To the Palo Alto residents who lined the streets for the 2020 graduate parade, thank you. As we got in our car, decorated with a few handmade signs, my Palo Alto High School grad's younger sister asked, "Will this be lame?" It was anything but.
It was incredibly moving to see so many people applauding, holding signs and cheering these grads. My senior kept repeating, "This is so great." I confess, I teared up at times.
There was such a generous outpouring of support from the parade watchers we felt like we might have been young royals on the way to a wedding. People seemed so genuinely happy to have one good thing to celebrate in these crazy times.
But there was more than happiness. In our neighbors' gazes I also detected a searching, a measuring up, an imploring: We need your voices and compassion and energy to help fix this world; use our encouragement to energize you; we need you to succeed.
Based on the 2020 grads I know, I am filled with hope.
Bryant Street, Palo Alto
Let's fill vacant houses
At the end of the Palo Alto City Council meeting in January, to prioritize the most important issues to address for 2020, Mayor Adrian Fine informed me that there are over 200 vacant houses in Palo Alto. That does not include apartments (i.e.11 apartments in three buildings): the 565/571 Hamilton Ave. units and the four-plex next to it, which have been vacant now for nearly three years. We also have lost the President Hotel units, more than 75 apartments that have pushed many tenants out of Palo Alto. How many other apartments and/or houses are sitting vacant during this pandemic? How many more people could use this housing? We need to urge the owners to rent, lease, or sell these houses so that more local housing is available. Imagine how many families of our city workers might be able to live in these vacant houses! What about those without shelter? Open them up for people to have access! We need rooms for those who are not sheltered.
Eminent domain has been often used for crises. For example, it has even been used to replace perfectly usable housing for roads. Why not make the owners more responsible in times of a housing crisis. We should consider this remedy or other ways to urge owners and landlords to make these empty houses available during a crisis like the one we are now facing. Why is the city not acting to help those most in need? Instead of talking about low-income housing, let's see this council ACT on those words.
Webster Street, Palo Alto
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