Vol. XXXIV, Number 2 N October 12, 2012
OF THE ALMANAC AND
PA L O A LT O W E E K LY
Inside this issue
Fall Real Estate SO MANY BUYERS, SO FEW HOMES
LOOKING UP IN EAST PALO ALTO?
DOES IT PAY TO GO GREEN?
I LIKE EICH’
HIGH-END MARKET GOES GLOBAL
SCAM — OR ALTERNATE BUSINESS MODEL?
for Palo Alto? Measure C asks voters to allow medical marijuana dispensaries page 23
Film Festival PROGRAM
Title Pages 18
Eating Out 34
Movies 39 Home 49
N News Alma Plaza ﬁnally has a grocery store
N Arts Palo Alto Art Center reopens its doors
N Sports M-A’s long-awaited water polo win
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Local news, information and analysis
Palo Alto plows ahead with more pension reforms City to create new pension rules for police union and consider other drastic benefit changes by Gennady Sheyner alo Alto’s effort to curb the exploding costs of employee benefits will hit a milestone this week, when the City Council officially reduces pension benefits for newly hired police officers and mulls other, more dramatic reforms aimed
at shrinking the city’s liabilities. The council is scheduled to launch on Monday night what promises to be a long and complex discussion on ways to reduce employee costs — a discussion prompted by a July memo from Vice Mayor
Greg Scharff and council members Pat Burt, Karen Holman and Greg Schmid. The four council members argued in the memo that with costs of employee benefits rising dramatically, the council needs to provide “policy direction” regarding future changes to benefits. One reform that the city has already implemented is setting up a second pension tier for newly hired workers in each of its major la-
bor unions. On Monday night, the council is scheduled to officially implement this reform for its largest police union, the Palo Alto Police Officers Association. At the same time, the city is negotiating a similar agreement with the small group of police managers. Under the new agreement, newly hired officers will be subject to a pension formula of “3 percent at 55” — that is, 3 percent of the high-
est salary for each year of service, after retirement at age 55. In another change, the “highest salary” will actually be an average of the three highest years rather than the single highest year. Current members of the police union will remain subject to the “3 percent at 50 formula.” Though the changes to the police agreement will have little immedi(continued on page 14)
School board: Collaborate on counseling Board asks principals to agree on ‘purpose, metrics’ by Chris Kenrick
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family household on budget. Werness rebuffs rumors that Miki’s will cater to the cost-is-noobject yuppie crowd. Instead, the market will offer both the exotic and the basic: In the mustard section, gourmet brands sit alongside French’s. Organic sugar nestles next to bags of C&H. “I like being different,” the whitehaired Werness, 65, said, a grin on his face. Though he’s worked at popular Berkeley grocery stores for the past two decades, Werness’ ties to Palo Alto stretch back to the 1970s. When he was 27, the Saratoga native managed the old Brentwood Market at Charleston Shopping Center, which has since been replaced by Piazza’s Fine Foods. In fact, he was hired by
chool board members Tuesday asked principals of Palo Alto’s two public high schools to get together to develop a “common purpose and common metrics” for their guidance-counseling programs even though the two schools differ in the way they offer services. The informal directions came after the principals of Gunn and Palo Alto high schools presented progress reports to the board on their efforts to improve counseling services. High school guidance counseling was tagged as an area needing improvement in the school district’s 2008 strategic plan. But the issue became contentious last year when the parent group We Can Do Better Palo Alto pointed to surveys showing higher satisfaction levels with counseling at Paly than at Gunn. The group argued that Gunn — which uses a traditional counseling model — should immediately adopt Paly’s “teacher-advisory” model, which uses 46 teacher-advisers to augment a small counseling staff. At Tuesday’s meeting, Gunn Principal Katya Villalobos stressed that a Gunn committee charged with developing reforms comprises a wide range of viewpoints — including highly critical ones — on Gunn’s current system, which uses a more traditional staff to handle academic advising, college counseling and social-emotional support for students. Board members reiterated that Gunn should be free to come up with its own counseling reforms, but that collaboration with Paly on “purpose and metrics” is needed to ensure the two systems offer comparable services to students. Superintendent Kevin Skelly said
Good day for a cool run A runner follows the path below a grove of oaks adjacent to Campus Drive West on the Stanford University campus on Thursday, Oct. 11.
After seven years, Alma Plaza has a grocery store Veteran of Berkeley food scene opens Miki’s Farm Fresh Market by Jocelyn Dong ichael “Miki” Werness Just one week before the grocery gestured to the stretch of store’s opening at Alma Plaza in empty, black countertops Palo Alto, workers scurried to arin the middle of the produce sec- range cheese displays, set up the tion at Miki’s Farm Fresh Market deli section and stock shelves of dry on Wednesday, Oct. 10. goods. “You’ll probably find 24 feet of Werness grabbed some rice cakes mushrooms. Any mushroom you — gluten-free and vegan-friendly could want,” he said of the soon-to- — and rattled off the low price his be-filled space. buyers were able to get them for.
Ditto the bottles of Looza fruit nectar, which lined shelves under the countertops like wallflowers waiting for the dance. It’s been seven years since Albertsons closed at 3445 Alma St., precipitating a much-discussed search for another neighborhood market. Some residents clamored for a Trader Joe’s. Others speculated that JJ&F Market would move in from the College Terrace neighborhood. Instead, Werness, a veteran of the Bay Area grocery scene, signed the lease with property owner McNellis Partners to open the independent store. At 17,000 square feet, Miki’s Farm Fresh Market will be nearly 4,000 square feet larger than Albertsons. But unlike its predecessor, Miki’s is aiming for a different niche: organic and specialty foods but with price points low enough to keep the
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