Midtown News - Fall 2002

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From the Chair
Louis Road Traffic Calming
Matadero Bridge Headwall Design Input Needed
Storm Drains & You
Public Meeting Regarding Traffic Configuration On Middlefield
Second Annual Ice Cream And Issues Social
Measure D- Library Bond Measure
Got Broadband
Membership - Show Your Support
Midtown Residents Association Welcomes New Members
MRA Call For Committee Members
Some Numbers You May Find Useful

Annette Ashton
What is the value of a neighborhood organization? There has been a lot of press lately about the pros and cons of a neighborhood association in our community life. Here's what we think:

First and foremost, the role of a neighborhood association is to build community by bringing volunteers together for the common good. The Midtown Residents Association is working to involve and to inform you on issues affecting our neighborhood. As you may recall, MRA was started in the early 90's when the Midtown Center was losing retail businesses at an alarming rate. While developing strategies to halt this loss of convenient, local merchants, we adopted several shared values for the association. They are:

  • Neighborhood serving retail
  • Pedestrian, bicycle and vehicle safety
  • Retail variety and convenience
  • Sponsoring a sense of community for the people who live in Midtown

As with many neighborhood associations in town, we have tried to understand our neighbors and what issues are relevant to you. Our membership is growing, and we do our best to be responsive on issues in which you are interested.

We publish a printed newsletter 3 times a year, send colored postcard announcements for events, and also provide an email service called E-News twice a month that gets the word out in a very timely manner about what's happening that affects Midtown. We host general meetings on topics of interest such as traffic, crime prevention, and canidates forums close to City Council elections. In the fall, we organize an ice cream and issues social gathering at Hoover Park to give you an opportunity to meet and question members of MRA committees, as well as some City Council members. This is also a great time to meet your neighbors!

When appropriate, we have advocated on your behalf and supported you on city issues. If there isn't a clear neighborhood consensus regarding an issue, we try to inform you about both sides of that issue. We continue to evolve. We have learned a lot collaborating with other neighborhoods, supporting them on shared issues and having their support for issues affecting Midtown. We are in the process of developing more formal by-laws, which will be presented later this year. We are excited about holding an upcoming emergency preparedness event.

Many of us have our hands full just juggling careers and raising children. For those who have some time to devote to neighborhood issues, MRA is a great place to be! MRA hopes to strengthen the sense of community in Midtown and move forward with our shared values to tackle problems that may seem insurmountable. The critical factor in our success in meeting our goals is YOU. We need your input, and we need your support We invite you to come to our meetings, share your ideas and participate by joining one of our committees.

Hope to see you at our Ice Cream and Issues Social on October 19th at Hoover Park. Tell your neighbors.

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Joe Kott, Chief Transportation Official, City of Palo Alto
The Transportation Division has received a range of citizen comment, pro and concerning the Louis Road traffic calming project. Many citizen comments about the trial measures have been critical, including concerns that the speed cushions are too jolting, that some drivers attempt to evade them by veering into the bicycle lanes, and that the devices reduce vehicle speeds to too low a level. Others praise the measures for reducing the incidence of speeding on Louis Road.

The Louis Road traffic calming project trial, which began on 12 July, is taking place under the Council-adopted Neighborhood Traffic Calming program. The demonstration project was initiated at the request of residents of Louis Road from Charleston Road to East Meadow, who voted 82% in favor of the trial. The trial was recommended by the Planning and Transportation Commission after a public hearing and was approved by decision of the Director of Planning and Community Environment in accordance with the Neighborhood Traffic Calming guidelines (see http:/Iwww.city.palo-alto.ca.us/ntcp/).

Palo Alto does not make any traffic calming projects permanent until they have undergone a trial and have been evaluated. The Louis Road traffic calming measures are meant to address the problem of prevailing vehicle speeds of 35 mph, 10 mph above the legal speed limit. The use of physical measures such as the tightened curb radius on the northeast corner of the Charleston and Louis intersection, the raised center median "chatter bars" near this intersection, and five sets of "speed cushions" (their trade name) is meant to provide cost-effective and around the clock speeding countermeasures.

There are several possible outcomes of the Louis Road traffic calming trial. One is removal of either the speed cushions or the intersection treatment or both. Another is modifications of the speed cushions to make the approaches to them more gentle and to reduce the width of the gap between those in the bicycle lanes to eliminate the need and opportunity for motorists to encroach on the bicycle lanes. A third is to leave the traffic calming measures in place permanently. In view of the concerns about the effect of the speed cushions on driver behavior, the Transportation Division has shortened the trial period from four months to three, which is the minimum amount of time required for full evaluation of results. Both traffic data and resident opinion will be presented at the Planning and Transportation Commission (PT&C) meeting on October 16th Here's the timetine for the remainder of the Louis Road traffic calming trial:

  1. by September 18th opinion survey ballots will be mailed out to both Louis Road residents and residents of the wider neighborhood. Options will be a) make Louis Road traffic calming project permanent (with some minor modifications as will be described in a transmittal letter), b) remove the traffic calming measures and end the trial, and c) modify the speed cushions now in place to more gentle "speed tables" and undertake a new trial.
  2. by late September all data collection for the trial evaluation will be completed, including before and after traffic volume counts on Louis, before and after Louis Road vehicle speeds, Louis Road accident history before and after the trial, and opinions of the Palo Alto Fire and Police Depts, VTA, and PASCO on the navigability of the traffic calming measures in place. 3) The PT&C wilt hold a public hearing on October 16th to recommend making the trial permanent; ending the trial; or perhaps starting a new trial by replacing the speed cushions with speed tables. The PT&C's recommendation then goes to the Director of Planning and Community Environment who has authority to a) end the trial or b) authorize a new trial (should Louis Road residents wish) of other measures (e.g. speed tables). Only City Council is empowered make a traffic calming trial on a collector street permanent.

Why consider physical measures? Traffic safety experts, including California's own Office of Traffic Safety stress the importance of traffic enforcement, traffic engineering, and traffic safety education in any effective program to improve safety for all road users. Palo Alto has more than 1,000 stop and signal-controlled intersections (intersections and their environs are where most accidents occur). It would be nearly impossible for Palo Alto to ever deploy enough police to effectively monitor all these locations as well as all the other intersections and the street sections between them. Physical measures to inhibit speeding can be "twenty-four seven" patrol officers that greatly supplement our police resources.

Why worry about speeding on residential streets? An important recent study at the Monash University Accident Research Centre in Melbourne, Australia, concluded that an average 10% reduction in vehicle travel speeds would reduce road deaths by 36% in that country and that a 5 kilometer per hour (roughly 3.25 mph) reduction in average urban travel speeds would reduce pedestrian deaths by 32%. These are good reasons to work for road safety.

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Sheri Furman, Chair Creek Committee
On September 5, the Santa Clara County Valley Water District presented the design features of the Matadero Creek Remediation Project to a group of Midtown neighbors most affected by the project. Topics included construction of the downstream bypass channel east of 101, construction impacts upstream of 101, replacement of the Louis Road bridge, floodwall raising, and landscape mitigation. For slides from this presentation, see http://www.mimi.com/mra/creek/meet0905.htm.

One area of controversy is what the new bridge headwalls (at Greer, Louis and Waverley) should look like. Do we want plain concrete? A stonework facade? An inlaid design? Do we want a different design for each bridge to reflect the surrounding neighborhood? The MRA will provide two opportunities for you to give us your feedback and ideas. The artist commissioned by the District will create some sketches of possible options that we can discuss at the following events:

  • MRA Ice Cream Issues Social - Saturday, October 19 - 2:00-4:00 PM - Hoover Park
  • Bridge Design Meeting - Tuesday, October 29 - 7:00 PM - Location to be announced

If you are interested in participating in the process or have any questions, please email Annette Ashton at Annette_G@att.net so we can plan the venue. Those of you who live next the bridges themselves are strongly encouraged to attend one of these meetings, since you will be looking at the ultimate design for many years to come!

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Stepheny McGraw, representative to the Storm Drain Blue Ribbon Committee
The Storm Drain Committee is composed of residents, business representatives, and community leaders. They are working with the City staff & developing community-based recommendations to present to the City Manager, Frank Benest. These recommendations will include the scope, size, and timing of a storm drain funding proposal. Any storm drain fee is considered a "property related fee" and must be approved by the majority of property owners under Proposition 218.

Storm Drain meetings are held every Friday from 8-10 am at the Art Center and are open to the public. For complete and detailed information, including a summary of recommeded projects, click on the city's web site http://www.city.palo-alto.ca.us/stormdrain/index.html. We will report in future Midtown News on this project, as more detail is available, and when the bond measure become complete. Please note, any funding decisions about storm drains is scheduled to be on the ballot for Palo Alto voters in the spring 2003 election.

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Joe Kott and David Stillman of the City of Palo Alto Transportation Division will be our featured speakers at a public forum to address safety on Middlefield Road at Midtown Centre. Please join us on Tuesday night, October 22th at 7:15 PM at knoWhere at 2741 Middlefield Road. As previously announced, City of Palo Alto budget approval has been granted for the fiscal year July 2002 to June 2003 for a new traffic light will be installed on Middlefield Road at Bryson (adjacent to Longs Drugs). For full details from the last announcement, please go to our website for the article at http://www.mimi.com/mra/newsltrs/summ02.htm#item4.

It has come to our attention that a flyer was distributed on car windshields a few weeks ago with concerns about the redesign of Middlefleld Road to accommodate this new traffic light. For the facts about this issue, come to the meeting sponsored by the MRA on October 22. Doors will open at 7:15 PM, and the meeting will start sharply at 7:30 PM.

Beginning of Issue

The Second Annual ICE CREAM AND ISSUES Social will be held Saturday October 19 at Hoover Park from 2:00 pm - 4:00 pm. No speeches, just great ice cream (provided through the generosity of Longs Drug Store in Midtown) and a chance to talk with MRA steering members and city Council members about your issues. Come, relax, and bring a friend.

We hope for sunshine, but are working on a contingency plan if it rains. We plan the following focus areas:

  • Art on Matadero Creek
  • "Chat Room" - tell us what's on your mind! What is your vision for Midtown in 10 years?
  • Emergency Preparedness
  • Mitchell Park Library and Community Center
  • Storm Drains - Latest News

Parking on Cowper is limited - Walk - Bike- Carpool. IF driving parking is available at Keyes School on Middlefield at the Creek. Walk through to the park.

Beginning of Issue

Sylvia Gartner
On November 5, 2002, the City of Palo Alto will ask voters to consider the issuance of general obligation bonds, payable from and secured by taxes levied and collected from Palo Alto property owners. These bonds are for capital improvements to community buildings; specifically: renovation and expansion of the Children's Library, renovation of the Secret Garden adjoining the Children's Library, rebuilding of the Mitchell Park Library, rebuilding of the Mitchell Park Community Center, and related landscaping and parking improvements. The improvements to Mitchell Park library are envisioned to meet contemporary and future library needs for the next 50 years.

There has been a fair amount of controversy about Measure D, the Library Bond issue, and MRA would recommend that you review the frequently asked questions on the city's web site: http:/Iwww.city.palo-alto.ca.us/manager/bond measure.html. Be sure to also click on the link for specific frequently asked questions about the planned Mitchell Park library improvements. We plan to have people on both sides of this issue available to answer questions at our Ice Cream and Issues event October 19. Whatever you decide, this is a very important issue affecting all Palo Alto residents; and we urge you to learn as much as you can and, most definitely, to vote on November 5.

Beginning of Issue

Mark Heyer
One year ago, City of Palo Alto Utilities initiated a trial of fiber optics to the home (FTTH), providing 70 households in the main library area with high speed Internet, telephone and television service. The system has performed flawlessly and now CPAU is considering expanding F1TH to all of Palo Alto - including Midtown! If approved by City Council, the system would be financed through long-term utility revenue bonds and would pay for itself without costing taxpayers a dime.

Surveys of Palo Alto citizens have shown great interest in having the city provide an information utility that is fast, and most important, RELIABLE. City of Palo Alto Utilities is widely trusted to step in and provide us with stable pricing, reliability and greater choice of television and telephone suppliers. If you would like to express your support for this valuable new utility service, contact Mark Heyer, at mark@heyertech.com.

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The Midtown Residents Association wants to represent you and your issues. We seek your feedback about our focus issues and ongoing programs. By becoming a member (and sending in your email if you have one) you enable us to work for you and present your issues to Council, staff and the city commissions. There is strength in numbers! Join us! Please note that your mailing label contains the date you last sent us a check for a one-year membership.

Many thanks to those who joined or renewed in the last few months! If you haven't yet joined, MRA membership is a bargain for $10/year. Your dues enable us to hold meetings, and fund our mailing of postcard announcements, newsletters and flyers. To join, just mail the attached card to our treasurer Sylvia Gartner. For current members, we invite you to share the newsletter and membership card with a neighbor.

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Jane Harris Vera Leung Kara and Bill Rosenberg
Sharon Fox Judy Kleinberg Gregg Spitler
Sharon and Frank Ingle Diane Means and Tom Slanger Toby Vanderbeek
Margo and Jack Lawrence Jennifer and Andy Mutz Ellen and Tom Wyman
Christine and Jonathan Leffler Rick Rairden  

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If you are interested in getting more involved in our Midtown Neighborhood, we have openings on several committees including Traffic, Events, Business Relations, and Beautify Midtown. For more information or questions, contact MRA Chair, Annette Ashton, at 321-1260 or AnnetteG@att.net.

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Keep informed on Midtown Happenings. Subscribe to Midtown enews. We also accept for publication brief announcements or newsworthy items. Send your news and your email address to MidtownNews@ATT.NET. If you change your email, please let us know so you can continue to receive the news!

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  • To obtain telephone numbers for City Government Departments:
    Information - Voice of the city - Victoria Bosch 329-2100
  • Public Works Department: To report potholes for repair: Call with exact location - John Costa - 329-2276
  • Code Enforcement: To report code enforcement issues (noise, plant growth, abandoned vehicles) call Chris Fugimoto 329-2276
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