Palo Alto Weekly

Spectrum - November 22, 2013

Letters to the editor

Bans need more bite

Editor,

Speaking as a downtown dweller and aggressive anti-smoker, I was thrilled to learn that Palo Alto's City Council will discuss expanding the smoking ban around public building entrances to 25 feet.

But then I remembered my excitement when city ordinance 4294 passed in 1995. This legislation prohibited smoking within 20 feet of public building entrances, and declared fines of $100 for the first offense, $200 for the second and $500 for the third.

By the looks of it, the city has not done a great job of enforcing this law over the past 18 years. Smokers congregate on the sidewalks outside the doorways of offices, shops and restaurants throughout the day and evening.

In 2013, the American Lung Association assigned Palo Alto another "D" grade in Tobacco Control. If the city truly cares to reduce our exposure to secondhand smoke, we need laws with consequences and we need the police to punish infractions.

We don't need another feel-good measure. It's time we got some do-good action.

Jaclyn Schrier

Alma Street, Palo Alto

Cost of living too high

Editor,

In reply to David Moss', "Show Me the Solution," Nov. 15, 2013, he has the cart before the horse.

The demographics on the population of Palo Alto are as follows:

According to CaliforniaDemographics.com:

1. Palo Alto population, as of 2010, is in the 66,000 neighborhood;

2. Median income is $120,670;

3. 60.6 percent white, 27 percent Asian and 6.2 percent Hispanic;

4. 5.7 percent live in poverty.

According to Zillow.com: The Palo Alto Home Value Index is $1,788,000.

According to bizjournals.com: The average rent in Palo Alto is $2,636.

The obvious question to ask, and not of those who want to develop, just what is the current inventory of affordable senior housing; how many seniors in Palo Alto need affordable housing; what is the projected growth of low-income seniors over the next period of time.

I am a senior, 68, still working because I have to and want to. When, if, I retire, I'm leaving. Low- income housing is insufficient to make me want to stay. Housing is only part of the problem; the overall cost of living in Palo Alto is too high.

M. Lee Brokaw

Hanover Street, Palo Alto

Parking tickets or cash cows?

Editor,

We have lived in our present house for 32 years, owned one car, which is parked in the garage, and have not had any traffic tickets until lately. Our daughter visiting from Chicago did not deserve the citation she received and when she protested that she had not been there for the two hours they refused to waive the ticket. Her rental car had been parked in front of our house but she had left to pick up her grandson and then returned. A home aide has received a ticket earlier for parking on Cornell.

Has the traffic department forgotten that Facebook was the reason behind the two-hour parking limit and since they are no longer in Palo Alto, should not there be a relaxation of the parking limit? The next street over, Wellesley, has no parking restriction and cars remain there as long as they want, some for days. There was a sport trailer parked on that street for a week to 10 days with no ticket. Has the two-hour limit on other streets become a cash cow for the city?

Is there another solution for this problem other than obtaining multiple CT decals?

Jean Garrett

California Avenue, Palo Alto

No surprise on delay

Editor,

News about yet another delay in the opening of the Mitchell Park Library that was supposed to open in 2011 comes as no surprise to us who remember 1999 when the city library director and other officials proposed closing three of our excellent six libraries. Many of us, including Friends of the Library, battled vigorously to keep them open. We succeeded in keeping the downtown and College branches open and now flourishing. Now with the bungling and squabbles about the blame equally shared by city architects, engineers, Public Works Department and the general and sub-contractors, only God knows when the library will open. Lesson learned: The city neither knows how to close libraries nor open them.

Vic Befera

High Street, Palo Alto

How to calculate parking

Editor,

There needs to be a simple way to calculate parking in downtown. Even the former planning director, with a degree in math, was apparently fooled by the assessment district assumptions that gave full credit for parking when only 10 percent was ever built and paid for.

Let's say we all accept a ratio of 1 parking space per 250 square feet of floor area, a common standard for a mixed-use area and the theory (and assumed promise) of the 2004 Assessment District; it works for most shopping centers and a good starting point.

We can all accept that there is no "extra" parking available in the commercial areas, it is full up, overflowing into the "burgs" as one local company refers to the residential neighborhoods where they valet their guest's cars.

So, 611 Cowper St., a 34,700-square-foot building replaces a one-story 8,000-square-foot building and is given credit for three spaces (10 percent of the existing 32-space need at a 1:250 ratio.) So, the new project needs 136 spaces, they provide 62 underground leaving a deficit of 74 spaces, pushing parking six blocks further into the neighborhood. At $60,000 per space, (the City's estimated cost per space) the developer is given a subsidy of $4.4 million. Not bad for him.

In a recent survey, citizens were asked if they would support $25 per household to build new parking and pay for these gifts to developers. Would you?

Ken Alsman

Ramona Street, Palo Alto

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