EMERGENCY PREPARATION TRULY
BORING, BUT ESSENTIAL
By Patrick Muffler, Emergency Prep. Chair
TRAFFIC PROBLEM: EL CAMINO AND MATADERO
By Doug Moran
EMERGENCY PREPARATION TRULY BORING,
By Patrick Muffler, Emergency Prep. Chair
SENIOR UPDATE, WINTER 2006
By Mary Jane Leon, Committee Chair
BARRON PARK IN THE EARLY 1930s
By Doug Graham, Barron Park Historian
FIRST EVER DONKEY CALENDAR AVAILABLE
BARRON PARK WELCOMING COMMITTEE UPDATE
By Gwen Luce, BPA Welcoming Committee Chair
A PEEK AT THE PLAYGROUND
By Suzanne McKenna and Halimah Van Tuyl
BP CRIME PREVENTION VOLUNTEER RECOGNIZED BY
KID's KORNER We Love Barron Park
By Linda Lui
This issue marks the end of my fourth year as BPA President and is an opportune time to take stock, looking forward as well as back.
Looking Forward Retail
I see preserving and protecting the nearby retail as critical. Despite all the discussion about the importance of retailers both as services to residents and as part of the City's tax base, the City does precious little in this area. What I have seen and participated on are committees that come up with milestones for other groups to come up with goals and milestones. When I have asked why very similar previous efforts failed and how to avoid those problems, I have been met with silence.
The current character of the University Avenue downtown is largely the result of highly concentrated ownership of the properties, with the small group of dominant landlords and developers functioning as the policy-setting group for the area. This is widely regarded as a mixed blessing. Without some coordination and overall vision, the area would be far worse off. However, I hear from designers (architects, urban planners, . . .) that this group has become too comfortable doing the same thing over and over, and that Palo Alto is less interesting than one would expect.
A basic maxim is that "Retail loves retail": Managers of malls work very hard not just to attract the right mix of stores, but to position them to reinforce each other. A city cannot dictate to individual building owners what type of businesses they should rent to, but Palo Alto has been loathe to even explore ways to play a meaningful role in strengthening the business districts.
There is an entrenched "bias for inaction" and I am at a loss for ideas on how to change it. My expectation is that there will be a continuing series of small battles to be fought.
California Avenue: The new building at the site of the former Kirk's Steakburger is a worrisome development: It could be a signal that California Avenue is on the verge of the same transition that happened to University Avenue, that is, many of the current businesses get pushed out by high-end stores, especiallychains, and local residents come to talk of it as a place they rarely go anymore.
One aspect of the problem is that local small businesses have increasing problems competing with chains for space. Not only are the chains likely to be willing to pay higher rents, but the banks have created an additional disincentive: Landlords can use leases with large chains as assets in obtaining loans, but often have difficulty when the tenant is a small business, even a long-established one. For example, this was reportedly a major factor in the owners of Charleston Plaza replacing Cafe Sophia with Peet's Coffee.
Reportedly, the new building is charging significantly higher rents than other buildings in the area, and there is great concern that this will increase expectations among the other landlords, producing a slow exodus of current businesses.
El Camino Real:
In 1993-94 when I was first becoming active in the BPA the issue of revitalization of El Camino Real was already regarded as a priority by the City. There have been a few small successes, but overall it has been a history of missed opportunities.
El Camino's basic problem is that most of the existing lots are too small for most uses, and their ownership is widely scattered, with many of the current owners having no connection with the area (sometimes heirs of heirs of the last active owner). Various attempts to consolidate properties have failed because of difficulties getting, and keeping, the attention of all of the owners of the properties involved.
Today's difficult situation is an accident of history. The properties were laid out in a common and successful pattern of that time: Lots were narrow, but deep, to allow many stores to front onto the street. But then El Camino was widened, taking away a significant portion of the typical property, followed by a trend for larger stores.
Several of the major local developers have tried to do projects along El Camino, with mixed success. My concern is that without some overall strategy for the area, the City is going to let parcels be redeveloped into whatever is most convenient at that moment for the current owner. This is a recipe for long-term disaster. Housing and offices will be interspersed in what was and should remain retail districts, thereby weakening the remaining retailers. When some of them fail, the process repeats, becoming what is known as a "death spiral."
Rising influence of neighborhood associations
In the past four years, there has been a dramatic increase in the influence of neighborhood associations. The tipping point seems to have been that the broad spectrum of residents became comfortable enough with e-mail and the web to be using it for information about local issues.
This created a reinforcing cycle. Residents interested in pursuing issues facing Palo Alto found the neighborhood associations to be a good mechanism for gaining wider exposure for their concerns and ideas. And because these mechanisms were valuable to more people, those people were motivated to work together to ensure that those mechanisms were used wisely. However, for this to be sustained, it needs the continuing injection of new people.
An example of success: Several Council candidates remarked (totally unprompted) that the questionnaire developed by Palo Alto Neighborhoods (PAN the umbrella organization of neighborhood associations) was best of the many they had to answer. They used phrases like "most relevant" and "thought-provoking." I was a member of the committee that developed that questionnaire and it took a lot of discipline: We had to gently explain to people that the number one concern of their corner of the city wasn't among the top 15 for the overall city. Similarly for people who want to ask questions that were essentially of the form "Do you promise to support position X? Answer 'yes' or 'yes'."
Another example is that the two dominant issues in the recent campaign for City Council were ones brought to the fore by the neighborhood associations: (1) the magnitude of the ongoing housing boom and its impacts, and (2) the proper balance between the City Council and the City Manager.
Although many residents are deeply dissatisfied with the coverage of civic issues in the local newspapers, it is difficult to get people to write articles to help fill the gaps. It is harder than you might think to write an article on even a relatively simple issue for a broad audience that is simultaneously informative, interesting and short (two out of three is not acceptable). Unless one can be confident that there is an audience for such an article, there is a very understandable reluctance to expend the time and effort needed to write it.
Part of this problem can be traced to having e-mail and the web as the primary means for distributing this information. This creates too much of a disconnect between the author and the audience. The author is deprived of seeing audience reactions not only to his or her own work, but also of their reactions to similar writings by others. The simple metrics one encounters on web pages are too coarse to be useful (for example, asking you to rate the article on a numerical scale). And e-mail feedback from strangers is often hard to interpret.
If any of you have experience dealing with this problem, I would appreciate hearing from you.
Truly Boring, but Essential
By Patrick Muffler, BPA Emergency Preparedness Chair email.
The Bay Area's Katrina
The devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina on southern Louisiana and Mississippi had long been forecast, and warnings of its potential impact on the areas of New Orleans below sea level had been sounded for decades. It's no secret that hurricanes occur each year in the Gulf of Mexico, that some of them can be Category 5, and that it was just a question of time before one of these monster storms clobbered southern Louisiana and Mississippi. It is truly a tragedy that these forecasts and concerns were almost universally ignored.
Similarly, it's no secret that significant earthquakes occur nearly every year in California, that some of them can be greater than magnitude 6.7, and that it is just a question of time before one of these monster earthquakes clobbers the San Francisco Bay area again. The U.S. Geological Survey estimates that there is a 62% chance of a magnitude 6.7 or greater earthquake striking the San Francisco Bay region before 2032 (see http://quake.usgs.gov/research/seismology/wg02). Such an earthquake, regardless of whether it is on the San Andreas Fault, the Hayward Fault, or another Bay Area fault, will cause major damage throughout the region. We live in a bayside, urban environment similar to that of Kobe, Japan, which in 1995 experienced a magnitude 6.9 earthquake that killed 6,000 people and caused over $100 billion in damage.
But a probabilistic forecast is not a specific prediction. We don't know whether this devastating earthquake will occur tomorrow, 30 years from now, or even beyond that. But it will happen, and it behooves us to be prepared. The basic problem is that emergency preparation is truly boring and therefore requires discipline, diligence, and persistence. It's easy to get energized about emergency preparedness in the wake of a Katrina or Rita disaster, but human nature is such that this enthusiasm decays rapidly as attention gets diverted to more immediate concerns.
So what can we do to maintain our community's ability to respond to a major disaster? Three things come immediately to mind: (1) recognize that your household will be on its own after a major disaster, and be prepared to provide for your basic needs (particularly water) for several days to a week, (2) train yourself to respond effectively to a disaster by taking Red Cross or PANDA courses in emergency preparedness (see below), and (3) engage in the political process to insure that our elected City, State, and Federal representatives provide leadership and financial support for emergency preparedness programs. With regard to item 3, note that emergency preparedness involves not only planning and training before the event, but also response, recovery and rebuilding after the event. In Katrina there were acknowledged failures in all phases, but the failures in recovery and rebuilding will have the most long-lasting effects. We need to insure that similar failures do not occur in the Bay Area after our "Katrina" earthquake hits.
On Saturday 22 October, ARES/RACES (the amateur-radio organization that provides emergency communications during emergencies) held its quarterly Santa Clara County drill simulating a large earthquake in the region. A group of us opened the PANDA trailer at Fire Station #5 on Arastradero and Clemo and then walked nearby streets to simulate damage assessment and reporting by radio. We found great difficulties in finding the poorly marked addresses of residences a severe impediment to formulating damage and injury reports to transmit to Palo Alto City Office of Emergency Services and then to the county Emergency Operations Center.
As follow-up to this drill, I modified my map of District 5 to include 31 overlays, each depicting a specific "mini-neighborhood." I then put five prints of each in 31 hanging folders in a file box that (along with my District 5 map) now resides in the PANDA trailer. This should make assessment of damages, injuries, etc. far easier in the event of a major disaster that activates District 5 PANDAs.
District 5 PANDAs
Last spring, a group of PANDAs in District 5 took the initiative to organize from the ground up (see my summer 2005 EP article archived at (www.bpaonline.org/eprep-articles). At the group's November 10 meeting, Barbara Cimino, Emergency Manager of the Palo Alto Office of Emergency Services, announced that the Palo Alto Police Department has begun cooperation with the PANDA program. Specifically, Officer Scott Savage will provide instruction in traffic control, evacuations and perimeter security to PANDA graduates.
Also at the 10 November meeting, Eli Bernzweig of the Green Acres 2 neighborhood was lauded for his efforts to contact managers of multi-story apartments and motels in District 5 and make them aware of the importance of emergency preparation. Specifically, a letter that Eli drafted for Barbara Cimino's signature has received positive and gratifying response from the apartment and motel managers. OES plans to send similar letters to apartment and motel managers in the other 5 fire districts in Palo Alto.
New Barron Park PANDAs
I am delighted to announce that 11 new PANDAs from Barron Park graduated from this fall's PANDA training courses. Congratulations to Markus Fromherz, Vicky Johnson, Lawrence Johnson, Edward Jones, Bern King, Pat Sanders, Tom Sanders, Bob Sikora, Alicia Watkins, Yvonne Wolters, and Susana Young for your commitment to emergency preparedness and response.
A glance at the map of Barron Park, however, shows that our geographic distribution of PANDAs is still very uneven. The five circles delineate major areas without PANDAs, and careful inspection will reveal some additional smaller areas. If you live within the dashed circles, or elsewhere in Barron Park, please consider taking advantage of the free PANDA training offered by the Office of Emergency Services of the City of Palo Alto. Upcoming courses in early 2006 are:
PANDA Basic 06-01: Wednesdays 18 and 25 Jan, plus 01, 08 and 15 Feb
9:00 am to 12:00 noon; Saturday 11 Feb 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM (field
PANDA Basic 06-02: Wednesdays 18 and 25 Jan, plus 01, 08 and 15 Feb 6:30 pm to 9:00 pm; Saturday 11 Feb 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM (field exercise)
PANDA Basic 06-03: Wednesdays 12, 19 and 26 Apr, plus 03 and 10 Feb 9:00 am to 12:00 noon; Saturday 06 May 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM (field exercise)
PANDA Basic 06-04: Wednesdays 12, 19 and 26 Apr, plus 03 and 10 Feb 6:30 pm to 9:00 pm; Saturday 06 May 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM (field exercise)
For a detailed description of PANDA training, please see my article in the Summer 2005 issue of the Barron Park Association Newsletter.
Web sites related to Emergency Preparedness
These all worked on 30 November 2005.
Palo Alto Office of Emergency Services www.cityofpaloalto.org/oes/index.html
Barbara Cimino (650) 617-3197 (email withheld on online newsletter)
Quarterly articles about Emergency Preparedness in Barron Park
USGS earthquake probabilities
Putting down roots in earthquake country
Living with our Faults
Disaster preparedness kits (Palo Alto Chapter of American Red Cross)
Traffic Problem: El Camino and
By Doug Moran email.
Starting in the summer, various people have mentioned to me that there were substantially longer delays at the Matadero traffic light. This occurs even when there are substantial gaps in the traffic along El Camino. Instead of waiting for the traffic light to make their left turn, some impatient drivers have taken to turning right-on-red and then do a U-turn one block down (at Kendall).
I reported the increasing occurrence of this legal but risky maneuver to the City staff because it both illustrated that there was a problem with the timing of the traffic light and that there was a good reason to fix it. While City staff immediately agreed with my assessment, all they can do is pass the report on to Caltrans (El Camino Real is a state highway). The City's Traffic Division staff has recently dropped from 7 people to 3 as a result of two retirements, a resignation and a transfer. Consequently, I suspect that the remaining staff will not have the time to do the amount of nagging of Caltrans reportedly needed to fix such problems.
However, behavior by local drivers exacerbates the problem at this intersection. Under normal circumstances, seven cars can make it through the intersection on a cycle of the light. Too often only 34 cars do because one of the drivers near the front responds slowly to the light turning green. It is not uncommon to see one car having completed its left turn and cleared the intersection and the subsequent car in the line hasn't even entered the intersection. One would hope that people would be aware that they were at a congested intersection and adjust their behavior.
Reminder: There is persistent running of red lights by the traffic along El Caminoat all our intersections, so it is prudent for the first car in line to delay while checking that the cross traffic is in fact stopping.
Some of the drivers who are slow to react are distracted: on their cell phone, drinking coffee, ... Others are older seniors who have adapted their driving to their slower reaction times. Honking at the latter, even if you think they are the former, can make those drivers flustered or even angry, thereby increasing the difficulties.
A decade ago, I had to face this type situation with my father (who lived back East). During one visit, I realized how far his driving abilities had declined when he was passed by a pedestrian as he drove through an intersection. My father was totally unaware of the effect of his driving on other drivers because he was so focused on his own driving. I faced all the usual and well-known problems attempting to make him aware that he needed to give up, or at least strictly limit, his driving. This was made more difficult because he lived in an area where it wasn't that uncommon to see people roll through stop signs faster than they drove through green lights.
Summary: The problems with the traffic lights on El Camino are likely to persist until we get the next generation of smart traffic signals, and this is probably years off. Until then, I encourage drivers to think not just about getting themselves through these problem intersections, but doing it in a way that helps the drivers behind them get through on the same cycle of the light.
By Patrick Muffler email.
On 14 April 2003, the Palo Alto City Council directed City Staff to prepare a plan of transportation and urban design/landscape improvements for the Charleston-Arastradero Corridor, extending from Fabian Way to Miranda Avenue. Objectives of the plan were to mitigate traffic impacts from development, to provide safer traffic flow along the corridor, and to reduce vehicle speeding without reduction in vehicle travel times or causing diversion of through traffic to other streets.
During the remainder of 2003, the Palo Alto Transportation Division met bi-weekly with a diverse citizens group representing 6 community associations (including the Barron Park Association), the Chamber of Commerce, bicycle groups, the School District, the League of Women Voters and consultants for proposed developments. The advisory group included all relevant entities that came forward. The entire process was open, inclusive and exhaustive; all concerns were evaluated fully.
Performance Measures for the corridor were presented at public meetings on 10 and 15 July 2003, recommended by the Planning and Transportation Commission, and adopted by the Palo Alto City Council on 22 September 2003. These Performance Measures included:
In late 2003, the Palo Alto City Council held a study session with the Planning and Transportation Commission. The Council also benefited from comprehensive Staff analysis and Commission deliberation, as well as four public-information meetings and several tours of major problem intersections. Local newspapers provided extensive coverage, and the Council received numerous direct communications. The plan was supported by all concerned neighborhood associations, including the Barron Park Association in a Resolution adopted by the BPA Board on 09 January 2004.
The Charleston-Arastradero Corridor Plan was recommended by the Palo Alto Planning and Transportation Commission on 10 December 2003 and adopted unanimously by the Palo Alto City Council on 20 January 2004. Major components of the approved plan include:
The situation can best be visualized in terms of the "friction" inherent to a four-lane road. Bob Moss (see www2.bpaonline.org/lists-archive/bpa-misc/0479.html) has pointed out that traffic flow is in many ways analogous to fluid flow in a pipe. When there are numerous turning movements, such as people stopping in the inner lane to make left turns, traffic flow becomes turbulent, both because flow stops totally in the inner lane, and because drivers try to go around the turning vehicles into the outer lane and thus interfere with traffic in the outer lane. Inevitable abrupt lane changes exacerbate the situation. In contrast, replacing the center lane with a protected left turn bay makes traffic flow more regular and smooth. Overall traffic becomes both faster and safer, since there are fewer lane changes and slowing of through traffic. The goal is to replace "herky-jerky" with "smooth as silk."
But no one is advocating immediate, permanent and irrevocable lane reduction on the Charleston-Arastradero Corridor. Inherent in the Charleston-Arastradero Corridor Plan is an extensive trial period (not just a bunch of orange cones for a week). If a thorough trial shows that 3 lanes can carry the traffic more effectively and safely than four lanes, then the City goes with a permanent change. If the three-lane configuration does not meet the Performance Measurements specified by the City Council, then the City removes the barriers and reverts to the present turbulent flow.
During development of the Charleston-Arastradero Corridor Plan, all involved were fully aware that implementation would require major grant money, and that grant money would be impossible to acquire without up-front seed money from Palo Alto itself. This point was made explicitly at the 20 January 2004 Council meeting at which the Plan was approved. Accordingly, on 26 September 2005, the Palo Alto City Council adopted the Charleston-Arastradero Corridor Streetscape Development Impact Fee, which will fund approximately 12% of the pedestrian and bicyclist safety enhancement improvements in the Charleston-Arastradero Corridor Plan. This critical action allows City Staff to solicit grant money with realistic expectations of success and to proceed with the trial.
Staff is preparing a report to the City Council for 17 January 2006 with a funding plan, resource plan and schedule to implement (1) the complete signal and intersection improvements at the Gunn High School entrance, and (2) the restriping of the entire corridor from Fabian Way to Miranda Avenue per the Charleston-Arastradero Corridor Plan (the combination of 3-lane and 4-lane sections) in conjunction with the street resurfacing program in summer 2006. Work will begin after school gets out in June 2006 and be completed by the start of school in August 2006. The subsequent trial will last at least a year.
Senior Update, WINTER 2006
By Mary Jane Leon, Chair email.
The Easiest Way to Produce a Column
I'm on vacation right now, so, following a lead from the San Jose Mercury, Palo Alto Weekly, and other fine newspapers, I am going to fall back on repeating the most popular column I have done. Anyone out there want to do a guest seniors column? Just let me know. Phone 650-493-5248.
A fact of life as we put on a few years is that our appetites get smaller. There are both a good side and a bad side to that reality. The bad is that most restaurant meals have all together too much food, and many of us are too shy to tell the waiter that we want just a salad or a bowl of soup-or even just the main course without appetizer or other extras. So we waste a lot of food, or we carry home the well-known "people" bag.
On the other hand, small appetites mean that we can eat well on the cheap. Here are a few of my favorite penny-pinching meals from our local Barron Park eateries.
My personal favorite, and also least pricey, is a Jumbo Jack from Jack in the Box. It is just $1.39, plus a few cents tax. The secret is to avoid all that expensive, tempting stuff that goes with it. No fries, no flavored sugar water, no milkshake or cookies just the hamburger, please. It has liberal lettuce and tomato along with the well-done hamburger, so if you get a piece of fruit at home for dessert, you have yourself a well-rounded meal. And it's filling. Now where else can you get a meal for under a buck fifty?
Another favorite, if you have someone to share with, is a lunch from Su Hong carry out. Order one of the Luncheon Special Combination Plates from the back of the carry-out menu-and split it with a partner or friend. The Combination Plates come with soup, spring roll, fried rice, and chow mein. My husband takes the soup and I take the spring roll, but each could also be split. Believe me, we are both full on just half of one of those lunches. They vary in price from $5.95 to $6.95, so in effect you get two meals for between $3.00 and $3.50 apiece, plus tax.
How about Taco Bell's new Chicken Bowl ($3.00) or Beef Bowl ($3.50)? A layer of beans, then rice in the bottom, topped with a sizeable salad and the beef or chicken. Served in a bowl, not a fried tortilla, so you avoid a lot of fat that you probably didn't want in the first place. More than enough food for a meal.
Then there is a Seņor Taco grande burrito, cut in half and shared with a friend or half saved for another meal. (Seņior Taco is gone, now, but our other local Mexican restaurants also make fine burritos.)
Who says you can't eat well at a fast-food restaurant?
Do you have any favorite "cheap eats?" Please share your ideas with us.
Group Lunch Time
If you want to join the group for lunch in February, just let us know. There is always room for a few more.
Barron Park in the early
By Doug Graham, Barron Park Historian email.
(reprint from BPA Newsletter, Summer 1996 Edition)
A Semi-Rural Area
Seventy or seventy-five years ago, our neighborhood was a semi-rural area with only one suburban housing development, the original Barron Park subdivision near El Camino Real. Not too long before, the bulk of the area had been one property, the 350-acre Barron Estate. In 1919 the estate, formerly known as Mayfield Farm, had been sold to R.F. and B.L. Driscoll, and J.E. Reiter, described by the Palo Alto Times as "Watsonville Capitalists." In fact they were land developers and strawberry growers the Driscoll Berry Company still exists in Watsonville and packs a sizeable percentage of the local crop sold in Northern California groceries (check the label when you buy berries next spring or summer).
Driscoll subdivided the Barron Estate into more than 60 parcels, typically of 23 acres each, which they sold or leased to individuals for strawberry patches. Typical of the buyers were Ernest and Lena Johnson who lived at 3890 Laguna Avenue. They moved here in 1925 or 1926 when Barron Park was largely planted to berries. Driscoll had leased many of the parcels to "Japanese," "Filipino," and "Spanish" farm workers (as Ernest referred to them in his 1977 oral history). The Driscoll company arranged the marketing of their crops, and Barron Park growers were shipping $5,000$7,000 worth of strawberries per day during the height of the season, mostly to San Francisco.
It is impossible to know, exactly how much of the land actually was in strawberries, but probably most of the area between Barron Avenue and Los Robles Road, from La Donna Avenue west to Laguna Avenue initially was. The small berry farms didn't last very long, however, because many of the fields soon became infested with red spider mites that weakened and killed the plants. According to Ernest Johnson, it usually took about five years for the mites to infest the fields and then the berry packing company would shift production elsewhere. One wonders about the impact of this on the small growers did they pack up and move along, sort of like migrant workers or sharecroppers? By the 1930s, the strawberry area had probably shrunk to the large block between Los Robles Road and La Para Avenue, several large patches along La Donna from Barron nearly to Paul Avenue, an acre patch next to the Johnsons, along today's Paradise Way.
The Early Water Companies
To irrigate the berry patches, deep wells had been bored throughout the neighborhood, several of which are still in service today. At least two private water companies were started. One, run by Ernest Johnson served the southern part of the area and drew from a well near the present location of Blockbuster Video. The water was pumped uphill to a tank located near 890 La Para Avenue. Irrigation water was also drawn from a second well near 739 La Para. The company dug a small reservoir for irrigating crops, located near the present-day bridge over Barron Creek at El Cerrito Road. This, apparently, was the origin of the name Laguna Avenue (laguna is "lake" in Spanish).
The other company served the area along Matadero Avenue, mainly from wells located on Whitsell Avenue and on Matadero where a pumping station exists today. The well now serves as one of Palo Alto's "backup sources" in the event of an earthquake or other disaster interrupting the supply from the Hetch Hetchy Aqueduct. This second company eventually became the Barron Park Water Company, run by Cornelis Bol and his family (see the story of the old Barron Park Water Company, reprinted in the last newsletter).
The Land Goes to Tomatoes and Fruit
The red spider mites eventually infected all the fields, however, and the farmers turned to tomatoes and to fruit orchards. The biggest tomato field was located along La Donna Avenue and Los Robles Road, east to the Buena Vista Auto Camp (now the mobile home parkof the same name). The area around Tippawingo and Matadero Avenues may also have been in tomatoes.
By the mid-1930s, most of the land between Barron Avenue and La Para Avenue was planted to pear trees (the original spelling was La Pera "the pear" in Spanish). Pear treees were also planted where Ilima Way now runs, and in several locations along Laguna Avenue.
Elsewhere, a very large orchard of prune plums covered the area later developed as Encina Grande Park, from Los Robles south to Florales Avenue and between Verdosa Avenue near El Camino Real on the east to Amaranta Avenue on the west. Most of the rest of the area from La Para to Arastradero Road and beyond was probably in Apricots, although we know this for certain only for parts of the area. The aerial photos show nearly solid orchards, but it is impossible to identify which fruit species is involved except where oral histories have given us that information. Throughout the late 1930s and the 1940s, Barron Park orchardists helped keep the cannery busy that was located in the building where Fry's Electronics is now.
Pastures and Dairies Along Matadero Creek
At the north end of the neighborhood, along Matadero Avenue and Matadero Creek were pastures and hayfields, reflecting a glimpse of the earlier pastoral land use during the period when our land was part of the Mexican land grant Rancho Rincon de San Francisquito. Dairy cattle grazed where Barron Park School is today. The land along present-day Josina, Kendall and Barron Avenues was occupied by a dairy farm owned by by G.F. Strain and somewhat grandiosely referred to as "The Strain Ranch." The farm was later owned by John and Bertha Freund, who did business as La Encina Dairy. They sold the dairy in 1939 when a land developer bought them out to rid the area of the smell. The Bol family held on to the northern strip of this land for almost another ten years before platting Josina Avenue and selling the lots for one of the first-ever Eichler home developments.
Another dairy was operated by a "Portugese" farmer on Stanford Land where the VA Hospital's laundry plant is currently located behind McGregor Way and the donkey pasture. This business was eventually absorbed by Peers Dairy. The cows had a subway under the railroad tracks that allowed them to graze the area now occupied by Gunn High School, which was an open, grassy oak woodland.
The land along upper Matadero Avenue was occupied by hayfields, as was the main Bol property (now Bol Park). Later on in the 1940s when the Bols quit farming, that parcel was used by them to graze a succession of donkeys, which began the tradition now so firmly associated with the Barron Park neighborhood. According to one oral history, much of the land along Matadero was in oats during the 1920s.
The Roble Ridge area, as the name suggests, was studded by magnificent tall, deciduous white oaks Valley Oaks a few of which remain today. Roble Ridge, useless for intensive irrigated crops, was beginning to be subdivided as 1-2 acre rural homesites. A small academic community developed around English Professor Carruth's home on Matadero Creek.
Non-Agricultural Land Uses
There was a considerable amount of land near The San Francisco-San Jose Road (present-day El Camino Real) which was converted to commercial and residential use very soon after the sale of the Barron Estate to Driscoll and Reiter. Along the strip there sprang up highway-oriented businesses such as gas stations, auto campgrounds, small restaurants, liquor stores and sundry retail establishments.
Starting at the north end, there was an auto camp that later became the Grove Auto Court, subsequently named the Stanford Motor Court which eventually morphed into the modern Creekside Inn. Clarence and Mary Henschel ran a family real estate business from a small office on the corner of El Camino and Matadero Avenue. Further east, there was Chet Slinger's boat shop, which later became the Barron Park polling place and political hangout for the directors of the Barron Park Fire Protection District in the 1940s. There was a liquor store and Paul's grocery, and then you encountered a remnant of the Barron estate, 50 acres of ornamental parkland surrounding the old Barron Mansion. By 1925, it had been converted to a military academy and the part immediately adjoining El Camino and along Barron Avenue had been developed as the original "Barron Park" subdivision. These small lots were offered as sites for roadside businesses and summer cottages for middle-class San Franciscans looking for an escape from the summer fogs. Military Way, flanked then as now by the two liquor stores, led to the military academy located in the mansion and surrounding grounds.
Beyond the academy area, there were more small retail businesses, including La Fosse Music store that lasted until fairly recently. At the corner of Los Robles, there was the large parcel, still undivided, that held the Richfield gas station (now the Texaco station), the Buena Vista Auto Camp, and the Chat & Chew Cafe (where Blockbuster is now and the All-American Market was until recently).
If any reader of this story has a photo of his or her house that was taken shortly after it was built (1960 or earlier), I would like to copy it. We have only one such photo in the archives, of a house on Encina Grande Drive, to represent the entire neighborhood.
First Ever Donkey Calendar
Ring in the new year with a 2006 Barron Park Donkeys calendar and help support our neighborhood donkeys! 100% of proceeds will be donated to the Palo Alto Donkey Project to help keep Perry and Niner, a happy and healthy part of Barron Park. [Note: Perry was used as the model for the donkey in the Shrek movies]
These handmade calendars are $15 each (tax deductible) and feature photos of Mickey, Perry and Niner as well as original watercolors by neighborhood artist Edith Smith. Quantities are limited, though. To purchase a calendar, please contact Brandy Faulkner at: 650-320-8457 email: [brandyfaulkner at hotmail.com email altered to avoid SPAMmers].
Our neighborhood's trademark donkeys are cared for entirely by volunteers from Barron Park and the surrounding community. In addition to feeding the boys twice a day, keeping their corral and shed clean and orderly, taking them for occasional walks, and bringing them out to meet the neighbors in Bol Park every Sunday morning, these volunteers also pick up and deliver loads of hay, make sure the donkeys receive regular attention from the vet and the farrier (horse shoe-er), and keep them clean and well curried.
If you want to become a donkey handler, please contact: Bob Frost at: [bobfrost34 at yahoo.com] or (650) 493-8272. No experience necessary.
Support for Perry and Niner comes completely from the generosity of their neighbors and the community. The donkeys receive no tax dollars, no government funds, no funds from the City of Palo Alto, no grants from any animal welfare or humane organization. They are a part of the neighborhood simply because people who live here care about them and care about continuing this unique opportunity. In return, Perry and Niner provide warmth and joy to those who walk by their pasture; a rural equine experience for suburban children and adults who visit them on Sundays in Bol Park; an opportunity for humane education for children in Barron Park Schools; and a general reaffirmation for all of us of our connection to the natural world.
General farrier and veterinary expenses for the donkeys total about $1,000 a year. Food costs about $600 a year. Funds for the donkeys are managed by Acterra (formerly the Peninsula Conservation Center Foundation), which acts as fiscal agent for the Donkey Project, providing insurance and handling donations and financial affairs. Fees for these administrative services totaled about $200 this past year. All of these expenses are funded solely through donations.
All those who care about Perry and Niner seek to guarantee their proper on-going care and shelter, as well as to ensure that assets will be available for health concerns as the donkeys age. The handlers hope that those generous neighbors who have contributed in the past will consider increasing their support this year.
If you would like to help provide food, shelter and vet care for the donkeys, your tax deductible donation must be made out to "ACTERRA Palo Alto Donkey Fund" ("ACTERRA" must be included), and sent to:
Barron Park Welcoming Committee
By Gwen Luce, BPA Welcoming Committee Chair email.
Many thanks to all the members of our community who indicated on the BPA Membership Application Form (sent out to everyone in the neighborhood each spring with the Newsletter edition that goes to all) their willingness to help greet newcomers to our neighborhood. Equal thanks to those of you, who, although not officially a member of the Committee, when asked to greet a new neighbor living nearby, have so graciously been willing to deliver a Welcoming Packet to new members of our community. The number of involved welcomers this year has surged to 76 participants, with all the new residents (owners and renters) that we know of having been greeted as of December 1.
If anyone would like a Welcoming Packet to help greet a new neighbor, would like to be added to our Welcoming Committee, or if you are a newcomer and would like to be greeted, please contact [welcoming at bpaonline.org] or Gwen Luce at 650-224-3670/ 424-1960.
Our Packet's contents include the latest Barron Park Association Newsletter and Membership Form, maps of the streets of Barron Park and the City of Palo Alto bicycle routes, the latest Visitors' Guide, Dining Out on the Midpeninsula, Santa Clara Valley Pocket Guide to Emergency Preparedness, USGS Earthquake Handbook complimenting Living with our Faults, PANDA, and Neighborhood Watch materials provided by the Palo Alto Office of Emergency Services, the Palo Alto Police and Fire Departments, information about Palo Alto's Curbside Recycling Program, Leaf Blower Ordinance, Appliance Rebate Program, and Canope. Newcomers are introduced to the Stanford Health Library Calendar of Events, the Parents Club of Palo Alto and Menlo Park Newsletter, Info Palo Alto, the Enjoy Catalogue of City-wide Classes and Activities, Palo Alto Children's Theatre, Palo Alto's Children's Library and Palo Alto Adult School schedules of events, including a wonderful yoga class held Thursdays, 5pm at Barron Park Elementary School. The Pilates CardioCamp at Gunn held daily at 6am. Monthly meetings of the Barron Park Garden Network, information about our neighbor, Carol Macpherson's Aquatic Center, The City of Palo Alto Family Resources, Barron Park Children's Center, Barron Park Preschool, Barron Park's Playgroup for 0-4 year olds, the BPA Babysitter List, and last, but not least, the Barron Park Child Care Co-op. Residents' suggestions of what else might be included in the Packet are always welcome!
A bit about the Barron Park Child Care Co-op, our well established Barron Park institution, currently seeking new members: For those of you who are not yet familiar with the BPCC Co-op, it is a baby sitting co-op (a member can ask the group for a sit and if someone has the time, they volunteer). The BPCC Co-op also hosts events and social gatherings such as Park days, Tea socials, and other social events for kids. Membership in the group is a great way for families to make friends in Barron Park. The BPCC Co-op is hosting a number of upcoming events open to non-members as well as members. If you would like more information, please contact Caroline Rothstein, BPCC Co-op President at [cvcca at aol.com].
A Peek At the Playground
By Suzanne McKenna and Halimah Van Tuyl
It's 8:05 am on a weekday, and neighborhood residents out walking might be curious about the happy sounds of music coming from the Juana Briones School playground. Their eyes fall upon a sea of kids jumping rope, laughing, mingling, and waking up their bodies. The easy blend of boys and girls, from the school's youngest scholars to the oldest fifth graders, start the day playing to music. When the bell rings on this Wednesday, they put away the ropes and call out to PE teacher Ken Buntin, "Will the ropes and music be here again at recess?"
An outstanding PE program led by specialists Ken Buntin and Debbie Cain engage kids in a broad variety of healthy activities. Besides the expected ones such as basketball and soccer, students are learning skills in tennis, hockey, folk dancing, and innovative games such as germ ball, and hot lava. Everything to build skills, encourage movement, balance, cooperation, and fitness. Ken frequently comes out on the playground at noontime, as on a recent day to set up a Karaoke station, where kids eagerly take turns holding the microphone and belting out their favorite songs. Debbie, a triathelete herself, inspires many kids who never thought they liked running to join in the Juana Run event each February.
These teachers are pros at designing a program that sparks not just the super athletes, but all the children, to want to keep the fun going when they have free choice at recess time. The proof of this was a typical day last week when an observer watching children on the Briones playground might notice the following: a group of students had started a paddleball game using the painted playground lines for a net, dodgeball and basketball games were in progress, kids were swarming the play structures with an energy adults can only dream about having in the middle of a day, Chinese jump rope and double dutch jump rope games were spread around, and some fourth graders were chasing each other on the grass in a made-up game they called airplane. A cross-age group of gardeners were pulling crabgrass, raking fall leaves for a mulch, and digging vigorously to prepare the soil for the winter planting.
Kudos also go to the Briones Music teachers, part of the PAUSD traveling team of talented educators and musicians themselves, who pass on the love of music and the skills and discipline needed to acquire a music foundation. Fourth graders have recently studied the songs and story of "Oliver" and a varied repertoire of songs. They are currently learning to play jazz and folk music on recorders, and have fun learning music notation, instruments of the orchestra, and the lives of composers. Fifth graders are mastering band and orchestra instruments. Their enthusiasm for playing their instruments can be heard twice a week on music days, when many kids choose to continue playing music during their recess breaks.
The kindergartners are playing violins, too, thanks to a grant that has enabled one of the Briones staff members, in cooperation with the Kindergarten teachers, to design an early music program based on the Suzuki method. Janet Lynch Gillespie, a professional musician who plays for the local Theaterworks productions outside of her teaching day, inspires these young musicians with her viola. Another teacher, Pamela Dappen, integrates square dancing into her program because she loves it herself. Even older kids at Briones can be seen on the playground humming the music and recreating the dances they learned when they were in Mrs. Dappen's class.
Join in the fun. You're invited to be part of your neighborhood school. Opportunities exist for community members to share playground duties, through paid or volunteer positions one day a week or several. Some parents from the Briones PTA are preparing to launch a new noon program that will give kids a chance to take machinesapart and see how things work.
The real test of a good education is if it sparks life-long learners. Without a doubt, the rich program of physical education and music at Briones spills out into recess. It contributes to the health, active, engaged minds, and community building that help nurture the fertile soil in which all kinds of learning seeds can thrive.
Contact Gary Dalton, principal, at 856-0877 for more information.
BP Crime Prevention Volunteer
recognized by Attorney General
Congratulations to Barron Park resident Eleanor "Perky" Perkins for being selected by the California Attorney General's Office as the Northern California Crime Prevention Volunteer of the Year. A volunteer for 22 years, she currently works eight hours a week in the Property Crimes unit, maintaining records on stolen property and burglary cases and performing other administrative support functions. Perky received her award on September 13th at the State Crime Prevention Association Luncheon in Palm Springs.
The Palo Alto Weekly ran a story on her and her award entitled "Crime fighting is her game" in the September 28th issue (available online at: www.paloaltoonline.com/weekly/morgue/2005/2005_09_28.perky28jd.shtml).
KID's KORNER We Love Barron
By Linda Lui email.
Jamie has been at preschool for one year and three months. We just couldn't wait a day longer than we had to and enrolled her smack on her second birthday, September 1st, a year ago. It's been one long honeymoon ever since, for my family and the awesome Barron Park Preschool. Imagine a school where parents lounge about and get to know each other and the other kids without it being a co-op. It's an idyllic place that bustles with warmth, creativity and spontaneous hugs. I have always loved the relaxed, unassuming character of the Barron Park neighborhood and this little preschool is so much a part of the charm.
Every preschool celebrates holidays but I have never experienced the all-out total body effort that the staff here delivers with every activity. The most recent event was "Fun Fair," a project for one of the teacher's San Jose State event planning class. It was so telling that on a precious Saturday afternoon, staff and families turned out in full force, from the very first minute to the very last. The school is a big part of everyone's life and garners support from every direction. One parent said he actually had plans to stay home to clean out his garage but his daughter, a four year old, had heard about the fair at school and begged to come.
We had a similar experience in August with their annual "Campout." The kids had practiced camping and singing camp songs and hearing about the camp during the few weeks prior to the big weekend and we just couldn't deprive Jamie of the climax. As protective as I am of my schedule, the force is so powerful that I have learned to just enjoy the ride. One of my favorite events is the school's annual Halloween party. With a treasure hunt, a spooky maze with flashlights and the school theme-decorated throughout, simply the best preschool party I have ever experienced.
Unlike many preschools, they follow the school district calendar with days devoted to staff development. I like knowing that the teachers are developed to be the best they can at their profession. This accounts for their professional behavior and the respect they show every child in their charge.
We feel very fortunate to be a part of this lovely little community and look forward to two more years of Jamie's attendance. (Unless we have a new addition to our family!)
The only complaint I have is the food. At every potluck, the parents go all out and present such delectable offerings, that my potluck-tested chicken nuggets, a big hit at other schools' functions, go over like a Big Mac at an organic vegetarian supper. Any suggestion is welcome.
3450 El Camino Real
Palo Alto, CA 94306 (near Creekside Inn)
email James Witt
Prodigy Press if back in town!
150 Grant Ave.
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