Mr. Thorwaldson's article "Palo Alto's highest-anywhere jobs/housing imbalance causing real problems" was excellent — Palo Alto has over three jobs for each housing unit, by far the highest imbalance in the region. Where is Palo Alto's Review Process? Example: CEQA, the State Environmental Quality Process, requires an Initial Study (basically a checklist) for each project for the "responsible agency" (city) to complete. Questions include: Will the project conflict with Comprehensive Plan policies? Is it likely to cause cumulative impacts? Does it negatively impact the Jobs/Housing imbalance? While I cannot speak to all of the 40-plus reports prepared for recent commercial projects, those that I have reviewed all say "No" to each of those questions — no potential impact or cumulative impacts on jobs/housing or traffic and (really hard to believe) no conflicts with the Comprehensive Plan. And, they say parking is a "social" impact, not an environmental impact — so they don't ever mention parking.
CEQA is intended to inform the public and the decision makers about possible problems, not gloss over potential issues. But this Council can say: "Well no, I never knew there would be a problem, staff never told me." But they know. Members of the residential public have told them time and again. Commercial forces — not so much.
Addison Avenue, Palo Alto
Let's teach Latin
I think Latin should be offered as a foreign language in public schools. Latin is a very useful language for several reasons.
First, words in English have many roots in Latin. Though English is a Germanic language, it has been influenced by Latin in many ways. An example of this is the English word "egotistical," meaning "self-centered." It comes from the Latin word for "I," "ego." Many other words in Latin have influenced those in English just like this one. Therefore, learning Latin will give us a deeper understanding of English.
Second, the Romance languages are Italian, French, Portuguese, Spanish and Romanian. 13.7 percent of the people in California speak only Spanish. Because Spanish came from Latin, learning Latin makes comprehending Spanish easier and also helps us understand four other languages.
Third, Latin is extremely useful in medicine. Many medical terms are directly taken from Latin. This is because the Romans were one of the first peoples to practice medicine. With Latin, we can facilitate the learning of medical terms. Latin would also help in the study of historical literature.
Because of these reasons, I would encourage our school boards to consider offering Latin as a foreign language.
La Cresta Drive, Los Altos Hills
Vegetation will win
"Don't fight lost battles" is an important phrase and concept when one is involved in political and ethical battles like trying to prevent a beautiful, wooded waterway being turned into a cement walled storm drain in the name of flood control. It is gratifying when one "wins" ... as described in my self-published 1975 book "A P/U History of Menlo Park," which is still in the Menlo Park Library and others. But if one lives long enough, the same battles may be fought again by conscientious people in the next generation.
Upstream land use and previous political decisions may cause downstream flooding. East Palo Alto and bayside parts of many communities were built before we had a more thorough understanding of drainage patterns, flood plains and the properties of saturated soils. And these days we are forced to change our thinking on climate itself when we see high cement structures being drowned as water levels rise around the world. The so-called "Hundred year Flood" is now not an adequate basis for planning our surroundings.
One of the first things done in building or upgrading communities is tending to the landscaping. In many communities, wiser politicians and planners are even replacing parking space with trees. There is a difference in what happens to person's mind/brain/soul/heart or whatever you want to call it when looking at a cement wall or even a rock-lined creek bed versus beautiful trees. When it comes to cement vs. vegetation, vegetation will ultimately win.
Marth B. Hopkins
This letter is in response to a guest opinion recommending abolishing lanes for English classes in our local public schools. The author cited the case of Finland, which does not have tracking. Finland has a largely homogeneous, stationary population. The Peninsula and Palo Alto do not. We have a highly mobile population with a sizable number of immigrants who often arrive with little or no formal education.
Putting everyone in the same English class would be like having everyone who is learning French in the same class, whether they are just beginning or have been studying the language for five years. We all recognize that French 1 students need very different instruction than do the students in French 5. Students who do not know their alphabet or are functionally illiterate in English have very different needs than students reading and writing fluently at a college level. Grouping them together either gives the teacher an impossible job, or else they teach to the middle and ignore the students at both ends of the spectrum. We track our foreign language instruction by level for a very good reason, and track English for the exact same reason.
Doris Drive, Menlo Park
What about the west?
You missed another aspect of the city "feel good" survey. The Palo Alto City Council does surveys so they get the supportive approval they want.
Suppose the survey separated south Palo Alto from southwest. South Palo Alto has supermarkets, hardware stores, library, community centers, etc. The southwest quadrant has only motels and fast lube places. We do our major shopping in Los Altos or Mountain View.
Why won't they zone El Camino from Page Mill Road south to bring services to our quadrant?
Would the City Council have the courage to survey the citizenry west of Alma for satisfaction?
Hubbart Drive, Palo Alto
Don't limit high performers
I just read the editorial about English lanes in Palo Alto high schools. The author says that the lower-performing students benefit greatly from being in a mixed ability class with higher-performing students.
I'm sure that the writer is correct. However, this model exists already in the current lane system. As any teacher can are validate, even within a lane there are heterogeneous learners. Within the advanced lane, there are students who are ready to advance, along with those who need additional support. Similarly, within the regular lane, there are students who are ready to advance, along with those who need additional support. The academic heterogeneity that the author wants already exists, though she seems to be advocating for a more extreme version of this, in which the lowest performing students are assisted by the highest performing students.
In addition, the author seems to be advocating for the lower-performing students, while ignoring the needs of the students who are ready for more enrichment. Sure, it's good for lower-performing students to be taught by the high-performing students. But, while this is happening, who is teaching the higher-performing students? Who is engaging their critical thinking skills, guiding them into deep analysis, activating their brains? While it may provide value for the high performing students to occasionally help the lower-performing students, these high performers are in school to be engaged and enriched and to learn, not to help their teachers support the lower-performing students.
Perhaps the solution is systemic, in which students are assessed regularly during the school year to see if their lane placement should be adjusted, and which lane "transfer" is more common than it is now. But the solution isn't to limit the growth and learning of the highest performers. They, too, are in school so that they can grow to the best of their abilities. They, too, deserve an environment focused on their attention, learning, and enrichment.
Loma Verde Avenue, Palo Alto
An offensive trend
Thanks for your article ("El Camino property owners irked by plans for wider sidewalks," March 28).
My take adds another aspect. I hated what they did to the old Rickey's property (not the only example). Regardless of sidewalk width, the lack of even 5 more feet of setback makes these street-side "walls" of condos appear to almost "hang" over poor, previously not-unattractive El Camino Real. Of all the changes along the "Kings Way" in the past 50 years, this is the most offensive trend. I wish the city councils of our localities had the (guts) to stand up to developers on this issue.
Runningwood Circle, Mountain View
Resign from ABAG
I have long been a supporter of regional problem-solving and participation and thought that every local city should belong to the Association of Bay Area Governments.
However, seeing that ABAG has assigned to our city a new goal of 2,179 new housing units, in a city which is already jammed (think of the high-rise fortresses along Alma), I would be willing to see our city resign from ABAG, and the sooner the better. If that means cutting back on or stopping new commercial building and housing, fine.
I don't expect Palo Alto to be just as it was when I moved here decades ago, but there must be some limits. Not everyone can or should live here simply because there are jobs here. Heck, my father commuted 50 miles by train every day, and our little rural NJ town still retains its character.
Seal Avenue, Palo Alto