Within an hour of visiting Donna Grider, the Palo Alto City Clerk, to “pull papers”, two reporters called to confirm if I was indeed running.
I called back Breena Kerr of the Post and asked if I could add another point. I said that I disagreed with the stance of her publisher Dave Price regarding the enforcement of a City Ordinance regarding whether restaurants on University Avenue could use the sidewalks for al fresco dining. He said, a few weeks back, that enforcement of that ordinance would be like putting a boot to the neck of small business.
I told Breena on the other hand that the lack of enforcement would be like a subsidy of the landlord. “Wouldn’t it be a subsidy of the business — aren’t they the ones who, via enforcement, would be responsible for any punitive measures?” Good question. I had, do note, lauded her for an article she had written recently about CPI the metal-coating business and the concern among residents of Barron Park, specifically on Chimalus Street, about the possible release of toxins.
I realized later that I was perhaps playing with fire to directly contradict a stance of her publisher — who I take as a Libertarian, and to bring up a point that, in truth, I don’t know the ins and outs of (other than the fact that I do eat at some of these restaurants and had read the article on the issue, if not, to my knowledge a staff report on the topic).
As remedy, I decided to take a little stroll, shoot some pictures and maybe interact with John Q and Jane Q, Public that is.
Rachel Burke and Daniel Summer-Hays were sitting in a portico of Patxi’s Pizza, on Emerson. This, I thought, was the perfect compromise between indoor and out. They graciously complied with my request to document their evening, and we chatted a bit about the difference or similarities between development here compared to Mountain View.
I admit that I am an atypical political candidate, a strange mix, if this is evidence, of Christopher Alexander’s “A Pattern Language” and Sherwood Anderson, “Winesburg, Ohio”‘s George Willard (which I read in 1984, as an undergraduate English major at Dartmouth, and I hope to re-read this summer).
I am not going to mention any other of the restaurants by name. I am not going to be the whistle-blower. I just noted the types of reactions to the temptation to eat out of doors, or al fresco. I will, since I brought it up, re-read the press coverage of the recent discussion and maybe staff report if I can find that simple enough. People I spoke to, as I wandered, were more in favor of being able to eat out door than concerned that the public space might be privatized. My concern is within context of a larger issue of overdevelopment in terms of adding office space at the expense of what could be a public amenity such as a restaurant. I did sneak a shot of the famous dive bar turned headquarters for something that at this point is better known by its squiggle than its actual name.
This one, quite popular, always a line, has a ledge facing the street and recently added tables, including one in front of their neighbor:
I rarely if ever eat at this place, maybe never. I would sooner, if I ordered there, take my meal to Lytton Plaza, which is open to everyone and not just the adjacent pizza parlor (which I frequent).
Although it was sooner than the evening rush, this ledge looked like a decent place to wait your turn:
It’s a bit of a red herring but I am also strangely inspired by an article in The New York Times, from 2007 but new to me, by filmmaker Errol Morris, comparing two similar photographs from the nineteenth century. I like the way he thinks.
edit to add: Elena Kadvany of Palo Alto Weekly, on May 2 of this year, reported on this issue and got 53 comments. I don’t recall how much more recently the Post and or Dave Price’s comment was, but I think I saved the tear sheet. It’s not a huge issue, other than it traces the outlines of mega-trends like Downtown v. Residents or the encroachment of a business mindset into the public sector.