Summer 2002 Newsletter

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From the Chair
Storm Drains
Matadero/Barron Creek Remediation Project
Traffic Update
Keeping Midtown Clean
Midtown Residents Association Welcomes New Tenants
Telecommunications Towers In Midtown
MRA Call For Committee Members
Membership - Show Your Support

FROM THE CHAIR -- Annette Ashton
The last few months have seen much success in Midtown. We have made progress in getting the long awaited traffic light for the Midtown Center, all possible locations will be filled soon with retail tenants, and work is in progress to beautify Midtown. We welcomed our first public art mural and worked effectively with the water district to lower the planned height of walls along the Matadero Creek required for the 100 year flood remediation project (see the detailed report.)

There is more work to do. MRA is developing bylaws that will be presented for approval at a future fleeting. We are working on plans for disaster preparedness -- what can each household do to be prepared in the immediate minutes after a disaster. Another area of focus is working more closely with our business merchants.

Midtown has led the way to build the new coalition of Palo Alto Neighbors (PAN). This collaborative voluntary effort of 17 neighborhoods has as its goals: 1) share experiences and expertise on city issues, 2) support key neighborhood issues/priorities 3) exchange information and 4) work to improve communications between residents and council and staff. PAN has already been a benefit to Midtown -- we worked closely with Barron Park to accomplish our mutual goals of protection against a 100-year flood. We, in turn, are supporting Charleston Meadows to make sure that development in south Palo Alto is done in a thoughtful, neighborhood-centric way.

Thanks to everyone for your suggestions, comments and participation. For our fall general meeting, we would like to hear from you -- what topics or speaker would you come to? See the upcoming events!

Hope to see you at our General Meeting on July 30th at the Friends Meeting Hall.

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STORM DRAINS -- Stepheny McGraw, Storm Drain Committee
Why think about storm drains in the summer? And what is it that the drains do, besides house the neighborhood raccoons? Storm drains prevent puddling and flooding by collecting surface water runoff and carrying it to the creeks, which then carry the runoff directly to the bay. Storm drains are separate from the sanitary sewer system connections that collect wastewater from plumbing in residences and commercial buildings and convey it to a treatment plant before releasing it to the bay.

Despite the experience of flooding in 1998, voters rejected a proposal in 2000 to upgrade our present storm drain structure. At least 15 of your fellow Palo Alto residents, with the support of the city staff, are looking in to what needs to be done with our present storm drain system and how this should be funded. The Storm Drain Commission, which meets every other Friday morning, through October 4, is seeking input from residents about their experiences and concerns.

Should we concentrate on an infrastructure which prioritizes clear roadways or should we focus instead or preventing the flooding of homes? Should we fund all the recommended upgrades -- which could carry a price tag of up to $75 million -- or should we look at a less than perfect, but cheaper solution? Please let us hear from you.

Stepheny at

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Sheri Furman, Chair Creek Committee
The Matadero Creek Outcome - Something for Everyone. On June 19, the Matadero Creek Committee cosponsored a stakeholders meeting with the Santa Clara Valley Water District to discuss alternatives to the proposed flood and headwall heights proposed by the Districts DEIR for the Matadero/Barron Creeks Long Term Remediation Project.

We had 27 attendees representing eight different groups, including Mayor Ojakian, Vice-Mayor Mossar, Councilpersons Freeman and Lytle, County Supervisor Kniss, Glenn Roberts and Joe Teresi from Public Works, SCVWD Supervisor Zlotnick, and a dozen plus SC engineers and consultants. Although most of the alternatives were dismissed as either impractical or too costly, we did achieve significant results in reducing the wall heights. The main reason for the seemingly excessive wall heights is a FEMA requirement for walls 3-2 feet higher than a waterway's maximum expected flow (to FEMA, Matadero is the same as the Mississippi).

The District submitted a risk-based statistical analysis for reducing the wall height requirements, which FEMA approved. This is the first non-Federal case EVER approved by FEMA -- a real coup for the SCVV as well as a benefit to us. It's also a positive outcome for residents west of Ross Road -- flood protection and no more flood insurance. The outcome:
Downstream Greer 3.1 feet 5.7 feet 3.8 feet
Upstream Greer 3.8 feet 6.6 feet 5.0 feet
Downstream Louis 2.2 feet 4+ feet 2.2 feet
Upstream Louis 2.8 feet 4.8 feet 4.3 feet
Upstream Waverley 2.2 feet 3.7 feet 3.8 feet

Temporary floodwalls were also deemed acceptable to FEMA, although with the lowered wall heights, they may no longer be necessary. Of course, it's not all sunshine and lollipops. We still face major disruptions from the project -- the Louis bridge will be demolished and the road raised a foot, floodwalls will be built up, traffic will be impacted. We will however, continue to work with the City and Water District to mitigate disruptions as much as possible.

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TRAFFIC UPDATE -- Deborah Webb, Chair Traffic Action Committee
Middlefield Road is to be reconfigured to improve traffic safety and traffic flow. Phase One is to install a traffic light at the Longs/Bryson intersection and remove the existing pedestrian signal near Moreno. Phase Two is the reconfiguration of Middlefield between Colorado Avenue and Oregon Expressway to one through lane in each direction, with center left turn pockets.

Palo Alto City Council adopted the budget for the next fiscal year (2002-2003) beginning July 1, 2002 in mid-June, which included the item for the proposed new traffic signal at the Longs/Bryson intersection. Funding for this signal is now assured.

Prior to submitting this item for budget approval, the City Planning and Transportation Department commissioned a complete analysis of the impact of this traffic light by TJKM Traffic Consultants. This included the second phase reconfiguration of the roadway.

Grant money from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission funded a peer review of the TJKM analysis. This review suggested reducing the length of the section of Middlefield to be reconfigured to one through lane in each direction, due to the need for added space on Middlefield near Oregon for cars waiting for the traffic signal to change at Oregon.

Phase Two reconfiguration of Middlefield Road is targeted to be included in the capital improvements program list for fiscal year 2003-2004 (which begins July I, 2003), pending review and approval by the Planning and Transportation Department as well as subsequent City Council review and adoption as pad of the fiscal year 2003-2004 budget.

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KEEPING MIDTOWN CLEAN -- Mimi Wolf, Chair Beautify Midtown Committee
The MRA Beautification Committee is working on several issues to maintain the quality of life of Midtown. When you're shopping at Safeway or the 7 Eleven, be sure to notice the bus stop shelter facing Colorado Avenue. Safeway and the City of Palo Alto were contacted concerning the deplorable condition of this bus stop. Safeway quickly complied by repairing the bench and replacing the shelter. Many thanks to Safeway for making an attractive, safe, and more comfortable place for transit riders to wait.

We are working with the property and business owners in the Midtown Shopping District to make sure that the property is maintained, that adequate trash receptacles are provided, and that the structure of the buildings is up to code.

If you have questions concerning these issues or would like to volunteer your time to help keep Midtown beautiful, please contact Mimi Wolf at (650) 327-1533.

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Classy Salon -- Full Service Hair and Nails, next to Holiday Cleaners.

Pommard Deli will open a Mexican Cafe/Restaurant called Como Estas on the Middlefield frontage of the old Co-op.

Skye Creative Group -- Printing & moving images in film, video and 3D animation, upstairs from Best Video.

TL Salon -- Hair and Nails; next to Papa Murphy's - owner formerly at Larry Wells, open July 3rd, grand opening 7/13.

X C'lent Real Estate -- Real Estate Sales - located on Colorado.

Other -- We hear that an Asian take-out will locate next to TL Salon.

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Sprint/PCS is in the process of submitting an application to the city for a telecommunications tower on the roof of Longs. MRA has arranged a community meeting so that SPRINT/PCS can present you with the details and answer your questions. It will be at knOwhere (2741 Middlefield) on Thursday July 25th at 6:00PM. See photos of proposal.

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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

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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

If you change your email, please let us know so you can continue to receive the news.

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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 represent your issues to council, staff and the city commissions. There is strength in numbers! Join us! Thanks to our current members! If you haven't joined, 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, fill out the membership form and send it with $10 to our treasurer, Sylvia Gartner.

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