Calling the proposed closure of the Page Mill YMCA a colossal loss for the Palo Alto community, patrons of the gym on Monday night urged the City Council to lend its support to their effort to keep the facility open.
Dozens of residents, including many seniors, attended the council meeting to make their case for why the gym should be kept open. And while the city doesn't own the gym and has little say in whether it remains open or closes when its lease expires on Oct. 1, both the City Council and City Manager James Keene agreed to further discuss the topic.
Members of the Page Mill Y, which is located in the basement of 755 Page Mill Road, have been protesting the proposed closure since late June, when the YMCA of Silicon Valley first made its plan public. The nonprofit has cited dwindling gym membership, the difficulty of competing with more high-end gyms n the area and necessary renovations as its reasons for closing the facility.
But gym members argue that the closure will kill a community that has been around for decades and that helps keep them alive and well. With the council on recess throughout July, the Monday meeting gave gym members their first opportunity to publicly address their elected leaders on the matter. One speaker, John Malloy, said it's "shocking" how YMCA of Silicon Valley is dismissing thousands of members of the community.
"We wanted you to know it," Malloy said. "Maybe you don't have the authority to do anything, but just knowing is good for something."
Eva Zirker, who is her in 90s, attributed her health to the fact that she's been going to the YMCA for more than than 20 years.
"I'm alive because of the Y," Zirker said. "Of course, my husband first. But then, the Y."
John Keller said he lost 100 pounds since he joined the gym upon his doctor's instructions.
"It's through the programs in the Y that I stand before you today in much better health," he told the council.
Keller noted that his father, who is 95 years old and goes to the Page Mill gym every day, has experienced similar benefits and can get around without a cane or a walker.
"Without the Page Mill Y, I'm not sure he would still be living," Keller said.
Debbie Duncan told the council that sometimes a gym is "more than a place to work out." She said that as baby boomers are getting up in age, they need a gym with a reasonable price range.
"The entire community loses when the needs of any sector are ignored," Duncan said.
After hearing the comments, Keene lauded the speakers for their "amazing demonstration" and assured them that "staff has heard what has been said." Keene said he will "huddle with some of our key staff and begin to talk about whether there are any possibilities for us as a city."
"I will reach out to some of the (YMCA) leadership there and we'll see if we can't get a lot more information (so as to be) able to report to the council about what possibilities might be possible."
Because the gym closure was not on the agenda, the council did not discuss the item Monday night. At the end of the meeting, members agreed to a suggestion from Councilman Greg Scharff and Mayor Nancy Shepherd to take up the item at a future meeting.