Around Town | November 1, 2013 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - November 1, 2013

Around Town

COMMERCIALIZE THIS! ... The City Council swiftly put the kibosh on a proposal to place a city-owned digital billboard in Palo Alto in order to help raise up to $1 million for infrastructure fixes that plague the city. The idea became unpopular with residents almost as quickly as it was proposed, and the council voted 7-0 with Karen Holman and Gail Price absent to strike it from the books entirely. But before they could, they got an earful from residents, both in person and through numerous letters. There was much weeping and gnashing of teeth by letter writers and vengeful Town Square commenters on who complained that the idea didn't fit the character of Palo Alto, decried the vapid and garish nature of the signs, and bemoaned the disruptive effect the sign's presence would have on views of the picturesque Baylands and East Bay Hills. Annette Glanckopf, vice chair of the Midtown Residents Association, told the council she had gotten plenty of reaction from her neighborhood about the billboard idea, all negative. The digital board, she said, would distract drivers, endanger Baylands birds and prompt other businesses to pursue similar advertising means. "This is a serious step in commercialization of Palo Alto, with a slippery slope," Glanckopf said. City Manager James Keene was quick to point out that the proposal was, in fact, only a proposal and served to identify ways the city could theoretically make money for pricey improvements — like a new public-safety building. "This really is just a matter of leaving no stone unturned in a sense, as far as presenting ideas to the council," he said. The council's strong and unanimous reaction quickly put residents' anxieties to rest. So did Keene's assurance to Mayor Greg Scharff at the conclusion of Monday's quick discussion. "Just so we're clear with this, Mr. Mayor: We're done with this forever," Keene said.

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