Midtown News
Winter 2004 Newsletter

FROM THE CHAIR - Annette Ashton
A Happy, Healthy and Prosperous New Year to All!

Thanks for your membership, suggestions and participation in the Midtown Residents Association (MRA).
Let's take time to look back on our mutual successes and look ahead for MRA's ambitious plans.
It has been a year of many successes for Midtown. Here are some highlights.

Meetings, Meetings, Meetings - We held a lot of these, both ourselves and with others.

  First General MRA Meeting of 2003 -- Topic: the Budget deficit! Featured speakers were our City Manager Frank Benest and our County Supervisor, Liz Kniss.
  Palo Alto REDI Meeting -- MRA co-sponsored the meeting to discuss mobilization for emergency preparedness.
  Emergency Preparation Session -- MRA and the Red Cross presented a session for El Carmelo School parents.
  Midtown General Meeting -- "Traffic Talk"
  Budget Discussion -- Mayor Mossar, City Manager Benest, and Council Member Morton hosted a discussion at the Palo Alto Café.
  Special Interest Meeting on Matadero Creek Work -- Presenters were Santa Clara Valley Water District, Public Works, and the contractor - William P Young.
  Hoover Park Improvement Project -- MRA hosted the City of Palo Alto Community Services Department to discuss and get feedback on the project, whose goal is to upgrade the playground equipment for safety and access.
  "Preparing for the Unexpected" -- MRA and the Red Cross discussed the Midtown & City effort to get prepared for emergencies/disasters.
  City Wide Retail Forum -- MRA helped organize and co-sponsor this forum. Over 200 folks responded to our first online survey about their retail need and shopping patterns. The purpose of the forum was to discuss what steps we can take to identify what we should do to attract and retain the right mix of retailers to Palo Alto so our residents can/will shop locally, provide profitability and stability for our merchants and property owners, and ensure continued sales tax revenue to the City. This well-attended event was broadcast on Community Television.
  Blood Drive -- MRA co-sponsored with the Ross Road YMCA.
  Fourth Annual Ice Cream & Issues Social at Hoover Park -- Over 150 folks enjoyed ice cream provided by Longs Drug Store. We had candidates for the School Board and Council as well as the Midtown Steering Committee. We offered you a chance to talk with representatives from both sides of the 2 election measures - 800 High and Fluoridation in water of Palo Alto as well as Tomato Tasting, Face Painting, and Folk Singing.
  South Palo Alto City Council Candidate Forum -- MRA helped organize and co-sponsor the very successful forum at Mitchell Park Community Center. This was broadcast on the Stanford station - KZSU 90.1. The process included a survey for the City Council with 14 hard-hitting questions, and responses were on our web site.
  Election Measures Debate -- MRA hosted (co-sponsored by Palo Alto Neighborhoods) the only live debate on the two election measures - Fluoride & 800 High.
MRA would like to hear from you. What topic(s) should we address in 2004 at our general meetings?

We created a survey to get your feedback about Midtown (see pages 3&4 for the full survey results) to determine how to focus our 2004 efforts.
The results helped us develop key areas of: Traffic, Midtown Center, Growing Membership in Midtown and Greeting New Residents, Telling the History of Midtown through the eyes of those who were here! A booklet will be produced when we have a goodly number of stories. Other areas that you expressed an interest in were Emergency Preparation, Art in Midtown, Supporting Our Seniors, Midtown Parks and the Midtown Gardens.

CITY COUNCIL RULINGS that Affected Midtown
Midtown Traffic Light - On Monday May 19, the City Council approved the installation of a traffic light at the 4th most dangerous intersection in Palo Alto on Middlefield at Midtown Centre. The Midtown Residents Association has been working on this since 1995! The installation is planned for early 2004.
Traffic Circle - February/March 2003, Residents living in the area of Moreno and Indian Drive were concerned about drivers using Indian as a shortcut to avoid the traffic light at Greer and Oregon Expressway. Under the city's Neighborhood Traffic Calming Program, a traffic circle, lead-up barriers and speed bumps were installed.
In September, the City approved the Matadero Creek bypass plan. As a result, 450 homeowners west of Alma Street and south of Matadero Creek will no longer have to buy expensive flood insurance. Another 4,000 homes will have their flood danger greatly reduced by the bypass channel.
Midtown/Charleston Ground Floor Retail - On April 14 the Ground Floor Retail Ordinance was made permanent.
Charleston Corridor Study - Council passed a comprehensive traffic study for the south Palo Alto Charleston Corridor This area includes 1/2 mile either side of Charleston. Alma Plaza is covered in this loop. The council directed staff to complete the effort by January 2004. Plans for Alma Plaza were placed on the back burner until the study is complete.

As we begin our New Year afresh, there is plenty to celebrate! Although shrouded in the cloak of economic despair, our great city, thanks to our many involved citizens, has continued to move forward (pace debates aside). Two projects important to many Midtown residents are the Matadero Creek channel diversion and traffic patterns in the Midtown retail area..
Good-bye flood insurance!.
Working jointly with the Santa Clara Valley Water District, Palo Alto approved a new flood control channel that will be constructed in the baylands, running from the 101 Matadero Creek underpass, adjacent to the Municipal Services Center, cascading into the salt marshes and finally into the bay. Although made of cement to accommodate heavy machinery that may be used for periodic clean ups, the City Council worked diligently to assure the best possible environmental and aesthetic solution. It is our understanding that within 5 years of vegetative growth, the channel will be camouflaged. The good news is that, when the channel is built, over 400 homes will be removed from the FEMA flood plain designation and will not have to pay flood insurance any more! And there s more hopeful news: the Water District and the City are evaluating the possibility of opening a bike path beside Matadero Creek, under the 101, creating easy creek side access to the baylands from Midtown..
Hello traffic flow!.
In 2003, the City Council majority agreed to add a traffic light in Midtown, on Middlefield at Bryson. With the light will come a right hand turn only lane into the shopping center parking lot. Although there will be three traffic lights within a short distance (the pedestrian light in front of Walgreen's, the new light at Bryson and the existing light at Colorado), the city transportation staff states that the traffic flow will be smoothed and both vehicular and pedestrian safety will be enhanced. After an installation vendor has been selected (approximately January 16) and the parts arrive, city staff expects construction to begin in February 2004.
These highlights, coupled with the impending opening of Como Estas, the finalization of the poetry wall, and the opening of 2 new retail stores - Travel Smith and Territory Ahead - give Midtown reason to smile. And I have reason to give thanks to the MANY Midtown residents who make things happen by staying active through civic participation.
Happy New Year to all!
Hillary Freeman has been a Council member for 2 years and is on the Santa Clara Valley Water District Flood Control Advisory Committee and is the council liaison to the Public Art Commission.

Back when you could see all the way to Highway 101 from Middlefield Road, Roxy Rapp remembers he and his friends used to build forts and make paths in the three-foot grass of the barley fields, prevalent in Midtown. There was a drive-in on Greer where the soccer fields are now.
They used to ride their bikes everywhere, over to Page Mill, which was a two-lane dirt road, and then over to Rizzotti's to get a coke. Your parents didn't know where you were, and didn't worry either, so long as you were home by sundown.
Families had one car, which husband and wife shared. Lou, Roxy's own father, walked from their home on Ross Road to work downtown. Highway 101, just three lanes back then, was known as Blood Alley. Drivers had to turn their lights on to signal that they were passing. People lived in Midtown and shopped here, too. Wives helped their husbands out at the store and everything was closed on Sundays.
This was Midtown in the late 1940's and early 1950's.
Midtown Center had the Golden State Creamery, which pasteurized milk on the premises and the Purity Supreme, with its trademark Quonset hut shape from World War II where Walgreen's is now. Duca and Hanley's was the market then and up until the late 1980's when it morphed into Longs. Back then, Dr. Defeo used to hire kids to pick the apricots in his orchard. He grew pears, too, but he didn't sell them. The first family to have a TV set lived on the corner by Ross and Moreno. They used to rig it up with a big magnifying glass and a color filter to make the picture larger and add color.

Before Safeway, A & W Root Beer was there. Roxy said they used to make the root beer with sassafras. Standard Pipe Factory stood where the Winter Lodge is now and Hoover School occupied the site where the apartments are today, next to Coldwell Banker which itself used to be Cornish and Carey. The first and second grade shared the same classroom. Block parties, progressive dinners, the neighborhood and its families were close. When someone was sick, everyone helped. Sid Worthington taught folk dancing and square dancing and then the Beaudoins began teaching ballroom dancing and cotillion over on Colorado. Lou Rapp coached Little League and passed along to the kids the skills he had mastered as a semi-pro in baseball. He later built furniture for their house on Ross Road, using the skills he learned in Palo Alto Adult Education.

Roxy's dad Lou had Rapps' Shoes in downtown for years. Now, Roxy carries on the family tradition of clothing stores with two new additions to Midtown: The Territory Ahead and Travel Smith, which opened this week at the former KnoWhere site, which itself used to house Bergman's Department Store.

Things change and somehow they still stay much the same.

Results and comments are available on the MRA website.

The 6 winners of the Midtown/Walgreens poetry competition were Ron LeBlanc, Elizabeth Mittmann, Liz Cowie, Janice Dabney, Amelia Saliba and Sharon Olson from over 100 entries. The poetry made the selection team smile, laugh and even get a bit teary eyed. Due to delayed contract negotiations, the work will start in early 2004 after the rains.
Holiday Cleaners sports a new mural by artist Kim Domino, which is a village scene of the center.
The Midtown Art Committee is working on bringing a small but powerful and fun mural to Midtown by a favorite Palo Alto artist. No guarantees, but this is our 2004 project.
The creek overpasses on Louis and Greer Roads now sport raised sidewalks and decorative railings:

May - Community Journal featured an update on the Matadero Creek flood control work
August - the Neighborhood Retail Forum was shown on community television
December - Community Journal showed you "What was cooking for Christmas in Midtown at Red Box Culinary"

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! Also we hope that you can fill out the enclosed survey and send it back to us so we can more appropriately represent you!
Everyone 18 and over living in Midtown is invited to become a supporting member of the Midtown Residents Association (MRA). We rely on your voluntary donations to keep you informed and to fund mailings as meeting announcements and invitations to our annual "Ice Cream and Issues" social as well as other MRA activities. If you haven't gotten around to contributing in the past, now is a great time to do it! If you've given in the past, you are more than welcome to give again!

Annual Membership is $10. Please note that the date on your mailing label is the date you last paid. To pay, send your check made out to MRA to our treasurer, Sylvia Gartner. Or pay your membership online. (see membership form). If you aren't subscribing to the twice a month "news you can use", and you would like to keep up-to-date on Midtown Matters, just send a note to MidtownNews@att.net

Questions, comments or suggestions for future neighborhood updates are welcome, just contact the editor at sheri11@earthlink.net.

If you have concerns or questions you'd like to share with the MRA Steering Committee, just send a message to annette_g@att.net or 321-1280.

Lanier Benkard Cherie & Bob Donald Brendan Rankin & Pilar Hsue
Flo Beaudoin Carol Feigenbaum John & Alex Russell
Annie Bedichek Pete & Janet Heilman Chris & Marilyn Sanchez
Maurice Bizzarri Martha Helseth Derek & Stephanie Smith
Ken & Heather Brownlee Mary Jackson Robin & Scott Susoeff
Deborah Buck Ken Klingman Elizabeth Taft
Dan Cohen & Candace Wilhelm David Labaree & Diane Churchill Mae & Jared Tinklenberg
Howard & Barbara Cohen Felix Natis Jianye Wen & Helen Li
Ann Crichton Palo Verde School Allen & Mary Lu Wood


Friends Meeting Hall - 957 Colorado
7:00 PM - Doors Open at 6:30 PM

  *  Celebration of Poetry Wall, Recognition of Winning Poets
      & Reading of the Winning Poems
*  Middlefield Traffic Light Ribbon Cutting
*  April - Preparing for an Earthquake and Other Emergencies
*  September - Fifth Annual Ice Cream & Issues

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