I have been a resident of Palo Alto for 12 years and a homeowner in Barron Park since 2005. My three kids attend Gunn and Terman, and I am a minister in a local church. I'm writing to strongly urge the city to step in and act on behalf of our neighbors and friends at Buena Vista mobile home park. I would ask the city to do all it can to encourage and persuade the owner to sell to the residents or a nonprofit developer for a fair price in order to preserve the low-cost housing in Palo Alto, and most importantly to allow people who are already thriving and part of our community to stay in their homes and schools.
I understand the need and right for the property owner to receive a fair price, but I believe a mutually beneficial solution can be found if all are willing. In addition I would ask the City to consider using the Maybell loan money to support the residents during this time of upheaval. It is incumbent on every member of the community to care for and care about every resident and the situation they are facing, especially when money and power are not on "their side." This is a community issue and one we are all part of whether we are residents or not. I implore the council to act on the community's behalf in this situation.
Julie Court, Palo Alto
Servants or masters?
Recall that Thomas Jefferson warned us that liberty requires vigilance — that's We the People keeping watch over the politicians, not the other way around. What happens when public servants become public masters? Here are a few examples:
By governmental decree: Thou shalt rezone thy suburb for high-density housing projects alongside the "transit corridor" (i.e., train), though these foist urban squalor on suburbia, and no one in his right mind wants to live in them. Thou shalt be a steadfast pedestrian or bicyclist or take the bus instead of driving, though driving is the most convenient and efficient means of transportation. Thou shalt not purchase incandescent light bulbs, though they are the cheapest and safest, and provide the best quality light. Thou shalt not speak critically of thy all-benevolent government, including comments on Facebook et al., on pain of arrest, indefinite detention, prolonged interrogation, etc., as befits likely terrorists or other enemies of the State.
Maybe it's time to get some new folks in office and try becoming a free Republic again, under that long-forgotten document, the Constitution.
Oak Lane, Menlo Park
Breaking the rules
Laws are made to be broken? Really? How about when a high-priced private girls school like Palo Alto's Castilleja admits to violating since 2002 a city ordinance limiting student enrollment to 415? How about the City's Code Enforcement failure to compel over-enrollment reduction from 448 to 415 that has continued illegally now 12 years later? How about the City Manager and Planning staff allowing anyone to defy and make a mockery of its Conditional Use Permit by interpreting the conditions as it wishes? How about the laws of honor and integrity that a school purporting to build character and good citizenship flunks Ethics 101 by cheating on enrollment and breaking scores of forgotten promises including a parking garage and alleviating traffic, parking and safety woes of its neighbors? Is it moral for a group with wealth and power to pursue its ends of expansion if it must trample the laws of society?
High Street, Palo Alto
Buena Vista appraisal
The 2013 appraisal of the Buena Vista Mobile Home Park, commissioned and paid for by the owner, Joe Jisser, claims that the appraised value as a mobile home park is the same as it was in 2012, and includes an estimated three to six months probable marketing time (this could be much shorter and simpler with ready buyers who have already made an offer). It also alleges that with the current RM-15 zoning and with the proposed increased RM-40 zoning it has exactly the same appraised value. The claim is that higher construction costs exactly offset the increase in value due to the proposed increase in density. If this were true, there would be no reason to apply for a zoning change. There is no update since 2013.
El Camino Way, Palo Alto
Green Acres grab?
One of the questions that came up often during the Maybell/Clemo affordable-housing project debate was whose neighborhood it was in. It was generally believed to be in Barron Park. But one of the photos accompanying the Weekly's Feb. 28 profile of Green Acres identifies a lovely two-story Maybell home on a narrow lot as being in Green Acres. This home lies several lots towards El Camino from the Maybell/Clemo site.
If correct, this would mean that everything between Maybell and Arastradero, including the proposed project site, is in Green Acres, not Barron Park.
Some of the loudest voices for blocking the project came from Green Acres, which argued that proximity, appreciation of the orchard's fine qualities and reliance on Maybell to get in and out when Arastradero traffic was tied up gave it special standing to claim that the project was being imposed on their neighborhood.
Is Green Acres now annexing the Barron Park territory that it cares so much about?
Georgia Avenue, Palo Alto
Stop adding jobs
The PA Weekly editorial about the jobs/housing imbalance in Palo Alto draws the wrong conclusion. The answer is not quality of life destroying over-dense pack and stack housing. The answer is to stop adding more jobs! It is time to renew the discussion of Palo Alto being a "sustainable" city. We have lost sight of the fact or never really understood that living sustainably means that we have to limit the number of people to fit the available resources of a finite world.
The state of California has failed miserably to curtail population to fit available resources of clean water, clean air, open spaces, recreational opportunities and to provide a decent quality of life for its inhabitants, human as well as animal. If the state won't do it, then we should do it city by city. Palo Alto should be the first to explore setting a population limit that is sustainable and then work towards a way to meet those limits. The first step is to stop adding jobs when we cannot house those workers without detriment to our city's quality of life expectations and the finite limits of our environment.
Palo Alto Avenue, Palo Alto
Free shuttle system
I am a 13-year-old student of Jordan Middle School and am writing to you as a member of Boy Scout Troop 57. I wanted to express my opinion about Palo Alto's traffic crisis and how this proposed extension of the shuttle program could seriously help the issue.
This proposal would boost the funding for the Palo Alto shuttle program by $1.4 million, which would go towards increasing the frequency of popular shuttle routes and establishing new ones. Some new routes would connect southern Palo Alto with northern Palo Alto and support transportation to the Stanford Shopping Center and the downtown area.
I tend to think of Palo Alto as a city of mostly middle-class families with kids in the school system. The traffic problem wouldn't be so if every car was filled with three to four people. There would be far fewer cars on the road. I think the downtown area especially gets clogged with people trying to drive slowly so they can park, dates that have two people in the car, and people getting dropped off.
The shuttle routes could help lower the amount of cars that are in the downtown area that aren't there to stay a while. It would be very beneficial and usable if I could just walk to the nearest shuttle stop and then be dropped off downtown. My friends are constantly in need of their parents to drop them off somewhere. This can lead to problems when their parents can't take them somewhere for an hour, so they simply stay at home.
What better way to solve all these problems than a free shuttle system that could take anyone from the neighborhood they live to the place they want to go in Palo Alto.
Parkinson Avenue, Palo Alto
Recently I had an issue with the work done by Palo Alto Utilities in front of my house. I left voicemails for both the Assistant Director and Senior Manager for Utilities that went unanswered. I then emailed the Utilities Director and City Manager and received a "boilerplate" response from the Utilities' communications manager that did nothing to convince me the city would investigate my concerns or address the issue I raised.
If the city wants residents to engage to make a program like Our Palo Alto a success, they need to realize that communication is a two-way street. When residents have concerns or complaints, city officials need to be responsive. No one wants to invest time and effort on civic issues if city management can't be bothered to respond.
Middlefield Road, Palo Alto
Here is a new and very important project for the Auditor's Department, one that can save the City and its residents millions of dollars.
The downtown Parking Assessment District (AD) arrangement is flawed, favoring one group — the commercial property owners and developers — who use it primarily to avoid providing the parking needed to support the increasing intensity of downtown development. How? Why?
The City credits parking for AD members based on a ratio of 1 parking space for each 250 square foot of commercial building (1:250). However the actual parking provided in the last decade is closer to 1:2,500, only 10 percent of the need, saving the property owners millions and transferring the costs and traffic to others. No one — Planning staff and City Council, the Business Association, the Chamber — seems to understand how the district works, what it promised, what it provides or how assessments are transferred from the property owners to businesses and employees — owners paying virtually nothing for the parking solutions needed for their buildings, buildings demanding among the highest lease rates in the nation.
Everyone but the owners suffer from this faulty logic including employees, local businesses, commercial tenants, residents and the adjacent neighborhoods extending from Embarcadero and across Middlefield Road.
Sounds like a job for the Auditor to find out the facts, if only the City Council will assign them the task.
Addison Avenue, Palo Alto