New dog run, turf planned for El Camino Park

City Council endorses $1.4 million in improvements to busy park in north Palo Alto

Palo Alto's bustling El Camino Park will soon be equipped with a new synthetic turf, a granite pathway and a dog park as part of a $1.4 million park-improvement effort the City Council endorsed this week.

The park, which is near the northern boundary of the city between El Camino Real and Alma Street, across from the Stanford Shopping Center, is already scheduled to become a major construction site in the coming months as the city prepares to install a 2.5 million gallon reservoir underground. That bond-funded project is now in the final stage of design.

To take advantage of this period of disruption, the council approved adding a host of new amenities to the park. The Parks and Recreation Commission had numerous public hearings to consider the types of additions the public would like to see and came up with a list of possible improvements, which the council discussed Monday night.

The council voted 8-1, with Grail Price dissenting, to support the proposed upgrades. Price dissented because she said staff should replace both fields in El Camino Park, rather than just the larger soccer and lacrosse field in the northern section of the park. The southern portion of the park contains a softball practice field.

The proposed improvements are intended to address what Daren Anderson, a recreation manager in the Community Services Department, called a "critical lack of field space for soccer, softball and lacrosse in Palo Alto." The city performed a study in 2002 that showed that the city's current supply of playing space falls far short of demand.

Council members were also excited about adding a dog park to a section of the city that currently doesn't have one. The city's existing dog parks in to the south, in Mitchell, Hoover and Greer parks.

"Knowing that dog owners unofficially use our school playing fields for dog runs, I think we're under-dog-runned," Councilman Larry Klein, a dog owner, said. "I think this will be a good location to serve an area of town that's underserved at the moment."

Councilman Karen Holman, also a dog owner, argued against installing a new dog run at El Camino Park and said the park has no easy access points for dog owners. She said she was worried that creating a dog run in the north part of the park would create "issues that are even life-threatening to dogs."

"I think this is a real troublesome location because of the access," Holman said. "The only connectivity that's feasible here is across Alma at a very, very difficult place to negotiate."

The council majority sided with Klein. Greg Scharff said the city's lack of recreational spaces for dogs has been one of the most frequent complaints he's heard from Palo Alto residents.

"I'd hate to make the perfect the enemy of the good," Scharff said. "It's a location where we can have a dog run, and I think we should jump on it. There aren't many locations where can do that."

The council voted 7-2, with Holman and Vice Mayor Yiaway Yeh dissenting, to support Klein's proposal to integrate a dog run into the design of a new park.

The council's decision means staff will continue to refine the design of the proposed improvements, a process that's expected to stretch until November 2012. The improvements, which would be funded by park development-impact fees, will also include new picnic tables, improved lighting at the soccer field and a new decomposed granite pathway.

Under the proposed timeline, construction of the reservoir and the new amenities would take place largely in late 2012 and early 2013 and the park would be reopened to the public in May 2013.

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Like this comment
Posted by jardins
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 16, 2011 at 11:34 am

I really do hope that all of the trees in and around that park are going to be preserved when the underground reservoir and on-surface changes are made. Has anyone checked the city's plans re this issue?

And will the synthetic turf be the kind that doesn't have lead in it? We need reassurance re that!

Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 16, 2011 at 12:23 pm

This is one of the few parks in Palo Alto that is not in a residential neighborhood or has easy pedestrian access. For this reason, it is ideal as a park which is primarily used for sport rather than other uses.

I think a dog run in a park in North Palo Alto is a good idea, but can't see that this is the right park. The majority of El Camino Park users come by car and if anything the parking facilities should be improved. It is not even an ideal place to bike to due to the situation beside ECR and Alma, not idea bike routes, and sports players usually come by car due to the equipment that needs to be brought.

I think the improvements sound good, but please improving the road access, parking, and leave the dogs to go somewhere else.

Like this comment
Posted by Come on!
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 16, 2011 at 12:40 pm

We're under dog runned? Oh no! Who cares if we're under policed? Let's spend $1.4 million and cut Public Safety so dog owners can avoid having to actually walk their dogs. I'm all for dog parks for responsible dog owners. I own 3 large dogs that need plenty of exercise. But the City needs to reevaluate its priorities.

Like this comment
Posted by dog ideas
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 16, 2011 at 1:40 pm

I agree with the councilwoman who says dumb place to put a dog run. Nobody goes there in there right mind if there isn't something going on as it is surrounded by the homeless and their ecampments. I would not want my child nor my dog with all the homeless excrement. They need to remove all the shrubs so the homeless can't put encampents up

Like this comment
Posted by excrement
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 16, 2011 at 2:14 pm

You don't want to take your dog somewhere with excrement on the ground? Why do you think dog owners go these places?

Like this comment
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jun 16, 2011 at 5:22 pm

Well, excrement, there's excrement, and there's excrement. As an excrement expert via dog poop scooping, I prefer it over human & cat waste.

I haven't been to that park in yeaaaaaaars! Ugh. Is that where the homeless who hang out downtown & on ECR/Stanford Shopping Center amble off to sleep it off at night?

Like this comment
Posted by Don
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 16, 2011 at 5:37 pm

Karen is right. This is the wrong place for a dog park for all the reasons cited.

The present small dog run in Greer park is a joke. When the park was upgraded, it would have been easy to put in a large area for dogs much like that at Mitchell Park. However, a few residents protested, and it was not included in the planning. Instead we have a large section designed for picnics which is very close to Highway 101's constant roar. I bet that it won't be used much if at all for that reason.

Like this comment
Posted by John
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 16, 2011 at 5:37 pm

They should not count Greer as having a dog park, I had to read the sign on the gate to understand what it was. if it's not the smallest dog in California it is the running.

Like this comment
Posted by Poop scooper
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jun 16, 2011 at 5:41 pm

It's a really dumb place to put a dog park. Historically "village dogs" are scavengers of all waste, but I'd prefer mine NOT gobble human or cat feces. I've got two dogs, a pocketful of plastic bags, and don't go to dog parks, although in the past, I've had dogs who attended. I walk them and train them and occasionally show them. Parking is an issue and so is a dog getting loose and hit by a car. I've seen some dogs laugh at 4 foot fencing--will it be 5 or 6 feet? A better idea would be to enlarge the existing dog parks and put any extra $ toward public safety! Doh!

Like this comment
Posted by solon
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 16, 2011 at 6:07 pm

Is it correct we can place soccer, baseball, and other fields in the new park to be open where the dump was? That is many, many acres and a great location!! Win Win!

Like this comment
Posted by annoyed
a resident of another community
on Jun 16, 2011 at 6:43 pm

Typical Palo Alto City Council mentality. Cut public services, hire more City Manager "assistants" and put in a 1.4 million dollar improvement on a perfectly good park and a dog run. We are doomed.

Like this comment
Posted by Walks With Dog
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 17, 2011 at 3:45 am

What a bunch of Poop! Cuts to police and fire services while we hire more Assistant City Managers and installing a dog park in location where my dog isn't interested in walking. How come our neighbor Mountain View has an effective City Council and City Staff with up to date infratructure and a healthy economy and tax base. One would think that such a "wonderful" "cutting edge community" would have long ago solved these, as well as fixed out creeks and found ways to protect our elderly and our young from trains and the stress of living here. Perhaps we should have built the dog park for the city council and City Manager and his staff.

Like this comment
Posted by Milt M.
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 17, 2011 at 8:41 am

Doesn't make any sense. After hearing the cries of a fiscal emergency from our city leaders, facing an unprecedented budget crisis, looming cuts to public safety, and we're going to spend 1.4 million dollars to upgrade a park. Wow.

Like this comment
Posted by The Dude
a resident of another community
on Jun 17, 2011 at 9:12 am

If you all read and pay attention to how the improvements are being funded "The improvements, which would be funded by park development-impact fees..." you'll see that this doesn't affect the general fund. The reason this park is getting a dog run, whether you like it or not, is because YOUR city council andYOUR Parks & Recreation Committee (that YOU voted for) want one.
Plain and simple.

Like this comment
Posted by GoodIdea
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 17, 2011 at 9:24 pm

Hope it will be equivalent or better to the 'fake' grass that HSSV (HUMANE Society Silicon Valley--HSSV) in Silicon Valley in Milpitas!! It does great!

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

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