Palo Alto Weekly

News - April 13, 2012

Around Town

LANE CHANGES ... First it was tree removals. Then it was cell antennas. These days, lane changes are the grassroots scandal du jour in Palo Alto. The City Council wasn't planning on discussing traffic lanes this week, but residents and merchants had their own agenda. First, the council heard from a group of Middlefield Road residents who were shocked to discover late last month that their block had been re-striped in a way that significantly shrinks a bicycle lane, creates new turning lanes, eliminates parking spots in front of several homes (thanks to a fresh coat of red paint on a curb) and prevents some residents from turning left from their driveways unless they choose to cross two sets of double-yellow lines and risk incurring a hefty traffic ticket. Next came the California Avenue merchants, who were upset about the city's plan to reduce lanes from four to two on the commercial strip. The merchants had already delayed the project for at least a year by filing two lawsuits against the city, thus preventing Palo Alto from getting a grant for the project. Jack Morton, former vice mayor and one of the leaders of the opposition, said the merchants met with staff last week to discuss a possible settlement. Morton, an accountant whose Cambridge Avenue practice is a block away form California Avenue, reiterated his position that the city is ignoring the merchants' concerns about the lane reduction. City officials had analyzed traffic conditions and determined that the plan would not cause a significant traffic impact. But Morton said the merchants aren't buying this conclusion. "None of the merchants believe that staff has their interest at heart," he said. He called for the city to conduct a trial project before the lane change becomes permanent. "If the merchants lose, they lose their business," Morton said. "If the city puts in a trial, it will just delay the project a year."

DUCKING AND DODGING ... As Palo Alto considers shuttering its aged but bustling animal shelter, local animal lovers are leading a drive to prevent the closure. More than 100 have signed a petition that has recently gone up online, urging the City Council not to close the East Bayshore Road facility (the petition is available at www.causes.com/causes/660185). Others cite anecdotes that demonstrate the importance of keeping animal services local. One example occurred Wednesday night, when a lame-footed drake was found stumbling around the Piazza's parking lot. A woman was directing traffic to protect the male duck from getting run over. Police were summoned and even though it was well past 5 p.m., animal-control officer William Warrior arrived within 10 minutes, said Nancy Hamilton, who witnessed the episode. Warrior said he was monitoring the ducks near Piazza's at 11 p.m. the previous night. The ducks, he said, had been producing ducklings at this location for about three years. Warrior had determined that the drake's condition had improved since Tuesday and that despite his injury, the drake can still fly, according to Hamilton. Warrior's attention to the matter proved to Hamilton and others that the local animal-services operation is "much more than a shelter," she said.

TALLEST TREES ... The Tall Tree Awards were a mirthful affair this year a feast of mingling, backslapping and congratulatory remarks exchanged between business leaders, city officials and community volunteers. While guests at the Crowne Plaza Hotel gobbled down citrus-roasted beet salads, ribeye steaks and towers made of grilled Portobello, award winners John Barton ("outstanding professional"), Alison Cormack ("outstanding citizen"), and leaders of Foundation for a College Education ("outstanding nonprofit") and Whole Foods Market ("outstanding business") took the stage to accept their awards. Barton, an architect and former member of the City Council and the school board, talked about the importance of bringing people to the table in finding solutions to pressing problems. "We cannot solve high-speed rail, education funding or climate change within the borders of Palo Alto, but we can keep inviting people to the table," Barton said. Former Councilwoman LaDoris Cordell, who officiated Barton's wedding, introduced Barton as "Palo Alto's pride" and catalogued his list of civic accomplishments. Hal Mickelson, the event's emcee, chimed in with another accolade. "And he was able to keep that going even after 732 interviews about what it's like to be Andrew Luck's adviser," Mickelson said, referring to the Stanford quarterback who was Barton's most famous advisee.

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