Letters to the Editor: Conflict of interest, racism, development

Mayor Pepper has conflict of interest

Los Altos is considering reach codes to ban natural gas in all new homes. The codes were written by Silicon Valley Clean Energy and Peninsula Clean Energy.

Mayor Jan Pepper is the CEO of Peninsula Clean Energy. Her position presents a clear conflict of interest, which is why I filed complaints with the Fair Political Practices Commission.

At the Nov. 19, 2019, city council meeting, Pepper rejected the Environmental Commission’s recommendations – to allow gas for cooking – as not sufficiently aggressive, instead urging adoption of the codes written by her employer.

Pepper says her salary isn’t affected by her vote, yet her 2018 $285,000 compensation included opportunities for salary increases, bonuses and contract extensions based on achieving milestones set by her board. Adoption of reach codes is one of Peninsula Clean Energy’s top priorities.

Common law says, “a public officer is impliedly bound to exercise the powers conferred on him with disinterested skill, zeal and diligence and primarily for the benefit of the public.”

I contend it is wrong for a mayor to impose her employer’s codes on the residents she is supposed to serve. Pepper should recuse herself from participating in all matters relating to adoption of reach codes in Los Altos.

Freddie Wheeler

Los Altos

Residents don’t support reach codes

A survey of Los Altos residents shows strong opposition to approving reach codes. In the city survey, people were asked “Are you in support of mandating all-electric for all new construction?”

Of 272 registered respondents (residents), 73.5% were very unsupportive, and 80% very and somewhat unsupportive. A total of 305 unregistered respondents (residents or nonresidents) were 65.9% very unsupportive, and 74% very and somewhat unsupportive. 

When Jan Pepper ran for Los Altos City Council in 2016, she stated, “To make decisions that represent the whole of Los Altos, it is imperative that people express their views and are heard. One of my objectives is to increase community engagement.”

In a column in the Jan. 8 Town Crier, Pepper, now mayor, stated an objective was “Improved community engagement. When I first ran for office, it was clear that improved communication between the city and residents was needed.”

Are Pepper and the city council listening? This is a very strong community rejection of the initiative. One has to wonder how an initiative with so little support from residents got this far, and how much of residents’ money has been wasted on it.

Roger Heyder

Los Altos

Why are reach codes causing a stir?

Slander, conspiracy theories and misinformation right here in Los Altos. Sounds familiar: Rev up the base!

What are reach codes and why are they causing such a stir on Nextdoor? Reach codes are building codes based on California energy efficiency standards.

The Los Altos City Council is considering all-electric reach codes for new construction only, meaning few current residents will be affected. Adopting them would allow Los Altos to join neighboring communities to help protect the health and future of our kids and our planet.

The effort is being pummeled on Nextdoor and in public by members of an organized group that want to pick a fight. (Note, the members, not the official group, are doing this.)

If we do not give city council members cover to do the right thing and adopt reach codes, Los Altos will demonstrate that it thumbs its nose at science and refuses to join California’s effort to be an environmental leader.

Speaking to parents especially: Engage! Read the facts about reach codes on the city of Los Altos reach code website, and let the council know you have their backs to support them. Do it for your kids!

Cheryl Weiden

Los Altos

Calling out racism on LA City Council

Thank you for the article on the emergency face-covering order (“Los Altos council dismisses emergency face-covering order,” May 27). However, I don’t believe we have the full picture of the call.

The call included the following response by Councilwoman Jeannie Bruins: “Anybody who thinks that is adding clarity, I think you are out of your cotton-picking mind.”

Even without the context that Neysa Fligor is the first black city council member, that term would be inappropriate.

In a world where racism is causing unimaginable harm and trauma to communities, it isn’t enough to just address this when it’s convenient. We need to call it out when it happens.

Vice Mayor Fligor:  Thank you for your work and for proposing an action that would help to keep the community safe.

Councilwoman Bruins: Thank you for quickly convening on this issue alongside the council. I want to share that the term “cotton-picking” is racist, inappropriate and archaic. I believe it would be appropriate to apologize for using this term, to reconsider using such terms in the future and to share your commitment to being anti-racist.

In addition, thank you to Los Altos native Noah Tesfaye, who tweeted about this last week.

Michelle DeLateur

Los Altos


People have power to fight development

I read the letter to the editor by Ken and Harriet Girdley asking the Sorensens to reconsider their gargantuan development in Los Altos (“Sorensens, just because you can … ,” May 13).

I think the citizens of Los Altos should take it one step further if we want to control our destiny.

Although state law allows the Sorensens to force this abomination on us, we, the citizens, are not powerless. We can change the economic dynamics for any developer that wants to flaunt the wishes of the people. By signing a declaration that we will actively boycott any business that chooses to rent in this new development and by pledging to picket any real estate offerings, we can lessen the incentive builders have to overbuild and destroy the look and feel of the Los Altos we have known for decades.

It is time for the people to take a stand and use the power we have as consumers to shape our community.

John Holton

Los Altos


Do your part: Wear mask, stay 6 feet apart

We are very concerned about the ongoing risks of COVID. As senior citizens who are both retired health-care professionals, we have seen our country, and the entire world, suddenly become a threatening, uncertain place.

We realize that, for now, only face covering and social distancing can minimize contagiousness, providing protection for others in case one is a COVID carrier.

Yet we see many citizens of our town walking or visiting on the city streets without masks, and often closer than 6 feet, even as they pass one another or mingle on the sidewalks. One recent morning, we counted 13 people waiting for coffee outside Peet’s, with only three of them wearing masks. Last week, more than 25 people, most with uncovered faces, waited for their takeout orders on the sidewalk outside Pompeii restaurant.

Regardless of regulations, wearing a mask and maintaining a safe distance doesn’t infringe on anyone’s liberty or rights. They simply say, “I care about your safety. Your health is important to me.” Let’s all do it until this crisis is over.

Fran and Michael Rappaport

Los Altos


Phase 2 of lockdown comes to Mtn. View

Santa Clara County recently announced that we were entering Phase 2 of the stay-at-home order. The new update by public health and legal experts is the next phase of responding to this unprecedented crisis.

The revised county order took effect May 22, which means wearing masks at any business, whether it is indoors or outdoors, is required in Santa Clara County. It is also required on public transit. The revised order allows for retailer curbside pickup, car parades and outdoor museums, historical sites and publicly accessible gardens to open. The order still keeps key restrictions in place, requiring people to stay in their homes except when engaging in essential trips or activities.

The city of Mountain View falls under the revised Santa Clara County order and is actively putting forward an education campaign on the benefits of wearing a face mask, and how to wear one properly. The city, led by the Mountain View Police Department, recently held a face-mask distribution event for our at-risk and vulnerable residents. Over 5,000 face masks have been distributed to date, with more to be shared soon. You can donate face masks (purchased or handmade) 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily at the MVPD lobby at 1000 Villa St. I know many in the community have already contributed to these efforts. Thank you!

I appreciate the entire community’s efforts to socially distance and shelter in place. Wearing masks when out in public, particularly when you shop or run other essential errands, is critical to slow the spread of COVID-19. Let’s all work together to keep up the good work that we have done so far.

Ellen Kamei

Vice mayor, Mountain View

License plate readers serve as deterrent

The top priority for most Los Altos Hills residents is safety. Previous resident surveys have responded with “Safety” as the No. 1 concern. Please honor that feedback and work in service of the people that elected you.

We read on Nextdoor and in the local press, with dismay, of the increase in household and car robberies/burglaries.

This past two weeks, the area experienced a murder, a significant household burglary in the middle of the night and vandalism.

It is laughable and frustrating to receive requests from the police to check our residential security cameras after a criminal event. Useless.

We also learn from other cities that have installed license plate readers and seen an increase in arrests.

The cameras’ value in preventing crime and identifying criminal actors is well documented. Carlsbad installed license plate readers and turned up 267 stolen vehicles, resulting in 63 arrests. Sausalito police apprehended carjackers using license plate readers.

These license plate readers are a known deterrent and also serve as a good investigative tool for police follow-up.

Realistically, the sheriff cannot be in the Hills. And posting one lone officer to monitor traffic violations at the main access points has also not served as a deterrent. Certainly, I have not seen an officer during the evening hours.

As more surrounding towns implement these license plate readers (Portola Valley, Saratoga, Monte Sereno), we become a more appealing target.

Please take the one action you can take to increase our safety.

M. Russel

Los Altos Hills


Beware of COVID testing claims

This is a cry of alarm about the Stanford University study of COVID antibody test results (“Egan families contacted about COVID testing,” May 6).

The recruiter claimed that the serum antibody test reveals whether “your immune system has fought off the virus and created antibodies to protect you from future exposure.”

Where has it been clinically proven that a positive result means you are protected? For how many weeks or months? Where has it been proven that a positive result means you can’t infect other people?

Let’s suppose the test being studied has a false positive rate of 5%. That by itself could create the illusion that 5% of the population had recovered from infection. It would, by itself, undercut the argument that a positive antibody result is a license to mingle and travel.

There’s a ton of money to be made from antibody testing, even if only on people who pay for it themselves.

Beware of promoters saying that it can get people off the hook for social-distance or legal requirements, or judge for yourself. Sounds like an invitation to cheat.

Richard Feldman

Los Altos

Lehigh quarry still poses threat

On May 12, after little discussion, Santa Clara County Supervisors voted unanimously to accept as resolved two violations by Permanente Quarry operator Lehigh Southwest Cement for allowing mine waste to invade neighboring Permanente Creek.

Supervisors never mentioned a 56-page report in their agenda packet that was rendered for the county by California certified engineering geologist-hydrologist Kit Custis, who in December and January examined the huge mining-waste pile accumulating above Silicon Valley in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

What the geologist’s report makes clear is that Lehigh may have corrected the superficial conditions that precipitated the mine-waste incursion into the creek, but remaining is the much larger threat from the mine’s ongoing Yeager Yard Landslide. What the mine’s lawyer describes as “sediment discharge” into the creek is actually the tip of a many-ton pile of waste rock and soil that the company has accumulated and now is attempting to keep from moving downhill. Rainwater likely infiltrated the enormous waste pile through “tension cracks” that Lehigh allowed to open, Custis writes. Worryingly, it appears that the water table within the waste pile has been rising.

The huge German mining company that owns the quarry, HeidelbergCement, wants to expand. Why would we even consider it? Why are our supervisors?

Sharon Simonson

Los Altos


Sycophants thrive under populism

I used to be attracted to the populist philosophy – let’s hear from, and for, the people! After all, isn’t that what democracy is? One person, one vote! My vote is equal to the vote of any expert.

OK so far. But you have to make sure that everybody votes – or at least, everybody who is so inclined.

Now, let’s add a single simple requirement – you must be loyal to the populist leader in order to hold a position of power and responsibility.

Knowledge, expertise, talent become secondary. Criticism of the leader becomes a political death warrant.

Sycophants thrive. Innovation, science and truth wither. Are we there yet?

Ed Kyser

Los Altos


Pandemic Poem

Give some credit to Governor


Our COVID numbers aren’t


But because of these bugs

We’ve had no handshakes

or hugs

So please tell us, Guv, when

can we do some?


Jerry Clements

Los Altos

Submit a Letter to the Editor

The Town Crier welcomes letters to the editor on current events pertinent to Los Altos, Los Altos Hills and Mountain View. Write to us at 138 Main St., Los Altos 94022, Attn: Editor, or email editor Bruce Barton at [email protected] Because editorial space is limited, please confine letters to no more than 200 words. Include a phone number for verification purposes. Anonymous letters will not be printed.

You can also have your say right here at losaltosonline.com – scroll to the bottom of any story to add a comment. 

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