones to cancer continues to grow.

There is nothing sacrosanct about "federal guidelines." Most EPA guidelines are decades old, do not reflect current research or address the plethora of toxic chemicals which are in current usage, and are not about to be updated. Even now, a seriously weakened EPA is under threat of further disempowerment with recently proposed legislation. Anyone who thinks federal standards or the existence of the EPA confers safety or protection to U.S. citizens is living in illusion.

Molly Rose

Avalon Court

Palo Alto

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