A GYM BY THE BAY ... It began as a regional effort to calm the flood-prone San Francisquito Creek. Along the way, it also turned into a way to completely reconfigure and strengthen the Baylands feel of the Palo Alto Municipal Golf Course. Then the City Council stretched the project further by adding three athletic fields to the golf course proposal. Now, in the latest twist for the flood-control project, city officials are considering a new gymnasium by the Baylands. While the gym plan is tentative and completely unfunded, the city plans to evaluate it in the upcoming environmental analysis for the golf-course renovation. The city's Planning and Transportation Commission, which learned about the gym proposal Wednesday night, had some hesitation about the proposed facility, though it agreed that the environmental-impact report would detail its pros and cons. "As soon as I saw mention of gymnasium, I felt uncomfortable," Commissioner Alex Panelli said. "It doesn't seem to be a particularly compatible use."
HILL'S BILLS ... California's high-speed rail project may have left the station last year, when the state Legislature approved funding for the first segment by a single vote, but Palo Alto officials still have plenty of concerns about the locally unpopular project. The city is now working with its newest representative, Sen. Jerry Hill, to clean up the funding bill. One concern is ensuring the funding allocated for Caltrain's electrification actually gets delivered. Another is making sure the project remains in the Caltrain right of way. According to the city's lobbyist, John Garamendi Jr., Hill has been meeting with officials from the California High-Speed Rail Authority, Caltrain and the Legislature to discuss a new bill that would alleviate some of the Peninsula's anxieties. The bill, in Garamendi's estimation, is no slam dunk. After approving the first phase of construction by a single vote, legislators are far from anxious to revisit this highly controversial topic, Garamendi told the council's Rail Committee on Wednesday. Given the political climate, the committee agreed not to ask for too much and to get behind Hill's proposed legislation. The law would ensure Caltrain's electrification funds but would create a new "hurdle" for the rail authority, should it decide to move from a two-track system to the deeply unpopular four-track one that had been proposed earlier. Under Hill's bill, the agency would need a unanimous vote from both the rail authority's board and Caltrain's to even study this alternative. Councilman Larry Klein characterized the clean-up bill as a limited step but one worth taking. "This isn't where the real battle is going to be fought," Klein said. "We're getting something beyond what we had before. This is a skirmish."