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LAH offering $135,000 for PA park access

Original post made on Jul 13, 2007

Los Altos Hills is willing to pay about $135,000 per year to gain access to Foothills Park, the Town Council voted unanimously Thursday night with one member absent, Councilman Breene Kerr said Friday.

Read the full story here Web Link

Comments (47)

Posted by Esther, a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on Jul 13, 2007 at 4:03 pm

Now I get it.

This is really more about fire protection than park access. Good grief! You mean we can't come up with $100k per year to protect that space - and instead leverage the asset for a pittance?

So, we practically give away access rghts to a multi-acred natural treasure for nothing, while we fight tooth-and-nail with Stanford as we hold up time-constrained development on their hospital. THIS is innovation?

There's a lesson here about making hay along the easy path, but I don't want to carry that metaphor too far.




Posted by CItizen, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 13, 2007 at 6:46 pm

Good grief, this sounds like a win-win to me. It's not like we are selling it or even opening it to a very large community. We share our school district with the same folks, after all.


Posted by mary, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 13, 2007 at 6:54 pm

This is setting a dangerous precedent and opening a BIG can of political worms. I dispute the City Attorney's statement that this selling of the park access does not have to go before the Palo Alto voters. And since when does our 'honorary' mayor have the prerogative to start negotiations - and tell the Council later? This in addition to her push for $150K environmental coordination (plus benefits) and the Counci falling in line --And approving a broadband deal with a company against which even the City Auditor strongly warned. Something is very wrong here.
I will be relieved when the council goes on summer vacation. At least the city will be safer.


Posted by Fred, a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 13, 2007 at 7:34 pm

Mary, I am not very knowledgable about our Charter. But access to parks seems, off hand, like an administrative issue (unlike, say, a bond issuance). Can you expand on why it needs to go before the votes?

Fred


Posted by Jenny, a resident of Green Acres
on Jul 13, 2007 at 7:45 pm

This is a win win offer. Palo Alto would be stupid to refuse because Los Altos Hills residents have access to Foothill Park anyway, and they are now offering to pay for it.


Posted by Shocked, a resident of Menlo Park
on Jul 13, 2007 at 7:53 pm

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


I read the library thread on this board and note how many of you prefer our library over yours. Perhaps our library should be closed to Palo Alto residents? After all, our tax money supports it, not yours.


Posted by Jenny, a resident of Midtown
on Jul 13, 2007 at 8:05 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Jenny, a resident of Midtown
on Jul 13, 2007 at 8:39 pm

Darn, I liked the one!


Posted by steve, a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Jul 13, 2007 at 10:38 pm

I cant understand why LAH has not charged PaloAlto residents for their use of our trails. Horsepeople, runners,bikers etc.


Posted by Citizen, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 13, 2007 at 11:48 pm

They're bending over backwards to give us some money to keep the fire station open. It protects them, it protects us. Sheesh! What's wrong with that?


Posted by JC, a resident of Midtown
on Jul 14, 2007 at 8:33 am

I am all for Los Altos Hills paying for access to Foothill Park if it
covers the staffing of Fire Station 8. Unfortunately, we have too many Palo Alto residents who look backwards and not forwards. Just because some piece of paper may or may not exists that was generated in the 1960s that says the park has to be exclusively for Palo Alto residents does not mean that in 2007 we should not change City policy. Unfortunately, it is the backward thinking people who dominate the decision makers in Palo Alto. This great idea is doomed to failure.






Posted by Amy, a resident of South of Midtown
on Jul 14, 2007 at 1:14 pm

Could we open the park to paying visitors, say one day a week? Like Fridays? As I understand it now anyone on foot and possibly bikes can enter the park. Just a thought.


Posted by VS, a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 14, 2007 at 2:12 pm

This is 1,600 acres of open space that is factored in the per sq. foot price of Palo Alto real estate. This is not a decision that can be just treated as an admistrative decision. It will have real impact of people's properties. There is also an opinion to open up the space to other cities based on their ability to pay. Unfortunately, the city of palo alto used its citizens' monies to purchase this open space and it should be the citizens' vote that should determine whether to allow access and at what price. If the City Council is so confident about the outcome, let them propose it and let's put it up for vote. In a population of 60,000 to come up with $2.5/year should not be a reason to open up access to land that belongs to the property owner of Palo Alto.


Posted by Joseph E. Davis, a resident of Portola Valley
on Jul 14, 2007 at 2:50 pm

Palo Alto's outrageous policy of banning its neighbors from its park deserves retaliation in kind. Perhaps San Mateo County should ban Palo Altans from its county parks.

A fair solution is to charge non Palo-Altans an entrance fee.


Posted by John, a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 14, 2007 at 4:59 pm

Joseph,

Uh..what Portola Valley parks are you talking about? If you want to argue about county parks, we can do that, but we are currently talking about city parks.

Question for you: Where do your youth baseball players, above the age of 12, play their games?


Posted by Mary Carlstead, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 14, 2007 at 6:26 pm

Fred, here is some information. Following is the Municipal Code, not the Charter.

Municipal Code 22.04.150 Foothills Park.
Foothills Park shall not be made available for the exclusive use by any persons except for Towle Camp and the Oak Grove Group Area, Pine Gulch Group Area, Wood Fern Group Area, and the Foothills Park Interpretative Center classroom. Foothills Park may be accessible to the general public for the purpose of using the Bay-To-Foothills trails.
(a)Only residents of the city and regular or part-time city employees, members of their households related by blood, marriage, or adoption, and their accompanied guests are entitled to enter on foot or by bicycle or vehicle and remain in Foothills Park. No person who is not a resident of the city may enter on foot or by bicycle or vehicle unaccompanied by a person entitled to enter and remain in Foothills Park for the purpose of using the Bay-To-Foothills trails, except as provided in subsection (b). An "accompanied guest," as used in this section, is one who enters Foothills Park in the presence of a person entitled to enter and remain in Foothills Park. Each person entitled to enter and remain in Foothills Park may be accompanied by no more than 15 guests, or two vehicles containing no more than 15 guests, at any one time. Upon the request of an authorized city employee or a member of the Palo Alto police department, a person seeking to enter Foothills Park at the main gate or a person within the boundaries of Foothills Park shall provide identification or information to satisfy the requirements of this subsection. The good faith judgment of the authorized city employee or police department member requesting identification or information shall be conclusive as to whether such identification or information provided satisfies the requirements of this subsection. No person shall enter or remain in Foothills Park in violation of this subsection. Violations of this subsection shall be a misdemeanor.
(b)Unless otherwise specifically authorized by the director, no person who is a resident of the city shall enter or exit from Foothills Park except through the main gate on Page Mill Road or at designated entry and exit locations on the park boundaries shared with the Enid Pearson Arastradero Preserve and the Los Trancos Open Space Preserve. No person who is a resident of the city shall enter or exit from the Bay-To-Foothills trails in the park except on foot. For the purpose of using the Bay-To-Foothills trails in the park, no person who is not a resident of the city shall enter or exit the park except on foot and at the designated entry and exit locations on the park boundaries shared with the Enid Pearson Arastradero Preserve and the Los Trancos Open Space Preserve. No entry by any person who is not a resident at these designated entry and exit locations on the shared park boundaries shall be permitted by horse or bicycle. Violations of this subsection shall be a misdemeanor.
++++++++
The City Charter is another issue someone will have to research. Reportedly there may have been another "ordinance' dealing with "Palo Alto-only" maybe in 1965 - another issue that needs researching. That was forty-two years ago. The Municipal Code was amended a few years ago to allow hiking on the trails through the park.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Jul 14, 2007 at 9:00 pm

What is the total budget of Foothills Park? Maybe the thing to do is have Los Altos Hills pay the percent of the budget that represents our number of residents compared to PAs.

Or, if the $135,000 is for the summmer fire protection, maybe LAH residents have access only during the summer full-time staffing period of the fire station.


Just thinking out loud about this.


Posted by John M., a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 14, 2007 at 9:47 pm

Bottom line: FHP has been exclusive to Palo Altans for a long time. A LOT of people want to keep it that way.

What's ironic about this decision is that there has been a history between most regional municipalites of very little cooperation toward leveraging assets.

So, here we have FHP, a priceless municipal asset, being leveraged for an annual pittance, ESSENTIALLY because we have not been able to come up with the funds to man a fire station.

That fire station would normally protect Los Altos AND Palo Alto citzens shuold there be a fire. Palo Alto has been funding that station, WITH and WITHOUT LA Hills help. I think we've been had on this one.

The irony: Palo Alto (actually, the Mayor and City Manager, from what I've heard) has chosen to GIVE AWAY part of an inheritance for othe FAVOR (ha!) of LA Hills helping to pay for something that it should have been helping to pay for ANYWAY (the fire station that protects both Los Altos, and Palo Alto). It's absurd.

Given the above, how can anyone legitimately call ths a good deal?

This is WEAK negotiation, and not unlike the wimpy stuff that we have seen in past years between PA and Stanford, where Stanford regularly cleans our clock (which is now being weirdly overcompensated for by oru Cty Council holding Stanford's feet to the fire in an unreasonable way on the upcoming hospital build - pathetic!)

The Mayor calls herself a fiscal conservative - how does this deal show fiscal conservatism? It's more like fiscal 'convenience' spun to look like a win-win.

Right now LAltos officials are jumping up and down with joy; they're looking like heros, when - finally paying for something that they probably could have been compelled to pay for ANYWAY (to help protect their citizens), because the fire station is NEEDED to protect LAltos - they have been given the extra bonus of unlimited LAltos community access to FHP.

And what will PA residents get? More dissension and controversy. Sheesh! Isn't there an executve program on negotiation basics at Stanford? hint, hint...

This is a FAR from optimal deal - some will attempt to spin this as a PA win, because we're getting funds for the fire station. Balderdash!

What will PA get? The firestation it could have EASILY found the money to find ANYWAY - if we'd been able to negotiate from strength, we could have compelled partial payment to man that fire station and possibly opened up FHP to Los Altos residents for a fee, at our leisure. That would give us control over keeping FHP the pristine nature preserve that it is - with the ability to limit access in the future, should we need to.

My objection IS NOT about limiting LA access to FHP; it's more about getting more optimal returns for assets than this far-from-optimal attempt - one that looks more like a kid trying to please peers in a scenario where all the good candy is given away to the smart kids on the block in exchange for for a measly pack of chewing gum.


Posted by Andy, a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jul 15, 2007 at 12:36 pm

I've been an on-and-off resident of Palo Alto over the years, and frankly it's always bothered me that we have a fairly unique concept of a non-public park. Cities around the Bay Area open ther parks to the residents of all cities and I can't help but think that part of the rational is that their neighbours allow access in the same way. I don't think it makes the city look good to have a limited-access park. I also don't think we should be overly worried about a deluge of non-residents trampling Foothill Park - there are many county parks in the region that are open to everyone and they don't seem to be overrun.


Posted by Stanford Resident, a resident of Stanford
on Jul 15, 2007 at 1:25 pm

I think it is a shame that Palo Alto refuses to open Foothills park. The idea that since PA purchased the park it should retain exclusive rights makes a certain amount of sense, and I respect Palo Altans who wish to retain a special place like FH park, but this kind of thinking can easily get out of hand. Just to cite one example: Stanford owns a lot of open space, not to mention the lovely grounds of the campus itself. What if Stanford decided to stop letting Palo Altans enjoy walking the dish? I live near the dish and see quite a few Palo Altans walking the trails. Same logic would apply: Stanford bought the land, Stanford could decide this land is too "precious" to share with non-paying Palo Altan neighbors. Seems ridiculous to me, as we're all in this larger community together. Why not open up and share. Frankly, as a few others in this venue have pointed out, the very restrictive limits on access to FH park make Palo Alto look selfish and inconsistent--since it is patently obvious that PA residents use facilities in other communities on a regular basis. Please save any diatribes against access to Stanford for another thread. There are legitimate concerns to be raised about Stanford's land use, but the question at hand here is FH park, and I only raised the example of the dish because it seems roughly similar to FH park.


Posted by Open Space Lover, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 15, 2007 at 2:03 pm

I agree with those who would like to open the park up to everyone. Unfortunately, this won't happen because the older generation keeps harping back to agreements that were made in the 1960s. It is definitely time to look forward so far as Foothill Park is concerned.

Foothill Park costs the City over $1,000,000 each year to maintain - that is too much. Eventually, I would like to see both Foothill Park and the Arastra Preserve donated to the Mid-Peninsula Open Space Trust, so that everyone may enjoy them. Palo Alto would then no longer be solely responsible for the $1,000,000 price tag it costs us annually to maintain Foothill Park.


Posted by John, a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 15, 2007 at 2:15 pm

Stanford Resident,

"Why not open up and share..."

OK, start with Searsville Lake. It used to be open to the public, then Stanford, along with Portola Valley and Woodside decided that it would be best to be closed off to the public. Actually it is closed to the general public, but those with contacts in Portola Valley and Woodside can easily get in. Nice little set up.

I don't think Palo Alto needs any lectures from Stanford. Go ahead and close the dish.

FREE SEARSVILLE!

Open up Stanford playing fields!!!
Open up Stanford pools!!!
Open up Stanford golf course!!!
Open up Stanford libraries!!!


Posted by Dave, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jul 15, 2007 at 3:18 pm

This whole thing is so dumb. Can we "Palo Altans" please just get over ourselves? Foothill Park is just...OK. The current discussion about Foothill treats it as though it were a coastal Yosemite, a Yellowstone...the terms "natural treasure..priceless.." are used to describe it. What a bunch of silly hyperbole. It's not a paradise. Go up there right now and it'll be uncomfortably hot. Go there in February and it'll be cold and grey. The fishing in the reedy, shallow Lake Boronda is poor.

It's just a spot in the foothills where you can picnic, walk around, see a blue belly lizard; throw a frisbee. Right now it needs fire protection, as does all of California. So Los Altos has a solution--accept it.

By the way, if you want to see a really good park, see what Marin County has--literally--in their backyard: Mount Tamalpais, with lakes and streams throughout the watershed, hundreds of miles of trails, some even open still to mountain biking as it was meant to be enjoyed. If you want to teach your kid to fish, go to Lafayette Reservoir, or one of the other tremendous lakes in the East Bay--great weather, they rent boats, and stock them with catchable fish.

So: let down the drawbridge, allow the unwashed hoardes from Los Altos in...I bet it won't be all that bad. And while we're at it, why not discuss an enhancement program to improve what we have at Foothill?

Dave from Palo Alto


Posted by John, a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 15, 2007 at 4:04 pm

"Foothill Park is just...OK"

Dave,

Then why are so many non-PA folk salivating over it? You touch on a real point, Dave. This argument is not about access to this piece of rolling hills chaparral . It is about Palo Alto having exclusive rights to something it paid for. I would call that envy....

Envy can eat away at one's heart. Best to get over it. Try meditation.


Posted by Dave, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jul 15, 2007 at 4:19 pm

"Then why are so many...?" No idea, John.

As to what you say this argument is about,

"The selfishness that is bred of great success is our shame. We have subdued the wilderness and made it ours."
-Alice MacDougall, US Businesswoman


Posted by John, a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 15, 2007 at 4:38 pm

""The selfishness that is bred of great success is our shame. We have subdued the wilderness and made it ours.""


-Alice MacDougall, US Businesswoman"

Huh? The FHP deal was about PRESERVING the wildlands, not developing them. Palo Alto paid the price, when no other city was willing to do so.

Care to explain, Dave?


Posted by Priceless, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 15, 2007 at 4:56 pm

So now LAH wants privileges at Foothill Park. They had their opportunity and rejected it. They like their position of privilege that comes with "wealth". What about the house on the Arastra preserve that was demolished several years ago because the residents didn't want "traffic" on their roads. This house would have made an excellent retreat and seminar location. But "no", opposition didn't want the "overuse" of the roads. I cannot imagine that hordes of people would be traveling the rural roads for seminars and retreats. So now it's o.k. to use Page Mill Road to get to FHP. Does anyone else remember this? As for the fire station, it's time for Los Altos and LAH to pay for its maintenance. Use of FHP does not equal maintenance of a fire station. It's "apples and oranges". Once you open the park to LAH, what about requests from Stanford; after all, their children go to Palo Alto schools. What about East Palo Alto, their children also go to Palo Alto schools. To have the LAH mayor say we have the money in the bank, we just need to write a check is insulting. Does that mean if you have money, you can buy anything. Forget it LAH, Foothill is in the words of Master Card--"Priceless"


Posted by Stanford Resident, a resident of Stanford
on Jul 15, 2007 at 9:05 pm

Ok John from College Terrace,
With nice neighbors like you to count on, I guess I'd rather not visit your park. Have a nice day and see you around campus.

Stanford Resident


Posted by John, a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 15, 2007 at 9:12 pm

Stanford Resident,

How abouts we have a Palo Alto/Stanford community picnic in the newly re-opened Searsville Lake Regional Park?


Posted by Dave, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jul 15, 2007 at 9:20 pm

John, why don't you and "Priceless' get together for a few coldies at Tamarine and gloat over the good fiscal decisions of the past that you had nothing to do with personally. You guys are so arrogant--the notion of FHP being the private domain of a few is ridiculous. What is more American than the right to use anyone's city park? Just get it over with and move to Blackhawk if you don't like your neighbors.

I don't think we're going to see eye-to-eye on this, and I don't really feel that impassioned enough about our tan, dusty, "jewel in the hills" to keep at this, so have a great time at FHP. If you ever reeeeeally fall down on your luck and have to move to some nasty place like Menlo Park, Woodside, Los Altos, or Portola Valley, maybe some good samaritan will lend you a Palo Alto-addressed utility bill so you can enter FHP and re-live the glory.


Posted by Stanford Resident, a resident of Stanford
on Jul 15, 2007 at 10:25 pm

John,

That's just sad.


Posted by Analytical Solutions, a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Jul 16, 2007 at 7:37 am

If it is true that FHP costs over $1,000,000/year to maintain, and if LAH wants to pay 13% of the cost per year, which happens to be about the percent of LAH population to PA population...it isn't a matter of envy, jealousy or class warfare etc as purported above, but a matter of a financial decision.

Does Palo Alto want to share the cost of the park, or not? If not, then don't complain about the cost, if so, then don't complain about a 13% increase in people who go ( probably less, since some of us just walk in as it is).

Just decide.

BTW, the envy of those who live in million dollar homes in PA for those who live in 2 million dollar homes in LAH reminds me of the psych study just published. The conclusion was shocking. Given a choice between making ( in real buying power) $50,000/year, and all your neighbors making $25,000/year, and making $100,000/year and your neighbors making $150,000, most people chose to make less, and thus have less, just so their neighbors made less and had less than they did.

Doesn't say much about the ability for envy to instruct thought, does it?

It happens up here, also. I know people who live in 5,000 sq foot mansions on one acre who envy their neighbor building a 10,000 sq foot mansion on 3 acres. Good grief, I am a little disillusioned about humanity. What happened to practicing gratitude for what you have?



Posted by eric, a resident of Mountain View
on Jul 16, 2007 at 9:22 am

Johns 4th sentence from the end sums it up for many in this debate. Sad...


Posted by John M., a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 16, 2007 at 9:47 am

Analytical, this isn't about money (greed), elitism, or envy. Of course, that's what those who want to promote this bad deal will say to those who oppose it; they'll use emotionally loaded put-downs to marginalize opponents.

This is about OPTIMAL leveraging of an asset more in the direction of a win-win then the current giveaway. Currently, that is far from the case.

Recently, a private citizen wrote an Op-ED for the Weekly, claiming that our City Council engaged in giveaways. I strenuously disagreed with the premise of that Op-ED; it was a wrong and hasty generalization.

However, this is one instance where a Council member (our Mayor) and senior city staff member (City Manager) have charged ahead in an attempt to "save the day", seemingly without the forethought necessary to predict how_any_ effort to open FHP in this way would play, AND without getting a better deal than the weak deal they've made (and will no doubt try to spin as a win).

No matter what the financial component of ANY deal to open FHP, there will be a LOT of controversy. That's a given. Thus, the need to create a better fiscal and logistical rationale to sell the deal to PA citizens, in a way that ameliorates what are projected to be the main arguments against any FHP deal. This "deal" does not accomplish that goal. It's poorly wrought, poorly constructed, and poorly timed. It's not a "win" for Palo Alto in any substantial sense.

How does the present deal - if looked at analytically - make enough sense to rationalize opening FHP to LAH?

PA has spent 10's of $millions$ maintaining FHP over the years. How does LAH paying up 13% of the cost of the fire station and/or park maintenance _going forward_, a cost that in past years was contributed ANYWAY, properly leverage PA's past investment, and protect PA from financial debit on this asset in the future?

Here's a quote from a recent Weekly article:
"In years past, the station has served not only Palo Alto but Los Altos Hills as well, under a mutual aid agreement. It also received money from the Los Altos Hills County Fire District, to the tune of nearly $50,000 annually."
Web Link

So, Palo Alto has recently been paying up the ENTIRE cost of staffing Fire Station #8, to protect its citizens AND the citizens of LAH. IN addition, PA has been maintaining a park on LAH border in a way that keeps the property pristine, and even permits LAH residents entrance via various footpaths, as well as official entry if accompanies by a Palo Alto neighbor.

In sum, we've been paying for LAH fire protection for at least the last few years, while LAH officials irresponsibly yanked back their Fire Station #8 contribution - one necessary to protect THEIR OWN CITIZENS. What's THAT all about?

Now, with this weak deal, our mayor and city administrator - unable to find a measly $100K from a budget that IS constrained (but from which $100k withdrawals occur not irregularly, for "this and that") - have decided to accept an offer of money from LAH officials, much of which LAH USED TO CONTRIBUTE ANYWAY. This, in exchange for PERMANENT entry status for LAH residents?

Tell us, what happens if LAH re

What I want to know is how this deal appropriately leverages our past and future investment in FHP - in any other way than immediate relief for PA's current (chosen) budget constraint for the Station8 line item.

It doesn't matter WHO owns FHP. LAH officials should be paying up to maintain public safety. They withdrew their contribution.

Palo Alto has DONE THE RIGHT THING in recent years, by maintaining that station, with advantage to LAH.

Where's LAH payback on the bill for that? Where's LAH payback on the bill for past PA park maintenance - in other words, how are we leveraging past investment in the FHP. With this deal, we're not. Where's LAH payback (via LAH user fees as they enter the FHP) for past PA revenue used to maintain this priceless piece of nature (as are all pieces of nature, priceless)?

This is a pure _short-term_ "convenience" deal, out of which - in this case - some public officials will try to come off looking like heroes, taking credit for solving a problem that THEY created. It was LAH officials who decided to put their citizens at risk by withdrawing funding for Fire Station #8 - right? It was our officials who decided not to fund Fire Station #8 - right?

Back to FHP - this is the kind of deal making that raises my hackles. It's "feel-good" in the news, but where's the beef?

Where is payback - even partial payback - for the investment that PA has made in all years past?

Again, this is NOT about keeping LAH residents out of FHP. I welcome them.

Why not take the $135K donation from LAH to pay for Fire Station #8, AND let in LAH residents on a nominal fee basis AS LONG AS LAH keeps contributing the $135K _adjusted for inflation_? How do we know that some future LAH City Council will say - "sorry, not this year"?

With entry by LAH residents kept as a semi-permanent option, for a fee (to pay back past investment), we won't find ourselves up a creek if some future LAH officials decide that they want to pull the contribution, thus leaving PA in the uncomfortable decision of looking like bad guys and cutting off LAH resident entry, or upsetting PA residents who end of re-footing the Fire Station #8 bill and FHP maintenance, while watching their LAH neighbors continue enjoy the asset that PA residents are paying 100% for, again.

This is the way the deal should look (there are/were other possibilities, but it's too late for that now - fodder for another post):

1) Take the $135K from LAH, annually, adjusted for inflation
2) Admit LAH residents for a fee (TBD, but certainly no less than $5 per vehicle)
3) Do NOT change PA's power to limit the entry of any other than PA residents (in some cases, even PA residents) to the park, just in case we begin to see environmental degradation from overuse, and/or LAH decides to pull out of the $135K deal. If the latter happens, LAH residents lose the privilege of entry, period... - let LAH officials bear the burden of their future misguided decisions to withdraw funding (of they do), instead of (in this case) doing what they should have been doing all along - properly protecting their citizens by contributing EVERY YEAR to the funding of Fire Station #8.

I hope that the more sensible members of our City Council (as regards this deal) put the Mayor and City Manager's feet to the fire on this one. I'm surprised that these two otherwise competent officials haven't thought this one through better than they have.

(On a separate note: normally a union supporter (fire safety personnel deserve every one of their perks, and more), I am incensed that the fire union leadership has been un-moving in any attempt to loosen personnel restrictions and permit that station to be manned by other than only senior personnel (more costly). That decision has been a part of what has led to Fire Station #8 being closed - and thus, community dissension. This is completely unacceptable, and if this kind of unwillingness to "share the pain" continues, I know many people who will turn against the current management of the fire union. We have fantastic fire fighters, but I for one, will not stand by while union bosses mess up the reputation of their charges, and misuse the good will of the citizens of this city).






Posted by Park lover, a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Jul 16, 2007 at 2:41 pm

A few comments related to the above discussion.

1. My understanding is that Los Altos Hills contributed ~1/3 of the cost for the foothills park fire station for many years. However, when Palo Alto cut back funding for the fire station to the point where it wasn't being adequately staffed, LAH redirected the funding to procure additional county fire protection services. If Palo Alto goes back to providing adequate staffing at the fire station, then LAH should resume paying for a share of the costs, but I don't see why LAH should pay for an unreliable level of service. Would you pay AT&T if they only provided phone service 1-2 days of the week?

2. What is being proposed is a 1 year trial. As we have seen, the fire danger is real and it seems that our local governments are working creatively to solve an immediate problem. Maybe this isn't the right cost split long-term, but it has the advantage that it could get done quickly. Also, my understanding is that governments aren't allowed to make a "profit", so fees and payments probably have to be tied to the cost of the service provided.

3. I don't think it is any secret that LAH residents sometimes get "lost" and end up in Foothills park. I suspect most would much rather have their visits legally sanctioned, but I doubt you would see all that much of an increase in visitation from our small town. You might even see some improvements if LAH residents are made to feel welcome to contribute their time and resources to the park.

4. LAH had only been incorporated for a few years when the Foothills Park acquisition occurred, and was much more sparsley populated than it is today. Maybe others know why LAH didn't join in on the original purchase, but I am not surprised that this wasn't seen as a high priority when first trying to establish the town governance.


Posted by Analytical, a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Jul 16, 2007 at 4:01 pm

I hope that this whole thing resolves without rancor. I have no problems charging per car to enter for LAH residents, plus our population share of yearly upkeep ( currently 13%, or about $135,000 per year. However, I DO think that it would have to be a clear deal both way for consistency and reliability in all areas like fire protection for us, and fees for you.


Posted by John M., a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 16, 2007 at 4:21 pm

Analytical is right on! Palo Alto City Council, Los Altos City Council - you now have the opportunity to gain necessary contributory funding for fire station and upkeep (this should be inflation adjusted, annually), with a clear opening to gain some revenue payback for past maintenance. I see no reason to do anything but vote "yes" on what Analytical has proposed.

Analytical is also correct about this having to be a clear deal, both ways - eiether making a contract for this deal to live inperpetuity, or PA retaining the right to withdraw of LAH attendance in the park should LAH officials decide at some future date to back out of the agreement, for any reason.

If you do that, _everyone_ wins, including those that made the visionary financial sacrifice.

Last, Palo Alto shuold also consider making it very clear to everyone that it has the right - at any time - to limit attendance at FHP - both for safety and keeping with the original intent of the donor.


Posted by John, a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 16, 2007 at 4:33 pm

"I DO think that it would have to be a clear deal both way for consistency and reliability in all areas like fire protection for us, and fees for you."

Analytical, Do I understand you clearly that you would be willing to pay 13% upkeep of the park, plus some arrears for previous upkeep, plus a proportion for the fire station, equal to the relative value of fire protection offered?

A fair deal, to my way of thinking would be $200k per year for use of the park plus one half the cost of the fire station. In other words, about $270k per year. Forget the entry fee.

If that is what you are talking about, I would favor putting it on the ballot. Still not sure I would vote for it, but it does begin to awaken my interest.


Posted by John M., a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 16, 2007 at 5:29 pm

John, The deal that Analytical and I agreed on is the way to go. It's a true, proportional sharing of forward maintenance - with inflation and population adjusters built in (policy makers, don't forget the latter).

The fee would comprise a slow, steady, payback that - after some years - would add up to an amount that could be used to ehnace FHP. We might even require such.

Why put this to a vote? That will cost money. The deal above is more than fair, and legitmizes what is already happening - i.e. the ongoing use of FHP by LAH residents, anyway - and breaks down responsibility for fire maintenance to a proportional formula.

Clearly, this will be a BIG win for LAH officials, so the more we can get up front and going in, will help settle down local opposition.

I would not be opposed to a larger annual payment, or a balloon payment on setting up the deal.


Posted by John, a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 16, 2007 at 5:52 pm

John M.,

I don't agree.

Let's just leave the fire station out of this for a moment (a hard thing to do, I know).

Palo Alto paid for FHP, when no others would, and then paid to maintain it for over 40 years. The exclusive use of FHP is MAJOR deal for PA real estate values. LAH (and others) admit that they violate our trespass rules on a regular basis. Now, LAH wants in for a proportional fee, a real pittance, compared to the value added to THEIR real estate values, when they, too, can claim exclusive use.

My $200K/year figure is probably still too cheap, but it is a basis for the start of negotiations.

The FHP decision NEEDS to go to the PA voters. You cannot imagine how much enmity will be caused if this is done at an administravtive level.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 16, 2007 at 6:30 pm

I beg to differ with regard to the real estate value. I feel that both PA and LAH real estate prices are much more governed by the PA schools than FHP.


Posted by John, a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 16, 2007 at 6:39 pm

"I feel that both PA and LAH real estate prices are much more governed by the PA schools than FHP."

Resident, I would agree that schools are more important than FHP. Nevertheless, the last time I went looking at some properties in PA, the real estate agents all mentioned FHP, and its exclusive use.


Posted by John M., a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 16, 2007 at 7:20 pm

John, "The FHP decision NEEDS to go to the PA voters. You cannot imagine how much enmity will be caused if this is done at an administravtive level. "

Do you have any idea how much enmity will be arounsed if this goes to a public vote? We have much more mportant things to focus on.

City Council, get this thing done, and over with - as long as the leverage points are there.


Posted by John, a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 16, 2007 at 9:10 pm

John M,

If the City Council just "get this thing done" there will be reverberations that last at least a decade. It won't be pretty, as one bond issue, after anohter is defeated. There will probably also be a drop off in volunteer activity. It will be a big funk.

A simple up-or-down vote by us citizens would send a clear message. I bleieve it would be MUCH less messy, compared to an administrative decision.


Posted by one detail, a resident of Green Acres
on Jul 17, 2007 at 3:00 am


I just want to comment on one aspect of the proposed deal. It mentions a one year "trial"...

I don't believe in it being a real possibility. After the one year "trial", I don't see how we could possibly back out...

Also, one Los Altos Hills residents are officially "in" FHP, it will probably soon follow that residents of other cities will demand to be allowed in as well and will be allowed in.


Posted by Thomas, a resident of Community Center
on Jul 17, 2007 at 10:06 am

Solution: annex Los Altos Hills. Why not? It's a 'natural'.


Posted by pat, a resident of Midtown
on Jul 17, 2007 at 4:24 pm

If a "wealthy" city like Los Altos Hills is allow to pay for admission, won't we (again) be accused of keeping out residents of "poor" cities East Palo Alto because they can't afford to pay?

Why not sell naming rights to our parks? Now that Google is moving into town, maybe they'd be willing to pay several million to rename Foothills Park "Google Park." Given all of our city parks, we could really beef up our revenues with this scheme.

Please leave Foothills Park alone. It's a nature preserve, it was paid for by Palo Alto and should remain for Palo Altans -- and the wildlife that lives there. We have many other public parks for others to use.


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