Palo Alto Weekly

News - July 5, 2013

Around Town

DEMOCRACY IN ACTION ... The Palo Alto City Council generally doesn't schedule meetings for late Friday afternoons, particularly during the week leading up to its summer vacation. Bob Moss, a land-use watchdog, said he hadn't seen a Friday meeting in his 45 years of following the local political scene. Yet that didn't stop Moss and a few other residents in Barron Park and Green Acres neighborhoods from going to City Hall to ask the council to reject a zone change for 567 Maybell Ave., which would enable 60 units of housing for low-income seniors and 12 single-family homes. Not that the pleas had a chance. The council had already approved the project earlier in the month and the Friday hearing was for a "second reading," largely a formality. After minimal discussion, the council approved the project by a 7-0 vote, with Councilman Larry Klein and Councilwoman Liz Kniss registering their votes through the speakerphone. That, however, is not the end of the story. The council's decision to approve the proposal by the Palo Alto Housing Corporation has prompted a push for a referendum by residents opposing the densification of the former orchard site. In their notice to circulate the petition, project critics Rosemarie C. Dufresne, Kenneth D. Scholz and Ruth A. Lowy of the recently formed "Maybell Action Group" wrote: "The City Council's action establishes a bad land-use precedent and abandons the city's promise to preserve single-family neighborhoods. We support affordable senior housing provided for under existing zoning." The group now needs to collect 2,298 signatures to attempt to repeal the council's decision, according to City Clerk Donna Grider.

AN APPLE A DAY ... One month after they officially unveiled the city's new smartphone tool, PaloAlto311, city officials are pleased with the response from the community. As of June 29, the mobile app has been downloaded 440 times, according to Mayor Greg Scharff's newsletter. That's good news for the city, which was hoping to reach 500 downloads within three months of the app's release. The app, which is still being beta-tested, is loaded with civic tools, including the City Council's calendar, the library index and a feature that allows users to instantly send photos of potholes or graffiti directly to City Hall. The download data also makes one thing clear: Even with Samsung preparing to take over Varsity Theatre on University Avenue, Palo Alto remains largely an Apple town. Of the 440 downloads, 336 were done using an iPhone or iPad, while 104 used an Android-based phone.

LIBRARY 'EXPANSION' ... The construction of Mitchell Park Library and Community Center won't be completed until at least the end of the year, but bookworms in south Palo Alto have at least one consolation prize. The temporary library set up at Cubberley Community Center is once again using the Link+ service, which allows local library users to tap into a network of more than 40 libraries in California and Nevada. Residents can order books and other materials through the library catalog on the city's website and pick up these materials at the temporary Mitchell Park library in two to five days. "The Palo Alto City Library has access to a wide range of items through LINK+," Library Director Monique le Conge said in a statement. "These books can help complete personal research, satisfy academic needs, and support lifelong learning. This service is one that is popular. People know it by name and have been eager to have it resume."

HOT STUFF ... Trendy Palo Altans love to flock to the latest and greatest, and they made no exceptions during the recent heat wave. Fans of the ice cream sandwich and other frozen treats waited up to an hour in line last week outside of Cream, downtown's newest ice cream shop, located on University Avenue. "It's cheap. You can get an ice cream sandwich for about $2.50," one young woman said, explaining the allure of her goal. Those who'd already purchased their sandwiches enjoyed the cool treat in the heat. But a few others expressed exasperation. "This is ridiculous. I'm going to Fraiche," said one passerby, referring to the yogurt shop six blocks away.

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