Los Altos HS Librarian & Author

Posted on October 28, 2016 by  
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los-altos-high-librarianLos Altos High School librarian Gordon Jack is debuting his first young adult novel to the community Nov. 9 with an author event that promises to be fresh and fun, like the book itself.

Jack’s novel, “The Boomerang Effect” (2016, HarperCollins), chronicles the story of high school junior Lawrence, who finds himself in a spot of trouble and connects with a freshman mentor, Spencer, who helps Lawrence find his authentic self.

“It takes place during homecoming week, when someone is destroying the class floats,” Jack said of his book. “Everyone thinks Lawrence is responsible; he and Spencer work together to clear his name.”

As a librarian, Jack said students constantly ask him to recommend young adult novels that are funny.

“There are not a lot of young adult books for guys that are funny out there,” he said. “YA is a lot of paranormal fantasy, which are really popular with readers. You just don’t see as many funny books.”

Jack found that odd, because his son, now 14, became a reader thanks to comical series such as “Captain Underpants.” Jack said he wanted to create something with “that immature sensibility to it.”

“The Boomerang Effect” was three years in the making – including rewrites with an agent and subsequent rewrites after HarperCollins purchased the book.

“I have been writing for a long time,” Jack said. “When I was an English teacher, it was hard to write because you were always grading. When I made the transition to librarian, I had the weekends.”

Once ensconced in the library, Jack had time to read more young adult novels, which helped him understand the genre.  While Jack is surrounded by teens every day, he said his novel is not a depiction of Los Altos High. The Viking mascot is a nod to Palo Alto High, his alma mater.

“It’s meant to be entertaining and silly and funny,” he said.  Jack plans to continue the fun with an author event, scheduled 7 p.m. Nov. 9 at Kepler’s Books, 1010 El Camino Real in Menlo Park.

“I want the event to be a lot of fun,” he said. “I’ve been to a lot of these author events, and I want to avoid the typical thing where the author does a reading.”

Jack invited a few Los Altos High seniors to help him make the event different. He will challenge the teens in a contest that tests their knowledge of pop culture, young adults and young adult literature. The event will include prizes and giveaways for the audience as well.

Because his intended audience is young adults, Jack hopes a crowd of young people attend – he really wants to make his book’s premiere a community event.

Ahead of its official Nov. 8 release, the novel is already receiving praise on Goodreads.com, a book review website. The School Library Journal, a publication for school librarians, commended “The Boomerang Effect” as “highly recommended for YA readers looking for a novel with large doses of humor and a narrative rooted in personal growth and self-awareness.”

For more information on the Kepler’s event, visit: keplers.com/event/gordon-jack


Well Appointed Sophisticated Townhouse

Posted on October 27, 2016 by  
Filed under Sold Properties · Tagged:


147 Fremont Ave, Los Altos 94022
Listed at $1,550,000 / Sold at $1,540,000
3 Beds / 2.5 Baths / Home: 1,525 / Lot: 1,927 sqft +/-
Representing: Seller


Loyola Corners Studio Teaches All Ages

Posted on October 27, 2016 by  
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halo-pottery-in-los-altosHila Itzhak’s pottery classes do not just mold clay – they also mold children.

From her Loyola Corners studio, Halo Pottery, she hopes to give children in the South Bay the opportunity to not just make something, but to relax while doing so.

“It is the best activity because it is not just art and creation. It is the most natural thing a child can touch,” Itzhak said of the material. “Clay can heal. It will bring you to your roots. When you open a bag of clay, it smells like just after the first rain.”

Itzhak runs several different programs out of her studio, including weekly classes and one-off workshops. She rents out space for birthday parties and work retreats. Summer camp ended recently. During the long Thanksgiving break, she will experiment with a camp for children out of school for the long weekend.

According to Itzhak, anyone from 4 years old and up can get something out of Halo.  “It builds motor skills,” she explained. “When they draw or paint, it is two-dimensional. With clay, they see things differently. They will not simply draw a porcupine, they know how the animal is structured.”

Itzhak’s students can eat off of their work. They mold the clay, paint it and can bring it home after it has been fired and glazed. Itzhak’s 3-year-old son prefers eating off of his handiwork at the dinner table. “It builds self-esteem when parents use a child’s bowl,” she said. “It makes them want to sit around the table and eat.”

As she gestured toward a sky-blue teapot, Itzhak said its potter was just under 5 years old. He walked in and wanted to make a teapot from day one. Her young student started with a bowl and worked up from there until he could make a watertight teapot and matching lid.  “He understood not just how to make something out of clay, but how a teapot is formed,” she said.

Many of these same skills, besides perhaps the fine-motor dexterity, are just as useful for teenagers and adults as they are for young children. Itzhak has hosted work retreats and girls’ nights out – complete with wine – in the studio. She finds pottery to be a salve for the frenetic Silicon Valley lifestyle.

“Everything here seems very calm on the surface but is very hectic,” she said. “Even children have a busy schedule. People come in and can work together on something. You don’t need experience, just the right instructions and the will to work. Every piece a child makes, I want it to be their best. A child does not need to feel insecure.”

Halo Pottery is located at 981 Fremont Ave., Los Altos. For more information, visit: facebook.com/halopottery


‘Granny Units’ Could Aid Housing

Posted on October 26, 2016 by  
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number-0fIn a joint study session, the Los Altos City Council and the Planning and Transportation Commission last week reviewed how secondary living units might allow for new housing in Los Altos.

City officials concluded that secondary living units, small outbuildings often called “granny” or “in-law” units because of their customary inhabitants, could help alleviate Silicon Valley’s housing crisis.

Community Development Director Jon Biggs asked the council if Los Altos should lower the minimum lot size allowed for secondary units from 15,000 square feet. Out of the city’s 9,439 total parcels, only 1,501 are more than 15,000 square feet.

David Kornfield, the city’s planning services manager, said the meeting provided enough information to move forward.

“There are more eyes on the streets in places with second living units, and there’s different patterns of living,” he said. “When we come back (to the council), we will provide a much more comprehensive report on what the benefits are to the community and what the requirements are from the state.”

After the study session focused on secondary units, the conversation shifted to affordable housing. Los Altos has been without an affordable housing administrator since a 2015 request for proposal proved unsuccessful.  That’s at least partly due to the fact that no one seems to know the scale of affordability in Los Altos.

The city has partnered with Palo Alto Housing to administer affordable units in downtown Los Altos. According to Los Altos Mayor Jeannie Bruins, no one knows if units designated affordable are occupied by families that need the assistance, because the city has a complaint-driven compliance system.

Citing his experience living in Los Angeles, Alex Samek – another member of the Planning and Transportation Commission – suggested annual registration of below-market-rate units, including secondary housing.

City staff indicated that they would take Samek’s suggestion into account as they form an affordable housing strategy, which will not yet require a housing administrator.


Fabulous Downtown Contemporary Home

Posted on October 22, 2016 by  
Filed under Sold Properties · Tagged:


568 Gabilan Street, Los Altos 94022
Listed at $2,350,000 / Sold at $2,195,000
2 Beds / 2 Baths / Home: 1,306 / Lot: 5,119 sqft +/-
Single Family Detached
Representing: Buyer


Coaching with honor at LAHS

Posted on October 21, 2016 by  
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los-altos-high-field-hockey-coachHer players and their parents have said it for years, and now the Central Coast Section has recognized Mary Donahue for the way she coaches the Los Altos High field hockey team.

The Los Altos resident has been named this year’s CCS Honor Coach for her sport. Criteria for selection include service to the sport, maintaining professional standards of conduct and being a role model and inspiration.

Los Altos players and their families said Donahue checks all the boxes.

“She’s an amazing coach,” said Tanya Matthew, a junior. “She always encourages us to do well and pushes us to do better.”

Although Donahue acknowledged, “I do like to win,” it’s the relationships – not the results – that matter most to her. The connections she’s made with players and parents keep her coming back year after year.

“It seems always to be a challenge for us to see winning results on the field, but we always have such a great group of girls on our LAHS team,” said Donahue, in her 10th season as coach. “I’ve been really lucky to have gotten to know them and their super nice, supportive families. It makes the coaching so worthwhile.”

As for the light shined on her by the CCS, Donahue said she is “really, really honored” to win the award. Many people who know her would deem it long overdue. Donahue tries to set a good example by treating the game – and those involved in it – with respect.

“I do truly believe in the positive coaching idea and assume the best from athletes, coaches and refs,” she said. “I think most folks are generally trying their best and are well intentioned in their actions, and try to treat them as such.”

As for the remaining few weeks, Donahue said the goal is to “improve and have a better second-half record than we had in the first half of league play. And this will sound dorky, but I also want the kids to enjoy the rest of the season.”


Local Walk Surpasses Fundraising Goal

Posted on October 19, 2016 by  
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pancreatic-cancer-research-walkAfter exceeding their fundraising goal, Los Altos residents Aaron and Leah Nichols deemed their inaugural event to fight pancreatic cancer a success.

The 2016 Silicon Valley Pancreatic Cancer Research Walk, held Oct. 1 at Mountain View’s Shoreline Park, raised more than $54,000. The Nichols said their initial goal was $20,000, with a stretch goal of $50,000. The night before the event, a $5,000 donation put them over the top.

The 5-kilometer walk attracted more than 160 participants and 21 volunteers.

Several of the attendees were the couple’s family and friends; others took part after learning about the event in an Aug. 17 Town Crier article.

It was personal for many of the participants. The marketing director of one corporate sponsor lost a grandmother to pancreatic cancer, according to Leah, while the event’s face painter lost two family members to the disease.

“There was a sense of community and hope, and that we are trying to do something good, making progress with it and turning this around,” Leah said. “It’s just amazing – the people that are affected by the disease are very passionate about it.”

Aaron and Leah both lost their mothers to the disease – within 18 months of one another. That inspired them to organize the walk.

The Nichols family partnered with the Lustgarten Foundation, the nation’s largest private supporter of pancreatic cancer research, to make the event happen.

Once the walk was over, Leah was already thinking about next year. She promised that the walk will continue – with hopes of drawing more participants and raising more money in 2017.

To donate and for more information, visit: 2016siliconvalleywalk.kintera.org


College Terrace Neighborhood in Palo Alto

Posted on October 14, 2016 by  
Filed under Sold Properties · Tagged:

549-551 Stanford All

549 & 551 Stanford Ave, Palo Alto 94306
Listed at $3.888,000 / Sold at $3,720,000
Bordering Stanford University
1st home has 4 beds and 3 baths in 1,840 sqft +/-
2nd home has 3 beds and 2 baths in 1,550 sqft +/-
Both homes are Single Family Detached
Property ~7,000 sqft +/-
Representing: Seller