In my first job out of college, I served as a reporter/photojournalist dual-threat at my local newspaper, covering breaking news and writing feature stories as well as documenting the whole 3.5 years through my lens. Some of my best times were spent out in the field and on the phone covering local stories.

For a full archive of my stories, visit this page.


Car crashes through bank in Los Altos draws crowd of onlookers


Virginia Pavlina had to make a quick decision Friday.

The Los Altos Hills resident said her new Lexus IS 250 Sedan accelerated out of control as she approached Main Street from Second Street on a bustling afternoon in Los Altos.

After realizing her brakes weren’t working, Pavlina said her effort to steer clear of pedestrians led her to crash her car into U.S. Bank, located in the historical Shoup Building at 300 Main St.

“There was a man across the street standing in front of Starbucks about to cross, and all of a sudden my car took off,” Pavlina said in a phone interview from El Camino Hospital Monday morning. “I braked, but the brakes didn’t work. The car just went berserk. I had to make a quick decision.”

Read the full story in the Los Altos Town Crier.

Waiting for the call

New Los Altos resident with cystic fibrosis awaits organ transplants

Story by Diego Abeloos, Los Altos Town Crier

Los Altos resident Sharlie Kaltenbach chuckles whenever she recalls the puzzled look on a nurse’s face as she tried to listen for her heartbeat with a stethoscope.

There was none.

Kaltenbach calmly lifted her right arm.

“I told her, ‘Try here,’” said the smiling Los Altos resident, eyeing her armpit.

Sure enough, there was her heartbeat, thumping away in her armpit, leaving the nurse increasingly bewildered.

The episode isn’t all that uncommon for Kaltenbach, 32. Her right lung collapsed 15 years ago, shifting her internal organs, including her heart.

That’s just one of the many effects cystic fibrosis, a genetic disease that affects the lungs and digestive systems of more than 30,000 people in the United States, has had on her body.

Busy with bees: Local residents host hives to boost declining honeybee population

A soft hum gradually intensifies to an incessant buzz as Jack Ip opens one of the wooden boxes he keeps in his Los Altos backyard.

It’s the sound of thousands of bees taking flight, wondering what’s happening to their home. The swarm grows, which for most people is the signal to get out of the way.

But instead of heading for safer ground, Ip’s eyes light up.

He’s found the queen.

“There she is,” he cries out through his beekeeper suit, pinpointing her among a cluster of the bumbling yet docile insects. “Without the queen, the bees are no good.”

Ip isn’t alone in his enthusiasm. The Los Altos resident sells hives to a growing number of Bay Area residents – several here in Los Altos and Los Altos Hills.

Some beekeepers pursue it chiefly for the sweet byproduct, others more to stave off what researchers call Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), a national phenomenon that’s surfaced recently.

In other words, honeybees are disappearing. And no one really understands why.

Because the insects carry pollen to and from plants and flowers, the mysterious decline in their population can affect crop yields across the spectrum.

Read the full story in The Los Altos Town Crier.  


Residents await new bridge after collapse: Fire chief says 19-ton vehicle necessary on medical calls

A fire engine dispatched from the Loyola Station in response to a medical emergency April 4 needed rescuing after a bridge over Permanente Creek collapsed under the vehicle’s weight. While the crew escaped unharmed and successfully answered the 911 call, the engine stayed behind.

A fire truck collapsed a bridge under its weight in Los Altos. 

A fire truck collapsed a bridge under its weight in Los Altos. 

Approximately three-quarters of the way across the private wooden bridge, support snapped and the nearly 20-ton truck was caught between the banks of the creek. The accident, near the intersection of Miramonte Avenue and Aura Way, left approximately 12 cottages beyond the bridge temporarily without vehicle access.

City planner David Kornfield said he spoke with the property owner, Sal Giovannotto of Palo Alto-based Vittoria Management, who may be able to install a temporary bridge soon. Calls to Vittoria went unreturned as of the Town Crier’s Monday deadline, but Kornfield said the property owner had opened a resident’s backyard for pedestrian access to Holly Avenue April 4.

Read the full story in The Los Altos Town Crier.

Wanted: Rain: Los Altos Hills farm, behind on produce, eager for storms

The much-anticipated rain that soaked the Bay Area early this week had soggy residents brandishing umbrellas and seeking dry sanctuaries. But Jason McKenney, who manages a major source of local produce at Hidden Villa in Los Altos Hills, greeted the downpour with open, thirsty arms.

“It’s so welcome, you can hardly imagine,” he said, crossing his fingers for more as he paced through a particularly parched field where the inch-tall cover crops haven’t come close to their usual 1-foot height. “We’ve been waiting for months now.”

The Bay Area has been unusually dry since the last sizable rainfall Thanksgiving Day. Hidden Villa normally notches 26.5 inches of rain by this time, according to the farm’s measurements. This year, it’s closer to 6.

The lack of rainfall has McKenney concerned for the farm’s harvest, which supplies the farm’s Community Supported Agriculture program. A quarter of the bounty stocks local food banks, such as the Community Services Agency in Mountain View, which serves Los Altos and Los Altos Hills, and the leftovers are sold at the summer Los Altos Farmers’ Market or eaten by Hidden Villa staff.

“This is, so far, the driest year ever here,” said McKenney, Hidden Villa’s agriculture manager. “It could impact us fairly negatively. … Our agriculture is dependent on a yearly recharge of the aquifer.”

Read the full story in the Los Altos Town Crier.

Champion jump-roper doesn't skip a beat

The way 15-year-old Adele Rosenthal describes some of her past injuries, you’d think she’s a tomboyish pigskin junkie – and not the powder-puff kind.

“I once injured my radial nerve when I landed on my wrist,” said the Los Altos High School freshman, motioning up and down her forearm. “I hurt my back, I take a pounding on my knees.”

But those aren’t football injuries. She’s describing the ups and downs of jumping rope.

Wait, what?

The energetic Rosenthal has quietly – or maybe not, when you hear her talk a mile a minute – become a nationally ranked jump-roper as part of the Santa Clara-based Sol Jumpers, a team that competes in USA Jump Rope competitions.

Last year she earned her spot as the top jumper in the state in her age group and has been ranked alongside the top-10 jumpers in the country for the past several years.

Rosenthal is set to try out Thursday for a spot in the regional USA Jump Rope Championships, scheduled March 24 in Pasadena. A successful effort next month could propel her ranking even higher.

“Jump roping is so unique, and I’m not a normal person by any means,” the former tennis standout said before starting a two-hour practice last week. “I like to find things that aren’t normal.”

Read the full story in the Los Altos Town Crier.