April 2000 Newsletter

Click the button next to an article for details.

Oh, Those Large Houses!
NeighborSpace Has People Talking
Art Is Coming To Midtown
Editorial: "Unintended Consequences"
Status Of The Off-Leash Dogs Task Force
Leadership Midpeninsula Is Organizing the Class of 2001
Bothered by Aircraft Noise?

Oh, Those Large Houses!
By Annette Ashton
Ever wonder what happened to that progressive group of folks who were trying to impact city policy with the Midtown Large House Group and what became of their recommendations to the city council? One of the key suggestions made to the city council by the Midtown Residents Association (MRA) committee was for the city to appoint a citizens advisory group to work with the city to examine the comprehensive plan and make changes that would benefit our community.

In the fall of 1999, Ed Gawf (City of Palo Alto Director of Planning and Community Environment) formed such an advisory group called the Future of Single Family Neighborhoods (FSFN). The MRA has strong representation with Annette Ashton, the previous chair of the MRA housing committee now serving as co-chair of the FSFN advisory group. She is joined on the city-wide team by George Stern and Judith Wasserman from Midtown who were previously on the MRA committee.

The city-wide advisory group was formally established in January of this year and has had 5 meetings. To date they have reviewed and discussed a substantial amount of information including the R-1 Zoning Code regulations, relevant sections of the Comprehensive Plan, a variety of articles, and information from other cities. A presentation on design issues was sponsored by the Santa Clara Valley Chapter of the American Institute of Architects and the group has taken a city-wide tour. The emphasis thus far has been on issue identification and problem definition.

The FSFN's simple goal and problem statement is that new and re-modeled houses should respect their neighbors both functionally and aesthetically. The advisory group is examining the issue in that way -- first looking at what the functional problems are (privacy, sunlight, massing, sun and air), and then looking at what features of design affect these areas. The aesthetic problems (streetscape, building design, materials, and views/landscape) will be treated in a similar fashion.

A second workshop is planned near the end of the process to seek input as solutions are discussed and analyzed.

Working together, our original MRA committee has made a difference. Please come participate in the community workshop. An active dialog about this issue and more can be found on our community online conferencing system, NeighborSpace, in the Midpeninsula Housing Wire conference. Take a look at http://www.neighborspace.org. Add your thoughts; share your suggestions. Let your voice be heard!

of Issue

NeighborSpace Has People Talking
NeighborSpace, our community online conferencing system, has been in operation for almost 6 months and has over 300 registered members. And a vocal lot they are!

Actively discussed issues include what should be done about leaf blowers, oversized houses, Stanford's development plan, our sister cities, what defines progress, and the Sopranos - there's something for everyone.

Take a look at http://www.neighborspace.org. Click the Register button, fill out a simple form, and you're ready to join the conversations.

of Issue

A Splash of this and A splash of that
Art Is Coming To Midtown
The City of Palo Alto and the Midtown Residents Association have just started the process of public competition to select an artist to develop a mural for the south wall of the Co-op Market building. Many of our Midtown merchants and residents have contributed to the fund to make this happen, including the Co-op Market, Peninsula Hardware, Mike's Café, Midtown Video, Baskin-Robbins, Gate Cleaners, Palo Alto Café, Best Video, and ACT II. Special thanks to residents Brigit Barton and Richard Swent for their contributions.

Selection criteria include appropriateness of the proposed mural for this community, aesthetic quality, site suitability, durability, level of maintenance, quality of previous work, history of reliability, and commitment on previous projects.

The project time line is:
May 15, 2000 Proposals due to the Palo Alto Public Art Commission.
May 27, 2000 Viewing of slides and selection of finalists.
June 24, 2000 Presentations by finalists at a public meeting.
NOTE: Plans are underway to make the public showing in conjunction with the popular annual Midtown Bluegrass Festival.
June 25, 2000 Final selection of project artist.
July 31, 2000 Award of contract. Work begins upon execution of contract.
January 31, 2001 Completion of work
Questions on how to apply, the selection process or the project should be directed to Leon Kaplan, Director of Arts and Culture, City of Palo Alto, 650-329-2218.
of Issue

Editorial: Palo Alto No Longer Has An Objective Noise Measurement
"Unintended Consequences"
The City Council has passed a Noise Ordinance that includes a section on leaf blowers. Under this guise is a new standard of noise that will affect hundreds of residents by increasing allowable noise in the following ways:
  • Generators are allowed to operate between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. at 95 decibels on residential property (keep in mind that 80-90 decibels is the level at which hearing damage can occur, based on various factors). This new definition is unrelated to construction, which is defined in a different part of the noise ordinance. Will this new definition allow RVs with generators to function as "guest" quarters or offices when parked on residential property? What's the reason for this new definition?

  • Public facilities will no longer have measurable decibel limits on noise-generating equipment or activity, unless the activity is an organized concert. Concerts will have an 80 dB limit as measured at 50 feet. This is a reversal of the 1972 City Manager and City Council Approved standards for measuring noise in parks and other shared public spaces. Public facilities may not exceed 15 decibels above the ambient noise level as measured at 25 feet from the property line (note that residential and commercial property are allowed only 6 and 8 dB above the level). This will greatly increase the allowable noise levels at all public facilities for residential neighbors.

  • Cleaning of public streets, sidewalks, and parking lots in business districts and city parks may occur from 4 - 8 a.m. beginning July 1, 2001.

We believe it is wrong to write special interest legislation that benefits only one interest and which has the unintended consequence of affecting every City property in town and all residential units that surround those City properties. We suspect that this change was granted as a favor to the CSI Tennis Club to forestall complaints from neighbors.

Our belief: Noise should be measured objectively from its source. Period.

The ordinance has been passed; we think it should be revisited and revised. For more information, please contact Lynn Chiapella at lchiapella@juno.com.

of Issue

Status Of The Off-Leash Dogs Task Force
By Deborah Webb
The current law requires that dogs be kept on leash in all of the city's public places - including city-owned parks, open space and schoolyards. Some dog owners let their dogs off-leash in public places and disobey the law because they feel that this law is too restrictive.

The City began enforcing the leash law after receiving complaints from residents about unruly dogs. The crackdown caused an outcry among dog owners, who said they need city park space to exercise their dogs without leashes.

A series of public meetings in 1999 sponsored by the City of Palo Alto to reach a consensus on changing this law uncovered a polarized debate.

The Off-Leash Dogs Task Force was formed and charged with producing a compromise to Palo Alto's leash law dilemma. Meetings began in August 1999, for a total of seven meetings. Assistant Police Chief Lynne Johnson and Animal Control Superintendent Sandi Stadler co-chaired the meetings.

After much negotiation and research, several Task Force members agreed to allowing dogs to run free in five parks during restricted hours for an initial trial period. The parks considered were Bol, Peers, Eleanor Pardee, El Camino and Seale. The hours designated as off-leash would have been in the early morning or after dusk.

However, the proposed compromise was unsatisfactory to other members of the group, who wanted a wider range of parks and hours. They felt that the proposed compromise was needlessly restrictive.

In the end, no consensus could be reached and the Task Force was dissolved on February 2. Assistant Police Chief Lynne Johnson is working on a recommended leash law solution, which will likely be presented to council sometime after May 1.

of Issue

Leadership Midpeninsula Is Organizing the Class of 2001
By Annette Ashton
Leadership Midpeninsula is starting the process to build the Class of 2001. We invite you to learn more about the organization. We plan three informational meetings in April as follows:
Monday April 17th - noon at the Menlo Park Chamber of Commerce, 1100 Merrill

Tuesday April 18th - 5:30 PM at the Palo Alto Mitchell Park Community Center, 3800 Middlefield Road

Thursday April 20th - 7:30 PM at the East Palo Alto City Hall Council Chambers, 2415 University Ave.

Channel 6/77 Video

This year we have produced a half hour video to give viewers a chance to hear from several alumni and experience a typical exercise from a program day. This video will be aired:
Channel 6Channel 77
4/3 at 8 PM4/5 at 11:35 PM
4/8 at 9 PM4/10 at 7:35 PM
4/17 at 11:30 PM4/18 at 6:05 PM

About Leadership Midpeninsula

Leadership Midpeninsula, a program of the Palo Alto Chamber of Commerce, works to build collaborative leadership in East Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Palo Alto, and surrounding communities by developing effective local leaders.

Leadership Midpeninsula offers ten monthly seminars that develop leadership skills and provide information about community issues. The program seeks to reduce barriers and strengthen community bonds by bringing together ethnically and professionally diverse individuals with a common interest in the peninsula communities in which they live and work.

Participant Profile

Each year, 32 new or emerging leaders are accepted into the LM program. The participants who live and work in the midpeninsula are culturally, geographically, and professionally diverse. They are employed by corporations, small businesses, school districts, municipalities, and non-profit organizations. They range in age from 21 to 70 years. Many have extensive experience as volunteers while others are taking their first steps into community service.

All participants share a common interest in learning about issues facing the Midpeninsula, in reducing barriers between groups, and in strengthening community bonds.

Program Description

Leadership Midpeninsula provides skills training in effective lobbying, working with people from differing cultural backgrounds, and how to manage meetings more effectively.

There are three parts to the program:

  1. Ten monthly seminars develop leadership skills and provide information about such topics as developing economic vitality exploring power and public policy, and creating sustainable communities.
  2. Multiple team meetings take place with other class members and alumni mentors who work cooperatively to plan a monthly seminar. Participants take ownership for a day's program.
  3. Leadership theories and current topics of community concern are explored and discussed.

In addition to working with their peers, participants interact with local notables and experts. Business leaders, local council members and commissioners, and directors of non-profit organizations join in panel and group discussions.

Applications for the Class of 2001 are due May 19th. For more information, attend one of the informational meetings, or call Phillip Kilbridge at the Leadership Midpeninsula office at 324-3126.

of Issue

NeighborSpace Has People Talking
Learn about airport operations and register your concerns at the following Palo Alto public meeting:
Thursday, April 27, from 7-10 p.m.
Palo Alto Arts Center, 1313 Newell Road

Representatives from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the major commercial airports, and several regional planning agencies will attend the meeting to provide information about airport operations and how Bay Area airspace is managed. The focus of the meeting will be on noise associated with the three major commercial airports: San Francisco, Oakland, and San Jose. This particular meeting will not address noise associated with the region's smaller general aviation airports. There will be ample opportunity for public questions and comments.

The meeting is sponsored by the Regional Airport Planning Committee (RAPC), a joint planning committee of the Association of Bay Area Governments, the City of Palo Alto Transportation Division, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, and the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission. RAPC has no authority over aircraft noise, but is hosting this meeting to provide a forum where the public's concerns can be aired and directed to the agencies that share this responsibility.

Call the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) at 510/464-8493 or visit ABAG's website at http://www.abag.ca.gov for more information.

of Issue
  Back to Newsletter
  Return to
MRA Home Page