Around Town | August 10, 2012 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - August 10, 2012

Around Town

MUSIC TO THEIR EARS ... Lytton Plaza has long served as Palo Alto's prime meeting ground for the discontent masses, from the Vietnam War protests in the 1960s to the demonstration against the city's freshly passed noise ordinance in the 1970s. But a musician looking to blast an angry riff on her electric guitar may soon have a new set of rules to follow. The Parks and Recreation Commission is expected to approve an ordinance later this month that would set time limits for amplified music. The proposal is far less drastic than the one the commission reviewed and rejected in October, which would have prohibited amplified sound unless the user takes out a $300 permit. The latest proposal would limit amplified sound to 5 to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, from 5 to 11 p.m. on Friday, from noon to 11 p.m. on Saturday and from noon to 10 p.m. on Sunday. Those who honor these hours can blast music for free on a first-come, first-serve basis. Amplified sound would also be allowed outside these hours through a $90 permit. At its July 24 meeting, the commission was generally pleased with the revised proposal, with Chair Ed Lauing pointing to it as evidence that the city has listened to the public. Amplified sound became an issue two years ago when the city installed outlets to enable concerts at its newly established weekly farmers market. The market idea ultimately flopped but the outlets remained. According to Daren Anderson, a manager at the Community Services Department, people have been using these outlets to "power portable stereos, heaters, stoves and various other personal electronic devices." Police have also been getting complaints about loud music being played during the day and late at night. Not everyone, however, is enthused about the new rules. Mark Weiss, a concert promoter and unofficial City Council candidate, criticized the proposed revision as "overly broad," "convoluted" and inconsistent with the First Amendment.

SENDING SIGNALS ... Drivers crossing and cruising along the Caltrain tracks will see some changes to the timing of traffic signals along Alma Street at East Meadow, Churchill and Charleston crossings. The City of Palo Alto last week made the changes at East Meadow and plans to schedule the other intersections as early as next week, Chief Transportation Official Jaime Rodriguez said. The signal operations would be the same at all three intersections and include the left-turn movements on Alma Street. When a train has passed through the intersection the signal can allow northbound left-turn traffic if there is demand. If no vehicles are turning left, the signal would turn green when a sensor finds a car waiting. The change affects traffic going westbound (towards El Camino Real) and eastbound (towards Middlefield Road). The light sequence that clears traffic off of the eastbound approach to the tracks before arrival of the train remains the same, however, he said.

TUNING IN ... While Palo Alto officials fret about the rising costs and unexpected delays associated with the construction of the new Mitchell Park Library, a different sort of library is quietly rising behind the scenes. Library officials in the famously high-tech city have been working on opening a "virtual branch" that would greatly expand online services and allow users to interact with library staff and check out books and music without leaving their homes. Though online services are far from new, the city's library system plans to bring this digital branch to a new level in the coming weeks by adding a host of new features, including the "Discover & Go" service that allows users to get free passes to selected museums, and an interactive "Magic Wall" platform for e-books, courtesy of the company Axis 360. The latest offering is "Freegal," a service that allows anyone with a library card to download up to three songs per week. Sure, it's not exactly iTunes or Amazon, but music selection is broad, if not deep. Songs available for downloading range from the familiar (Neil Diamond's "Sweet Caroline" and A Flock of Seagulls' "I Ran (So Far Away)" are both in the catalog) to the eclectic (anyone up for some Classical Hindustani or Oceania?). Library Director Monique le Conge said at last month's Library Advisory Commission that the intent is to have the virtual branch operate as another library, with a branch manager who curates the collection and makes sure everything is running seamlessly. "It's not just a web page; it's actually a branch with people behind it, interacting with the customers and allowing them to interact with us in the ways that they need to and want to," le Conge said.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 10, 2012 at 5:02 pm

With the arrival of the Virtual Library, please explain why we still have 5 real libraries? This virtual library seems to have sneaked in under the radar!

Posted by Outside Observer, a resident of another community
on Aug 10, 2012 at 5:52 pm

5 libraries. Well, Downtown Library is used as daycare for the homeless. For the other 4, I have no idea.

Posted by engineer, a resident of another community
on Aug 11, 2012 at 1:18 pm

> "famously high-tech city"

Which city would that be? The one that has 5 brick-and-mortar libraries to house materials that are rapidly becoming available online?

How many more high-priced real employees will be added to the payroll to support this virtual branch?

Posted by Douglas Moran, a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 12, 2012 at 4:23 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

Re: "engineer"
The vast majority of the library's materials are not available online, nor are they likely to be soon. I put "engineer" in quotes because an actual engineer looks at data before reaching a conclusion.

Re: Outside Observer "Downtown Library is used as daycare for the homeless."
I have been in the Downtown Library many times and never seen this. What I do see is lots of people using the public computers and other activities traditionally associated with libraries. However, why let facts get in the way when delusional hyperbole is so much fun.

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