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2 N The Almanac N TheAlmanacOnline.com N August 7, 2013
UP F RONT
Putting Burning Man on film Woodsider makes documentary on annual self-expression festival By Kate Daly Special to the Almanac
t’s a great time for a new generation of directors to enter the film industry,” says Steve Brown of Woodside, a first-time filmmaker who is releasing in August his documentary on Burning Man, the annual self-expression festival in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada. A combination of factors — such as Hollywood’s dependence on blockbuster sequels, and new outlets for films (such as streaming video services) — may make more room for independent filmmakers like Mr. Brown. As a self-described “technology entrepreneur,” he founded Health Hero Network, sold it and serves on several boards of technology companies. But even after spending a chunk of the last two years not drawing a salary for co-directing, co-producing and now distributing “SPARK: A Burning Man Story,” he says what he really wants to do is make more movies. For him this project is his “beta.” Curiosity, he says, drew him to attend his first Burning Man in 2006. He felt attracted to the “environment where people can truly be themselves” and “the transient way in which people collaborating and being artists, burned down their works, so each year they’re born ... it’s like a chance to start over.” The event originated in 1986 when Larry Harvey gathered a small group to burn a wooden effigy of a man on Baker Beach in San Francisco. Over the years Burning Man grew into a weeklong party around Labor Day where artists, musicians and other fellow so-called “Burners” set up a temporary community of trailers and tents in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert, 120 miles north of Reno. Numbering close to 60,000 these days, the participants bring in all the food, water and supplies they need. They are
Photo by Jason Mongue
Steve Brown says he plans to revisit Burning Man this year with a group of friends from Woodside, but this time he is not bringing a camera.
urged to follow basic tenets of self-expression and self-reliance, and to give and swap things. Some people collaborate to create art, while others decorate vehicles. An effigy of a man and some structures, such as a temple, are erected, and then burned. In the end the idea is to leave the desert without a trace of their being there.
On Aug. 16 the film will debut in theaters in Los Angeles and New York. This year Burning Man is taking place Aug. 27 through Sept. 3. Tickets went on sale in December for anywhere from $190 to $650 each and sold out. Mr. Brown is planning to go with a group of friends from Woodside and visit the people he filmed, but this time he is not bringing a camera. The year 2011 was pivotal for Mr. Brown. As co-organizer of TEDx Black Rock City, he met the team behind Burning Man and remembers the founder using the words “permission engine” to describe it, and telling him, “It’s a community, and a place designed to allow people to be whoever they want to be.” That theme hit home with Mr. Brown. He admits back then, “I was on a career path where I couldn’t be who I
wanted to be.” He realized Burning Man was going through growing pains and recognized a story unfolding where “a small community of artists and dreamers experience a collision with the outside world. ... It’s kind of a universal story every nonprofit, every startup, every band goes through this when they confront the world,” he says. So he decided to make a documentary about it. “My job was starting Spark Pictures, building a team, articulating the vision, raising the money (primarily from local investors), and gaining access to that story.” He procured “hundreds of hours of archival footage” and received permission to film everything at the event in 2011 and 2012 except for “illegal activities like taking drugs or porn.” “There are naked people out there,” Mr. Brown says, but most Burners wear costumes and clothing to protect themselves from harsh weather that ranges from thunder and dust storms to almost freezing temperatures at night, and to days when the temperature can climb well over 100. Through a Burning Man connection, he met the East Bay resident who became his codirector and co-producer, Jessie Deeter. She had already produced a documentary, “Who Killed the Electric Car?” They brought in Chris Weitz as one of five executive producers. He has worked on movies such as “American Pie,” “About a Boy” and “The Golden Compass,” so he lent some Hollywood expertise to the independent filmmakers. SPARK ended up focusing on the organization’s story, plus following three participants: a woman who welded together a large heart sculpture, a man who built and burned a multistory installation entitled “Burn Wall Street,” and then another man who organized a theme
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SamTrans probe: Bus breaks rail crossing arm By Sandy Brundage Almanac Staff Writer
amTrans says it could take weeks to complete an investigation into why a SamTrans bus broke off a lowering railroad crossing arm and hurtled across the tracks at Oak Grove Avenue in Menlo Park shortly before the train arrived. More than 24 hours after witnesses reported the incident at 9:23 a.m. Tuesday, July 30, SamTrans confirmed it was one of their buses. The driver, an employee of the transit agency for more than 10 years, did report the accident, according to SamTrans spokesperson Christine Dunn. She attributed the delay in confirming the vehicle’s involvement to work schedules and locations making it difficult to reach the right staff. Ms. Dunn said the driver
is now off work pending the completion of the investigation, as is standard procedure. Bus 119, running route 296, had just left the Menlo Park Caltrain station carrying five passengers before breaking off the railroad crossing arm, Ms. Dunn said. No one was injured. Further details were not available due to the ongoing investigation. Investigators will analyze eyewitness accounts, the GPS log from the bus as well as video footage from an onboard camera, according to the transit agency. An accident review committee that includes SamTrans Superintendent Karambir Cheema as well as the driver’s union representative will review the findings to determine whether the accident was preventable, who was at fault and what sort
The driver is on leave pending the outcome of an investigation that could take weeks. of discipline may be warranted. SamTrans asks that anyone with information about the accident contact Mr. Cheema by phone at 508-6401 or via email at email@example.com. The Almanac reported earlier that witnesses were sure it was a SamTrans bus. “There’s not a doubt in my mind that it was SamTrans,” one said. “VTA buses look really different.” According to the state vehicle code, buses must stop between 15 and 50 feet from a railroad crossing and listen for approaching trains before proceeding across the tracks. Ms. Dunn
confirmed that SamTrans buses follow the code, and added that if gates are down, drivers must wait until the arms rise and warning bells stop ringing. “I heard a loud snapping sound and looked up to see (the eastbound) SamTrans bus hurtling across the tracks, and the crossing arm flying through the air over the bus and coming to land on the tracks at Oak Grove Avenue,” a witness said. Seconds later, southbound train 230 arrived and ran over the broken crossing arm, she said. “The arm was lying across the tracks roughly perpendicularly when the train approached. The engine appeared to run right over the crossing arm, which eventually came to rest alongside the tracks.” Conductors got off the train and investigated the crossing. After about three minutes, the
train got underway to Palo Alto, according to a witness. “The bus clearly ran the crossing ... bells were ringing and arms were going down,” she said. “It was one of those big, double buses, heading eastbound on Oak Grove.” The bus continued down the street after crossing the tracks, she said. Multiple people called 911 about the incident. Menlo Park police responded to the scene for traffic control, but jurisdiction over the investigation lies with the transit division of the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office. SamTrans confirmed there was no damage to the train. Ms. Dunn said approaching trains were alerted to slow down as they proceeded through the crossing until work crews finished repairing the crossing arm. A
Nicholas Targ honored for environmental justice work By Dave Boyce Almanac Staff Writer
he American Bar Association has recognized Portola Valley resident Nicholas Targ, an attorney with the international law firm of Holland & Knight, for his efforts and those of two other attorneys in advancing environmental justice for communities without clean air and water. Mr. Targ shares the “Environment, Energy, and Resources Dedication to Diversity and Justice Award” with Quentin Pair of the U.S. Department of Justice, and Ben Wilson of Beveridge & Diamond PC. The award also recognizes the trio for their efforts to diversify the membership of the section of the ABA concerned with environmental issues. “What truly distinguishes these extraordinary attorneys is their tremendous investment in the lawyers of tomorrow and their unwavering commitment to the environmental bar,” said Ignacia S. Moreno, an assistant attorney general in the DOJ, in a letter announcing the award. “This remarkable partnership has produced a vitally important environmental law curriculum at the Howard University School of Law and prepared and fostered leadership in a generation of
law students to address future env ironmental issues that will confront all Americans, particularly those in low-income, minority, and Nicholas Targ Native American communities.” Mr. Targ and his associates were instrumental in bringing together the ABA, the school of law at Howard, and the bar association in the District of Columbia to develop the “Partners for Diversity and Leadership in Environmental Law Program,” Ms. Moreno said. Mr. Targ, who is in his first term on Portola Valley’s Planning Commission, lives with his family in the Hayfields subdivision. “The Howard project has been a labor of love,” he told the Almanac. “Many hands have helped it to succeed. The ABA award is a true honor and completely unexpected, but more important it will further help the program on its way. In his career, Mr. Targ has been an attorney for the Department of the Interior and for the Environmental Protection Agency, where he was counsel and associate director in the Office of Environmental Justice.
Photo by Michelle Le/The Almanac
Betty and Ernst Meissner in their Menlo Park home.
Meissners join Menlo’s Relay for Life By Sam Borsos Special to the Almanac
his weekend, Betty and Ernst Meissner are among those who will participate in the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life event in Menlo Park. Ms. Meissner created a relay team, called Joie de Vivre (joy of life), in honor of her
husband, a survivor of colon cancer. During the event, team members, including Betty and Ernst Meissner, take turns walking a course at Burgess Park from 10 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 10, to 10 a.m. Sunday, Aug. 11. The Meissners are familiar faces on the civic scene, active in the Menlo Park community since they met as neigh-
bors in the downtown area in 1970. They both belong to the Chamber of Commerce, and have been awarded for their volunteer efforts. Mr. Meissner, a former president of the chamber, earned the Golden Acorn Award in 1994. Seventeen years later, in 2011, the couple received the See MEISSNERS, page 8
August 7, 2013 N TheAlmanacOnline.com N The Almanac N 5
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Woodside School may put bond measure on ballot By Renee Batti Almanac News Editor
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6 N The Almanac N TheAlmanacOnline.com N August 7, 2013
s Woodside Elementary School District officials consider asking residents to pass a bond measure next spring for construction, safety and modernization projects, a team of volunteers is going to work to raise funds from private donors in an attempt to whittle down the amount of money the district would seek. Beth Polito, superintendent and principal of the one-school district, said identified projects are estimated to cost just over $16 million. The school board has discussed options for a bond measure, and is considering placing a measure on the June 2014 ballot, she said, adding that the decision will be made in March. Of the building projects, the highest-cost item would be the demolition of the Sellman Auditorium and construction of a new building that would include a permanent stage, added storage, connection to the campus’ music room, a new food service area, and restrooms, according to a report from earlier this year. That project would cost an estimated $7.67 million. Other projects under consideration include the demolition of the existing relocatable classroom and the construction
of two new classrooms, at an estimated cost of about $1.7 million; the demolition of the existing relocatable classroom No. 19 and construction of a new 1,000-square-foot flexible classroom space, at an estimated cost of $711,000; and safety, security, maintenance and modernization projects costing an estimated $5.9 million. The report noted that the school’s “already robust music and drama program is not wellserved by the current (Sellman Auditorium) facilities.” The report describes the replacement auditorium as the same size as the old — 8,560 square feet, but with a permanent stage, increased audio-visual capabilities, improved acoustics, better lighting, storage for related equipment, and audience seating. Representatives from architectural firms interested in taking on the project are expected to be on campus on Thursday for a walk-through. Ms. Polito said volunteers formed a team in late June to launch a fundraising effort in hope of lowering the estimated $16 million the district would otherwise have to raise through a bond issue. “The Woodside community is used to, and expects, some private fundraising” for capital projects at the school, she said. A
PV school board candidates file By Renee Batti Almanac News Editor
hree candidates had filed papers to run for the three open seats on the Portola Valley School District board as of early Monday, and one incumbent says he’s not running, which will extend the filing period to Aug. 14. Incumbent Bill Youstra, who has served on the board since May 2008, told the Almanac he’s not planning to run for reelection. Meanwhile, parent and educator Gulliver LaValle has joined two appointed Portola Valley district incumbents in qualifying for the November ballot. He and incumbent Karen Tate filed their candidate papers last week; incumbent Caitha Ambler had filed her papers earlier. The incumbents were appointed last April to replace Scott Parker and Ray Villareal, who had resigned in the previous weeks. Mr. LaValle teaches history at the Woodside Priory, and runs
the private school’s inclusion and diversity program, he said in an email. He has two children in the Ormondale School, and a son who is an eighth-grader at the Priory after attending Ormondale and Corte Madera, he said. Ms. Ambler also works for the Woodside Priory, serving as the dean of middle school. Woodside School District
Incumbent Marc Tarpenning and parent Claire Wilbur Pollioni were the only two official candidates for three open seats on the Woodside Elementary School board as of the Almanac’s press time on Monday. No one else had taken out candidate papers as of that time. If the other two incumbents whose terms expire in December — Wendy Crandall and Bettina Pike — run for re-election, the filing period will close at 5 p.m. Friday, Aug. 9. If either doesn’t file papers by that time, the filing period will be extended until Aug. 14. A
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REAL ESTATE TRENDS by Samia Cullen
Property Tax Advantage When Downsizing Your Home For many homeowners downsizing makes sense as they get older and family needs change. Although downsizing can be difďŹ cult and emotional with memories holding you back from selling your home and taking your life in a new direction, there are advantages to downsizing. Freeing the equity in your home and having a simpler lifestyle can bring the thrill of new adventures, more travel or other activities that you were not able to indulge in before. However, paying higher real property taxes on the prospective new home often acts as a deterrent to downsizing. In California, Propositions 60, 90 and 110 allow qualiďŹ ed homeowners over the age of 55 or persons of any age who are severely and permanently disabled to transfer a propertyâ€™s base value from an existing residence to a replacement residence, under certain conditions. These propositions apply to homeowners who relocate within the same participating county or between participating counties
(currently, Santa Clara, San Mateo, San Diego, Alameda, Los Angeles and Ventura). Additional requirements for this tax treatment include: (1) the cost of the replacement property canâ€™t exceed the current appraised value of the original property, (2) the replacement property must be acquired within two years of the sale of the original property, (3) the owner should ďŹ le an application for this tax treatment within three years of the sale of their residence, and (4) the original residence and the replacement home must be the taxpayerâ€™s primary residence or the taxpayer must have received or be eligible for a Disabled Veteranâ€™s Exemption on both residences. The overview of the tax laws and treatments described in this article is for general information purposes only. You should consult your tax attorney or your accountant regarding how they may apply in your particular circumstances.
If you have a real estate question or would like a free market analysis for your home, please call me at 650-384-5392, Alain Pinel Realtors, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. For the latest real estate news, follow my blog at www.samiacullen.com
This car was seriously damaged by a huge oak tree limb that broke off and fell on the vehicle, parked in a lot near the gym at the Menlo Park Civic Center. This photo was submitted by an Almanac reader.
Huge tree limb falls on car A huge oak tree limb broke off and landed on a car parked near the gym at the Menlo Park Civic Center around 12:30 p.m. Sunday, July 28. The car was seriously damaged. Menlo Park police spokeswoman Nicole Acker said the owner of the car was outside the vehicle when the tree fell, and initially he wasnâ€™t sure if
heâ€™d been hit. Medics evaluated him for a complaint of knee pain. Is the city of Menlo Park liable in this case? City Attorney Bill McClure said that, generally, car insurance policies pay for the damages, which could be recovered by the insurer only if the city was at fault or negligent. While Menlo Park does
periodically inspect its trees, he wasnâ€™t sure when this one had last been looked at and noted that with oak trees, â€œyou cannot tell whether there is some weakness or problem oftentimes until after a branch breaks off or the entire tree comes down.â€? â€” Sandy Brundage
Six show interest in council race By Dave Boyce Almanac Staff Writer
he November election for three Town Council seats in Portola Valley may be shaping up to be a contest now that two more people â€” SallyAnn Reiss and Taylor Hinshaw â€” have taken out candidacy papers. That brings the total to three who have taken out papers plus these three who have filed them: incumbent John Richards, an architect and the current mayor; software entrepreneur Craig Hughes, who sits on the townâ€™s Architecture and Site Control Commission, and incumbent Maryann Moise Derwin, who joined the council in 2005. Mr. Richards would be running for his second term; Ms. Derwin has been mayor twice and would be running for her third term. Ms. Reiss recently championed the unsuccessful bid to