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Palo Alto Weekly

News - February 15, 2013

News Digest

Palo Alto fights state mandate for more housing

In what one council member called a fight "for the soul of our city," Palo Alto officials agreed on Monday, Feb. 11, to formally appeal a state mandate calling for the city to plan for more than 2,000 units of new housing over the next decade.

The council voted 8-1, with Larry Klein dissenting, to contest the requirement from the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) that the city plan for the additional housing units between 2014 and 2022. The mandate is part of the agency's Regional Housing Needs Allocation process, which projects how many homes will be needed throughout the region and requires cities to plan accordingly.

Palo Alto, which is often referred to by council members as a "built-out city," has been fighting these mandates for years, arguing that the city has no way to accommodate that level of housing.

Because ABAG rejected the city's prior protests of the allocation, the majority of council members Monday advocated a narrower, more pragmatic approach, one that urges ABAG to reallocate 350 of Palo Alto's units to Santa Clara County. Stanford University, which is governed by the county under a general-use permit, is already planning to build 350 units on Quarry Road, just west of El Camino Real.

Klein advocated using the broader, stronger arguments and remaining aggressive in opposing ABAG's mandates.

Paly students arrested on weapons charges

Two Palo Alto High School students have been arrested in separate incidents after allegedly bringing a stun gun and a homemade, cork-shooting "gun" to school.

In both cases — one on Friday, Feb. 8, and the other on Monday, Feb. 11 — fellow students reported the weapons to administrators, who notified police.

Police emphasized there was no indication the two were working together or that either planned "any sort of mass casualty incident at the school."

In each case, police said they "quickly detained" the suspect, no one was injured and the school took "immediate disciplinary action" against the student.

In the first incident, police said they got a report of a stun gun on Friday about 1:25 p.m. An investigation found that two students left campus together during school hours to buy and sell marijuana to each other. During the off-campus transaction, one student allegedly produced a stun gun and made two attempts to apply it to the chest of the other student.

The victim, who was not injured, returned to campus and reported the incident to administrators, who escorted the teen with the gun to the office and called police and the teen's parents.

Police found a commercially sold stun gun in the student's backpack.

In the second incident, police responded to the school about 11:45 a.m. Monday.

Students had told administrators the suspect had shown them a makeshift weapon, described as a homemade gun that was charged by a carbon-dioxide container and able to fire rubber corks.

The suspect told police the weapon was accidentally left in the backpack after it was put there over the weekend.

Police arrested both teens for possession of an illegal weapon on school grounds, a misdemeanor, and released them to the custody of their parents.

Busy intersection could get road work, building

One of Palo Alto's most prominent and congested intersections may soon have a signature building serving as its anchor as part of a proposal that the City Council weighed for the first time Monday night, Feb. 11.

The council held a broad-ranging discussion on the proposal from Pollock Financial Group for a four-story office building at El Camino Real and Page Mill Road. The newly proposed building would occupy the northeast corner. If ultimately approved, the 50-foot-tall building would include a three-level underground garage and 15 surface spots.

Until recently, the 19,563-square-foot site at 2755 El Camino Real has served as a parking lot for the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority. Last year, the transportation agency sold the property to Pollock, which is based in Portola Valley and plans to construct the building for a single financial-services tenant.

Because the building's density would far exceed what's allowed in its current zoning, the developer is asking for the parcel to be rezoned as "planned community," a controversial designation that allows developers to exceed local zoning regulations in exchange for "public benefits" negotiated between the city and the developer.

The council Monday directed Pollock to return with benefits in addition to those the firm proposed: a widening of Page Mill to create a right-turn lane from Page Mill to El Camino; new pedestrian lighting for California Avenue; an upgrade of a dilapidated pedestrian tunnel beneath El Camino; and transit passes for all tenants in the new building so that they can commute using public transportation instead of driving themselves.

— Gennady Sheyner

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