Beginning with Betsy. See Section 2
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
AUGUST 4, 2010
| VO L . 4 5 N O. 4 9
W W W. T H E A L M A N AC O N L I N E . C O M
So long to Bill Lane
Valley icon and philanthropist dies at 90 Page 3
Community Health Education Programs Palo Alto Center 795 El Camino Real Lecture and Workshops 650-853-4873 The Silent Killer: Detection and Management of Hypertension Presented by Lynette Lissin, M.D., PAMF Cardiology Tuesday, Aug. 10, 7 – 8:30 p.m.
Your Baby’s Doctor Thursday, Aug. 12, 7 – 9 p.m.
Mountain View Center 701 E. El Camino Real Lecture and Workshops 650-934-7373 Beginners Guide to Diabetes A Conversation With...Judy Farnsworth, R.D., CDE Wednesday, Aug. 4, 7 – 8 p.m. Sunnyvale Public Library, 665 W. Olive Avenue, Sunnyvale
Living Well Classes 650-853-2960
Understanding Celiac and Gluten For Your Health Community Lecture Series Presented by Sanjeev Tummala, M.D., and Dalia Perelman, R.D. Wednesday, Aug. 11, 7 – 8 p.m.
Functional Spine Training First Monday of each month, 5 – 6:30 p.m.
Nutrition and Diabetes Classes 650-853-2961 New Weigh of Life (Pre-assessment required prior to starting class) Palo Alto: Wednesdays starting Sept. 1 for 12 weeks, 6 – 7:15 p.m. Free orientation on Wednesday, Aug. 18, 6 – 7:30 p.m. Redwood City: Thursdays starting Sept. 23 for 12 weeks, 2 – 4:15 p.m.
Prediabetes First Monday of the month, 9 – 11:30 a.m., and third Wednesday of every other month, 4:30 – 7 p.m. Also in Redwood Shores, fourth Wednesday of every other month, 5:30 – 8 p.m.
Adult Weight Management Group Thursdays, 5:30 – 7 p.m.
Heart Smart Class Third and fourth Tuesday of every other month, 5:30 – 8:30 p.m.
Bariatric Nutrition SMA First Tuesday of each month, 10:30 a.m. – noon
Living Well with Diabetes Tuesdays, 4:30 – 7 p.m., or Fridays, 9:30 a.m. – noon
HMR Weight Management Program 650-404-8260 Free orientation session. Tuesdays, noon – 1 p.m., and Thursdays, 5 – 6:30 p.m.
Nutrition and Diabetes Classes 650-934-7177 New Weigh of Life: Adult Weight Management Program (Pre-assessment required prior to starting class) Mondays starting Oct. 4 for 12 weeks, 6 – 7:15 p.m.
Heart Smart Class Second Tuesday of each month, 3:30 – 5:30 p.m. Diabetes Class (two-part class) Tuesdays, 9:30 a.m. – noon and Wednesdays, 2 – 4:30 p.m. Prediabetes Third Thursday of each month, 2 – 4 p.m. Fourth Tuesday of each month, 3 – 5 p.m.
Healthy Eating Type 2 Diabetes Third Wednesday of every other month, 5:30 – 8:30 p.m.
Sweet Success Gestational Diabetes Class Wednesdays, 9 a.m. – noon
Gestational Diabetes Wednesdays, 2 – 4 p.m.
Pregnancy, Breastfeeding & Child Care Classes Preparing for Birth 650-853-2960 Wednesdays, Aug. 4 – Sept. 19 (skip 9/8), 7 – 9:15 p.m. Saturdays, Aug. 7, 14 & 21, 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. Thursdays, Sept. 2 – Oct. 7, 7 – 9:15 p.m. Moving Through Pregnancy Mondays, Aug. 9 & 16, 7 – 9 p.m., 650-853-2960
Breastfeeding: Secrets for Success Thursday, Aug. 26, 7 – 9 p.m., 650-853-2960 Feeding Dynamics: Raising Healthy & Happy Eaters! (for parents of children aged 0 – 6) 650-853-2961 Introduction to Solids (ages 0 – 1) Feeding Your Toddler (ages 1 – 3) Feeding Your Preschooler (ages 3 – 6) Offered in Palo Alto and Los Altos, please call for dates.
Support Groups Bariatric 650-281-8908
Drug and Alcohol 650-853-2904
Healing Imagery for Cancer Patients 650-799-5512
Multiple Sclerosis 650-328-0179
Pregnancy, Breastfeeding and Child Care Classes Childbirth Preparation Thursdays, Fridays & Saturdays, Aug. 5, 13 & 14, 6 – 9 p.m.
What to Expect with Your Newborn Tuesday, Aug. 17, 7 – 8 p.m.
Preparing for Baby Tuesday, Aug. 10, 6:30 – 8:30 p.m.
Infant Emergencies and CPR Wednesdays, Aug. 18 and Sept. 1, 6 – 8:30 p.m.
OB Orientation Thursdays, Aug. 12 & 26, 6:30 – 8 p.m.
Baby Care Thursday, Aug. 19, 10:30 a.m. – noon.
Infant/Child CPR Monday, Aug. 16, 6 – 8 p.m.
For all, register online or call 650-934-7373.
Introduction to Solids Monday, Aug. 16, 10:30 a.m. – noon
Free Appointments 650-934-7373 HICAP Counseling, Advance Health Care Directive Counseling, General Social Services (visits with our social worker)
Support Groups 650-934-7373 AWAKE
For a complete list of classes and class fees, lectures and health education resources, visit: pamf.org. 2 N The Almanac N August 4, 2010
UP F RONT
Bill Lane, publisher, philanthropist, Portola Valley’s biggest fan, dies at 90
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ortola Valley’s first mayor, Bill Lane, when contributing his insights at one of the many, many Town Council meetings he attended, would reaffirm what the regulars there already knew: that his cheerful and invigorating spirit inhabited the room. His actual presence was simply a living and breathing manifestation of it. Now his spirit, and the collective memories of his fellow citizens, will have to do. Mr. Lane, 90, died Saturday, July 31, surrounded by his family at Stanford Hospital. He had been in a coma and died of respiratory failure, according to a spokeswoman for his office. In addition to being a former mayor and member of the first Town Council, he was the former co-publisher of Sunset magazine, a former ambassador to Australia and Nauru, an active philanthropist, a longtime and devoted environmentalist, and perhaps Portola Valley’s most ardent fan. Not to mention a role he took much pride and joy in: playing the part of Santa for 55 years, first at Sunset magazine and, since 1990, at the Ladera shopping center. Mr. Lane’s partner at Sunset was his brother Mel, who died in 2007 at the age of 85 and who co-founded the Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST). Despite his age, Bill Lane regularly and reliably drove himself to town meetings and frequently spoke, usually during the public comment period. He invariably had a good word for the Town Council and the town staff. “On some quiet evenings when the council agenda was light, Bill would often be the only member of the audience other than the local Almanac reporter,” Mayor Steve Toben said in an e-mail. “He would frequently take the floor to express his pride in the democratic process and in the dedication of the town’s staff and its volunteer officials. ... His joyous spirit was infectious.” Longtime councilman and for-
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Bill Lane at his 90th birthday party in the community hall of the Portola Valley Town Center. (The cover photo was taken by a friend in Australia, according to Bill Lane’s office.) Go to AlmanacNews.com to see more photos.
mer mayor Ted Driscoll noted that while there were many people involved in Portola Valley’s incorporation, Mr. Lane was unique in his ongoing commitment. He gave “more than half a century of support to this town,” he said. “We will sorely miss him.” “I’m really heartbroken right now,” Councilwoman Maryann Derwin said in a phone interview. “It’s a profound loss. I just don’t know how we’re going to manage the Town Council. He was a beacon.” Mr. Lane inspired her and regularly brought the discussion back to the essentials of democratic government, Ms. Derwin said. “It just felt honorable to do the work when he was there. It doesn’t usually feel like an honor,” she said. “I hope we can continue to do that, but without his example, his belief in it.”
Mr. Lane, a big fan of The Almanac, often added to his comments a good word for this newspaper along with a nod in this reporter’s direction. In personal greetings, his smile was a constant, along with a firm handshake and kudos. Mr. Lane had a kinship with the media milieu, having been the publisher of Sunset, and having worked his way up from selling the magazine door to door during the early years of the Great Depression, according to histories of the magazine and a curricula vitae that Mr. Lane provided to The Almanac. Mr. Lane received a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Stanford University in 1942. As a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy during World War II, he served
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August 4, 2010 N The Almanac N 3
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Divided council reverses itself on hotel tax increase By Renee Batti Almanac News Editor
enlo Park’s hotel tax will remain as is for at least three more years after the City Council reversed itself at its July 27 meeting and decided not to ask voters to raise it from 10 percent to 12 percent. At its meeting the week before (on July 20), the council had approved an ordinance on a 4-1 vote to place the proposed increase on the Nov. 2 ballot, with Councilman Andy Cohen opposed. Consideration of the matter at the July 27 meeting was the legally required “second reading” of the ordinance. Both votes required a two-thirds majority to pass, which means
four votes on a five-person council. Since the July 20 action, the council heard from representatives of the city’s two hotels — the Rosewood Sand Hill resort and the Stanford Park Hotel — which generate 85 percent of the city’s hotel tax, or transient occupancy tax. Greg Alden of the Stanford Park Hotel told the council on July 27 that his facility “has been hit tremendously hard” by the economic downtown. The workforce has been cut by 19 percent since 2007, and payroll has been cut 18 percent during that time, he said. Overall, business is down more than 20 percent, he added. The tax increase, he said, would take away some of the competitive edge the hotel now
has because the transient occupancy tax in Palo Alto and other nearby cities is 12 percent. The Rosewood’s Michael Casey agreed. On July 20, he urged the council not to increase the tax. “Raising it is a risk,” he
‘They’re taking steps we haven’t taken as a city’ to deal with declining revenue. COUNCILMAN JOHN BOYLE, REFERRING HOTEL’S REDUC-
TO THE STANFORD PARK
TION IN WORKFORCE AND PAYROLL
said, not only to hotels but to other Menlo Park businesses that benefit from the trade the hotels bring to town. The council majority had
pushed for a higher tax because of eroding general fund revenues resulting from the economic downturn. Property and sales tax revenues have fallen steeply, and costs — particularly for employee salaries and benefits — have been rising quickly. The city is wrestling with a structural budgetary deficit that’s expected to be in place for several years. On July 20, when the ordinance was introduced, Councilman Heyward Robinson argued strongly for the tax increase. Holding up a copy of the city’s newsletter, MenloFocus, he pointed to a pie chart showing that police salaries now account for 39 percent of the city’s spending — up from 34 percent in 2007, he said. The city, he said, must find a way to raise more revenue. “It
doesn’t have to be (the hoteloccupancy tax) ... but this is certainly one option,” he said. If the council doesn’t approve sending the proposed hike to the ballot, “we need to look at raising the utility-users tax,” he added. Mayor Rich Cline agreed that the city must increase its revenues, but said he opposes a utility tax increase. A hotel tax is appropriate, he said, because the tax hasn’t been raised in 18 years, and the hotel/motel market, driven by Stanford University, is stable. Although the city staff report said that, overall, “representatives from the two Menlo Park hotels felt there would be no discernable impact if the (tax) rate were increased by either one or See HOTEL TAX, page 8
Hanretty named Portola Valley superintendent Tim Hanretty, who has served as chief financial officer and assistant superintendent for the Portola Valley Photo by Michelle Le/ and Woodside The Almanac school districts Tim Hanretty for many years, has been named the Portola Valley School District’s new superintendent, effective with the start of the school year next month. Mr. Hanretty replaces Anne Campbell, who in January will become San Mateo County superintendent of schools after an uncontested election in June. The appointment was made as part of the school board’s recent reorganization of the district’s management structure, according to a press release from the district, which oversees two schools: Corte Madera and Ormondale. Corte Madera School Principal Carol Piraino is also making a move up in the district: She has been appointed assistant superintendent for special education and curriculum, the press release said. Mr. Hanretty said Corte Madera will open the school year with “an experienced interim principal in place,” but that “hirSee HANRETTY, page 7
Photo by Michelle Le/The Almanac
From left, Juan Carlos Luna dumps out a mixture of clay and sandstone that was dug out from 30 feet underground, as Favian Hernandez pulls up a fresh pail of the mixture and Marco Barcenos waits with a wheelbarrow at the recently built Atherton home of Kimberly Sweidy and Raymie Stata, now being retrofitted.
Homeowners: Atherton building department negligent ■ Couple says a multimillion-dollar reconstruction project is needed to make a new custom home safe and inhabitable. By Renee Batti Almanac News Editor
hen Kimberly Sweidy named the home she and her husband Raymie Stata were building in west Atherton Casa de Buena Esperanza — House of Good Hope — she by no means had rose-colored glasses on. It was spring 2006. The house had been in the planning and construction process for about
five years, it was nowhere near completion, and Ms. Sweidy was becoming increasingly convinced that the process had gone badly awry. “In Spanish, esperar means to hope and to wait,” she said in a recent interview when asked about the name. The melding of the concepts of hope and waiting, she added, “embraces the cultural value of patience,” and in mid-2006, she knew that she, her husband,
and their two young daughters were going to have to call upon a deep store of patience — not to mention fortitude — to get them through the ordeal the home-construction project had turned into. Now in the midst of a legal battle with her building contractor, Ms. Sweidy is also taking on the town of Atherton’s building department for passing inspections and ultimately signing off on a multimillion-dollar house
that the couple is having to pour millions more into to make structurally sound and repair the many problems they’ve discovered since moving into it in the summer of 2007. Many if not most of those problems would have been flagged and prevented or fixed if department staff had not “failed to perform in a reasonable or competent manner,” Ms. Sweidy said. Ms. Sweidy and Mr. Stata have filed a claim against See HOMEOWNERS, page 8
August 4, 2010 N The Almanac N 5
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Armed men invade local home Two men armed with handguns invaded a home Saturday morning, July 31, in the 1200 block of San Mateo Drive in Menlo Park, police report. One of the men held a female resident at gunpoint and ordered her to remain quiet, police said. The other armed man took an iPhone from another female resident and then fled on foot when other residents in the house heard the commotion, said Officer Paul Phu of the Menlo Park Police Department.
BILL LANE continued from page 3
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as flag lieutenant and aide to the commandant of the 12th Naval District, based in San Francisco, and as the gunnery and communications officer aboard a troop transport ship in the Pacific, according to his CV. He married musician, horticulturist and interior designer Donna Jean Gimbel in 1955, and the couple have three adult children â€” two daughters and a son. Mr. Lane liked to find occasions for mirth. On July 7, this reporter was securing a bicycle to a flagpole outside the Historic Schoolhouse. Mr. Lane, who was on his way inside for a Planning Commission meeting, noted aloud that if someone were to steal the flagpole, that same person might very well make off with the bicycle then being attached to it. Conservation commitment
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As an environmentalist, Mr. Lane had few peers in his 20 years of active support for POST as well as for national parks and conservation causes around the country, Audrey Rust, the chief executive of
No one was injured and the iPhone was the only item reported taken in the incident, which occurred at around 8:56 a.m., Officer Phu said. One suspect was described as a Hispanic man in his 30s and approximately 5 feet 10 inches tall with a thin build. He was wearing a black beanie-type cap and dark clothing, police said. The other suspect was described as a heavyset Hispanic man, about 28 years old, 5 feet 5 inches tall, and with a dark complexion. He was
POST, told The Almanac. â€œHis contributions to conservation and the appreciation and joy of nature are innumerable,â€? Ms. Rust said. â€œHe was really a remarkable man who put his efforts into his belief system. He was a conservationist of great stature.â€? It began with the encouragement of his parents to enjoy the outdoors and the Western way of life, whether in the wilderness or in a backyard, she said. In Yosemite National Park, Mr. Lane had the honor, on several occasions, to MC the fire-fall, an evening spectacle involving a bonfire being shoved off the cliff at the top of Glacier Point. â€œThat was a great moment for him,â€? Ms. Rust said. A philanthropist
Councilman Driscoll, an entrepreneur and a scientist, recalled a chance encounter some years ago with Mr. Lane and his brother Mel in a Menlo Park restaurant. Mr. Driscoll had been on his way out after making a pitch to another scientist about an idea for detecting abandoned or forgotten land mines. He stopped by their table to say hello, not to continue his pitch.
wearing blue jeans, a white long-sleeve T-shirt under a blue collared shirt, and black tennis shoes. He had short hair, a thin mustache and spoke Spanish, police said. Officers from neighboring cities assisted in a search but the suspects were not found. Police ask anyone with information about this incident to call Detective Jeff Vasquez at 650-330-6363, Detective Sergeant Jaime Romero at 650330-6361, or the anonymous tip line at 650-330-6395.
After a 15-second summary of why he was there that day, Mr. Driscoll said that Bill Lane took out a business card and wrote on the back, â€œI commit $10,000,â€? and handed it to him. â€œI was blown away,â€? Mr. Driscoll said. â€œIt was breathtaking when it happened. He spent his life giving away money.â€? POSTâ€™s environmentally themed Wallace Stegner lecture series was underwritten by Bill and Jean Lane, and Mr. Lane attended almost every lecture for 15 years, Ms. Rust said. â€œHe was a person who we will miss very much, but he has given us so much,â€? Ms. Rust added. â€œWhat a wonderful legacy.â€? Included in that legacy locally will be Mr. and Ms. Laneâ€™s generosity in giving some $2.5 million to help build the $20 million three-building complex at the Portola Valley Town Center. The U.S. Green Building Council recently awarded the complex its highest rating. A
Go to is.gd/dYXF8 (case-sensitive) to read Marion Softkyâ€™s story on Bill Lane as he approached his 90th birthday.
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Tour de Menlo ready to roll Aug. 21 Hundreds of Bay Area cyclists are expected to take part Saturday, Aug. 21, in this yearâ€™s Tour de Menlo, the annual bike ride that starts and ends at MenloAtherton High School and offers three Midpeninsula routes of 25, 35 and 65 miles. The longer course will take riders to Belmont and then south through Woodside, Portola Valley and Los Altos on their way to the lunch stop at the Picchetti Open Space district on Montebello Road in Cupertino. The return route heads north on Foothill Boulevard through Los Altos, Palo Alto and on to Menlo-Atherton High School. The elevation gain on the longer ride is about 2,500 feet. The 35- and 25-mile routes are
virtually flat and are designed to appeal to beginning and intermediate riders. Lunch will be served at the scenic Picchetti Open Space and historic winery, where riders will be able to relax in a shaded setting overlooking Stevens Creek Reservoir. Luttickenâ€™s, the Menlo Park deli, will cater the hearty lunch of grilled hamburgers, hot dogs, and chicken sandwiches as well as a wide variety of salads. The ride is sponsored by the Rotary Club of Menlo Park and The Almanac. All proceeds from the ride will benefit Rotary tutoring and need-based scholarships as well as nonprofit organizations supported by The Almanacâ€™s annual Holiday Fund drive.
The beneficiaries are the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Peninsula, Second Harvest Food Bank, St. Anthonyâ€™s Dining Room in Redwood City, Shelter Network, Youth and Family Assistance and several others. Got to TourdeMenlo.com to register or get more information. Online registration continues until ride day, Aug. 21, although anyone who wants to receive a ride T-shirt must register online by Aug. 11. Advance registration costs $50 including lunch and the shirt. The ride is fully supported, with two rest stops and a water stop, and SAG support is offered over the complete route. For more information, call Tom at (650) 575-2279.
State agrees with Andy Cohenâ€™s complaint regarding conflict of interest in Cargill case By Dave Boyce Almanac Staff Writer
osanne Foust, a city council member in Redwood City, acted in violation of state ethics rules when she participated in a recent decision regarding a proposed residential community on what is now 1,400 acres of salt flats off Redwood City, according to the state Fair Political Practices Commission. At the request of Menlo Park Councilman Andy Cohen, the Fair Political Practices Commission looked into whether Ms. Foust, who is the chief executive of the San Mateo County Economic Development Association, should have participated in a council decision involving the Cargill Saltworks project, which SAMCEDA endorsed. The project, which Mr. Cohen and his colleagues on the Menlo Park City Council oppose, would add as many as 12,000 homes and 1 million square feet of commercial space. It would also create or preserve 800 acres of wetlands and outdoor recre-
HANRETTY continued from page 5
ing a highly qualified individual to serve as the permanent principal at (the school) will be my top priority.â€? Mr. Hanretty received a bachelorâ€™s degree in public administration from the University of San Francisco, and has completed graduate work in finance, human resource and organizational development at the University of California at Berkeley. He joined the Portola Valley
ational space. Ms. Foust voted on May 24 to approve a contract for an environmental review of the project. In a July 28 letter, Gary S. Winuk of the FPPCâ€™s enforcement division informed Ms. Foust that she â€œviolated the conflict-of-interest provisionsâ€? of state government code section 81000, the Political Reform Act. Asked to comment, Mr. Cohen, noting an editorial attack against him by Ms. Foustâ€™s husband, said that his critics â€œlike to make it personal when elected officials are simply trying to do the best they can for the residents of our area.â€? In a July 30 letter to editors, Ms. Foust said she is â€œvery disappointedâ€? but accepts the ruling and that she will write a letter to the FPPC contesting the â€œfactual inaccuracies and inconsistenciesâ€? in Mr. Winukâ€™s letter. â€œI hold myself to the highest ethical standards,â€? Ms. Foust noted, and added that she will recuse herself from future Saltworks project matters. The political reform act â€œprohibits a public official from mak-
ing, participating in making, or in any way attempting to use her official position to influence a governmental decision in which the official knows, or has reason to know, that she has a financial interest,â€? Mr. Winuk wrote. â€œ... it was reasonably foreseeable,â€? Mr. Winuk continued, â€œthat your vote to hire an environmental firm to review the Saltworks project, a vote that moved the project along on its path toward potential approval, could affect SAMCEDA, an organization so interested in the Saltworks project (that) it held a vote to endorse the project and has sent its employees as advocates on the Saltworks project to the Redwood City councilâ€™s meetings.â€? Since Ms. Foust acted on the advice of the interim city attorney in Redwood City, the FPPC closed the case with a letter of warning, which will remain in FPPC records, Mr. Winuk wrote. Ms. Foust can contest this resolution before an administrative law judge or the FPPC, but that would open her up to prosecution, Mr. Winuk wrote.
district in 1999, and led school construction and renovation projects at Corte Madera, Ormondale, and Woodside schools. Mr. Hanretty said the decadelong joint powers agreement between the Portola Valley and Woodside districts that allowed the sharing of his services as finance director ended last month. Woodside has hired a new fulltime chief business official, Robin Wasco, who worked previously in the South San Francisco School District, he said. In a prepared statement,
current Superintendent Anne Campbell said: â€œI canâ€™t think of two better people to lead the (district). Mr. Hanretty and Dr. Piraino bring a wealth of talent to their new positions. â€œTim is a true expert in the realm of school finance and the development of creative solutions to perplexing problems. ... Carol is a highly skilled educator who holds a profound vision for what schools can be in the 21st century and who possesses the management skills needed to make that vision a reality.â€?
by Monica Corman
Lowest Interest Rates In Decades Dear Monica: My mortgage is six percent but I have not refinanced because I would prefer to sell the house and donâ€™t want to pay the costs of refinancing when I plan to own the home for only a few years. The market seems slow right now and I donâ€™t think it is a good time to sell. What should I do? James P.
past forty years. A 30-year fixed rate conforming loan (less than $417,000) is about 4.5% and a 15-year conforming loan is about 3.8%. If you are paying 6% with your current loan, you could save quite a bit on your monthly payment by refinancing. This would take some of the sting out of waiting for the market to improve. You might also change your mind and sell in this market. Buyers are seeDear James: ing these same low interest rates and You are like many homeowners these depending on the price, location and days; waiting to see what the market will condition of your home, it may be very do so that they can make their move. It attractive to buyers who need a home. seems to me that you have a couple of If you have enough proceeds from a sale options. First, if you donâ€™t want to sell to pay your mortgage and closing costs in this market, I think you should look (i.e., you will not be short), this could be at refinancing. Interest rates are lower a fine time to sell. Just be sure you price this week than they have been in the it well, and have it looking its best. For answers to any questions you may have on real estate, you may e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 462-1111, Alain Pinel Realtors. I also offer a free market analysis of your property. www.MonicaCorman.com C U S T O M S O L U T I O N S F O R E V E R Y S T Y L E A N D E V E R Y B U D G E T
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promoted from senior building inspector to building official. And, she found, he does not hold Atherton, protesting new build- building official certification. ing permit fees that the town is In calling for Mr. Wasmann’s charging them to do the retrofit- firing, Ms. Sweidy wrote in a ting and repair work necessary letter to City Attorney Wynne to make the house safe, includ- Furth that the building official ing stabilization of the main “is a danger to the residents of ... house’s foundation. Atherton” and a liability to the Ms. Sweidy town. is also calling Af ter for the firing of ‘It’s like trying to hold up a the town Building Official cantaloupe with toothpicks.’ learned of Mr. Mike Wasmann, Wa s m a n n ’s CONSTRUCTION SUPERVISOR RICK who, she said, failure to renew did a number of COLINDRES, DESCRIBING THE EXISTING PIERS his certificathe inspections SUPPORTING THE HOUSE’S FOUNDATION. tion, he took on the house. “the necessary “The need for these build- steps” to reinstate it, and coming permit fees are the direct pleted the process in June, Ms. result and consequence of the Furth said in a June 29 letter to negligence, gross negligence, Ms. Sweidy. fraud and breach of duty ... of Mr. Wasmann could not be the (town’s) building depart- reached for comment, but Eileen ment, including its plan check, Wilkerson, the town’s assistant oversight and inspections,” Ms. city manager, said that Mr. WasSweidy, an attorney, wrote in a mann meets all qualifications June 29 notice to town officials listed in the town’s job descripand council members. tion for the building depart“Further, the town employee ment’s top post. with the most culpability, Mr. Atherton does not require Mike Wasmann, is now the certification for its building offibuilding official for (the town), cial, even though the California in charge of oversight of the Building Code says that such an entire department,” she wrote. employee “should be certified as Outraged that the “dream a building official through a rechome” her family had waited ognized certification program.” for years to inhabit is plagued Saying that Atherton has some by major structural deficien- of the most complex and elabocies, inadequate plumbing and rately designed houses in the electrical work, and a host of country, Ms. Sweidy blasted the other serious problems that town for not requiring more of need correcting, Ms. Sweidy told the person who heads the departThe Almanac, “They turned my ment that provides oversight dream home into a nightmare.” for home construction projects. “This is a job that requires a high Is building official level of skills, knowledge and qualified? competence,” she said angrily, Once the family had moved adding that it’s not clear whether into the approximately 8,000- Mr. Wasmann completed an square-foot main house three associate’s degree from the Colyears ago, Ms. Sweidy and an lege of San Mateo, which he assistant began an investigation attended from 1969 to 1971. to try to figure out, among other things, how the house could have Under reconstruction Situated on two acres near the passed muster with the town. One of her discoveries, made creek, on Broadacres Road, the about two months ago: Mr. Was- angular, multicolored stucco mann’s certification as a building house and its accessory strucinspector had lapsed in June 2007, tures were designed to accomfive months after he had been modate the couple’s commitcontinued from page 5
HOTEL TAX continued from page 5
two percent,” strong opposition to the increase surfaced in the last few weeks from top officials of those hotels. Mr. Alden of the Stanford Park told The Almanac he had learned that city staff did ask an individual at the hotel about the effects of a higher tax, but that the person “didn’t discuss it” with higher management. The person “gave a response, but it
wasn’t reflective of the management,” he said. Councilman John Boyle, who last week expressed apprehension about the tax increase before being persuaded to support it, reiterated his concerns about it. He said he had been unaware of the severe drop in business Mr. Alden spoke of, and said that now may be the wrong time to raise the tax. Referring to the Stanford Park’s reduction in workforce and payroll, he noted, “They’re taking steps we haven’t taken as a city” to deal with
8 N The Almanac N August 4, 2010
Photo by Michelle Le/The Almanac
The multipurpose room, which the couple had designed to accommodate philanthropic events at their home, is under construction for structural reinforcement.
ment to philanthropy, Ms. Sweidy said. The main house has a multipurpose room, with a slightly raised stage, that can seat 85 guests for philanthropic events, she said. Three such gatherings were held there before the major reconstruction of the structures began, including an event for donors to Packard children’s hospital and the associated Ronald McDonald House. Such events are now on hold while the structures and grounds undergo major construction work. Recently, a construction crew began what is likely to be a six-month project to replace the 8- to 9-foot piers under the main house’s foundation with 25- to 30-foot piers that engineers have deemed necessary to stabilize the house. Ms. Sweidy said the foundation work was done improperly because it was based on information in a geotechnical study that was performed by a person who, she learned much later, was a civil engineer, not a geotechnical engineer. The study “ignored
the local geological data wellknown in the industry since the 1960s, including the existence of the Whiskey Hill Formation and the Alluvial Formation, with their chaotic mix of claystone and sandstone,” Ms. Sweidy wrote in her complaint against the town. Rick Colindres, the on-site supervisor overseeing the work, described the problem with the existing piers now supporting the house: “It’s like trying to hold up a cantaloupe with toothpicks.” Ms. Sweidy said problems with the soils report and structural design plans based on it should have been caught and corrected by the building department during the plan review process. Instead, she said, the structural strength of the house is about 40 percent of what’s required, according to engineers who have examined the house since the contractor, Fulwiler James Inc., walked off the site in spring 2007. The entire retrofitting and reconstruction project is likely
to take about two years, Ms. Sweidy said. In addition to the foundation-stabilization project, work is needed to shore up walls that have improper supports, and repairs are needed to a range of features from plumbing and electrical wiring, to tile and cabinetry, to the roof and floors. Already reconstructed, at great cost, is the dissipation field, installed to control flooding on the property. Ms. Sweidy said she and her husband, perplexed by soil saturation, standing water, and flooding that was occurring near the dissipation field, found out five years after the field was constructed that the sump pump necessary to its operation had been omitted. The sump pump, she said, was required in the permit issued by the town, but a town inspector signed off without verifying its existence. The project, Ms. Sweidy said, “is now millions of dollars over budget, and over what (the house) is worth.” And, she added, the cost will be much higher before all the repairs are done.
declining revenue. Council members appeared interested in revising the ordinance to find a compromise that could secure four votes, but City Attorney Bill McClure said that, with the looming deadline for qualifying the question for the ballot, no substantive revisions were possible. The next time such a measure could go before voters would be November 2012, he said. Asked by Councilwoman Kelly Fergusson if the tax could be lowered later even if voters set it at 12 percent, Mr. McClure said
the council could reduce a tax rate without voter approval. Councilman Heyward Robinson’s motion to approve the ordinance included a stipulation that, if the tax is approved by voters, the staff would prepare a resolution for the council to vote on that would allow the council to lower or eliminate the increase as it saw fit — for example, in the event that the economy doesn’t pick up before January 2012, when the proposed increase would have taken effect.
That motion died for lack of a second. Although Mayor Cline and Councilwoman Fergusson indicated they wanted to forge ahead with the increase, Councilman John Boyle made it clear that his decision was shifting against the action. With a fourth vote apparently not in the cards, a formal vote was never taken. Ms. Fergusson, who noted that many staff hours had gone into putting the ordinance together, said she was “disappointed to see the council flip-flop at the last minute.”
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Five potential candidates for MP council By Renee Batti Almanac Staff Writer
huck Bernstein, who has been active in opposing the Bohannon-Menlo Gateway project and in helping to qualify the citizen-driven pension reform initiative for the November ballot, and high-speed rail opponent Michael J. Brady took out papers July 29 to run for a seat on the City Council. In a prepared statement, Mr. Bernstein said he wants to help the city in “establishing a balanced budget and maintaining it, making wiser land-use decisions in a more timely manner, and ensuring that
ELECT O N ( 10 ( (2 0 government works for its citizens instead of the citizens working to maintain government.” Mr. Brady, an attorney, has filed at least two lawsuits against the California High-Speed Rail Authority for a range of complaints. He could not be immediately reached for comment. Mr. Bernstein is president and co-founder of Early Learning Institute, which operates three child development centers and two private schools in the Bay Area.
In the last decade, he has served on city task forces that studied residential development, child care services, and the budget. So far, Mr. Bernstein, Mr. Brady, council incumbents Rich Cline and Heyward Robinson, and Menlo Park Fire Protection Board President Peter Ohtaki have taken out papers. No one has filed yet to become official candidates for the three open seats to be filled by voters on Nov. 2. The filing deadline is Aug. 6, but will be extended to Aug. 11 if Councilman John Boyle sticks to his decision not to seek a second term. A
Portola Valley native returns to open acupuncture clinic By Dave Boyce Almanac Staff Writer
ourtney Jonson, a Portola Valley native and recently a resident of Maui, is back in Portola Valley with a title: diplomat of Oriental medicine, a term of art to identify a licensed acupuncturist. Ms. Jonson is a co-founder of an acupuncture practice in Maui and has opened an office in Portola Valley’s Village Square shopping center in the 800 block of Portola Road, she said in an e-mail. She shares an office with Hoffman & Moore Chiropractic. Ms. Jonson is a graduate of Ormondale Elementary, Corte Madera Middle, and MenloAtherton High schools, she said, adding that she was a tennis
Courtney Jonson has opened an office in Portola Valley’s Village Square shopping center in the 800 block of Portola Road.
champion at Alpine Hills Tennis & Swim Club and a regular soccer player at the town’s two fields. She has an undergraduate degree
Gold-medal effort in girls’ volleyball The Palo Alto and Sacred Heart Prep girls’ volleyball teams enjoyed great success this season. The Vikings compiled a 33-game winning streak and reached the Central Coast Section Division II semifinals while the Gators went 24-11 and won the section’s Division IV championship. Both teams made it to the NorCal semifinals. Members of both teams helped their City Beach 15 Black volleyball squad capture the gold medal in the 15 National Division of the 2010 USA Volleyball Junior National Championships on June 29 at
the Reno-Sparks Convention Center in Reno. City Beach went 10-1 while capturing the division championship. Palo Alto High’s Shelby Knowles, Jackie Koenig and Caroline Martin were joined by SHP’s Sonia Abuel-Saud and Olivia Bertolacci on the winning team. Abuel-Saud was named the division’s Most Valuable Player while City Beach’s Emily Reed and Elizabeth Nizzoli made the all-tournament team. Also playing for City Beach was Drew Edelman from Menlo School and Becky Slattery from
from the University of California and a master’s degree from the Five Branches University, a graduate school in traditional Chinese medicine located in Santa Cruz. The focus of her acupuncture practice is healthy weight loss, which includes correcting hormone imbalances and adrenal and thyroid insufficiencies, and addressing related issues such as menopause and digestive disturbances, Ms. Jonson said. “Resolving common underlying bio-chemical imbalances while promoting normal physiology is the cornerstone of (my) practice, offering a comprehensive and holistic approach to our biggest asset — our health,” she said in the e-mail. Go to jonsonwellness.com for more information. A
Mountain View High. The team is coached by former Stanford volleyball standout Leahi Hall. Seventh-seeded City Beach had to battle from behind in its final six matches after losing the first game in each outing. It won the title with a 23-25, 25-22, 15-13 victory over top-seeded Tejas 15 Kaepa 1 (North Texas). City Beach reached the final match after defeating second-seeded Colorado Jrs 15 Sherri (Rocky Mountain), 20-25, 25-20, 15-9, in the quarterfinal. In the semifinal, City Beach defeated sixth-seeded Black Swamp 15 Orwig (Ohio Valley), 23-25, 25-23, 15-6.
Menlo Park City Council takes a break The Menlo Park City Council is taking a brief recess. The council does not plan to meet again until Aug. 24. City Clerk Margaret Roberts said the council members typically meet only once during August to allow time for vacations. What will the council members do with all that free
time on their hands? Neither Councilman Andy Cohen nor Mayor Rich Cline have special plans, although the mayor said he will be at home caring for his six-month-old child. The Planning Commission will also be on hiatus until Aug. 23.
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NOTICE TO CONTRACTORS BID PROPOSALS SOUGHT FOR 2008 WATER MAIN REPLACEMENT PROJECT The City of Menlo Park invites qualified contractors to submit sealed bid proposals for the construction of the 2008 WATER MAIN REPLACEMENT PROJECT. Work required as part of this project consists of, in general, furnishing and installing water mains by open trench and jack and bore methods, valves, appurtenances, services and meter boxes, connecting direct taps and fire hydrants, street paving and striping at various locations within the City of Menlo Park; all as shown on the plans and described in the specifications. Performance of this work requires a valid California Contractor’s License Class A. Project documents and copies of the prevailing rate of wages can be obtained from the Menlo Park Engineering Division, located in the Administrative Building at 701 Laurel St. Sealed bid proposals will be received at the Engineering Division office until 2 p.m. on Wednesday, August 25, 2010, at which time they will be opened and publicly read. Additional information can be obtained on the City’s website: www.menlopark.org/cip Published in THE ALMANAC on August 4, 2010 and August 11, 2010
NOTICE TO CONTRACTORS BID PROPOSALS SOUGHT FOR 2009-2010 SLURRY SEAL PROJECT The City of Menlo Park invites qualiﬁed contractors to submit sealed bid proposals for the construction of the 2009-2010 SLURRY SEAL PROJECT. Work required as part of this project consists of, in general, slurry sealing and restriping of various roadway locations within the City of Menlo Park; all as shown in the contract documents. Performance of this work requires a valid California Contractor’s License Class A or Class C12. Project documents and copies of the prevailing rate of wages can be obtained from the Menlo Park Engineering Division, located in the Administrative Building at 701 Laurel St. A non-mandatory pre-bid meeting will be held to discuss the project scope of work at 2:00 p.m. on Tuesday, August 10, 2010 at the City Administration Building, 701 Laurel Street in Menlo Park, CA. Sealed bid proposals will be received at the Engineering Division ofﬁce until 2 p.m. on Wednesday, August 18, 2010, at which time they will be opened and publicly read. Additional information can be obtained on the City’s website: www.menlopark.org/cip August 4, 2010 N The Almanac N 9
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George Saxe, nationally known art collector George B. Saxe of Menlo Park, who with his wife, Dorothy, amassed one of the nationâ€™s finest collections of contemporary crafts, died July 28 in Palo Alto. He was 89. The Saxe collection of contemporary craft has its own permanent gallery in the M.H. de Young Museum in San Francisco and has been exhibited in six other museums, including the Smithsonian and the Oakland Museum. The couple began collecting in 1980, focusing only on glass in the beginning. They later expanded into ceramics, fiber, metal and wood. Mr. Saxe was a major supporter of well-known figures in the glass art scene, such as Dale Chihuly and William Morris, but he also collected work by contemporary sculptors, such as Lynda Benglis and Kiki Smith, who align themselves more with the wider contemporary art world, according to the Glass Quarterly. Mr. Saxe served as a trustee of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, and the Saxes traveled around the world with museum groups. Born in Mount Union, Pennsylvania, Mr. Saxe was a graduate of Mercersburg Academy and Cornell University. After serving
A great bike ride!