In this week's Around Town column, a Palo Alto Animal Control officer helps a herd of 80 goats find their way home, the city's traffic-fighting nonprofit seeks more funds and the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority's changes to its proposed New Transit Service Plan.
KEEP CALM AND LOVE GOATS ... Eighty goats that escaped from a Los Altos Hills home on the night of April 4 could've turned into a "baaaaad" situation, but Palo Alto Animal Control Officer William Warrior and a sheepdog helped four Santa Clara County sheriff's deputies bring the herd back to its rightful place. A new homeowner on O'Keefe Lane had rented the goats from Green Goat Landscapers to clean up their lawn, but the herd found an opening past a portable electric fence and decided to go on a nighttime adventure. "They love to wander and when they find an opening they go for it," Warrior said. A resident out for a jog in the area of La Rena Lane and Dianne Drive that night noticed the goats and alerted authorities, who were able to bring the herd back just before midnight. Sheriff's deputy Michael Low said none of the goats or deputies were injured, and their great escape had a happy ending. "If I were a goat, I would be a little scared," Low said, "But for the most part ... they were goats being goats and they all kind of followed each other and got back home." A cattle dog and border collie from the landscaping company assisted in herding the goats back home. Warrior added it was the second time he has ever encountered a large herd in his 40 years with the agency. He gets up close with the goats in a 14-minute video that can be viewed at vimeo.com.
COST DRIVERS ... As Palo Alto prepares to kick off its budget season later this month, the City Council's top 2019 priorities appear to be on a collision course. The council had directed staff to trim $4 million from the city's budget as part of an effort to control rising pension costs and address the city's "financial sustainability" priority for 2019. At the same time, the council is trying to make progress on its "transportation" and "climate change" priorities by launching new initiatives that reduce the number of cars on local streets — efforts that require new programs and additional investments. It doesn't help that City Hall continues to see significant vacancies in its transportation division, which remains without a leader, and in its parking operation, which has a single staff member managing the city's messy hodgepodge of custom-built, neighborhood-specific Residential Preferential Parking programs. The council's Finance Committee will try to reconcile the competing priorities of saving money and reducing traffic on Tuesday, when it considers funding for the Palo Alto Transportation Management Association (TMA), the nonprofit charged with giving downtown employees incentives to not drive. The nonprofit has requested that the city either maintain the $480,000 contribution from 2019 or increase it by 50 percent, to $720,000. The funding would allow the agency to remove between 200 and 337 cars daily, according to a letter from the TMA. On the bright side, the city is now getting some assistance for its traffic-fighting efforts from outside sources. Facebook and Palantir have contributed a combined $100,000 to expand the TMA's programs to California Avenue earlier this year. Palo Alto is participating in a pilot program funded by a $1 million federal grant that seeks to shift city employees from cars to other modes of transportation.
STAYING THE COURSE ... When the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority released its proposed New Transit Service Plan in January, many riders expressed concern over potential cuts to Line 22, which runs between the Palo Alto Transit Center and B Eastridge Transit Center in San Jose via El Camino Real. The agency considered cutting hourly runs from 1-4 a.m. After community outreach and ridership analysis over the past few months, the VTA decided to continue overnight service as many use the bus for mobility needs rather than shelter. The line has been nicknamed "Hotel 22," where homeless people have boarded to sleep on the bus rather than on the streets. The agency planned to increase service in the morning and evenings from 20 to 15 minutes on Line 522, spanning the same distance as Line 22, which staff is now proposing to maintain the same level of service.
Bay City News Service contributed to this report.