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

Where a developer sees opportunity, neighbors see treasured green space PAGE 5

ATHERTON Three level custom home in the heart of Lindenwood. Integral plaster walls, hand hewn hickory floors, towering ceilings, and French doors that open from almost every room to a balcony or terrace. Lower level with a dedicated home theater, fitness room, and wine cellar. Master on main floor. Pool/spa, pool house, 3 gated entrances, and a 3 car garage.


WOODSIDE Exceptional bay views from this stunning, contemporary, 4bd/3ba home on 1.5+/acres. Truly spectacular great-room experience with vaulted, beamed ceilings and walls of glass taking in the panoramic views and lovely gardens. Open and bright flowing floor plan. Dreamy master suite. Very peaceful and private location.


WOODSIDE Updated country home in a private setting on ¾+/- acre. 4bd/2ba with Chef’s kitchen and 2 modern baths. Front room, dining room, and breakfast nook. French doors, hardwood floors, outdoor terrace, bocce court and pool. Extra RV parking. Excellent Portola Valley Schools.


2NThe AlmanacNTheAlmanacOnline.comNMarch 6, 2013


March 4 WEEKLY REAL ESTATE REPORT Reports available via the convenient QR code or at Real Estate Statistics Updated Weekly for Atherton Woodside Portola Valley Menlo Park

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



Michelle Le/The Almanac

Victor Tellez prepares an area for striping last week at Hillview Middle School. The painted asphalt area will be used for basketball and volleyball.

School district near finish line on Hillview playing field By Renee Batti Almanac News Editor


he school district and city are racing against the clock to try to open the new Hillview Middle School playing field by this weekend, allowing local lacrosse teams to use the field as scheduled and wrapping up a project originally expected to be completed by last Dec. 1. “We’re working as hard as we can to get the field open on the 9th,” said Ahmad Sheikholeslami, the director of facility planning and construction for the Menlo Park City School District. “We’re doing finishing touches and resolving issues.” Those issues include firming up a post-event trash-collection process and ensuring restroom

access, according to Chip Taylor, Menlo Park’s director of public works. The city has partially funded the field and will share its use for its own after-school recreation program. In addition to lacrosse, AYSO soccer and Menlo Park Strikers soccer teams are scheduled to use the field through the whole of spring, according to Tedd Zeo of the city’s recreation department. As of last week, crews worked to lay down striping on the basketball courts and the synthetic playing field, and finalized work on the rubberized running track encircling the field. The Menlo-Atherton Grizzlies Lacrosse Club was scheduled to use the field on March 2 and 3, but was able to move the games elsewhere for that weekend,

the club’s assistant coach, Erik Lundh, said in an email to the City Council in mid-February. But he appealed to the council “to prioritize the completion of the ... field project within the Public Works department” so the club could begin to use it on March 9. “Our club would like to offer our volunteer services to help with trash, bathroom maintenance or any other required services that need to be in place (by that time). If renting a porta-potty is an option, we can do that as well,” he wrote. Mr. Sheikholeslami said bad weather in November and December “was a big contributing factor” in the long delay. He expects that the work will be completed within budget, he said. A

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Feb. 14, 1936–Feb. 20, 2013 Barbara Hendryson (nee MacMillan) was born in Los Angeles, CA on February 14th 1936 and raised in San Francisco. She graduated from Mission High School in 1954 and in 1960 married Alfred Paul Paoletti with whom she had three children Barbara spent the majority of her life in Menlo Park, CA where she enjoyed walking and hiking with her dogs, visiting the library, reading, gardening, playing with her cats Tilda and Mao, cooking and writing poetry. She was published in more than 100 literary journals including the Sun and Poetry Magazine and included in several anthologies. She spent the last 3 years of her life in Napa, CA with her daughter and granddaughters. She died peacefully in her sleep on Wednesday February 20th. Barbara is survived by her three children, Laura Paoletti, Brian Paoletti and Bradley Paoletti, and her two granddaughters, Delia Rogers and Esperanza Heintz. The family is grateful to her wonderful caregivers over the last few years especially those at Choctaw House in Napa. She will be cremated at Tulocay Funeral Home and donations in lieu of flowers may be made to Pedestal Magazine, an online poetry magazine, in her name at or to The Peninsula Humane Society. There will be a memorial hike in her honor at Hidden Villa Farm in the Los Altos Hills on Sunday March 17th at 1pm. Memories and words of sympathy may be sent to the family on-line at www. PA I D

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

Barbara Hendryson

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Local News M















eye OF THE


Where a developer sees opportunity, neighbors see treasured green space

Developer Sam Sinnott stands on the spot where he’d like to put a driveway on Louise Street — a plan that neighbors are protesting. Owners of the adjacent property (right) use the spot, which is partially in the public right-ofway, for parking. Photo by Michelle Le/The Almanac

By Sandy Brundage Almanac Staff Writer


o people living on Louise Street in Menlo Park, it’s a battle over the rights of residents versus developers. For Sam Sinnott, a developer, it’s an exercise in frustration. The Menlo Park City Council will need to balance both perspectives during its March 5 meeting. Mr. Sinnott bought a home at 1825 Santa Cruz Ave. last year with the intent of demolishing it to make way for a new single-family house he would then sell. Simple enough, except that the rear of the lot faces Louise Street — an appealing location to build a driveway, given Santa Cruz Avenue’s traffic. The neighbors, some of whom have lived on Louise Street for decades, support Mr. Sinnott’s plan — as long as it doesn’t include a driveway on their street. The driveway is not a new idea. According to city documents, the owner of the property in 1984 asked permission to build a 15-foot-wide driveway there to evade the heavy traffic on Santa Cruz Avenue. The city said OK, but the owner never got around to the project. The group of neighbors opposing the current attempt said they talked to 35 current and former Louise Street residents, and no one recalled any vehicle ever accessing the lot on that side. However, the man who sold the property to Mr. Sinnott told the city the intention was always to shift the lot’s main entrance to Louise Street by creating a driveway. Mr. Sinnott told the Almanac he thought the real issue was two illegal parking spaces

next to a public right-of-way that poten- the Almanac abandonment isn’t comtially would disappear underneath his mon. “It really depends on the issue. ... driveway, along with a swath of greenery if the council decides they are not going in the right-of-way that neighbors say their to approve the driveway there, there’s no children like to play in. He said he offered reason for the city to maintain that little to create two parking spaces for the neigh- piece of right-of-way.” bors to keep using and will retain as much But, he added, city staff recommended greenery as possible, among other mitiga- approving the driveway. The required tions, and remains open to suggestions. encroachment permit is “typically done “If they want a play area, we could over the counter, but property owners design it,” he said. can appeal any decision to the council.” No dice. “We are opposed to any drive- According to the city’s report, however, way connecting 1825 Santa Cruz Avenue “(s)taff cannot recollect the last time a to Louise Street. A concession for his right driveway permit was ever appealed.” to infringe into our development is not Developer and neighbors have reportwhat we are looking edly sat down many for,” said resident Kiki times to hash out the Kapany, spokesperson issues. Louise Street The neighbors, some for the Louise Street Michael of whom have lived on resident neighbors opposing the Schwarz described the plan. She said the park- Louise Street for decades, conversations as “not ing spaces have nothproductive. oppose the new driveway especially ing to do with it. He’s intent on buildon their street. Instead of a driveing the driveway and way, they want to claim at this point we’re the public right-of-way that fills the end equally intent on stopping it.” of their street with a riotous tangle of Building the driveway would support bushes and trees. The neighbors pooled Mr. Sinnott’s attempt to change the an estimated $10,000 to file an “aban- address of the home from Santa Cruz donment application” that asks Menlo Avenue to Louise Street, and that also Park to grant the land to the adjoining rubs the neighbors the wrong way. homeowners, since the city has no use “We respect the developer’s right to build for it. Abandonment benefits the neigh- a new house on the property. But he has borhood as a whole, rather than a single no right to take a property on Santa Cruz developer, they said. Avenue and turn it into a property on LouIt would also eliminate Mr. Sinnott’s ise Street,” said resident Kiki Kapany. ability to create an exit from his property The city does appear to agree that the on Louise Street, according to the city address of the home should remain on staff’s report. Santa Cruz Avenue, with staff saying no Public Works Director Chip Taylor told when Mr. Sinnott asked twice during the

past 12 months if they’d support changing the address. Despite that, an ad for a new $5.5 million home ran on Craigslist in December 2012: “New Development, 5BDRs, 5 baths, 1 Office, Guest house, basement, 2 car garage ... Current address: 1825 Santa Cruz. New expected address after development will be complete: 100 Louise St. Frontage of house will be on Louise St.” “My partner put that up; that’s wrong,” Mr. Sinnott said. He said the point of the ad was to find a buyer early enough that the family could have input into the layout, materials, and other customizable aspects of the house. Changing the address requires a formal application to the Planning Commission, he said, and the previous staff reviews “were helping me to decide if I wanted to pursue the change concurrently with the encroachment permit. I decided not to and have a conforming building permit application moving forward now without a frontage change. If I go forward, it will be the first request.” Mr. Schwarz said that the developer appears to behave “as if it’s a done deal,” which has galvanized the opposition. “He tells us he’s going to be improving our neighborhood and increasing our property values. Well, we think our neighborhood’s fine and we’re happy with our property values.” The regular City Council meeting starts at 7 p.m. in the council chambers at the Civic Center at 701 Laurel St. on Tuesday, March 5. Go to to review the staff report on the appeal. A

March 6, 2013NTheAlmanacOnline.comNThe AlmanacN5


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6NThe AlmanacNTheAlmanacOnline.comNMarch 6, 2013


s plans to convert a senior home into a Marriott Residence Inn move forward, the Menlo Park Planning Commission is taking a look at the project’s architectural design and providing input on the proposed parking strategy. Sand Hill Property Co. is under contract to buy Casa de Peninsula, a 125-unit senior residential property at 555 Glenwood Ave., and convert it to a 138-room hotel, according to representative Reed Moulds. Of the 80 seniors living there at the time the project was proposed, 57 moved right away, while the remainder waited to see whether the city would approve the hotel. Branded as a Marriott Residence Inn, the hotel would provide extended-stay accommodations, with about onequarter of guests projected to stay more than a month. Analyses by the city and the applicant estimate the hotel would add an estimated $669,000 to Menlo Park’s annual revenue, with approximately $616,000 to $656,000 contributed by the 12 percent transient occupancy tax approved by voters in November. The city’s new downtown specific plan requires 173 off-street parking spaces for a hotel of this size. However, the applicant proposes 113 spaces — 74 on site and 39 spaces on Garwood Way currently used by the senior home, but within the public right-of-way. Although the City Council in October urged the applicant to consider partnering with the


new owners of nearby 1300 El Camino Real, as well as Zip Car and Caltrain, to mitigate the amount of parking needed, Sand Hill Property said they think that’s unnecessary at this time, according to the planning staff ’s report. Although the parking strategy got a nod of approval from Public Works Director Chip Taylor, who is currently pulling double-duty as transportation manager, members of the public opposed granting a license for a private entity to use 39 public parking spaces. “It is significant that if City approves the License Agreement, the License Agreement will be a slippery slope for City,” attorney Jim Kashian wrote in an email to the city on March 1. “It is obvious that the License Agreement will be used as precedent by countless other developers which will demand similar rights to public parking spaces on public streets in order to satisfy on-site parking space requirements for their private developments just like the City approved for Hotel Development. Also, if public parking spaces are able to be used for private developments to satisfy Specific Plan parking space requirements, then developers will be able to build far in excess of what Specific Plan parking requirements would allow.” Go to to review the report. The Planning Commission met on Monday, March 4, after the Almanac’s print deadline. See for updates. A

Sequoia Audubon Society docents lead walks at Edgewood park Docents with the Sequoia Audubon Society will lead three morning walks for those interested in learning about birds in Edgewood County Park and Natural Preserve, located off Edgewood Road, about one mile east of Interstate 280. The walks, part of the 20th anniversary celebration by Friends of Edgewood, will be held on three Sundays: March 10, April 14 and May 12. The walks, which start at 8 a.m. at the Bill and Jean Lane Education Center in the park, will pass through woodland, chaparral, and grasslands. Visitors will learn which resident and migrating birds use Edge-

wood and which native plant communities the birds depend on. Visitors may see raptors, sparrows, warblers and bluebirds, among many others. The walks cover approximately three to four miles of trails and include some uphill/downhill sections. Walkers should bring water, a hat, sturdy shoes, and sunscreen. The walks are geared to adults, but capable, attentive children 10 years and older are welcome if accompanied by an adult. Heavy rain will cancel the walk. Visit and click on the balloons for more information and to register. Space is limited and registration is required.


City restores emails to council log By Sandy Brundage Almanac Staff Writer


n the wake of outrage over the deletion of public emails sent to the City Council, the city of Menlo Park has now decided to restore comments sent about a popular gymnastics instructor to the city’s public website. “After reviewing the original postings that were removed and balancing the interests of the employees involved and the public’s interest and in consultation with the city attorney, we will be reposting the original emails this afternoon,” Assistant City Manager Starla Jerome-Robinson announced Friday, March 1. The emails f looded the council’s in-box after parents learned that Michelle Sutton, who taught gymnastics for the city, had been fired.


While an earlier complaint, dated Jan. 30, from a couple who were unhappy with Ms. Sutton’s demeanor during an encounter at the gymnastics center remained on the city’s website for a week, the city abruptly removed

Menlo Park reverses decision to remove comments about gymnastics teacher. both the complaint and at least a dozen emails of support for Ms. Sutton once parents began writing the council to challenge her termination. According to city staff at the time, the emails

Council meets on tech upgrades, duplex appeal By Sandy Brundage Almanac Staff Writer


n Tuesday, March 5, the Menlo Park City Council will gather to discuss matters including approving contracts to upgrade the city’s phone system and the police department’s radio equipment, as well as a councilman’s request that his colleagues think about reconsidering a vote taken on a proposed duplex project. In February, the council overturned a Planning Commission

N C A L E N DA R Visit to see more calendar listings

Community Events Pancake Breakfast - Troop 206 Atherton All-You-Can-Eat Pancake Breakfast with Formula 206 Flapjacks, fresh fruit and juices, sausage links, coffee, cocoa and assorted teas. March 9, from 8 a.m. to noon. $5 per adult, $5 for 2 kids (age 10 and under). Visit Trinity Church Parish Hall, 330 Ravenswood Ave., Menlo Park. Portola Valley Broom Pull Participants help pull invasive French broom along Portola Valley roadways on March 9. Bring gloves. Refreshments provided. 9 a.m.-noon. For more information, call J. Eastman Email Portola Valley Town Center, 765 Portola Road, Portola Valley. Exploring the Common Good discussion series Members of the Ladera Community Church will facilitate discussions on topics such as education, health care, the environment and gun control. Sundays Feb. 3-March 17, 11 a.m.-noon. For more information, call Holly Kennedy at 650-854-5481 or email or visit Ladera Community Church, 3300 Alpine Road, Portola Valley.

Kids & Families Afternoon Cow Wow Kids ages 5 and up can help milk Cleo the Cow, hang out with the new baby calf, and learn fun cow facts while they help feed and care for the dairy queen. March 9, 3:30-5 p.m. $25 per person. Hidden


approval by voting 4-1 against a proposal to construct a duplex on a 112-foot by 54-foot lot at 1976 Menalto Ave., with Mayor Peter Ohtaki casting the sole vote in favor of the project. Now, Vice Mayor Ray Mueller has asked that the council think about returning the item to a future agenda for a re-vote. “After speaking to a majority of the members of the planning commission to gain their insight Villa, 26870 Moody Road, Los Altos Hills Bi-lingual Story Time (English-Spanish) Parents can introduce their babies to Spanish with stories, songs and rhymes. March 18, 11-11:30 a.m. Information: Call Kathryn at 650-851-0560 or email portolavalley @smcl. org. Portola Valley Library, 765 Portola Road, Portola Valley. Cheese Please Attendees llearn how to make mozzarella cheese on the farm, search the garden for edible flowers and greens, then create a pita pizza and salad for lunch. Kids-only class; no adult required to attend. March 9, 10 a.m.-noon. $35 per child. Information: Call Lisa Veliz at 650-949-9704 or email Hidden Villa, 26870 Moody Road, Los Altos Hills. Gustafer Yellowgold’s Rock Melon Tour Equal parts pop rock concert and animated storybook, Gustafer Yellowgold concerts are a different multimedia experience. March 13, 4:30 p.m. Call 650-328-2422. Atherton Public Library, 2 Dinkelspiel Station Lane, Atherton. Introductory Geocaching Family Hike This interactive outing is for families and children (who can hike 3 miles). They join docent Bill Overall and REI Outdoor School instructor Chris Green to search for geocaches, or hidden treasures, using (provided) GPS units. March 9, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Call 691-2150 (enter Option 2) or visit Los Trancos Open Space Preserve Magical Moonshine Puppet Theatre presents the Puppet Man, a traditional European style street theater show for all ages. March 11, 3:45-4:30 p.m. For more information, call Woodside Library at 650-851-0147 or email Woodside

left the city vulnerable to a defamation lawsuit and related to a confidential personnel matter. Many questioned whether the city even had legal standing to delete the emails in the first place. Jim Ewert, media law expert and legal counsel for the California Newspaper Publishers Association, called the removal “ludicrous,” arguing that emails to the council are public records just like comments made during public meetings, which are archived on the city’s website. Even if the emails had conveyed confidential personnel information — which Menlo Park has apparently now decided they didn’t — the city can’t be held liable for defamation based on comments made by the public in the scope of a public hearing, according to Mr. Ewert. A


A Listing Agent’s Obligation to Disclose About Other Offers In a hot market it’s not unusual for several prospective buyers to compete for the same property. What does the listing broker have to disclose about other offers to interested buyers in a multiple offer situation? The realtor Code of Ethics Standard of Practice 1-15 provides that “realtors in response to inquiries from buyers or cooperating brokers shall, with the sellers’ approval, disclose the existence of offers on the property. Where disclosure is authorized, realtors shall also disclose (when asked) whether offers were obtained by the listing licensee, another licensee in the listing firm, or by a cooperating broker.” The listing broker’s failure to make this disclosure when asked violates Article 1 of the Code as interpreted by Standard of Practice 1-15. The listing broker has a fiduciary duty to adopt and follow a policy on multiple offers that’s reviewed with the seller before any offers are received.

The policy should state that the seller will decide how multiple offers on their property are to be handled, because it’s the seller who may not get as high a price if some buyers aren’t told about other buyers’ offers. It’s also the seller who risks losing all offers if potential buyers back out after being told of other offers. The seller should understand the risks and instruct the broker how they’d like the situation to be handled. If the seller gives the listing broker permission to tell buyers about other offers, the brokers in our area usually reveal only the existence of those other offers and not the amount or terms. However, it is advisable for buyers to sign a confidentiality agreement with their broker and include that agreement in the contract to ensure that the terms of their offer are kept confidential. The realtor Code of Ethics helps ensure that all involved in a transaction are treated openly, fairly and on a level playing field to prevent unpleasant consequences.

I offer complimentary staging when I list your home. Contact me at (650) 384-5392, Alain Pinel Realtors. To learn more, log-on to

and information from their study sessions, personally visiting the parcel and neighboring parcels, and re-reviewing the materials, I reached the determination I had enough information not available to me in the first hearing, that it was appropriate to reconsider the matter in an open meeting,” Councilman Mueller said. The council will also hear an appeal of city staff’s decision to let a developer build a driveway on Louise Street (see story on Page 5). Go to to review the agenda. The regular meeting starts at 7 p.m. in the council chambers at the Civic Center at 701 Laurel St., following a closed session 5:30 p.m. A

Library, 3140 Woodside Road, Woodside. The Lego Club Children ages 5-11 can come with their imaginations to Lego Club. March 16, 11 a.m.-noon. For more information, call Angela at 650-851-0560 or email Portola Valley Library, 765 Portola Road, Portola Valley.

Outdoors Birds of Bedwelll Bayfront Park Wintering ducks are flying north, while other birds prepare for spring. Attendees can enjoy close-up views of different birds through the scope. Heavy rain cancels. March 9, 10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. For more information, call Chris at 650-325-7841 or email or visit Bedwell Bayfront Park, end of Marsh Road at Bayfront Expwy, Menlo Park

Talks/Authors Batik: Spectacular Textiles of Java Batik is an artistic tradition of the Indonesian island of Java. This docent lecture and slideshow describes the art of batik that is on exhibit until May 2013 at the Asian Art Museum. March 14, 7-8 p.m. For more information, call Portola Valley Library at 650-851-0560 or email portolavalley Portola Valley Library, 765 Portola Road, Portola Valley. The Age of Edison In late 19th century arguably the most important invention was Thomas Edison’s incandescent light bulb. The Age of Edison places the story of Edison’s in the context of a technological revolution. Ernest Freeberg in conversation with John Hollar. March 7, noon-1 p.m. Visit Computer History Museum, 1401 N. Shoreline Blvd., Mountain View.

Great time to sell The Median Sale price of a home in Portola Valley in the previous year was $2,214,000

Explosive Marketing and Advertising to get YOU the highest sales price. -Third Generation Realtor and Portola Valley Native -The Skrabo’s are a founding family of Portola Valley

Call or Email Matt to find out how to attract the savvy Palo Alto buyers Matt Skrabo Realtor 650-804-6673 Dre# 01910597

March 6, 2013NTheAlmanacOnline.comNThe AlmanacN7


California High-Speed Rail Authority wins legal battle By Gennady Sheyner Palo Alto Weekly


n effort by Peninsula cities to stop California’s high-speed-rail project came to a screeching halt last week when a Sacramento County judge upheld the California High-Speed Rail Authority’s environmental-review process for the highly controversial project. The lawsuit was the second one brought against the authority by Atherton, Menlo Park and Palo Alto. As a result of the first suit, the judge required the rail authority to revise parts of its environmental impact report. The three cities, along with several coalition groups, had argued since 2008 that the rail authority failed to adequately review the Altamont Pass before it chose the Pacheco Pass as its preferred route for the Peninsula segment of the San Francisco-to-Los Angeles line. The cities had challenged the rail authority’s ridership projections for the Pacheco segment and argued that the agency did not adequately describe the project in its program-level environmental impact report (which is broader and more

general in scope than the project-specific reviews). Most recently, the cities had argued that the rail authority’s environmental analysis is no longer sufficient because of the changing nature of the project. Initially envisioned as a four-track train system, with Caltrain running on the inside tracks along the Peninsula, the project has since morphed (under considerable pressure from Peninsula cities and lawmakers) into a “blended” system in which Caltrain and high-speed rail would share two tracks. This significant change, the cities contended, means that the original environmental analysis is no longer valid. The original EIR, plaintiffs argued, fails to accurately describe the rail system currently under consideration. Judge Michael Kenny dismissed this allegation and found that the rail authority had “fully complied” with prior rulings, which required revisions to sections dealing with traffic, noise and vibration impacts associated with narrowing the Monterey Highway in San Jose to accommodate the new system. Judge Kenny also decided that

the rail authority did indeed consider the two-track system, even if its original EIR focused on the four-track one. The judge specifically cited parts of the EIR that dealt with “phased implementation” of the system and the “blended system concept.” The rail authority had previously considered the “blended system” as an interim step while the state proceeds

Sacramento judge rules in rail authority’s favor in Peninsula’s lawsuit with a four-track system. The discussion of the blended alternative in the EIR, Judge Kenny wrote, was sufficient even if the document does not explicitly set forth this alternative as the finished product. “Specifically, the discussion of the phased or blended system disclosed to the public, and to the decision-makers, what the changed effects of such a system would be,” he wrote. “That disclosure served the information purposes of CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act) whether the blended system in the Caltrain corridor is an interim step toward final con-

struction or whether, as petitioners contend, it may be the final end point for construction.” He also rejected the cities’ contention that the new emphasis on the blended approach should require the rail authority to recirculate its EIR, triggering a fresh public-review process. The environmental report’s discussion of phasing and implementation of the blended system, he wrote, “served the goal of meaningful public participation in the CEQA review process.” The rail authority, he wrote, “adequately disclosed to the public how the project would be implemented and described in adequate detail what the environmental consequences of such implementation would be.” “Even if the process was not absolutely perfect, it was sufficient to comply with CEQA,” he wrote. Even though the Peninsula cities’ arguments didn’t carry the day, Judge Kenny’s ruling could be a mixed blessing for the municipalities. The rail bill approved by the state Senate last fall allocated $1.1 billion for long-awaited improvements to the Caltrain corridor. This will include $700 million for

electrification of the popular but cash-strapped system — a project that the agency has been studying for more than a decade. The funding may have been in jeopardy had the lawsuit gone the cities’ way. State Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, recently proposed a bill that would further lock in the funds for Caltrain. Judge Kenny’s ruling is the latest of several notable victories for the once-beleaguered rail authority. Last year, the state Senate approved by a single vote funding for the first segment of the rail line, which would be constructed in the Central Valley. Judge Kenny’s ruling in favor of the authority allows the rail project to bypass another potential delay. Rail authority CEO Jeff Morales celebrated the legal victory with a statement that called Judge Kenny’s ruling a “testament to the fact that the Authority is committed to delivering the high-speed rail project in accordance with the law and in partnership with the public.” “We continue to move forward to start construction this summer and create thousands of jobs in California,” Mr. Morales wrote. A

Another lawsuit: Atherton donates $10K to high-speed rail litigation By Renee Batti Almanac News Editor


oping to set an example for other local communities that will be impacted by construction of the high-speed rail project, the town of Atherton is kicking in $10,000 to support a lawsuit that challenges the spending of project funds in the Central Valley. The lawsuit is pending in Sacramento County Superior Court, and concerns work authorized by the California High-Speed Rail Authority on the Fresno-to-Bakersfield segment of the planned rail project. Mike Brady, a Menlo Park attorney, is representing the plaintiffs: Kings County, a Hanford-area farmer, and a Hanford resident. The Atherton City Council on Feb. 20 unanimously approved contributing $10,000 to the cause, drawing the money from an existing $30,000 fund earmarked for the town’s fight against the rail authority’s plan to run the train along the Caltrains tracks through communities including Atherton. Councilmen Jerry Carlson

and Bill Widmer brought the question before the council, a request reflected in a letter from the Community Coalition on High-Speed Rail, which is headed by Atherton resident Jim Janz. “There is an excellent chance that the litigation filed by Kings County and the individual plaintiffs can stop this project,” according to the coalition’s letter. “However, while this is a strong case on the merits, it is also a ‘David and Goliath’ effort. Attorney Mike Brady is handling the case on a pro bono basis, but is facing the state of California and the attorney general’s office, with literally hundreds of attorneys and unlimited resources.” The lawsuit asserts that Proposition 1A, approved by voters in 2008, requires that spending of high-speed rail funds adhere to “very specific provisions,” and that the rail authority “is proposing to spend the money (on the Fresno-Bakersfield segment) without complying with those mandatory requirements,” Mr. Janz said in his letter. Councilman Widmer urged the council to “put our money

8NThe AlmanacNTheAlmanacOnline.comNMarch 6, 2013

where our mouth is” in supporting the lawsuit, referring to Atherton’s long-standing opposition to the rail plan. Councilman Carlson said that spending one-third of funds already put aside for challenging the project “would be appropriate. Our community would certainly benefit from our actions if this lawsuit is successful.”

This lawsuit targets the rail authority’s planned Central Valley construction launch. Council members emphasized the need to encourage other Peninsula communities to contribute funds to the effort, and Mr. Widmer said he hoped Atherton’s action would “shame them into doing something.” Mr. Janz told the Almanac that, as of earlier this week, Burlingame had agreed to help fund the lawsuit. The coalition is still waiting to hear from Menlo Park, Palo Alto and Belmont, he said. He estimated the

cost of the litigation at $50,000 to $100,000. Basis for lawsuit

Mr. Brady, the attorney, said the lawsuit is set for trial on May 31 in the Sacramento County courtroom of Judge Michael Kenny, who last week dealt a blow to another lawsuit filed by Peninsula cities including Atherton and Menlo Park. Does that ruling bode ill for Mr. Brady’s lawsuit? “Not at all,” he said. “Our lawsuit is the only one in the state that says that the whole project is illegal.” The lawsuit dismissed last week, he noted, challenged the rail authority’s adherence to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), whereas the litigation he’s pursuing on behalf of Kings County in the Central Valley involves the authority’s plan to begin construction of the rail system before it is legally permitted to do so. “Proposition 1A has a very important requirement: You can’t start construction unless you have all the money in the bank, committed, or secured” for a usable segment of the

railway, he said. The authority, he added, identified the usable segment it plans to build early in the project as a line from Merced to the Los Angeles basin, at an estimated cost of $31 billion. “But the authority only has $6 billion,” he said, with no immediate prospects to raise the additional funds. Yet, the authority has said construction may begin in the Central Valley as early as July. The rail authority also plans to build a conventional diesel rail system on a portion of the Central Valley system, Mr. Brady added. That, he said, will also violate Proposition 1A’s requirement that authorized funding be spent on an electrified high-speed rail. Proposition 1A, he said, has “very complex provisions and safeguards and restrictions which are designed to protect the state ... from financial risk. ... These are very detailed, and the Supreme Court of California has required these restrictions to be strictly enforced.” The lawsuit alleges that there are about 10 violations of the restrictions in the rail authority’s plans for the Central Valley’s portion of the project. A


Bag ban goes back to the drawing board By Dave Boyce Almanac Staff Writer


he Town Council in Woodside is doing some trailblazing as it moves the town toward a presumably greener future. Like the councils in Portola Valley, Menlo Park and other communities in San Mateo County, the Woodside council is following the lead of the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors, which approved an ordinance in October 2012 to prohibit merchants from dispensing single-use plastic bags at checkout counters. But in Woodside, merchants likely won’t be required to charge customers 10 cents for a paper bag, as the county ordinance recommends in an attempt to get people to shop with their own cloth bags. By not requiring a paper-bag fee, Woodside merchants then will not have to keep records of how many paper bags they sell, nor will they face fines for not keeping such records. There’s no ordinance in Woodside yet, but these differences are the essence of the direction the council gave staff at its Feb. 26 meeting. Staff have redrafted this ordinance at least twice as the council has gradually eliminated provisions taken from the county version, which goes into effect in unincorporated communities on Earth Day, April 22. The law becomes effective in Portola Valley and Menlo Park on Earth Day as well. In these and in unincorporated communities, the law allows


retailers to use plastic bags for items such as food to go, prescription drugs, fresh produce, and small parts from hardware stores. Customers without bags of their own will have to buy a paper one — for 10 cents until Dec. 31, 2014, and 25 cents after that. People receiving food stamps are exempt, and retailers must keep records of the sale of paper bags. Portola Valley did not change the language of its ordinance and adopted it “by reference” to the county version, thereby taking advantage of the county’s extensive background work, including the protection of an environmental impact report (EIR) to discourage lawsuits by plastic bag manufacturers. While the language in Woodside’s ordinance may differ from that of the county’s ordinance, the proposed changes will not preclude the advantages of the county’s EIR, Woodside Town Manager Kevin Bryant said. Other communities that adopted the county’s ordinance without changes include South San Francisco, Belmont, Pacifica, Daly City, Colma, Foster City, San Bruno, and Half Moon Bay, county spokeswoman Robyn Thaw said. San Carlos is expected to do so in July. The draft EIR projects a reduction of 34 percent county-wide in ground-level emis-

Farmers’ market appeals to council By Dave Boyce


business, we’ve only seen our business grow,” he said. “You have a lot more foot traffic in the area. People won’t be going to Whole Foods (Market). You’ll still sell your salad dressing.” A few residents also spoke. “In the last 40 years, the United States has lost more than a million farmers,” said Tom Johnson. “Where’s our food going to come from?” “This isn’t just a local community issue,” resident Virginia Dare said. “(It’s about) the local surrounding community that supports Woodside and that Woodside can support.” If the discussion gets hung up on public parking lots, a resolution could take six months or a year, she said. The council should direct staff to consider alternative locations. “It would be great if this could happen in the next three months. ... With 150 letters of support, I think it’s clear that the time has come.” Councilman Dave Burow said he is supportive but cautioned against harming downtown merchants. Councilman Ron Romines asserted that while a Saturday market has “huge support,” the “huge challenge” is parking.


Almanac Staff Writer

entiment on the Woodside Town Council is running in favor of a second farmers’ market, this one downtown on Saturdays, though exactly where and what time of day are uncertain. Responding to a January proposal by Maggie Foard, who manages a Wednesday afternoon farmers’ market in Skylonda, the council on Feb. 26 asked staff to investigate the idea of a Saturday market in a public parking lot outside Town Hall. But while approval for the Skylonda market in September 2012 happened in short order, this one may take some time. The parking lot sits inside a public parking district and is shared by a collection of shops, offices and restaurants along Woodside Road west of the Pioneer Saloon. Parking is a hot-potato issue in downtown Woodside. Merchants have reported seeing potential customers drive away after a fruitless search for an open space. Among the priorities the council gave the staff: sound out the downtown merchants on this

proposal, and research the legalities of hosting a market within a public parking district. Support is abundant. Staff have received around 150 messages asking the council to approve a Saturday market, Town Manager Kevin Bryant said. Ms. Foard came with several farmers from the Wednesday

But there are questions about parking and merchant support for a Saturday market downtown. market and spoke briefly. “We would love to be your farmers’ market association,” Ms. Foard told the council. “You can own us. We want you to own us.” Jamie Kerr, a co-owner of Alice’s Restaurant (across Skyline Boulevard from the Wednesday market), mentioned the benefits of locally farmed produce and had a positive message for retailers about having a farmers’ market nearby. “Being a local



See BAG BAN, page 12

Artificial grass on town agenda The Portola Valley Planning Commission could make a decision Wednesday, March 6, on a proposal by the Woodside Priory School to install artificial grass on the interior field of a proposed new regulation-sized oval running track at 302 Portola Road — an address within the town’s scenic corridor. The commission meets at 7:30 p.m. in the Historic Schoolhouse at 765 Portola Road. Town officials have considered this proposal 10 times since February 2011. The artificial grass is a flash point, with some residents backing the fake grass and some opposing it. Backers point out the

benefits that include low water use, low maintenance compared to real grass, and no need to let it rest between activities. Opponents note that such “grass” is in stark contrast with the town’s back-to-the-earth ethic, and particularly in a prominent location within the scenic corridor. At a recent meeting of the Architectural & Site Control Commission, two of the five commissioners expressed opposition to artificial grass, two commissioners seemed open to more analysis, and one appeared ready to accept it. Go to for more background, including more on views from the ASCC.








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Bald eagle takes weekend vacation in Menlo Park By Dave Boyce

Mr. Aikin said. Her schedule — weekdays at 4 p.m. and weekends at 2 p.m. — large bald eagle from the can be found on Facebook, Mr. Palo Alto Junior Museum Aikin said. and Zoo, which had About every three years or flown off and visited Menlo Park so, Sequoia goes on a three-day on the weekend of Feb. 23-24, vacation, he said. But because returned to its handler Monday, she’s vacationing without Feb. 25, in a churchyard in Red- her handlers, food and water wood City, said John Aikin, the become hard to find. When they executive director of the zoo and returned her to her enclosure the handler. in Palo Alto, “she jumped right What persuaded the female down into her bathtub and eagle to come down from its drank heartily,� Mr. Aikin said. perch? Hunger and thirst, some She cannot catch her own prompting by a handler using food. Her hunting skills are hand gestures and a whistle, hampered by a diminished abiland the tossing of a dead quail ity to use her tail feathers, the in such a way that result of a gunshot the eagle could see wound when she it, said Mr. Aikin. Sequoia returned was young. That, The eagle, named and she was not to her handler Sequoia, “ate a raised in the wild. quail and a mouse after a brief break. “I’ve never known and looked at us her to kill anylike we were all to blame,� he thing,� Mr. Aikin said. said, referring to an eagle’s pracThis soon-to-be 25-year-old tice of making its feathers stand eagle has been cared for at the out to show that it’s irritated. Palo Alto zoo for the past six But her irritation quickly faded. months, Mr. Aikin said. Before “She just sat calmly on the that, she lived at the San Francisco (gloved) fist and was was happy Zoo, where she had been since she to be back,� Mr. Aikin said. was six months old and where Mr. Sequoia had been tree-sitting Aikin also tended to her. over the weekend in the SubShe is capable of extended urban Park area of Menlo flight — she once flew to Ano Park and in North Fair Oaks Nuevo State Reserve in Pescaneighborhood. Her handlers dero from San Francisco, Mr. allow her to fly free every day in Aikin said. Why let her fly? Byxbee Park on Embarcadero “She likes it, we like it, and we Road in Palo Alto, the excep- think it’s a great way to see a tions being very hot days and bald eagle,� he said. Sequoia when she is molting. “We like is taken on visits to organized her to go out and soar in circles groups, and organized groups so people can watch her fly,� sometimes visit her. She has a

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This photo of the bald eagle Sequoia was taken by Menlo Park resident Jim Vanides, who spotted her in the Suburban Park area of Menlo Park on Feb. 24.

wingspan of about seven feet. While there is inherent risk in letting her loose, the burden is worth the cost. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s so spectacular to see her fly,â&#x20AC;? he said. The San Francisco Zoo ended its eagle breeding program, and Mr. Aikin managed to have Sequoia transferred to Palo Alto, though as is the case with all bald eagles, Sequoia is the property of the U.S. government. During Sequoiaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s recent vacation in Menlo Park, she had come within three feet of a handlerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s leather glove but flew off, perhaps because she was confused. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Sheâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ll fly around to look for a way to get to us,â&#x20AC;? he said. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re really in a waiting game until she feels comfortable enough and motivated enough to come down.â&#x20AC;? Bald eagles are flighty and high-strung, he said. Something as innocent as a colorful piece of clothing can be alienating. For

food, she likes dead rats, mice, quail, rabbit and fish. On Feb. 23, North Fair Oaks resident Scott Peterson told the Almanac that heâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d been out in his backyard around 4 p.m. and had seen a large bird soaring a couple of hundred feet above some redwood trees. â&#x20AC;&#x153;I noticed it because it was so large,â&#x20AC;? he said. Mr. Peterson said heâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d been unaware that he might have been looking at an eagle. â&#x20AC;&#x153;That was a huge, huge bird,â&#x20AC;? he said, â&#x20AC;&#x153;the biggest bird Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve seen in 30 years of living here.â&#x20AC;? Photographer and Menlo Park resident Jim Vanides observed Sequoia and photographed her the next day around 5 p.m. from Hedge Road in incorporated Menlo Park. He said he spotted the eagle in pine trees along the Dumbarton railroad spur line near the Suburban Park area of Menlo Park. A

Portola Valley school board to appoint member By Renee Batti Almanac News Editor


esidents of the Portola Valley School District who are registered voters have until March 28 to apply for a short-term appointment to the districtâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s board of trustees. The school board recently voted to appoint someone to fill the seat now held by Scott Parker, who is resigning effective April 1. Mr. Parker is moving from Portola Valley for a job in Sonoma; his term expires in November. The school board will interview candidates at a public meeting beginning at 6 p.m. April 10, after which it will appoint its new member, who BAG BAN continued from page 9

sions that contribute to acid rain and ozone. The bags also find their way into the oceans, and elsewhere. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Plastic bags have a huge environmental impact,â&#x20AC;? Woodside resident Nancy Reyering told the council. Asian steppes are littered with bags that originate in Europe and Africa, she said. â&#x20AC;&#x153;There are plastic bags as far as the eye can see.â&#x20AC;? Council split

Woodside council members spent maybe 30 minutes in a spirited discussion on what they wanted for the town. In three straw polls, a simple ban on the single-use plastic bags passed 4-3,

will have to stand for election in November if he or she wants to remain on the board beyond that time. â&#x20AC;&#x153;The board is committed to a transparent and public process for making the provisional appointment,â&#x20AC;? district Superintendent Carol Piraino said in a press release. â&#x20AC;&#x153;All candidate names will be announced, and the board will accept public input either in writing or at the special board meeting on April 10 ... when the candidates will be interviewed. Once the candidates have been interviewed the board will deliberate, also in public, and select a provisional appointee by a majority vote.â&#x20AC;? The board decided to appoint a new member rather than

authorize a special election in June, which would have cost the district about $35,000, according to the press release. To apply for the position, a resident must complete a form and a submit a letter of interest stating his or her â&#x20AC;&#x153;experience in and commitment to educational, youth and community activities,â&#x20AC;? the press release said. The application and letter are due by 5 p.m. March 28, and should be submitted to Superintendent Piraino at the district office, 4575 Alpine Road in Portola Valley. Go to for application materials, which can be found in the â&#x20AC;&#x153;Headlines and Newsâ&#x20AC;? section; or call 851-1777, ext. 3001.

with â&#x20AC;&#x153;noâ&#x20AC;? votes from members Tom Shanahan and Dave Burow and Mayor Anne Kasten. Charging a fee for paper bags went down 6-1, with Councilman Ron Romines in the minority. The council unanimously rejected administrative fines. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Charging for the bags ... encourages a change in behavior, encourages what is ultimately intended here, that people bring their own bags,â&#x20AC;? Mr. Romines said. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Habits are hard to break,â&#x20AC;? he added. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Simple things like this can change our behavior.â&#x20AC;? County environmental official Waymond Wong attended the meeting to take questions, and Mr. Burow used the occasion to sound off. â&#x20AC;&#x153;I think this is (an) example of government

with good intentions intruding into peoplesâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; lives,â&#x20AC;? he said. â&#x20AC;&#x153;We have a structural deficit in this county. We should be helping the poor, helping the aged, and not be spending money on this! Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s crazy.â&#x20AC;? Charging for paper bags is â&#x20AC;&#x153;an income transfer,â&#x20AC;? Mr. Shanahan said. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s 10 cents out of my neighborâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s pocket. Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s not very much, but why am I making that decision?â&#x20AC;? â&#x20AC;&#x153;Because as a matter of public policy, weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re trying to encourage behavior that makes our environment a little better,â&#x20AC;? Mr. Romines replied. A small fee isnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t going to change anyoneâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s behavior in Woodside, Councilwoman Deborah Gordon said.




Remains identified as adult male The skeletal remains found by a hiker in open space off Skyline Boulevard in mid-February belong to a white male adult believed to be between 54 and 64 years old, according to a report from the offices of the county coroner and the county sheriff. The remains are about three years old and include a skull, â&#x20AC;&#x153;other skeletal remains,â&#x20AC;? articles of clothing and a pair of shoes, deputies said. Using trousers as a reference point, authorities estimated that the man had a 54-inch waist and a 30-inch inseam. The footwear is a pair of size-12 blue-white-and-silver Nike Air Max Moto athletic shoes. â&#x20AC;&#x153;The physical description of the decedent appears to have been â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;large,â&#x20AC;&#x2122;â&#x20AC;? deputies said in a press release. A hiker called 911 on Feb. 18 after spotting the remains during an off-trail excursion in the Purisima Creek Redwoods Open Space Preserve, deputies said. The preserve is located on the western slope of the Santa Cruz Mountains across from the northern end of Woodside, and accessible by Kings Mountain Road to Skyline Boulevard. Responding to the hikerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s call were rangers from the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District, deputies and detectives from the San Mateo County Sheriff â&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Office, and investigators from the county coronerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s office, deputies said. Information regarding the the remains is based on an examination by a forensic anthropologist, deputies said. The investigation continues. Deputies are asking anyone with information to call Detective Matthew Broad at 363-4363.



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Peninsula Volunteers holds Authors Salon Pulitzer Prize-winner Richard Rhodes will be among six authors who will take part in the Peninsula Volunteers’ 22nd Authors Salon Luncheon, to be held from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday, March 10, at the Sharon Heights Golf and Country Club. Mr. Rhodes is the author or editor of 24 books and recipient of a National Book Award and Nation Book Critics Circle Award. His

latest book is “Hedy’s Folly: the Life and Breakthrough Inventions of Hedy Lamarr, the Most Beautiful Woman in the World.” Also joining the program are: Lalita Tademy, author of “Cane River,” a New York Times bestseller; Susan Weis, author of the soon-to-be-published book “San Francisco: Arts for the City - Civic Art and Urban Change”; Stanford Law School professor

Paul Goldstein, author of “Havana Requiem”; and Marilyn Yalom, author of “How the French Invented Love: 900 years of Passion and Romance.” Author Ellen Sussman will moderate. The literary event is held in partnership with Books Inc. in Palo Alto. Tickets for the luncheon and program are $125 each, For tickets or more information, call Cathy Duhring at 326-0665.

College IT director pleads no contest to forgery, embezzlement charges By Sandy Brundage Almanac Staff Writer


radley John Witham, former director of the information technology (IT) division of the San Mateo County Community College District, pleaded no contest to three counts of forgery and one count of embezzlement on Feb. 27. He also pleaded guilty to “taking,

Thursday, March 7

damaging or destroying” at least $65,000 worth of property during the commission of a felony. With the assistance of co-defendant Mark Anthony Bustos, who also worked in the IT division, Mr. Witham allegedly embezzled $350,000 from the college district over six years, buying dozens of computers, hard drives and memory sticks online using the district’s credit card, then selling the items via eBay and Craigslist, according to the district attorney’s office. Prosecutors said the pair also submitted three fake reimbursement requests for iPhones and a bunk bed. According to District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe, Mr. Bustos hacked into the vice chancellor’s email to find information about the investigation, then alerted his partner in crime, who was on vacation in Australia at the time. He pleaded no contest to felony identity theft and was immediately sentenced to three years of probation following 90 days in jail. Mr. Witham’s sentencing is scheduled for March 21. He faces a maximum of five years in state prison. A

Stephen Jones dies at 54

Join us on Thursday, March 7, for Dine Out for Packard! Participating restaurants in Palo Alto, Menlo Park, and Los Altos will donate a percentage of sales to Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford. Support your favorite restaurant and make a difference in the lives of local children and families!

Visit to find out where to dine! 14NThe AlmanacNTheAlmanacOnline.comNMarch 6, 2013

Stephen E. “Steve” Jones of Menlo Park died Feb. 24 in Redwood City after a nearly two-year struggle with brain cancer. Stephen Jones He was 54. Mr. Jones was born in Poughkeepsie, New York, and moved to San Jose in 1968. He attended Leland High School and UC Berkeley, where he graduated with a degree in chemistry. Following graduation, he worked at the University of Erlangen in Germany. He returned to San Jose and began a career in the electronics industry. He later left the electronics industry to start his own company, SEJ Builders, building many beautiful homes on the Peninsula, say family members. He is survived by his wife, Karyn; children Kathryn, Bradley and Michael; parents Pat and Bob Jones; and sister Lisa. Memorials in his name may be made to the Stephen E. Jones Memorial Fund at Wells Fargo Bank, which has been set up for Kathryn Jones’ college education.

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Stratford School - Camp Socrates 17 Bay Area Campuses Academic enrichment infused with traditional summer camp fun--that’s what your child will experience at Camp Socrates. Sessions begin June 24 and end August 9, with the option for campers to attend all seven weeks, or the first four (June 24-July 19). Full or half-day morning or afternoon programs are available.

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Mountain View

We offer swim lessons for ages 6 months to 14 years. Following the American Red Cross swim lesson program, students are divided into one of the 11 different levels taught by a certified instructor. Rengstorff Park Pool, 201 S Rengstorff Ave and Eagle Park Pool,650 Franklin St.

Club Rec Juniors & Seniors Community School of Music and Arts (CSMA)

Mountain View

50+ creative camps for Gr. K-8! Drawing, Painting, Ceramics, Sculpture, Musical Theater, School of Rock, Digital Arts, more! One- and two-week sessions; full and half-day enrollment. Extended care available. Financial aid offered.

650-917-6800 ext. 0

DHF Wilderness Camps

Rancho San Antonio Open Space Preserve

Children ages 6-14 can meet the livestock, help with farm chores, explore a wilderness preserve and have fun with crafts, songs and games. Older campers conclude the week with a sleepover at the Farm. Near the intersection of Hwy 85 and Hwy 280

Mountain View

Club Rec Juniors and Seniors is open for youth 6-11 years old. These traditional day camps are filled with fun theme weeks, weekly trips, swimming, games, crafts and more! Monta Loma Elementary School, 490 Thompson Ave.

Foothills Day Camp

Palo Alto

What will you discover? Foothills Day and Fun Camps, for youth ages 8-10 and 5-7 respectively, includes canoeing, hiking, animal identification games, crafts, and more- all for less than $5 an hour. Registration begins February 15th for residents. (February 22nd for non-residents.) Hurry, spaces are limited!



Palo Alto Community Child Care (PACCC)

Exciting programs for kindergarteners through teens include swimming, field trips, sports and more. Enroll your child in traditional or special focus camps like Surfing, Archery, Animal Adventure, Circus Camp and over 50 others! Oshman Family JCC, 3921 Fabian Way

Palo Alto

PACCC summer camps offer campers, grades kindergarten to 6th, a wide variety of fun opportunities! K-1 Fun for the youngest campers, Neighborhood Adventure Fun and Ultimate Adventure Fun for the more active and on-the-go campers! New this year: Sports Adventure Camp for those young athletes and Operation Chef for out of this world cooking fun! Swimming twice per week, periodic field trips, special visitors and many engaging camp activities, songs and skits round out the fun offerings of PACCC Summer Camps! Registration is online. Open to campers from all communities! Come join the fun in Palo Alto!


Theatreworks Summer Camps

Palo Alto

In these skill-building workshops for grades K-5, students engage in language-based activities, movement, music, and improvisation theatre games. Students present their own original pieces at the end of each two-week camp.

Western Ballet Children’s Summer Camp


Mountain View

Students attend ballet class and rehearsal in preparation for the recital of either Peter Pan or The Little Mermaid at the end of the two week session. Separate Saturday classes are also offered. Ages 4-9. 914 N. Rengstorff Ave, Mountain View

Western Ballet Intermediate Summer Intensive

Mountain View

Students obtain high quality training in ballet, pointe, character, jazz, and modern dance, while learning choreography from the classical ballet Paquita. The students dance in featured roles in a final performance. Ages 9-12. Audition required 914 N. Rengstorff Ave, Mountain View

Western Ballet Advanced Summer Intensive

Mountain View

Summer at Peninsula School

Kim Grant Tennis Academy & Summer Camps

(650) 223-8622

Palo Alto Menlo Park/Redwood City

Fun and Specialized junior camps for Mini (3-5), Beginner, In-termidate 1&2, Advanced and Elite Players. Weekly programs designed by Kim Grant to improve players technique, fitness, agility, mental toughness and all around tennis game. Camps in Palo Alto, Menlo Park and Redwood City. Come make new friends and have tons of FUN!!

Nike Tennis Camps


Stanford University

Dick Gould’s 43rd Annual Stanford Tennis School offers day camps for bothjuniors & adults. Weekly junior overnight & extended day camps run by John Whitlinger & Lele Forood. Junior Day Camp run by Brandon Coupe & Frankie Brennan.

1-800-NIKE-CAMP (645-3226)

Spartans Sports Camp Spartans Sports Camp offers multi-sport, week-long sessions for boys and girls in grades 3-6 as well as sport-specific sessions for grades 6-9. There are also strength and conditioning camps for grades 6-12. Camps begin June 10th and run weekly through August 2nd at Mountain View High School. The camp is run by MVHS coaches and student-athletes and all proceeds benefit the MVHS Athletic Department. Lunch and extended care are available for your convenience. Register today! www.

Spring Down Camp Equestrian Center


Portola Valley

Spring Down Camp teaches basic to advanced horsemanship skills. Ages 6-99 welcome! Daily informative lecture, riding lesson, supervised hands-on ski-ll practice, safety around horses, tacking/untacking of own camp horse, and arts/crafts.

Students obtain high quality training in ballet, pointe, character, jazz, and modern dance, while learning choreography from the classical ballet Paquita. The students dance in featured roles in a final performance. Ages 13-23. Audition required. 914 N. Rengstorff Ave, Mountain View

Palo Alto

Stanford Water Polo Camps



Ages 7 and up. New to sport or have experience, we have a camp for you. Half day or Full day option for boys and girls. All the camps offer fundamental skill work, position work, scrimmages and games.


Summer at Saint Francis

Mountain View

Menlo Park

This is a child’s delight with trees to climb, rope swings, and unpaved open spaces. Our engaging and creative program includes time to play and make friends. Peninsula School, 920 Peninsula Way. Visit website for class listings.

Sports & Activity Camp (ages 6-12): This all-sports camp provides group instruction in a variety of field, water and court games. Saint Francis faculty and students staff the camp, and the focus is always on fun. The program is dedicated to teaching teamwork, sportsmanship and positive self-esteem. After camp care and swim lessons available.

What makes Y camps different? We believe every child deserves the opportunity to discover who they are and what they can achieve. Y campers experience the outdoors, make new friends and have healthy fun in a safe, nurturing environment. They become more confident and grow as individuals, and they learn value in helping others. We offer day, overnight, teen leadership and family camps. Financial assistance is available. Get your summer camp guide at camp. Youth camps (ages 5 - 17) run June 17 - Aug. 16 . Half-day and full-day options. Fees vary. 1922 The Alameda 3rd Floor, San Jose (650) 325-1584, ext. 39

Discover fun with us this summer through the many programs available with the City of Mountain View Recreation Division. From sports to traditional day camps, to cooking camps, dance camps and art camps... we have it all! Mountain View Community Center, 201 S. Rengstorff Avenue

Advanced Sports Camps (5th-9th grades): We offer a wide selection of advanced sports camps desikgned to provide playhers with the opportunity to improve both their skills and knowledge of a specific sport. Each camp is run by a Head Varsity Coach at Saint Francis, and is staffed by members of the coaching staff.

(408) 351-6400

Athletics City of Mountain View Recreation Division

Mountain View

650.968.1213 x650

Summer at Saint Francis

Mountain View

650.968.1213 x650

March 6, 2013NTheAlmanacOnline.comNThe AlmanacN15


We Buy Gold, Jewelry, Diamonds & Silver

Resident volunteers to tackle affordable housing issue By Dave Boyce

Estate Buyers

Almanac Staff Writer




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The Old Pro


326-1446 541 Ramona Street, Palo Alto

856-7700 1700 Embarcadero East, Palo Alto


New Tung Kee Noodle House

Sundance the Steakhouse

947-8888 520 Showers Drive, Mountain View

321-6798 1921 El Camino Real, Palo Alto


Janta Indian Restaurant Read and post reviews, explore restaurant menus, get hours and directions and more at ShopPaloAlto, ShopMenloPark and ShopMountainView

462-5903 369 Lytton Ave.

Thaiphoon 323-7700 543 Emerson Ave, Palo Alto


group of Portola Valley residents have volunteered to put themselves between a rock and a hard place. They will make recommendations on how the town can plan for and where it can locate affordable housing in Portola Valley. To talk the issue through, the group will meet in the first of five public meetings at 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 5, at the Historic Schoolhouse at 765 Portola Road. State law requires that every city and town in California make plans for housing affordable to residents and/or potential residents with incomes across the socio-economic spectrum. But in Portola Valley, with neighborhoods of very-high-value, single-family homes, finding a neighborhood that will accept multi-family homes affordable to people of moderate incomes is a big challenge. The members of the Affordable Housing Ad-Hoc Committee are Susan Dworak, Bud Eisberg, Wanda Ginner, Judith Hasko, Judith Murphy, Jon Myers, Andrew Pierce, Onnolee Trapp and Carter Warr. Chairing the meetings will be attorney, mediator and former mayor Steve Toben. A verbal progress report is due to the Town Council in late March, with a final written report due in mid-May. Conversations on this topic in face-to-face and electronic forums over the last year or so have been prickly, with occasional flashes of anger. A recent effort by the council to buy a former nursery at 900 Portola Road for multi-family housing met with stiff resistance from homeowners on nearby Wyndham Drive. Among their complaints: The plan could lower their property values. (Town Attor-

16NThe AlmanacNTheAlmanacOnline.comNMarch 6, 2013

ney Sandy Sloan has said sheâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s seen data that undercuts that assertion as it applies to moderate-income housing.) Arguing that socio-economic diversity is good for the community, residents and council members have spoken in support of moderate-income homes. A moderate income in San Mateo County is around $86,500 for an individual and $123,600 for a family of four. The homes would be reserved for people who live or work in town such as teachers, firefighters and residents with changed financial circumstances. While it is not required that a town actually build the homes, the plans should present a good faith effort to Bay Area and state housing authorities, who set the quotas. In Portola Valley, affordable housing construction is complicated by the high cost of land, which can push up the number of homes needed per acre for a developer to make a profit, which then tends to raise concerns among neighbors about density. Such realities put a premium on easily developed sites. The town owned property meant for affordable housing in the Blue Oaks neighborhood but sold it. Developers cited steep topography as a reason not to build there. The town planned to use the saleâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s proceeds to buy 900 Portola Road, a flat 1.68-acre site secluded near a collection of several small businesses, but the deal fell through after the county reported a botched job on pesticide cleanup. The ad-hoc committee meeting is set to begin with a countywide perspective on affordable housing from Mark Moulton, executive director of Housing Endowment And Regional Trust (HEART). A

N PO LI C E C A L L S This information is from the Menlo Park Police Department and the San Mateo County Sheriffâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;â&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Office. Under the law, people charged with offenses are considered innocent until convicted. WOODSIDE Theft report: United States and California flags, valued at $86 in total, are missing from the flag pole in front of Town Hall, Feb. 26. MENLO PARK

powered by


Residential burglary reports: â&#x2013; Someone entered a Willow Road apartment through an open front window and took jewelry, clothing, a video game console and a computer for a total loss estimated at $3,480, Feb. 27. â&#x2013;  A bike valued at $850 was stolen from an apartment carport on Coleman Avenue, Feb. 28.

Robbery reports:

â&#x2013; Someone entered Menlo Cleaners at 515 El Camino Real and stole a womanâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s wallet and her cell phone, Feb. 28.

â&#x2013; A man demanded money from a woman near the corner of Pierce Road and Windermere Avenue, took her wallet, opened it, found no money, then threw it back at her and fled, March 2. Theft reports:

â&#x2013; A black bag is missing from the backseat of a vehicle parked on Hill Avenue with an open rear window for a total loss estimated at $292, Feb. 28.

â&#x2013; An unlocked bicycle valued at $250 was stolen from an apartment carport on Roble Avenue, Feb. 27.

â&#x2013; Losses estimated at $200 in theft of bread maker in package delivered to front porch on Sevier Avenue, Feb. 22.


Young author talks about her new book at Keplerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Katie Mishra of Menlo Park has always enjoyed reading and writing stories. Now 12, and a seventh-grader at Castilleja in Palo Alto, she is the author of the self-published â&#x20AC;&#x153;Gukky Tales: The Quest for the Golden Quarter.â&#x20AC;? She hopes to inspire other young writers when she talks about her new book at 7 p.m. Thursday, March 7, at Keplerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Books, 1010 El Camino Real in Menlo Park. The character in the story, Becka Donovan, is an 11-year-old who is also known as a GUK (grown-upkid). â&#x20AC;&#x153;Gukky Talesâ&#x20AC;? is the story of her summer adventure when she searches for clues to locate the mysterious â&#x20AC;&#x153;Golden Quarter.â&#x20AC;? To find the elusive quarter, Becka must solve challenging puzzles, travel across the country and avoid sneaky villains. Katie was encouraged to finish writing â&#x20AC;&#x153;Gukky Talesâ&#x20AC;? after

earning honorable mention two years ago at a Pitchapalooza writing competition at Keplerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s. The recognition e n c o u r a g e d Katie Mishra her to finish writing a 125-page draft of her book that summer. She spent the next year rewriting the book, after receiving feedback from a reviewer of middle school books. She also reached out to her fourth- and fifth-grade teachers at Oak Knoll School, Mr. Kline and Ms. Sanchez, to enlist their help in identifying students in their classrooms (her target audience) who would read and critique her story. Katie is the daughter of Stephanie and Allan Mishra of Menlo Park.

ADVERTISEMENT FOR BIDS TOWN OF ATHERTON STATE OF CALIFORNIA 2013 CAPE SEAL PROJECT PROJECT NO. 56056 Notice is hereby given that SEALED BIDS will be received at the ofďŹ ce of the City Clerk, 91 AshďŹ eld Road, Atherton, California 94027, until 3:00 p.m. MARCH 13, 2013, at which time they will be publicly opened and read, for performing the following work: Performing of Cape seals and Type II micro-surfacing per Town speciďŹ cations on the listed streets, which includes notiďŹ cations, trafďŹ c control, prep work, oil and chip installation, compaction, sweeping, and re-striping/pavement markings (as needed) with a 1-year guarantee. The Engineerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Estimate for the project is: $365,000 Per Section 6.01 of the Town of Athertonâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Standard SpeciďŹ cations, the General Contractor shall perform, with his own organization, work of a value amounting to not less than 50% of the total contract, excluding specialty items as indicated on the bid schedule. Bids must be for the entire work, and shall be submitted in sealed envelopes clearly marked: â&#x20AC;&#x153;Bid of (Contractor) for 2013 CAPE SEAL PROJECT, Project No. 56056â&#x20AC;?, along with date and time of bid opening. Plans and speciďŹ cations may be obtained at the Town of Athertonâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s website at under Bid Solicitation at no cost. Additional important information is contained in Town of Atherton Standard SpeciďŹ cations, which are available on line at Contractor shall be responsible for any addendums that may be posted on the Townâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s website. No Planholders list shall be available. Bids must be accompanied by a bid security in the form of cash, a cashierâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s or certiďŹ ed check or bid bond for not less than ten percent (10%) of the amount of the bid, as a guarantee that the bidder, if awarded the Contract, will fulďŹ ll the terms of the bid.

Correction In a Feb. 27 Almanac story about the city of Menlo Parkâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s decision to fire gymnastics instructor Michelle Sutton, the last name of the mother who complained about the teacher was misspelled. The correct spelling is Boda.

The Town of Atherton, The City, reserves the right to reject any or all bids; to make any awards or any rejections in what it alone considers to be in the best interest of the City, and waive any informalities or irregularities in the bids. The contract will be awarded, if at all, to the responsible bidder that submits the lowest responsive bid. [NOTE: If there are alternates in the bid, the City will need to state how the low bid will be determined, as required by PCC 20103.8.] Bidders are hereby notiďŹ ed that, pursuant to California Civil Code Sections 3247 and 3248 and Standard SpeciďŹ cations Section 3.02, the successful bidder will be required to provide payment and performance bonds in the amounts of 100% of the contract price.

Good for Business. Good for You. Good for the Community.

Bidders are hereby notiďŹ ed that provisions of California Labor Code regarding prevailing wages and apprentices are applicable to the work to be performed under this contract. Pursuant to Section 1773 et seq. the general prevailing wage rates have been determined by the Director of the California Department of Industrial Relations and appear in the California Prevailing Wage Rates. Copies are on ďŹ le at the ofďŹ ce of the City Engineer and are available to interested parties upon request. The successful bidder shall post a copy of the wage rates at the job site.


The Contractor may elect to receive 100 percent of payments due under the contract, without retention of any portion of the payment by the Town of Atherton, by depositing securities of equivalent value to the retention amount in accordance with the provisions of Section 22300 of the California Public Contract Code.

Our caring and compassionate doctor and staff are devoted to improve and maintain the highest quality of oral health by continuing education and state-of-the-art procedures

All bidders shall be licensed under the provisions of the Business and Professions Code to do the type of work contemplated in the project. The City has determined that the Contractor shall possess a valid Class A license at the time the bid is submitted. Failure to possess the speciďŹ ed license shall render the bid nonresponsive.





Each bidder shall submit with this bid a statement setting forth his/her/its experience and qualiďŹ cations. The statement shall be made on the forms provided by the Town and must accompany each bid. The three lowest bidders will be required to submit subcontractorâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s experience and qualiďŹ cations statements within 48 hours of the bid opening, on forms provided by the Town. By submitting a bid in response to this advertisement for bids, the bidder shall be conclusively deemed to have read, understood and agreed with all of the information and materials contained in the bid documents, including but not limited to the construction contract, the standard speciďŹ cations, the special provisions, the required nature and amount of insurance and the documentation evidencing said insurance. Any questions regarding the project should be directed to David Huynh, Project Engineer, telephone: (650) 752-0555 or by written Requests for Information (RFI) to: Public Works Department, 91 AshďŹ eld Road, Atherton, CA 94027, no later than ten (10) business days before bid opening. RFIs may be emailed to or faxed to (650) 688-6539. Responses shall be posted on the Townâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s website no later than ďŹ ve (5) days prior to bid opening.



By: ________________________________________ Gordon Siebert, P.E., City Engineer Date: ______________________________________

March 6, 2013NTheAlmanacOnline.comNThe AlmanacN17

Serving Menlo Park, Atherton, Portola Valley, and Woodside for 47 years.



EDITOR & PUBLISHER Tom Gibboney (223-6507) NEWSROOM Managing Editor Richard Hine (223-6525) News Editor Renee Batti (223-6582) Lifestyles Editor Jane Knoerle (223-6531) Staff Writers Dave Boyce (223-6527), Sandy Brundage (223-6529) Contributors Marjorie Mader, Barbara Wood, Kate Daly Special Sections Editors Carol Blitzer, Sue Dremann Photographer Michelle Le (223-6530) DESIGN & PRODUCTION Design Director Shannon Corey (223-6560) Designers Linda Atilano, Lili Cao, Diane Haas, Rosanna Leung, Paul Llewellyn, Scott Peterson ADVERTISING Vice President Sales and Marketing Tom Zahiralis (223-6570)

Legal Advertising Alicia Santillan (223-6578) 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) 223-7570 Email news and photos with captions to: Email letters to: The Almanac, established in October 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. ©2013 by Embarcadero Media Company. All rights reserved. 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 www.TheAlmanacOnline. com 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.


the Viewpoint desk at 223-6507.


Real Estate & Advertising Coordinator Diane Martin (223-6584)

la R

Real Estate Manager Neal Fine (223-6583)


n a town that frequently refers to itself as a rural community, itself. Officials could reconsider in light of the agricultural neighbor Portola Valley is having trouble deciding whether the owners of a to the north, the Jelich Ranch. We understand why some residents fear a compromise that could Portola Road property can, on seven acres, grow grapes and other affect a precious view looking up to spectacular fruit and some row crops that, arguably, would be Windy Hill. But we wonder if they are giving a intermittently discernible from the road. EDI TORI AL thought to the town’s long agricultural heritage, The field is a “meadow preserve” bordered on The opinion of The Almanac including livestock ranches, farms and many two sides by working agriculture: orchards to the orchards, including those of Walter Jelich, who north and hidden vineyards to the west. Its status in the general plan as a “preserve” stems from its pastoral beauty grew and sold apples, apricots and figs along Portola Road for years. and its position at the bottom of Windy Hill, the 1,900-foot peak His sales barn still stands along the road not far from this field. This is a “rural” heritage and the town should celebrate it, not turn that rises through an open-space preserve to Skyline Boulevard. its back on it. The seven-acre property This vista in the town’s “scenic corridor” Proposed meadow project in Portola Valley is shielded from Portola Road by stands is treasured by town residents, and for of trees, so in most cases the agriculture some, any attempt to interrupt it, even Agricultural storage building will hardly be seen by passersby. But even with a few acres of agriculture, is not if they do see it, what harm can come acceptable. Orchard from a glance at a small vineyard, some In the face of residents who consider row crops and a few fruit trees around an the field sacrosanct, the Planning ComSurrounding trees elegant barn? If there are fences to promission OK’d a barn and three acres of Farm land tect the crops, they should be discreet. vegetables and fruit trees on seven acres at We know that Portola Valley the northern end of the field, but excluded Grass land residents have done more than most a four-acre vineyard from that scenario. communities to develop according to It clashed with the “purpose and intent” green environmental guidelines and of the town’s general plan, a commission have set aside tax funds to purchase majority said. Mid-Peninsula Regional open space. But there’s more to being Dr. Kirk Neely, who owns the field with Open Space District green. Advances in self-sustaining prachis wife Holly Myers, has said that the tices — growing your own vegetables, for vineyard is vital to financing meadow example — should be the next step. operations. Town officials have comThis proposal is hardly a dangerous precedent and should be mended the couple on their good stewardship of the land. The proposal is five years old at least. Any decision on the vineyard is a approved. Farming this parcel would not make Portola Valley an “agriculture community,” as some have charged, but it would delicate matter, one that likely will require a public hearing. When a decision is made, it could turn on the definition of “mead- support sustainability and show that the town still remembers its ow preserve” and/or whether it remains a preserve and in a class by roots. to Por

Display Advertising Sales Wendy Suzuki (223-6569)

Agriculture gets a bad rap in Portola Valley

L ET TERS Our readers write

Opposes artificial turf at Woodside Priory Editor: There is an item on the agenda for the Portola Valley Planning Commission for Wednesday, March 6, which is rightfully of town concern. This is whether or not to approve installation of 2.39 acres of artificial turf (plastic grass blades with plastic pellet and sand infill) at the Priory for a playing field. On Jan. 14, the town’s Architectural and Site Control Commission expressed its views on the proposal. At that meeting, Commissioner Jeff Clark said that the Planning Commission would need to see an accurate sample of the actual material proposed to make a decision. This is important. To my knowledge this has not been Continued on next page

18NThe AlmanacNTheAlmanacOnline.comNMarch 6, 2013

Our Regional Heritage

Woodside History Committee

In 1882, the Irish immigrants Michael and Bridget Byrne built this Victorian Gothic house on Canada Road from a mail order plan. Judge Albert T. Shine inherited the house in 1939, which included many 19th century furnishings. The house was sold and renovated in 1998 and is now listed with the state Office of Historic Preservation as a private residence.


L ET T ER S Our readers write

Continued from previous page

provided by the installer. Even the 1-foot-square sample shown by a company representative at the Architectural Site and Control Commission on Jan.14 wasn’t exactly what is being proposed, let alone that it was not being seen in full sunlight or in a large enough swatch so any kind of intelligent decision can be made about the on-site appearance. And remember, 2.39 acres would be a lot of plastic. Other ASCC members expressed thoughtful and more basic concerns. Chief among these whether so much artificial turf belongs in our town along Portola Road, the scenic corridor which, as Commissioner Danna Breen said, “defines the town.” She said, “Portola Road is the heart of the town.” Commissioner Megan Koch said she wanted to see the corridor remain natural and that the ASCC’s job is to “preserve the natural environment.” The town’s General Plan, as Commission chair Craig Hughes said, repeatedly calls for maintaining as much nature as possible. The proposal has evolved along the course of the hearings. Whether to remove a number of trees along Portola Road to honor the scenic corridor? Or leave trees to provide necessary shade to students if the plastic grass gets too hot. And on and on. My view? I’ll support the town’s General Plan and vote for nature. Bev Lipman Favonio Road, Portola Valley

Public comment on gymnastics issue Editor: This letter was addressed to the Menlo Park City Council: Without bringing up any specifics, I am writing about the recent unpleasantness at the Menlo Park gymnasium. Certain aspects of how that situation was handled are troubling to me. First, I have heard that the city attorney has been removing from the city of Menlo Park website emails from members of the public regarding that issue. I certainly understand that employment matters are private and that the council and city employees cannot and should not discuss those publicly. However, that is a much different situation than public comment in protest over an employment matter. The content of those public

emails cannot be imputed to the council, and as such they do not fall within the employment matters exception to the Brown Act. Rather than censoring email from the city website, the city attorney should be more concerned about the First Amendment and Brown Act effects of deleting those email messages from members of the public. Second, the city attorney should also be concerned about an employment lawsuit. I would recommend that he thoroughly review the employee handbook that governs city employees, whether that handbook or any other policy grants the City Council authority to make employment decisions at a level lower than department head, and if not, what checks and balances exist to prevent any undue influence from the City Council over such employment decisions, in a broad and general sense. Any undue influence by the council, or an individual member, if it was contrary to written policy and the Employee Handbook, could give rise to liability for wrongful termination — and ultimately the citizens of Menlo Park have to pay for that liability. The recent unpleasantness has made me wary as to how such decisions are made by the city. Some clarification of overall policy would be helpful both to the city itself, and to the residents of Menlo Park. Brian Schar Laurel Avenue, Menlo Park

blame, the supervisors should have both investigated further and intervened to attempt to resolve the issue. As I understand it, Ms. Sutton was merely attempting to enforce the policies set forth by the operators of the gymnastics program. The supervisor should have intervened to ensure that these policies were explained and understood by the parents, so that they could be assured that they were not being singled out or picked upon. In the event the parents still believed they had been mistreated, witnesses should have been contacted and an attempt made to reconcile the issue. To the extent that the parents were still not satisfied, they could have been offered a spot in another class and/or a refund — which, incidentally, is what we are currently being offered as parents of a child who has been waiting for an open spot in Ms. Sutton’s

class — yes, we are among those parents who waited in order to get into her class. The utter lack of investigation into both the incident as well as alternative, and less drastic options than termination of a beloved instructor, leads me and many of us in the community to believe that in fact it was the latter, outright discriminatory conduct/retaliation, which was at work here. Please note also in this regard that the termination occurred 12 days after the parents’ complaint was lodged, but only 6 days after Ms. Sutton began making inquiries into the process of lodging a formal complaint against her supervisor(s) for harassment. Adding up these and the other factors in this case leads to but one conclusion; namely, wrongful termination based upon discrimination and/ or retaliation. Up until now, the city’s

response to this situation has wavered between the shirking of any responsibility — i.e., “I am not responsible for this issue” — to outrageous coverup conduct akin to the recent Applebee’s fiasco, dubbed by some as “social media suicide.” Despite this, there remains a limited window of opportunity for the city to step up and make this situation better, before an indelible stain is left on the beautiful new gymnastics facility. Accordingly, before the situation spins even further out of control, we once again urge the city to take responsibility and get to the bottom of this issue now. It is not just “more” investigation that is required. It is “any” investigation and, quite frankly, just a modicum of common sense. Laura Ruettgers Ringwood Avenue, Menlo Park

Supervisor failure or discrimination? Editor: A lot of negative attention has been directed at the couple who complained about the city of Menlo Park’s gymnastics instructor Michelle Sutton. Most of us may find it difficult to empathize with a person who is willing to try to “get someone fired” based upon a misunderstanding or otherwise, particularly when we care about the person on the other side of the debate. Despite this, generally speaking, I think we would all agree that there is nothing wrong with lodging a complaint if you feel you have been mistreated. Whether or not we agree with what they did, the complaining parents are not the real issue. The real issue here arises from either: (1) a total supervisorial failure, at best; or (2) outright discriminatory conduct and/or retaliation, at worst. To the extent the employment decision was actually related to the parents’ complaint, before jumping the gun and placing March 6, 2013NTheAlmanacOnline.comNThe AlmanacN19

The Almanac 03.06.2013 - Section 1  
The Almanac 03.06.2013 - Section 1  

Section 1 of the March 6, 2013 edition of the Almanac