In 'State of the City' speech, Burt details Palo Alto's emergence from pandemic | April 15, 2022 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - April 15, 2022

In 'State of the City' speech, Burt details Palo Alto's emergence from pandemic

Mayor also shares concerns about preparedness for wildfire

by Gennady Sheyner

Palo Alto Mayor Pat Burt used that annual "State of the City" address on Saturday to paint a picture of a city in transition, with key downtown areas evolving into car-free thoroughfares, the economy reviving after a sharp pandemic and signs of hope emerging in the ongoing effort to add affordable housing.

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Email Staff Writer Gennady Sheyner at [email protected]


Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 9, 2022 at 1:47 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

Is there a link to the speech and the public comments/questions? Thanks.

Posted by Bystander
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 9, 2022 at 2:17 pm

Bystander is a registered user.

Electrification is a joke of course. What the City needs to do is to upgrade our service, stop the many outages due to weather, balloons, squirrels, geese and seagulls, as well as faulty or poorly maintained equipment. It is not likely that they should be telling peope to get rid of gas heaters and stoves when our electricity supply is so unreliable.

Perhaps the Weekly should look into the number and nature of the outages over the past year!

Posted by NeilsonBuchanan
a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 11, 2022 at 11:08 am

NeilsonBuchanan is a registered user.

I appreciate the mayor and entire council dealing with so many pressing issues. Council's consensus and action plan needs clear communication and understanding by all of us who are busy and often unfocused. Tough challenge!

Our needs seem overwhelming to PA's traditional problem solving process. For example, I am concerned about the fire risks such as fire storming down the creek between Menlo Park and Palo Alto, but how do more immediate issues get resources. Levees and grade crossing require better estimates and tabled for serious long-term planning.

The art of city government will be the shorter-term expenditures and cash flow. What can be funded now with current cash flow and what opportunities await marginal cash flow from new tax revenue AND uncertain economic recovery?

I dont have a good grasp of those opportunities.

Posted by Consider Your Options.
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 11, 2022 at 12:07 pm

Consider Your Options. is a registered user.

To Bystander...

Mayor Burt specifically mentioned the importance of upgrading the city's electrical grid in his comments, though I see that it is not mentioned in the article above.

More general comments...There are some very big ticket items on the city's "to do" list. Grade separations and electrical grid upgrades, affordable housing, emergency preparedness, and improving transportation among them. The city's current budget shortfalls are a problem. A residential population base of roughly 67,000 people cannot supply all of the revenues needed to support rapid growth of our commercial sector.

For those who are about to jump on me for saying that, I actually do read the budget. Have done for the last 20 years. We are in need of additional revenue sources. I plan to vote for the upcoming continuation of the utilities tax, and I'm considering the business license tax-- I see that businesses are already lobbying the public on this subject. I received a big, expensive, glossy brochure this week telling me what a hardship it will be for businesses to suffer any additional taxes. Interesting, it is Stanford and local business growth (especially the biggest businesses which this tax would target) create the increased traffic demand for grade separations and other expensive transportation improvements and utilities infrastructure upgrades. They have a role to play in resolving the budget challenges their demands necessitate.

In my opinion, the BLT should be used for expensive capital projects that are needed to support infrastructure to keep our transportation systems efficiently operational and safe.

Posted by Rose
a resident of Mayfield
on Apr 11, 2022 at 2:01 pm

Rose is a registered user.

I’m glad to hear we are refocusing on climate change. When dining in San Fran recently I was delighted to observe that all the leftover and takeout packaging was compostable ! They weren’t wasting lots of wrapping and eating stuff (napkins etc.). Palo Alto dropped its compostable materials law for restaurants and takeout when covid hit. We need to reinstate those laws and start enforcing them. We must protect the earth and all its species. Eliminating or at least reducing restaurant-take-out packaging and using only compostables will help. Let’s get back on the road to protecting our planet.

Posted by jvpadojino
digital editor of Palo Alto Online
on Apr 11, 2022 at 4:15 pm

jvpadojino is a registered user.

Hi @Online Name, my name is Jamey, digital editor at Palo Alto Online. We've added a YouTube link from the city that shows the full speech. There were no public comments/questions at the event.

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 11, 2022 at 7:53 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

Thanks, Jamey.

Posted by Mark Michael
a resident of Community Center
on Apr 14, 2022 at 9:04 am

Mark Michael is a registered user.

Due to the estimated billion dollar cost, rail grade separation may be the "third rail" of our policy objectives. Could behavior modification provide a practical solution? Transportation projects sometimes suffer from a phenomenon known as "induced demand." Failing to fully account for induced demand causes public entities to greatly overestimate the benefits of transportation projects and build more roads than is optimal from a financial and environmental perspective. What about reversing the approach? First, build less expensive pedestrian and bike tunnels under the tracks and then simply constrain vehicular cross-track capacity via different red light timing and preventing left turns. Double or triple the wait time -- for example, at Churchill Avenue -- and see how motorist behavior evolves. Fine tuning of the settings would be feasible.
Cost would be less than $1B. Instead of induced demand, use reduced demand. Or, the Council could debate the lack of billions of dollars for decades to come and the status quo would persist.

Posted by NeilsonBuchanan
a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 14, 2022 at 9:49 am

NeilsonBuchanan is a registered user.

I like Mark Michael's comments because he illustrates lack of simple scenario planning. We seem to be jumping ahead of harsh reality of demographics, job growth/stagnation, WFH, trickle down housing, reliance on public transit, school enrollment, etc, etc.

At my age the personal urgency of scenario planning for the sub-region is not great, but it vital for my adult children and grandsons. These are complex scenarios without clear answers and they directly impact the younger generations when short-term decision degrade allocation of scarce resources.

IMO, scenario planning for a small govt unit like Palo Alto is almost impossible but a reasonably sized subregion would produce good scenarios via well-funded experts. Otherwise..... while we ae distracted by elusive grade grading schemes without funding timetables, the Bay might inundate Highway 101. Scenario planning might highlight our greatest assumptions, their strengths and weaknesses.

For example, it CalTrain was electrified to the max in a few years, how much of job growth would be accomodated?

Posted by Bystander
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 14, 2022 at 10:47 am

Bystander is a registered user.

If the City is concerned about fire in the hills, then what about putting some thought into how to evacuate Foothills Park?

When it is busy how will it be evacuated in an emergency? There is poor cell signals and getting the word out to visitors will be difficult. When visitors are leaving in an emergency there is no way of knowing if it would be safer to go uphill to Skyline or downhill? There will also be residents leaving and of course people on bikes. That sounds chaotic and then throw the emergency vehicles into the mix and Page Mill Road could be a death trap.

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