BARRON PARK DONKEYS HIT THE BIG TIME
By Don Anderson
HELP SUPPORT THE BARRON PARK DONKEYS!
HOW DID OUR STREET GET ITS NAME?
By Doug Graham, Barron Park Historian
by Sheila Mandoli
MAY FETE 2004
NEIGHBORHOOD MEETING WAS ONE BIG HAPPY PARTY
By Maryanne Welton
OUR ADOPTION STORY: BRINGING JAMIE HOME
By Linda Lui
SENIOR UPDATE, SUMMER '04
by Mary Jane Leon, Committee Chair
THE PALO ALTO EMERGENCY COMMUNITY
By Patrick Muffler, BPA Emergency Preparedness Chair
ZONING AND LAND USE
By Maryanne Welton. ZALU Chair
by Doug Moran, BPA President
One of the ongoing concerns of the BPA has been to improve neighborhood-serving retail along southern El Camino and nearby areas. This has been a frequent topic of this column, so forgive me for some recapitulation-a certain amount is unavoidable. A healthy retail sector is important to residents for several reasons. It is a quality of life issue. It is inconvenient and a waste of precious time for you to have to drive distances to do all your shopping. And if everyone else has to drive to do their shopping, it puts more traffic on our streets. Equally important, the revenue from sales tax is a critical part of the City's budget.
To understand the importance of sales tax revenue to the City, it is useful to understand the property tax revenues. The City receives roughly 8% of your property taxes, with the rest going to the School District, the County, and the State. The City used to get 12%, but the state government "reallocated" one-third to cover its budget shortfalls. If your house is assessed at $1 million, you pay $10,000 in property tax (1%), and the City receives $800. Note: this excludes local assesment districts. Reminder: because of Prop 13 limits, long-term homeowners can have assessed values that are a fraction of current market value, some lower than 20% of market.
The City's Actual General Fund Expenses are $87.8 million, which works out to $1450 for each of the City's 60,500 residents. If the City had to run purely on property tax from residents, this translates into an average of $1.8 million of taxed property per resident, or $7.25 million for a family of four. Homes are expensive here, but nowhere near that expensive.
But businesses also pay taxes and use City services. Let's assume that the cost of services to businesses is half that of residents. For example, they don't use many services such as libraries, but they do use many of the more expensive services such as police, fire, and streets. And let's assume that businesses pay about half the property tax of residents (the state-wide average). With this, an average of $1.2 million of house per resident becomes the break-even point where property tax pays for City services.
The City receives 12% of sales tax collected (1 cent per dollar of sales). Thus $80,000 of taxable sales produces the same revenue as property tax from a $1 million home.
This calculation is admittedly still a bit simplistic, but is close enough to convey why other tax revenues are so important to Palo Alto. Background: Businesses pay a decreasing share of property tax because of the Proposition 13 formula, wherein a property's assessed value gets reset to market value when it is sold (In between such resets, assessed value is capped at 2% increase/year). At the time Prop 13 was passed, business properties accounted for two-thirds of the property tax (state-wide), but that has shrunk to about one-third today. The reason is that homes are sold much more frequently than business properties-the national average is commonly cited as 5-7 years. Even though businesses come and go, they are typically tenants, and hence the actual properties have not changed ownership. There is widespread recognition of this problem, but only tentative discussion of a solution.
Who is doing what
The City government has a history of focusing primarily on Stanford Shopping Mall and the University Avenue downtown, partly because they are the dominant shopping districts and partly because they are better organized and hence both the "squeaky wheel" and easier to work with.
The economic downturn forcefully highlighted the importance of sales tax revenues to the City. In 2003, Mayor Dena Mossar instituted "Shop Palo Alto," and although it had little visible impact, it may have sown some seeds. Also in 2003, the Palo Alto Neighborhoods (PAN)-an umbrella group for local neighborhood associations-elected as its co-chairs three people with strong interests in retail: Annette Ashton of Midtown, Karen White of Duveneck/St. Francis (Edgewood Plaza is their neighborhood center), and myself.
In July, a group of neighborhood associations sponsored a forum on retail from a variety of perspectives. In preparation for this meeting, the Palo Alto Weekly published a Guest Opinion by me on the oft-forgotten role in what is often called the jobs-housing balance, and one by Karen White (both of which are available online in the 7/2 and 7/9 issues).
The current mayor, Bern Beecham, created an ad hoc Committee on Retail and included me and Karen White as representatives of the neighborhoods. The current focus of this committee is on activities to support existing small businesses.
Shop Palo Alto
Something that emerged from both the Retail Forum and the Committee on Retail is that many local businesses are frustrated that residents believe that the big chains offer substantial savings. Recently, a neighbor who is considering buying a digital camera saw an ad from a chain for a model he was interested in and asked me to check if it was cheaper on the Internet. I found that the price came up the same at all major sites and was 10% less at one site that had a mediocre customer rating. Since I was running an errand on California Avenue, I stopped in at Keeble & Shuchat to see what their price was, and it was the same as the advertised price at the chains and on the Internet!
For such a purchase, I would argue that the local retailer had the best price after factoring in the convenience and service. At the Forum, one of the panelists was the owner of California Paint and Wallpaper and he claimed that their paint prices were quite competitive with Home Depot. Although they are much more convenient, some people have commented that the store feels oriented towards professional painters and unwelcoming to amateurs. One of the items being discussed in the Retail Committee is what, if anything, can be done to help small retailers with feedback and advice.
Sales Tax Profile
One of the surprising things I learned sitting on the Retail Committee is that sources of Palo Alto's sales tax revenue are very different from surrounding communities. The analysis breaks tax revenues into seven major categories: (1) Business& Industry, (2) General Consumer Goods, (3) Autos&Transportation, (4) Restaurants&Hotels, (5) Building&Construction, (6) Food&Drugs, (7) Fuel&Service Stations. In Santa Clara County, the first three are the dominant sources (and in that order). However, in Palo Alto, General Consumer is the top category and accounts for roughly 2.5 times the next one, Business&Industry, followed closely by Autos&Transportation, and then Restaurants&Hotels.
This creates several concerns. First, Stanford Shopping Center accounts for a big portion of this, and it has been losing ground to Valley Fair and now Santana Row. It is hoped that the recent management change (to the Simon Group) will revitalize the Center. Second, Palo Alto has recently lost several auto dealers and probably can't prevent the loss of one or two more. Auto dealers are prized businesses-they generate a high amount of sales tax relative to the amount of land they use and the customer traffic they generate. Dealers are moving to other cities where they can get more room and be part of an auto row. In Palo Alto, there are minimal options for the location of an auto row, and the City has little history of actively promoting such developments.
The low level of tax from Business&Industry seems strange when you consider how much high tech business is located here. The problem is that companies have flexibility in deciding where a sale actually occurred. For example, a deal by one Palo Alto company to sell products to another Palo Alto company negotiated by people located in Palo Alto can result in none of the sales tax coming to the City. What happens is that after the deal has been sealed, the actual administration of the contract is assigned to a sales office in another city-say Mountain View-and since the invoices are handled by that office, the default is to credit the sales tax to that other city.
The City is considering how best to approach local companies to encourage them to credit a portion of the tax from such sales to Palo Alto.
Historical Note: this is not a new problem. The City had a substantial drop in sales tax revenue in 1995 when several sales offices moved out of Palo Alto. H-P moved offices out of the Research Park to Cupertino. Sun moved offices several blocks down Bayshore, just over the Mountain View line.
Just a thought
It has been noted that lawyers constitute a significant portion of local businesses. Might there be a way to tax some of that business? No, wait. It has already been tried. It was called the Stamp Act of 1765 and widely regarded as the beginning of the American Revolution.
Shopping malls do more than simply rent space to retailers-they aggressively pursue the right mix of retailers and position them appropriately throughout the mall. Some stores do better when clustered with their competitors. Women's shoes is the commonly used example-presumably so that the speaker can follow with cute statements about "foot traffic." But some stores work poorly together-sales at women's shoe stores reportedly slump if a restaurant is located nearby.
Currently, it is the major landlords and developers who have defined the character of the retail districts, and this has meant that the focus has been on the University Avenue downtown. The major neighborhood associations have tried to recruit key businesses, but have limited leverage and resources. Midtown has managed some successes. BPA has been unsuccessful-the difficulties imposed by the current parcels along El Camino are too daunting for most small businesses. Although there are advocates for the City taking a more activist role in recruiting compatible businesses to fill-out or complement existing businesses, it was not one of the top priorities identified by the Retail Committee. Maybe in the next round . . .
In May, the Hyatt announced that they were not going to rebuild the hotel on this site and instead build all housing. People "with an axe to grind" claimed that this was a result of the slow "Palo Alto Process" and unreasonable opposition by neighborhood groups.
This was decidedly false. Most of the delays were caused by Hyatt, not the City: The City would reserve time for a hearing and Hyatt would ask for a postponement-often months, sometimes indefinitely-because they weren't ready. I know of no opposition to rebuilding the hotel. The opposition was to the very high density of the proposed housing. Hyatt's current proposal is to build less housing on the total site than they had proposed for half the site.
Jim Baer, a major Palo Alto developer, wrote in a Guest Opinion in
the May 26th edition of the Palo Alto Weekly "... Hyatt created its
own fully predictable failure" and states that Hyatt had been told as
early as 1997 that the proposal was unlikely to be approved
(available online at
One of the fatal flaws of the defunct Hyatt proposal was that it made invalid use of "mixed use" development. A valid instance of mixed use is when housing is paired with professional offices and they share parking because they have complementary usage patterns. Hyatt attempted to reduce the amount of parking provided by claiming mixed-use status, even though the hotel and housing would have had much the same parking patterns. This was even more troubling because the site was laid out so that it could be easily split into separate properties, leaving the housing with a severe deficit of parking. Hyatt also played a similar game with the "open-space" for housing, counting the hotel's landscaping toward that requirement.
This problem of splitting properties is not an abstract concern. Alma Plaza (Albertson's) and the neighboring apartment building were originally owned by the same person, and the apartment building was allowed to have insufficient parking (details are murky) because tenants would be allowed to park in the Alma Plaza lot. Now, with the redevelopment of Alma Plaza hinging on making more room for stores by reducing parking, this is a potential stumbling block.
Finally, Hyatt's decision was driven by the overall economy-travel is down. Before deciding to cancel the hotel altogether, they decided to eliminate the large conference rooms because there was too little demand for such facilities. And Palo Alto is only one of several cities where Hyatt has cancelled hotel projects.
Hyatt Rickey's-room taxes
One of the big story lines about the coming closing of the Hyatt Rickey's hotel is that Palo Alto will lose roughly $1 million in room tax (officially Transient Occupancy Tax or TOT). Actually, it might increase room tax receipts. First, the vacancy rate at other Palo Alto hotels can absorb people who would have stayed at Rickey's (except on the busiest times, such as Stanford graduation). Second, a manager of one Palo Alto hotel predicts that room rates, and hence room tax, will rise when Rickey's closes. This is because Hyatt Rickey's has a dual identity. As Rickey's, it is an outdated facility, which reduces the rates it can charge. However, as a Hyatt, the brand name implies an updated, high-end facility, and its advertised room rates set expectations for what are appropriate rates at other area hotels.
Hyatt Rickey's and Elks Club
With the pending conversion of part of the Elks Club site to housing, people are thinking about ways to encourage the developers to include some retail because the area is already deficient in neighborhood-oriented retail. The purpose is two-fold. First, by providing nearby places to shop, it would reduce traffic impacts from the new residents. Second, it would allow residents to do a little more shopping in Palo Alto (instead of Mountain View), thereby capturing the corresponding sales tax.
Unfortunately, I don't think this will happen. In this area-in contrast to most of the country-housing developments produce better returns than commercial developments.
Alma Plaza (Albertson's)
At the time this is being written, the status of Alma Plaza is still uncertain. Albertson's is facing three big uncertainties:the general economy, competition in other cities from Super Wal-marts, and the upcoming Northern California labor contract (The SoCal negotiations produced a prolonged strike last year). Albertson's would prefer to have a standard 50-55,000 square foot mega-store on the site, but it just won't fit. Current considerations are for about 40,000 sq.ft. of retail: grocery store, drug store, and independents. However, this requires having less than the normal amount of parking, based on the assumption that the center will draw significant customers from the nearby neighbors who will come by foot and bicycle.
No one I talk to knows how good Albertson's is at adapting to such constraints. Some chains excel at customizing to local situations. For others, their strength is in providing the same "experience" throughout all their stores.
Barron Park Donkeys Hit the Big
By Don Anderson
On Wednesday, April 21, Niner and Perry became TV stars. The boys were featured in the first segment that evening on "Evening Magazine" on Channel 5. Of course, Perry has already been featured as the donkey in the movie "Shrek," and more recently in its sequel "Shrek 2," so this latest exposure to the limelight was no big deal for him. Filming for the show took place in Bol Park on Sunday, March 14. Marla Tellez, producer of "Evening Magazine," had contacted Don Anderson several weeks in advance of that date to get information about Perry and Niner, and to discuss the possibility of including them in the show. On the appointed Sunday, Marla and her cameraman arrived bright and early at the park to begin shooting. They spent about an hour and a half shooting film of the donkeys and interviewing volunteer donkey handlers and James Witt, who permanently hosts the donkeys on his land. Several shots of children interacting with the donkeys also were filmed.
The hour and a half of filming was boiled down to a three minute segment when the donkeys actually made their appearance on TV. Much was made of the "Shrek" connection on the show, which included several clever cuts between scenes from the movie and corresponding scenes of Niner and (especially) Perry in Bol Park. Although several people were interviewed during the filming, the show as aired concentrated mainly on interviews with Don Anderson and Inge Harding Barlow, with cameo appearances by donkey handler Zakhary Cribari, and donkey handler emeritus Leland Smith. Photos accompanying this article show some of the action on filming day in Bol Park.
What's next for our donkeys? Perhaps a multi-film deal with a major studio. . . . .
Help Support the Barron Park
Perry and Niner, Barron Park's very special donkeys, greet children and adults alike in Bol Park each Sunday morning (weather permitting) from 9:30 to 10:30. In addition, the "boys" provide warmth and joy to those who walk by their pasture; an opportunity for humane education of children in Barron Park Schools; and a general reaffirmation for all of us of our connection to the natural world.
Support for Perry and Niner comes completely from the generosity of their neighbors and the community. The donkeys receive no tax dollars, no government funds, no funds from the City of Palo Alto, no grants from any animal welfare or humane organization. They are a part of the neighborhood simply because people who live here care about them and care about continuing this unique opportunity.
The donkeys look forward to their annual check-up and shots from the veterinarian, and to the frequent visits from the farrier to make sure their hooves stay healthy and in good shape. Of course these visits, and the hay that Perry and Niner enthusiastically devour each day, cost money.
If you can afford to help support the donkeys, please mail a check to Acterra, 3921 East Bayshore Road, Palo Alto, CA 94303. Your check should be made out to the "Palo Alto Donkey Project." No gift is too small. Acterra is a non-profit environmental group that acts as fiscal agent for the Donkey Project, providing insurance, handling donations, and making payments.
For further information about making a contribution on behalf of the donkeys, please call Edith Smith. If you would like information about how to become one of the volunteer donkey handlers, please contact Don Anderson Don Anderson.
How Did Our Street get its
By Doug Graham, Barron Park Historian
Encina Grande Park
One of the first Post-World War II housing tracts in Barron Park was Encina Grande Park, which was platted on July 13, 1946. There were eight new streets laid out as part of this subdivision, all of which were given Spanish names.
There were 162 building lots in the development, 160 of which were built on between 1947 and 1953. The houses were built to order on lots purchased individually, but many of them were built from a few standard plans. They were small by standards of later decades, but generous in size when compared to the average home built during the depression years of the 1930s. See the aerial photo accompanying this article.
Encina Grande Drive is the longest street in the tract, and runs "east and west " (following the local convention that El Camino runs "north and south." The name translates from the Spanish as "Large Liveoak." The 1948 aerial photograph of Barron Park shows Encina Grande Park during its second year of development. Looking at that photo, it is easy to see an enormous oak at the intersection of Encina Grande and Arbol Drive. Arbol means "tree" in Spanish. This oak is one of the largest that can be spotted in the photograph, equal in size to the largest of the oaks on the future Gunn High School campus, and to the old oak that was taken down in Briones Park this Spring. Its canopy was at least 50 feet in diameter. I am certain that this oak (now long gone) was the inspiration for the names of both streets, and of the housing development.
The next-longest street was Florales Drive, and it was built up before most of the others. Its name means "Flowers." Between Encina Grande and Florales, and parallel to them, runs Cereza Drive, and its name means "Cherry." At the time of its development, Encina Grande Park was covered by a large orchard, owned by the Buckley Brothers. It would be tempting to conclude that the orchard was planted with cherries, but I have been told by residents that the trees were prune plums. The western boundary of the tract was marked by Amaranta Avenue, which runs north-south. It was named for the old-fashioned Amaranthus flower. The other north-south streets to the east are, in order, Solano, Campana and Verdosa Drives. The first two translate as "sunny place" and "country." The last one seems to be a misspelling of "Verdoso," which translates literally as "greenish" and seems to be a peculiar name for a street. Are there any readers fluent in Spanish who could offer explanations or comments?
George Reed Tract
Soon after Encina Grande Park, in April, 1948, the George Reed Tract was laid out along Maybell Avenue, on land planted with Apricot trees (a few of which still exist in back yards). The streets were Abel, Baker and Georgia Avenues. Abel was the first letter in the military phonetic alphabet used for telphonic and radio battlefield communications in World War II. Baker, the second letter of the alphabet was also the name of Linda and Clark Baker, who bought the land. Georgia comes from the developer's names, George and Georgia Reed.
In April, 1952, the Greenacres Two tract of 129 lots was laid out along a discontinuous stretch of Georgia Avenue and three new streets; Donald, Willmar and Hubbardt Drives. Donald Drive was namedfor Donald Moerdyke, the son of N. Perry Moerdyke, a Palo Alto attorney and partner in Moerdyke, Hardy and Anderson, owners and subdividers of the land. Similarly, William Anderson named Willmar Drive for his sons Steven William and Greg Martin. See the photos of Donald, William and Martin. Finally, Hubbardt Drive was named by Paul Hardy, the engineer who platted the subdivision, honoring his wife Shirley, whose maiden name was Hubbardt.
The western end of Greenacres Two was developed on Apricot orchards. The eastern end was also covered by fruit trees, but I do not know the variety. Can any reader fill this gap in our knowledge?
Ilima Gardens and McGregor Glen
Ilima Gardens, a 16-house tract, was laid out in April, 1955, along the new street Ilima Court, a cul-de-sac off Laguna Avenue. The street was named for the Ilima shrub of Hawaii, which bears tiny orange flowers that are sweet-scented favorites in Hawaiian leis-it is the lei flower of Oahu. The song Sweet Lady of Ilima is a traditional Hawaiian song. In 1960, Ilima Way was extended on the other side of Laguna, through a 26-lot development, McGregor Glen. This was one of the last sizeable developments in the Barron Park area, and was laid out on two large lots running west from Laguna. Duggan's lot to the north bordered Matadero Creek at its west end and did not appear to have been an orchard. The other lot was owned by John Babick and was planted with pears. John's son Nick Babick still lives in the corner lot on Laguna. Where the street bends around at its west end, its name changes to McGregor Way. Apparently, the development and the street were not named for any particular person. The developer, Doug Couch, had been successful with a Scotch-Irish theme for an earlier development.
by Sheila Mandoli
Intergenerational Week (IGW) 2004 was successful and Barron Parkers helped to make it so! IGW is celebrated the third week in May to focus attention on the isolation that young children, teen-agers and elders experience. Isolation from each other. So many families who live in our community have no grandparents, aunts, uncles, or cousins living nearby. Consequently, young and old do not interact frequently. When Barron Park seniors met for lunch and heard of the plans for IGW, 14 Barron Parkers agreed to participate. Teenagers and elders-all reported "a fun afternoon." We, as BP neighbors, expect to continue to participate and to build relationships and strong community. We will keep you posted on future activities.
If you would like to join in this on-going intergenerational activity, please give me a call: Sheila Mandoli at 493-9180.
MAY FETE 2004
May Fete 2004 was held in Briones Park Sunday May . As always, the music-filled party involves a host of volunteers. The following is a partial list of your neighbors and friends who helped put it on;
Maypole Preparation, Procession and Dance
Paul Edwards set up and broke down the pole. His sisters, Carol Atwood and Susan Ogle, and mother, Elsa Edwards created the May Pole decoration and May Pole basket. Bob Fraley helped prepare the ribbons, and lead the May Pole dance.
Alan Keith lead the procession, playing his bagpipes. Gary Breitbard, Paul Edwards (Celtic Music), Terman Middle School Jazz Band (swing music), Broceliande (Renaissance and Celtic), Les Campagnardes (French Country Dance), Dan Bloomberg and his group Amaranta House. Paul Edwards provided the sound system and ran the sound board.
Food and Drink
Maryanne Welton, Don Anderson, Mary Jane Leon, Elaine Kearney, Myra and Doug Westover, Sue Luttner, Dick Placone, Linnie Melena, Stella Mead, Jeffrey Dean, Alice and Bob Frost, Jane Marshburn, and Sharon Erickson. Also the Barron Park School PTSA and the Gunn High School Cheer Squad bake sales.
Setup, Takedown and Cleanup
Will Beckett, Jack Sutton, Jeannette Kennedy, Erich Boehm, Patrick and Nancy McKenna, Grey Nebeker, Mollie Graham, Tom Marshburn, Tony Horwath and Ann Knopf.
Lisa Jewett and Girl Scout Troop #504 (face-painting), Mollie Graham and Grey Nebeker (balloon sales), Gwen Luce (BPA Membership and Welcoming Table)
Doug Graham (committee chair and volunteer recruitment), Maryanne Welton (food and drink), Don Anderson (publicity), Will Beckett (setup), Gary Breitbard (musical program), Paul Edwards (maypole), Patrick Muffler (police, fire and PANDA), Mary Jane Leon (finance)
Artist Edith Smith, Bay Area Garden Railway Society-model steam railroad (Eric Struck), Barron Park Donkeys (the volunteer donkey handlers), Barron Park History Exhibit (Doug Graham), Electric Car Association (Will Beckett), Palo Alto Historical Association (Beth Bunnenberg), Palo Alto Police Department, PANDA.
Neighborhood Meeting Was One Big
By Maryanne Welton
Neighbors young and old came to celebrate the first day of spring at our annual Neighborhood Meeting at Barron Park School. We decided to change the format this year to include less meeting and more party-and it was very well received by all. Brief updates on issues and projects that impact Barron Park were reported, board members were introduced and the role and activities of the BPA were presented.
The theme of the meeting was making connections. After the business portion of the meeting was completed, everyone trooped outside for the official dedication of the community bench in the reading garden, which was made possible by a BPA donation. Cookies and lemonade were provided, the weather cooperated, people connected, and some even made music.
Thanks to all that attended the meeting and everyone who helped with set up, clean up, and providing refreshments. We would love to hear from our members on similar types of events and community celebrations that could take place to make connections across the neighborhood. Feel free to contact any board member with suggestions.
Our Adoption Story: Bringing Jamie
By Linda Lui
I am still awed by Jamie's presence in our lives. I see the small file of papers on our bookshelf and find it amazing that just from following a few instructions and the worthy sacrifice of a small tree, she is in our home from the other side of the planet.
We adopted Jamie Cosette Lui officially on August 27, 2003 in Changsha, the capital city of Hunan Province in China. We celebrated her first birthday five days later. She was found when she was six days old, on the grounds of a government building with a note stating her birthday and nothing else. From then until our arrival, she lived in an orphanage. That is the only information we have on her background.*
After a couple of years of suppressing my heartfelt desire to have a daughter in my life, I realized this yearning was not going away without a fight. So I surrendered. My dear husband was as supportive as always. We already had two boys and for age and health reasons, decided against another birth child. Our adoption journey began in January of 2002. We contacted Holt International Children's Services, the agency some friends had used and were planning to use again as they picked up their second child. (By sheer coincidence, we ended up in the same travel group together, one and a half years later!)
We were fortunate to have been able to visit her orphanage in her home city of Yi Yang. Not all adoptive parents are able to do that unless the orphanage happens to be in or near the capital of the province. Our travel group being small (six families) and the gods being favorable, we were allowed to make the one and a half hour trip with the agency's bus and tour guide to quickly capture the essence of her first year of life-Safe, well fed, not much exercise, little stimulation. We didn't see any toys but they could have been hidden. The most odd but interesting item in her former bedroom that she had once shared with four other babies, was a wooden box-like contraption that is used for potty training. It seems the child just sits Jack-in-the-box style until she fulfills the "requirements." Jamie must have been semi-"trained" because she would tinkle whenever we took her diaper off. As we compared notes, we found this was true for the other families as well. (Can an infant that young really hold it?) We are happy to report, she and her Hunan sisters were quickly de-programmed and put on the slow track to diaper free bliss!
You could write a small book about the paperwork required to satisfy the state, INS (now BCIS) and China. I think I'll save it for another day. But after our initial reaction of feeling overwhelmed and the questioning of why this or that should be necessary, we accepted it all as just a part of the process, a different form of labor pains. Give us a hoop, we'll jump.
We submitted our authenticated, state-certified, notarized dossier to China on July 26, 2002. That became our all important D-T-C (dossier to China) date. At the time, the expected wait was 13-14 months from your D-T-C date for Holt clients. But in spite of a brief SARS related adoption shutdown in China in May, our agency called us on June 30, 2003, just 11 months later, with the happy news that a child had been selected for us and our time had come. A referral picture soon followed of a little girl in pink with a serious round face. We traveled in late August to Beijing, Changsha and Guangzhou and returned three weeks later with little lollipop-head.
At 12 months of age, Jamie was the oldest of the six babies in our travel group within about a six week range. None of them were able to crawl. Jamie's arms would buckle after two seconds of holding up her weight. With regular floor time, her muscles strengthened quickly and she was soon crawling. She was a very easy baby to feed. (She has since gotten pickier.) She slept well. Almost too well. It felt a little strange. Now we know she's just a kid who likes to sleep a lot and we are grateful. Her adjustment to life in our home was pretty seamless in spite of what must have been a tremendous amount of change for her. Although we are of Chinese ancestry, I speak only English and my husband speaks a very different dialect of Chinese than what she was accustomed to hearing. She doesn't say more than three words yet she seems to really understand so much. I remember only one night of inconsolable crying about a week after we returned. I slept with her that night. She gave me her big signature full moon smile and that was that.
In preparation for adopting a child, I read books on being adopted, on raising an adopted child, an adoptee's developmental issues, etc. Now it feels strange that its even an issue at all, from my perspective, at least. I'll have wait to see how Jamie feels. We plan on being very open with her, as is age appropriate and go from there. Someday, I expect we will return to Yi Yang as a family and contemplate the coming together of our lives.
Going through the international adoption process opened my eyes to the plight of many children, whose lives could be dramatically improved with the everyday resources that we take for granted. For example, babies with cleft-lips and palates are doomed to a life of social ostracism in their own countries. Yet, it is a condition that could be remedied with a couple of relatively simple surgical procedures. According to the Holt employee in China, international adoptions have truly rescued the babies in many orphanages in China who, three decades ago, rarely survived. For every baby adopted, the required "donation" from the adoptive parents (about $3,000 now), supports ten children for one year. (I suspect being under foreign observation also improves conditions.)
If we were younger and richer, I would consider doing it again. If we did it again, we would definitely use Holt's services again. But we're not, so we won't. But we are satisfied. Jamie's two older brothers, ages 8 and 4, adore their baby sister. I, thankfully, have a daughter and we find that adding a third child truly enriches the family dynamics. We are blessed. Jamie is finally home.
Senior Update, Summer '04
by Mary Jane Leon
Volunteers Worth More Than Their Salt
Some of you may have seen a recent article in the Palo Alto Weekly about our Barron Park Seniors Group. It conveyed the spirit of what we are trying to do, and the picture of Emmie Lou Miller and Art Bayce was a topper. But I feel that, when I talked with the reporter, I missed a golden opportunity to recognize people who have given hours of time to volunteer for their neighbors. Here I am with a college degree in journalism, and I let an opportunity like that get by me!
As a way of making amends somewhat, let me use this column to recognize some people who have gone more than the extra mile. First, Lee Sendelbeck, who, for over a year, did the grocery shopping for one of our neighbors. That is a serious time commitment, and we thank you heartily, Lee. Bob Sendelbeck helped with that and other tasks. Pat Eldridge has recently picked up on the grocery effort.
There is Don Boeckling, who has been walking a dog twice a week for people who cannot get out to do it themselves. When Don went on vacation, he got a friend to sub for him so the dog wouldn't miss her walks. He recently spent part of a holiday evening in an urgent care center with a neighbor having health problems. Some time back Ralph Leon spent several hours taking another neighbor to urgent care, then to Stanford Hospital Emergency, after he suffered a stroke.
There is Julie Spengler, who spends time each week helping a Barron Park neighbor with some record keeping-and gaining a good new friend in the process. Julie has helped others before that, and is a mainstay of keeping our records up to date.
People who keep the lunches well organized include Bob Frost, Rosemary Jacobsen, and Julie Spengler. Gee Gee Lenhart joined me a while back in making the rounds of local restaurants, checking for the best place for our lunches, and she regularly helps with collecting money at lunches.
Again this Spring, a few seniors got together for a stuffing party to get out a second membership mailing: Harriet Moss, Jean Olsen, Jack Sutton, Gee Gee Lenhart, Rosemary Jacobsen, Arlene Markakis, and Jane Coleman. Thanks, all. The memberships (and money) are rolling in, so it was well worth the effort.
I'm trying to remember who helped with the Annual Meeting: Harriet and Bob Moss, Ann Boeckling, Jean Olsen, Alice Frost, and who else??? There are all the seniors who make cookies for the annual Holiday Party, and Alice Frost helps out there too. Another valuable volunteer is Sheila Mandoli, who dedicates her time to local children's causes. See her accompanying article on Intergenerational Week.
I know I am going to overlook some of you! Disorganized record keeping and the passage of time work against me. To a great extent, volunteering is it's own reward. Many of the people named above are volunteering with other organizations too. Then there are those who just see something that needs doing, and do it. I am continually hearing from or about people who do good deeds for their neighbors without any organization to work through, without any special acknowledgement. The will to volunteer is widespread and deep. And I am happy to report that we have three new volunteers just looking for someone who needs a helping hand.
Group Lunch Time
Good weather means that lunches have moved back to Bol Park, with Driftwood Deli catering. We had a fine one on June 8, and are looking forward to our next on August 10. If you want to join the group for lunch in August, just let us know. There is always room for a few more.
We continue to offer volunteer services to Barron Park neighbors. We can run an errand for you or with you, do small odd jobs at your home, help you learn to use e-mail, stop by for a visit, or give you a daily phone call. We also enjoy finding information that you might need about any specific service available to local seniors. Contact: Mary Jane Leon.
The Palo Alto Emergency
Community Notification System
By Patrick Muffler, BPA Emergency Preparedness Chair
Beginning at 4:45 AM on 17 May 2004 there were several sightings of a
cougar in the residential areas around the intersection of
Middlefield Road and Embarcadero in Palo Alto. Eight hours later, the
cougar was shot and killed by the Palo Alto Police Department. A
detailed Incident Report dated 24 May 2004 from the Police Department
to the City Council can be found at
This incident has provoked extensive discussion within Palo Alto and its neighborhoods about the city's Emergency Community Notification System. The system allows the city to send a 30-second emergency telephone message to affected areas of Palo Alto at the rate of 2,000 phone calls per hour. The system, however, was not activated on 17 May. According to the 24 May Incident Report, "At the time of the initial two sightings, due to the few number of officers on duty, the focus was on getting additional police units to the area. After the third sighting, the focus shifted to notification of the schools. The arrival of the news media resulted in staff responding to their requests for information. With all the associated activity, staff did not think of activating it [the system] until right around the time of the third sighting." Police Chief Lynne Johnson has emphasized that this was a mistake and has publicly accepted full responsibility.
How will the Police Department use the Emergency Community Notification System in the event of another sighting or incident? According to the 24 May Incident Report, after officers determine that a sighting is credible, "residents in the area will be notified via the community alerting system. Neighborhoods where an e-mail list-serve exists will be contacted in order to get the word out on the Internet."
A few details about the Emergency Community Notification System. The system was purchased by the city for $172,000 in June 1998 as a response to the 2-3 February 1998 flood. The phone number data base (supplied by SBC) includes virtually all fixed telephones in Palo Alto and is updated each month. The system does not call cell phones. It can distinguish a fax and phone line, and if it gets a busy signal, it will call that line later in the process. A message will be left if the phone is answered by a voice mail system or answering machine. Those to be contacted can be targeted by outlining areas on a map displayed on a computer; the area is then linked to the phone database. Phone call areas can be prioritized (i.e., one area first, and then another). The Palo Alto system has 32 dedicated phone lines, supplemented by 16 additional phone lines during an emergency.
Use of the Emergency Community Notification System is restricted to situations in which there is an imminent threat to life. According to Sheryl Comtois of the Palo Alto Police Department, the system has been used four times since its implementation: twice for potential flood warnings, once concerning an individual attacking others with a hammer, and once during Y2K.
On 10 February 2003, Palo Alto carried out a test of the Emergency Community Notification System to simulate an emergency warning of flooding in Barron Park. Seventy-four addresses in the 700 and 800 blocks of Los Robles and El Centro participated in the test. An excellent report by Bob Moss can be found at www2.bpaonline.org/Emergencyprep/alert-test-2003.html. Bob concluded that "The system is fully operational, relatively easy and straightforward to activate and use, and could contact all 1200 homes [3800 phone numbers] in Barron Park in about 3.5 hours." Bob further stated that "We still plan to use our [neighborhood] phone and E-mail alert systems in case of flooding danger, but the city emergency phone alert system is an excellent way to notify far more people faster than any local phone tree could."
E-mail alerts can supplement the Emergency Community Notification System. For example, many residents of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood first became aware of the cougar on May 17 via a message on that neighborhood's e-mail site. For several reasons, however, E-mail lists do not substitute for the city's phone system: (1) not everyone has e-mail, (2) many who have e-mail check it only infrequently, (3) only a fraction of residents belong to a neighborhood association, and (4) some neighborhoods do not have active neighborhood associations. Nevertheless, Palo Alto and its neighborhood associations are exploring how the neighborhood e-mails lists could be better used as a supplement to the Emergency Community Notification System. Perhaps e-mail from specified addresses at the Police Department could be automatically forwarded to neighborhood lists (all or just selected ones, depending on the circumstances).
Another supplementary notification resource is the Palo Alto Weekly's
e-mail bulletin service. This free service is used only to notify
subscribers of urgent news-breaking events and subsequent related
updates; it is not used for any other purpose (e.g., SPAM). Anyone
wishing to subscribe can do so by visiting
During the month of June, the City of Palo Alto will evaluate its overall strategy for emergency notification, including not only phone and e-mail but also all other suggested modes (e.g., use of loudspeakers in police cars and fire engines). A meeting on 15 June 2004 of the Palo Alto Police Department and leaders of Palo Alto Neighborhoods (including Doug Moran, BPA President) will ensure neighborhood input to these discussions.
Zoning and Land Use
By Maryanne Welton. ZALU Chair
4131 El Camino
We finally have a coffee shop in our neighborhood! Starbucks opened in April in the new three-story, mixed use building on the El Camino Island. It's been over 5 years since the property owner first approached the BPA to discuss this project. We held a public meeting so community members could voice their opinion-and a coffee shop was high on their list. During the last several years, we continued to talk to the developer to remind him that a coffee shop and other neighborhood-serving, ground floor retail was a top priority. A sandwich shop and cabinet shop are also slated to open later this spring. Office space and residential units will occupy the top floors.
Some people wish that a local coffee shop had gone in, rather than a national operation. But when I see people sitting on the plaza outside and there is activity visible through the clear glass windows enlivening the street, I am glad that the BPA was involved in helping to bring a gathering spot to our neighborhood.
Old Blockbuster Site (El Camino and Vista Way)
The Emek Beracha congregation is in the process of purchasing the property and received approval of a Conditional Use Permit to renovate the existing building into a synagogue. The Conditional Use permit outlines hours of use and proposes ways to mitigate impacts on the neighborhood.
The BPA organized a public meeting on March 1st to allow neighbors the opportunity to hear about the congregation's plans and to voice concerns or recommendations before the City's formal review process. Many members of the congregation already live in or near Barron Park because they walk to the synagogue on holy days. Because members do not drive to the synagogue during these peak hours of use, there should be no impacts from traffic or parking on the neighborhood. Classes during the week will be planned to not exceed the existing 28 parking spaces. Neighbors were supportive of the proposed plans and asked that the congregation work with the community on ways to slow traffic nearby to increase pedestrian safety.
Albertson's at Alma Plaza
Last year the Planning Commission approved the proposed redevelopment of Alma Plaza to include a new and expanded grocery store, additional retail space and housing. This project was included in the moratorium for all new development along the Charleston corridor pending the completion of a traffic study earlier this year. Now Albertson's is thinking of closing the grocery store and selling the entire shopping center. The project is on indefinite hold until direction is received from Albertson's. The loss of Albertson's will leave a big hole in our neighborhood's shopping options if the redevelopment of the site does not include a grocery store.
Ricky's Hyatt (at El Camino and Charleston)
This project was also included in the moratorium for all new development along the Charleston corridor. A new application was recently submitted to the city for 200 residential units and no hotel. While the housing is considered by many a positive addition to Palo Alto's housing stock, the projected loss of revenue from the hotel's transient occupancy tax might impact the City's budget. The revised project is now in preliminary review by City staff.
Hardware Store in Barron Park?
A developer is considering opening an Ace Hardware store in our neighborhood on El Camino. Plans have not yet been submitted to the City but I will continue to track this project and report on it in future newsletters.
Check this column for project updates in or near Barron Park or contact me if you have any questions about development in our neighborhood: Maryanne Welton.
3450 El Camino Real
Palo Alto, CA 94306 (near Creekside Inn)
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