Palo Alto Weekly

News - May 9, 2014

Around Town

LEADING THE CHARGE ... Palo Alto's vocal legion of electric-vehicle advocates scored a victory last year, when the city adopted a new rule requiring all new single-family homes to include circuitry that accommodates vehicle-charging stations. Next week, a City Council committee will consider extending the requirement to new multi-family complexes and nonresidential developments. In the interim, it's celebration time. On Monday, members of a citizen task force that helped draft the new ordinance received kudos, and a special proclamation, from the council for its contributions. Peter Pirnejad, the city's development services director, lauded the fact that Palo Alto has one of the highest per-capita rates of electric-vehicle drivers in the state (and, thus, in the nation). Yet both city officials and residents Monday, clearly enjoying road-related puns, said that more needs to be done. "We need to pave the way for electric vehicles and remove barriers if we are to be leaders in the promotion of electric vehicles," Pirnejad said. "We are the icebreakers," said Sven Thesen, a resident who has installed a charging station in front of his Evergreen Park home, of the city. "We are the ones leading this, and it's critical that we ... electrify our transportation system as quickly as possible." Councilman Greg Scharff, who owns a Tesla and whose office is located in Evergreen Park, thanked Thesen for the charging station, which Scharff said he had recently used. Though Thesen doesn't charge drivers for using his curb-side station, he noted in response to Scharff that some choose to drop off gifts. "Tesla owners have been known to drop off bottles of wine," Thesen said. "Leafs drop off beer. Generally cheap beer, too."

COMPASSIONATE CROWDFUNDING ... Mountain View-based Silicon Valley Community Foundation's SVGives, the region's first "crowdfunding" event to benefit more than 600 local nonprofit organizations, considered its event Tuesday a smashing success. The 24-hour give-a-thon raised $7.9 million with 14,633 unique donors and a total of 21,567 donations. Numerous Palo Alto nonprofits topped the donation list, with TheatreWorks receiving $100,801; InnVision Shelter Network, $53,035; and Downtown Streets Team, $24,580. East Palo Alto's Project WeHOPE brought in $43,838; and Second Harvest Food Bank of Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties received $48,083. The Community Foundation raised $2.8 million in preparation for the event, to fund matching gifts and incentives for nonprofit organizations. Donations were made through the Razoo Foundation, a crowdfunding nonprofit, which will forward 95.1 percent of each donation on to the designated nonprofit. Still have that giving feeling? Online donations will continue to be accepted all year at www.svgives.org.

WHAT PROBLEM? ... An out-of-town visitor touring Palo Alto's downtown garages would be justifiably shocked to learn that the area is going through a parking crisis. According to a new survey by city planners, about 30 percent of "permit" spaces in downtown's parking structures remain empty outside the busy lunch hour. At the same time, residential streets around downtown's commercial core have parking-congestion rates so high they defy mathematical boundaries (in some cases, the occupancy rate on the streets is "exceeding 100 percent," planners found). An effort by the city to sell more permits to fill garage spots has done little good. The city's data indicates that while many downtown employers want to buy parking permits (as evidenced by regular waiting lists), they are less eager to use them. On March 12, a survey of four garages showed about 82 percent of the permit spots occupied, a figure that slipped to 64 percent on April 2 and then inched up to 65 percent on April 25. "The data indicates that despite significant efforts to oversell the number of permits available, many visitors and workers are still parking in the residential streets," a report from the planning department states. This trend could come to an end next year, however, when the city unveils a Residential Parking Permit Program that will impose time limits for cars parked on residential streets.

EXCEPTIONAL AT MATH ... Palo Alto High School juniors Daniel Cohen Wang and Luke Liao and seniors Jared Filseth and Grace Lin have qualified for the USA Math Olympiad. They will now compete with 256 students nationwide for the six seats on the USA International Math Olympiad Team.

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