Thu10022014

News

LA Council race adds 3 new faces to city politics

LA Council race adds 3 new faces to city politics


The Town Crier chronicled the first election of Los Altos City Council incumbent Jarrett Fishpaw in 2010 and documented the Los Altos candidacy of Jean Mordo, who volunteered as a longtime public servant in Los Altos Hills before moving to the flat...

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Schools

St. Simon launches web-based learning management system

St. Simon launches web-based learning management system


Courtesy of St. Simon Parish School
St. Simon fifth-grader Matthew Cummins uses a laptop in class last week. The school’s cloud-based Schoology system boosts organization and collaboration.

Families at St. Simon Parish School in Los Altos laun...

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Community

Los Altos to celebrate 100 years of library use with 'Centennial Faire'

Los Altos to celebrate 100 years of library use with 'Centennial Faire'


Town Crier File Photo
The Los Altos main library is among the more popular branches in the county library district system, set to celebrate 100 years.

In 1914, Babe Ruth made his debut with the Boston Red Sox, wages hit $5 per day, the first ste...

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Sports

Eagles eye another stellar season

Eagles eye another stellar season


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Los Altos High outside hitter Carmen Annevelink, right, goes for the kill Thursday against Palo Alto, as teammates Sarah Tritschler, left, and Lulu Kishton prepare to play defense. The Eagles won the match in straight ga...

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Comment

Torok, Walter, Dave for MVLA board: Editorial

There’s really nothing major you can criticize about the Mountain View Los Altos Union High School District. It offers a diverse array of effective programs for all types of students. Its instructors, with few exceptions, are outstanding.

Howe...

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Special Sections

'Funabout' Fiat

'Funabout' Fiat


Photos courtesy of Fiat
The 2014 Fiat 500e uses 29 kilowatt-hours per 100 miles, which the engineers claim is the equivalent of 116 mpg of gas use. It has a sticker price of $33,095.

If you believe in climate change, would love to see alternat...

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Business

App developer eyes First Friday as testing ground

App developer eyes First Friday as testing ground


Ted Fagenson

An East Bay app developer is testing his newest creation in downtown Los Altos.

Ted Fagenson, co-founder of Skrownge (pronounced “scrounge”), told the Town Crier that he’s beta testing his mobile gaming app this week ...

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Books

From story to bookstore: Local journey highlights Halloween

From story to bookstore: Local journey highlights Halloween


Courtesy of Dee Ellmann
Jenny Hurwick self-published her picture book last month after decades of storytelling.

During her years working as a teacher and a Los Altos mom, Jenny Hurwick loved to tell stories. One tale she crafted for her son just se...

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People

VINCENT (TIM) MURPHY JR.

VINCENT (TIM) MURPHY JR.

July 27, 1953 – August 12, 2014

Native Los Altan died Medford, OR. Graduated Bellarmine Prep. Married Josephine Domino, 1950. Licensed Auto Mechanic, Private Pilot, skilled Computer Scientist. Tim “could fix anything”. Afflicted with cancer 2001. ...

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Travel

Taking a Turkey trek: Winging it during the World Cup

Taking a Turkey trek: Winging it during the World Cup


Rich Robertson/Special to the Town Crier
The sun sets over the Aegean Sea in Bodrum, Turkey, left.

Tours that whisk you from Istanbul to Bodrum in 11 days are as plentiful as souvenir hawkers in Turkey, but traveling from the Blue Mosque to Topkapi ...

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Stepping Out

'Gypsy' on its way out

'Gypsy' on its way out


Chris Berger/Special to the Town Crier
Alison Koch of Los Altos plays Dainty June in “Gypsy.”

This is the final weekend to catch the Sunnyvale Community Players production of “Gypsy” at the Sunnyvale Theatre. The musical is slated to close Sund...

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Spiritual Life

Ugandan pastor visits U.S. to raise support for children's ministry

Ugandan pastor visits U.S. to raise support for children's ministry


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Herman Lukwago educates children in Uganda.

Imagine life if your father had 25 children and you were raised in poverty in rural Uganda.

Now imagine that you and your siblings were orphaned at an early age and you ass...

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Magazine

Local events add color to autumn calendar

Local events add color to autumn calendar


Van Houtte/town crier Visitors make their way through the Children’s Alley.

As Los Altos’ signature Chinese Pistache trees exchange their summer green for vibrant hues of yellow, orange and red in the fall, an abundance of local events also ad...

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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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