Palo Alto Weekly

News - February 17, 2012

News Digest

Palo Alto to sell bonds to residents

Palo Alto residents will have a chance to buy city-issued bonds later this month as part of the city's effort to refinance the bonds it issued a decade ago to pay for downtown parking garages.

The council on Monday, Feb. 13, authorized the sale to the public of $33.48 million in parking-assessment bonds, which were originally issued in 2001 and 2002 to finance parking garages in and around University Avenue. The city is refinancing these bonds to take advantage of what staff called a "historic low" in interest rates.

Joe Saccio, deputy director of the city's Administrative Services Department, wrote in a report that "based on current market interest rates, the net present value savings resulting from the refinancing could exceed 5 percent of the outstanding principal amount of the 2011 and 2002 bonds."

The council voted 8-0 Monday, with Karen Holman absent, to authorize the bond sale.

While the bonds will be available to the general public, Palo Alto residents will get first dibs. The bonds are expected to go on sale to investors and the general public Feb. 28 at 8 a.m., but Palo Alto residents can place advance orders now.

The bonds are rated BBB by Standard & Poor's and are tax exempt. Minimum investment is $5,000 and additional investment can be made in $5,000 increments, according to Saccio. They will be sold by De La Rosa & Co. and will have maturity dates from 2012 to 2030.

Those interested in purchasing the bonds can get more information by visiting www.cityofpaloalto.org/buypabonds or calling De La Rosa at 1-866-361-3300.

City hopes to lure industry to East Meadow Circle

After seeing a surge of housing in several south Palo Alto neighborhoods over the past decades, city officials are now poised to transform these areas near the Mountain View border into enclaves of industry and innovation.

The city's focus is on areas just west of U.S. Highway 101, including the neighborhoods around East Meadow Circle and Fabian Way, a quilt of small parcels along San Antonio Road and the area around San Antonio and Charleston roads, near the Taube Koret Campus for Jewish Life.

The city is putting together an "area concept plan" for the industrial and mixed-use neighborhoods as part of its effort to update the Comprehensive Plan, the city's official land-use bible. The City Council on Monday night, Feb. 13, expressed support for the staff proposal to bring industry to East Meadow Circle and to lure large, revenue-generating businesses such as hotels or big-box stores east of San Antonio Road.

Council members said they appreciated the plan, which would preclude additional housing developments in an area that lacks parks, retail and other residential amenities.

The East Meadow area is one of two in Palo Alto — along with the California Avenue Business District/Fry's Electronics site — that city officials have identified as ripe for major land-use changes.

Palo Alto looks to strengthen massage law

Palo Alto is plowing ahead with its plan to firm up regulation of local massage practices, but several City Council members said Tuesday night, Feb. 14, that the ordinance proposed by staff itself needs a little massaging.

The new law would require all massage practitioners in Palo Alto to get certified in one of two ways — either by acquiring a city permit or by earning a certificate from the California Massage Therapy Council, a nonprofit corporation that the state Legislature created in 2009 to better regulate the industry.

The city permit would require practitioners to go through 200 hours of training. It would also require massage practices to keep logbooks listing customers and the services provided. After numerous massage therapists cried foul about the logbook requirement, the city agreed to specify that police would need a court order to gain access to these records.

The owner of Happy Feet, which provides reflexology services as well as fully clothed full-body massages, argued that the ordinance would harm his business.

The council committee Tuesday agreed that the city should consider an exemption for reflexology establishments, much like other cities have done. Councilmen Sid Espinosa, Larry Klein and Greg Schmid directed staff to return at a later date with language pertaining to certifying these businesses.

But the committee also agreed with city staff that Happy Feet itself is more than a reflexology practice, given that it also offers massages, and should not be allowed an exemption.

The ordinance is driven by two state laws: Senate Bill 731, the 2009 law that established the California Massage Therapy Council, prohibits cities and counties from regulating the practice of certificate holders, said police Lt. April Wagner. Another law, Assembly Bill 619, went into effect this month, expanding the Therapy Council's regulatory powers and adding new requirements for certificates to be displayed.

The intent of the new law is to provide "uniform regulations statewide" and "eliminate the disparate treatment of massage establishments," Wagner wrote in a report.

— Gennady Sheyner

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