Palo Alto Weekly

News - March 21, 2014

Around Town

CONSTRUCTION TRANSPARENCY ... Curious about when that pesky construction project down the street might be finished? Palo Altans can now check up on application and permit statuses, whether a city inspection has occurred and more at the city's new CivicInsight website, coordinated by the city's Development Services Center. Users can search by address to see nearby projects on a map; add properties to a personal watchlist to receive email alerts about construction; and view what permit applications have been submitted, permits issued and inspections approved in the last 90 days. Searches can also be narrowed by dates and status categories. "Every day spent waiting for an update from our Department can amount to thousands of dollars lost for the applicant," Development Services Director Peter Pirnejad said in a press release. "With Civic Insight, we hope to increase responsiveness and save our customers precious time — and money." In the interest of true civic engagement, website visitors can also post ideas about issues or projects the Development Services Center should tackle next. Visit the website at http://paloalto.civicinsight.com/.

GO SOLAR OR GO HOME ... It's not a tech company boasting the installation of Palo Alto's third-largest solar roof system but instead the Oshman Family Jewish Community Center. The Fabian Way center now has 1,840 solar panels on rooftops of its 12 buildings, installed in late February and celebrated at an "operational launch" and ribbon-cutting this week. The new system is the city's third in size, behind only those at VMWare and Hewlett-Packard Co.. According to a press release, the panels will reduce the 12 buildings' carbon footprint by approximately 9,500 tons of carbon dioxide over the next 20 years — the equivalent of growing more than 223,000 tree seedlings or taking 1,814 cars off the roads. The 395.5-kilowatt system is the result of collaboration between the JCC, Palo Alto-based investor-coordinator company THiNKnrg and the City of Palo Alto Utilities and Development departments. The panels aren't only saving the environment, they're also saving the JCC's bank account. The solar system was financed through a power-purchase agreement (a contract between two parties, one who generates and sells the electricity and one who is looking to purchase electricity), so there were no upfront costs for the community center, and it can anticipate saving $1.5 million over the next 20 years, according to the Utilities Department. It also adds some oomph to the city's solar cache. Palo Alto currently ranks seventh nationwide for the highest number of solar systems installed per utility customer, with 600 residential and commercial solar systems installed to date, according to the Utilities Department.

STOP THAT CHECK ... The bright minds over at the Stanford University mathematics department couldn't stop a recent scam that sent approximately 30 FedEx packages from the department's account containing fake checks, said Brad Hayward, the university's senior director of strategic communications. Hayward said some of the checks appeared to be from an "outside company," but he has no information about the amounts the checks were made out for or whether any recipients tried to cash one. "Just to be clear about what occurred: Someone used a FedEx account of the Stanford mathematics department to send what appeared to be checks to various people, and the return address on the FedEx envelopes showed the mathematics department," Hayward wrote in an email. "But the checks were not issued by Stanford and did not bear Stanford's name, and they were issued against a non-existent bank." He said that he's not aware of any similar cases occurring elsewhere on campus, though it was reported in March that someone had been sending people counterfeit checks from the account of the Woodside Priory School in Portola Valley, according to a report from the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office. Hayward said Stanford police are continuing to investigate the incident, and anyone receiving a suspicious package should not attempt to cash the check nor send any money to anyone requesting it. Recipients should instead contact Stanford Police at 650-723-9633.

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