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Palo Alto moves ahead with 'neighborhood grants'

Original post made on Sep 25, 2012

Seeking to strengthen the ties that bind neighbors in Palo Alto, city leaders endorsed on Monday night a proposal from Mayor Yiaway Yeh to start a "neighborhood grants" program that would fund block parties, neighborhood-watch programs and other projects aimed at boosting a sense of connectedness.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, September 25, 2012, 4:19 PM

Comments (42)

Posted by Liberty, a resident of University South
on Sep 25, 2012 at 8:24 pm

The reason people aren't neighborly enough is because they are either:
a) too busy
or
b) don't have any interest in being neighborly.

Those 2 groups of people aren't going to spend the time to get grant money to throw a block party! There is some serious flawed logic here.

I remember my grandpa telling me, "a $25K is saved is a $25k earned.*"
(*numbers adjusted for inflation.)





Posted by thank God, a resident of Community Center
on Sep 25, 2012 at 8:47 pm

Thank God the city council had addressed this pressing issue instead of wasting time on infrastructure matters.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 25, 2012 at 9:46 pm

And they have the audacity to ask us to approve a bond measure????


Posted by Neighbor, a resident of The Greenhouse
on Sep 25, 2012 at 10:37 pm

Neighborhoods did not ask for this. Surprise to me. It is the initiative of Council members Yeh and Scharff.


Posted by maditalian, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 25, 2012 at 11:36 pm

You've got to be kidding. What a waste of time and money.


Posted by Moved, a resident of another community
on Sep 26, 2012 at 6:55 am

Look like Palo Alto community is as strong as ever judging by the comments above. I'm really glad we passed on PA when it was time to buy a house. The "livability" of PA in comparison to surrounding cities is terrible. Seems all the happy people moved out of town and were replaced by "Takers": people who want to use the schools. but have no sense of loyalty or commitment to making PA an enjoyable place to live.
It also might be cultural. With the influx of residents from different countries, this sort of neighborly support and friendliness might not be valued. I watch this happen in my previous residence in Cupertino as well.


Posted by Adobe, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Sep 26, 2012 at 7:38 am

"Moved", the people posting here are not representative at all. I know, reading Town Square, it might seem like Palo Alto is filled with angry malcontents who find life here miserable.

But if you go to a PAUSD school family function, a Saturday soccer game, an annual block party, you'll find plenty of people who love their community and families. There's a reason why the residential real estate market in Palo Alto is so strong: people really want to live here.


Posted by Adobe, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Sep 26, 2012 at 7:45 am

And may I add, seeing how so many of the angry posters here incessantly grouse about Obama, Asian people, and new buildings, let's just say that I think I think these people tend to be the more senior, conservative residents with a lot of time on their hands rather than the young families here who most people moving to Palo Alto would have much more contact with.


Posted by Gouged In Midtown, a resident of Midtown
on Sep 26, 2012 at 7:52 am

I am not sure what the council thinks is achieved by this other than wasting the time and money of the public. How can the council even spend a minute on this useless activity when there are so many pressing problems? How can the council think about throwing away money on this when they claim on the other hand that there is no money to be had to fix the infrastructure?
I find it absolutely infuriating to see these contradictions. I have nothing against anyone trying to promote neighborliness but that is not the job that the mayor and the council were elected to do. They were elected to run the city well and prudently and by those measures they deserve to be voted out as they have proven themselves to be not only incompetent but highly disrespectful of the public's money, trust and intelligence.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 26, 2012 at 8:24 am

For those who think Palo Alto is full of complainers, it may seem true looking at PA Online, but really those of us who are putting our opinions across are just doing that, and I think it shows that we do care about Palo Alto rather than hate it.

I for one love this town and want to see it get better. There are many things that are done well and some great people who live here. True, it seems that there are lots of problems but the good things don't always hit the headlines or are not always easy to comment on.

I know my neighbors, help them out and they have helped me. I have been to excellent community events at the schools, sports, churches and even ice cream socials in the park. I suspect most of the posters on PA Online have done the same. We care about the place we live and discuss the important issues. I don't see anything wrong in that.


Posted by maditalian, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 26, 2012 at 9:06 am

I object to the City using funds for this sort of thing. Can't you organize your own block party? Why do you have to rely on the City for help?

It's difficult not to sound angry, but I've got to defend my view and I believe the view of some of my fellow objecting citizens.

I also am getting tired of those of us who object to the grant being referred to as an angry posters. What, we're bad people because we object to using public funds to get to know our neighbors? So, we're seniors, conservative, with a lot of time on our hands? Pretty judgmental aren't you?!

I, for one, don't have a lot of spare time. I've got a full-time job. I do have enough time to register my complaint about a City wasting money.

I'm not a "senior" citizen. Why does age even come into the equation? Sounds like some people are a little ageist. I will cop to being conservative. Is that a crime? Do you lump all conservatives with being unfriendly if they disagree with you? Do you know how unfriendly you come off?


Posted by Mr Rogers, a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 26, 2012 at 10:36 am

If the community is a REAL community, block parties will form organically, without the need of the city trying to encourage it w/ funding. Seems like a Fail: "C'mon, everyone, get together and be nice...we'll pay for it!"
I've got 4 friends in different neighborhoods in MV that do this a lot: First fridays, end of driveway stop-by happy hours...seems one of them is always at some sort of casual neighborhood get together. That's a different town though.


Posted by Lori Hobson, a resident of Menlo Park
on Sep 26, 2012 at 10:45 am

We have block parties in the Willows. I don't think the City of Menlo Park funds them. It seems like the act of throwing the party, including self-funding the food and fun, is what brings people together. It's not clear that cooperation and camaraderie is something that external funding could buy. In fact, one might cynically look forward to letters to the editor of Palo Alto Online regarding misuse of neighborhood party funds, for example, neighbors redirecting the money towards SAT study groups or language immersion programs. ;-) But the care and thought behind the effort is well meaning and is what makes Palo Alto so much what it is!


Posted by Incensed, a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 26, 2012 at 10:46 am

Those who want block parties are already having them. Why should we use taxpayer money on something that individuals can or cannot choose to do, and aren't even looking for assistance, when the City is broke and needs money in crucial areas to function better for the good of everyone.


Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 26, 2012 at 10:46 am

We have a structural deficit. Cash flow is negative. We can't afford to pay for the repair & replacement of infrastructure that the city should have saved $$$ for in the first place.

I'd rather see this money go to the Animal Shelter before this.

What a joke.


Posted by waste of time, a resident of Professorville
on Sep 26, 2012 at 11:04 am

Block parties and other neighborhood activities do help pull people together. In fact, we have a block party every year and it's great fun. But we've been doing this without the financial support of the city, and if we can do it so can everyone else in Palo Alto. I'm not one of those that regularly rags on the city council, but this is one of those occasions where I have to say that the city council is spending its time and our money on something that is not needed. There are plenty of other pressing issues.


Posted by Dan, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 26, 2012 at 11:24 am

We have a block party at least once a year. Truthfully I don't know what we would use city money for. We all bring food, our own BBQ's, our own tables and chairs, etc. and we have a wonderful time mingling with people that we may not have had the time to talk with over the recent months. The city should take that money and buy more computers for the school libraries or something much more necessary than "funding" block parties. Thanks anyway, but we really don't need it.


Posted by David Pepperdine, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 26, 2012 at 11:38 am

I think this is a relatively small expense. If it allows a handful of residents in each neighborhood to come out of their homes, mingle and get to know one another, it will pay for itself many times over in increased security, lower crime rates and a more harmonious community.

Thanks to Yiaweh Yeh for having the courage to propose an innovative program (which many have apparently decided to take potshots at from the comfort of their anonymous keyboards).

While I'm no fan of expenses at the cost of infrastructure, we also have to recognize the benefits that this kind of indirect investment will make over the years.


Posted by Mark, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 26, 2012 at 12:09 pm

The $25K grant will be managed by city employees who will more than double the effective cost of this program even before we pay for their pensions that this moronic city government already can't afford. And when someone is excluded from a subsidized block party to which he wasn't invited or didn't have her type of food, we will get a lawsuit which will cost more. Think I'm kidding? Tell me this doesn't happen. It's not about angry or happy. It's about a city government that can't fix what's broken and tries to fix that which isn't.


Posted by Chris, a resident of Palo Verde
on Sep 26, 2012 at 12:24 pm

This 'pet' project is exactly emblematic of why our infrastructure has has gone into the hole. It is the death of a thousand cuts.

There is absolutely no reason to support a new infrastructure tax, until this type of mess is sorted out. We need a serious investigation of previous decisions, like this 'neighborhood grants' farce, before we even being to consider new taxes.

The piggy bank is empty, yet there are even more attempts to rob it.


Posted by Jana, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 26, 2012 at 12:53 pm

I don't want my tax dollars paying for balloons at a neighborhood block party. Put the $25,000 into infrastructure, or the animal shelter. Let's vote out the entire, ineffective city council.


Posted by Wondering?, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 26, 2012 at 2:43 pm

Wonder if Greg Scharff is going to go to some of these parties with his big "Vote for ME!" badge on?

If any of this money is spent before the election, it will look more like a bribe and anything else?


Posted by pat, a resident of Midtown
on Sep 26, 2012 at 3:29 pm

"it will pay for itself many times over in increased security, lower crime rates and a more harmonious community."

Where's the logic in that? Do you think block parties will ensure that neighbors watch out for each other? If there's a fire or someone's breaking into a house, do you think a neighbor will say, "Oh, gee, I don't know the person who lives there so I'll just let the house burn down/be burgled."?


Posted by pat, a resident of Midtown
on Sep 26, 2012 at 3:34 pm

> Wonder if Greg Scharff is going to go to some of these parties with his big "Vote for ME!" badge on?

Scharff is doing so much for us. He's the one who said that the Gateway office building a "public benefit."


Posted by Sylvia, a resident of Midtown
on Sep 26, 2012 at 3:36 pm

Adobe: You said it! It's enough to ruin your whole day logging on to Palo Alto online and reading all the mean-spirited comments that show up on virtually every topic.

I also think lots of people who don't dislike city government just don't bother to post here.


Posted by Nice gesture, but wrong target group, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 26, 2012 at 4:41 pm

If you want to build community between neighbors, and in neighborhoods, seems to me that the $25,000 could be more useful to help those of your neighbors who have difficulty affording their rent, food, transportation, and basic survival needs during this difficult economy. Real people could be helped during this time. Now that's a true neighborhood building effort. Yes, there are those struggling in Palo Alto, who either have no more places to turn, but continue doing what they can to survive. Of course, who really cares about those folks with respect to action - care comes out only in talk. Put your money where your mouth is folks.


Posted by Council not in charge?, a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 26, 2012 at 6:53 pm

Aside from whether this is a good use of taxpayer funds, this item exposes Nancy Shepherd's lack of knowledge, poor judgement and non-existent leadership skills.

"Shepherd argued that the Parks and Recreation Commission doesn't have the purview to review the new grant program and voted against the motion on those grounds."

The City Charter states that Council determines "the duties which they shall perform." See URL below.

What kind of leader (public or private sector) doesn't know that they are able to give direction to subordinates? If she thinks Council is not in charge of a Commission, then who is?



Web Link


Posted by Jake, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 26, 2012 at 7:31 pm

Adobe,
Could you be more gramatical in your postings? I'm sure English is your second language, but your grammar and sentence structure is appaling. Maybe you should go to school to learn how to write.


Posted by Adobe, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Sep 26, 2012 at 8:20 pm

Jake, yes, I'll concede that my posts were not the most well-constructed paragraphs I've ever written. In my defense, it was 6 in the morning, and I had just woken up!

However, I hope it's not too churlish for me to point out that you misspelled two words in your post. People in glass houses...

Opposing wasteful spending by governments is, of course, a fine thing to do. I personally don't really have an opinion as to whether the block party thing falls into the wasteful category or not. What I dislike is what Sylvia referred to: the knee jerk negativity on this board, where every topic brought up is met with a barrage of whiny complaining. Blatantly prejudiced comments about Asians ruining Palo Alto are common, as is hysterical criticism of almost any kind of change occurring in this town. "Things were so much better 20 (or 30, or 40, etc.) years ago, things are so horrible now, all the new people moving in lack all those great virtuous characteristics that we old-timers have." Come on, enough already!

You can call me ageist for speculating that such comments probably come from older Palo Alto residents, but who else would be able to remember how great things allegedly were here back when Nixon was still president? There is such a jarring contrast between all the whining and thinly-veiled racism I see here and the upbeat, inclusive attitudes I see in the Palo Altans I meet in real life. If my stating this strikes such a nerve with you, well, that in itself probably says something about your own perspective.


Posted by pat, a resident of Midtown
on Sep 26, 2012 at 8:56 pm

> "Blatantly prejudiced comments about Asians ruining Palo Alto are common, …"

Really? Could you point out some specific instances?

Apart from your posts, the only mention of Asians is in the news story.


Posted by neighbor, a resident of another community
on Sep 26, 2012 at 11:03 pm

Again...The negative comments on this topic (and on most subjects on these pages) just illustrate why this program is needed. And, with very few exceptions, the managers of these pages stir up the nastiness by emphasizing community squabbling over community news. Surely there is actual news in PA?

Readers cannot miss the regular stories/comments that are filled with animosity, racism, and ageism, It's not necessary to cite specific dates -- do you keep a log? It's fairly regular and it is sad evidence of the breakdown of a cohesive community. And, if I come to PA for a movie or restaurant, I can feel the bad vibes.

The 25k cost is a tiny percent of the PA budget. It's a bargain folks. Maybe, just maybe, it will help make PA a better community for newcomers, old timers...and for everyone.


Posted by Let's Be Friends, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Sep 27, 2012 at 12:07 am

I have to agree with the sentiment that spending any money on this frivolous initiative is wasteful and a slap in the face to far more strategic programs where funding is being cut. Block parties should be organized and funded by the neighborhoods - anything else is artificial and a waste of time and money. I suspect the most likely outcome will be the neighborhoods where these events already take place will just cash in on the public financing, but those neighborhoods not already inclined will remain the same. In short, I don't think this tax-payer funding will change the status quo in neighborhoods one bit. I do appreciate the mayor being creative and thinking outside the box, I just wish it wasn't with taxpayer money and untested ideas.

Regarding Asians in Palo Alto: My best friend is Asian, born in China. That said, both of us are concerned about the culture influence the high rate of Asian influx is having in Palo Alto. You don't need to be a bigot to see the extreme culture and value differences between Palo Alto/California and the immigrant Asians (primarily Chinese). Life in Asia (particularly China) is extremely different, and while I embrace cultural differences and truly enjoy learning from different cultures, I don't want our culture to become that of China. The challenge is, how do we welcome and integrate with all immigrants, but not lose our own, unique culture to that of a large immigrant "minority?"


Posted by Waste of time and money, a resident of Midtown
on Sep 27, 2012 at 9:04 am

This whole idea was Yaiway Yehs and it has exposed him as one of our least effective Mayors. I would support this idea if some of the other really important issues had been dealt with during Yaiway's time as Mayor but they haven't.

For example, the City's dwindling finances, the recommendations of the Infrastructure Committee, the future of Cubberley and how to pay for it, the Magical Bridge project in Mitchell Park and how to pay for the new bridges they want built over Adobe Creek, the bicycle bridge over H.101, toilets in our remaining parks. Then there's the Arrillaga project, the proposed VTA lane bulb outs on El Camino - the list goes on and on.


Posted by Nayeli, a resident of Midtown
on Sep 27, 2012 at 9:17 am

I love the idea of community meet-and-greets. However, like the old saying goes, "You can lead a horse to water but you can't force him to drink." This is true even if you spend $25,000 on the watering hole.

It would be better if good neighbors would simply meet one another. That is what I miss most about Texas.


Posted by neighbor, a resident of another community
on Sep 27, 2012 at 9:39 am

25,000 is chump change in the PA budget....and in many individual PA household budgets as well. Furthermore, it's 1/2 the price of a single vehicle in the average PA household's garage, and a pittance in the city budget.

So the city can't do anything for the community until it debates (for years, of course) the physical infrastructure project...all cost MILLIONS and some will cost BILLIONS.

These letters just illustrate why this tiny effort to improve community interaction is not fluff -- it's critical.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 27, 2012 at 10:12 am

Reading these posts, I get the impression that some people don't really have a clue as to what the average Palo Altan is doing.

I don't need a city sponsored event to meet my neighbors, but I would like the city to underground my utilities, or mend the potholes.

I have been to neighborhood events and they are fun and well coordinated without city funding. A couple of families get together and organize, make flyers, kids put them in the target homes mailboxes, sign ups for food or pot luck, our own lawnchairs, barbeques, live music from one of the teens and his friends. Great fun, all working together, no city money needed whatsoever. The neighbors who choose to come have a great time, those that aren't interested don't turn up, those who have other commitments drop by for 5 minutes to introduce themselves and apologise for their absence. I would rather have this than delivered pizza or catered food which may or may not be to my taste.

As a result, lawnmowers and other tools are lent, advice on all sorts of things are shared, meals provided to homes with new babies or other short term emergencies, small chores done for those who need them (moving trashbins for the elderly, etc.).

Neighborliness is not going to be orchestrated by this money.The money may not mend all our potholes, but the perception that we have money to burn is the impression this idea gives and that is totally wrong.


Posted by Mary Carlstead, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 29, 2012 at 12:19 pm

This idea is beyond ridiculous!! I've lived here for forty-seven years and live in a wonderful DSFNA Walter Hays neighborhood. It needs no help in party-giving (the PAFD and PAPD like to come to our block parties) and helping neighbors in need, looking out for each other. We had one of the first Neighborhood Watch groups in Palo Alto.. Been doing it for years. Same thing for Greenmeadow, Triple L, Midtown, College Terrace, Barron Park, Crescent Park, and many more. But why does the city charge a fee to close off a street for a block party? The flood of '98 devastated Walter Hays, and neighbors rallied during the night and helped all who needed it until they could return home as did other neighborhoods then and in '55 and '58.. After the earthquake of '89 houses were checked to see if residents were all right. One side of WH had no power for a week, the other side did. Meals and laundry were shuttled from one side to the other. If some residents don't want to mix with neighbors, that's they problem. Frankly I am annoyed with the growing 'nanny state' developing in Palo Alto - from our garbage cans to how much utilities we use compared to neighbors. But I do fear walking on sidewalks that need first aid. i do fear commuters whizzing through our streets for short cuts. I do fear the rising incidents of burglaries. I am saddened by the outrageous unnecessary spending by the city. And I deeply resent rules being made for us by staff who do not live here. So I've said it - and I feel better!!


Posted by new resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 29, 2012 at 2:55 pm


While we are having our neighborhood parties,

the CIty of Palo Alto giving away dedicated parkland to Stanford, and allowing 4 (four) 100+ foot buildings (code is 50 feet) to be built at the busiest intersection in town, University and Alma.

We think big, quadruple towers, and budgets for neighborhood parties.



Posted by Lynn , a resident of Midtown
on Oct 2, 2012 at 10:35 pm

By the same token as our aging population increases their are many isolated seniors, and entire neighborhoods where people do not know who their neighbors are.

Some neighborhoods cannot afford a block party, and this could be a great incentive.
Our block party in 2011 was great fun!

In the case of crime watch, emergencies, or natural disaster it would help to know who your neighbors are. Block parties are great, and so is sharing.

When your neighbor is on vacation it would help to watch their home, and have an idea of their schedule.

There are neighborhood projects with city benefit that can launched from these events:
Recycling, Energy savings, Crime Prevention, Environmental Awareness, Gardening, Sharing services, Community Health.

Maybe at these block parties neighbors could discuss their community concerns and plan to act on them.


Posted by Neighbor, a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 4, 2012 at 12:28 am

I think it's great that the neighborhoods have block parties, but it seems to me the money could be used to have different events or to include activities that would otherwise be left out. There are so many creative minds here, I'm sure good ideas will flow to use the money constructively. I for one am proud that my city has thought to include funds for neighborhood building and I salute the effort and am supportive. Allocating this small amount says a lot about the importance of community here in PA and it doesn't mean that there is no effort being made to address other important city issues.


Posted by Jan H., a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 10, 2012 at 2:17 pm

Jan H. is a registered user.

People really are not home enough to get to know their neighbors. So many people work long hours, have side jobs, then come home and work some more on the laptop, then have to catch up on household chores, run errands, transport kids here and there, cook etc. not enough time for sleep, much less neighborly socializing.


Posted by Cindy Mason, a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 11, 2012 at 4:13 am

When neighbors are better connected, things go better in a crisis and also for preventing burglaries that are spiraling up at the moment.

Unfortunately the neighborhood I'm in now (I lived in professorville for 8 years) would be the last neighbhood to organize or apply or talk, and perhaps is one that needs it the most. There is one house across the way that acuses another of being racist, a family in the back of me that speak mainly to themselves in spanish and is always changing who lives there, another neighbor, retired, who is inviting in homeless drifters to drink with him because he is lonely.... Its not a typical PA community, and I was surprised to find this kind of thing here... I will probably move soon, its not a healthy situation.

Not sure how the grant money might help... I think we could use it to raise awareness of crime, this area is a frequent flyer zone for police calls and there is a half way house down the street. All totally uncharacteristic for Palo Alto that I have grown to know and care about...


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