Thu05052016

News

Hills man arrested on molestation charges

Hills man arrested on molestation charges

Gregory Helfrich

Updated 11:28 a.m.:

Santa Clara Sheriff’s detectives have arrested a Los Altos Hills man they suspect repeatedly molested a child decades ago.

Detectives arrested Gregory Helfrich, 54, on a warrant at his Old Page Mill R...

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Schools

Local AAUW gives gift of science to junior high students

Local AAUW gives gift of science to junior high students


Courtesy of Jessica Harell
Blach Intermediate School seventh-grader Paris Harrell, who loves science and animals, recently received a scholarship from the local branch of the AAUW to attend Tech Trek camp.

It’s not every day that a junior hig...

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Community

At 98, former language teacher remains a lifelong learner

At 98, former language teacher remains a lifelong learner


Federici

Longtime Los Altos resident Mario Federici, who turned 98 Feb. 24, is a man of many languages. He shared his knowledge with thousands of students during his long career as a teacher.

Federici was born and raised in Italy, where he stud...

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Comment

Attend an event, get involved, have fun: Editorial

You don’t have to run for city council to get involved in the community. Sometimes it can be as simple as attending a Los Altos event. You’ll have plenty of opportunities, as the May and June calendars are bustling with activity.

The Dow...

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Special Sections

Racing around Monterey

Racing around Monterey


Gary Anderson/Special to the Town Crier
The easy handling of the VW Golf R, above, makes for an ideal ride along the Big Sur coast.

 

When automotive journalists are asked to list their favorite places in the world to drive, Monterey alway...

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Business

'Steampunk' eatery toasts local libations

'Steampunk' eatery toasts local libations


Courtesy of Eureka
Eureka, a new restaurant in downtown Mountain View, highlights local craft beer and whiskeys on a menu of food spanning from sea to farm.

Craft beer and fancy whiskeys headline the menu at Eureka, the new restaurant that opene...

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People

Stepping Out

PA Players seek escape in 'Into the Woods'

PA Players seek escape in 'Into the Woods'


Courtesy of Palo Alto Players
The Baker’s Wife, left, and Cinderella’s erstwhile Prince stand out in the Palo Alto Players production of “Into the Woods.”

Little Red Riding Hood sets forth at the outset of “Into the...

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Spiritual Life

Los Altos United Methodist Church service salutes Heifer International

Los Altos United Methodist Church service salutes Heifer International


Courtesy of Los ALtos United Methodist Church
Hidden Villa will bring some of its farm animals to Los Altos United Methodist Church Sunday to support the nonprofit Heifer International.

Los Altos United Methodist Church is scheduled to salute th...

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Neighbors mourn, but Los Altos justifies removal of giant oak trees


Courtesy of City of Los Altos
Residents complained after the city approved the removal of two diseased Majestic Oak trees.

Los Altos residents have little recourse if their neighbors want to cut down a mature tree on their own property. However, the city has strict guidelines for tree removal, most notably proof that the tree is dying and at risk of falling.

That’s little consolation to some residents of Cypress Drive, who last week mourned the loss of two 50-foot Majestic Oaks deemed diseased and a threat to homes they towered over. Neighbor Terese Blockus called their removal “heartbreaking. We’re just so sad that these trees are gone.”

“It’s sad for us, too,” said Stacey Niermann, the homeowner who ordered the trees removed. “I’ll always feel like I’ve lost something.”

Although Niermann and other homeowners before her loved the oaks – the garage was altered several times to give way to the encroaching front tree – safety became the paramount concern.

“We knew when we purchased the home that they had about 10 years to live,” she said. “When it came up on the 10-year mark, I became worried.”

She noted that another oak fell last year and missed her neighbor “by a foot.” Her front-yard oak leaned in her neighbor’s direction.

“At the end of the day, is (the tree) more valuable than the neighbor’s life?” Niermann asked.

She added that the tree in back posed a threat to her own family.

Blockus said she understood that her neighbor had a legitimate reason for the trees’ removal. But she also thought that there was a 10-day period during which the removal permit could be appealed. The city is not required to provide neighborhood notification.

“That’s a flaw in their policy,” Blockus said.

Assistant City Manager James Walgren indicated that the 10-day period is to enable the homeowner to appeal a permit denial. He said tree protections are tighter now than they were prior to 2007, when the council moved to protect all mature trees with a more restrictive policy.

Present-day criteria include “condition of the tree with respect to disease, imminent danger of falling, proximity to existing or proposed structures and interference with utility services” and “the effect the removal would have upon shade, privacy impact, scenic beauty, property values … of the area.”

“We’re very cautious with the permits we do issue,” Walgren said, estimating that the city issues approximately 100 tree-removal permits annually. “While only a small percentage are denied, a large percentage are averted at the front counter based on the criteria.

Walgren said he thought past councils were comfortable with not requiring neighbor notification based on the careful analysis that goes into approving a tree-removal permit.

He added that replacement trees are typically required, and “hundreds of new trees get planted annually as a result of development approvals.” Niermann said she planned to replant.

Los Altos officials issued the permit Aug. 29.

City Manager Marcia Somers said the permit for the Cypress Drive property was granted “because in part, per an arborist’s report, the trees were severely diseased. I know from my own past experience, sometimes the ill health of a tree is not evident to the casual observer.”

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