In the latest Around Town column, news about an affordable housing project breaking ground in Palo Alto, local residents and organizations recognized for their exemplary work during the pandemic and Midpeninsula celebrations honoring Martin Luther King Jr. on Monday.
'GROUNDBREAKING' NEWS ... Alta Housing, the nonprofit developer of affordable housing, recently celebrated a victory when it broke ground on its new Palo Alto project: a 59-unit development known as Wilton Court. Located in the Ventura neighborhood at 3705 El Camino Real, the four-story development will target single- and two-person households that earn between 30% and 60% of the area median income. Twenty-one units will be reserved for adults with intellectual or developmental disabilities. The project also represents a rare victory for the City Council, which has often talked about the need to build more affordable housing but has had little success in doing so. When the council approved Wilton Court in January 2019, the project became the first 100% affordable housing project approved in the city in seven years. The city has not approved any since. In a celebratory video marking the occasion, Randy Tsuda, president and CEO of Alta Housing, acknowledged the fact that the nonprofit was able to launch the project on its 50th anniversary. "We are grateful for the Palo Alto community, especially the Ventura neighborhood, for their support of Wilton Court and allowing this project to become a reality," Tsuda said. Council member Eric Filseth and former council members Adrian Fine and Liz Kniss all spoke in the video about the challenges of building affordable housing and the benefits Wilton Court will bring to Palo Alto. "Silicon Valley has been tremendously successful as a region but it's also made it very hard for a lot of people to live here, because it's so expensive. ... It's going to allow people to live here in the Midpeninsula that otherwise couldn't," Filseth said.
GIVING CREDIT WHERE IT'S DUE ... Twenty locals and 30 community organizations in Santa Clara County's District 5, which includes Palo Alto, were recognized last month with medals for their service during the COVID-19 pandemic that went above and beyond all expectations. Many recipients of the Supervisor's Medals are familiar faces whose jobs have drastically changed during the health crisis, including Ravenswood Family Health Center CEO Luisa Buada; Health Trust CEO Michele Lew; Dr. Yvonne Maldonado, a Stanford University professor on the Western States review panel for COVID-19 vaccines; and the Rev. Kaloma Smith, chair of Palo Alto's Human Relations Commission. Numerous organizations were celebrated with service medals, including La Comida, Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District, Palo Alto Chamber of Commerce, Project WeHope, Ronald McDonald House at Stanford and Vista Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired. "The folks we recognize today are folks who have somehow found the inner strength, who have taken that deep breath, and said 'I will continue to do the good work,'" Supervisor Joe Simitian said during a virtual awards ceremony on Dec. 14. A complete list of recipients across the county can be found here.
A SALUTE TO THE KING ... In a drastic change from 2020, Midpeninsula celebrations in recognition of Martin Luther King Jr. Day this Monday will take place virtually. Despite the change in setting, the late civil rights leader's spirit will undoubtedly carry through each free online gathering. The city of Palo Alto is partnering with community groups for an event under the theme "Together We Rise." The 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. event on Jan. 18 will feature remarks by mayors from Palo Alto and East Palo Alto and a panel by Paly's Black Scholars United. For more details, visit youthcommunityservice.org/mlk-day. While Caltrain won't hold its annual Celebration Train on the Peninsula due to the pandemic, it is encouraging the public to join the Northern California Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Community Foundation's online event Monday at sfmlkday.org. Stanford University's commemoration will be shaped by musicians, documentary films and discussions over the course of a four-day festival starting Friday, Jan. 15. The weekend also will include webinars that touch on multiple topics, such as the Bay Area's civil rights history. To register, visit cddrl.fsi.stanford.edu/world-house/2021-mlk-day-film-festival.