Letters | November 4, 2011 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

Spectrum - November 4, 2011


Free fuel?


The City of Palo Alto is offering free fuel for anyone that wants to fill up their car.

There is one requirement — The vehicle must run on electricity.

There is a state law that requires cities to recover the full cost of anything provided to the citizens or public. The city is breaking state law — simple as that.

As a taxpayer, or utility-rate payer, I am directly paying for the fuel cost of other people's commute. Incentives for alternative fuel vehicles are nice but free electricity for anyone that wants to "fill up" at the city "gas" station really violates the Stewardship of the Public Trust. (BTW, Palo Alto residency is not required.)

The city has expressed awareness that the state law prevents resources from being supplied to the public at less than full cost. That was the reason that the city first offered low rates for fueling natural-gas vehicles and then was "forced by the state law" to raise them to a rate that reflected the direct cost and overhead.

It is important that the city encourages use of alternative fuel vehicles, but where is the consistency? And before we celebrate our greenness too much, we must remember that no mode of transportation represents an environmental free lunch. Incremental use causes a coal plant to be fired up somewhere.

As residents, we must try to stop one financial leak at a time. I don't recall our city government approving this expenditure.

The city must find a green path that honors reason and logic.

Tim Gray

Park Boulevard

Palo Alto

Occupy Wall Street


I've been trying to follow what's happening with the Occupy Wall Street movement. It started a few weeks ago as a grassroots response to the economic situation, the financial bailouts given to investment bankers, and huge salaries and bonuses they continued to pay, and the tax dodges of the rich.

Some people realized that a strong message needed to be sent, and to their credit, they adopted the well-known tactics of Ghandi and Martin Luther King. They have marched, they have sat/camped and they have stubbornly stayed to demand resource distribution.

Yes, there may be some among them who seem unattractive or whiny. But they have patiently borne the curiosity, the scorn and the very real danger of confrontation with the police or the military. They are, after all, pointing the finger at the very real failures of U.S. capitalism to meet the needs of the people.

Dana St. George

Campesino Avenue

Palo Alto

Measure E truths


I was shocked to receive a campaign mailing that showed our beautiful wetlands, giving the impression that those areas would be threatened if Measure E passes. I would be one of the first to object if that were the case, but it is not! Don't be misled. Check out the truth about Measure E and vote "yes."

Hope Raymond

Roosevelt Circle

Palo Alto

Landfill lease


How many people planning to vote for Measure E, which would remove 10 acres from Byxbee Park to build a garbage processing mill by the Bay, know that the entire Landfill where this acreage is located is not owned by Palo Alto?

It is owned by the State of California, and the existing city leases from the state only permit "the establishment of a park" on the land where the landfill operations have terminated. landfill operations open to the public on the 10 acres ended in July. See for yourself: this lease and other related documents are posted at www.BayFacts.org.

Has anybody from the Measure E camp obtained permission from the State Lands Commission, which administers this property, to build a garbage mill on State land? They have not even asked. They have not done their most basic homework.

Let's dump this poorly conceived initiative and enjoy our park. Vote no on E.

David Bubenik

Homer Avenue

Palo Alto

Measure's main issue


After attending the debate on Oct. 10 by the League of Women Voters, it was clear that much of the opposition was concerned with extraneous points of view not directly related to the main issue. The land location selected for a possible anaerobic digester was for three important reasons:

1. It is directly adjacent to Palo Alto's aging sewage treatment plant that presently serves five neighboring communities besides Palo Alto and is under sanctions from the State of California for the pollution caused by burning the dried sludge.

2. A careful study has shown that this is the only land available for such a facility and its location, right next to our sewage treatment plant is ideal.

3. Passing Measure E holds no risk, as the land can only be used for this specific purpose, and if we cannot agree on the type of anaerobic digester or the costs to build it within 10 years, the land will continue to remain a highly aromatic, badly degraded landfill area next to the sewage treatment plant that can eventually be developed into parkland.

Please support Palo Alto's leadership in community recycling, composting, and clean air standards by voting Yes on Measure E.

Jone A. Manoogian

Maplewood Place

Palo Alto

A backward approach


In justification of the cart-before-horse process of Measure E leadership, Lynnie Melena stands the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) on its head (Letters, Oct. 28). The essence of CEQA is that public action not be taken without full information of consequences.

When the City Council voted 5-4 last year to continue the waste-to-energy evaluation, it not only approved a feasibility study, but also preparation of an Environmental Impact Report (EIR). With EIR complete and certified, a fully informed public would resolve the issue of parkland use.

But shortly after, Measure E leaders unwisely opted for a rush to judgment. They collected initiative signatures before release of any feasibility study and forced next week's vote prior to a defined project and an EIR conducted on it.

If Measure E leadership had confidence in its concept, why not wait for the proper process to work? To avoid full review prior to public vote.

Amid the shifting sands of their proposals, Measure E leaders blithely and falsely claim no risk in their backward approach. But if Measure E passes next Tuesday, it will have been the only public vote on this matter. A future council decision on the use of the undedicated parkland cannot go to voters for referendum.

However the public's rejection of Measure E will dramatically reduce risk while constraining no options. The process can continue in the legally mandated, common-sense way.

Vote your right to be fully informed prior to public vote on our precious, vulnerable, parkland legacy. No on E.

Fred Balin

Columbia Street

Palo Alto

The truth about E


From the paid advertising and the creative letter writing, you would think that Measure E was taking away parkland. You might also think that it is building a waste facility. And both would be wrong.

Read it: Measure E seeks to allow the option to use 8 percent of the just-closed landfill — the part adjacent to the treatment plant — to be used for an energy generating composting facility if and when the City Council and residents so decide, and the type of facility we decide. The remaining 92 percent of the landfill (or perhaps all of it, if nothing is built) will in decades to come be an open recreation hillside, but it sure isn't now.

Is it really necessary for those invested in shipping waste to Gilroy to so distort the issue? Are they afraid that, as part of the analysis of a future facility project, waste and graft will be uncovered?

Henry Riggs

Alma Street

Palo Alto

No blank check


I respect the environmentalists on both sides of Measure E. I agree with the Weekly that proponents have prematurely submitted this measure for undedication when there are too many unanswered questions. This special election will cost Palo Alto several hundred thousand dollars, but saving that cost was touted by several proponents to switch City Council elections to even years.

First, most of the greenhouse gas savings comes from switching the sewage treatment plant from incineration to wet anaerobic digestion, a process that is already being separately studied and can occur even if Measure E is voted down.

Second, from Palo Alto's feasibility study, the only plan potentially cheaper than a regional solution for yard trimmings and food waste is all dry anaerobic digestion. But the proponents now prefer a combination of wet and dry anaerobic digestion, for which the Weekly reports the "costs of building a new facility would exceed the exporting costs." Our refuse fund was supposed to pay for completing the dump, but was mismanaged and is now millions in debt. Public Works says "our refuse rate is artificially low," yet the Palo Alto Weekly reports that our "rates are among the highest in the immediate region." Our refuse rates will definitely be going up, and under the proponents' plan they will go up even faster.

Many of us supported high-speed rail when there was no specific plan chosen with costing. Many people now regret that support. I won't vote a blank check this time. I will vote no on Measure E.

Arthur M. Keller

Corina Way

Palo Alto

Energy, economy, environment


I recently got a mailer from the No on E people stating "Building the factory [sic] would require digging up 3.5 million cubic feet of old garbage — and spreading across remaining parkland."

Do the No on E people seriously expect Palo Altans to believe this? As park "advocates" and former city officials they well know that "spreading" anything on "parkland" is against regulations. Even if shifted fill were kept onsite, it would be capped; park users would not see it.

What is getting spread here is a giant truckload of misinformation. In the first place, no facility has been designed, so there's no way to know how much of the 10-acre site would even be needed; it's mostly flat, anyway.

One thing for sure: shipping yard and food waste away costs $2 million/year and that's just for starters. What makes the most sense is to keep our valuable organic waste here and use it to make compost and energy. Vote yes on Measure E: energy, economy, environment.

Carolyn Curtis

Alger Drive

Palo Alto

A walk in the park


Yesterday I walked in Byxbee Park and watched the earth moving vehicles landscaping the landfill, along with me was a northern harrier doing his daily patrol skimming the new rolling hills, a turkey vulture was circling eyeing the new site from directly above. There are no squirrels and mice living in the new ground yet but after the winter growth the geese will move in, grazing and providing their particular fertilizer, the hares and meadow larks will follow. Maybe in a few years we can entice the burrowing owls back. The view of the new hills and gullies was the first time I got excited about Byxbee and its potential for a great park and natural habitat.

This excitement is twined with the feelings I have as I talk to fellow residents about Measure E. The support interest and encouragement for the city to use its waste to provide energy and compost has been very evident throughout this campaign. Palo Alto is addressing a basic infrastructure issue. The city conducted a feasibility study for local organic conversion facilities. It found evidence in Europe of processes already working for years composting and getting energy from all kinds of discarded materials. The study provided enough information and options for the city to move to the next stage of the process which can only be pursued with access to land — the 10 acres next to the sewage plant - without which there are no options. The city is learning all about the possibilities of anaerobic digestion, whether or not it will work for Palo Alto, which is the appropriate technology, and how it will be funded.

I look forward to hiking in the new Byxbee with the squirrels, coots and phoebes in the knowledge that the process of the continuing goals of waste management, self sufficiency and environmental sustainability are being implemented right there.

Elaine Elbizri

Greer Road

Palo Alto

Moving forward


Voting for Measure E will proclaim that Palo Alto is looking to the future. Measure E exemplifies fiscal, environmental, and social responsibility, epitomizing wise civic action.

Measure E creates options, mandating nothing. It will empower us to build an anaerobic digestion (AD) facility on part of Palo Alto's recently closed dump — 10 acres of badly degraded land next door to the sewer plant.

Measure E makes financial sense. The City Council would need to approve a specific, cost-effective design. Current analyses already show that AD could save us nearly $20 million over the first 20 years. Thereafter tipping fees would be a fraction of what we'd pay to truck organic waste far south. And building an AD facility would help us avoid paying $300 million for a new incinerator.

Today, Palo Alto burns its sewage sludge, wasting millions on fuel and sending thousands of tons of CO2 — not to mention particulates and toxins — into the atmosphere. Only one other California city uses this antiquated technique. Measure E is environmentally responsible, putting us on the path towards demolishing the incinerator, cleaning the air, and combating climate change.

Measure E will also advance social fairness. Instead of sending fleets of trucks to deposit our organic waste in San Jose and Gilroy, we can process it responsibly right here.

Let's look forward and demand the very best for Palo Alto's future. Let's join together on Election Day and vote for Measure E!

John Kelley

Bryant Street

Palo Alto

Land of No?


As Palo Altans decide how to vote on Measure E, it may be helpful to consider a broader context. In 1965, Palo Alto voters passed the current park ordinance, dedicating the entire 126-acre landfill to "parkland" once it closed.

Times have changed since 1965. The world's population has doubled, passing the 7 billion mark. Climate change has emerged as one of the most critical issues we face. And by 2035, the world's appetite for petroleum is projected to reach twice 2005 levels.

We need to adapt and we need to lead — proactively. Palo Alto likes to think of itself as a community in the forefront. We were. But right now, we are slipping into the "Land of No"— Not In My Back Yard, not on that trail, not in that spot, not thi year.

Leaders say 'YES' to something. Leaders have vision. Right now, burgeoning numbers of residents are demonstrating leadership — and inviting you to join them by voting yes on Measure E.

If Palo Altans don't vote yes on Measure E, we may well gain the inglorious distinction of operating California's last sewage incinerator right next to a less-than-prime picnic spot on the 10 acres in question. And we'd be forced to replace the incinerator, but at much higher cost than if we had begun planning a more efficient, forward-thinking solution this Election Day (Nov. 8).

Vote yes on Measure E — it's a leadership opportunity in our own backyard!

Lisa Van Dusen

Greenwood Avenue

Palo Alto

Once a dump, always a dump?


Measure E proposes to undedicate 10 acres of Byxbee Park, which is a dump adjacent to the Water Treatment Facility (sewage plant). It will always be a dump, and will always be adjacent to the sewage plant. (10 acres is .24 percent of Palo Alto's 4200 acres of open space).

Other locations have been sought for a compost facility; none have been found to be feasible.

An Environmental Review has not been done yet, because it would be costly and foolish to do one before it is known if the site will be available.

An official statement from the City Attorney states that if the site were undedicated, "the only permitted use would be a compost facility as defined in the ordinance. As a result, the land would sit fallow unless and until a Composting Facility were built." Fears that the site could be used "for anything" are legally unfounded.

Any concerns about costs, odor, noise, excavation, factories, etc. are speculative, since no decision has been made about the specific technology that will be utilized. When and if the area becomes available, research will be done to find the most suitable technology for the purpose. If no acceptable technology is found, the land will return to "parkland", as stated in the ordinance.

Palo Alto prides itself on being an "environmentally progressive" city. In reality, Palo Alto is sadly lagging behind many cities in the country and abroad. This could help Palo Alto be the leader it should be by combining the best of technology with environmentalism.

The common bond between people on both sides of this issue is a passion for the environment. There are no ulterior motives, no personal gain, no ego trips involved on either side. In theory the issue is "open space" vs. "less waste". In this case the choice is between keeping a few acres of tainted open space vs. the chance to be innovators in sustainability by creating less waste and producing more renewable energy. I vote yes on E.

Kristen Anderson

Hanover Street

Palo Alto


Like this comment
Posted by Measure E deception
a resident of Community Center
on Nov 5, 2011 at 3:05 pm

Van Dusen and Kelly use different addresses in their letters to the editor, and different names, to give the impression that they are independent writers. It is not right to disguise the fact that they are a married couple.

Like this comment
Posted by Measure E deception
a resident of Community Center
on Nov 8, 2011 at 10:06 am

Van Dusen has been a long time employee of the Weekly. The Weekly should not have participated in the deception.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.