In the latest Around Town column, a new survey finds Palo Alto's parks have more visitors compared to others across the country, Palo Alto Utilities joining a new EV charging station project and local singers winning big on the international stage.
PARK LIFE ... Palo Alto's parks come in all shapes and sizes, from the sprawling expanse of Mitchell Park, which is loaded with amenities and boasts the area's most popular playground, to small community gems like Sarah Wallis Park, a lunchtime refuge for workers in the California Avenue area. But when it comes to usage, size doesn't always matter, according to a new survey from the city's Community Services Department conducted by summer intern and local resident Megan Schmiesing. She explored eight local parks — Mitchell, Greer, El Camino, Peers, Eleanor Pardee, Juana Briones and Sarah Wallis — and documented how they are being used. "The point of the survey was to better understand how our parks are used and not base it just on anecdotes or other methods, like how much trash is accumulating in one park on another," Jazmin LeBlanc, a senior manager in the department, told the Parks and Recreation Commission at its Aug. 27 meeting. So what did the survey conclude? For one thing, Palo Alto's park users appear to be much busier than parks elsewhere. Usage ranged from 2,334 people per day at Mitchell to 38 in Sarah Wallis, according to the survey. Other parks that were heavily used are Peers Park (with 632 users), Greer Park (514) and Eleanor Pardee Park (331). Nationally, LeBlanc noted, the rate tends to be in the low 300s (which was the case at Pardee and Juana Briones). "We have about twice as many users in Palo Alto parks as we do in the average park in America," LeBlanc said. Peers had the most usage on a per-acre basis, with 11.2 users per acre in the 4.7-acre park (329% more usage than national average), while Greer had the least, with 1.95 users per acre (25% less use than national average). Palo Alto's park users also tend to be active, with about 45% engaging in vigorous activates such as soccer matches or playing on a playground. Another 39% were engaged in sedentary activities such as picnics, lounging on the grass or observing kids playing (the rest were walking). Schmiesing cited a similar survey in Los Angeles that showed only 16% of users engaged in vigorous activities and 62% in sedentary ones.
INVESTING IN POWER ... Palo Alto Utilities is one of five local utility companies participating in a new project that will give incentives for those who install more public electric vehicle charging stations. The endeavor, a partnership with the California Energy Commission's California Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Project, is estimated to start in spring 2020. The commission has proposed dedicating $21 million in incentives to Santa Clara County and $12 million in incentives to San Mateo County, with the funds expected to last between two to four years, according to a news release. The goal is to install more fast chargers (which provide at least 100 miles per hour of charging) and Level 2 chargers (which give 15 to 35 miles for each hour of charging) in public spaces, workplaces and multifamily housing developments and along freeway corridors. The other participating agencies are Peninsula Clean Energy, San Jose Clean Energy, Silicon Valley Clean Energy and Silicon Valley Power, which would each match millions of dollars to the effort if approved by their respective governing board or city council.
MAKING THEIR VOICES HEARD ... The Cantabile Youth Singers of Silicon Valley, made up of Midpeninsula students ages 4 to 18, took home a silver diploma and a gold medal at the fourth annual European Choir Games last month. Fifty-six students, many of whom are from the area, represented the group based in Los Altos and Los Gatos. (Of the 56 students, eight live in Palo Alto and three live at Stanford. Many of them go to Palo Alto and Gunn high schools.) The event featured more than 63,000 singers from 47 countries who competed in Gothenburg, Sweden on Aug. 3-10. The local group, one of two American teams, advanced to the Grand Prix level in the youth choir category, facing 16 university- and high school-level choirs. The silver diploma came through Cantabile's young men's choir, Bravi, which took third place in their category — an impressive finish as first-timers.