NOTICE OF PUBLIC MEETING of the City of Palo Alto Historic Resources Board
Palo Alto slab-foundation homes at risk for gas leaks September house explosion caused by gas buildup, report concludes by Chris Kenrick
omes with gas lines beneath slab foundations — commonly built in Palo Alto in the mid-1900s — are at risk of gas leaks similar to that which caused a Maureen Avenue house to explode last September, fire officials said this week. Acting Palo Alto Fire Marshal Gordon Simpkinson said corrosive action of soil can lead to leaks in 50- or 60-year-old gas lines. “If (homeowners) don’t take care of it, it could reach the point where it causes a problem similar to what happened on Maureen,” Simpkinson said, adding that, if residents smell gas, the Utilities Department has a program to inspect homes free of charge. Before their Maureen Avenue house literally exploded last September, Andrew and Yvonne Ware had consulted with their furnace installer about a natural gas-like odor. The installer, from the now defunct Dahl Plumbing, did not smell natural gas and told the couple the
Sign wavers (continued from page 3)
“I think it was more effective when less people were doing it,” he said. “When people are doing it more often, it becomes less special.” Sign spinning has become so popular that advertising companies, such as AArrow in San Diego, have formed specifically to offer highly trained spinners. Their employees are like break dancers, capable of doing backflips while tossing their signs into the air. Some of their employees have been featured in commercials for McDonald’s and Ford. Skill comes with a price, however: AArrow sign spinners charge $25 to $50 an hour. Other advertising companies that don’t offer such highly skilled spinners, such as Allure Advertising and Media Nation, pay $8 to $15 an hour for human directionals, according to each company’s website. Some businesses consider the cost relatively cheap — and highly targeted — in comparison to other forms of advertising. According to gaebler.com, a website providing resources to entrepreneurs, a billboard ad costs $700 to $2,500 a month and a full-page ad in a major newspaper costs 10 times that amount for one day. If a business were to hire a sign spinner for four hours a day during rush hour and for five days a week, the cost would be between $640 and $1,200 a month. At places like Ducky’s, where current employees take shifts holding signs on street corners, additional
odor probably emanated from a dirty-diaper pail, the Wares told fire inspectors. On Sept. 30, Andrew Ware was finishing up his morning shower when he heard a big boom and saw smoke, flames — and blue sky where his bathroom roof had been. He escaped the burning home through a bathroom window. Yvonne Ware already had left to take the couple’s child to day care. Investigators determined the fire had been fueled by a gas leak. “That’s the only thing that can lift the roof of a house like that,” Simpkinson said. However, inspectors listed the fire as “undetermined” in their final report because they were unable to pinpoint precisely the source of ignition. They speculated it could have been a water heater cycling on to supply hot water during the shower. Another possible cause could have been the thermostat of a wall furnace. Inspectors estimated property
loss to be $375,000 in the Maureen Avenue fire, with another $100,000 in contents loss. The fire, which quickly consumed most of the house, could be seen from the sixth floor of City Hall, more than 3 miles away. For residents concerned about possible gas leaks, Simpkinson said, “If somebody’s got something where they occasionally smell it, they’re not quite sure, they can call the Utilities Department and they will come out with gas-detection equipment and go through the house room-by-room. This is free of charge to the homeowner.” However, if residents notice a strong smell of gas, they should call 911 so the fire department can immediately come and turn off the gas, Simpkinson advised. For easier repair, leaky underground gas lines can be disconnected, capped off and re-routed through garages or walls, he said. N Staff Writer Chris Kenrick can be e-mailed at email@example.com.
costs are nothing. “It is free marketing. Billboards can be very expensive, while the duck is on our payroll,” Nickolai said. Some customers voice their concerns about the health of the people inside the duck costume, Nickolai said. But workers rotate wearing the costume and are not out on the street corner for more than an hour at a time. “All of the employees want to be the duck,” she said. At Ducky’s, workers are paid only when they are doing actual work, such as washing, cleaning cars and being the duck. Beni Guillen, an employee at Ducky’s, said he enjoys wearing the costume and feels it’s effective. He listens to Reggaeton while waving his arms. With music he can dance to, he does not get bored. “I try to entertain the little kids because they seem to like the duck costume the most,” Guillen said. Though city ordinances regulate free-standing signs, Palo Alto City Attorney Donald Larkin said ordinances do not apply to sign spinners. Placing private signs on public property is illegal, but human-held signs are allowed as long as they don’t interfere with pedestrian traffic. Robert Goldman, professor of sociology at Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Ore., and author of “Sign Wars: The Cluttered Landscape of Advertising,” isn’t sold on human directionals yet. “They might have been successful initially, but I haven’t seen any data on this,” he said. “If an advertisement is supposed to be seductive and luxurious, then these don’t
achieve that. They draw people in only if they were already thinking about it.” Goldman said that more and more businesses are doing it because “labor is so cheap and abundant right now.” One of those laborers is Elizabeth Foster of East Palo Alto, who took a job holding an 8-foot-tall red sign for Woodland Apartments because it was all she could find. She works 40 hours a week on the corner of University Avenue and Donohue Street in East Palo Alto in four-hour blocks, 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. and 2 to 6 p.m. “I never thought I would be doing this,” she said. Before holding signs, Foster was in the U.S. Navy and worked at Macy’s. She graduated from beauty school and is waiting to get her license. During her shifts she places her hand inside a small, round hole in the sign that gives her leverage to tilt it back and forth. She said she enjoys the work. “It’s great. I don’t have to worry about co-worker drama,” she said. The only co-worker she sees is her manager, who comes out during each shift to take a picture of Foster standing on the corner, proving to Woodland that she is in fact working. Foster has a young son to care for and said that she is looking for a more typical office job that would provide a more normal schedule. “Until then, I will work here as long as I can.” N Editorial Iintern Ryan Deto can be e-mailed at editor@paweekly. com.
Please be advised the Historic Resources Board shall conduct a meeting at 8:00 AM on Wednesday, September 1, 2010 in the Civic Center, Council Chambers, 1st Floor, 250 Hamilton Avenue, Palo Alto, California. Any interested persons may appear and be heard on these items. APPROVAL OF MINUTES: July 7, 2010 NEW BUSINESS Public Hearings 1. Public hearing to take testimony on the Draft Environmental Impact Report for the proposed 405 Lincoln Avenue Single-Family Residential Replacement Project, for recommendation by the Historic Resources Board on the Demolition Delay process for the existing residence at 405 Lincoln Avenue listed on the National Register of Historic Places as a contributing structure in the Professorville Historic District and for review of the proposed replacement residence for compatibility with the Professorville Historic District. Questions. If interested parties have any questions regarding the above applications, please contact the Planning Division at (650) 329-2441. The ﬁles relating to these items are available for inspection weekdays between the hours of 8:00 AM to 12:00 PM and 1:00 PM to 4:00 PM and staff reports will be available for inspection at 2:00 PM the Friday preceding the hearing. The City of Palo Alto does not discriminate against individuals with disabilities. To request accommodations to access City facilities, services or programs, to participate at public meetings, or to learn more about the City’s compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), please contact the City’s ADA Coordinator at 650.329.2550 (voice) or by e-mailing ada@ cityofpaloalto.org. Steven Turner, Advance Planning Manager
NOTICE OF A SPECIAL PUBLIC MEETING of the Palo Alto Planning & Transportation Commision Please be advised the Planning and Transportation Commission (P&TC) shall conduct a special meeting at 6:00 PM, Wednesday, September 1, 2010 in the Civic Center, Council Chambers, 1st Floor, 250 Hamilton Avenue, Palo Alto, California. Any interested persons may appear and be heard on these items. Staff reports for agendized items are available via the City’s main website at www.cityofpaloalto.org. and also at the Planning Division Front Desk, 5th Floor, City Hall, after 2:00 PM on the Friday preceding the meeting date. Copies will be made available at the Development Center should City Hall be closed on the 9/80 Friday. NEW BUSINESS. Public Hearing: 1. 610 Los Trancos Road: Request by John Lerch on behalf of Scott McNealy for Site and Design Review of a new roof structure over an existing hockey/tennis sport court facility and the addition of new landscape material as screening for the new roof. Environmental Assessment: An Initial Study is being prepared in accordance with California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) requirements. Zone District: OS (Open Space) 2. Green Building Study Session: Discuss changes to the PAMC Section 18.44, Green Building Regulations, to reﬂect the release of the California Green Building Code (CALGreen) and to include sustainability requirements for large development projects. Other Item: 3. Appointment of Liaison to Rail Corridor Study Task Force Questions. Any questions regarding the above applications, please contact the Planning Department at (650) 329-2440. The ﬁles relating to these items are available for inspection weekdays between the hours of 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM. This public meeting is televised live on Government Access Channel 26. ADA. The City of Palo Alto does not discriminate against individuals with disabilities. To request accommodations to access City facilities, services or programs, to participate at public meetings, or to learn more about the City’s compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), please contact the City’s ADA Coordinator at 650.329.2550 (voice) or by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
*** Curtis Williams, Director of Planning and Community Environment
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Section 1 of the August 20, 2010 edition of the Palo Alto Weekly