From Palo Alto Wiki

Jump to: navigation, search

The 2000s have so far been characterized by a number of national-impact issues, from terrorist attacks to natural disasters. The coming of the millenium caused a frenzy and since then, the dust seems never to have really settled.



Houses along "Christmas Tree Lane" fly the flag in the aftermath of 9/11.
Houses along "Christmas Tree Lane" fly the flag in the aftermath of 9/11.

The Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks shocked the nation and dwarfed all other events in 2001.

In the wake of the tragedy, locals showed support for New York and Washington D.C. victims by donating blood, time and money for relief efforts. Vigils were held and elementary school students sent homemade cards to New York police officers and firefighters.

Menlo Park firefighters sent a task force to search for survivors in the rubble of the World Trade Center. More than 60 firefighters and civilian specialist from 12 other local agencies left on the mission to New York City.

Houses along "Christmas Tree Lane" (Fulton Street) flew the flag, becoming a symbol of American unity.

Menlo-Atherton students held a vigil for victims.

Unfortunately, the tragedy also unleashed negative effects. Racism reared its ugly head when three teenagers reportedly harassed Hamib Shahabi, owner of NY Pizza on Hamilton Avenue. Shahabi, a native of Afghanistan, said he never encountered such hostility before Sept. 11.[1]

Natural Disasters

In 2005, a number of natural disasters shook the world. Locals hosted fundraisers, hopped on airplanes to volunteer in affected disaster areas, and honored victims through prayer services and candlelight vigils.

Businesses donated proceeds from special events, while school groups, churches and mothers' clubs hosted bake sales, concers and art auctions.

Southeast Asian Tsunami

On Dec., 26, 2004, a huge tsunami set off by an earthquake in the Indian Ocean hit Southeast Asia, killing upward of 300,000 people and wreaking havoc in the lives of millions. In January, Palo Altans wrote checks by the thousands to tsunami-relief agencies. Indonesian Americans organized a beenfit at the Sheraton Hotel with Indonesian music and dancers. Proceeds went to the American Red Cross.

The disaster also took on personal significance. Five Stanford University business graduate students had been vacationing in Koh Phi Phi, Thailand when the tsunami struck. Only four were found alive; one, James Hsu, was missing and presumed dead.

Hurricane Katrina

In the summer of 2005, Hurricane Katrina rushed onto the south-east shores of America. It killed about 1,300 and displaced a million in the Gulf Coast region. Katrina was the second-worst natural disaster in the nation's history. A number of former Palo Alto residents and plenty of relatives were affected.

Palo Alto High School home-econmics teacher Leigh Cambra responded by launching an impromptu food and blanket drive. The effort brought in 30,000 pounds of donated goods, including tools and electricity generators, which were packed onto a moving truck and driven cross country.

Residents opened their homes up to displaced Gulf Coast residents. 15 families moved to East Palo Alto to live with relatives or begin anew.

The City of Palo Alto adopted the city of Kenner, La. in Sept., 2005. City officials pledged support for the next 18 to 24 months, including sending suppleis and personnel to help the suburb get back on its feet after Katrina.

Victims also received help from local churches, nonprofits and even folk-music icon Joan Baez, who performed at a benefit concert that November.

Earthquake in Pakistan

Only one month later, an earthquake measuring 7.6 on the Richter scale shook up Pakistan. The quake killed more than 80,000 people.

Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood resident Lenore Cymes organized an effort to collect blankets and warm clothing, which she would store in her carport. Locals brought 150 blankets and just as many sweaters and jackets, plus tents, sleeping bags and stuffed animals. All were shipped off to the devastated region.

A Pakistani man who lost 52 members of his extended family spoke at a press conference at the First Presbyterian Church in Palo Alto that November. He pleaded for humanitarian aid for the survivors.

In December, 2005, nonprofit agencies claimed donations had dropped sizably due to what they called "compassion fatigue." By the end of 2005, everyone was exhausted after having to open up hearts and checkbooks in response to the tsunami, Katrina, and the earthquake.


The twenty-first century opened on a good note in the Palo Alto Unified School District, with the opening of Terman Middle School in fall of 2001. However, as the years passed, the school district found itself in the center of a whirlwind of problems and messy issues.


In 2001, Superintendent Charlie Mae Knight of the Ravenswood School District spent much of her time in court, coping with a special education lawsuit and successfully defending herself from criminal charges.

In Sept. of 2006, the PAUSD's management team - consisting of about 50 principals, assistant principals, office coordinators and school psychologists - sent an unsigned letter to Superintendent Mary Frances Callan, accusing her and her three-member senior cabinet of unfair treatment. They threatened to form a union if workng conditions did not improve.

That following December, Callan and business chief Jerry Matranga announced their resignations. Neither said their retirements were related to the allegations. In the search for a new superintendent that followed, Kevin Skelly was finally chosen as her successor.

Only months afterward, in March, 2007, Palo Alto High School principal and long-time PAUSD employee Scott Laurence was promoted to the position of assistant superintendent. The promotion gave rise to a debate over its legitimacy; the district seemed to have given Laurence the job without ever opening up the position publicly. Adding to suspicions was the fact that the position hadn't been filled since the last assistant superintendent retired in 2002. However, the board stood by its decision, and a search for a new principal gave Jacqueline McEvoy the job in June.

Sex abuse scandals

Sexual-abuse cases plagued Palo Alto's educational community in 2006, changing the way teachers, coaches and youth leaders interact with students and damaged the confidence and trust parents place in school officials.

Tony Graham, leader of the Palo Alto Explorers program, was arrested on charges of having sexual encounters with three underage girls, ages 14-17, and videotaping them in three separate incidents from August 2003 to July 2005.

Bill Giordano, former Jane Lathrop Stanford Middle School teacher and coach, was sentenced to four years in prison in November, 2006, for sexually abusing a 14-year-old student in the early 1990s for three years. The shocking arrest also spurred a flurry of rumors about who knew and kept quiet. According to court documents, Giordano and the victim had somewhat of an open relationship.

Jeff van Gastel, former Palo Alto High School girls' soccer coach and substitute teacher was arrested for hosting a postseason party for his De Anza Force girls' club soccer team where he served alcohol to four 18-year-old players. Court documents revealed van Gastel had sex with three of the young women. He received two years probation and a $3,180 fine for serving alcohol.

School-attendance boundaries

The Palo Alto school district began reviewing attendance boundaries in an attempt to fix signifiacntly unbalanced elementary-school populations in 2006. But many parents and students are emotionally connected to their schools, and breaking ties was an invitation to argument.

Dozens of parents, upset by proposals that move enrollment areas around, crammed into school board meetings, waved picket signs and heckled to oppose the idea.

At the same time, the PAUSD continued its battle against out-of-district students who attend Palo Alto schools by using false addresses. Some students said the district went as far as sending someone to follow them home.

Mandarin Immersion

View the full article on Mandarin Immersion here.

The Mandarin-language immersion program was hotly debated in the latter half of the decade by local residents. Though the board initially ruled not to implement the program in Jan., 2006, the issue was brought back to its attention. The board reevaluated the program and its cost analysis beginning in March.

The second vote in May, 2007, resulted in a victory for Mandarin immersion proponents. The board supported the program in a 3-1-1 vote.

Supporters said Palo Alto children would benefit from learning Mandarin, citing China's increasing global and economic influence. Opponents argued that the choice program would displace children from neighborhood schools and believe it is too early to implement the program.

Adding to the discourse was comparisons to the successful Spanish immersion program, which was implemented more than a decade ago.

The two camps were color coded; supporters attended meetings in red, opponents arrived in green.

In Business

IKEA in East Palo Alto

The arrival of IKEA to East Palo Alto in the early 2000s caused protests and debates over whether or not it will benefit the community.

In Oct., 2001, residents marched from McDonald's on University Ave. and bay Road around to the front of City Hall with protest signs, a snare drum and a coffin. The coffin made it to the Council Chambers, disrupting a council meeting.

Many of the residents expressed fears that traffic would become a mess due to the arrival of IKEA.

However, after the business opened its doors in Aug., 2003, most found that traffic was not as bad as they had originally thought. This was attributed to the city's traffic control and planning. Also, the IKEA drew fewer customers than city officials had expected.

Local Business Struggle

As Palo Alto continues to grow, local businesses continue to struggle. Their fight for survival is nothing new; it has been waged throughout the decades of Palo Alto history.

In May, 2001, the Co-op Market shut down after 66 years of service. The store had been losing money for 18 straight years.[2] Born out of the idealism that sprung from hard times during the Great Depression, the the markets were part of an effort to save money by working together.

Neighborhood shopping centers also suffered. In August, 2006, Albertson's pulled out of Edgewood Plaza. The shrinking grocery chain had already left Alma Plaza a year before. Much of the land is to be occupied by housing and a few small shops in addition to a larger grocery store. Exsting store owners at Edgewood Palaza, already losing money, were hit harder after Sand Hill Property Co. hiked up operating fees and switched them to month-to-month leases. Though some residents hope the historic value of the center will be preserved, it seems unlikely.

Silicon Valley Community Foundation

On Jan. 1, 2007, Peninsual Community Foundation and Community Foundation Silicon Valley joined to become Silicon Valley Community Foundation. The new foundation is one of the largest in teh country, with $1.5 billion in assets and 1,400 philanthropic funds. Employees hope the merge will make a greater social impact.

HP ethics scandal

Hewlett-Packard cracked down on leaks to the media in 2006, a probe that spun out of control. Former chariwoman Patricia Dunn launchd the investigation to find out how secret board information made it into the press. The search became public due to a clash between Dunn and director Tom Perkins - friend of the source of the leaks, fellow director George "Jay" Keyworth. The scandal made pretexting - the acquisition of information - a household word. Dunn resigned from the board following the debacle.


Consolidation and circulation slips continued to change the landscape of the newspaper world in the mid-2000s. Denver-based MediaNews Group, Inc. purchased the San Jose Mercury News in April, 2006, along with the Palo Alto Daily News, its four sister papers and most other papers in the Bay Area. CEO Dean Singleton, known for clamping down on new purchases with layoffs, announced more than 27 layoffs at the Mercury News in December that same year.

An antitrust lawsuit was filed, and U.S. District Judge Susan Illston in Dec., 2006, barred Media News and the San Francisco Chronicle's parent Hearst Corp. from combining, for now, local distribution operations and national advertising sales. The judge's order remained in effect until the trial, which began in April.

On a better note, East Palo Alto residents finally got a new newspaper, East Palo Alto Today, which hit the streets in late January, 2006. The paper also has an online Web site, a journalism-mentoring program for local youth, and partnered with the East Palo Alto Center for Community Media and Palo Alto's MidPeninsula Community Media Center. The paper was started on a shoestring budget by Palo Alto resident and former print and television journalist Henrietta Burroughs.

In Law Enforcement

Debate over Tasers

View the full article on Tasers here.

Proposals to purchase electronic stun guns for the Palo Alto Police Department, and heated protests of the idea, reignited in Dec., 2006. The department had laid low on the request following controversy generated two years before. An official task force was set up, composed of members of the community, department, civil-rights and law-enforcement groups, and others. It was charged with studying the merits of purchasing the weapons, which shoot prongs up to 25 feet that shock the target for up to five seconds. Updated Tasers now come with video and audio recording abilities that deploy when fired.

In May, 2007, Tasers were approved for use by Palo Alto police officers by a 5-4 vote by the Palo Alto City Council, but only in situations where officers could draw their guns.

2006 Crime Wave

In 2006, residents felt less safe than ever before from violent and property crimes due to a number of crime waves.[1] In late January, home burglaries spiked, with break-ins mainly occurring in unlocked homes and cars. The burglaries continued into the summer and through November.

Police initally focused on unlicensed magazine-subscription solicitors, arresting a 19-year-old man associated with an itinerant group. But other prowlers arrested came from all over the Bay Area, including Hayward and San Jose. Cops suspected a methamphetamine-addiction epidemic was fueling the crimes.

Increasingly violent armed robberies also shocked the city. Armed assailants struck a woman at a Midtown ATM in mid-May; a car-jacking prompted police to cordon off a swath of south Palo Alto in June; a car-wash employee was stabbed during a robbery on Sept. 6; Palo Alto Bowl Manager Harvey King was shot and critically wounded during an armed robbery on Nov. 18; and Benchmark Diamonds on University Avenue was robbed at gunpoint the day after Thanksgiving. On Dec. 18, three armed robbers struck the S O S convenience store on Emerson Street.

Meanwhile, children reported being approached by suspicious persons outside of Terman and Addison Elementary Schools, and three women were attacked while walking in Crescent Park one evening in August.

Around Stanford

Stanford Stadium

In 2006, the Stanford Stadium underwent major construction. It replaced its 85-year-old predecessor, giving fans a closer view, more concession stands and extra bathrooms. It also reduced 35,000 seats, leaving the football stadium with only 50,000 in an effort to increase demand. Also, the new stadium no longer has a track.

Stanford-Palo Alto Community Playing Fields

New athletic fields at El Camino Real and Page Mill Road were an instant hit. They opened in Aug., 2006, as a part of a long discussed Mayfield Deal btween Stanford University and the City of Palo Alto. The other side of the deal includes future housing on California Ave. and 300,000 square feet of commercial development in the Stanford Research Park. Palo Alto pays $1 a year to Stanford for 51 years for the fields.


  1. 1.0 1.1 Rocha, Alexandria, et al. "The good, the bad, and the messy." Dec. 27, 2005. Palo Alto Weekly.
  2. Kazak, Don. "End of an Era." Mar. 14, 2001. Palo Alto Weekly.


Personal tools