Palo Alto scraps fee proposal for local parks

City Council Finance Committee decides that visitors should be able to visit Foothills Park, Arastradero Preserve and Baylands Preserve for free

Palo Alto's nature lovers should not be charged a fee to park and frolic at three prominent parklands, the City Council Finance Committee decided Tuesday night.

The proposal to charge "vehicle access fees" at Foothills Park, the Baylands Preserve and Pearson/Arastradero Preserve was one of dozens of new fees and fee increases that City Manager James Keene proposed to help close a $7.3 million budget gap.

The $5 fee ($40 for an annual permit) would have raised about $100,000.

The committee Tuesday night closed the gap by accepting most of the fee increases, but agreed to scrap a proposal to charge visitors $5 for park visits.

The committee's recommendations now go to the full council, which has scheduled a public hearing for Monday night (7 p.m., June 21, City Hall).

Over the past month, the committee recommended dozens of close-the-gap measures, including layoffs and frozen salaries, new fees for rental of city facilities, and shorter hours for libraries. With the gap accounted for, the committee decided to drop the controversial park fee idea.

Councilman Greg Scharff, who sits on the committee, said he had received a large volume of e-mails from residents who oppose the park access fees. Based on the community input, and the fact that the budget gap would already be closed through other measures, the committee voted 3-1, with Councilman Sid Espinosa dissenting, not to impose the park fees.

"The important thing is to listen to the community and to make cuts that have the least impact for quality of life for people," Scharff told the Weekly. "Clearly, this was something people were concerned about."

Tuesday's meeting concluded the committee's month-long process of reviewing the proposed budget for fiscal year 2011. The full council is scheduled to discuss the budget Monday night (June 21) and to adopt the full budget on June 28. Two spillover meetings have been scheduled if needed for June 29 and 30.

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Like this comment
Posted by pat
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 16, 2010 at 9:31 pm

Seems like the Finance Committee is making all the decisions on budget cuts. Hard to believe that the rest of the council won't agree with the FC.

Scharff says he got a large volume of e-mails from residents. But residents were told to send their suggestions/concerns to Lalo Perez, who was to tally them for Council consideration and post them online.

Like this comment
Posted by Smart Decision
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 16, 2010 at 10:47 pm

The Finance Committee are doing this because they know it will cost more to collect the fee than they generate by charging the fee. You have to pay someone to collect the money.

This has been tried before and residents just stopped going to the parks. The Finance Committee were told this would just happen again. Smart decision.

Like this comment
Posted by Evan
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 17, 2010 at 11:33 am

Out-of-towners still get charged though, right? Or do they not get access at all? I can't remember. Also, how would they charge for the Baylands? There are lots of different ways to get there.

Like this comment
Posted by Want summary of Current Budget
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 17, 2010 at 11:50 am

Where can we get a combined cogent summary of what budget cuts/fee increases have been adopted and which have been rejected or modified?

The Weekly would do well to publish that summary in Friday's paper.

Like this comment
Posted by jardins
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 17, 2010 at 12:47 pm

So this is the end of the month-long process of considering the budget. Why, then, were proposed fees and fee-increases publicized only last week in the Palo Alto Weekly? For instance, not before then had I heard about the proposed (and appalling) increases in fees at Animal Services.

Like this comment
Posted by Not Yet
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 17, 2010 at 6:30 pm

The proposed fees have not yet been adopted, they've only be approved or rejected by the Finance Committee of the City Council. They must all now been submitted to the entire City Council for their approval or rejection.

Like this comment
Posted by pat
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 17, 2010 at 10:00 pm

Proposed fees:
Web Link

Proposed budget info:
Web Link

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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