Palo Alto Weekly

News - February 21, 2014

Around Town

TREE WEEK HAS ARRIVED ... Every year, young Saplings vie for the once-in-a-lifetime glory that is serving as Stanford University's unofficial mascot, the ever-energetic, dancing and smiling Tree. A whole week, dubbed "Tree Week," is dedicated to the process and took place this week in order to select the Leland Stanford Junior Marching Band's 2014-15 mascot. Prospective Trees are expected to prove themselves through zany, creative stunts throughout the week. There are only four main ground rules: no fire, no electrocution, no serious bodily harm that would result in a trip to the hospital (even if the candidate chooses not to go) and nothing illegal. Past antics have included a naked guitar performance, game of milk pong, singing spoof rap songs ("Lean Like A Tree") or turning one's self into a human bird feeder. This past Monday (opening day of Tree Week), two Saplings — sans most of their clothing — were spotted rolling a giant, wheeled three-tiered pink paper cake, topped with an inappropriately shaped toy.

CHAMBER ON THE MOVE ... The Palo Alto Chamber of Commerce will soon be moving into one of downtown's newest and most conspicuous developments — the four-story "Lytton Gateway" building at the corner of Lytton Avenue and Alma Street. The Chamber, which currently rents space on Mitchell Lane, will be the nonprofit tenant in the four-story building, a development that will be anchored by the online-survey company SurveyMonkey. The organization announced in a statement that it has signed a 10-year lease on the ground floor of the building and that it plans to move into its new location in mid-summer.

In its announcement, the Chamber lauded the building's prominent location next to the University Avenue transit center and its architecture, which includes a 70-foot tall corner tower. CEO David MacKenzie said the organization is "ecstatic about this new location." "The 101 Lytton project is a spectacular and unique business and economic opportunity for Palo Alto," MacKenzie enthused. "I believe this will re-invigorate the immediate neighborhood and surrounding community and provide more visibility for the Chamber, our enriching programs and our vibrant membership." The building at 101 Lytton Ave. is the last downtown development to win the city's approval under the "planned community" zone process, which allows developers to exceed zoning regulations in exchange for negotiated public benefits. One of the benefits that the council asked to include in the project included space for a nonprofit group, with rent subsidized by the developer. The agreement also required the developer, Lytton Gateway LLC, to contribute $2 million to parking improvements downtown.

YOUNG HISTORY BUFFS ... Four members of the Palo Alto High School History Club will head to Washington, D.C., in April to compete in the National History Bowl, a history competition founded in 2010. Sophomore Trevor Filseth and juniors Alex Fang, Max Krawcyzk and Nicholas Lai will compete as a team, while Fang and Filseth will additionally compete in individual competitions. In its first year as a club, the Paly history buffs join a local field long dominated by schools like Bellarmine and Saratoga High School, which also will send students to the national competition this year.

AN OFFER HE COULDN'T REFUSE ... Facebook scooped up Mountain View-based messaging application company WhatsApp for a cool $19 billion on Feb. 19, making its $1 billion deal to buy photo-sharing app Instagram look like small potatoes. The purchase makes up for when Facebook turned down WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton, a Stanford University graduate, for a job in 2009. "Facebook turned me down," Acton tweeted in August 2009. "It was a great opportunity to connect with some fantastic people. Looking forward to life's next adventure." That adventure turned out to be WhatsApp, which the computer science major founded that same year with Jan Koum, a Ukrainian immigrant and college dropout. WhatsApp, not much more than a messaging service, now boasts 450 million users across the world.

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