Hidden Villa announces contest winners

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Courtesy of Pallas Wu
Pallas Wu’s supplement to the Hidden Villa writing contest.

Hidden Villa farm and preserve in Los Altos Hills announced the winners of its winter essay contest.

Entrants in three age categories were asked to describe an experience at Hidden Villa that helped them see the world in a different way.

Supes ask board to waive late fees on property taxes

In light of the economic hit local residents are taking during the COVID-19 crisis, Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors President Cindy Chavez and Supervisor Joe Simitian proposed that the county waive its 10% penalty on property tax payments that were due April 10 but paid late.

The two supervisors also want to publicize the county’s option for partial payment of property taxes – a proposal Simitian initiated three years ago – and direct county staff to identify other ways to make late-payment penalties less onerous, including a potential reduction in the interest charged on properties that fall into default.

The board will consider the proposals at its next meeting, scheduled Tuesday.

“We’re in a crisis, and people are hurting,” Simitian said. “I think most folks understand that property taxes for our cities, our schools and the county are needed to keep our government running – particularly so given the current crisis. That being said, penalizing people who are doing the best they can during a difficult time makes no sense to me. So we’re asking the administration to simply waive the penalties and fees across the board, for all late payers, without requiring individual application, justification or consideration.”

Chavez agreed on the urgency of acting quickly.

“Relief from penalties is particularly important for homeowners and small businesspeople whose livelihoods are uncertain – they need immediate relief,” she said.

Simitian and Chavez laid out other possible actions county staff could take, including:

• Taking all necessary steps to publicize the payment options available, such as the county’s acceptance of partial payment of property taxes.

• Finding additional potential relief measures for taxpayers with unpaid second installment property taxes as of July 1, which could include, but are not limited to, waiver, reduction and/or refund of redemption penalties and fees.
California Revenue and Taxation Code Section 4985.2 grants the county the authority to waive penalties for reasonable causes and circumstances beyond the taxpayer’s control.

“I’m told that a proposal of this type is unprecedented, but then so is the crisis at hand,” Simitian said. “If we’ve got a tool we can use to provide relief, we should use it, Now, more than ever, we’ve got to think creatively.”

Midpen: Visit preserves without bikes, horses

Officials at the Los Altos-based Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District are asking preserve users to leave their bikes and horses at home during the pandemic to keep the preserves as safe as possible. Midpen issued the ban April 2.

“This is because an increase in medical calls in the preserves, particularly for bicycle accidents, was requiring increased use of limited and valuable emergency resources including rangers, firefighters and paramedics,” said Midpen spokeswoman Leigh Ann Gessner.

Gessner added that Midpen employees are working to keep the preserves as open as possible while following the directives of county health officers.

“The preserves offer a place of respite and essential outdoor activity, particularly for those in our community who may not have access to a yard or safe neighborhood,” she said.

For more information, visit openspace.org.

New Mtn. View safe parking lot open 24/7

Santa Clara County and the city of Mountain View have opened Shoreline Amphitheatre’s Lot B as a safe parking site for vehicle dwellers, operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The lot – previously available for overnight safe parking use only – can accommodate up to 30 vehicles.

In addition, the county and city are working to extend the hours of a former Valley Transportation Authority lot from overnight only to 24/7 safe parking, as well as open a lot owned by Palo Alto Housing for 24/7 safe parking during the COVID-19 crisis. The additional two lots could accommodate more than 40 vehicles.

“While not a long-term solution, safe parking allows residents to have stability in where they sleep each night while they seek permanent housing. This stability is critically important, now more than ever,” said Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian, who noted the need to identify more sites, find a way to keep them open 24/7 and connect local nonprofit groups with the insurance coverage they need.

Through a lease with the city of Mountain View, Live Nation Entertainment, which operates Shoreline Amphitheatre, has agreed to allow the city and county to use the Shoreline lot year-round for safe parking.

“Unhoused residents are among the most vulnerable to infection during the COVID-19 crisis,” Simitian said. “I’m so pleased we are able to partner with the city of Mountain View during these challenging times.”

Anyone who knows of an unused or underused property that could be a potential site for safe parking is asked to call (408) 299-5050 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

A journey of survival: Resident suffers coronavirus during trip to Egypt

Photo courtesy of Judie Johnson
Dr. Mohammed Mamoud, above, bids farewell to Judie Johnson after picking a flower and giving it to her following her recovery from the coronavirus. “I’ll never forget you,” he told her. “You’ll always be my best American teacher.” 


Judie Johnson and Ciddy Wordell, both Los Altos residents, met up at the Cairo Intercontinental Hotel March 5 to begin their Egyptian tour. A retired language arts and journalism teacher, Johnson was inspired by the Egyptian history she learned from her Los Altos Art Docent program. Wordell, a former Cupertino city planner, had a lifelong desire to visit Egypt. Their 15-day tour, led by Overseas Adventure Travel, included discovering timeless temples, pyramids and artifacts, and learning about the present-day Egyptian culture. Little did they realize how their adventure of discovery would turn into an ordeal.

Confronting Domestic Violence: Planning strategies in battle against an abuser


This is the second in a six-part series on victims of domestic violence who must continue to live with their abusers during the quarantine.

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