In this week's Around Town column, Palo Alto gains another sister city in Heidelberg, Germany and the Palo Alto Unified is looking for a vendor to build solar panels at six schools.
SISTER ACT ... Palo Alto's global family expanded on Monday night, when the City Council voted to make Heidelberg, Germany, a seventh sister city. Spearheaded by Neighbors Abroad, the relationship will focus on both cultural exchanges and on the cities' shared interest in technology and sustainability. To underscore that, Neighbors Abroad President Bob Wenzlau displayed on Monday a sculpture of a redwood tree that was made by Palo Alto High School's glass program and that city officials plan to deliver to Heidelberg during a scheduled trip in late September. "It represents art, it represents education, but there's something else sequestered in this tree — this tree is made by Palo Alto green gas, so it also stands for our story of sustainability," Wenzlau said. The newfound sisterhood is just the latest evolution of a relationship that began about four years ago, when the two cities signed a "Smart City Partnership Agreement," an accord that staff said fostered intergovernmental exchanges and furthered business and community relationships. The decision to take the friendship further advanced without any dissent. "Heidelberg is just the perfect city to be sister cities with because (we) have so much in common," Vice Mayor Liz Kniss said, just as former Mayor Pat Burt, Wenzlau and a delegation of Neighbors Abroad headed out of the Council Chambers and toward Dan Gordon's, a restaurant and brewery where they were preparing to partake in another activity cherished by both cities.
SCHOOLS GO SOLAR ... An effort long in the works to add solar panels at Palo Alto Unified schools took a step forward on Tuesday night, when the school board gave the green light for staff to issue a request for proposals (RFP) to find a vendor to build solar panels at six campuses. The six schools — Palo Alto High School, JLS and Terman middle schools, and Nixon, Escondido and Ohlone elementary schools — were selected through a feasibility study commissioned by the district and conducted by a private energy consultant, ARC Alternatives Inc. While other campuses have physical constraints, from too many trees to aging roofs, these six schools are viable for solar panels, the study determined. An ARC Alternatives Inc. consultant urged the board on Tuesday to act quickly to take advantage of the city of Palo Alto's existing net energy metering program, which is near capacity, for greater cost savings. Trustees were enthusiastic about the project's environmental benefit and waived their two-meeting rule to approve the RFP and expedite the process. "I don't think we ever thought this was going to be some huge cash-generation machine," said board member Melissa Baten Caswell. "It's more we wanted to do the right thing for sustainability."