Editorials

2016

A lost opportunity

Prime city-owned parking lots should have been candidates for housing
Given Palo Alto's clear need for affordable housing, why is no one focusing on the most important relevant resource the city has: publicly owned surface parking lots in commercial districts close to public transportation?

December 9, 2016 | 19 comments
Give for the kids

Support local nonprofits through the 23rd annual Holiday Fund
Don't let the booming Silicon Valley technology-driven economy lull you into thinking that there isn't a continuing divide, even in the affluent Palo Alto area, between those riding high and the many families living on the edge or in need of social services.

December 2, 2016 | 9 comments
Unraveling the Palo Alto election results

The voters have spoken, but what have they said?
We can't let the results of the Palo Alto City Council and school board races stand without comment, as the impacts of this election are not without significance.

November 18, 2016 | 24 comments
Our election recommendations

Read the Palo Alto Weekly's recommendations for the Nov. 8 ballot, including local races and state propositions.

October 28, 2016 | 15 comments
Keller, Kou, Kniss and Fine for Palo Alto City Council

In deciding whom to recommend in this year's City Council race we find ourselves in a dilemma similar to two years ago -- how to balance candidate knowledge and experience, views on issues, ability to work with others and ability to effectively articulate their positions and philosophy.

October 21, 2016 | 105 comments
Collins, DiBrienza for Palo Alto school board

Read the Weekly's endorsements in the 2016 Board of Education race
We expect and need more than good intentions from our leaders, and we have the opportunity to put in place a board with better judgment. In short, we need new blood.

October 14, 2016 | 52 comments
Yes on Santa Clara County measures A, B

Funds for affordable housing, transportation need challenging two-thirds vote for passage
Two important measures on the Nov. 8 ballot ask Santa Clara County voters to approve a $950 million bond measure to build badly needed housing to serve homeless and low-income residents and a half-cent sales-tax increase to fund transportation projects over the next 30 years.

September 30, 2016 | 13 comments
An imperfect wage increase

Palo Alto set to adopt quicker increase to $15, but restaurants protest inequities
There is no suspense about whether the Palo Alto City Council will approve a more expedited increase in the local minimum wage to $15 an hour when it meets Monday night, only how fast we want to reach that level.

September 23, 2016 | 5 comments
The 'microunit' allure

Proposed high density apartment development aims for car-less young professionals
Some call it an innovative way to create needed housing that will become the wave of the future. Others call it inappropriate spot up-zoning that would cause severe parking impacts on the surrounding neighborhood, do nothing to create affordable housing and set a terrible precedent.

September 16, 2016 | 76 comments
Let the campaigns begin

Hotly contested city and school elections await Palo Alto voters
Buckle your seatbelts. This fall's Palo Alto City Council and school board races are likely to be among the most substantive and consequential political races in recent history.

August 19, 2016 | 17 comments
End 'me too' raises

Time to change byzantine Palo Alto school-district pay-increase practice
It is troublesome enough that the powerful California teachers' union has achieved a system where performance doesn't matter and teachers all receive exactly the same pay and pay increase within a school district based only on their longevity and number of advanced degrees.

August 5, 2016 | 30 comments
Facebook's big expansion

Development agreement provides goody bag of money, mitigations, studies
A diverse parade of nonprofit, union and civic leaders turned out Tuesday night to a meeting of the Menlo Park City Council to give their enthusiastic support for a development proposal that would eventually almost double the number of employees working at Facebook's growing campus in east Menlo Park.

July 22, 2016 | 19 comments
Suddenly, a school budget crisis some feared

Tax growth falls short of Palo Alto school district's projections
Less than a month after approving a budget that relied on an almost 9 percent increase in property-tax revenue for the coming year, the Palo Alto Unified School District has learned that the Santa Clara County Assessor is projecting an increase of just over 5 percent.

July 15, 2016 | 48 comments
A bittersweet outcome

With the Palo Alto City Council and neighborhood in agreement, Maybell parcel is finally settled
Like many decisions that come after much community angst, Tuesday night's final approval of 16 single-family homes on a 2.5-acre parcel between Maybell Avenue and Arastradero Road at Clemo Avenue seemed anti-climactic and routine.

July 1, 2016 | 24 comments
Tax measure rushed and ill-advised

Proposed transportation tax on Palo Alto businesses doomed to fail if put on November ballot
Palo Alto City Council members are right to worry about political fall-out from the ever-worsening traffic congestion around town. But rushing an ill-considered tax measure in front of Palo Alto voters this November, at the same time a county transportation sales-tax measure will appear and without the support of the business community is a fool's errand.

June 24, 2016 | 28 comments
Saving Buena Vista

With the county Housing Authority stepping up, preservation of Palo Alto mobile-home park now appears likely
Intense and persistent efforts over the last year by Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian to put together a financial plan and political strategy that could save the Buena Vista Mobile Home Park and preserve 117 units of badly needed low-income housing in Palo Alto have finally paid off.

June 17, 2016 | 61 comments
A miscarriage of justice

Judge ignites firestorm with sentence that will allow Brock Turner out in just three months
Last week, Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Aaron Persky used his sentencing powers to impose his own view of the Brock Turner sexual-assault case, overrule statutory sentencing guidelines and all but undo the work of the jury.

June 10, 2016 | 122 comments
Our election endorsements

Our recommendations for state Assembly, state Senate, United States Congress, Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors, state Proposition 50, Bay Area Measure AA, county Measure A and Ravenswood School District Measure H.

May 27, 2016 | 5 comments
The vanishing surplus

In opaque process, Palo Alto school trustees opt for large teacher, staff and administrator pay increases over other needs
The Palo Alto school board has spent months in what we now discover were two alternate realities, one taking place behind closed doors and another in public.

May 20, 2016 | 40 comments
Vicki Veenker for Assembly

Patent attorney could bring fresh, important perspective to Sacramento
While the eight California Assembly District 24 candidates would each bring unique qualities and experience to the job, we believe three attorneys -- Mike Kasperzak, Marc Berman and Vicki Veenker -- are the clear standouts.

May 13, 2016 | 50 comments
A transparency gap

Palo Alto school district violates its own policy in depriving public of timely meeting minutes
The Palo Alto school board majority and Superintendent Max McGee have repeatedly demonstrated through their action and inaction that "transparency" is merely a talking point.

May 6, 2016 | 25 comments
Palo Alto business registry has failed to deliver its promised value

As Palo Alto's business registry enters its second year and with the recent release of some of the data compiled over the last year, it is clear the program needs help.

April 29, 2016 | 16 comments
The angst over second stories

Neighbors clash over privacy and property rights
When should the City of Palo Alto forbid the construction of second-story additions in a neighborhood dominated by single-story homes?

April 22, 2016 | 54 comments
Hopes rise for teen psych unit

County initiative attracts multiple concepts for in-patient adolescent facility
This week, the county released the four submissions it received, including a joint response from El Camino Hospital, Stanford's Lucile Packard Children's Hospital and Kaiser Permanente that proposed opening an 18-bed facility at El Camino's Mountain View campus that would initially serve 12- to 17-year-olds, including those without insurance coverage and unable to pay.

April 15, 2016 | 2 comments
Stanford's deafening silence

With Brock Turner verdict, Stanford misses opportunity to teach and show compassion, humility and resolve
Last week, with an opportunity to use the Brock Turner conviction to bring home the life-changing consequences of illegal behavior and excessive alcohol consumption, Stanford University officials were sadly absent and the university silent.

April 8, 2016 | 58 comments
The looming election

Council and school board races this fall demand strong, fresh candidates
Unusual opportunities exist this fall for qualified and motivated newcomers to seek and win seats on the Palo Alto City Council and the Board of Education, and now is the time for them to step forward.

April 1, 2016 | 44 comments
The housing fallacy

Big push for new housing development in Palo Alto belies economic realities
Palo Alto has become a community that is affordable only to those who have owned their homes for decades, inherited them or hold highly paid jobs. Or for the lucky few who made it to the top of a waiting list for subsidized units through the Palo Alto Housing Corporation.

March 18, 2016 | 147 comments
Getting out of cars

New Palo Alto initiatives take aim at single-occupancy vehicle commutes
Ask any employer in Palo Alto, large or small, tech or restaurant, what its biggest business challenge is and you'll get the same two answers: the lack of local housing options affordable to its employees and the hellish commute experiences that result.

March 11, 2016 | 28 comments
The Addison gift horse

Unprecedented $17 million anonymous gift to Addison shows need for clearer policies
The Palo Alto school district lacks any policy on anonymous gifts or on major donations offered to an individual school, and these sensitive issues should have been immediately brought to the school board for discussion the moment the Addison Elementary School donor emerged, not after countless hours of work had already been invested in developing a plan for how the money would be spent.

March 4, 2016 | 34 comments
Our city state

Transportation issues highlight aspirational 'State of the City' speech
Six years ago, when then-Mayor Pat Burt delivered his first 'State of the City' address, he read from prepared remarks about a weak economy and a city government that was cutting budgets, reducing staff and asking for pay and benefit concessions, and he focused on the importance of tending to the city's infrastructure needs.

February 26, 2016 | 7 comments
A parking Rubik's Cube

Solving downtown neighborhood parking problem requires patience, also in short supply
Just how far will downtown Palo Alto employees venture into surrounding neighborhoods in order to park free during the day? Five blocks? Eight? Ten? Those are among the many unanswered questions as the city is set to enter the second phase of a residential parking-permit system that feels to some residents like a game of Whac-A-Mole.

February 19, 2016 | 8 comments
A 'moon shot' denied

Palo Alto school board majority wisely rejects the allure of a new 'innovative' high school
Three of Palo Alto's five school board members courageously and emphatically said 'no' Tuesday night to initiating a months-long intensive study into the possible creation of an expensive new third high school at the old Cubberley High School site in south Palo Alto.

January 29, 2016 | 44 comments
Averting a resident revolt

Plan to regulate home landscaping in Palo Alto wisely pruned back
A water conservation plan that appeared designed by bureaucrats for bureaucrats was wisely scaled back Tuesday night by a unanimous Palo Alto City Council.

January 24, 2016 | 4 comments
Stop profiting from density

Palo Alto should not be making money from selling development rights
A Palo Alto commercial property owner will soon buy from the City of Palo Alto the right to build a new building that is 2,500 square feet larger than the zoning allows.

January 22, 2016 | 48 comments
Election of mayor, vice mayor mystify Palo Alto pols

Two openly competitive colleagues win council leadership positions
Two strong-willed former mayors, often at odds, strangely find themselves the new leadership team of a City Council divided by the election.

January 8, 2016 | 19 comments

2015

It's the secrecy, stupid

School superintendent works behind board's back to advance new 'innovative' high school
Palo Alto school Superintendent Max McGee owes his board and the public an apology for not disclosing that he actively participated behind the scenes in the creation of a lengthy foundation grant proposal for a new "radically innovative" high school in Palo Alto.

December 4, 2015 | 46 comments
An encouraging first step by the FAA

Time will tell whether it's a serious initiative or just lip service
The Federal Aviation Administration finally announced this week it was reviewing and reconsidering new flight policies and procedures that are generating unprecedented noise complaints from local residents.

November 20, 2015 | 17 comments
False hopes of FAA noise legislation

Two congressional bills have little chance of changing new airplane flight patterns
A group of 14 House Democrats and one Republican introduced legislation in Congress last week that would require the Federal Aviation Administration to involve local communities as it implements a new flight-navigation system called NextGen.

November 13, 2015 | 56 comments
Weekly Holiday Fund kicks off

Money raised benefits programs serving families, children in Palo Alto area
Don't let the booming Silicon Valley technology-driven economy lull you into thinking that there isn't a continuing divide, even in the affluent Palo Alto area, between those riding high and the many families living on the edge or in need of social services.

November 6, 2015 | 8 comments
The perils of innovation

Visionary school proposal has delicate road to travel
'Innovation' is a word we all love to use to distinguish our region's culture and values from other places and to impress upon our children as important to their future in a rapidly changing world.

October 30, 2015 | 67 comments
Investing in Avenidas

Palo Alto senior center deserves city support but not by selling development rights to others
A proposal by City of Palo Alto staff to raise money for the renovation and expansion of the city-owned building that houses Avenidas in downtown Palo Alto by auctioning off to developers the ability to exceed zoning limits on future projects got the reception it deserved Monday night.

October 23, 2015 | 4 comments
Another McGee flip-flop

Palo Alto school supe puts legal counsel plan on hold after winning board approval
Palo Alto school Superintendent Max McGee is now backing away from a plan he was trumpeting months ago and which the school board already approved 4-1 in June.

October 23, 2015 | 35 comments
A tortuous school inquiry

Many failures and missteps make a sad mess of sexual-harassment investigation
Palo Alto school district officials had the perfect opportunity last fall to demonstrate they had learned from their past mistakes and, after trainings mandated by its 2012 agreement with the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights, were well-prepared for the next, inevitable complaint involving sexual harassment or discrimination.

October 9, 2015 | 12 comments
Don't let the bed bugs bite

Will pests threaten Palo Alto's livability ratings?
A new threat is on the loose, one that could forever change the world's perception of Palo Alto as a vibrant and healthy oasis with a quality of life worthy of its inflated real estate prices -- bed bugs.

October 2, 2015 | 52 comments
Fairness for whom?

Council votes to cap development but undermines its 'beauty contest' strategy
On the narrowest of votes, a divided Palo Alto City Council Monday night upended a plan to have new development proposals compete with each other for a portion of the available 50,000 square feet under a growth limit for new commercial buildings, opting on a 5-4 vote to instead put four already-submitted projects above all others.

September 25, 2015 | 53 comments
A parking 'miracle' in Palo Alto

After years of frustration and false starts, parking restrictions in downtown neighborhoods finally begin
The much-anticipated and long-delayed launch of a broad strategy for alleviating parking problems that have plagued neighborhoods adjacent to downtown Palo Alto for many years had a bit of an inauspicious "soft launch" this week.

September 18, 2015 | 35 comments
Calling out cheating

With surprising unanimity, teens, parents and Palo Alto school officials raise alarm over cheating
Parents and students didn't agree on much at Tuesday's school board meeting on what further reforms would improve the learning environment and emotional health for Palo Alto teens, but they did speak with a single voice on one issue: cheating.

September 11, 2015 | 39 comments
Eshoo's big challenge

With constituents upset over airplane noise, can Anna Eshoo get action from a resistant federal bureaucracy?
It is rare for a member of Congress to become a lightning rod for complaints about the local impacts of a federal agency's policies, mostly because those impacts are usually diffuse and relatively invisible. But that's the position Rep. Anna Eshoo finds herself in, along with a handful of other members of Congress around the country who are dealing with constituents angry over the arrogance and heavy-handedness of the Federal Aviation Administration.

August 28, 2015 | 240 comments
Unworthy PC 'reforms'

Proposed changes to special 'planned community' zoning should be firmly rejected
A year and a half after putting a temporary halt to any further negotiated development projects that exceed the existing zoning, proposed revisions to be considered Monday by the Palo Alto City Council do virtually nothing to prevent the abuses and controversies that led to the moratorium in the first place.

August 21, 2015 | 25 comments
Rolling over for BART

If it has any hope of getting north county voter support on new taxes, VTA needs to remedy funding inequities
Every time transportation sales-tax measures have appeared on Santa Clara County ballots since 1961, Palo Alto voters have joined with those in other cities to approve them, creating billions of dollars for county transit projects.

August 14, 2015 | 65 comments
Flawed new FAA NextGen air-traffic routing system needs reset

It doesn't take too many minutes of sitting in a backyard in Palo Alto or trying to sleep next to an open window to realize something has radically changed with commercial aircraft-routing patterns in our skies.

July 31, 2015 | 104 comments
Nine years in, a citizens committee

After almost a decade of meandering work, a final push begins for a new Comprehensive Plan for Palo Alto
There is no better example of how Palo Alto gets tied up in knots trying to achieve delicate tasks that are anticipated to create controversy than the city's legally required and long overdue update of its Comprehensive Plan, the vision and road map for what kind of a community we all want for the future.

July 17, 2015 | 69 comments
Fixing conflict-of-interest rules on Stanford ties

City of Palo Alto and Stanford should press for reforms to address perennial problem
With Stanford University owning substantial commercial and residential property within Palo Alto city limits, City Council members with even the most benign affiliations with the university have for years been advised to recuse themselves from participating on any issues that could possibly affect Stanford.

July 10, 2015 | 17 comments
Rising hopes for Buena Vista

Palo Alto should approve funding to bolster chances of preserving mobile-home park
With the Palo Alto City Council's final vote a month ago confirming that the Jisser family had met all the legal prerequisites to close the mobile-home park they own in the Barron Park neighborhood, efforts to raise public and private funds to buy and preserve the property have now kicked into high gear.

June 26, 2015 | 71 comments
Chipping away at Palo Alto's proposed office cap

Divided council begins weakening temporary growth limit
The surprising consensus that emerged three months ago with a unanimous vote of the Palo Alto City Council -- creating a system for limiting the amount of commercial office development through a two-year-long annual cap -- began unraveling Monday night.

June 19, 2015 | 44 comments
With end of school year, a time for reflection

Palo Alto school board, superintendent to assess their work in public retreat next week
As Superintendent Max McGee completes his first year, the Palo Alto school district is at an important juncture. With his honeymoon over, it's now necessary for the board and McGee to sort out whether McGee is going to be allowed the freedom to lead the district or whether the school board intends to manage him as they did his predecessor, Kevin Skelly.

June 12, 2015 | 34 comments
Slowing development, one project at a time

'New' Palo Alto council pursues painful process of creating policy through individual project decisions
It's probably no one's idea of how to best craft new policies and expectations for commercial developers in Palo Alto, but the City Council is making clear it is serious about no longer being loose with discretionary approvals that allow buildings to exceed one or more zoning requirements.

June 5, 2015 | 47 comments
No beds for teens

A disturbing lack of in-patient mental health services for adolescents
With all the attention teen suicides have received since the first Palo Alto contagion in 2009, the resources that have been poured into programs and services to address adolescent mental health needs, and all the focus on de-stigmatizing mental illness, the common assumption was that acute cases were being gently handled within our local hospitals by physicians familiar with the unique conditions facing Palo Alto youth. Incredibly, not so.

May 29, 2015 | 18 comments
With urgency, new Gunn bell schedule takes shape

Sweeping changes to school schedule to be implemented next school year
Few would have predicted three months ago that a diverse group of Gunn High School teachers, students, parents and administrators would have been able to come to a consensus recommendation on a new school bell schedule. Let this accomplishment be a lesson that it need not take years to accomplish important reforms, just clear goals, good leadership and a process that is inclusive but efficient.

May 15, 2015 | 9 comments
Adopt expanded retail protections

Urgency ordinance will prevent conversions of ground-floor retail
With increasing concern about the health and future of small retail businesses in Palo Alto, the City Council is scheduled to vote Monday on whether to implement temporary measures to prevent building owners from converting ground-floor retail into offices or other non-retail uses.

May 8, 2015 | 3 comments
Another buck for workers

Adopting a local minimum wage may feel good, but is mostly symbolic
A growing movement to adopt local minimum-wage ordinances is gaining momentum on the Peninsula and elsewhere in California, and with a City Council committee's vote this week an ordinance now appears headed toward adoption in Palo Alto.

May 1, 2015 | 28 comments
Yes on Measure A

Parcel tax deserves support in spite of frustrations with Palo Alto school district governance
Let us keep our frustrations and criticisms of the Palo Alto school district leadership separate from the need of funding to maintain the educational opportunities and experiences of our kids, ensure that class sizes don't grow and implement additional programs directed at closing the achievement gap and increasing mental health resources, and vote to approve Measure A.

April 24, 2015 | 103 comments
The Buena Vista imperative

With owner's right to close park affirmed, an urgency to acquire it
Constrained by advice from the city attorney aimed at keeping council members narrowly focused on their legal responsibilities, an emotional two evenings of public testimony and council discussion came to an anti-climactic end Tuesday night as the council unanimously gave permission to the owner of Buena Vista Mobile Home Park to close it down.

April 17, 2015 | 31 comments
Development limits — a modest start

A cautious council finds consensus on an interim 'cap'
After a series of three long and exhausting meetings, an ambivalent Palo Alto City Council Monday night mustered an unexpected unanimous vote in support of a modest temporary development limit on new office development downtown, in the California Avenue business district and along El Camino Real.

March 27, 2015 | 24 comments
The 'zero period' hypocrisy

While preaching the value of sleep, high schools quietly offer early classes
In the face of a community-wide discussion over how to respond to a suicide contagion that has now taken four teenagers since October, there is one factor on which all experts agree: Sleep and student wellness are inextricably connected.

March 13, 2015 | 236 comments
Council chamber is the wrong place to resolve home-design controversies

The Palo Alto City Council made the right call Monday night in upholding the staff approval of a single-family home proposed for a vacant lot on a cul-de-sac on Corina Way in the Adobe Meadow neighborhood in south Palo Alto.

February 27, 2015 | 19 comments
Around teen well-being, the vocabulary changes

Finally, an acknowledgment that school climate and student stress contribute to mental health crises
In the last three weeks, two significant yet relatively unnoticed mindset shifts have occurred that may have major positive impacts on the social and emotional environment for our kids.

February 20, 2015 | 41 comments
Saving Buena Vista

A complicated path to preserve low-income housing
The legal, financial and political obstacles to saving 117 units of low-income housing at the Buena Vista Mobile Home Park are enormous, but they are not insurmountable.

February 6, 2015 | 108 comments
While explanations elude, we should not be deterred from action

As the Palo Alto community mourns and reflects on the loss of another Palo Alto teenager — the third in four months — we must not allow our frustrations, fears and divergent perspectives to block the path forward.

January 30, 2015 | 61 comments
School board should be concerned about timing, over-reaching on parcel tax

Palo Altans have stepped up time and time again to support the schools, through generous donations, bond measures to upgrade facilities and parcel taxes to supplement regular property-tax revenue and state support.

January 23, 2015 | 105 comments
Council should adopt policy requiring vote before closed sessions

We are all for a proposal to be considered next Tuesday by the Palo Alto City Council that would require an affirmative vote to authorize any closed session, whether born out of last year's scathing Grand Jury report, a sincere belief in greater transparency or pure political grandstanding.

January 16, 2015 | 1 comment
Caltrain's electrification project is pushed forward with impunity

With trains on the Peninsula currently operating at record, standing-room-only levels and providing an increasingly unpleasant commute experience, Caltrain is appropriately eager to get started this year on its $1.5 billion electrification project. Unfortunately, it is also completely brushing off important concerns raised by Palo Alto over the substantial negative impacts at the city's three railroad grade crossings.

January 9, 2015 | 61 comments

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