Letters | April 22, 2011 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

Spectrum - April 22, 2011


Protect parkland


Your ambiguous editorial on the Park Undedication Initiative (April 1) seems to suggest that it's okay to undedicate parkland so that some future City Council can "have the option of moving forward ... if agreement is reached..." on the use.

If any council were convinced that use of parkland was needed for a particularly compelling use, it could put the matter to the voters with full disclosure of the purpose as was done with the Winter Lodge Exchange, for example. In this case, voters are being asked to buy a "pig in a poke" by undedicating parkland without a clear plan for its use.

Parkland is either dedicated or not. It cannot be "conditionally" undedicated as is suggested by the initiative. The land will be just like any other land in Palo Alto and you can be sure that Public Works or some other city department will want to make use of it rather than return it to park dedication in the future.

There is no automatic reversion to park dedication if the goals of the Initiative are not achieved.

This latest theme of "creating an option" to use parkland has only surfaced since the unfavorable financial analysis of dry anaerobic digestion. This process has already cost the Refuse Fund about $2 million and will cost millions more if the industrial anaerobic digestion facility is built.

Go to www.savethebaylands.org to see how ADs look.

Voters should reject this initiative.

Emily M. Renzel, Coordinator

Baylands Conservation Committee

Forest Avenue

Palo Alto

Compost suggestions


Regarding the highly divisive proposal to build an anaerobic digestion facility on city park land, I have two suggestions.

First, let's use a more robust process to assess the project's economic viability. It's encouraging that detailed modeling of the costs has been developed by an outside consultant. However, if actual costs prove to be higher than the consultant's estimates, the citizens of Palo Alto will suffer. A better approach may be to ask private companies to submit competitive bids to construct and operate the facility. If the winning bid is lower cost than alternative disposal options, then the project will have proven its economic viability with no risk to our city's budget.

Second, let's separate the decision regarding whether the project is economically viable from where it should be located. We shouldn't treat the Palo Alto park land as if it were "free." Instead, let's identify an alternate site nearby on the Peninsula and add in the investment required to purchase this site. If with this added investment the total cost is still lower than the alternative disposal options, then we should move forward with this alternate site and preserve our park land.

On the other hand, if the project is only economically viable if the city donates the land at zero cost, then the project isn't truly viable.

Brian Suckow

Southampton Drive

Palo Alto

Measure N drawbacks


I'm getting cheesed all over again as I watch the rusty-fingered I-beams for our Mitchell Park library reach out into the Palo Alto dawn. I know, I know, 70 percent of voters in 2008 wanted it this way, but can we think this thing through?

We've approved $76 million for extra space and better facilities. With luck and a construction crash, the actual cost may be 25 percent lower, but have we thought about what, exactly, we're going to put in this extra space?

About five years ago I checked out a copy of "Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant." At present, there are only two physical copies of this book in our library system. I remember having to wait a week or two for the book to be available for me to read.

So right after we approve this bond measure, along comes the Kindle. And the Nook. And the iPad. The other day, I downloaded a free copy of "Personal Memoirs" to my iPad in about five seconds. Plutarch's work is available also. In fact, I can find obscure engineering tracts from the turn of the last century with Google.

Any and every book off copyright is finding its way into the info sphere; the dead-tree versions of the original books won't need new libraries to house them.

So will we need lots of library space for new books? Nope, e-book sales have outstripped print sales. Will we need space for video or music? Well, with Netflix, Amazon, iTunes and Pandora, no.

It appears we'll only need book space in libraries for few short years for a fast-shrinking base of on-copyright, non-new books.

So what could we have done with our $76 million, when for $32 million we could have bought an iPad for each and every resident of Palo Alto? To put it another way, the tax assessment on the median Palo Alto home value amounts to $200 a year. Each Palo Alto household could buy a new Kindle every year or a new iPad every other year.

So I'm getting cheesed all over again. At the end of the Measure N library project, I'm sure that we'll have beautiful facilities where we can gather together as citizens, share cups of coffee and read our iPads.

John Harrington

Cowper Street

Palo Alto

Traffic-safety measures


The new condominium communities in south Palo Alto need some attention from the city's traffic department.

There are about 140 new (since 2008) residences on the two by two block area that is dissected by East Meadow. That means there are about 300 people, maybe more, living in this small area. In addition, this neighborhood is the main way for residents from all over town to access the seasonal underpass to the Baylands, and there are many cyclists who ride here.

Unfortunately, the quarter-mile section of East Meadow that runs between Fabian Way and East Meadow Circle is a speedy car thoroughfare for both local residents and the many employees of Loral Space Systems and other businesses that are in this neighborhood. The drivers do not respect the speed limit, which is not posted but which I assume to be 25 mph, nor the stop signs. We 300 residents currently have no safe way to cross East Meadow or otherwise maneuver, as pedestrians or cyclists, around the neighborhood.

I am particularly concerned for the many small children who live here who will be beginning to walk to school within the next few years.

Please help our neighborhood become as safe as the rest of Palo Alto. We need posted speed-limit signs, enforcement of the speed limit, speed bumps and clearly-marked cross walks, and we need them fast. These improvements are relatively inexpensive and easy to make, and they would benefit a lot of people, including many small children.

Adrienne Van Gorden

Feather Lane

Palo Alto


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