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Around Town: Survey finds Palo Alto parks are teeming with visitors; city seeks more EV charging stations

Also, Midpeninsula singing group made up of local students wins big in international contest

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.

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Comments

9 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 1, 2019 at 9:40 am

Interesting, but it must be said that certain questions have to be raised.

For example, AYSO uses our parks, but AYSO also uses school playing fields. In comparing parks in LA, are AYSO using the parks or are they using more schools?

Another example, picnics particularly larger picnics? Is this because our homes are not equipped with large enough yards to host a birthday party or our churches with enough lawn space?

Is Silicon Valley as a region more interested in sports for everyone, such as soccer or cricket than other regions due to diverse populations?

I am pleased we are using all our parks and from my own experience using them I see all sorts of activities. Obviously our year round good weather has to be taken into account as even in a rain filled January we can see plenty of usage on days without showers. However, when it comes to say other amenities such as bowling alleys, space for indoor basketball (as opposed to outdoor courts), year round swimming pools, etc. we may be suffering a deficit compared to the comparable cities in the survey.


5 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 1, 2019 at 10:12 am

Juana Briones is also a heavily used park, especially since this side of town has far fewer walkable amenities than everywhere else.. Currently, there is a huge multi-home construction project, including major earth movement (dust) and construction vehicles going on right across the street from the park -- and the small children's play area -- which almost certainly affects the survey numbers, including that Maybell avenue is regularly blocked to traffic because of the construction.

Juana Briones Park will almost certainly need rehabilitation after this construction project is done to restore its full functionality. It ordinarily is also used by the long-time program for the most disabled students in the district at Juana Briones School, the OH, so Juana Briones Park really should be in line to get a more accessible and larger playground at some point.

Given all the construction and building, there really should be another park on this side, or an expansion of an existing park. The report really should have noted the unusually large construction project and its potential impact on the results. Ordinarily Juana Briones Park is extremely heavily used.


5 people like this
Posted by Resident too
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 1, 2019 at 10:13 am

Sorry, we first two posters seem to have posted at almost the same time, but we are not the same person "Resident". I am the second poster and will hereafter call myself Resident too.


3 people like this
Posted by Resident too
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 1, 2019 at 10:16 am

I think the real story at Juana Briones is that it is still used as heavily as an average park despite the huge construction project going on right across the street and all the construction and traffic on Arastradero adjacent to it. If it is properly rehabilitated after the construction project, the usage will return to its previous heavy (to the point of burdening it) use.


15 people like this
Posted by parent
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 1, 2019 at 11:35 am

Yes, city parks are heavily used. I hope that the city can invest more money in our parks, especially the smaller neighborhood parks. How about installing water fountains and restrooms at all city parks? We live far enough away from the nearest "neighborhood" park that we cannot walk there since there is no restroom and the kids and grandparents need a restroom after walking there.


Like this comment
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Sep 1, 2019 at 12:00 pm

> PARK LIFE ... according to a _new survey_ from the city's Community Services Dept

Is that a correct link?


10 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 1, 2019 at 2:22 pm

I'm very happy that the parks are unusually heavily utilized. Some of the activities I could do without, such as what seem to be "corporate" for-profit training activities at Mitchell Park. The new "magic" playground is a real destination park, and, pickleball seems to be headed that way, also. It's all good. I will comment that parking can be hard to find at Mitchell Park, and, I wish spaces were not being permanently occupied by year-round RV &etc parking. I particularly like the decomposed granite/cinders/etc walkways that some parks have instead of concrete/asphalt.

One thing that Palo Alto is completely missing is a full-sized indoor public pool. (Indoor -- you know-- skin cancer, etc.?)


6 people like this
Posted by Wondering
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 1, 2019 at 2:44 pm

Is it OK when most of the park users are from out of town & not even neighborhood residents?


2 people like this
Posted by Greener grass fed up
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Sep 1, 2019 at 5:30 pm

Oh, yeah, sure...we have a deficit of...parks, large yards...and HOUSING! Good golly friends and neighbors we have so much we have too much of everything… What we are lacking in what we may have a serious deficit in is a willingness to share and compassion for the rest of the world that makes do with a lot less.


2 people like this
Posted by Maryl
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 1, 2019 at 10:12 pm

I love the parks in Palo Alto. I like to see all the activities and people relaxing and having fun. I wish north Palo Alto had a dog park. A perfect place would be Eleanor Pardee Park. Dog owners are responsible and enjoy dogs and kids who want to pet them.


5 people like this
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 2, 2019 at 1:45 pm

I'm surprised Rinconada Park was not looked at. It seems packed whenever I drive by it, and often not by residents. Is there any data on Rinconada?


Like this comment
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 2, 2019 at 1:50 pm

Posted by Wondering, a resident of Barron Park

>> Is it OK when most of the park users are from out of town & not even neighborhood residents?

I'm happy with all the people from all over using the parks, but, I question some of the commercial activities that have sprung up in Mitchell Park, community center, etc.


1 person likes this
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 2, 2019 at 2:18 pm

From the article:
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.

Can someone qualify this?
Fast Chargers = 100 miles / charging hour
Level 2 Chargers = 15-35 miles / charging hour

The number I Googled about Tesla is that the maximum range of it's Model S is now 370 and the Model X is now 325.

Another site says that from an standard electrical receptacle from zero to 300 miles would take about 52 hours at that rate .... over 2 days.

Except for some solar PV Projects Palo Alto does not generate its own electricity. If we ramp up charging in this city what percent is that going to increase the amount of energy we must import and and overall energy liability?

Over two days for a complete fill-up for a premium automobile, even one that tax-payers are subsidizing seems like kind of a conspicuous consumption kind of thing?


7 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 2, 2019 at 4:08 pm

Many of the commenters here seem to have divine knowledge of where the park users reside. I wonder how they know that they are not Palo Alto residents?


4 people like this
Posted by DTN Paul
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 2, 2019 at 7:35 pm

DTN Paul is a registered user.

I vote for getting rid of the community gardens, esp in small parks like Johnson Park, close to where I live. I get that people like to garden, and some people don’t have access to a plot of land to do so, but how is a community garden different than renting out small parcels of our parks for private use? They are the opposite of “community.” They are a big chunk of our parks that are in effect closed off to the community, accessable only to designated individuals. Given how crowded our parks are, should we be allocating parts of them for private use? It makes no sense to me.


Like this comment
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Sep 2, 2019 at 9:00 pm

^ Tax assessor know about community gardens so he can charge possessory interest?


4 people like this
Posted by Palo Alto Parent
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 4, 2019 at 11:24 am

How is it that you mention playgrounds in Palo Alto, without referncing Magical Bridge Playground inside of MItchell Park, which welcomes over 25k visitors per month?

This is the one playground which welcomes visitors of every age and every ability.


5 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 4, 2019 at 11:28 am

The link in the original article seems to be broken.


8 people like this
Posted by Sprawling??
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 4, 2019 at 11:38 am

The definition of sprawling: spreading out over a large area in an untidy or irregular way.

Is that what is happening in parks? are they spreading out or getting bigger and untidy? Are parks really spreading out, AKA sprawling??

I know it SOUNDS like "Crawling" so "Crawling with visitors" may be what you were going for.

Example of correct usage: A ranch can be sprawling, even with nobody on it.
More people does not change the sprawling nature of the ranch.

Good grief.


4 people like this
Posted by Cynthia G.
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 4, 2019 at 12:41 pm

Palo Alto Parent brings up a curious point about Magical Bridge being ommitted in this article. Any time we get out of town visitors, that's the only park we take them to and they are always completely amazed by it. Most of our other parks are the same designs and not too imaginative.

WEEKLY STAFF: The "survey" link isn't working and I'd be interested in that.


2 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 4, 2019 at 1:46 pm

Posted by Sprawling?? a resident of Adobe-Meadow

>> The definition of sprawling: spreading out over a large area in an untidy or irregular way.

I've seen visitors to Palo Alto parks sprawling, crawling, hopping, jumping, skipping, rolling, and more. And you can too-- just visit the Magical Bridge playground on a weekend. The Magical Bridge is a destination, with many visitors from out of town as well as locals. Works for me.

Earlier I mentioned that Palo Alto needs an indoor swimming pool. I also think more parks should have restrooms, more cinder/decomposed-granite paths, AND-- I forgot to mention earlier, more park benches in the shade. Park benches in the sun can be nice in the winter, but, for summer use -- shade.


2 people like this
Posted by akaMaiNguyen
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Sep 4, 2019 at 1:58 pm

akaMaiNguyen is a registered user.

To CrescentParkAnon

The information about "standard electrical receptacle" you got must be for charging with 110V AC supply.

Level 2 charger uses 220V AC supply (same as our electric oven or washer/dryer uses). This is what we have installed at home for our EVs, and we can fully charge a Nissan Leaf in about three hours with it, or a Tesla (which has longer range because it has larger battery) overnight.

The fastest chargers are DC supplies, and can indeed charge over 100 miles/hour. Tesla supercharger, that is a DC supply charger, fills the Tesla's near empty battery to about 300 miles range in less than hour, the time it takes to have lunch half-way between Palo Alto and Los Angeles.


1 person likes this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 4, 2019 at 2:02 pm

I think the Magical Bridge is a playground, not a park.

A park has space for multiple activities at the same time, from organized sports, ballgames, etc. to pick up frisbee games and tai chi. There should be space to sit on the grass without being bothered by a child kicking a ball nearby or a bike zooming on a short cut home. It is a place for cooking out burgers, or bringing a sack lunch. And yes, a playground is part of a park but not a park on its own.

At least that's my definition of a city park.


Like this comment
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 4, 2019 at 2:42 pm

akaMaiNguyen
Thanks for the information, appreciate it.
It was not strictly my point to describe Tesla chargers,
more to ask how significant is the cost to upgrading Palo
Alto's infrastructure to handle so much new electrical
capacity to charge all these cars.


2 people like this
Posted by Subsidizing the rich
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 4, 2019 at 3:37 pm

The EV reserved spots in parking garages and at the libraries is a scandal. They are mostly empty, taking up valuable parking spaces for ordinary cars, creating a shortage of spaces.

What's the explanation for subsidizing the rich???


4 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Sep 4, 2019 at 6:36 pm

^ Parking spaces for ordinary cars subsidize the oil industry.


3 people like this
Posted by Costs of EV infrastructure
a resident of Palo Verde
on Sep 4, 2019 at 8:01 pm

Costs of EV infrastructure is a registered user.

To put this in context, the IMF says that the US is subsidizing fossil fuels to the tune of $649 billion. Web Link

I think that California pays for much EV infrastructure using cap-and-trade and VW settlement funds.


Like this comment
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 5, 2019 at 8:51 am

Posted by Subsidizing the rich, a resident of Midtown

>> The EV reserved spots in parking garages and at the libraries is a scandal. They are mostly empty, taking up valuable parking spaces for ordinary cars, creating a shortage of spaces.

It is called an "incentive". Acquire an electric car yourself and take advantage of it. Incentives of all kinds, including tax credits and deductions, often benefit the better off, since people who don't pay much in taxes don't generally benefit from incentives.

Most new cars are purchased by the better-off. Those are are not as well off, or, who are thriftier, benefit from the used car market. I'm glad the better off are buying electric cars. It is jump-starting the industry, and, the less-wealthy will be able to buy used electric cars at a depreciated vehicle price.

>> What's the explanation for subsidizing the rich???

If you really want to help the less-wealthy, you should be campaigning to get rid of sales tax, which is very regressive.


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