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Palo Alto to wave goodbye to garbage trucks?

Original post made on Sep 28, 2012

Garbage trucks could soon become a less common sight on Palo Alto streets as the city proceeds with an ambitious effort to keep food scraps and other organic waste out of local landfills.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, September 28, 2012, 9:34 AM

Comments (58)

Posted by Trying for no waste, a resident of Ventura
on Sep 28, 2012 at 10:05 am

What about:

Non recyclable food cartons (milk, aseptic)?

Old Rags?

Styrofoam? I mostly avoid but some articles come boxed with styrofoam.

Cat litter? I need to use a clumping type with our litter robot and discovered only the clay type works (wheat-based failed).

Medical waste/feminine products?


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 28, 2012 at 10:11 am

I am shocked by this.

Our system is horrendous at present. We can't choose to do vacation opt out or a two weekly system, but they can decide to come less frequently!!!!! Two small households can't opt to share one service, but they decide that if we recycle our food scraps we can hoard off the rats and raccoons and have service less often.

I suppose they will start charging us extra for this service too!!

I am appalled at how poor this "service" has become in Palo Alto.


Posted by resident, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Sep 28, 2012 at 10:12 am

Does this mean that food scraps for compost will be picked up less often than once a week? It could get pretty putrid after 2 weeks in the sun.


Posted by Victoria, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Sep 28, 2012 at 10:23 am

Fine to reduce the frequency of garbage pick-up, with a commensurate decrease in fees-- but is the food scrap plan really prudent with regard to rodents? I put most of my food scraps (with the exception of banana peels and tough citrus peels) down the garbage disposal. I suppose this is frowned upon because of the use of electricity. Do most people not use a garbage disposal? Also, I would really worry about people not following the rules for the food scraps. I see on my street the items people put in their recycling bins, which are clearly not allowed. I can only imagine the abuse the food scrap plan could generate. Comments?


Posted by Worker Bee, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 28, 2012 at 10:33 am

Please read the article thoroughly. Your food scraps are compostable, so they would be picked up with yard trimmings -- both of which are considered compostaable organics. Organics would be collected weekly and it is your garbage that would be collected one or twice a month. Garbage would not contain anything that would attract rodents or insects. There is nothing radical about this idea, other cities are already doing this -- check out Seattle. We like to think that we are so progressive in Palo Alto, but in reality we are many times "late to the party". Our bag ordinance came after many other cities took the plunge and the heat. We love to talk it up and up and up.


Posted by Sarah , a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 28, 2012 at 10:35 am

I am sure they will continue to find more ways to charge us more money and provide less service. But how is transporting our waste to Sunnyvale for sorting and again to gilroy for processing efficient, cost effective, or beneficial to the overall well being o our planet?


Posted by Wayne Martin, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Sep 28, 2012 at 10:35 am

> Arp notes that the city has received "numerous requests
> from Palo Alto residents" for the food scrap service.

And just how many is "numerous"? 5, 10, 50, 100 ?? Why can't the City's employees be honest with us, and tell us exactly how many requests for a new service have actually been received?


Posted by Judith, a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Sep 28, 2012 at 10:39 am

Hallelujah! I've been waiting for this since the city started doing it for commercial property. I wonder if they give us another type of can?


Posted by preeva tramiel, a resident of Addison School
on Sep 28, 2012 at 10:40 am

I am an avid home composter and recycler. Putting compost in the green waste would be easier for me, but kind of disgusting--I had to fight the flies in my compost with diatomaceous earth a while back.


Posted by mutti, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Sep 28, 2012 at 10:43 am

Along with less often, how about later in the day? Palo Alto gardeners and builders are not allowed to make noise before 8 a.m., but the garbage trucks come by my open windows at 6:45 a.m. They are an 'exception' to the noise ordinance so they can get the garbage before heavy traffic times -- according to city officials. So they do my quiet 2-block long residential street at 6:45 and then I follow the truck down Alma at 8:30 where it takes up a lane during heavy commute times. Go figure!


Posted by Get it going, a resident of Palo Verde
on Sep 28, 2012 at 10:45 am

The title of the article is less than clear.
This plan entails fewer Garbage-Garbage pickups (real garbage, black-bin garbage), but presumably just as many recycling and clippings/compost pickups.

Residents should watch the pricing on the clippings/compost pickups, which are currently free. The commercial rates for green-bin pickup, which use the clippings and compost plan, are about $100/mo/can. Ouch.


Posted by Miriam Palm, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 28, 2012 at 10:45 am

Please give us more information about how the catetories will be defined and differentiated; it's hard to judge the effects and changes in behavior expected without it, as well as the economic consequences.


Posted by karolyn, a resident of Ventura
on Sep 28, 2012 at 10:47 am

This idea needs more study. Friends who have this service find that cans STINK and encourage bugs and animals. Is this stuff being used as compost. If so why would anyone add more animal parts & hormones to their gardens or buy vegetables grown in it?????
What happens to this stuff?


Posted by Worker Bee, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 28, 2012 at 10:56 am

Karolyn -- Why are you complaining about the potential of stuff stinking? Does it not stink in your garbage cart now? Are you getting insects and rodents now? What difference does it make if it is in your green or black cart?!


Posted by KCH, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Sep 28, 2012 at 10:58 am

Food scraps do not constitute much of my garbage and both my recycle bin , garden clippings and garbage bin are full each week. Twice weekly service would work for my household.


Posted by Silly, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Sep 28, 2012 at 11:00 am

Pretty soon we're going to need a Ph.d to empty our trash. Doesn't the city have anything better to worry about?


Posted by jardins, a resident of Midtown
on Sep 28, 2012 at 11:27 am

Stanford's recycling center (Sierra Street, next to the firehouse) accepts aseptic containers.

Why can't Palo Alto?


Posted by smart chick, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Sep 28, 2012 at 11:29 am

A few chickens in a secure backyard pen is a fun solution to the food scrap issue. My hens eat everything (table scraps,including bones, weeds, downed fruit, stale bread etc, etc) and give healthy eggs in return, (not to mention free fertilizer.) Our household of 5 puts out a partially-filled 15 gallon can of non-recyclables about every 3 weeks, thanks to our feathered friends... (Roosters are not allowed and not needed for egg production anyway.)


Posted by Tired o the ButterScotch, a resident of Greendell/Walnut Grove
on Sep 28, 2012 at 11:40 am

If they charge me to clean the curb in front of my house. Then they need to have no parking allowed during that period so the sweeper doesn't bypass my place because there are cars in the street! It was part of the July fee increase as this single organic waste plans to be. Get that right first then start adding more fees to my bill.

-bs


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 28, 2012 at 11:41 am

Still shocked by this.

We have very few food scraps as we tend not to throw away food, but chicken bones, wrappings from meat and fish (very smelly) need to be collected regularly. Not to mention used diapers and feminine products. Oh, I expect the people making the decision are men!

We are stuck with greenwaste and have no choice. We have no alternative, just the monopoly. I can't reduce my charge and I have no say in what they do to me.

I say we should empty our trashbins outside City Hall in protest!! (not really but I feel like it).


Posted by IBet, a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 28, 2012 at 11:46 am

Make no mistake, the charge will be much higher!


Posted by Mom, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 28, 2012 at 12:04 pm

This is disgusting! When our trash cans are out for just a few hours in the morning on trash day, dog walkers use our trash cans to deposit their dog's poop. My trash can smells like animal waste, and we do not have any pets. I can only imagine how bad it would smell if the poop sat in my trash can for FOUR WEEKS between pickups!


Posted by Elisabeth, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 28, 2012 at 12:07 pm

As a mainly/vegetarian, my food scraps go into my garden compost. All my other "garbage" goes into the smallest black container and I only need to put it out once a month. Same with my big blue recycling container. So for me, this works just fine. My garden clippings go out every other week. It would be nice to be able to pay according to our usage, but I imagine that's not practical.


Posted by RT, a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 28, 2012 at 12:44 pm

Elisabeth - I'm with you. I put out my green bin regularly in the Fall (with my neighbor's leaves) but very infrequently - and only when full - the rest of the year. I also do not put out my blue bin unless completely full. I think that, EVENTUALLY, it would be not only reasonable, but a lot more fair, if we were charged per pickup per bin type using bar code-type technology (not hand-held, but on the truck). That would encourage people to reduce their output, put out only full bins which would lessen the labor for collection and, in theory, the cost of collection.


Posted by Cur Mudgeon, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Sep 28, 2012 at 12:51 pm

Burlingame has the food waste container (about the size of a small ice chest and even looks like one) that goes out with the green, blue, and black cans. In theory, it sounds all right. But we will probably be charged double for it.

As for street sweeping, we try not to park in front of our house on sweeping days. But others who park on the street result in the unswept debris washing down the gutters to our house when it rains.
Can't win. That being said, we have gone to Burlingame and moved our friend's parked car when they've been out of town so they would not be ticketed on street cleaning day.


Posted by Cheryl, a resident of Menlo Park
on Sep 28, 2012 at 1:44 pm

Menlo Park has the proposed system. Our garbage is picked up once a week. If MP can do it, so can PA.


Posted by another resident, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 28, 2012 at 1:50 pm

"...but chicken bones, wrappings from meat and fish (very smelly) need to be collected regularly. Not to mention used diapers and feminine products. Oh, I expect the people making the decision are men!"

Rodents...smell...I totally agree with Resident on this one, and I'm male (men have noses too!). This is a bad idea.


Posted by Confused, a resident of South of Midtown
on Sep 28, 2012 at 1:59 pm

Are these the same people that insisted we save water, then when we did such a good job of saving water, we were told we saved TOO MUCH, and it cost us more $$$ for the water we got? We were penalized.

I remember reading that somewhere a few months ago, and it's not just in Palo Alto, I think it's in Mountain View too. Please, someone correct me, if I'm wrong.


Posted by pecuniac, a resident of Midtown
on Sep 28, 2012 at 2:15 pm

I have composted for years, everything including meat scraps, in those stackable black bins. I never leave fresh, wet food scraps uncovered. You must mix immediately with any carbonaceous materials like: leaves, ashes, wood chips. Use a compost turner tool frequently. Earthworms and aerobes eat and decompose everything. I never have flies or smells.
Its not a solution for those without access to land but how about a local system of collection and composting in neighborhood gardens? Could we offer training and a stipend for any willing homeless persons to pick up the bins and load the composters at a garden, wash and manage the bins, and return them to homes? I have visions of an electric truck. Compare to the cost of the big heavy trucks, union drivers, overhead and profit of a waste hauler or worse yet, anything managed by the City. Add to that, the diesel exhaust of a multi-ton truck going to Gilroy and returning unloaded.


Posted by 1 percent problem, a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 28, 2012 at 4:48 pm

Can used condoms be placed in recycling bins if bagged with other plastic films? If they are not recycleable, how would they be properly disposed if there's no trash pick up? Would I need to dump them elsewhere?


Posted by pillow, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Sep 28, 2012 at 6:33 pm

I have an old bed pillow that I want to dump. If you take away the garbage pail, which pail do I put it in?


Posted by Anna, a resident of Midtown
on Sep 28, 2012 at 8:56 pm

Once a month?????? Can you imagine the smell? I have had serious problems with raccoons, and I don't want rats, mice, flies, ants, etc.! That is a stupid idea!

If we aren't supposed to put food containers and wrappings in the recycle bin, where are we supposed to put them for a month? Buy an extra refrigerator to hold our garbage? Can the city provide a place for us to take our garbage during the month? (And pay US for the trip...!)

Why do we have such an expensive garbage company? They charge too much, and seem to be really lazy about wanting to provide a service. How about a different garbage company. This is too much/not enough.

The city had better lower our garbage fees by 75% if this stupid, rat-attracting plan goes through. New York is trying to get rid of rats. I guess Palo Alto wants them.


Posted by Nicki, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 28, 2012 at 9:50 pm

My garbage disposal is about to begin working overtime.


Posted by SteveU, a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 29, 2012 at 8:52 am

SteveU is a registered user.

At the Composting class I attended at the community garden, they said NOT to put meat scraps in compost piles.

To the lucky person. Our Garbage truck arrives at 06:06 on Wednesday morning ad spends extra tine a few doors down 'getting ready'. I will live with that, but this proposal is too extreme (and costly).


Posted by Kyrierobinson, a resident of Midtown
on Sep 29, 2012 at 9:49 am

This proposal is AWESOME and I can't wait for it to come to my neighborhood.
All of the (whiny) objections seemed like they were coming from people who misunderstood the proposal.

Plenty of other cities collect food scraps! Palo Alto should, too!


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 29, 2012 at 10:17 am

I have no objection to the collection of food scraps, I do have objection to the fact that we may lose our weekly garbage pickup as a result of this.

Banana skins, corn husks, should be collected with compostable items just like garden trimmings and dead flowers.

However, chicken bones and other non compostable items, meat and fish wrappings, used diapers and feminine products, need to be collected regularly. They are not reusable or recyclable, they will attract critters, and we can't stop using them.

I would like to see a complete overhaul of our waste refuse system. I would like to see ways we could reduce our charges to enable us to be more efficient. If we are away on vacation and do not use pickup for a week it would be nice to get a credit. My family recently forgot to put out our cans due to unforeseen circumstance so the following week we had to decide what to put into our trash and what could be left to subsequent weeks. This caused a good deal of work and effort to get us back into our regular amount of trash in our black and blue bins. The fact that for one week we had no pickup due to our own fault should not mean that we can't put out double the next week.

Family members in other places have much more efficient service, some even have choice of providers so that they can choose which of two completely different providers with varying pricing systems works best for them. Cans can be weighed at the time of pickup by these modern machines, cans can be locked and each residence can decide whether they need to put their can out or not each week. The best systems have a small annual charge for the contract and then a monthly charge for number of "lifts" and the weight of each can.

Why can't an efficient provider do this here so that we can get the service we need. It is ridiculous to think that our family of five is charged and allowed the same type of service as our elderly neighbor's household of one who religiously puts out quarter full bins every week.


Posted by bru, a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 29, 2012 at 12:52 pm

bru is a registered user.

>> I am appalled at how poor this "service" has become in Palo Alto.


Poor, worse, bad, and more expensive as well.
The city government is incompetent, and these deals that seem
like mistakes need to be investigated to see if there is any
motivation for our city officials to make such mistakes.

Prices go up, service goes down, flexibility goes down.


Posted by anonymous, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 29, 2012 at 5:47 pm

I hope the city -- from seeing all these valid comments here -- looks carefully at this idea.
It seems in an idea stage to me, with additional reasonable study and input from us affected taxpayers necessary.
Even with pickup of food waste, we would still have trash. I do not think it is a good idea to go too long between pickups, since rodents/vermin can be attracted if a lid comes off a can, someone is traveling and doesn't notice that -- or if it is hot weather, etc. Is there some sort of middle ground to implement this, but not exactly as extreme as they are stating?


Posted by About to smell, a resident of Midtown
on Sep 30, 2012 at 9:31 am

The article was a bit unclear so I apologize if my comments are off the mark. Is trash collection really going to become just once a month?! For families that have babies and toddlers that are still in diapers this would be a disaster. Switching to washable cloth diapers is not an option for everyone and diapers do need to be picked up. As someone else pointed out there has to be something more reasonable - maybe once every two weeks. Or that there is still a weekly pickup of garbage but of a smaller container. That way we will not have health risks being created in the name of being green.


Posted by Lawrence, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 30, 2012 at 10:09 am

Isn't one of the marks of a "civilized" or "developed" country or community having sanitation, such as garbage pickup? This is a sanitation and health issue. Palo Alto is supposed to have a lot of educated residents (and rate payers). Why are we cutting out garbage pick up? Garbage trucks are sometimes called sanitation trucks. What will become of us? We will be the rat capital of California, and our neighboring cities will be able to smell us and complain.

Being green shouldn't mean being STUPID. What is next? Cutting out sewer service?


Posted by ban dogs and pillows, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 30, 2012 at 7:00 pm

What do I do with my dog poop? There are doggy septic systems but if you put one on every 1/8 acre lot, there's probably not enough of a leach field to maintain sanitary conditions.

The role of the City Government relative to trash is to provide the citizenry with efficient and affordable methods to dispose of waste so it does not end up getting dumped illegally. Efforts to reduce the quantity are laudable, but zero waste is so extreme that it will trigger many unintended and undesirable consequences.

The previous poster jests that sewer service will be the next utility to be cut. That might need to happen if there isn't a ban/tax on garbage disposals. Folks will be getting rid of pillows, dog poop, and who knows what else down the drain if we don't ban garbage disposals. We could ban dogs and pillows.


Posted by Eric, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 30, 2012 at 8:29 pm

It will mean "take your trash to work" day, every day. Or, we could take our trash to City Hall, and let the rats and smells happen there, for the "decision makers" to appreciate.


Posted by Nora Charles, a resident of Stanford
on Sep 30, 2012 at 9:11 pm

Nora Charles is a registered user.

Oy--t just gets better and better. I pray Stanford does not follow Palo Alto's dubious lead!


Posted by ndnorth, a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 30, 2012 at 10:41 pm

Oh the "holier than thou" crowd again! I live in a townhouse in a very small development with a very large property with garden, pool, garages etc,. We can't compost everything already, though we have a large set of composting bins, because of shade and too much green matter from our trees and shrubs. I cannot imagine garbage collection only every couple of weeks. I have a lot of garbage and that's not because of lack of recycling. Those of us who don't drive can't get to Sunnyvale to dispose of large items. We have to break them into smaller parts but how long would it take just to dispose of a mothy large rug in bits and pieces? And what about the families with children? Are we returning to the middle ages with garbage accumulating in people's houses? Are we in the making of the next wave of hantavirus deaths or bubonic plague?
Get the garbage away from our houses. It is irresponsible to leave it were it can cause untold harm. I'm totally against the proposed change.


Posted by Good-bye Garbage Trucks, Hello Vermin, Disease, Putrid Smells, a resident of Greendell/Walnut Grove
on Sep 30, 2012 at 11:25 pm

Are we moving back to the Middle Ages where lack of sanitation caused multiple diseases, infestation of mice, rats, fleas, ants. This will happen if you keep a composting box that is only picked up every four weeks. Bubonic plague, here we come. The only ones who benefit are the sanitation workers who will work less, get paid the same!


Posted by Giraffe, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 1, 2012 at 9:19 am

So, it appears that the primary motivation here is that the city has received 'numerous requests' for it - at least I didn't see any other motivation in the story.

Well, now the city has received 'numerous requests' to NOT do it in these comments.

- '75% of the trash is divertable': BUT , it doesn't say how much of that is organic vs recyclable. I would bet most is recyclable. Don't most people have disposals that handle most of the organic stuff?

- 'organic material would be separated from yard trimmings': If they can do that, why can't they separate it from trash?

- what's the difference between making organic material compostable vs putting it in the landfill? It goes back into the ground one way or the other. Why isn't organic material actually _good_ for the landfill?

- what happens when one has a big trash event? With collections once / month, it could take months to recover.

Ditto all the comments about smelly, unsanitary, ...
We hate it when things get WORSE instead of BETTER!


Posted by Bill Bucy, a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 1, 2012 at 10:05 am

My wife and I actively recycle and compost but still fill a 15-gallon garbage can each week. Will people like us be given a 30-gallon can that will be picked up twice a month? And how will that impact any cost savings?


Posted by Resident, a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 1, 2012 at 10:17 am

Wait a second city staff!!!! At the city,s urging Many have changed to mini cans.
We have been able to do this because we are vigilant about recycling everything that we can and have composted vegetable scraps etc since 1991.
but my mini cans fills up every week, almost exclusively with waste from my pets where
Would I store that for three weeks in between pick ups??? I wonder if many who have switched to mini cans really require weekly pick up?

I only put my recycling and compost ables out when they are full to make the very nice garbage workers job more efficient!

Let's not jump to soon to what may be really a false economy and bad idea!


Posted by Jan H., a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 1, 2012 at 3:03 pm

Jan H. is a registered user.

I for one will not miss the noise of garbage trucks waking up my infant granddaughter, nor will I miss the blocking of traffic on Alma that they cause.

However, what are we supposed to do with compostible garbage? It attracts flies , mosquitoes, rats, and other unwanted, unhealthy vectors!

This is a public health issue, folks. Why are we acting like a third world country?


Posted by Anon, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 1, 2012 at 4:28 pm

We already compost much of our vegetable waste. Meat is a different matter. Chicken scraps and bones are putrid after three days. The article is not clear about how this system would prevent undiluted meat scraps from becoming a health hazard.


Posted by Vermin, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 2, 2012 at 1:30 pm

We already have rats in this town and get ready for the population to explode. The council gets nuttier and nuttier...


Posted by Too Lazy To Compost, a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 2, 2012 at 11:51 pm

I love this idea. I've definitely noticed that 2/3 of our trash is compostable, but I have no interest in dealing with worms, turning earth, whatever. To have the city do this, weekly, is awesome. The rest of the trash, I don't care, if it's picked up less often, fine. I'm for saving the money, not to mention on the truck travel, noise, etc.

I'm psyched we are considering this.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Oct 3, 2012 at 9:41 pm

Well garbage trucks are four wheeled vehicles that drive on roads, powered by fuel, not pedals. So of course we need to ban them. Its palo alto. people should be biking their garbage to recycling centers. Perhaps on their way to work. (because of course, we have nothing better to do with our time than leisurely meander through town on bikes.)


Posted by lisa van dusen, a resident of Community Center
on Oct 3, 2012 at 10:14 pm

The commercial compost system can handle many different items due to its higher temperatures - so things like paper towels, kleenex, meat, the compostable carry-out containers from restaurants etc. that won't compost at home, can all go into the commercial compost stream. It turns out that the non-food items that can be diverted are significant in volume.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 4, 2012 at 9:06 am

Seriously, I would love an enterprising company to come along and offer to take away all our trash, recyclables and compostables on a regular basis charging us for what we put out each week rather than a fixed cost.

I wish we had an opt out feature for this on our bill so that some healthy competition could bring the costs down. This is the trouble with government monopolies, there is no competition and consumers (?) have no say in what service they receive.


Posted by los altan, a resident of Los Altos
on Oct 4, 2012 at 4:36 pm

Check out Web Link

In Los Altos, we put food scraps (in a "green" plastic decomposable bag) into the tree trimmings bin. Milk cartons go in the recycle bin. Everything is picked up weekly.


Posted by fullofvisionandplan, a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 4, 2012 at 4:59 pm

Wasn't that just a few years ago the city propose to hire some garbage inspectors??? Now this and what next? Perhaps they are having a hard time to figure out how to charge us more in the future


Posted by jerry99, a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 10, 2012 at 7:40 am

More lunacy by the City Council.
My utility, water, sewer, trash rates have gone up enormously in the last 5 years since this is done by edict of the council. Let's find a way to save money by decreasing City of PA employees and not start another tree-hugger experiment. This is as bad as the stupid program of windmill power that needs constant subsidy since wind power is so expensive.


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