In the latest column, read news about the return of Christmas Tree Lane, upcoming road closures for Caltrain electrification work and a Santa Clara County pilot program to expand mental health treatment.
MAKING SPIRITS BRIGHT ... For nearly three weeks, the 1700 and 1800 blocks of Fulton Street will transform into a magical scene of merriment, with residents welcoming community members to enjoy holiday displays outside their homes. A tradition since 1940 that started with just a few houses, the event has grown to include about 30 residences and has acquired the name of "Christmas Tree Lane," as 72 small Douglas Firs, strung with multicolored lights, brighten the street for two blocks.
"It's quite dramatic, seeing the trees going down the street," Fulton resident Bob Harrington said, adding that every home also decorates for the occasion. "From Santa preparing to drop down a chimney, to mischievous elves and ice-skating reindeer, to a star hung high in the boughs of a California Redwood tree, each homeowner makes their own holiday statement," a press release from Harrington stated.
The number of visitors to Christmas Tree Lane never has been officially recorded, according to Harrington, who has lived on the street for 44 years. However, he estimated that the event attracts up to 100,000 drivers and pedestrians.
"It's a great family tradition," he said, one that he also regularly participates in by decorating his house and strolling the sidewalks with his family to admire the displays once the sun goes down. "Everyone waves," he added. "It's a nice, gentle feeling."
Holiday displays along Christmas Tree Lane are scheduled from 5-11 p.m. on Dec. 10-31. To learn more, visit christmastreelane.org.
PUTTING IN THE WORK ... Caltrain has updated its schedule of planned street closures in Palo Alto for its electrification project work, which started Nov. 14 and ends Dec. 19. The closures may slow traffic at the Palo Alto Avenue/Alma Street crossing, according to the city.
On Dec. 9-17, the crossing will be disabled for signal work and testing at certain days and times. Flaggers will be located at the Palo Alto Avenue (near the transition point to Alma Street) and Churchill Avenue crossings throughout this work, which is set to kick off during the day on Dec. 9. The flaggers will be present for safety and to ensure gates function properly during the test train runs. Vehicle and pedestrian traffic will be stopped for test trains until crews certify the crossing warning systems for safe operation.
Overnight work is scheduled on Palo Alto Avenue starting at 12:01 a.m. on Dec. 11 through 4 a.m. on Dec. 12. Day and night work also is scheduled on Palo Alto Avenue beginning at 12:01 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 17, through Monday, Dec. 19 at 4 a.m.
The crossings will be open to motorists and pedestrians when no test train is approaching. Test trains might operate as frequently as every 30 minutes with stop pages of up to five minutes as the trains approach and cross.
If testing is not completed during the weekend, some crossings in Palo Alto might be flagged during weekday nights. Testing on weeknights could take place between Dec. 12 and Friday, Dec. 16, from 9:30 p.m.-4 a.m.
HELPING THE 'MISSING MIDDLE' ... The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors recently approved a pilot program to expand mental health treatment for those in the so-called missing middle residents who "earn a bit too much to qualify for government-funded health care like Medi-Cal, but cannot afford to pay for care out of pocket or the high-quality insurance that would cover such services," Supervisor Joe Simitian said in a statement.
"The mental health needs of the missing middle in our health care system have been overlooked for far too long," Simitian, who proposed the program in May, said in the statement. "We have too many people who slip through the cracks. This new effort is designed for folks who need help accessing affordable mental health services. It's good for patients, good for families, and good for our community."
The new pilot program adds mental health services to the county's existing Primary Care Access Program, the statement said, and expands eligibility to include residents making up to 650% of the federal poverty level. More information on the pilot and expanded eligibility is available at district5.sccgov.org.