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T H E H O M E TOW N N E W S PA P E R F O R M E N L O PA R K , AT H E RTO N , P O RTO L A VA L L E Y A N D WO O D S I D E

MARCH 16, 2011

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W W W. T H E A L M A N AC O N L I N E . C O M

Too much tech?

Portola Valley school struggles to find the right balance of technology in the classroom ➢ Section 2

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Wednesday, March 16 Thursday, March 17

Photo by Michelle Le/The Almanac

New look Designer Natasha Kafai, left, and Katelynn Degnan, center, take one last look at model Laura Stelma before the green fashion show at Woodside High School on Friday, March 11. Natasha’s design won for most popular outfit among students.

Japanese firefighters fly back to Japan Twelve Japanese firefighters is next in line from the Western earthquake and tsunami, Chief who spent last week training Region to go to Japan if they are Schapelhouman said. with the Menlo Park Fire Pro- needed, the chief said. Teams from around the world tection District were able to fly The Japanese firefighters fin- come to Menlo Park’s training back to Japan on Friday and ished their training program facility, the Baylands StrucSaturday, March 11-12, accord- Friday and gathered at the Oasis tural Collapse Training Center, ing to district fire Chief Harold in Menlo Park to observe their located on the northern side of Schapelhouman. the Bayfront ExpressThere had been a way, along the western plan for two of them side of the Dumbarton The Japanese firefighters were to remain behind to Bridge behind a PG&E lay groundwork for electrical substation. temporarily stranded here after the another group of There they Thursday’s earthquake and tsunami in learn rescue operaJapanese firefighters coming in for traintions from its staff, Japan forced flights to be canceled. ing, but that training which has responded has been canceled, to disasters ranging Chief Schapelhouman said. graduation. They like American from floods to earthquakes to The Japanese firefighters were hamburgers, pizza and beer, and terrorist attacks, Chief Schapeltemporarily stranded here after throwing the peanut shells on houman said. Thursday’s earthquake and tsu- the floor, the chief said. “We take those lessons and nami in Japan forced flights to The graduation ceremony teach them not just what’s in a be canceled. and photographs sessions were book, but make it real for them,� A local urban search and res- “pretty emotional,� the chief he said. “We teach them to adapt cue team, known as Task Force said. and overcome situations, and 3, which includes firefighters Some of the trainees are from what they need to know before from the Menlo Park district, areas of Japan affected by the and during them.�

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THE ALMANAC (ISSN 1097-3095 and USPS 459370) is published every Wednesday by Embarcadero Media, 3525 Alameda de las Pulgas, Menlo Park, CA 940256558. Periodicals Postage Paid at Menlo Park, CA and at additional mailing offices. Adjudicated a newspaper of general circulation for San Mateo County, The Almanac is delivered free to homes in Menlo Park, Atherton, Portola Valley and Woodside. Subscriptions for $60 per year or $100 per 2 years are welcome. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to the Almanac, 3525 Alameda de las Pulgas, Menlo Park, CA 94025-6558. Copyright Š2010 by Embarcadero Media, All rights reserved. Reproduction without permission is strictly prohibited.

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March 16, 2011 N The Almanac N3

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WOODSIDE COMMUNITY RECREATION PROGRAM 2011 Schedule of Events & Classes Yoga Classes

Classes Run Year Round At Independence Hall & Woodside Village Church

Exercise Classes

Yoga – Weekday mornings and Wednesday evening. Exercise Classes – Monday & Friday mornings. Yoga Classes are currently filled…Call to be added to waiting list.

Events February - Broomball March –Adult Basketball April –June - W-Ball – 4-6 year olds

May 7th– May Day Fun Run June thru Aug. – Co-Ed Softball End of the Summer – Barn Dance

Numerous other fun events –

To register for classes & upcoming events: Call - Linda Martin – (Registrar) (650) 851-3534 For detailed information go to: www.WoodsideRec.com 4 N The Almanac NMarch 16, 2011

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Menlo Park grows while neighbors shrink ■ Census data for 2010 tracks demographic shifts in local towns. By Sandy Brundage Almanac Staff Writer

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hile Menlo Park’s population grew by 4 percent during the past 10 years, neighboring towns Atherton, Portola Valley, and Woodside lost residents, according to data released March 8. Saying he wasn’t sure if 4 percent was a large increase, Menlo Park Mayor Rich Cline suggested

Atherton Total Population Asian Black or African American Latino White

2010

2000

Change

6,914 911

7,194 -3.9% 704 +29.4%

75 268 5,565

50 +50.0% 200 +34.0% 6,141 -9.4%

Menlo Park 2010 2000 Change Total Population 32,026 30,785 +4.0% Asian 3,157 2,201 +43.4% Black or African American 1,551 2,163 -28.3% Latino 5,902 4,803 +22.9% White 22,494 22,274 +0.9%

Portola Valley Total Population Asian Black or African American Latino White

2010

2000

Change

4,353 242

4,462 -2.4% 178 +36.0%

12 175 3,960

18 -33.3% 149 +17.4% 4,146 -4.5%

Woodside Total Population Asian Black or African American Latino White

2010

2000

Change

5,287 332

5,352 -1.2% 267 +24.3%

23 243 4,717

20 +15.0% 232 +4.7% 4,828 -2.3%

Note: Racial and ethnic populations may overlap. Source: U.S. Census Bureau

the population may be growing slower than expected. “First, this is an infill community, so there’s less physical room to expand. Second, the past decade has witnessed two different economic recessions, which slows growth,” he told the

Almanac. “Third, there has been little to no real new development in areas of obvious opportunity and that is a direct result of the city’s political culture.” He pointed to the Derry project. “We have a project, near transit, that has been approved by the

Planning Commission and the City Council, but it is ‘referended’ in an ugly confrontation between developer interests and community preservation concerns,” Mayor Cline said. “Some of the reasons to challenge the project may have been valid. But the end

result is nothing. I am sure there are a few folks who are pleased with nothing, but I think most see this as a major disappointment.” The racial makeup of all four cities shifted as well, and while See CENSUS, page 8

Woodside may step up punishment for violating heritage tree ordinance By Dave Boyce Almanac Staff Writer

T

he trees of Woodside and those who love them would be justified in feeling cautiously optimistic about a coming revision to tree protection laws. The Town Council is considering a change that could financially persuade even some deep-pocketed residents into getting a permit before cutting down a heritage tree. If the council acts on the inclination it showed on March 8, the revised law — staff is working on revisions — could require violators to pay for the purchase, planting and maintenance of a full-grown heritage tree equivalent in size and presence to the illegally removed tree. Replacing such a tree is complicated, Henry Ardalan, president of City Arborist, a Menlo Park tree care and landscaping company, said in an interview. To be successful, the arborist must account for the time of year, the species, site conditions and the location, which may need to accommodate a flatbed truck and a crane. The cost could be anywhere from $10,000 to $100,000 to replace one tree, Mr. Ardalan said. Under the current system of fines, set in 2007, violators are supposed to pay $5,000 for the first illegally cut heritage tree, $7,500 for the second and $10,000 for each one after that. But in September 2009, when it came time to mete out the pun-

ishment, the council backed off. Residents Dr. Eric and Jacquie Weiss were facing fines of at least $92,000 after a “misstep,” Dr. Weiss said at the time, in not obtaining a $60 permit before thinning a grove of about 35 trees on their Sand Hill Road property by removing 10 significant Coast Live Oaks. A tree is significant in Woodside if it measures 9.5 inches in diameter at 48 inches above ground. The Weisses said they planned to restore a corral area that had become overgrown. They appealed to the council, which reduced the fine to $10,000 after reaching a consensus on the couple’s good intentions. Another test case could be ahead. During the council’s meeting, a resident of West Maple Way spoke of an incident in which her neighbor, without giving notice or getting a permit, reportedly had workers fell a strip of significant trees that bordered the resident’s driveway. “They were fined,” the resident said. “The fine has not been paid. The owner is waiting to see if you change the ordinance to see if (the fine) goes down,” the resident said. “How do you value a tree? How do you value my property now that my privacy is gone,” she asked the council, noting that young replacement trees would delay the return of her privacy by 30 to 40 years. “I’m furious. I’m See TREES, page 8

Photo by Michelle Le/The Almanac

Sherry Cagan of Portola Valley sculpted these two children in bronze for placement near the playground at Town Center. The work, called “Joyous Blessings,” is meant to honor the bountiful open space that is available in town for kids of all ages. “There’s more open space here than any place I’ve ever been,” she says.

Kids perennially at play in Town Center By Dave Boyce Almanac Staff Writer

F

or the foreseeable future, there will be two girls playing in the redwood grove near the playground at Portola Valley Town Center. Day and night, these kids will be there. They will not grow old, though they may acquire shiny places where real kids touch them. The two life-size bronze statues, known as “Joyous Blessings,” are meant to “warm the (Town) Center up a little bit and add a little culture for the kids,” said sculptor and Portola Valley resident Sherry Wolfenbarger Cagan in a phone interview.

“It’s been really sweet because the little kids go up to them and they’re so enamored,” Ms. Cagan said. Sherry Cagan The work honors the plentiful open space in town. “I just love the fact that our children here in Portola Valley can go and play just about anywhere,” Ms. Cagan said. “There’s more open space here than any place I’ve ever been.” Ms. Cagan, who is retired, said she has worked mostly on commission. The bronze “Horse in Motion” at the Stanford Red

Barn is her work and based on a series of photos taken in 1877 by Eadweard Muybridge at the behest of then Gov. Leland Stanford to settle the question of whether horses had moments of being airborne while running. Ms. Cagan has a studio and sculpture garden at her Alamos Road home, which she shares with her husband Laird and their children. The couple were major donors to the campaign to build the new Town Center, having given $1.4 million in stock in 2008, campaign spokeswoman SallyAnn Reiss said at the time. A

March 16, 2011 N The Almanac N5

Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital 20th Anniversary

LECTU R E S E R I ES 4th Annual Autism Spectrum Disorders Update for:

Parents and Professionals: Bridging the Gap April 2, 2011 at 7:45am – 4:30pm This one day conference will be led by a panel of experts from our autism spectrum disorders program and will spotlight recent findings and innovative clinical approaches to treating autism. The symposium will be held in McCaw Hall in the Francis C. Arrillaga Alumni Center. 326 Galvez Street, Stanford, California 94035. Parking is free at Galvez Field (corner of Galvez Street and Campus Drive East). Registration $100. Fee includes a continental breakfast and buffet lunch. For further information, please call (650) 721- 6327 or e-mail autism@lpch.org. Register online at http://childpsychiatry.stanford.edu For additional 20th Anniversary Lecture Series offerings, visit anniversary.lpch.org

The people depicted in this brochure are models and are being used for illustrative purposes only.

6 N The Almanac NMarch 16, 2011

N E W S

Fergusson leads council in travel expenses She spends $12,476 during two terms.

Boyle Cline

Almanac Staff Writer

Cohen

M

enlo Park’s council members fall into two camps — no, not development vs. no-growth — more like, spendthrift vs. profligate when it comes to spending city funds on trips related to city business. Out of 10 council members who served at any time since 2004, Kelly Fergusson, who was elected to the council that year, holds the record for most travel expenses, even before last week’s now infamous trip to Washington, D.C., to visit with locally based politicians and stay in a $400-per-night hotel. According to city documents obtained by the Almanac through a public records request, Ms. Fergusson has filed 60 requests, for a total of $12,476.34, since 2004. The only other current council member serving since December 2004 is Andy Cohen, whose total spending was $1,815.13. Mr. Cohen’s total represents 22 requests. That’s an average of $1,996 per year of spending for Ms. Fergusson, and an average of $290 per year of spending for Mr. Cohen. Ms. Fergusson’s tab includes two daytrip tours of water infrastructure that each cost close to $600; a $744.79 airplane ticket to Fresno; a Seattle conference; and at least two dozen regional dinner meetings. Ms. Fergusson serves on the Bay Area Water Supply and Conservation Agency, making the tours of water infrastructure relevant to council business. Three other council members approached her record — but only in number of requests. Nicolas Jellins filed 25, for a total of $3,216.29 during the three relevant years; Heyward Robinson, with 23 requests that added up to $5,511.81 during four years in office; and John Boyle, who during his four years in office asked for 24 reimbursements and received approximately $1,711, although he was the only council member to get reimbursed for Blackberry accessories. Most council members, upon taking a turn as mayor, saw their travel expenses rise, with the exception of Rich Cline, who to date has filed only six reimbursement requests totaling $766, and who, despite being on his second term as mayor, has resisted the urge to attend the U.S. Conference of Mayors, a three-day event that cost Menlo Park $2,057.77 for Ms. Fergusson to attend in 2007 and $3,512.94 for Mr. Robinson in 2009 — a price tag that included a $1,229 plane ticket to D.C. Wondering whether Menlo Park is subject to a double standard,

by Monica Corman

Lenders Are Offering Borrowers Some New Options

Number of Travel and Reimbursement Requests

By Sandy Brundage

R EAL E STATE Q&A

Boyle Cline

Duboc

Cohen Duboc

Fergusson Fergusson Jellins

Jellins

Keith Ohtaki

Keith

Robinson Winkler

Ohtaki Robinson Winkler Total Travel Expenses from 2004 to present

Boyle

Q: Dear Monica: I am in the market for a new home and have been shopping for a loan. Given the economic shakeup of the past few years I would like to get the safest and best loan I can find. Do you have any suggestions? Jane R. A: Dear Jane: If we have learned anything from the economic crisis of the past few years it is that homeowners who were not over-leveraged or who did not experience high loan interest rate changes in their adjustable rate loans, these were the ones who were able to ride out the downturn and keep their homes. The market the Mid-Peninsula is gaining strength and as new buyers enter this market, many of them are looking for the most stable yet attractive interest rate they can find. The traditional 30-year

fixed rate loan is a very good choice if you want to know what your payments will be for the life of the loan. You can accelerate the principle payments and shorten the term of this loan,or use the entire 360 month period to pay it off. Some lenders are offering a new twist to the more volatile adjustable rate loan. Borrowers can take advantage of the lower rate five, seven or ten year adjustable interest-only loans, and receive an even lower rate if they make principle payments too. For the right borrower, this would offer a very attractive rate as well as a chance to build up more equity by paying down some of the loan at the same time. You should look for the lender that offers you the best payment options for your needs and peace of mind.

Cline Cohen*Boyle Cline

Fergusson* Cohen* Jellins

Fergusson* Jellins

For answers to any questions you may have on real estate, you may e-mail me at mcorman@apr.com or call 462-1111, Alain Pinel Realtors. I also offer a free market analysis of your property. www.MonicaCorman.com

Keith

Keith

Ohtaki Robinson

Ohtaki Winkler Robinson Winkler

The * indicates the only two Menlo Park council members who have served on the council from 2004 to the present: Kelly Fergusson and Andy Cohen. Also, Lee Duboc's expenses are not included due to illegible record copies.

since travel by other local councils such as Palo Alto apparently doesn’t generate as much consternation, Mr. Robinson said in an e-mail that a cheaper plane ticket wasn’t available since he waited to confirm the flights until after he

‘While it’s certainly appropriate for the public and the press to scrutinize expenses by their elected officials, I don’t think that the importance of faceto-face meetings is being sufficiently appreciated.’ FORMER COUNCILMAN HEYWARD ROBINSON

became mayor; he added that he was able to stay with friends for free instead of paying $600 per night for a hotel room. “While it’s certainly appropriate for the public and the press to scrutinize expenses by their elected officials, I don’t think that the importance of faceto-face meetings is being sufficiently appreciated,� said Mr. Robinson, who left the council

last December. “It’s well known that if you want to influence federal funding and policy, you need to travel to Washington.� Mayor Cline said that while big conferences are great, they don’t do much for Menlo Park. “Our issues are very parochial in many ways,� he said. “There is a ton of info online — lots of ways to follow other cities to learn how they render decisions and lots of folks to talk with to exchange ideas. I have never been an advocate of conferences and I rarely see it worth the expensive costs of investment.� However, Ms. Fergusson said those conferences allow her “to bring back best practices throughout the nation.� Other events, such as Progress Seminars in Monterey, she said, are “educational about regional issues. I’ve gone almost every year on my own dime and only billed the city for two.� How about the council newcomers? Peter Ohtaki has spent $1,036.65 so far on one voluntary training event for newly elected mayors and council members in Sacramento. Vice Mayor Kirsten Keith attended the same “new council member� event, but has also filed five additional expense reports, tying her with Mr. Cline for number of requests even though she’s been on the council for only four months. See TRAVEL, page 14

FASHION ADVICE Anyone considering purchasing non-prescription “fashion� contacts over-the-counter or on the Internet should know that they pose a number of risks. While the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) holds prescription contact lenses to a quality standard befitting other “medical devices� under its purview, decorative contact lenses available without prescription are not under any real control. Thus, these fashion accessories (which are regarded as toys by some users) can lead to any number of problems,

ranging from pain and inflammation to serious infection and vision loss. A scratch on the eye can lead to blood-vessel growth on the cornea. These consequences are nothing to take lightly. Contact lenses are not to be toyed with. If you’re like most people, you probably order some products online so that you don’t have to drive around. Since contact lenses are worn only on the eyes, they affect the way your eyes function. Protect your eyes by having professional eye examinations and wearing prescription lenses that meet your needs. Please bring your prescription to MENLO OPTICAL at 1166 University Drive, on the corner of Oak Grove Avenue and University Drive, or call us at 322-3900 if you have questions about eyewear. We carry hard, soft, and bi-focal contact lenses and provide instruction on how to wear and clean them. P.S. Advertising claims made for fashion contacts such as “one size fits all� may not be true for many of us. Mark Schmidt is an American Board of Opticianry and National Contact Lens Examiners Certified Optician licensed by the Medical Board of California. He can be easily reached at Menlo Optical, 1166 University Drive, Menlo Park. 650-322-3900.

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N E W S

Census data tracks shifts in local demographics

Coaches awarded for Challenger team

CENSUS

By Miranda Simon

continued from page 5

Portola Valley

The demographic shifts in Portola Valley reflected regional changes; the amount of housing available its while population decreased increased, so did vacancy rates 4 percent to 3,960; the Asian across the board. Overall, the state population population increased 36 percent increased by 10 percent from to 242; and the Latino population 2000 to an estimated 37,253,956 increased 17 percent to 175. Housing units increased by people; San Mateo County is home to about 2 percent of that 7 percent during the decade in Portola Valley, while vacancies population. nearly doubled to 8 percent. Portola Valley Mayor Ted Atherton In Atherton, the white popu- Driscoll said the change in the lation decreased 9.4 percent to town’s demographics is “sim5,565; the Asian population ply reflective of the increasing increased 29 percent to 911; and diversity of the whole Bay Area, and that diversity is one of our the Latino popuarea’s greatest lation increased strengths. 34 percent to The increase in Asian “What I’m very 268. proud of is that a population is seen The number of resident from 25 available housing as tied to an influx years ago would units increased recognize the of employees in by only 25 to 2,530, with a science and high-tech place today, and someone from vacancy rate today would recindustries. of 7.9 percent, ognize the town almost double 25 years from now,” he added. the rate in 2000. “The people slowly change but the valley remains remarkably Menlo Park Menlo Park’s Latino popula- the same.” tion increased 23 percent to 5,902; the Asian population Woodside In Woodside, the white popuincreased 43 percent to 3,157; lation decreased 2 percent to and the African American or black population dropped 28 4,717; the Asian population percent to 1,551. The white increased 24 percent to 332; and population saw a tiny rise of 1 the Latino population increased 5 percent to 243. percent to 22,494. “I would say personally I am “You see the same thing in extremely gratified to see an East Palo Alto,” said Tomas increase, albeit modest, of ethJimenez, associate professor of nic diversity in our community,” sociology at Stanford who studies immigration, assimilation, Woodside Mayor Ron Romines said, adding that he was speakand ethnic and racial identity. “One of the things that’s hap- ing for himself not the town. “I pening is that we had a huge think everyone benefits when run-up in housing prices. Many we can associate on a personal of the longtime residents, many basis with neighbors of differAfrican Americans, cashed out,” ent ethnic, cultural or religious he said. The residents moved to backgrounds.” The town added 127 housareas like Stanislaus County, ing units in 10 years, and saw where they could buy bigger its vacancy rate, like that of its homes at better prices. neighbors, double to 8 percent. As local housing opened up, David Reilly, principal of Latinos moved in, Professor Woodside High School, had this Jimenez said. As for the increase in the comment on the census numAsian population, he thought bers: “Woodside High School that might be described as an has always embraced changes in influx of employees in the sci- demographics, as these changes add to the vibrantly diverse acaence and high-tech industries. “We see this all over Silicon demic and social community. Valley,” he said. “They don’t Our academic and extra-curricnecessarily fit the stereotypical ular activities tend to mirror immigrant experience. They’re these changes, as evidenced by highly skilled, they can afford the wide variety of clubs and elective offerings.” to buy homes here.” Renee Batti and Dave Boyce Available housing in Menlo contributed to this story. Park lagged behind the population growth, increasing by 3 per- N INFORMATION cent. The vacancy rate doubled Visit tinyurl.com/66guy7m to explore from 2000. the 2010 census data. A

8 N The Almanac NMarch 16, 2011

Special to the Almanac

M

enlo-Atherton Little League coaches Bob Crowe and Doug Kaufman have won a Positive Coaching Alliance award for their work with youth with physical, mental and emotional challenges, according to alliance spokesperson Valerie McCarthy. Crowe and Kaufman will be awarded the DoubleGoal Coach Award at PCA’s 10th annual National Youth Sports Awards Dinner and Auction at Sharon Heights Golf and Country Club in Menlo Park on Thursday, April 7. The event will also honor San Francisco Giants Manager Bruce Bochy with the PCA’s Ronald L. Jensen Award for Lifetime Achievement. Bochy led the Giants to their 2010 World Series victory. In 2009, Crowe and Kauf-

man launched the MenloAtherton Little League’s Challenger team for youth with physical, mental and emotional challenges. The Challenger team featured a “buddy system,” which couples volunteers with players who need aid on the field. This is meant to give young volunteers life lessons and gives parents a chance to cheer for their children instead of assisting them on the field, McCarthy said. Crowe has served as a coach at Hillview Middle School and Kaufman at St. Raymond School (K-8), both in Menlo Park. “Whenever I get a team, I tell them there is one key rule they cannot break,” Kaufman said. “They have to be positive about their teammates. If they win as a team, great. If they lose as a team, great. But it’s got to be done as a team.” The dinner will include live

Bob Crowe, left, and Doug Kaufman

and silent auctions. PCA National Advisory Board member and San Francisco 49ers broadcaster Ted Robinson will serve as master of ceremonies. A

N I NF O RMATI O N PCA’s 10th annual National Youth Sports Awards Dinner and Auction will start at 6 p.m. Thursday, April 7, with a reception and silent auction. The dinner starts at 7 p.m. In lieu of attending, donations of any size can be made in the coaches’ honor and will be recognized at the event. Visit tinyurl.com/PCAdinner to purchase tickets.

Deer carcass found near Priory school The carcass of a deer that may have been killed by a mountain lion was found near a Portola Valley school Wednesday morning, March 9, San Mateo County emergency officials said. The carcass was discovered at about 7:30 a.m. in the 200 block of Portola Road, near Woodside Priory School. Emergency officials said there were tracks nearby that may

have been left by a mountain lion. There have been a number of mountain lion sightings in the Woodside and Portola Valley areas in the past few weeks, but wildlife officials say the cats generally avoid confrontations with humans. However, county officials advise residents to keep an eye on small children and avoid

jogging or hiking at dawn, dusk, and at night when mountain lions tend to roam around. In the event of a mountain lion encounter, wildlife officials advise residents to face the animal, make noise and try to appear as large as possible. Visit keepmewild.org for information on mountain lions from the California Department of Fish and Game.

TREES

George included a survey of tree protection laws in nine Bay Area communities, including Atherton, Portola Valley, Palo Alto and Redwood City. Fines of $500 and $1,000 are common. Woodside’s fine is “rather high,” she said. The staff recommended a standardized and predictable process, such as a requirement to either replace the tree or pay a fine of twice the tree’s appraised value as specified in an industry reference book. The replacement option could require a refundable bond from the violator to help the tree through its vulnerable first two years If a more severe penalty is needed, as in the case of a wanton clear-cut, the town could attach a code violation to the property that would halt all development there until the

replacement trees are safely growing, about two years. “We were thinking that that would be a deterrent to doing wholesale cutting,” Ms. George said. “It seems like the ideal solution is to replace the tree with an equivalent tree,” Mayor Romines said. “I really think that a very stiff number is needed to educate people that you don’t remove trees.” “I’m very troubled by people finding loopholes to drive through,” Councilwoman Anne Kasten said. “Nobody’s going to pay the fine,” Councilman Peter Mason said. “It’s going to get finagled and what do we do to the finaglers?” Enforce the code violation, which has a side effect of complicating any attempt to sell the property, Ms. George replied.

continued from page 5

furious at this person’s attack. They had their people in my driveway working on it. ... I hope you raise the fines.” The neighbor has appealed the penalty to the council, Town Manager Susan George said. Any change to the fines would not likely affect this incident, Mayor Ron Romines told the Almanac. As for a $100,000 tag to install one tree, Mr. Romines said he was surprised and that the council will be looking for a way to deter egregious acts while not assessing unreasonable penalties. Assessing penalties

A March 8 staff report by Ms.

A

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Constance Esther Rhodes dies at 104 Constance Esther Rhodes, who lived in Menlo Park the past 65 years, died March 5. She was 104. Born June 8, 1906, in San Francisco to Ida Brown and August Waidman, she lived in California her entire life. She was well known in Menlo Park and on the Peninsula for many years, said her granddaughter Coleen Duncan of Atherton. She was active at the Menlo

Park Presbyterian Church for over 60 years and was involved at the Little House Activity Center for 40 years, Constance Ms. Duncan Rhodes said. â&#x20AC;&#x153;It is a great loss to many people who knew her, but she had a wonderful 104 years on this earth and should

be celebrated,â&#x20AC;? Ms. Duncan said. She was buried at Alta Mesa Cemetery in Palo Alto next to her husband, Irving â&#x20AC;&#x153;Dustyâ&#x20AC;? Rhodes, who died 29 years ago. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Chickie,â&#x20AC;? as she was known to her family for the past 20 years, is survived by her daughter, Sylvia Duncan of Atherton, who co-owns the Menlo Park Academy of Dance in Menlo Park; four grandchildren; and seven great-grandchildren.

Pool, budget, travel on MP council agenda By Sandy Brundage Almanac Staff Writer

W

hen the Menlo Park City Council returns for a meeting on Tuesday, March 15, it will have to hear a word that those on the dais were perhaps hoping to not have to hear again for a while: â&#x20AC;&#x153;Pool.â&#x20AC;? At least this time the topic isnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t awarding a contract to operate the cityâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s public pools. Instead, the council will decide whether to spend $423,158 to upgrade the Belle Haven pool,

N NOTES

which will be managed this summer by Team Sheeper, a business that already operates the Burgess Aquatics Center. Community Services Director Cherise Brandell said the upgrades have been on the cityâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s list of capital improvements for several years, as the fiberglass pool liner at Belle Haven is now 20 years old. Talk will then turn to the state of the cityâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s budget, and Councilwoman Kelly Fergus-

son will cap off the evening with a report on her trip to Washington, D.C. The meeting starts at 7 p.m. in the council chambers at the Civic Center at 701 Laurel St.

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A community health education series from Stanford Hospital & Clinics

Speaking Up To Save A Voice: New Surgery Creates A Vocal Platform

Young was not convinced. He had been retired from his job as an engineer and yet his information-seeking mindset continued. His research made him suspect that cancer was the cause. A friend of his wife, under treatment for cancer at Stanford Hospital & Clinics, recommended he see a physician there. His redness was cancer, a squamous cell carcinoma. It was small, at a very early stage. Radiation offered as much as a 90 percent chance of removing the cancer, so Young went through that treatment. But the cancer remained and Edward J. Damrose, MD, director of the Stanford Voice and Swallowing Center, became Young’s doctor. In the midst of his fear about the cancer, Young prepared himself for the worst. He didn’t think about what surgery might bring; he just wanted the cancer out. “Both my mother and brother died young, of pancreatic cancer. I knew mine was neither as aggressive or lethal as theirs, but

having any kind of cancer was not something I wanted,” he said.

More than sound He did trust Damrose’s knowledge. “I had a lot of confidence in Dr. Damrose, in him as a person and his ability to make good decisions,” Young said.

“I had no idea that voice sparing was an option. I had no idea Dr. Damrose was one of the few in the U.S. with the ability and skill to do this surgery.” – Jerry Young, Stanford Hospital & Clinics patient What Damrose did was a surgery that saved Young’s ability to speak without any kind of mechanical equipment inserted in his neck, preserving his dignity and freedom of expression. In a surgery done only at a few medical centers in the U.S., Damrose removed the part of Young’s larynx where the cancer lay. Then he closed the gap by connecting the two main supports of the larynx, the cricoid cartilage and the hyoid bone. Instead of air vibrating through the muscular vocal cords, it vibrates with the help of cartilage, allowing a human voice instead of a robotic one to say the words that form Young’s life. The procedure is called a supracricoid laryngectomy with cricohyoidoepiglottopexy. Young’s surgery was one of just a dozen times in the last year that Damrose, one of the nation’s few experts in the procedure, performed at Stanford Hospital & Clinics. Norbert von der Groeben

Jerry Young, a retired engineer, is fully recovered from his larynx cancer surgery, with plenty of energy to get back into his home workshop, in full voice. 10 N The Almanac NMarch 16, 2011

The voice is, of course, as distinctly identifying as a person’s face. Perhaps even more than the face, the voice is a nuanced

Norbert von der Groeben

Jerry Young had had a routine endoscopy and assumed that the hoarseness that appeared in his voice was an after-effect of that exam. “If it doesn’t go away in a couple of weeks, make an appointment with an ENT,” his doctor told him. It didn’t and Young went to see an ear, nose and throat physician, who thought the redness on Young’s left vocal cord was caused by a virus.

Foremost for Jerry Young was getting rid of the cancer that had grown in his larynx. Losing his voice would have been hard, but he was willing to let it go. He didn’t know until after his surgery at Stanford that his doctor there was someone who knew a procedure that gave Young’s voice a chance at preservation. audio track of every possible emotion. From the interplay of the vocal folds, muscles, cartilages, nerves, tongue, mouth, palate and lungs comes the ability to form words that resonate and emerge as audible communication. The ability to speak can be altered by a number of changes in that set of voice-enabling components, including loss of muscle mass, decreased saliva and vocal cord atrophy or paralysis. And, surgery for cancer.

Challenging circumstances Cancer of the larynx is the most commonly diagnosed head and neck cancer. Between 10,000 and 12,000 new cases emerge each year in the United States. But it is the least common cause of hoarseness. Its symptoms also include difficulty swallowing, coughing up blood, sore throat and trouble breathing.

ance, adding another level of difficulty.

“Once you look at what you’ve got, it becomes very intuitive as to why it works and works so well. I’d like to see it more routinely offered, to preserve more larynxes. – Edward Damrose, MD, Director of Stanford Hospital & Clinics Voice and Swallowing Clinic “I had no idea that voice sparing was an option,” Young said. “Dr. Damrose just said, ‘We’ll go in and take this thing out.’ He didn’t want to get my hopes up, I think, so he didn’t get into specifics. It was months later that he asked if I wanted to know the specifics. I had

Any surgery in these tight quarters must be done precisely. “One millimeter too far one way,” Damrose said, “and you’ve cut out an important nerve needed to speak. Too far the other way and you’ve left cancer behind, or your patient will never swallow again.” That precision, he said, is even more of a challenge because “you are cutting through thick and muscular tissue,” he said. If a patient has had radiation, that treatment can distort and swell the structures’ appear-

Jerry Young jokes that his wife, Kersten, likes his new, lower v are active grandparents who love to travel.

special feature

The Anatomy of Voice · Vocal cords are two bands of smooth muscle located in the larynx, sometimes call the voice box · The larynx is located at the top of the trachea, or windpipe · Sound is created as air from the lungs vibrates the vocal cords

Protecting Your Vocal Health · Drink plenty of water, for its moisturizing effect · Don’t smoke. Smoking raises the risk of cancer and vocal cord polyps. Alcohol consumption by smokers also increases risk. As many as 90 percent of head and neck cancers are related to use of these substances. · Keep your voice below the yelling and screaming level, which strains the vocal cords.

Laryngeal Cancer · Symptoms can include persistent hoarseness, difficult or painful swallowing, ongoing sore throat, difficulty breathing, pain in the ear, lump in the neck.

Common Vocal Cord Conditions · Laryngitis: an inflammation that can be caused by infection, overuse of the voice, inhaled irritants or gastrointestinal reflux · Nodules: small, benign and callous-like growths · Polyps: soft, benign and blister-like growths · Vocal cord hemorrhage, paralysis or weakness

When to See Your Doctor · If you have hoarseness or a change in voice that lasts for more than two weeks

For more information about partial laryngectomies, visit: stanfordhospital.org/voiceandswallowingclinic or call 650.723.5281. Join us at stanfordhospital.org/socialmedia.

no idea that he was one of the few in the U.S. with the ability and skill to do this surgery.”

Edward Damrose, MD, Director of Stanford’s Voice and Swallowing Clinic, checks up on Jerry Young with a gentle touch. Damrose used a partial laryngectomy to remove Young’s cancer but save his natural voice.

The psychological trauma, Young said, is immense. He saw it first when he went to a meeting of a laryngectomy support group and found himself the only person without a prosthesis. “None of the people

Yet its frequency remains low. The most recent data shows that in patients who fail radiation, up to 50 percent may be candidates for the voice-preserving partial laryngectomy. Damrose trained with that physician and with the physician who did

Young is an example of someone whose cancer was caught early, “otherwise a healthy, vibrant, vital guy who can now look forward to years of quality voicing,” Damrose said.

his life letting others know about the voice-sparing surgery he had. “I want to spread the word,” he said. Every month he returns to Stanford for a meeting of the local chapter of SPOHNC, Support for People with Oral and Head and Neck Cancer. “I could sit around and feel sorry for myself because I don’t have a normal voice,” Young said, “but I realize how lucky I am, lucky that the cancer was found early and lucky to have found Dr. Damrose.”

Several months went by before Young knew what his voice would sound like. After four months, he could make himself understood. He has a new vocal reality, a new normalcy, he calls it, with delightful wit. “My wife loves that I can’t yell at her anymore,” he said. And its deep tone, with a roughed edge, has won some admirers. “Lots of women say it’s very sexy,” Young said, with a bit of a blush.

“I realize how lucky I am, lucky that the cancer was found early and lucky to have found Dr. Damrose.” – Jerry Young, Stanford Hospital & Clinics patient He still loves to do woodworking projects, to cook and to travel, but he has added another mission to

Norbert von der Groeben

there had ever even heard about the surgery I’d had.” Developed in the 1950s and popularized by French surgeons, the surgery Damrose performed on Young was not done in the US until the 1990s. Damrose describes the approach as elegant. “It was hard to visualize why it should work,” he said, “but once you look at what you’ve got, it becomes very intuitive as to why it works and works so well.”

Advancing options

Norbert von der Groeben

volume voice because he can’t yell at her any more. The two

Norbert von der Groeben

The traditional approach has been to remove the entire larynx, following failed chemotherapy or radiation. It’s a relatively quick surgery about four hours, compared to the seven hours Damrose needed for Young’s partial laryngectomy. The impact is hugely different. With a total removal of the larynx, speaking is possible only with external help. The most common involves a prosthesis that fits into a hole in the throat; some work when pressure is applied, others can function hands-free. For others, speaking requires an electronic device pressed against the throat to amplify vocal sounds. Sometimes, some of the nerves to the tongue can be affected, damaging the ability to swallow and taste.

the first U.S. surgery. Now, he is training others. “I’d like to see this more routinely offered, to preserve more larynxes. It’s an operation that has a high degree of success and predictable results. It’s worthwhile trying.”

Jerry Young worked to build strength in his voice after his surgery. Even though he can’t speak loudly, the life he has with his wife, Kersten, is as full as ever.

Stanford Hospital & Clinics is known worldwide for advanced treatment of complex disorders in areas such as cardiovascular care, cancer treatment, neurosciences, surgery, and organ transplants. Consistently ranked among the top institutions in the U.S. News & World Report annual list of “America’s Best Hospitals,” Stanford Hospital & Clinics is internationally recognized for translating medical breakthroughs into the care of patients. It is part of the Stanford University Medical Center, along with the Stanford University School of Medicine and Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford. For more information, visit stanfordmedicine.org. March 16, 2011 N The Almanac N11

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Woodside fire chief closes out 33 years of firefighting By Dave Boyce

districts respond to their own financial issues. Firefighters also help in the details of choosing new fire engines. “Every member in this organization contributes,” he said. “That gives them ownership. They have a piece of it. When change does come, it’s not as hard to go through.” “We all sacrifice,” he added. No one in the district has seen a raise or increase in benefits in three years, he said. “The labor body has been unbelievable, has been great to the fire district,” he said. “Everybody in this organization is giving back. ... It’s a pill that you have to take. We all swallow the pill and we move forward.”

Almanac Staff Writer

R

esidential life in Woodside and Portola Valley and nearby communities is scenic if not always idyllic. It’s also dangerous. The forests include highly flammable eucalyptus, acacia, pine, juniper, scotch broom, French broom and coyote brush. Tectonic plates meet along the San Andreas fault, which runs under both towns. Protecting an upscale lifestyle in the midst of this, implanting in residents’ minds the constant threats of wildfire and earthquake, is one significant task for Fire Chief Armando Muela and the members of the Woodside Fire Protection District’s governing board. For Chief Muela, 54, it won’t be a daily issue for much longer. He has announced plans to retire on April 29 after 33 years in firefighting, including 17 years with the Woodside district, the past four and a half as chief. In late March, the district governing board will pick a new chief from among the five battalion chiefs in the Woodside district, Chief Muela said. Chief Muela isn’t going anywhere. He lives in Emerald Hills and said he plans to volunteer with the area’s disaster preparedness programs and to remain associated with the district’s foundation advisory board. The Woodside-Portola Valley Fire Protection Foundation raises money through donations for community-oriented expenses such as renewing firefighting equipment and facilities and funding fire prevention and training initiatives. With retirement, Chief Muela’s day-in-day-out tether of a cell phone and pager will be left behind. “There’s not a day when I’m not actively engaged (in district activities),” he said in an interview in his simply

Cooperative by nature

Photo by Michelle Le/The Almanac

“I think it’s time for me to kind of take on some new challenges and reinvent myself,” says Armando Muela, who plans to retire April 29 as chief of the Woodside Fire Protection District.

furnished office at the fire station in downtown Woodside. “I think it’s time for me to kind of take on some new challenges and reinvent myself.” He said he looks forward to his 13th year as a chaperone for middle school kids on a 22-mile hike into and out of the Grand Canyon, to improving his golf game, and perhaps to college classes on subjects such as religion and political science. Chief Muela began with two years as a firefighter for the state, then two more in the private sector as an ambulance paramedic, he said. The next 30 years included 14 with the fire department in South San Francisco and the rest with Woodside, where he instituted a paramedic program that put advanced-life-support crews on fire engines. Ambulances at the time had a response time of 15

to 20 minutes, he said. Chief Muela retired under a rule for public safety employees that at age 50, they can retire with 3 percent of their current salary for every year of service up to 30 years. Chief Muela will receive about $162,000 a year, he said. Cashing out his unused vacation and sick leave should add up to $90,000 and he will have lifetime health care coverage for himself and his spouse, he said. Generous benefits. Asked to comment, Chief Muela replied: “My guess is that we will be managed down,” meaning that the state Legislature will act to “claw back” some benefits of retired public employees, including firefighters and police. “Government will shrink to a size that will be the new normal. I believe there’s a movement

Road, pedestrian path improvements coming The Woodside Town Council, in its annual review of proposed spending on road improvements over the coming two budget years, unanimously accepted a plan on March 8 to spend about $706,800 on 13 roads, but their attention focused on pedestrian improvements. The plan showed $40,000 for pedestrian projects in the 2011-12 budget year and $20,000 for 201213. Perhaps that latter figure should be $40,000 as well, Councilman Peter Mason said.

N WOODSIDE N OT ES

“I think we really ought to think about what we’re going to do for pedestrians,” Mr. Mason said, referring in particular to a much-used section of Woodside Road between the elementary school and Canada Road. “I think we ought to be dedicating at least $40,000 a year,” he said. Mayor Ron Romines, agreeing that improving walkways in town is a priority, suggested thinking about

12 N The Almanac NMarch 16, 2011

an optimum plan for pedestrian access. The plan also includes per year spending of $5,000 to rehabilitate bridges, $5,000 to seal cracks in asphalt, and $10,000 for road striping.

Recruiter hired to find new town manager The Town Council of Woodside on March 3 voted to hire a recruiter to find a new town manager, and the firm that the council hired

afoot by labor to understand this,” he added when asked to comment on the very public dispute in Wisconsin over bargaining rights for unionized public employees. A peaceable district

That movement has apparently been afoot for a while in the Woodside fire district. Unlike their counterparts in the Menlo Park Fire Protection District, Woodside firefighters have not seen their labor negotiations roil out into public and make news. Why? For one thing, the district is relatively small, which allows it to be “nimble,” he said. But the key, he added, is being open and transparent with firefighters because “it sets them up for change.” Everyone sees the financials and he said he e-mails the entire staff on how other fire — Sacramento-based Peckham & McKenney Executive Search and Consulting — offered a guarantee: if the new manager leaves within two years, the company will find a replacement at no cost other than expenses. The council’s decision was unanimous, with Councilwoman Sue Boynton absent. To be fair, such guarantees came from most of the 10 recruiting firms that responded to Woodside’s request for proposals. The council was acting in response to Town Manager Susan George’s Jan. 25 announcement that she’ll be retiring in January

Among his accomplishments, Chief Muela noted the fire district’s improved and improving relations with the towns of Portola Valley and Woodside. Asked to comment, Portola Valley Town Manager Angie Howard said in an e-mail that the relationship with the district “has evolved and is very good. Armando is†good to work with, is proactive, he†is responsive, and keeps Susan and I informed when something important happens in town.” Woodside Town Manager Susan George struck the same note. “The townís relationship with the fire district has been very positive since Armando was named as chief,” she said. “He is very open and collaborative and I have thoroughly enjoyed working with him. ... I’ll really miss Armando.” “Working in Woodside is such a unique feeling,” Chief Muela said. His daily commute is not interrupted by even one traffic light and visiting fire chiefs regularly comment on the serene settings of the fire stations and the lower tensions of working in such an environment, he said. A

2012 after 18 years heading the Town Hall staff. The search for Ms. George’s replacement will cost the town $16,000, plus expenses not to exceed $6,500, according to Peckham’s proposal, which is posted on the town’s website under the link Current Issues & Events. Peckham & McKenney has found managers or assistant managers for several Bay Area cities, including Belmont, Mill Valley, Palo Alto and Redwood City. In its proposal, the recruiter said it specializes in finding “hidden” candidates, including those who may not be considering a new position.

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Deal may help Caltrain avert drastic cuts â&#x2013;  But there will be some cuts, official says. By Sue Dremann Embarcadero Media

D

rastic cuts to Caltrain rail service are likely to be averted, Steve Heminger, the Metropolitan Transportation Commissionâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s executive director, told the commissionâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Planning and Allocations Committee on March 9. The commission is working with Caltrainâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s financing partners â&#x20AC;&#x201D; Santa Clara Countyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s VTA, San Mateo Countyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s SamTrans and San Franciscoâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Muni â&#x20AC;&#x201D; to cobble together a financing deal that would help the 147-year-old rail line reduce a $30 million operations deficit

starting July 2. Caltrain officials have warned that they would slash the number of trains, reduce the schedule to weekday peak-commuter times only, and close up to seven stations along the San Jose to San Francisco route. Service to points south of San Joseâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Diridon station would be eliminated, cutting off residents from Gilroy, Morgan Hill and San Martin, if all of the proposed cuts are implemented. But Mr. Heminger said fare and parking increases, changes to its upcoming expiring contract with Amtrak, and potentially using some money reserved for Caltrain electrification might be options for a temporary fix. He also outlined a plan for VTA and Muni to pay $8.9 million in

reimbursement funds the agencies owe SamTrans for fronting the purchase of the railâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s rightof-way in 1991. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re close to putting together a near-term, two-year plan to avert some of the deep service cuts proposed,â&#x20AC;? Randy Rentschler, the commissionâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s spokesman, said. But â&#x20AC;&#x153;there are going to be some cuts â&#x20AC;&#x201D; no two ways about it,â&#x20AC;? he said. The decision about which cuts will be made is up to the Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board, which manages Caltrain, he added. Mr. Rentschler said he could not specify how the funding deal will work out. â&#x20AC;&#x153;We have a list of possibilities weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re looking at but we donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t have a prioritized list,â&#x20AC;? he said. A

Two forums ahead for county supervisor election Five candidates running for election to the position of San Mateo County District 1 supervisor are expected to be on hand to take questions at two forums in March. The countywide all-mailin-ballot election begins on April 4 and ends on May 3. The first forum, put on by the Bay Area Youth Summit, takes place between 1 and 3 p.m. Saturday, March 19, at the San Mateo City Council Chambers at 1900 OĂ­Farrell St. in San Mateo. The second forum is set for 7 to

Mayors to deliver meals to elderly The mayors of Atherton, Menlo Park, Portola Valley and Woodside will spend part of Wednesday, March 23, delivering meals to homebound residents of their communities, according to the Menlo Park-based Peninsula Volunteers Inc., which runs local facilities and programs for seniors, including Meals on Wheels. Mayors participating are Jim Dobbie of Atherton, Rich Cline of Menlo Park, Ted Driscoll of Portola Valley, and Ron Romines of Woodside. Don Horsley, San Mateo County supervisor for District 3, will also participate. â&#x20AC;&#x153;This is the fifth year our mayors have been involved with the national Mayors For Meals Day,â&#x20AC;? said Bart Charlow, executive director of Peninsula Volunteers. The national campaign, called March For Meals, aims to raise awareness of hunger among the elderly and to encourage action by local communities. Go to peninsulavolunteers.org for more information.

8:30 p.m. on Wednesday, March 30, at the Veterans Memorial Senior Center at 1455 Madison Ave. in Redwood City. This event will be co-hosted by the Redwood City Woodside Democratic Club, the San Mateo County Democrats, and the Peninsula Young Democrats. Candidates expected to attend are, in ballot order, Burlingame Mayor Terry Nagel, Deputy Attorney General Gina Papan, businessman Michael G. Stogner, educator and consumer advocate Richard Holober, and school trustee and businessman Dave Pine. The winner will fill the District 1 seat formerly occupied by Mark Church, who left the Board of

Supervisors to run for and win (in November) the multipleposition office of assessor, county clerk-recorder, and chief elections officer. Although District 1 represents communities at the northern end of the county, from South San Francisco extending south to San Mateo and the San Francisco International Airport, every registered voter in the county has a vote. In addition to being mailed in, ballots can be dropped off at the elections office at 40 Tower Road in San Mateo and in ballot boxes in every city or town hall in the county, but they must be received by May 3.

Meeting: How hospital expansion impacts city By Sandy Brundage

said the problem isnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t just the Stanford expansion, but fter reviewing the envi- also the Bohannon Gateway ronmental impact report project, which is predicted to (EIR) on the Stanford generate a similar amount of hospital expansion, the Menlo traffic. Park Transportation CommisFacebook coming to town â&#x20AC;&#x201D; sion decided to postpone mak- even though the corporation ing a recommendation to the says 40 percent of its employees City Council. use alternatives to driving to Instead, Commissioner Ray get to work â&#x20AC;&#x201D; along with the Mueller is drafting a prelimi- potential Cargill development nary recommendation that will project in Redwood City makes be discussed the local trafduring a spefic situation cial meeting more â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;The effect (of increased even of the comworrisome. traffic) will be the mission set â&#x20AC;&#x153;Traf f ic for 1:30 p.m. increases have Manhattanization of Friday, March a synergy or Menlo Park.â&#x20AC;&#x2122; 18, in council multiplier chambers at effect,â&#x20AC;? Mr. MARTIN ENGEL, MEMBER, MENLO PARK the Menlo Engel said. TRANSPORTATION COMMISSION Park Civic â&#x20AC;&#x153;The whole Center at 701 Laurel St. becomes greater than the sum â&#x20AC;&#x153;The sheer volume of infor- of the parts.â&#x20AC;? mation discussed at the meetâ&#x20AC;&#x153;The effect will be the Maning required a thoughtful hattanization of Menlo Park,â&#x20AC;? drafting of the recommenda- he said, and added that the tion,â&#x20AC;? Mr. Mueller said. traffic studies are artificially The $3.5 billion project low-balled. would bring about 1.3 million â&#x20AC;&#x153;As a city, we are doing far, far square feet of new develop- too little to mitigate the effects ment and more than 2,200 of that. It is my wish that the new employees to Palo Alto by city council take a very strong 2025. oppositional stand to all these It could also add an estimat- potential traffic incursions.â&#x20AC;? ed 10,000 new daily car trips to Go to http://tinyurl.com/ the area, making the additional SUMC-EIR to read the envitraffic in Menlo Park a primary ronmental impact report on concern for the commission. the Stanford hospital expanCommissioner Martin Engel sion. Almanac Staff Writer

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N E W S NOTES continued from page 9

Preparedness Team, in collaboration with the Menlo Park Fire Protection District, wants to teach new members how to get ready for an emergency. The group meets at 9 a.m. on the first Saturday of every month in the Atherton town hall at 91 Ashfield Road. The

TRAVEL continued from page 7

With total reimbursements of $1,227.36, however, she pushed ahead in the cost category as compared with the mayor’s $766 during his four-and-a-quarteryear tenure. Highlights: the Mount Olive Annual Crab Feed ($40); the San Mateo County/ Silicon Valley Convention and Visitors Bureau annual meeting

next meeting is set for Saturday, April 2. Contact Hanna Malak at hannajmalak@yahoo. com for more information.

Dancing at the library Who says libraries and dancing don’t mix? Not Menlo Park. On Saturday, April 2,

($65), and a State of the Valley conference ($150). City Manager Glen Rojas explained the council travel policy: A $10,000 fund covers travel costs for all five council members as part of the annual city budget. They can either ask the city to pay in advance, or request reimbursement. When the trip involves traveling out of state, the reimbursement must be approved, before or after the fact, by the council

the main library will host Joe Marchi from the Center for the American Musical to discuss choreography in American musicals. The presentation starts at 11 a.m. in the downstairs meeting room of the library at 800 Alma St. Free van service is provided for Menlo Park seniors and those with disabilities. Call 3302512 to schedule a ride. during a regular meeting. He said the council as a whole usually doesn’t spend the full $10,000; any leftover money returns to the general fund. Ms. Fergusson sounded irritated when the Almanac asked her about the expenses, and refused to answer questions about the D.C. trip, saying an expense report would be coming shortly. “It doesn’t seem like you cover actual news anymore,” she said. A

Soaring garbage rates back on council agenda By Renee Batti Almanac News Editor

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ow should the Atherton sees garbage collection services City Council proceed on most of the Peninsula. The with an inevitable gar- cost of service for the smallest bage rate increase — earlier garbage cans available — 20 proposed at 63 percent to 98 per- gallon and 32 gallon — would cent? The council will revisit that increase by 63 percent, with prickly question when it meets incremental increases for larger Wednesday, March 16. containers of up to 98 percent. The issue was put on hold last By comparison, rates in uninmonth, when a public hearing corporated areas in the West Bay on the proposed rate hike drew Sanitary District rose by 35.6 a crowd of unhappy residents, percent; Hillsborough’s rates and interim City Manager John are likely to rise by 25 percent; Danielson suggested that he tackle Redwood City’s rates rose by 18 some of the many questions raised percent; and Menlo Park’s rates about the uncommonly high rate- are likely to rise by 15 percent. hike proposal before the council Mr. Danielson said that in addivotes on new rates. tion to past garbage rates that Mr. Danielson will report on didn’t reflect the increasing costs what he and outside analysts of the service, Atherton is being learned from their investigation asked to pay higher rates because over the last few weeks. of its small number of households Also on the and its lack of agenda is possible commercial busiapproval of a setness, which typiThe town may also tlement agreement cally is charged with Pacific Penin- settle a lawsuit over a far higher rate sula Group, a large road-impact fees. than residences. development firm Recology’s fuel that sued the town to recover and employee costs to provide serroad-impact fees it paid before vice in Atherton must be covered the town stopped charging the by a smaller number of customers, fee. The council will meet in driving up the per-customer rate, closed session before the regular he noted. meeting, which begins at 7 p.m., to discuss and possibly sign off on Lawsuit settlement? The proposed lawsuit settlethe proposed settlement. ment with Pacific Peninsula Rate hike Group, which was hammered Mr. Danielson’s report to the out in mediation, is confidential council will address, among until approved by the council, other issues, questions pertain- Mr. Danielson said. ing to the $334,000 balance If the council signs off on it in the town owes to Allied Waste, its special, closed-session meetwhich provided garbage collec- ing, which begins at 5 p.m., it tion service for many years until will take an official vote on it Recology took over the contract during the public meeting, with in January. members of the public given the The report offers a breakdown chance to comment. There is of costs reportedly contributing to also a public comment period that debt, including higher-than- at the beginning of the 5 p.m. expected worker’s compensation special meeting. and other employee costs, and Pacific Peninsula sued the higher disposal fees charged to town to recover nearly $300,000 Allied by the county. in road-impact fees it claims it Mr. Danielson told the Alma- was charged illegally. nac that complicating the matter The council last year authois that, over the years, the town rized refunds of a portion of the “didn’t raise rates consistently and fees paid by builders before the concurrently with (Allied Waste’s) town abandoned the fee in late rising expenses.” 2009 due to controversy about He noted that an audit of Allied its legality. Pacific Peninsula’s Waste’s books is expected to be lawsuit aimed to force the town completed by September, at which to refund the fees it paid in their time the firm will have to justify entirety. its final charge to the town. The special council meeting The proposed rate schedule begins at 5 p.m. in the Town would make Atherton rates the Hall administrative office at 94 highest in the county, and the Ashfield Road in the Atherton percentage of the increase would Town Center. The regular meetfar surpass that of any other ing begins at 7 p.m. in the Town public agency in the 13-member Council Chambers, also in the joint powers authority that over- town center. A

14 N The Almanac NMarch 16, 2011

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N E W S

Janice Mary Pausa, “Jan” Our beloved daughter, sister, aunt, cousin, mother and grandmother died February 28th, 2011 of cardiac failure. Jan fought several health issues in her life with great courage and strength. Her joyful spirit was always present. Jan passed with husband and brother at her bedside. Born December 1933 in Alta, Iowa to Evelyn and Al Hanson, Jan was the oldest of three siblings. She spent her formative years in Oakland, California. In Jan’s early years she learned tennis from a neighborhood coach while becoming a ranked junior tennis player. Jan had a zest for life and a passion for the great outdoors spending many family camping trips fishing and hiking. Jan graduated with honors from Castlemont High School in 1952. Then continued on to the University of California at Berkeley where she received her Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration. During her time at UC Berkeley she fell in love with Clements Edward Pausa, “Ed”. Ed and Jan were married in 1955 at the Newman Hall on the campus of UC Berkeley. Following college, Jan worked as an accountant in San Diego and Long Beach while Ed served on active duty with the Navy. Jan and Ed moved several more times in California to support Ed’s career in the growing semiconductor industry. By 1959, Jan and Ed lived in Los Altos where their first son Geoffrey was born. The family then moved to Portland, Maine where their second son Ronald was born. With Janice’s sense of adventure, the family next moved to Hong Kong. Jan felt fortunate to travel all around the globe. She found the cultures interesting and exciting. In 1968, Jan’s family returned to California and by 1976 the family settled into their current home in Atherton. Jan became an active

member of Peninsula Volunteers which is an organization supporting local senior citizens. Jan served as Treasurer and President of Peninsula Volunteers where she was instrumental in the development of Crane Place; an award winning affordable senior housing complex in Menlo Park. Jan was a teacher and lover of all sports; from football and baseball to golf, tennis and the Olympics. Her love of sports was handed down to her boys. Year after year she would arrange fantastic ski trips to Lake Tahoe with her family and many friends. As an avid sports fan, she could be found watching sports on TV every weekend or she would join her mother and family at the Oakland stadium watching the A’s defeat the Giants or the Raiders defeating the 49ers. She will be remembered as a devoted wife, mother and grandmother with tireless energy bringing excitement, love and laughter to those around her. Jan is survived by her mother Evelyn Hanson, brother Kern Hanson, sister Aleen Hassard, husband Ed Pausa, two sons Geoff and Ron Pausa, and two grandchildren Zachary and Ashton Pausa. Funeral services were held at 11am on Monday March 14th at the Church of the Nativity, 210 Oak Grove Ave, Menlo Park CA 94025. In lieu of flowers please consider donations to: Stanford University Cardiovascular Institute, 2700 Sand Hill Road, Menlo Park, CA 94025. Please indicate “The PARTNER Trial” in the memo section of your check. PA I D

OBITUARY

Alvin A. Rathbun Alvin A. Rathbun, 88, a long-time resident of Portola Valley passed away February 23, 2011, six months after suffering a stroke. He died peacefully surrounded by his family. Born in West Hartford, Connecticut, Alvin graduated from Mount Hermon Prep School in Massachusetts and earned bachelor degrees from Middlebury College and Stanford University. He served in the Army in Italy during World War II and was awarded a Purple Heart. While stationed at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, Alvin met his future wife, Ella Virginia “Gini” Madison of North Carolina, and they were married in 1949. They moved to California and had two daughters, Victoria and Susan. Alvin earned an MBA from Stanford and co-founded a soils engineering firm, Testing and Controls, which later became Earth Systems, where he served as Secretary-Treasurer. He loved his work and didn’t retire until well into his seventies. Alvin was instrumental in the incorporation of the Town of Portola Valley and served on the town’s Planning Commission for several years. He was president of the Palo Alto Kiwanis Club from 1980 to 1981, a group he continued to enjoy and support. Alvin was a charter member of the Alpine Hills Tennis and Swim Club and helped guide it in its early years. For nearly forty years he could be 16 N The Almanac NMarch 16, 2011

found most Saturday mornings on a tennis court enjoying a lively game. He was also a charter and continuing member of the Alpine Hills Investment Club. Al played the cello for many years often accompanied by his wife, an accomplished pianist, and his family and friends on other instruments. In 1995 Alvin lost Gini, his wife of forty-six years, to cancer. Two years later he married Sally Elizabeth Lemoin, who had also lost her first husband, Donald Lemoin. Al and Sally did quite a bit of travelling and enjoyed time with friends and family. Al continued to ride his bicycle until age 87. Alvin is survived by his wife, Sally Lemoin Rathbun, daughter Susan Martin, step-daughter, Lisa Lemoin, grandsons John Gregory, Matthew Gregory and Mark Gregory, sister Eloise Lewis and many nephews and nieces. A service to celebrate Alvin’s life will be held March 19, 2011 at 2pm at the Woodside Village Church in Woodside, CA. In lieu of flowers please send donations to Middlebury College in Vermont, Boys Town in Nebraska, or the Kiwanis Club of Palo Alto. PA I D

OBITUARY

N PO LI C E C A L L S This information is from the Atherton and Menlo Park police departments and the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office. Under the law, people charged with offenses are considered innocent until convicted. ATHERTON Auto burglary report: Window smashed, first block of Marymount Ave., March 5. MENLO PARK Grand theft report: Three-phase circuit breakers stolen, 100 block of Constitution Ave., March 9. Auto burglary report: Loss estimated at $50 in break-in and theft of wallet, 300 block of Sharon Park Drive, March 4. Stolen vehicle report: Gold 1995 Honda Accord, 1300 block of Willow Road, March 7. Fraud reports: ■ Loss of $847 in unauthorized use of credit card, 1100 block of University Drive, March 10. ■ Identity theft, 1000 block of Laurel St., March 5.

WOODSIDE Commercial burglary report: Arrests made in connection with items stolen from 20 lockers after bolt cutters used to cut locks, Woodside High School at 199 Churchill St., March 4. Assault report: Blows exchanged with injuries to two caretakers on different shifts at same residence but who do not get along and signed citizens arrest forms on each other, 100 block of Vineyard Hill Road, March 7. Incident report: Unauthorized trimming of redwood trees in traffic island at intersection of state Highway 35 and Highway 84, Alice’s Restaurant, March 9. LADERA Auto burglary report: Vehicle broken into and Apple iPod Touch stolen, 100 block of Erica Way, March 8. Theft report: Unauthorized use of credit card stolen from unlocked vehicle, 300 block of La Cuesta Drive, March 8. WEST MENLO PARK Theft report: Dry cleaning valued at $550 stolen from side of house, 1000 block of Sherman Ave., March 4.

Paul R. Langdon Paul R. Langdon of Redwood City, California, passed away peacefully on February 28th, 2011. Paul was born in Columbus, Ohio on February 17, 1914. A celebration of Paul’s life was held on Monday, March 14th at 2:00pm at Menlo Park Presbyterian Church, 950 Santa Cruz Avenue, Menlo Park. Paul was preceded in death by his loving wife, Marjorie, and his son, Robert. Paul is survived by his son, Larry, six grandchildren, and eight great-grandchildren. For 30 years, Paul was Manager of Finance and Accounting, and Assistant Treasurer, of Battelle Memorial Institute in Columbus, Ohio. He served on the Columbus School Board of Education for 28 years. In lieu of flowers, gifts may be made in Paul’s memory to Menlo Park Presbyterian Church Missions Department, 950 Santa Cruz Ave., Menlo Park CA 94025; or to Forever Young (Paul’s caregivers), Palm Villas, 1931 Woodside Rd., Redwood City CA 94061. PA I D

OBITUARY

Ralph R. Luckenbach 1925-2011 Ralph Raymond Luckenbach passed away 2-17-11 at his Menlo Park home of 57 years, surrounded by his family. He was much loved and will be missed greatly. Born on 5-28-25 in Sacramento, CA, only son of Ralph B. and Celia Raymond Luckenbach. He graduated from Hoover High School in San Diego in 1943, and served with the Marines , ’43-’46. Ralph attended San Diego State ’46-’48, transferred to UC Berkeley and graduated in ’50 with a degree in Electrical Engineering (EE). His postgraduate work was at Cal also. He married Glenna Brannon, of San Diego, on 1-30-49, a union that was to last over 62 years and produced 3 treasured sons. He enjoyed his grandchildren, especially when visiting with them at family gatherings . Ralph was a 26 year engineer (’56-’82) with Ampex Corporation. In ’82, he retired as a Staff Engineer. He was a musician at heart, having played trombone in marching bands, dance bands and orchestras through his college years. Big Band, Swing and Jazz music were his very favorites. Survivors include his wife, Glenna and 3 sons, Steve, his wife Lori, their children James and Lisa, Mark, his wife Carole and their children John and Catherine and David, his wife Lillian and their children, Julia and great grandson Oliver, and Alice. He is also survived by his younger sister, Janet Babbit of Lakewood, WA. He was predeceased by his sister Carolyn Henderson and his parents. Ralph requested no services. The family will gather in his honor. Remembrances may be sent to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation or KCEA-FM at Menlo-Atherton High School. PA I D

OBITUARY

James (Jim) Thomas Byrnes Resident of Los Altos (formerly of Woodside) February 8, 1945 – March 2, 2011 A life lived with passion, purpose and performance. Following 66 years of bringing love and laughter to all those around him, our beloved Jim entered into rest on March 2, 2011. The eldest of three children, Jim was born in San Francisco, CA to John and Claire Byrnes. He was raised in nearby Millbrae, and he later earned a B.A. in psychology and an M.B.A. in marketing from San Francisco State University. Jim would go on to teach marketing courses at SFSU before finding success in sales during the next two decades. Most recently, Jim discovered his true passion as a realtor with Keller Williams in Palo Alto, and his mission was to help clients make the right lifestyle choices to achieve greater success and enjoyment. He was recognized by The Wall Street Journal for being in the Top 1% of agents nationwide. In January of 2011, the National Real Estate Forum Association recognized Jim’s extensive philanthropic efforts by awarding him the “Get by Giving” award. Yet despite his numerous professional accolades, Jim considered his roles as a family man and friend his greatest accomplishments. Jim is survived by daughter Shea Byrnes of San Francisco; son Eric (Tarah) Byrnes of Half Moon Bay; brother Michael (Catherine) Byrnes of Fresno; sister Claudia Byrnes of Campbell; Uncle Wayne (Nancy) Alexander of San Mateo; and niece and nephew, Valerie and Sean Byrnes, of San Francisco. Jim was the proud “Great Pa” of Chloe, Cali and a third grandchild due to arrive this fall. He is also survived by former wife of 28 years, Judy Byrnes—mother of Shea and Eric. In 2007, Jim met his dearly loved companion Kathy Bridgman, a fellow Bay Area realtor. Their connection was instantaneous; the duo danced, dined, traveled, golfed, hugged and laughed their way through the next four years. With open arms, Jim embraced Kathy’s three children and extended family, becoming an honorary “Great Pa” to her five grandchildren along the way. Although Jim left us far too soon, we take solace in knowing he lived each day to the fullest. He never missed an opportunity to tell people how much he cared for them. A true optimist, he believed that all experiences—good or bad—were opportunities for personal growth. In his own words, “Life is not a linear journey up or down. Life is full of cycles and wondrous opportunities if we just take the time and perspective to recognize them.” Jim’s zest for life was contagious—a lover of baseball, live music, traveling, a good Pinot Noir, the great outdoors, and above all else, family. We will miss his sky-blue eyes, his easy smile and his vigorous hugs. His dedication to spiritual growth and making others happy put him in a league of his own. As a skin cancer survivor, Jim gave his time and energy to the Melanoma Research Foundation. He met weekly with the Men’s Covenant Group, a gathering of dear friends based out of Menlo Park’s Presbyterian Church. Jim had a 5th Degree Black Belt in Kenpo Karate, and he was an avid skier, tennis player and golfer. He often livened up family events with an impromptu saxophone or piano performance, or by getting out the karaoke machine. He was incredibly generous in opening the doors of his vacation homes in Lake Tahoe and Maui for friends to enjoy, as these were two of his most cherished spots on the planet. Dad, Great Pa, Brother Jim, our sweet Jimbo, although we miss you beyond description, we trust that you have traveled on to a place where every view is “magical” and your soul will dance for all eternity. Thank you for gracing us with your heart of gold and changing our lives forever. We have no doubt that you have moved on towards even greater success and enjoyment. A memorial service and celebration of Jim’s life is planned for Thursday, March 17, 2011 at 1:00 pm at the Menlo Park Presbyterian Church (950 North Santa Cruz Avenue, Menlo Park). A reception will follow at Sharon Heights Country Club (2900 Sand Hill Road, Menlo Park). In lieu of flowers, please make donations to the Melanoma Research Foundation: www.firstgiving.com/fundraiser/jim byrnes/Melanoma-Research-Foundation. Donations by check should be mailed to the Melanoma Research Foundation, 1411 K Street NW, Suite 500, Washington D.C. 20005. Please include “In Memory of Jim Byrnes” in memo section of check. March 16, 2011 N The Almanac N17

Serving Menlo Park, Atherton, Portola Valley, and Woodside for 44 years.

Editor & Publisher Tom Gibboney

Editorial Managing Editor Richard Hine News Editor Renee Batti Lifestyles Editor Jane Knoerle Senior Correspondents Marion Softky, Marjorie Mader Staff Writers Dave Boyce, Sandy Brundage Contributors Barbara Wood, Kate Daly, Katie Blankenberg Special Sections Editors Carol Blitzer, Sue Dremann Photographer Michelle Le News Intern Miranda Simon

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Advertising Vice President Sales & Marketing Walter Kupiec Display Advertising Sales Heather Hanye Real Estate Manager Neal Fine Real Estate and Advertising Coordinator Diane Martin Published every Wednesday at 3525 Alameda De Las Pulgas, Menlo Park, Ca 94025 Newsroom: (650) 223-6525 Newsroom Fax: (650) 223-7525 Advertising: (650) 854-2626 Advertising Fax: (650) 854-3650 e-mail news and photos with captions to: Editor@AlmanacNews.com e-mail letters to: letters@AlmanacNews.com The Almanac, established in September, 1965, is delivered each week to residents of Menlo Park, Atherton, Portola Valley and Woodside and adjacent unincorporated areas of southern San Mateo County. The Almanac is qualified by decree of the Superior Court of San Mateo County to publish public notices of a governmental and legal nature, as stated in Decree No. 147530, issued November 9, 1969. Subscriptions are $60 for one year and $100 for two years.

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TOWN SQUARE FORUM POST your views on the Town Square forum at www.TheAlmanacOnline.com EMAIL your views to: letters@almanacnews.com and note this it is a letter to the editor in the subject line. MAIL or deliver to: Editor at the Almanac, 3525 Alameda de las Pulgas, Menlo Park, CA 94025.

CALL the Viewpoint desk at 223-6507.

Ideas, thoughts and opinions about

local issues from people in our community. Edited by Tom Gibboney.

Council’s travel policy woefully lacking

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he brouhaha set off when Menlo Park City Council member Kelly Fergusson announced that she was traveling to Washington, D.C., to represent the city’s position on high-speed rail — and expected the city to pay $400 a night for two nights in a first-class hotel — has uncovered a woefully inadequate council travel policy. After submitting a public records request with the Menlo Park city clerk, the Almanac received City Council travel records going back to 2004. The documents show that, ED ITORI AL since her election that year, The opinion of The Almanac Ms. Fergusson was by far the city’s most frequent traveler, racking up more than $12,000 in expenses. Former mayor and council member Heyward Robinson ran up the largest single bill — $3,500 for one three-day trip to Washington, D.C., in 2009, which included a $1,200 plane ticket. The city sets aside $10,000 each year to fund council travel expenses. It is loosely administered by city staff, who simply reimburse members when they submit receipts for in-state travel. A council vote is required for the city to pay for out-of-state travel, although it is rare for the council to turn down a travel expense request from a colleague. It should also be said that council members are expected to travel to routine meetings, although lobbying in Washington, D.C., has not been a common occurrence. In light of Ms. Fergusson’s costly trip and a council policy with few controls, it is time to rewrite the policy and get control of council travel at taxpayers’ expense. For starters, rather than approve travel payments after the fact, trips should be approved in advance by a council majority for in-state and out-of-state travel. And, rather than allowing members carte blanche to run up whatever expenses they wish, including staying at expensive hotels when many others are available at

much lower rates, the city should simply set a daily reimbursement limit. Expenses over that limit would not be eligible for reimbursement. In most cases, council members travel to attend regular meetings of the League of California Cities, which are generally thought to be worthwhile. But Ms. Fergusson’s trip to Washington, D.C., accompanied by the city’s lobbyist to address high-speed rail issues, should have been thoroughly discussed in advance by the council. In this situation, the public should have received a clear idea of what message the council wanted to convey to congressional representatives and other federal officials. Ms. Fergusson announced her trip toward the end of a very late council meeting, and although colleague Kirsten Keith was not convinced a member needed to accompany lobbyist Ravi Mehta, no one asked Ms. Fergusson to remain behind. Other issues surfaced about the trip, including Ms. Fergusson’s alleged conflict of interest because she is employed by Siemens, a company that wants to work on the state’s highspeed rail project. While there may be the appearance of a potential conflict, Ms. Fergusson’s job at Siemens, a huge German-based conglomerate, is far removed from the company division that would bid on a rail project. She has always voted with the council majority on the rail issue, including the vote to join two lawsuits over the matter. In addition, City Attorney Bill McClure said he saw no conflict of interest to date. It is too late to call Ms. Fergusson back from her latest trip, but there is an easy way for council members to show their displeasure: Simply refuse to approve her reimbursement request for the expenses she incurred, including charges for a $400-anight hotel room. Such an action would send a clear message to all members that such trips must be thoroughly vetted by the full council before they are eligible for reimbursement.

L ET TER Our reader write

Council member has conflict on rail project Editor: At the end of the March 1 Menlo Park City Council meeting, Kelly Fergusson announced she was headed to Washington, D.C., to express the city’s views on high-speed rail and apparently on Caltrain electrification. This trip was not previously disclosed and had not been approved by the council. Kelly Fergusson works for Siemens, which has been trying to become a vendor for the project. There is certainly now a question of whether she should recuse herself from any high-speed rail discussions. She talks about a two-track option. Two tracks is not an option for high-speed rail. How many times do high-speed-rail officials have to say that the project demands two tracks for itself? Since Union Pacific Railroad

18 N The Almanac NMarch 16, 2011

Our Regional Heritage The western mapping center of the U.S. Geological Survey opened in Menlo Park in 1959. Here, Wayne Kobayashi works on a topographical map at USGS in 1988. Menlo Park Heritage Association

and Caltrain currently use two tracks, four tracks in some configuration is going to be needed. The council discussion indicates the city’s lobbyist, Ravi Mehta, didn’t even have a good plan for the visit. Finally, Ms. Fergusson mentions Caltrain electrification. Is there a city policy on Caltrain electrification? Ms. Fergusson

seems to think so, since she says she will be working to get the money for electrification. The city’s lobbyist, Ravi Mehta, told National Review Online that, “The cities — not just the councils, but the community itself — supported high-speed rail, and they are still supportive, but only if the project is done right.”

If this is the city’s position, it certainly should not be. This project has ballooned from $32 billion to $65 billion in two years. The state is in dire financial shape and still we are supposed to be supportive? Again form your own opinion. Morris Brown Stone Pine Lane, Menlo Park

V I E W P O I N T

Redevelopment agencies siphon funds from schools By Jennifer Bestor

W

hat do all the arguments about Gov. Jerry Brownâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s plan to take funds from redevelopment agencies, including Las Pulgas in Menlo Park, have to do with us? Quite a lot, as it turns out. In fact, over half of Menlo Parkâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s redevelopment has been paid for by our schools. We never said, â&#x20AC;&#x153;Letâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s GUEST shortchange the OPINION schools to address urban blight!â&#x20AC;? But thatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s what weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve done for 30 years. Created in 1981, the Menlo ParkLas Pulgas Redevelopment Agency covers Menlo Park east of U.S. 101 plus a thin wedge up Willow Road from 101 to Middlefield Road. Circumventing post-Proposition 13 apportionment of local revenue, RDAs were able to take any increase in property taxes in their coverage areas â&#x20AC;&#x201D; whether that appreciation was due to improvements, inflation, real-estate bubbles, or blight reduction. By declaring this area blighted, the Menlo Park-Las Pulgas RDA was able to commandeer all property tax appreciation (over 10 percent now of the cityâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s total property tax base), negotiate minimal funding pass-backs to other affected local services, fund itself, and float $75 million of bonds to finance RDA activities. You might wonder why local services were willing to take less than their allotted share. Two crucial facts were that education consumed around half of each property tax dollar and, at that time, the state was backfilling any loss of property tax for all school districts. Loophole met moral hazard. School districts, thinking that they would be made whole, signed away almost all of their tax share, while outside agencies with some negotiating power (the county, the fire district) gave up 30 to 50 percent. The city, meanwhile, nominally gave the RDA almost all its share, knowing

$11+ million in annual property tax that would go toâ&#x20AC;Ś Sequoia Union High District $1.5 million

Menlo R City W School C $500K *

Ravenswood School District $3.1 million

Community Colleges $650K

T

here has been increasing media coverage of the sales tax equity fight in California in recent weeks. A few days ago, Board of Equalization member George Runner stated his belief that Amazon. comâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s declared intent to terminate its relationship with instate affiliates was â&#x20AC;&#x153;an imminent threat to California jobs.â&#x20AC;? Whether Amazon.com makes good on its threats is very much an open question. Should California pass legislation that makes clear Amazonâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s network

City of Menlo Park $1.2 million

San Mateo County $2.3 million

Other Districts (Flood, Mosquito, Air Quality) $100K

Menlo Park Fire District $1.1 million

    

          Menlo Park Las Pulgas Redevelopment Agency $ 6.8 million

City of Menlo Park $40,000 (cash) + $1.5 million (shift of expenses)

San Mateo County $1.5 million

Fire District $450,000

**

After studying city and county records, Jennifer Bestor created this graphic analysis of the redevelopment agency.

that the City Council (sitting as the Redevelopment Commission) could return RDA funds to support city programs, police activities, public works, and other initiatives that either addressed blight or improved economic conditions in the area. I had thought that the state was hitting up everyone to pay for education. Never before had I understood that the cities have been siphoning school funding to pay for blight reduction. Here in Menlo Park, children in the elementary and high schools now directly bear the cost of over $1.5 million of our redevelopment activity. For the past decade, the Menlo Park City School District and Sequoia Union High School District have been funded by local property taxes, with no state backfill. The RDA takes $1.8 million and hands back a paltry $0.010 million to Menlo Park City School District ($10,000) and a mere $0.15 million to Sequoia Union High School District ($150,000). Unmentioned in these numbers is the fact that the redevelopment area is not an industrial wasteland. Resident along Willow Road are 95 Menlo Park City School District students (on whom we spend $665,000 of our fixed district prop-

erty tax pool) â&#x20AC;&#x201D; while over 340 Menlo-Atherton students live along Willow and in Belle Haven ($3.4 million of high school districtâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s pool). They and their classmates have been shorted the quality education for which we taxpayers assumed we were paying. The two other affected local school districts, Ravenswood and Redwood City, are technically backfilled by the state, whose largess has been invisibly funding another $2.8 million of our redevelopment activity. But, as we have seen with the endless cuts out of Sacramento, Californiaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s pockets have been picked dry. Thus, the end result of all these funding shifts is that both districts have watched their basic funding per child drop over recent years. So parents vote with their feet. Not surprisingly, state-funded districts in San Mateo County have seen a 5 percent drop in enrollment over the past decade (Ravenswood is down 19 percent; Redwood City is down 3 percent), while locally funded districts have climbed 11 percent (the Menlo Park City School District is up 28 percent). By the early 1990s the state inevitably noticed that its pockets were being picked and began to

Amazon is trying to thwart new tax policy By Clark Kepler

Cty Edu $350 K

of affiliate marketers establishes nexus (a home location for tax purposes) in the state, it is far from certain that Amazon will abandon a marketing strategy in California that underpins much of its sales and customer acquisition efforts. While Amazonâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s future moves are pure conjecture, what is clear is that Sen. Runnerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s assertion the companyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s threatened preemptive strike poses â&#x20AC;&#x153;an imminent threat to California jobsâ&#x20AC;? has no basis in fact. Rather, it is Amazonâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s refusal to obey existing state law by colGUEST OPINION

lecting sales tax that is costing California jobs and revenue. By allowing Amazon and other online retailers to exploit a decades-old loophole in the law, more than 18,000 jobs are now being lost to online sales, and California retail businesses are losing $4.1 billion in sales, which will have caused a total of $7.2 billion in lost economic activity in 2010. Clearly, Amazon is willing to fight very hard to maintain the critical strategic advantage it has over the thousands of in-state retailers that do collect sales tax, but Californiaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s leaders should not let bluster

assess the cities, counties, and special districts for what was called â&#x20AC;&#x153;Educational Revenue Augmentationâ&#x20AC;? (ERAF) to fund education, and two years ago to raid RDAs for â&#x20AC;&#x153;Supplemental ERAF.â&#x20AC;? So the funds that had been wrested from our local school and service districts into the RDAs and cities, in turn are wrested from the RDAs and cities to fund the schools. By the time you read this, Sacramento may have decided for us how to extract communities from this self-defeating cycle. Whatever it does, the Menlo Park-Las Pulgas RDA wonâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t actually end before 2031, a period when half of the RDA area tax revenue ($94 million) will go to repay the $63 million of debt that the RDA is carrying, plus interest, and also possibly $11 million of additional indebtedness due to an ill-timed attempt to hedge the interest rate on that debt. We need to ensure three things moving forward: First, it is time that the unencumbered half of the RDA property tax revenue reverts to our established local services. Fifty cents on the dollar isnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t that great, but the schools have been getting just 14. Second, Sacramento cannot be allowed to say, â&#x20AC;&#x153;Locally funded and intimidation shape important public policy or legislation. Looking ahead, if Amazon terminates its affiliates, those marketers that are truly building businesses and creating jobs can quickly affiliate themselves with scores of major retailers that currently work with thousands of California affiliates â&#x20AC;&#x201D; and which are collecting state sales tax. Their business will go to retailers that win it in an equitable and competitive marketplace, not by legal slight of hand and attempted intimidation. â&#x20AC; In the end, the stateâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s revenue and jobs will increase by leveling the playing field with e-fairness legislation. As an independent business owner that does collect sales tax,

districts like the Menlo Park City School District and the Sequoia Union High School District are rich enough, so we will just channel funds we take from RDAs to the poor revenue-limited districts.â&#x20AC;? Locally funded districts experience disproportionate enrollment growth because they are Californiaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s best hope of remaining competitive with the world, not just with other states at the bottom of the national school funding scale. Third, redevelopment works are worthy, sufficiently worthy to be funded explicitly by Menlo Park voters. The problem is the means, not the end. Menlo Park residents need to discuss what redevelopment activities we want and how to pay for them, and not let the city hit up the schools when no one notices. Please let your City Council members, State Assemblyman Rich Gordon, and State Sen. Joe Simitian know your thoughts. This is a local issue. And letâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s continue this discussion in the Almanacâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Town Square. â&#x2013;  Jennifer Bestor is a Menlo Park

resident who writes occasionally on school tax issues. â&#x2013;  Go to AlmanacNews.com/ square to visit Town Square. both in my brick and mortar bookstore and online at Keplers. com, I strongly urge the senator to reconsider his position and to support the sensible reform of California statutes to help ensure the fair competition that will, in the end, better serve California residents and help maintain critical governmental services. I encourage Almanac readers to add their voices and let Senator Runner know what you think. Write or e-mail: Hon. George Runner, California State Board of Equalization, 400 Capitol Mall, Suite 2340, Sacramento, CA 95814 Clark Kepler manages Keplerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Books and Magazines in Menlo Park.

March 16, 2011 N The Almanac N19

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20 N The Almanac NMarch 16, 2011


The Almanac 03.16.2011 - Section 1