|March 1998 Newsletter|
|General Meeting -- What's New in Midtown?|
|Come Plant Trees near Ohlone School, Sat. March 28|
|Can We "Save" our Neighborhood?|
|Matadero Flood Control Project Status|
|Pac Bell Appeals Midtown PCS Antenna|
|Airplane Noise and Oregon-101 On-Ramp Safety|
|Should Leafblowers Be Banned?|
|Bringing Fiber to the Community Center Neighborhood|
|MRA Membership News|
All Midtown residents are invited to a "neighborhood update" meeting, sponsored by the Midtown Residents Association, and held at the new Knowhere Store.
Topics on the agenda include:
After this, our hosts at the Knowhere Store—which specializes in providing an environment where business teams can work on designing new products, for example—will allow us to use their space and equipment to break into small groups for discussion. Issues raised by the groups will be shared with everyone at the end of the meeting, and action plans may be created if there is strong support among the meeting participants.
Please plan to join us! Call Debbie Mytels, MRA Chair, if you have any questions: 856-7580.
Canopy, Palo Alto's volunteer urban forestry group, will be planting neighborhood street trees in the West Bayshore/Ohlone School area on Saturday, March 28 from 8:30 a.m. until 12:00 noon. If you'd like to help plant, please call Debbie Mytels at the Canopy office: 964-6110.
If you're interested in working with Canopy to plant more street trees in YOUR section of Midtown, please call Canopy. Neighborhood coordinators and tree ambassadors are needed to scout out locations and talk with residents about tree choices. One group is forming to plant trees next fall around Bryant Street. Others are welcome to get involved!
Also, Canopy will again start up the OakWell project this spring and summer to inventory the number of oak trees in Palo Alto. This project involves walking block-by-block, identifying oak trees and marking their location on a map. Volunteers can learn what to do at one of two training sessions: Tuesday, April 14 at 4:00 p.m. or Saturday, April 18 at 10:00 a.m. Call the Canopy office, 964-6110, for more information.
by George Stern
Since last year's March meeting, a small group of Midtown residents has been getting together regularly to develop proposals to shape and influence development in our neighborhood. Many of us have been concerned about large, lot-filling houses that interfere with the privacy, sunlight and ambiance of existing homes. With prosperity and demand rising, Midtown has become a primary location for tear downs and new construction.
The challenge has been to maintain and improve the quality of our neighborhood, while being fair to those with a legitimate interest in new housing. After many months of study and discussion, our group is close to finalizing a series of detailed recommendations to modify building requirements in our area—possibly in all of Palo Alto.
These recommendations, which incorporate the concerns raised by many Midtowners last March, are preliminary. Generally they involve suggested ways to revise the rules related to setbacks, floor area ratios, lot coverage, "daylight plane," height, neighborhood notification, and design review. Obviously any changes to the current rules would be controversial and draw criticism from various quarters, but we believe that reasonable changes can be made without hurting others.
On a parallel front, a group of 36 "stakeholders" in the housing development process—builders, homeowners, renters, architects, developers, historians, city officials and others—have been meeting to define the specific problems raised by brisk residential development in Palo Alto. The group's report, called "The Future of Residential Development in Palo Alto" will be officially presented to the City Council at its March 23rd meeting and has been used as the basis for a Council motion to direct the City's planning staff towards reconsideration of Palo Alto's R-1 building ordinances.
For more information, contact Annette Ashton at 321-1280 or by email at email@example.com.
The following information is from a status report on Matadero and Barron Creeks, dated February 17, 1998. Detailed information is available on the Santa Clara Valley Water District web site (www.scvwd.dst.ca.us) Under "Hot Topics." The SCVWD will be scheduling a resident's meeting in late spring or summer.
"The Water Resources Management Group has recently completed its planning analysis and identified five alternatives for consideration and selection of a long-term channel retrofit plan for Matadero/Barron Creeks. All of the five alternatives are based on channel structural modifications to the existing Matadero Creek channel facilities between Greer Road and El Camino Real.
"Staff has tentatively selected a preferred alternative for further analysis to facilitate its final selection of the long-term plan subject to appropriate California Environmental Quality Act review. The proposed modifications for this preferred alternative will require extensive channel deepening and widening along approximately 6,500 lineal feet of the channel and raising of the existing floodwalls for an approximate length of 12,000 lineal feet."
"The environmental process is anticipated to take approximately 6 months and the environmental document would build upon the approved Matadero Creek 1988 Negative Declaration with the project focused on the redesign area. Each of the proposed alternatives will require at least 2 years to complete construction. The reasons for the longer construction time frames are mainly due to the seasonal restriction to creek access by the regulatory agencies, extent of work, and anticipated dewatering problems of the groundwater."
"To take advantage of the construction season this fall, the environmental compliance process, public input and acceptance, and the design work are proceeding concurrently. Based on this construction schedule, the construction for the entire retrofit project is anticipated to be complete by the end of 1999."
by Roland Van Houten
On January 29 Lisa Grote, the City’s zoning Administrator turned down Pac Bell’s application for a use permit and variance to install a PCS antenna in Midtown at the Community Cross Roads church on the corner of Middlefield and Marion Ave. Pacific Bell Mobile Systems (PBMS) promptly appealed this decision to the Planning Commission. From the filing date in early February, the Planning Commission has 90 days to study the appeal and make a recommendation to the City Council who then have ten days to hear and rule on the matter.
Of Pac Bell’s existing transmission sites in Palo Alto, this project would be the first foothold in an R-1 residential zone. Pac Bell’s success in overturning Lisa Grote’s decision would seriously undermine R-1 zoning rules and would set a dangerous precedent for further intrusions into residential neighborhoods.
Being successful means a lot of profit to Pac Bell’s parent company SBC which is located in Texas. SBC owns not only Pac Bell, but also Cellular One. Both these wireless companies already have a substantial presence in Palo Alto and the Midtown antenna would set a precedence for expanding SBC’s total market share in Palo Alto.
To achieve their corporate objectives, Pac Bell seems willing to steamroll Midtown residents. By their appeal, Pac Bell appears ready to use their enormous political influence to convince our City Council to weaken R-1 zoning restrictions by allowing location of commercial transmitters in the midst of residential areas.
According to Pac Bell’s original permit application, they plan to increase their facilities by a third in our area. Since Palo Alto lacks a development policy on cellular antenna projects and since there are as many as 6 cellular companies competing for business, PCS antennas can proliferate unchecked.
Aside from this commercial encroachment, opponents of the PCS antenna are concerned about the impact from perceptions about health effects due to the antenna’s low level continuous emissions on property values. Real estate people have already indicated that the proximity of a PCS antenna would require disclosure, a sure sign that property values are influenced.
Midtown residents opposing this PCS antenna project, believe that this issue will touch residential neighborhoods at numerous locations throughout the City in the future and will adversely affect the quality of life in Palo Alto. This is clearly becoming a City-wide concern.
Antenna opponents suggest that this issue be addressed with a general City policy to control proliferation and future expansion of cellular transmission facilities and to monitor compliance with the policy. To minimize the impact on residential areas, these antennas should be required to co-locate in specially designated commercial/industrial corridors.
PCS antenna opponents in the Midtown area ask everyone who is concerned about keeping the residential character of our City’s neighborhoods to write or phone members of the Planning Commission and the City Council members. Please tell them that you oppose the Community Cross Roads Church’s PCS antenna because of its precedent setting impact on R-1 zoning. Also please demand that Palo Alto institute a development policy on such antennas which will protect its residents’ property values and preserve the character of its neighborhoods.
For more information, contact Roland Van Houten at 321-3217 or by email at RolandvH@aol.com.
Editor's note: Midtown resident Lori Shapiro would like to collect names of other Midtown neighbors concerned about two other local issues: airplane noise and safety at the Oregon-101 on-ramp. She is willing to get involved with the appropriate government agencies to express our concerns, but she needs to hear from you so that they will know that more people care about these issues. Her comments follow:
I would like to hear from others if they, too, have an issue with the both the tremendous amount and often constant noise level of both small plane and large plane travel over our vicinity. I moved to Palo Alto 11 years ago, and at that time, I did not experience this annoyance of sound. Had I known, at that time, that it would as bad as this, I would not have moved to this area, which had seemed like a quiet, safe community. Now all I hear is the constant sounds of planes, as if an air show was taking place over head, all day (particularly worse on the weekends). The noise level is even loud and disturbing at night. I am concerned that many of the planes are traveling much too low.
This has become quite nerve-wrecking for me, even while I am in my house with the windows closed. If there are others in this area that feel the same way, please contact me, or let me know what can be done about this. Lori Shapiro, 321-4194.
This is a safety issue, concerning the on-ramp going from Oregon Expressway and entering onto Highway 101. It seems like those cement barriers have been sitting on that on ramp for about half a year - and yet I never see any work being done there. The cement barriers make the on-ramp extremely narrow and dangerous. It is most difficult to maneuver that narrow turn (in even a regular sized car), and still keep an eye on traffic coming from the on-ramp from Embarcadero, as well as from Highway 101. This makes for a very dangerous situation! I also wonder how large trucks can even make that narrow turn. I'd like to suggest that we get to the heart of this matter and push for the finishing-up of this project (whatever this project was meant to accomplish?), so the cement barriers will finally be removed. And then we will finally have safer access onto Highway 101. Please call me to add your voice to the list of concerned local residents. Lori Shapiro, 321-4194.
This issue is on a front burner again. Would you help us assess Midtown Residents' views?
Please email your opinion to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can simply include the number of your choice in the subject line, for example "Leafblowers 4."
|Should Leafblowers Be Banned?|
|The following choice comes closest to my view on Leafblowers:|
|1||All powered leafblowers should be allowed in Palo Alto (as now).||2||All powered leafblowers should be banned in Palo Alto.||3||Only gasoline-powered leafblowers should be banned.||4||No opinion (leave the decision to others).|
The following was sent to the Community Center Neighborhood Association on February 20, 1998.
Neighbors, I was pleased to hear of your interest in joining forces with and supporting our group's plan to ask the City to bring fiber to a group of homes in the Community Center neighborhood area as both a test of their system and as a benefit to both the whole community and ourselves.
I have been asked to take on the task of pulling together the initial group and to write a draft of the letter to the City. I anticipate that we will have to have a total of about 60 possible connections to be constructed in two different phases.
Phase#1 would (tentatively) be connected along one strand of cable originating at the utility substation on Newell at Hopkins and extending about 2300 feet west down Parkinson, or the alley, or Harker to somewhere on Harriet with leads and electronic connections to it extending about 300 ft from the main fiber. Phase#2, the second fiber configuration route, has not yet been decided upon but we would try to bring it to where the residents in our group outside that initial configuration are located.
The homes would be connected via that stem and branches at an estimated ball park total cost of about $1200 each plus whatever in home electrical modifications might have to be made at the expense of the home owner. Once we have connected to the fiber ring, it is anticipated that a decision would already have been made by us, with the assistance of the City, to have a capable service provider in place to furnish access to the internet for a modest monthly charge of, say, $30 per month.
We would ask the City to help with financing by making available a reasonable time period for payment with modest interest charges as they do for undergrounding. Our expected cost could well be cheaper than undergrounding since most of the stringing of cable will be from the poles and little of it below ground through conduits.
What I need at the moment is a tentative commitment from as many households in our area as I can get before writing the letter to the City. If you are interested, would you also be willing to talk to some of your neighbors and see if we can't quickly put together our proposed group of sixty potential households?
Please e-mail me at the above address or call me at 321-2285. Thanks for your interest and support. / Marvin Lee 1241 Harker Ave. 94301 / for the Subcommittee on Fiber to the Home, Community Center Neighbors Association.
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