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SEPTEMBER 19, 2012

| VO L . 4 8 N O. 3

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

Growing a

vision Woodside farm extends its offerings to the community

See page 5

Info Menlo Inside this issue

ATHERTON Grand estate with three levels all above ground on a private, 1.6+/- acre flag lot. Rooms are spacious and filled with natural light. 5 bedroom suites, including master suite on the second floor. Third floor is ideal for recreation/fitness. Resort like grounds include a pool, spa, tennis court, sweeping terraces, and a studio cabana. 2 separate garages with room for 10 cars. Las Lomitas Schools. $10,888,000

ATHERTON Just past the fairy ring entrance, this gorgeous, completely redone house has it all. Gourmet chef’s kitchen, Viking appliances, wine room, butler’s pantry, and formal dining room. Enormous master suite with his and hers walk in closets, duel sinks, plus a separate make up counter. Sunny pool, outdoor kitchen, huge yard, sport court, guest house, and a 3 car garage. $4,399,000

PORTOLA VALLEY Magical .53+/- acre setting with sweeping views of Windy Hill. This is an amazing property with an updated, contemporary 4bd home. 2830+/- sf of living space on a level 1/2 +/- acre. The floor plan is open and flowing with walls of windows framing the gardens and views. Excellent location with top ranked Portola Valley schools.


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Photo by Michelle Le/The Almanac

Local Joseph Derrough takes a moment to look up while reading a book at Sharon Park.

Sharon Park removed from list of affordable housing sites By Sandy Brundage and Dave Boyce Almanac Staff Writers


s expected, the six people overseeing Menlo Park’s hunt for new housing sites voted to drop a neighborhood park from the list on Wednesday night. The 2.67 acres of the 10-acre Sharon Park are no longer under consideration as a possible location for affordable senior housing. But dropping that site meant adding others to the list. In this case, the Housing Element Update Steering Committee restored two areas previously discarded, both on Sand Hill Road — the Hewlett Foundation site and a 1.7-acre parcel near I-280 and the Sharon Heights Golf and Country Club. Sharon Heights residents flooded the City Council with hundreds of emails demanding that the park be left alone and that affordable housing be placed elsewhere in the city. After City Attorney Bill McClure determined that rezoning the park would be a long, expensive process, the steer-

ing committee agreed. Other areas, such as the Linfield Oaks neighborhood, are also starting to protest being on the list. JoAnne Goldberg wrote this to the council, echoing sentiments expressed by several neighbors: “It is pretty clear that my neighborhood, Linfield Oaks, remains a target of your plans. This is especially unfortunate

Sharon Heights residents flooded the city with emails. as Linfield Oaks has already been the site of recent housing developments and has borne the brunt of the additional traffic and other negative impacts. “Green space that neighbors used to enjoy has vanished forever. We have more residents but no more amenities. Moreover, our neighborhood will be profoundly affected by upcoming changes in intensity to the downtown/El Camino corridor.� Menlo Park has no choice about adding enough high-den-

sity housing zones to accommodate space for 1,000 units as part of a lawsuit settlement over its non-compliance with state law. While the city is not required to actually build the units, it must provide incentives for developers to do so, according to the settlement approved on May 22. State law requires cities to assess and plan to meet their fair share of regional housing needs, which includes affordable housing, every seven years. Menlo Park hasn’t met the state requirements since 1992, but now only has until Oct. 31 to send a draft update to the state’s Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD). “Each city and county has a responsibility to provide, in their housing element, adequate sites to provide affordable housing to people who live there,� HCD spokesman Colin Parent told the Almanac. It’s not a requirement that cities actually build enough affordable housing. “It’s sort of a supply side approach,� he said. Once the See HOUSING, page 6

JOHN GRADUATED WITH A BACHELOR OF ACTING FROM SOUTHERN METHODIST UNIVERSITY AND A MASTERS IN FINE ARTS FROM AMERICAN CONSERVATORY THEATRE. He’s “overjoyed� when students achieve something they didn’t believe was possible and also believes that the performing arts teach students lifelong skills that are fundamental to developing a “whole� person. John teaches acting, directing, and playwriting to middle and high school students at the introductory and advanced levels. He taught for 9 years with ACT’s Young Conservatory and worked extensively as a guest artist, directing, and playwriting. As a member of the Priory’s on-campus faculty, when John isn’t teaching, he loves to spend time with his family. ONE OF THE MANY REASONS TO SEND YOUR CHILD TO: Woodside Prior y School Admissions Office 302 Portola Road, Portola Valley, CA 94028 650/851-8223 ■

CALLING ON THE ALMANAC Newsroom: Newsroom fax: Advertising: Advertising fax: Classified ads:

223-6525 223-7525 854-2626 854-3650 854-0858

N E-mail news, information, obituaries and photos (with captions) to: N E-mail letters to the editor to:

To request free delivery, or stop delivery, of The Almanac in zip code 94025, 94027, 94028 and the Woodside portion of 94062, call 854-2626.

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 Š2012 by Embarcadero Media, All rights reserved. Reproduction without permission is strictly prohibited.


for Prospective Students and Families

Saturday. Nov. 10th, 2012 at 10 a.m. Wednesday, Nov. 28th, 2012 at 7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 8th, 2012 at 10 a.m For information and to R.S.V.P. contact Admissions at 650.851.8223

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Local News M









SEPTEMBER 19, 2012







Photo by Michelle Le/The Almanac

Carolyn Hoffman, left, pastry chef at Spruce restaurant in San Francisco, and Danie Pirelli pick shelling peas at the SMIP Ranch farm in the hills above Woodside.


By Renee Batti Almanac News Editor


asically, the farm is every chef ’s dream,” Mark Sullivan says as he and a crew of volunteers set out one recent morning in a caravan from the Village Pub in Woodside for the farm about which he rhapsodizes. The volunteers were staff members of the Pub and its sisters — restaurants of the Bacchus Management Group for which Mr. Sullivan is executive chef and a founding partner. There were other chefs in the group, and servers, sommeliers, bartenders and managers. The farm they were heading to, in the hills above Woodside, has been providing the fresh produce served at the Village Pub and other Bacchus restaurants, including Spruce in San Francisco, for years. Arriving at the five-acre farm at the SMIP Ranch, owned for many years by the Djerassi family, the volunteer har-

vesters could feast their eyes on row after what it would be if picked days or weeks row of lettuces, cucumbers, cauliflower, before, he says. “It tastes like candy — the shelling peas, beets, squash, melons and sugar is so present.” edible flowers, all thriving and enticing After more than 10 years of growing under a hot morning sun. food for Bacchus’ local restaurants, the It’s easy to underfarm has begun offering its harvest to stand the chef ’s the community as dream metaphor: a CSA — a com‘Basically, the munity supported Mr. Sullivan says the people behind the agriculture project. farm is every menus and meals at Under the program, chef’s dream.’ locals can pay $28 Bacchus restaurants are able to have a to pick up a box MARK SULLIVAN relationship with of freshly picked the farmers — and produce every week as volunteers, with the farm itself — and from Bacchus restaurants, which on the have a say in what produce is grown. Peninsula include Mayfield Bakery & Equally important, chefs are able to Cafe in Palo Alto as well as the Pub. prepare their meals with the freshest of produce, sustainably grown, rather than On the farm The partnership between the Bacchus fruits and vegetables that might have aged in cold storage for weeks. “If I pick a tur- group and the SMIP farm — SMIP is an nip that morning for a meal that evening, acronym for “sic manebimus in pace,” or the flavor profile is so different” from “thus we will remain in peace — began

about 10 years ago. That’s when Mr. Sullivan and Bacchus co-partner Tim Stannard started kicking around an idea about having a closer connection with the sources of food served at the Village Pub, which at the time was the only restaurant they owned and operated. “We asked ourselves, ‘How would this be possible? How could we create a farm?’ We had to start with finding a person with the same vision,” Mr. Sullivan explains. Enter Dale Djerassi, who lives on the property that had been used as a shorthorn cattle ranch. “Dale had the same vision,” Mr. Sullivan says. “Talking to him about the idea, he said, ‘By the way, I have 1,600 acres,’” some of which was flat and fertile, he recalls. “And, he believes in doing the right thing to shepherd the land.” Mr. Djerassi says that he, Kristi Spierling, and Jesse Alper embraced the idea of See WOODSIDE FARM, page 8

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Early morning burglary interrupted,

he last thing anyone wants to stumble upon in their home is a stranger. That was, however, the sight greeting a Menlo Park woman early one Wednesday morning. The 42-year-old resident called for help upon seeing a man wandering through her house; he’d apparently crept in through an unlocked door in the garage. She yelled, the man fled, and police arrived around 4:23 a.m. A yard-to-yard search along the 1200 block of Carlton Avenue that included a police dog failed to find the suspect, although it did locate a small motor bike the man had pushed from the garage during the Sept. 12 encounter. He’s described as approximately 5 feet 7 inches tall, of medium build, wearing a black hoodie that obscured his face, and light pants. Anyone with information on this case may call police at 330-6300 or the anonymous tip line at 330-6395.

Menlo Park teen attacked for bike Two teenagers have been arrested for attacking a 15-year-old boy and stealing his bike at a local park, Menlo Park police said. The victim was riding his Schwinn Road bicycle at Bedwell Bayfront Park shortly before 6 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 11, when two 15-year-old boys pushed him to HOUSING continued from page 3

zoning part is complete, there is state financing assistance and market pressures. If a city has no housing element or the element is declared invalid, and if someone sues — as happened with Menlo Park — the court can assume the local government’s authority and make zoning decisions, as defined in the statute. “That’s the primary deterrent,� Mr. Parent said. In Menlo Park’s case, that meant zoning for 30 houses per acre and the threat of courtorder restrictions on building permits and shorter windows of time for development projects. Mr. Parent explained that if the HCD signs off on a housing element, that’s “often very persuasive,� but the court makes the final decision. When HCD signs off, the primary effect is that the city is able to apply for state financing.


the ground and punched him in the stomach before taking off with the bike. Based on descriptions provided by witnesses, other local jurisdictions were notified of the crime and Redwood City police located the assailants moments later, according to the report. They were booked into juvenile hall. The victim was treated at the scene for non-life-threatening injuries, and got his bike back. Similar cases have been reported in recent weeks at the city’s skate park and near the pedestrian/bicycle bridge at Ringwood Avenue and U.S. 101. Police said no information to date suggests the Sept. 11 robbery was connected to others.

Vital aging conference Little House will hold its fourth annual Vital Aging Conference from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 22, at the community center, 800 Middle Ave. in Menlo Park. Former Oakland Raider David “The Ghost� Casper, now a financial adviser, will be keynote speaker. Other local speakers include Dr. Walter Bortz, author on longevity and healthy aging, and Sharon Niederhaus, author of “Together Again.� Cost is $5 for advance registration and $10 at the door. For more information and to register, call Kwesi Wilson at 3260665, ext. 224. A

Not following through by building houses “is not necessarily an indication of bad faith.� Asked for an example of bad faith, Mr. Parent didn’t have one. The “overwhelming majority� of cities have adopted an approved housing element. The difference between implementation of a housing element and construction of housing: implementation means the city has a plan to rezone parcels within a certain amount of time. If that window of time expires without having rezoned, then the HCD may look again, but they don’t care about construction. “The intent of the law is to ensure that localities plan for and zone for affordable housing units,� Mr. Parent said. “A lot of people (and reporters) confuse� implementation and construction. A

Go to to review maps and reports.



by Gloria Darke

Challenge The Appraisal Q. In the current market, we believe our property value to be less than what the county appraiser claims. Is there any way to challenge the appraised value and get our property taxes reduced?

Photo by Michelle Le/The Almanac

Firefighters contain a fire at an apartment complex in Menlo Park on Sept. 14. A witness said the fire originated from a car and spread to the garage. She heard a loud sound, saw a fire spark, and then a man running away from the parked Honda Accord.

Menlo bank robbery tied to arson By Sandy Brundage Almanac Staff Writer


he smoking wreck of a Honda Accord set on fire led Menlo Park police back to the scene of a bank robbery as they pieced together witness reports on Friday afternoon, but so far the suspect remains at large. Wells Fargo Bank at 735 Santa Cruz Ave. reported a robbery around 1:30 p.m., and police said they arrived within one minute. Eight minutes later, calls came in about a vehicle fire two blocks south. The red Honda Accord sat engulfed in flames under an apartment complex carport at 785 Roble Ave. Once extinguished, the car yielded a license plate matching a car reported stolen out of Redwood City. Witnesses told police they spotted the Honda outside the bank, and then again as the car burned. A man reportedly got out and squeezed into the trunk of a white sedan parked nearby on Roble Avenue; the sedan fled the scene. The suspect, described as an

adult black man, wore a black T-shirt over a red long-sleeved shirt, blue jeans, white shoes and a baseball cap. A blue mask concealed his face. Witnesses said he looked about 6 foot 3 inches tall and weighed approximately 225 pounds. The man vaulted the bank counter and later escaped with an unknown amount of money,

Suspect burns car before fleeing. Sgt. Kevin Paugh said. No weapons were used, and although the bank was full of employees and customers, no one was hurt during the robbery. The fire caused some smoke damage to the apartment complex, according to a reporter on the scene. Chief Harold Schapelhouman of the Menlo Park Fire Protection District said the fire was out within 11 minutes and confined to the carport area in part due to the quick actions of the fire crew but also because of the rated

A. Absolutely! The first thing you should do is contact the local tax assessor’s office to find out whether you can appeal informally or if you will have to go through a formal tax-appeal process beginning with the assessment appeals board. Since property assessments are not an exact science, it is quite possible that your home may re-appraise for a different value than

the original assessment. Keep in mind that if the re-appraised value is greater than the original assessment, you may have to pay even higher property taxes than you currently owe. The key here is to do your research before making any formal challenge. Although the market may be slower than it was a few years ago, remember that housing prices continue to rise year after year making real estate one of the most solid investments around. So, although your property value may not be accelerating as it had in the past, chances are, even though you bought at the height of the market, your home is still holding its value.

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

one-hour sheet rock separation between the carport and living areas. “The sheet rock will need to be replaced but it did its job,” he said in a written statement. Residents were able to return to their homes and no injuries were reported. Fire Investigator Ron Keefer determined that an accelerant was tossed into the passenger side of the Honda. The incident will be treated as part of a broader crime by Menlo Park police. “This could have been a very significant and disastrous situation,” the chief stated. “We will work closely with and in support of the Menlo Park Police Department so that they can identify, capture and prosecute this individual or individuals for arson and other related crimes to the full extent of the law.” Anyone with information regarding these Sept. 14 cases can call police at 330-6300 or the anonymous tip hotline at 330-6395. A

Almanac staffers Michelle Le and Dave Boyce contributed to this report.

Corporate center, Belle Haven on agenda By Sandy Brundage Almanac Staff Writer


enlo Park’s M-2 industrial district may see some development at 151 Commonwealth Drive and 164 Jefferson Drive. The council will review a staff report at its Sept. 18 meeting regarding a proposal by the Sobrato Organization to merge those locations into a single site for two fourstory office buildings. The buildings would exceed


the 35-foot height limit, thus the project requires a conditional use permit. The city has also decided the proposal needs an environmental impact report before proceeding. Also on the agenda: a midyear update of cost recovery for the Belle Haven after-school program. Earlier this year, the city had proposed merging the program with the Boys &

Girls Club of the Peninsula, an option that was greeted with protest by parents. Now staff is reviewing cost-cutting measures and fundraising efforts by the community. This week brings a change in location for the council meeting — it starts at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 18, at the Menlo Park Senior Center, located at 110 Terminal Ave. in Menlo Park. Go to to review the agenda. A


Good for Business. Good for You. Good for the Community. Visit today September 19, 2012NTheAlmanacOnline.comNThe AlmanacN7


Farmers’ market could return to Skylonda By Dave Boyce Almanac staff writer



he Woodside Town Coun- Wednesday, Oct. 3, which puts cil found a way on Sept. 11 off another Wednesday farmto allow a popular farmers’ ers’ market to the afternoon of market to return to Skylonda in Oct. 10. a parking lot near the corner of Residents in support of more Skyline Boulevard and Highway markets packed the meeting at 84, but residents will have to con- Independence Hall. tinue driving down the hill for The market that did come to their fresh fruits and vegetables Skylonda on Aug. 1 has a name for at least another few weeks. — the Mountain Goat Farmers’ The parking lot did host a Market — and a manager, Magmarket on Aug. 1, and nearby gie Foard. “I personally believe artisans and farmers did sell a small type farmers’ market out their seven or eight tables is the way to go because it’s of fresh produce, homemade really good for the vendors,” Ms. cheese, sunflowers and other Foard told the council. “I want goods. the vendors to Residents were go home without looking forward their produce.” ‘We had such a to another one a One vendor week later, and great time and the in the room was another, and community was so Julia Harper of another, but town Fa rmageddon, supportive of us.’ which grows letstaff discovered that regulations tuce, kale, eggs, JULIA HARPER, A VENDOR did not allow such apples and pears AT THE MARKET markets. The comin Davenport. plication resides in “We had such a the use permit for the two busi- great time and the community nesses that use the parking lot: was so supportive of us,” Ms. the Mountain Terrace, where Harper said. “It was like a kick people celebrate events such as in the teeth when, like, ‘Sorry, weddings, and Penelope’s Den, you can’t do this anymore.’” a craft store. The permit forbids Virginia Dare, who lives on outdoor sales. Old La Honda Road, was one of Town staff found a category of many residents volunteers who “food store” operations in the helped update the town’s general municipal code that could allow plan. Farmers’ markets came up the markets to continue, and at least once when the volunteers the council was ready to act, but were discussing “the way we Town Manager Kevin Bryant want to live now and the way we noted that the town could not want to live in the future.” simply ignore the regulation on “There is a community up outdoor sales. there that needs (great food),” Everyone must therefore wait Ms. Dare said. “There is a large until the Planning Commission community on the other side of meets, considers and acts on an the mountain that makes great amendment to the use permit, food. They do great things. We which the property owner has would like to buy their great applied for. Rules governing things.” changes to agendas put any “It doesn’t just have to be up commission action off until there,” she added. “Couldn’t we its meeting on the evening of have one down here?” A

WOODSIDE FARM continued from page 5

turning the small acreage into a specialty farm, and that’s what it’s been ever since. At this point, a married couple, Brian Shipman and Mary Colombo, have taken over the farming operation. The farm donates extra produce to the Djerassi Resident Artists Program — an artist colony begun by Carl Djerassi, Dale’s father, that provides free housing for 90 artists each year. The colony is adjacent to SMIP Ranch. It was Mr. Djerassi who greeted Mr. Sullivan and his entourage on the morning the Almanac was invited for a tour. He and the chef discussed the upcoming Harvest Dinner, an annual event held on the farm that is set this year for Saturday, Oct. 6. The volunteer crew headed for the field of crops, met by the resident farmers. “It’s an exciting time of year — everything’s jumping out of the ground,” Mr. Shipman says. He and Ms. Colombo led the group through the parcels of crops, providing details about the edibles poking out of the ground, and answering questions. The couple had worked in careers far removed from what they devote their lives to today. But they decided a number of years ago that they “wanted a lifestyle change,” Mr. Shipman says. The interned for County Line Harvest, living in a yurt for months. The farmers led the volunteers to the crop in need of harvesting that morning: shelling peas, warmed by the sun and tasting like sugar treats when popped out of their skins and into the mouths of the harvesters. Volunteers from the restaurants make the journey up the mountain one or two days a month to help with the farming and “to learn about what’s being

Photo by Michelle Le/The Almanac

Chef Mark Sullivan, left, catches up with Dale Djerassi at the SMIP Ranch farm in the hills above Woodside.

grown, and where the food is coming from,” says Karey Walker of the Bacchus group. She notes that guests at this year’s Harvest Dinner will be able to tour the farm “and learn about sustainable and organic farming practices.” In a written announcement about the event, she says that participants will be “encouraged to pick and eat ingredients fresh from the soil as they make their way around the property.” The Oct. 6 event will include a family-style supper featuring a multi-course menu, with food prepared by Bacchus restaurant chefs, led by Mr. Sullivan and including Dmitry Elperin of the Pub, John Madriaga of Spruce in San Francisco, and John Cahill of Cafe des Amis of San Francisco. Participants will meet at the Village Pub, then be transported to the farm by private buses. Cost of the dinner is $195,

and reservations can be made by Sept. 22 at

Weekly produce pickup The SMIP farm CSA program costs $28 for each weekly offering — a box of freshly picked produce that highlights the season’s bounty. Last week’s offering included heirloom lettuces, frisee, baby fennel, spicy bush basil, swiss chard, mixed beets, cucumber, and melon. Pre-orders are required for pickup at the Pub. Mayfield Bakery & Cafe hosts pre-orders, but also offers several extra boxes for those who didn’t reserve. To reserve a box, email Include your full name, the number of boxes you want, your phone number, and at which location you will pick up the box. A

Council takes next step to buy nursery site for affordable housing By Dave Boyce Almanac Staff Writer


he Portola Valley Town Council on Sept. 12 took another step in its plans to buy a 1.68-acre former nursery on Portola Road for eight to 12 small homes affordable to people of moderate incomes. The council voted to engage broker Coldwell Banker to sell four parcels that the town owns in the Blue Oaks neighborhood. A contingency in the pur-


chase agreement for the nursery at 900 Portola Road requires the town to sell the Blue Oaks parcels for at least $3 million, which happens to be the cost for the nursery site. That cost includes $2.6 million for the property and $400,000 to clean up herbicide residues in the ground. The purchase agreement requires closing on escrow on or before Dec. 21.

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In a closed session on Sept. 12, the council voted 4-0 (with Councilman John Richards absent) to refer all business related to the sale of the Blue Oaks properties to Coldwell Banker listing agents Ginny and Joe Kavanaugh, Town Attorney Sandy Sloan told the public when the council returned to open session. A state mandate requires all cities and towns to have land zoned for housing for people of moderate and low incomes,

even in towns like Portola Valley, where the median home price is in seven figures. In San Mateo County, a moderate income is around $86,500 for an individual and $123,600 for a family of four, according to the California Department of Housing and Community Development. The mandate does not require that the homes be built, but it does specify sanctions that a judge can impose if a group such as an affordable housing

advocate successfully sues a city or town over its inaction. Portola Valley’s agreement with Coldwell Banker has stipulations, including these two: ■ If the homeowners association at Blue Oaks purchases the property on its own, the town will owe Coldwell Banker 2 percent of the sales price. ■ The Kavanaughs, upon the successful close of escrow, will make a personal donation to the town of 1 percent of their listing commission. A


Beechwood School in Menlo Park reopens after fire By Dave Boyce

building is one of five on the campus. The school reopened at 8:30 ire Chief Harold Schapel- a.m. Monday, Beechwood staff houman of the Menlo Park members told the Almanac in Fire Protection District emails. Principal David Laurspoke to students and staff at ance “doesn’t have an office Beechwood School on Monday and he’ll be running around the (Sept. 17), five days after an school making sure everything early-morning fire, thought to is running smoothly,” Office have started from a short circuit, Manager Isabel Jimenez said. destroyed the administration Investigators say the fire startoffices and a thirded from a short cirgrade classroom cuit in an electrical at the private K-8 in the kitchen Investigators cord school. and caused losses blame short of about $300,000 In an interview, Chief Schapelhouto the structure and circuit in man said he used his $100,000 to the conremarks to comment electrical cord. tents. No one was on the importance injured, but fireof smoke detectors and escape fighters spent about eight hours plans, and to compliment the and thousands of gallons of school community on its ability water dousing the one-story to adapt to and overcome the three-unit portable building, obstacles created by the fire. the chief said. The building “The bad news is there was a contained “a lot of combustible fire,” he said he told the kids. material,” he said. “The good news is nobody The fire persisted in the was hurt. ... This is the fastest debris well after the roof and that we’ve ever seen a school several walls collapsed. “You’re reopen.” trying to put water on the fire, “We try to keep it upbeat,” the but (the compartmentalized chief told the Almanac. “Some offices) made it difficult to put things got burnt, but it could the water where the fire is,” Fire have been much worse.” The Inspector Jon Johnston said in

Almanac staff writer


Photo by Michelle Le/The Almanac

Firefighters salvage a cabinet full of student records after a fire destroyed Beechwood School’s administration building and third-grade classroom early Thursday morning, Sept. 13, before classes began. More photos on

an interview. Firefighters arrived shortly before 4 a.m. and, after dealing with locked gates and bars

over classroom windows, they “aggressively attacked” the fire from inside and out, the chief said. They were ordered off the

roof and out of the building when it showed signs of collapse. Continued on next page

Dear Friends and Customers,


We’ve saved the best for last! After 27 years we have set a retirement date for next spring, making this Fall’s Custom Sofa Sale the very last. But we think it will be the very best. All or our custom sofa lines and every single piece of furniture will be on sale for this event. We will have your favorites . . . and some new surprises . . . and a lot of fun as we say good-bye to you, our friends and customers. Thank you, each and every one of you, for your wonderful support through the years. With great appreciation, Barbara and Roland Wentzel

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September 19, 2012NTheAlmanacOnline.comNThe AlmanacN9

ART & LIVE JAZZ in The Alley Alla Voroninskaya, LA Artist and Portola Valley Native



Beechwood School reopens Continued from previous page

Fifteen firefighters fought the fire, including personnel from the Redwood City Fire Department, the chief said. Firefighters were still on the scene as late as 6 p.m. helping school officials with overhaul and salvage. Among the recovered items: several laptop computers, a projector, and intact filing cabinets. The school did not have a fire alarm or sprinkler system. “This is the second modular school building fire in the last year we have had here in Menlo Park,” Chief Schapelhouman said. The building dates from 1986 and was meant to be temporary and thus was exempt from certain fire code regulations, the chief said.

Will be showing her new paintings

September 20th from 4 to 8 PM At “Three Seasons” Restaurant 518 Bryant Street, Palo Alto

Community reacts

Principal Laurance watched as firefighters retrieved what was left of school records, but much was lost, including homemade bulletin boards and staff photos. “It’s just upsetting to people who’ve worked very very hard to lose (this much),” he said. A back-to-school picnic scheduled for Saturday, Sept.


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15, was canceled. The nonprofit school serves families in the neighborhood and receives 90 percent of its operating funds from donations that range from $5 to $800,000, Mr. Laurance said. Rachel Bickerstaff, parent of two Beechwood alumni, called the school community “a close knit family.” The school has one class for each grade, so students get to know each other well as do the parents, she said. Tuition is adjusted to what they can afford. The school community would gather in the administration building every Thanksgiving to prepare and pack meals, Ms. Bickerstaff said. “When you see it looking like this, it’s heartbreaking,” “Y’all better get up, y’all better get up,” is what Wesley Barker, an elder of the Calvary Temple Church of God in Christ, remembers from being awakened in his Menlo Park house on Terminal Avenue around 4 a.m. Thursday morning. He walked outside. “I just stepped out and it was raging,” he said of the fire down the block. “I didn’t get scared. It was too far away,” Mr. Barker said in a sidewalk interview with the Almanac. “Man, that fire was raging. My goodness!” The school, which enrolls about 170 students, was in the news this year when the Menlo Park City Council agreed on April 17 to sell 1.5 acres on Terminal Avenue so the school could expand. A

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Reports for: Atherton Woodside Portola Valley Menlo Park

Steve Gray powered by

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650-743-7702 10NThe AlmanacNTheAlmanacOnline.comNSeptember 19, 2012

STEVE GRAY offers 30+ years of local knowledge. Born in Menlo Park. Raised in Atherton. A Woodside resident.


Judge dismisses charges against man shot by CHP in Atherton following high-speed chase By Renee Batti

mental and physical condition, and because medications judge has dismissed he must take for pain “cause charges against a man a severe mental degradation,” accused of driving a car according to a district attorat California Highway Patrol ney’s report. officers and sheriff ’s deputies in The DA’s office objected to the Atherton in 2006, but his defense dismissal, but Karen Guidotti, attorney says “he is serving a chief deputy DA, later said: “We sentence worse are not upset by than any court Judge Karesh’s could have given decision. We The man, who is him.” believe his rulThe man, Nel- paralyzed, ‘is serving ing is reasonable son Gonzalez Jr., given the testia sentence worse 44, of Redwood mony that was City, was shot than any court could heard.” by a CHP officer have given him,’ says Among those during the inciwho testified dent and is now his defense attorney. were his doctor paralyzed. He a caregiver, and was charged with assault with his defense attorney Rachel a deadly weapon for driving his Holt, who explained the difcar at the officers following a ficulty she had communicating high-speed chase in Menlo Park with her client because of his and Atherton. mental and physical condition, San Mateo County Superior the DA’s report said. Court Judge Jonathan Karesh The shooting occurred Aug. dismissed the charges Sept. 12, 19, 2006, after Mr. Gonzalez during the fourth day of a trial. led CHP and Sheriff’s Office The judge determined that Mr. deputies on a chase that began Gonzalez could not assist in in Redwood City, traversed a his defense because of his dire section of the Bayshore Freeway

Almanac Staff Writer


and Menlo Park roadways, and ended when he crashed his car into a fence and berm in Atherton. Police say that after the crash, Mr. Gonzalez drove his car at them, which led one officer to fire his gun at him. Mr. Gonzalez’s trial was hindered by the extremity of his disabilities, which largely confine him to a bed in his mother’s home. His court appearances were limited to a few hours. Ms. Guidotti told the Almanac that although the DA’s office had the authority to dismiss the case, the prosecution objected to dismissal

because Mr. Gonzalez, who has a lengthy criminal record, “engaged in extremely dangerous conduct toward officers.” The officers, she added, wanted the case to go forward. But she said her office wasn’t seeking a prison sentence under the circumstances. Instead, it was pursuing a conviction and “seeking for him to admit responsibility,” she said. Ms. Holt said that her client “wanted to exercise his right to a trial,” and hadn’t intended to harm the officers. She said she was surprised that the DA’s office didn’t choose to dismiss the case after seeing

“how bad off ” Mr. Gonzalez is. His doctor had testified that he shouldn’t be in the wheelchair he needed to attend the trial for more than a short time because his body needed to be rotated every two hours to avoid pressure sores that could lead to serious infections, she said. The trial had consolidated the charges from the Aug. 19, 2006, incident with charges stemming from a South San Francisco incident five days earlier, in which Mr. Gonzalez allegedly tried to leave a motel without fully paying his bill, Ms. Holt said. In that incident, Mr. Gonzalez fought with officers, and was hospitalized under psychiatric watch, she said. In both incidents, Mr. Gonzalez was found to be under the influence of drugs, she said. A

Anna Eshoo endorses Warren Slocum for supervisor C ong re s s woma n A n na Eshoo, D-Menlo Park, has endorsed Warren Slocum in his bid for a seat on the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors in the November elections. Mr. Slocum is the former San Mateo County clerk, assessorrecorder and chief elections officer.

He is running against Shelly Masur, a board member of the Redwood City School District, for the seat of Supervisor Rose Jacobs Gibson, who for 14 years represented Menlo Park, Redwood City, East Palo Alto and the unincorporated communities of North Fair Oaks and Oak Knoll. Ms. Jacobs

Gibson terms out in November. “In his service for the people of San Mateo County, Warren has demonstrated leadership in technological innovation, fiscal responsibility and transparency in government,” Ms. Eshoo said in a statement released by Mr. Slocum’s campaign.

September 19, 2012NTheAlmanacOnline.comNThe AlmanacN11


Nextdoor aims to link neighbors in networks By Kate Daly Special to the Almanac


extdoor, a startup based in San Francisco that aims to link neighbors in private networks, has signed up neighborhoods across the country, including in Menlo Park, Atherton, Portola Valley and Woodside, the company said. The idea is that each neighborhood uses its own website to swap information about people, places and things, ranging from safety issues and lost pets to items to trade or sell. The company said San Mateo County is the first county gov-

Memberships begin at only 17¢ per day Join today:

ernment to join the “private neighborhood website,” and said cities such as Menlo Park have set up links, so that they, too, can make postings on local sites. Nextdoor Communications Manager Whitney Swindells said for now the sites are just for residents, not businesses, with the exception of residents who do business in their own neighborhoods. Down the line, she says, the company expects to make money by working with local businesses to provide offerings to members. When members first register, they set up a password and fill out a profile. “A hundred percent of our users use their real name and the street they live on,” Ms. Swindells says. “You don’t necessarily want to be friends with your neighbors ... but you may want to be in contact,” explains Ms. Swindells. Compared to Facebook, she sees Nextdoor as having “more of a utilitarian purpose.” Member Nadya McCann calls the website “essential” after going through a scary experience when her son suddenly

came down with a contagious form of bacterial meningitis this past June. She used the website to post an alert to urge anyone who had had recent contact with him to go on antibiotics to prevent getting the disease. Some family and friends then heeded the advice. She says she received a lot of helpful support from members in the form of e-mails and meals. Three months later her son has made “a full recovery” and recently competed in a rowing competition in Canada. When Nicole Perkins moved to Woodside from Menlo Park, she says, she missed the sense of community that came with belonging to a mothers’ group there. When she heard about NextdoorWoodside, she embraced it as a chance to engage in her new neighborhood, and invited 52 people to join, including the head of the PTA at Woodside School. Jackie Ballinger posted a car for sale last spring and received no nibbles, but did find a used truck on NextdoorWoodside, a vintage typewriter, calligrapher, and a house. She says she read about an upcoming real estate listing, jumped on it, and will be moving in soon with her new husband, Kevin Killeen. A

Nominations sought for tree awards Are you awestruck by your Nominations for the latter neighbor’s oak, or impressed by award are not required, but sugher cypress? Or perhaps you’re gestions are accepted. especially proud of the magnoFor the individual tree awards, lia soulangeana you’ve lavished the committee says that eligible care on for years, with such trees are of any species that visually rewarding results. meet one or more of the folAtherton residents have until lowing criteria: outstanding the end of Septemspecimen; unique ber to nominate in size, age, or spetrees about town for N ATH ERTO N cies; or historical an award sponsored significance. by the town’s Tree Committee. Awards may also be given for As in past years, the committee the best-preserved tree, and the will give awards to individual best newly planted tree. trees nominated by residents, Nomination forms are availand for the first time will also able at the town administrarecognize builders who have tive office at 91 Ashfield Road done a “superior job of protect- in the Town Center. Or go to ing trees on specific construction and click on sites,” according to an announce- Tree Awards in the left-hand ment from the committee. column.

Salman Rushdie at Kepler’s on Sept. 25 Author Salman Rushdie will be in conversation with Tobias Wolff at 12:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 25, at Kepler’s, 1010 El Camino Real in Menlo Park. They will discuss Salman Rushdie’s life underground after a fatwa was issued against him by

the Ayatollah Khomeini. The event is co-sponsored by the India Community Center. Admission is $35, which admits one with a signed book, or $10, which admits one with no book. Visit for more information.



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12NThe AlmanacNTheAlmanacOnline.comNSeptember 19, 2012

For a full list of the 2012 Almanac Readers’ Choice winners, go to com/best_of


Portola Valley school board meets on budget

Photo by Gregory T. Franklin

This 1967 Shelby GT500 is on display at the new Speciality Sales Classics showroom.

The Portola Valley School District community will have a chance to hear an update on the district’s finances and take part in discussions about the preparation of its 2013-14 school year budget on Wednesday, Sept. 19, when the school board meets for a study session. The meeting begins at 7 p.m.

in the district’s annex building, 4575 Alpine Road in Portola Valley. Superintendent Carol Piraino and Sandra Lee Lepley, interim business official, will present the unaudited accounts for the 2011-12 fiscal year — a year marked by tumult after the discovery that then-super-

intendent Tim Hanretty had embezzled about $101,000 and otherwise mismanaged district funds. The superintendent and Ms. Lepley will review how funding for this fiscal year has been allocated, according to the agenda, which can be found at

Classic car showroom opens The public is invited to attend the grand opening of Specialty Sales Classics’ newest classic and exotic car showroom at 800 Charter St. in Redwood City, from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 29. The new facility will house a 100-plus car consignment showroom, as well as a car storage and service facility, said spokesperson Veronica

Thomas. The showroom will be partnering with Auto Vino, an auto and wine storage facility located in Menlo Park. The open house will feature pizza baked onsite by Auto Vino’s chef in a mobile pizza oven, wines from Woodside Vineyard, and desserts from Menlo Park’s Grandma Vonnies Cookies, as well as Sprinkles Cupcakes.

Menlo Park explores legal issues with payday loan shops While contemplating what to do should a payday loan business express an interest in opening a shop in Menlo Park, the City Council on Sept. 12 voted unanimously for a temporary moratorium on allowing such businesses to open to give staff time to explore the various legal issues involved. At the police department’s

request, the city is researching how to use zoning restrictions and permits to regulate the “alternative financial services” industry, which includes payday and auto title loan businesses as well as check-cashing services known for charging interest rates of more than 400 percent. Council members Rich Cline and Peter Ohtaki suggested

making sure that other, less predatory ways of getting cash quickly would be locally available for people in times of need. City Attorney Bill McClure told the Almanac the moratorium lasts for 45 days, with a possible extension of up to “22.5 months for a total of two years.”

Second Harvest helps seniors A survey released by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research suggests that almost half of the senior citizens living in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties have trouble affording basic necessities such as food, according to Second Harvest Food Bank. “Older adults have been hurt by the economy, and in many cases, so have the people they rely on for help,” said Kathy Jackson, Second Harvest CEO. “These seniors are living on a fixed income in an area where the cost of living is extremely high. Many in their generation are simply too proud to ask for help and don’t want to burden their children or others in their support network who may also be struggling due to the recent recession. We want to make sure local seniors get the nutritious food they need to stay healthy.” The food bank serves more than 20,000 seniors each month by providing groceries to adults older than 60 (and those over 55 years old who have disabilities) through its “Brown Bag” program and other initiatives. Seniors can find the program at the Menlo Park Senior Center at 110 Terminal Ave. Go to or call 800984-3663 to learn more.

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September 19, 2012NTheAlmanacOnline.comNThe AlmanacN13

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



Editor & Publisher Tom Gibboney

Newsroom Managing Editor Richard Hine News Editor Renee Batti Lifestyles Editor Jane Knoerle Staff Writers Dave Boyce, Sandy Brundage Contributors Marjorie Mader, Barbara Wood, Kate Daly Special Sections Editors Carol Blitzer, Sue Dremann Photographer Michelle Le

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Advertising Vice President Sales and Marketing Tom Zahiralis Display Advertising Sales Adam Carter Real Estate Manager Neal Fine Real Estate and Advertising Coordinator Diane Martin Classified Legal Advertising Alicia Santillan 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 Email news and photos with captions to: Email letters to:

Good call on Skylonda farmers’ market


weekly farmers’ market for the Skylonda community is an lifestyle. You can ride your bike to it. Agribusiness will not be idea whose time has long since come. The community sitting represented. If the goods are packaged, the packaging is likely to along Skyline Boulevard, socked in by clouds as often as not, be minimal. The fruits and vegetables will be just picked and in is miles from a convenient supermarket. While there is a Sunday season and will not have crossed an ocean, much less a state or morning farmers’ market close to Woodside, it’s at Canada College county line. The background music, if there is any, is likely to be on the far side of town, on another hilltop and even more miles live as well as lively. distant from Skylonda. Farmers’ markets may not be quite as old as agriculture itself, but Skylonda residents flirted joyfully with a small farmers’ market they go way back and they build community spirit, as Skylonda of about eight tables in a parking lot near the corner of highways residents have testified from their one experience on Aug. 1. There 84 and 35 on the afternoon of Wednesday, Aug. 1. The vendors are person-to-person exchanges between those who grow the food quickly sold out their produce, their homemade and those who consume it. Kids can see fruits foods, their sunflowers and other goods, but in and vegetables in natural light, unpolished and EDI TORI AL keeping with the letter and spirit of the applioften unwashed, with bits of evidence clinging to cable laws, the town of Woodside scuttled plans carrots and potatoes and onions indicating that The opinion of The Almanac for a repeat. The municipal code lacks specific they’ve spent much of their lives underground. language authorizing farmers’ markets. More That’s not to say that there won’t be phosignificantly, the use permit for the Mountain Terrace event venue togenic moments for the produce. Droplets of misted water grace and the craft store Penelope’s Den, the two businesses that share much commercially available fruits and vegetables these days, a the parking lot, forbids outdoor sales. phenomenon that may make an appearance at a Skylonda farmers’ This state of affairs shouldn’t last much longer. The Town Coun- market. But it will be the indigenous fog that does it, not a spray cil, eager to remove the obstacle to farmers’ markets, agreed at its nozzle. Sept. 11 meeting on an interpretation of the municipal code lanOpportunities to haggle over the price of something are rare in guage that would allow them. The council asked about but could this country and certainly not common to buying food. A farmers’ not accelerate the process to amend the parking lot use permit. market offers a window into the vigorous bargain-hunting ethic of The Planning Commission is expected to review an amendment streetwise retail, a push-and-pull experience that echoes the way on Oct. 3, which, assuming that it passes muster, would put the in which much of the world shops. next Skylonda farmers’ market on Oct. 10, a Wednesday afterIf it works — and why shouldn’t it? — perhaps the Woodside noon. Planning Commission will hear requests for more. Perhaps PorThere’s a bit more waiting to endure, but this turn of events is as tola Valley will be next. What about Atherton? Farmers’ markets it should be. Farmers’ markets are a small step toward a greener are popular and they’re green; they’re local and they’re fun.

L ET TERS Our readers write

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 December 21, 1969. Subscriptions are $60 for one year and $100 for two years.

■ WHAT’S YOUR VIEW? All views must include a home address and contact phone number. Published letters will also appear on the web site,, and occasionally on the Town Square forum.

TOWN SQUARE FORUM Post your views on the Town Square forum at EMAIL your views to: 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.

Save Atherton’s park by building library there Editor, The Save Our Park signs I’ve seen around town perplex me. Surely replacing a money-losing existing structure that does not comply with current codes with a fully paid for, carefully sized new library will enhance our park and protect its future. Here’s why. Firstly, the new library will not encroach on any existing green space, or on the tennis courts, the softball area, historical buildings, or the playground. San Mateo County Library standards suggest that a 10,000square-foot building would provide basic modern library services to Atherton’s current cardholders. The 4,000-squarefoot library on Station Lane is obviously not big enough. The environmental impact report was done for a maximum building size of 13,500 square feet to give Atherton residents and its council the option of providing additional community amenities. Atherton currently provides cramped space for its histori-

Atherton Heritage Association

Our Regional Heritage This undated photo was taken as the Coryell family prepared for a Sunday outing. The roadways were unpaved, making protective dusters and headscarves wise accompaniments for those traversing them in cars. The Coryells bought the 45.6-acre “Hecht place” in Fair Oaks, now Atherton, in the early 1900s, and for years were said to be the largest orchid growers in the United States.

cal society next to the Council Chambers and for its arts programs in the basement of park’s main house. The community will decide whether to accommodate those and other community activities on the second floor of the new library. There

14NThe AlmanacNTheAlmanacOnline.comNSeptember 19, 2012

has also been talk of a meeting room for lectures and meet-theauthor events; our community will decide. So, all existing park amenities remain, to be complemented by a new library with its wealth of intellectual and spiritual resourc-

es. Ongoing library revenues will contribute to adjacent park maintenance. What’s not to like about this wonderful synergy? Atherton voters can save their park by putting their library in it. Tina Isenberg Polhemus Avenue, Atherton

September 19, 2012NTheAlmanacOnline.comNThe AlmanacN15

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16NThe AlmanacNTheAlmanacOnline.comNSeptember 19, 2012

The Almanac 09.19.2012 - Section 1