For new bike boulevard, it’s not smooth sailing

Palo Alto Weekly – by Sue Dremann / December 8, 2017

New Ross Road fixtures are confusing bicyclists and drivers, creating danger, residents say

The city of Palo Alto’s effort to turn a south Palo Alto street into a bicycle-friendly boulevard is encountering a chorus of complaints from residents who say that the changes are making the road more dangerous.

Editorial: The risks of secrecy

Palo Alto Weekly – by PA Weekly editorial board / December 8, 2017

School board splits on whether and how to accept large anonymous donations

When developing a new public policy, a sure warning sign should be when the policy has to thread a needle to avoid violating existing laws and, in doing so, becomes convoluted and irrational.

The Palo Alto school board struggled Tuesday night trying to balance competing interests of transparency and donor privacy, and a bare majority (Ken Dauber, Jennifer DiBrienza, Terry Godfrey) approved a new policy that, in our opinion, skates on the edge of the law and brings an unacceptable level of secrecy.

School board approves new rule for anonymous donations

Palo Alto Weekly – by Elena Kadvany / December 6, 2017

Members disagree on how to balance gifts and public accountability

The need to strike a balance between welcoming anonymous donations and providing transparency as a public agency divided the Palo Alto school board on Tuesday night, with its members ultimately approving in a 3-2 vote a new requirement for internally disclosing donors’ identities.

People or organizations who give the district more than $50,000 and wish to remain publicly anonymous will now have to disclose their identity to the superintendent, who would then inform each board member verbally, one by one. The board can waive this requirement in public session.

City braces for impacts of new housing laws

Palo Alto Weekly – by Gennady Sheyner / December 5, 2017

Palo Alto council members, planning staff say recently passed bills could reduce local control, spur major change

For Palo Alto’s housing advocates, the broad package of bills that Sacramento lawmakers signed into law this fall are exactly the type of disruption that the city needs after years of sluggish residential construction and a deepening crisis of affordable housing.

But for the Palo Alto City Council, which has made housing one of its top priorities for the year, the Sacramento-administered medicine comes with a host of unpredictable side effects. The new laws could upend the city’s policies on everything from parking requirements to architectural reviews. And with the new laws kicking in on Jan. 1, City Hall staff are scrambling to understand the implications and come up with new procedures and policies to address them.

City seeks more protection from Stanford expansion

Palo Alto Weekly – by Gennady Sheyner / December 1, 2017

Palo Alto officials, residents question university’s plans to manage anticipated traffic and housing problems

The City Council plans to approve on Monday night a comment letter on the project’s voluminous draft Environmental Impact Report, which assesses likely consequences of the expansion. The letter takes issues with Stanford’s assumptions about traffic, groundwater and fire-service demand, among many other things.

In Crescent Park, a push to end traffic gridlock

Palo Alto Weekly – by Sue Dremann / December 1, 2017

Residents to seek solutions for the daily line of cars on neighborhood streets

Fed up with the daily traffic gridlock on their neighborhood’s streets, Crescent Park residents are banding together to get the city of Palo Alto’s attention.

For hours each day, Crescent Park residents are plagued by the hundreds of vehicles that jam the streets within blocks of University Avenue, from Middlefield Road to East Crescent Drive. They say they battle just to get in and out of their driveways on weekday afternoons.

Cities seek more time to vet Stanford’s proposed expansion

Palo Alto Weekly – by Gennady Sheyner / November 29, 2017

Palo Alto and Menlo Park request 60 more days; Stanford calls proposal ‘unwarranted’

As the comment period on Stanford University’s proposed expansion winds down, city officials from Menlo Park and Palo Alto are calling for the Santa Clara County Planning Department to give them another 60 days to evaluate the potential impacts of the General Use Permit amendment that the university is seeking.

In arguing against the extension, Stanford may have received some help from Palo Alto Mayor Greg Scharff, who called Girard last week to discuss the topic.

Scharff said he called Girard because he had questions about how the extra 60 days would impact the planning process. But Girard recalled that Scharff said that he does not believe the 60-day extension is necessary.

“He said he hadn’t heard that much demand from his constituents for an extended period,” Girard said.

City explores ways to pay for revamped Caltrain intersections

Palo Alto Weekly – by Gennady Sheyner / November 29, 2017

Rail Committee considers new studies on rail-crossing alternatives, financing

Despite years of discussions about the need to separate the Caltrain tracks from the local streets that intersect the rail line, Palo Alto leaders are still struggling to figure out what the project would look like and how it would be paid for.

On Wednesday morning, the City Council’s Rail Committee considered two new studies in an effort to make some progress on both of these fronts. But while the studies provided insight into the scope of the problem, the council’s discussion indicated that Palo Alto is still many months away from getting to real answers.

Palo Alto council splits over roof decks

Palo Alto Weekly – by Gennady Sheyner / November 28, 2017

For some members, decks are a sign of vitality; for others, a waste of staff time

The council didn’t take any votes on the proposal, which is still in a conceptual phase and which has not yet been the subject of a formal application. The pre-screening session was a chance for the council to either nip the project in the bud and avoid unnecessary expenditures or signal its support and suggest ways to improve the project.

The council did both of these things and, in doing so, sent a mixed message to the prospective applicant, building owner Thoits Brothers Inc. But given that the more pro-growth faction enjoys a narrow council majority, the Monday discussion means the application is likely to move ahead.

Rising costs strain Palo Alto’s infrastructure goals

Palo Alto Weekly – by Gennady Sheyner / November 28, 2017

City Council moves ahead with new fire station and bike bridge, despite major questions about latest cost estimates

Palo Alto’s ambitious plan to fix up the city’s aged infrastructure and build a new bike bridge over U.S. Highway 101 is being strained by a sizzling construction market, which is adding millions of dollars to the price of each project and forcing local officials to lower their expectations.

Despite the obstacle, two priority projects on the city’s infrastructure list moved forward Monday night, when the council voted to approve the construction contract to rebuild the 1948 fire station near Rinconada Park and to approve the environmental analysis for the new bike bridge at Adobe Creek.

In each case, council members voiced significant reservations about the cost increases. The budget for the fire station has gone up from $6.7 million, the amount in the city’s 2014 Infrastructure Plan, to about $8.6 million (or $9.5 million, if you factor in the cost of staff salary and benefits).