HOME SHOPPING ... When Palo Alto City Manager James Keene retired last December after a decade of service, he left behind a Webster Street home downtown with two bedrooms and two-and-a-half bathrooms purchased in 2010 with plenty of help from the city. Now, the City Council is trying to figure out what to do with the home, which Keene and the city bought for $1,875,000. The city had contributed $1.4 million, with Keene paying the rest through a city loan. Since then, Keene made about $250,000 in capital improvements to the home, about half of which came through a city loan. These changes increased his equity share in the property from 25% to 33.8%, while the city's ownership stake dropped from 75% to 66.2%. Keene, who retired to move to Bainbridge Island, Washington, recently informed the city that he plans to sell the property, as his employment contract allows. The contract also gives the city the right to buy the city manager's interest in the home rather than have it sold, according to a report from the Administrative Services Department. The home sale is expected to bring in a tidy profit. Based on public sites such as Zillow.com and Redfin.com, staff estimates that the property will be sold between $3.2 million and $4.4 million. If sold, the proceeds will be split between Keene and the city, based on their ownership interests. That was the option the council chose in 2015, when the council authorized sale of former City Manager Frank Benest's home for $2.7 million. If the city chooses to buy the home, the property will be appraised by an independent party acceptable to both sides.
IT'S NOT EASY BEING GREEN ... When the Palo Alto City Council adopted "climate change" as one of its top priorities for 2019, the decision drew plenty of cheers from environmentalists, as well as a few skeptical eyebrows from residents unsure what exactly the city plans to do. On Wednesday, the council's Policy and Services Committee received some clarity when city staff presented its "sustainability work plan" for 2019 and 2020. The proposal includes launching a "mobility on demand" app to help reduce solo commuting; retiring the sewage-burning incinerators in the Baylands; moving ahead with a plan for addressing sea level rise; and developing a "tree planting project" for carbon sequestration. The plan aims to support the city's goal of reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2030 (with 1990 as the baseline year). The committee unanimously approved the proposed work plan, though Councilman Greg Tanaka, who regularly skateboards to council meetings, urged staff to add rebate programs and other incentives for commuters who use electric scooters, skateboards and other portable modes of transportation — so that the term "electric vehicles" is not just limited to cars. "We should make it so Liz rides a skateboard to City Council meetings," Tanaka said, referring to his committee colleague, Councilwoman Liz Kniss.