Thu03052015

News

Council considers freezing First St. development

Council considers freezing First St. development


Megan V. Winslow/Town Crier
A pedestrian walks along First Street in downtown Los Altos last week. Future construction on the street could soon be barred by an emergency moratorium on development.

Further construction along First Street could...

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Schools

Santa Rita students put on Kranky Kids Radio Show

Santa Rita students put on Kranky Kids Radio Show


Traci Newell/ Town Crier
Neighborhood volunteer Lishka DeVoss, center, introduces members of Santa Rita School’s Kranky Kids Radio Club to their interviewee last week. The students star in the Kranky Kids Radio Show, which airs Fridays on KZSU.
...

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Community

Music for Minors partners with Harvard to expand efforts

Music for Minors partners with Harvard to expand efforts


Palmer

When the thriving Music for Minors began to outgrow its capacity, the local nonprofit organization made new friends.

Beginning in late February, Music for Minors – a Town Crier Holiday Fund recipient – partnered with Harvard Business Sch...

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Sports

Eagles make school history

Eagles make school history

Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
The Los Altos High School Eagles defeated Santa Clara High School Tuesday to advance to the Central Coast Section basketball finals Saturday.

The Eagles are headed where no Los Altos High boys basketball team has gone...

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Comment

Dangerous streets: A Piece of My Mind

I’m driving along El Monte Avenue between Foothill Expressway and Springer Road at approximately 6 p.m. on a midwinter evening. In keeping with the “village feeling” of our town, there are no sidewalks and no streetlights.

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Special Sections

Lions, lambs and Cab Franc for March

Lions, lambs and Cab Franc for March


Christine Moore/Special to the Town Crier
Oven fries, a slice of feta cheese and the bite of harissa mayonnaise make for a late-winter, early-spring dinner perfectly paired with Cabernet Franc.

I can’t help but wonder whether March will come in ...

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Business

Los Altos scientist named Inventor of the Year

Los Altos scientist named Inventor of the Year

Alicia Castro/Town Crier
Robert Showen, above, the Silicon Valley Intellectual Property Lawyers Association’s Inventor of the Year, began researching his ShotSpotter technology in his Los Altos home. Sensors are placed around a city, below, and fou...

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Books

French novel

French novel "Hunting and Gathering" offers character-driven suspense


Anna Gavalda is a well-known author in her native France, where she has published six books, most of which have met with considerable praise and commercial success. Her fourth novel, “Hunting and Gathering” (Riverhead Books, 2007), is filled ...

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People

JACK JOSEPH CRANE

JACK JOSEPH CRANE

Long time Los Altos resident, Jack Joseph Crane, loving husband and devoted father of two children, passed away peacefully at the Terraces in Los Altos, Saturday, February 21, 2015. He was 95 years of age. Jack was born on June 22, 1919. He is prec...

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Travel

Seoul of the city: Korean capital offers mix of old and new

Seoul of the city: Korean capital offers mix of old and new


Ramya Krishna/Special to the Town Crier
Seoul’s Cheonggyecheon public recreation space, above, features an elevated pedestrian bridge.

Seoul, South Korea, is a study in contrasts. Having grown quickly, the city is a mix of old and new.

Using...

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Stepping Out

TheatreWorks jumps into ‘Lake’

TheatreWorks jumps into ‘Lake’


Kevin Berne/Special to the Town Crier
Jason Bowen, from left, Adam Poss and Nilanjana Bose star in “The Lake Effect,” opening this weekend at the Lucie Stern Theatre in Palo Alto and running through March 29.

The TheatreWorks production ...

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Spiritual Life

Is your thought life sabotaging your spiritual journey?

My computer started having problems – there seemed to be some sort of malware running in the background. At first it was just annoying, then it began to slow down my computer, interfering with its basic operations. What is it doing? Why can...

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Magazine

Local events serve up family fun

Local events serve up family fun


Courtesy of Peninsula Youth Theatre
Peninsula Youth Theatre’s production of “Pecos Bill: A Tall Tale” is slated to open March 20 in Mountain View.

For families seeking a break from the daily routine, events abound this month and next in Los Alto...

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City report calls for sewer rate hikes

The price of doing, ahem, business may be going up for Los Altos residents.

An update to the city of Los Altos’ 2005 Sanitary Sewer Master Plan calls for annual service-charge increases that would more than double the average single-family monthly bill by fiscal year 2027.

The updated plan was set for review at Tuesday’s Los Altos City Council meeting, held after the Town Crier’s press deadline.

According to the report – presented Feb. 12 during a council study session – the monthly single-family bill in Los Altos could rise incrementally from its current average of $28.96 to approximately $63.60 per month by 2027. Residents now pay a rate of $3.25 per 100 cubic feet for sewage services.

Gradual increases

The report recommends annual 6 percent increases beginning fiscal year 2014 to fund, in part, a capital improvement program for the city’s aging sewer system. Nearly one-third of the annual service-charge increases would go toward debt service for upgrades to Palo Alto’s aging Regional Water Quality Control Plant. The plant has been in operation since 1934 and serves Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, Palo Alto, East Palo Alto, Mountain View and Stanford.

The report also suggests updating Los Altos’ geographic information system; expanding its fats, oil and grease control program; and adding one maintenance lead-worker position to meet the city’s maintenance and repair demands.

Reached by the Town Crier, Los Altos Public Works Director Jim Gustafson said that under Proposition 218, the rate

increases are subject to local voter approval after a formal study by the city.

Capital improvements for the more than 50-year-old system would address immediate and long-term structural issues, including corrosion rehabilitation and sewer-pipe replacement, as well as annual maintenance costs over the 15-year period. Representatives from consulting firm Brown and Caldwell specifically noted that 36 reaches (sections of sewer between structures) in the city’s trunk sewer main, which flows to the regional plant in Palo Alto, have moderate to severe corrosion.

“Sewers, if properly designed, should be self-cleaning,” said Gustafson, who attributed the proposed service charge increments to water rate increases, the need to replace aging equipment and rising labor costs. “In reality, there are going to be a few trouble spots that need to be repaired over time. … All cities are under pressure to do capital work on their systems.”

Addressing the report, Gustafson noted that Los Altos residents now pay less on average than some nearby cities. Specifically, the average monthly Los Altos sewer service bill in 2012 – $27.51 – is approximately $10 less than the average monthly bill paid by Milpitas residents. Sunnyvale residents paid on average a $30.84 monthly bill during 2012.

The average monthly bill in Los Altos has dropped considerably since 2009, from $37.96 to its current average of $28.96, according to Gustafson. He attributed the change in part to a 13 percent decrease in water use by residents since 2008 – a trend he expects to continue.

“We have designed and developed a strategy to make the rate increases very gradual,” Gustafson said, noting that replacing the sewer system could cost the city more than $100 million.

In terms of service quality, the report credited the city’s upgraded maintenance. Inspection and repair schedules since 2005 have resulted in an 80 percent reduction in dry weather sanitary sewer overflows, from an average of 15 in 2002 through 2004 to 2.5 overflows during the past two years. It also noted that 93 percent of the city’s system has been inspected since 2005, resulting in 5 percent rated in poor condition.

“We have sewer crews out there every day doing sewer-main flushing that allows the city’s lines to keep passing sewage,” Gustafson said.

He estimates that a five-year rate study will be “locked in” by July. He added that city officials should begin notifying residents about the results of the study in early June.

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