Around Town | August 9, 2013 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - August 9, 2013

Around Town

CRESCENT PARKING ... When it comes to parking shortages, every unhappy Palo Alto neighborhood is unhappy in its own way, to borrow from Tolstoy. In Professorville, residents have for years been up in arms about downtown employees, whose cars take over residential blocks during business hours. In Crescent Park, residents are more concerned about night-time parking, and the main culprit isn't the business community but the East Palo Alto residents across the Newell Road bridge. This week, they may get some relief. The council is scheduled to consider on Monday a proposal to ban overnight parking at certain sections of Crescent Park, including a few blocks of Edgewood Drive where the problem is particularly conspicuous. The new law would ban parking on selected streets between 2 and 5 a.m. but allow residents on these blocks to purchase permits to park their cars at night. The council was preparing to approve this limited ban on Aug. 5 as part of its "consent calendar" (where items get approved in bulk and without discussion), but staff requested that the item get a fuller vetting during the Aug. 12 meeting. Opinions about the proposed one-year ban vary block by block. Those closest to the East Palo Alto border have been overwhelmingly supportive. Those slightly further away have been against it, arguing that the new rule would simply push the problem over to their streets. Ben Davenport, who lives on Hamilton Avenue with his wife and 8-month-old son, is in the latter camp. His mother-in-law and father-in-law, who take care of the child, would no longer be able to park in the house in the ban is adopted, he said. "It seems like we're attacking the problem of excessive nonresident parking with a 30 pound sledge hammer, because that's the only tool the city has given us," Davenport told the council on Aug. 5. "The hammer analogy is all too apt because the game we are in fact playing is Whac-a-Mole."

FRESH AIR ... By Palo Alto's standards, the city's quiet crusade against cigarette smoke has proceeded at lightning speed. Unlike the city's recent ban on plastic bags and last week's controversial ban on vehicle dwelling, the recent effort to ban smoking at local parks floated through the approval process with little criticism and no opposition. In March, a council committee considered a request from downtown and California Avenue merchants to ban smoking at three small urban parks, Lytton and Cogswell plazas downtown, and the Sarah Wallis Park near California Avenue. Then, like a cloud of smoke, the ban spread to all 24 parks and plazas less than 5 acres, thanks to a March recommendation by the City Council's Policy and Services Committee. When the recommendation reached the full council, members reasoned: Why stop there? In a brief May discussion, they expanded the ban to include all city's open-space preserves, including Foothills Park, the Baylands and the Pearson-Arastradero Preserve. This week, smokers may finally get a little reprieve. The council will consider on Monday creating designated smoking areas at Greer, Mitchell and Rinconada parks, an effort designed to keep smokers from having to drive out of the park for a cigarette, as was recommended by the Parks and Recreation Commission. These areas will include benches, signage and fire-proof waste and will cost the city about $13,500, according to a new report. The council will also weigh the commission's recommendation to allow smoking at the Palo Alto Municipal Golf Course, except within buildings and near building entrances.

ORGANIZED CHAOS ... People passing by Stanford Stadium or the Town and Country Village on Aug. 14 may notice a swarm of emergency responders and police cruisers from outside jurisdictions. It's not Armageddon. It's only a drill. Palo Alto is preparing to join Stanford University, Sunnyvale, Mountain View, and emergency responders from Santa Clara County for what City Manager James Keene called a "large-scale stadium-evacuation drill" that will include 300 people. The drill will allow the agencies to "test various communication, transportation and medical-evacuation procedures," Keene said.