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Scharff lays out bold plans in 'State of the City'

Original post made on Feb 27, 2013

Calling Palo Alto a place where the "future continues to be invented," Mayor Greg Scharff rolled out on Wednesday night a broad and ambitious agenda for the coming year, including plans to bring wireless Internet service to local parks, add parking garages to downtown and institute smoking restrictions in open-space preserves.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, February 27, 2013, 9:00 PM

Comments (16)

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Posted by Carroll Harrington
a resident of Community Center
on Feb 28, 2013 at 1:58 am

Congratulations to Mayor Scharff for his visionary proactive speech. It's going to be an exciting year!


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Posted by David
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 28, 2013 at 2:21 am

Do you know there is a public city park in Palo Alto where non-Palo-Altoans are not allowed?

That's right. In Foothills Park on page mill road, I actually saw a sign that said so.

Wow! What an elitist attitude. Imagine if Mountain View suddenly decided to ban just Palo-Altoans from Shoreline park... Wouldn't blame them a bit.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 28, 2013 at 7:39 am

WiFi to all city parks? Where did that one come from?


David, Foothill is well known and there are historical reasons for this. Just enjoy it if you are a PA resident. (I am not saying I agree with the historical reasoning, just that it is a bigger issue than you think).


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Posted by jake
a resident of Community Center
on Feb 28, 2013 at 7:42 am

"future continues to be wasteful". He said it right!


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Posted by We-Have-Met-The-Enemy-And-They-Are-Us
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 28, 2013 at 10:51 am

Every year we (the residents, property owners and business owners) hear this same silliness. What about all of the visions from the previous five years of Mayoral addresses/promises? What happened to those plans?

The article mentions the "Hackathons" that drew some media attention at the time. What has ever come of these efforts? Has anything of much value appeared in the toolkit of local government, delivered via the City's web-site, which can validate the ideas that lead to these media events?

It's really hard to see anything of value! Just a lot of hype, and a few names in the papers for some of the participants.

Greg Scharff's plans are hardly "bold", since they have all been suggested before—in any number of venues. It's also not clear where the funding for any of these ideas will come from—something that "da mayor" seems to have overlooked when he took the podium at the private sector Tesla Corporation headquarters.

It would be really interesting to find out whose idea that was. Of course, it could have been in Jim Baer's office … with the attendees being a limited number of "family and friends" of "da mayor".


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Posted by Scharff's plans
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Feb 28, 2013 at 11:58 am

Scharff was introduced by JB Straubel, Tesla's chief technical officer..
No doubt about it anymore, there's a fancy car in Mr. Scharff's future. Like George Bush, his alliance with the private sector enriched them both. Bush frequently sold off public land. Mr Scharff has a slightly different plan. Publicity, and more. We'll see.
Instead of percent for art, how about % for street repair?


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Posted by Mr.Recycle
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 28, 2013 at 1:14 pm

Nice comments on handing parking for new development.

Did he address crime at all other than wanting a new public safety building?


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Posted by Adrian
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 28, 2013 at 2:28 pm

"...efforts to encourage downtown retail." - retail is lacking downtown? News to me.

Parking is a problem downtown? So what? Just price it accordingly.

1% to Art for private projects now also? I think pretty much every piece of public art in PA is, to put it mildly, crap. The only good ones are aliens painted on the sides of buildings. 1% of total development cost is a large sum to developers, and will negatively impact many other features of a given development. For instance, design, accessibility, size, "public benefits" (which I also have problems with). Seems like more extortion. Along with upped parking requirements.

Also - "Year of the Future"...? That is one of the biggest oxymorons I have ever read. Why can't we have a "Year of getting normal things done efficiently"??


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Posted by Carroll Harrington
a resident of Community Center
on Feb 28, 2013 at 4:31 pm

Folks, lighten up and be more optimistic. Smile[:-)


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 28, 2013 at 6:39 pm

The State of the City is a mess.

Mitchell Park library - big unfinished mess.

Edgewood Plaza - big unfinished mess.

Soon the drug dealers, the homeless and squatters will move in and that will be another big political excuse to stop work.

Goal for the year - finish every single project around town before starting on anything new.

Pay for infrastructure and put everything else on the ballot to see if we are willing to pay for it.

Get something done around here already!


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Posted by Out of touch
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 28, 2013 at 7:15 pm

The mayor wants to attract more high tech businesses to PA, and other unrealistic stuff that should not have priority at this time. Just as I thought, he does not want to deal with all the important and necessary issues that are urgent, such as bldgs behind schedule and over budget, crumbling bridges, flooding, traffic, potholes, etc. they are not glamorous like WIFI in the park ( I do not think that is what parks and playgrounds are for, buddy) or Manhattanization. He is from another planet or totally out of touch or both.


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Posted by Not an issue
a resident of Community Center
on Feb 28, 2013 at 10:33 pm

At the end of February the mayor outlines his vision? That iis two months gone by. Typical self serving drivel. The weekly should have provided more balanced reporting. Gennady has already written a fluff piece on Scharf and obviously thinks the sun rises and sets with him.
Not surprised to see one of the city insiders heading up the cheer leading on this thread.


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Posted by Be fair
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 1, 2013 at 7:01 am

The Mayors state of the City is traditionally at the end of February. @ out of touch. Scharff spent a lot of his speech talking about infrastructure, crumbling buildings, fixing cubberley, resolving the flooding issue, fixing the streets. @resident he also addressed at length Mitchell Park library and infrastructure.


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Posted by Marrol
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 1, 2013 at 11:17 am

And Be Fair also consider that the vision and rhetoric has been rarely backed up with any real follow through and results. We have been faced with annual budget deficits for many years running. We have vital and essential needs in infrastructure and public safety that have been pushed aside and dismissed. We have no financial plan or means of paying for those needs, and the only solution that our city leaders have proposed is yet another bond measure and tax increase.

In my opinion our city leaders have been highly irresponsible. They have shown no sense of setting and following through with sensible financial priorities. They decry the ongoing budget deficit, and lament this unprecedented financial crisis, but yet continue to spend on non-essential, feel good, niche projects and services. Whenever reasonable cuts are proposed, or certain city services are discussed at being outsourced, our city leaders buckle to the pressure of the special interests and vocal minorities and allow themselves to be shouted down. No courage. No leadership. No one willing to make the tough decisions that would ultimately serve the greater good.

Rather than apply some common sense measures toward fiscal responsibility, the best our city leaders can come up with is another tax increase. Absolutely unreal. As Palo Alto citizens and tax payers we cannot let them off the hook. They cannot be allowed to return to the public trough crying poor. Not after they have and continue to spend millions of public dollars on non-essential fluff like bike bridges, new playgrounds, dog parks, public art, community center facelifts, commercial zone beautification, golf course developments, as well as continuing to fund programs such as the Children's Theater and Opportunity Center.


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Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 1, 2013 at 12:30 pm

@ David: I'm guessing you're relatively new to the area and don't know the history behind Foothills park. Do some Googling and you'll get what went on many years ago and why the residential status is required. Hint: It's all about the money, not the attitude.


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Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Mar 1, 2013 at 2:17 pm

Gregg Scharff's suggestion to have WiFi installed in Palo Alto parks is a partial solution to a bigger problem. What is needed is a city-wide WiFi network (often called a Mesh Network)--like the one that Google installed in Mountain View. This idea was championed by a group called Wireless Silicon Valley (or some such), but that group's management was unable to bring the plan to fruition.

The cost for each node in this sort of network is generally less than $1000. The long-term cost for electricity, maintenance, and Internet access is known only to Google. However, if Mountain View continues this system when Google's support ends, then this operation cost would be a matter of public record.

Comments like "parks are not for WiFi" seem more than misguided in this day and age. Wireless signals are everywhere. Many Cell Phones are now "off loading" their message, and data traffic, to local WiFi hotspots. This traffic is not charged like the 4G traffic is—giving the end user a cost savings. Moreover, Cell Phones are needed for public safety, and most certainly should be carried by people wherever they go, including iparks. To suggest that people should not be permitted to use their Cell Phones, iPads/iPods in public spaces (like parks) is a bit frightening—since parks should be about personal freedom. As long as one person is not bother another, why shouldn't people be able to download music and listen to it via a public WiFi link?

This idea has been submitted to the City a number of times—and soundly rejected by Staff, in the past. If Scharff is claiming that he is the first person to come up with this idea—he would not be telling the truth. Sadly, the public process is somewhat muddied in this town so that good ideas are often rejected without any kind of airing--that would help clarify their value, and cost.

Seeking contributions from local businesses would help to pay for the initial purchase of this equipment. The long-term costs would likely be minimal, although it would pay for someone to actually "run the numbers" agreeing to this project—since it's possible that some of the locations where nodes might be needed could be off the power grid, requiring significant costs to provide power and network access. One would have thought that helping to introduce leading-edge technology by contributing funds, or expertise, is that one of the things a Chamber-of-Commerce in the middle of the Silicon Valley would have done long ago.

The world is embracing wireless data transmission. The City of Palo Alto needs to recognize that fact, stop flogging dated ideas like municipal-owned Fiber-to-the-Premises networks, looking instead to the application of wireless based technologies to deliver City services, as well as distribute information of a public nature.


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