By a 5-2 vote, with council members Alison Cormack and Greg Tanaka dissenting, the council supported the first revision to the city's tree-protection ordinance in more than 20 years. The ordinance adds four tree species — bigleaf maple, incense cedar, blue oak and California blue oak — to a roster of protected trees that currently only includes the coast live oak, the valley oak and the coast redwood.
More critically, the new rules specify that most local trees would now be deemed protected when their diameter grows to 15 inches, well below the current standard of 36 inches. For six of the species on the protected list, the threshold would be 11.5 inches. The only exception is the redwood, which would be subject to the standard of 18 inches.
The move was widely praised by local environmental groups, with Canopy, Acterra, Sierra Club Loma Prieta Chapter, the Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society, the Santa Clara Valley Chapter of the California Native Plants Society, Grassroots Ecology and Green Foothills all signing a letter calling the update to the tree-protection ordinance a "top priority."
— Gennady Sheyner
Siblings confront abuser at court sentencing
On June 3, sisters Bronwen, Alexandra and Michaela "Doe" confronted their former au pair, David Shwenke Tupou, at his sentencing in Santa Clara County Hall of Justice in San Jose, more than 30 years after he abused them in their Palo Alto home. (The last names of the victims have been withheld at their request in order to protect their privacy.)
The sisters read their victim impact statements in court, exposing the harrowing record of how they were groomed, manipulated and forced into sexual acts for Tupou's self-gratification from 1991 to 1995, starting when they were ages 7, 5 and 3.
Delivering these messages to their abuser, they hope and expect, will help them heal — and send a message of support to other victims of abuse.
"This trial is the first time I have been listened to and believed by someone who has power to keep me, my sisters, and other girls safe from Tupou," Bronwen Doe said. "I never expected to have this opportunity, and I am grateful for it."
In the reopened case, Tupou faced 34 felonies for abusing the sisters. On March 4, on the cusp of his trial, he pleaded no contest to two counts of lewd and lascivious acts on a child under age 14 by force, violence, duress, menace or fear; and to an enhancement that would add 15 years to life to his sentence. On June 3, Superior Court Judge Javier Alcala sentenced him to 15 years to life in prison. His sentence will be served consecutively to the 63-year term he received in 2001 for serially molesting Ashley Doe. He will likely spend the rest of his life in prison.
— Gennady Sheyner
Remote commenting still on hold
The Palo Alto school board voted on Tuesday to create a committee that will review its public commenting procedures, but decided to wait until its next meeting on June 21 to decide whether to reinstate remote commenting in the interim while the committee deliberates.
The board directed President Ken Dauber to name two board members to an ad hoc committee that will bring back a recommendation on how to handle public comment during board meetings, particularly whether to accept comments over Zoom, by the first meeting of next school year on Aug. 23. Dauber is expected to name the members of the committee at the June 21 meeting, and told his colleagues on Tuesday that Shounak Dharap would be one of the two members.
The board began allowing members of the public to address the board via Zoom during the pandemic and retained the option when meetings resumed in person. Those wishing to speak to the board during meetings could either show up in person or call in using Zoom.
That changed in April, when the board's agenda-setting committee, made up of Dauber, Vice President Jennifer DiBrienza and Superintendent Don Austin, decided to revert back to the pre-pandemic norm of requiring that all commenters attend in person at the boardroom.
On Tuesday, a motion that would have immediately reinstated Zoom comments failed to reach a vote, because the board didn't have the 4-1 supermajority needed to waive the "two-meeting rule," which calls for most topics to be presented at an initial board meeting before being voted on at a second meeting.
— Zoe Morgan
This story contains 766 words.
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