LET THERE BE SUNLIGHT! ... As Palo Alto continues to explore building new garages to address a parking shortage in downtown and around California Avenue, officials are also looking at existing garages for a completely different purpose: electricity. The city hopes to attract companies that would build solar panels on local garages and then sell the energy to the city's Utilities Department. In late March, staff began testing the waters by sending out a request for proposals to 133 companies that might participate in the recently created program, known as Palo Alto CLEAN (Clean Local Energy Accessible Now). The program allows solar-panel companies to sell energy to the city at a fixed price over a 20-year rate. The city has also identified five places where solar panels can be installed: the two garages on Cambridge Avenue; the Cowper/Webster garage and the parking structures at 528 High St. and 445 Bryant St.
H20 MONTH ... April may or may not actually bring more showers, but it does coincide with the launch of two water-conservation events, one national and one local. Palo Alto Mayor Nancy Shepherd has jumped on the train for the 3rd Annual Nationwide Mayor's Challenge for Water Conservation, a month-long contest during which residents across the nation can pledge their commitment online to conserve water, with a chance to win prizes (like an energy-conserving Toyota Prius hybrid, of course). The city with the highest numbers of pledges wins (last year, Palo Alto made the top 20). The challenge is sponsored by the nonprofit Wyland Foundation. For more details and to make a pledge, go to wylandfoundation.org/mywaterpledge. Locally, there's the Great Race for Saving Water, a 5K run or walk that aims to raise awareness about water conservation. The event will take place Saturday, April 19, at 9 a.m. at the Baylands Athletic Center (1900 Geng Road) and will feature food, live music, informational booths, arts and crafts, giveaways — and even free compost bins. Prizes for race winners include a Tuolumne River Canoe trip and Keen running shoes. The run is being sponsored by Palo Alto Utilities Department and the Tuolumne River Trust for the second year in a row. For more information and to register, go to cityofpaloalto.org/GreatRace.
A STIMULATING OFFER ... Get your tax break this month — at dinner. Downtown restaurant Palo Alto Grill has decided to celebrate the sometimes wallet-emptying tax season by offering deals on dinner through Thursday, April 17. "We know that tax season feels like the time to tighten the budget, so we've decided to help alleviate your burden," the restaurant's website reads. This means every Monday and Tuesday, take 50 percent off the check, and on Wednesday and Thursdays, 25 percent. The only catch? In order to save, diners have to be eating on the early side — seated and ordering before 5:45 p.m. The discount applies to all food and drinks and is only offered for dinner at the 140 University Ave. restaurant.