BY EMILY MIBACH
Daily Post Staff Writer
A breakdown in the Zoom conferencing platform created chaos when the East Palo Alto Sanitary District board was trying to make a crucial decision about providing sewer service to a low-income housing development.
Whether Zoom broke down because the host had run out of time or somebody’s internet was cutting out wasn’t clear. But it got in the way of the sewer board, city officials and representatives of EPACanDo from negotiating a deal Thursday that would allow the addition of 91 apartments to the Light Tree apartment complex at 1805 E. Bayshore Road.
The issue is how much should the housing development pay to connect to the city’s sewers.
If EPACanDo doesn’t get a letter from the sewer district by June 14 saying it will hook up the apartments, a $20 million state grant the city has secured for the project will be rescinded.
A key question is how much should EPACanDo pay? The sewer district says its pipes have reached capacity and past their useful life, and they need money from developers to renovate the sewer system.
Initially, the sewer district was asking EPACanDo to pay $4 million for the hook-up. Then it dropped the amount to $2.6 million.
Last night, sewer district manager Akin Okupe was going over his calculations as to how much EPACanDo ought to pay when his internet froze up, and a few minutes later, board members and the 40 or so viewers of the meeting were kicked off due to the meeting timing out on Zoom.
So it wasn’t clear what the district is asking for the hook-up. But city officials who attended the meeting pointed out that since the district doesn’t have a rate sheet for hook-ups, the amount EPACanDo should pay isn’t set in stone.
City officials who participated in the meeting included Mayor Regina Wallace-Jones, Councilman Larry Moody, Assistant City Manager Patrick Heisinger and Public Works Director Kamal Fallaha.
It appeared the sewer board and the city agreed that they would work together with EPACanDo to come up with an agreement in time for a special meeting next Wednesday that would resolve the issues.
Because of difficulties with the Zoom platform, it was unclear whether the parties agreed to an amount for the hook-up.
The meeting had a number of abrupt interruptions, causing for speakers to be cut off. Frustrations mounted as district officials struggled with tech issues.
Sewer board member Betsy Yanez said that the district had upgraded its Zoom account to run longer meetings, and was not sure why the meeting kept ending. People also had trouble logging into the meeting altogether, and ultimately Wallace-Jones posted the link to the meeting in the Facebook group East Palo Alto Neighbors so people could watch and participate in the meeting.