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Guest Opinion: Now's not the time for full Foothills Park discussion

Hikers walk towards Wild Horse Valley in Foothills Park, the upstream area of Buckeye Creek. Embarcadero Media file photo by Veronica Weber.

I formed two charities 14 years ago: Friends of the Palo Alto Parks, under the assumption that the city would not have enough money for our parks, and Mothers Against Murder (MAM), to assist victims of violent crime and their families.

Roger Smith is the founding CEO of Silicon Valley Bank (now retired) and a board member of nonprofits. Courtesy Roger Smith.

The City Council is facing many major issues that are much more important than opening the Foothills Park preserve to all. Some major issues that the council has never addressed: the large number of auto break-ins that occur daily (it happened to me on July 20) and the increased thefts of catalytic converters from our climate-concerned citizens. In addition, gun violence also exists in our community and in the surrounding communities that have large numbers of Black and Hispanic citizens.

Few residents know of the shooting on Embarcadero Road in our town on June 10. Seven shots were fired at a young Black man at a stoplight. I met personally with the victim, who showed me the bullet holes in his car. Thankfully he was not murdered. Mothers Against Murder has offered a $10,000 reward to solve this outrageous act of violence in our city.

Days later, I attended the Black Lives Matter march and rally at our City Hall. Many presentations were made at the two-hour rally. There was no mention of the violent shooting at a Black man during the many presentations, to my great disappointment. Five speakers did mention opening up the preserve, to applause from the Bay Area crowd.

The front gate at the preserve has not been manned during the last 10 years due to budget cuts. So while there are many numbers expressed regarding usage and rejection of non-residents, the numbers do not have hard data and are pure guesses.

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On Saturday, June 22, from 7:30 to 10 a.m., I conducted a survey at the gate of the cars entering the preserve. My question was, "Should we open up to park to other communities?"

No ranger was there during the time I was there and at least 50 bikers whizzed by the front gate.

A very fit Council member riding his bike, Eric Filseth, stopped to talk to me. He thanked me for doing this and asked about the results of my survey. The final result was 71% to keep the park as it is under the current policy.

The classic response to the survey was from a woman who is a frequent visitor to the preserve: "Don't ask me that question, ask the animals." I would love to be able to ask the animals. Clearly, additional visitors will not add anything to this beautiful one-of-a-kind preserve. There will be more cars, trash, 911 calls, wear and tear, fire danger, staff time and expense. We don't need crowds like Rancho San Antonio (a county preserve).

Why does a decision need to be made now, during these unprecedented times in our nation?

• We are in a severe recession, many of our local businesses are closed.

• The city is under enormous financial strain laying off 60 employees.

• The unfilled position of a head ranger has been frozen.

• Council meetings are now done on Zoom and not in person as we all would prefer.

• The parks and recreation departments have had their budgets slashed and also have closed park facilities. (For over a year, I have replaced — at my expense — damaged or missing Ping-Pong paddles and balls at Lytton Plaza twice a week due to lack of city funds.)

I feel there is much better use of our time, effort and limited money than bringing up this old issue of the preserve opening.

The preserve land was purchased from the Lee family at a favorable price in 1959 with the condition it would be preserved as open space. Our city contacted various of our neighboring cities to join in this expensive, wonderful and unique opportunity. All of the cities said, "Not me." This reminds me of the story of the Little Red Hen.

No other city on the Peninsula offers non-residents 34 parks open to all as Palo Alto does.

Some of these expensive treasures of our community are:

• Arastradero Preserve.

• Mitchell Park.

• Baylands Nature Preserve and Interpretive Center.

• Golf Course.

• Rinconada Park.

• Byxbee Park Preserve.

• Magical Bridge Playground.

These larger parks are used heavily by our neighbors, and most people feel that at any given time over 50% of the visitors would be non-residents. Palo Alto is a very good citizen to all of our neighbors.

This issue of opening Foothills Park has created very high emotions in our community. A recent letter to the council signed by various politicians and citizens states that it is "a crime punishable by jail time for non-residents to enter Foothills Park." In addition, there was a recent opinion column by Geoff Paulsen using the word "lynching." When the council delayed discussion of this issue, the emotions exploded. A commissioner resigned, and retired Judge LaDoris Cordell threatened a lawsuit if immediate action is not taken. This is not the Palo Alto way!

It makes no sense to be discussing this issue during these unusual times, especially when we have no solid data regarding the preserve. We should not allow this controversial issue to sneak into policy during this current explosive social climate, especially in the Zoom environment.

I feel strongly that this issue should be dropped at this time. This would be fair to all of the citizens of Palo Alto who may want to vote on this issue in the future.

As my wife, Judy, says, "The true residents of the preserve are the deer, bobcats, birds, wild turkeys, coyotes and racoons. We are the guests who must tread lightly."

I urge my fellow residents to contact the Council at [email protected] to ask that a fuller discussion of Foothills Park not be held now but after the current crises are over.

Roger Smith is the founding CEO of Silicon Valley Bank (now retired) and a board member of nonprofits. He can be emailed at [email protected].

The Palo Alto Parks and Recreation Commission will discuss the topic of opening Foothills Park to non-Palo Alto residents on Tuesday, July 28, at 7 p.m. See the agenda here.

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Guest Opinion: Now's not the time for full Foothills Park discussion

by / Contributor

Uploaded: Fri, Jul 24, 2020, 6:54 am

I formed two charities 14 years ago: Friends of the Palo Alto Parks, under the assumption that the city would not have enough money for our parks, and Mothers Against Murder (MAM), to assist victims of violent crime and their families.

The City Council is facing many major issues that are much more important than opening the Foothills Park preserve to all. Some major issues that the council has never addressed: the large number of auto break-ins that occur daily (it happened to me on July 20) and the increased thefts of catalytic converters from our climate-concerned citizens. In addition, gun violence also exists in our community and in the surrounding communities that have large numbers of Black and Hispanic citizens.

Few residents know of the shooting on Embarcadero Road in our town on June 10. Seven shots were fired at a young Black man at a stoplight. I met personally with the victim, who showed me the bullet holes in his car. Thankfully he was not murdered. Mothers Against Murder has offered a $10,000 reward to solve this outrageous act of violence in our city.

Days later, I attended the Black Lives Matter march and rally at our City Hall. Many presentations were made at the two-hour rally. There was no mention of the violent shooting at a Black man during the many presentations, to my great disappointment. Five speakers did mention opening up the preserve, to applause from the Bay Area crowd.

The front gate at the preserve has not been manned during the last 10 years due to budget cuts. So while there are many numbers expressed regarding usage and rejection of non-residents, the numbers do not have hard data and are pure guesses.

On Saturday, June 22, from 7:30 to 10 a.m., I conducted a survey at the gate of the cars entering the preserve. My question was, "Should we open up to park to other communities?"

No ranger was there during the time I was there and at least 50 bikers whizzed by the front gate.

A very fit Council member riding his bike, Eric Filseth, stopped to talk to me. He thanked me for doing this and asked about the results of my survey. The final result was 71% to keep the park as it is under the current policy.

The classic response to the survey was from a woman who is a frequent visitor to the preserve: "Don't ask me that question, ask the animals." I would love to be able to ask the animals. Clearly, additional visitors will not add anything to this beautiful one-of-a-kind preserve. There will be more cars, trash, 911 calls, wear and tear, fire danger, staff time and expense. We don't need crowds like Rancho San Antonio (a county preserve).

Why does a decision need to be made now, during these unprecedented times in our nation?

• We are in a severe recession, many of our local businesses are closed.

• The city is under enormous financial strain laying off 60 employees.

• The unfilled position of a head ranger has been frozen.

• Council meetings are now done on Zoom and not in person as we all would prefer.

• The parks and recreation departments have had their budgets slashed and also have closed park facilities. (For over a year, I have replaced — at my expense — damaged or missing Ping-Pong paddles and balls at Lytton Plaza twice a week due to lack of city funds.)

I feel there is much better use of our time, effort and limited money than bringing up this old issue of the preserve opening.

The preserve land was purchased from the Lee family at a favorable price in 1959 with the condition it would be preserved as open space. Our city contacted various of our neighboring cities to join in this expensive, wonderful and unique opportunity. All of the cities said, "Not me." This reminds me of the story of the Little Red Hen.

No other city on the Peninsula offers non-residents 34 parks open to all as Palo Alto does.

Some of these expensive treasures of our community are:

• Arastradero Preserve.

• Mitchell Park.

• Baylands Nature Preserve and Interpretive Center.

• Golf Course.

• Rinconada Park.

• Byxbee Park Preserve.

• Magical Bridge Playground.

These larger parks are used heavily by our neighbors, and most people feel that at any given time over 50% of the visitors would be non-residents. Palo Alto is a very good citizen to all of our neighbors.

This issue of opening Foothills Park has created very high emotions in our community. A recent letter to the council signed by various politicians and citizens states that it is "a crime punishable by jail time for non-residents to enter Foothills Park." In addition, there was a recent opinion column by Geoff Paulsen using the word "lynching." When the council delayed discussion of this issue, the emotions exploded. A commissioner resigned, and retired Judge LaDoris Cordell threatened a lawsuit if immediate action is not taken. This is not the Palo Alto way!

It makes no sense to be discussing this issue during these unusual times, especially when we have no solid data regarding the preserve. We should not allow this controversial issue to sneak into policy during this current explosive social climate, especially in the Zoom environment.

I feel strongly that this issue should be dropped at this time. This would be fair to all of the citizens of Palo Alto who may want to vote on this issue in the future.

As my wife, Judy, says, "The true residents of the preserve are the deer, bobcats, birds, wild turkeys, coyotes and racoons. We are the guests who must tread lightly."

I urge my fellow residents to contact the Council at [email protected] to ask that a fuller discussion of Foothills Park not be held now but after the current crises are over.

Roger Smith is the founding CEO of Silicon Valley Bank (now retired) and a board member of nonprofits. He can be emailed at [email protected].

The Palo Alto Parks and Recreation Commission will discuss the topic of opening Foothills Park to non-Palo Alto residents on Tuesday, July 28, at 7 p.m. See the agenda here.

Comments

Well Said
Crescent Park
on Jul 24, 2020 at 6:58 am
Well Said, Crescent Park
on Jul 24, 2020 at 6:58 am
60 people like this

Excellent points.

It's always good to remember that people from all cities can walk and bike into Foothills Park every day of the week and can drive in and park on weekdays. The restriction on weekend parking was never to exclude people by race - rather, it was to benefit those who taxed themselves to purchase the park versus the wealthier (!!!) nearby communities that opted not to pay.

It's vital that we address racial and economic injustice within our city and throughout the nation. The Foothills Park weekend parking lot issue is so tiny and irrelevant by comparison that we mustn't allow it to distract us from the real efforts needed.


Resident
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 24, 2020 at 7:03 am
Resident, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 24, 2020 at 7:03 am
42 people like this

As a frequent visitor to the Preserve, I notice that it is being used much more now than say this time last year. I find that by 9.00 am on a Saturday morning, 95% of the official parking spots are filled and many cars are parking on the grass, as an indicator of just how much it is being used. I do not think that it is under-utilized and since nobody is at the gate until mid morning at weekends, I don't see how they know the number of visitors.

Thank you for counting the numbers, that is interesting.

However, one thing I do bring up because I think it is important to add this to your excellent opinion piece and that is the safety question. If a fire or other type of emergency were to break out in the park or in the nearby hills, it would be almost impossible to alert visitors since there is not good cell reception in the hills. Additionally, with one very windy road with steep hills and hundreds of bikes trying to leave the area in an emergency and with emergency vehicles trying to come up the hill, the results would be catastrophic.

Page Mill Road cannot handle more vehicles than it does at present on a busy weekend. From the point of view of the residents of the area alone, we cannot make that road more dangerous by adding more vehicles to it.

You have made excellent points in the opinion piece, thank you for doing that. My additional points I feel are just as important considerations.


anon
Evergreen Park
on Jul 24, 2020 at 8:08 am
anon, Evergreen Park
on Jul 24, 2020 at 8:08 am
34 people like this

What a nice opinion piece, no name calling or hyperbole; makes sense to me.

Surely the potential increased risk of fire and reduced ability to fight it and resulting impact in the flora and fauna of the park (a designated conservation area) must be evaluated accurately before jumping to any decision. (Not to mention nearby homes and structures)
Is the plan consultant with other city documents ?
The city council at the behest of city manager Shikada cut the fire department down to the bone as part of the grueling budget process this year.
is the actual cost of opening the park up in every sense going to be evaluated before a decision is made or are we going to plow ahead regardless of the potential effects ?
As the first poster above points out this could be a minuscule step in the right direction to fight racism and a giant leap in the wrong direction in conservation of
the natural world.



Strict Regulation
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 24, 2020 at 8:10 am
Strict Regulation, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 24, 2020 at 8:10 am
44 people like this

Do no harm to this Open Space Preserve.
The current limits for maximum daily use of 1000 people with limited parking must remain. Both limits are vital to keeping it a low key ecological preserve which has few amenities and one part time range. It’s a preserve and can’t become a country version of a crowded city park overflowing with loud energy.

The stinger is that though these limits are vital to preserve Foothill’s ecology and essence which is the highest priority, it means if access is opened to all, at times Palo Altans will be turned away from Foothill. Our one Open Space/Park that we ourselves cannot use. This is why we have the word irony.



Anon
Evergreen Park
on Jul 24, 2020 at 8:21 am
Anon, Evergreen Park
on Jul 24, 2020 at 8:21 am
5 people like this

BTW
Here is a link the the parks/rec commission agenda for next Tuesday’s meeting:

Web Link

Note there is a panel discussion under “business “ scheduled.
I could not find any mention of the panelists (unless it is the commissioners?)
or staff report associated with the item... maybe it will be posted later today?
Hasn’t the commission already voted on the matter? What is the purpose of the panel ???


Mark Weiss
Downtown North
on Jul 24, 2020 at 8:46 am
Mark Weiss, Downtown North
on Jul 24, 2020 at 8:46 am
Like this comment

Actually Roger since you and your cohorts are the ones who changed Lytton Plaza to your specification which arguably was anti-first amendment anti-free-speech You should be leading the charge to make up for the additional costs of opening foothills park


Mark Weiss
Downtown North
on Jul 24, 2020 at 8:49 am
Mark Weiss, Downtown North
on Jul 24, 2020 at 8:49 am
Like this comment

[Post removed.]


Mark Weiss
Downtown North
on Jul 24, 2020 at 8:51 am
Mark Weiss, Downtown North
on Jul 24, 2020 at 8:51 am
Like this comment

[Post removed.]


Anon
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 24, 2020 at 8:56 am
Anon, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 24, 2020 at 8:56 am
20 people like this

>> It’s a preserve and can’t become a country version of a crowded city park overflowing with loud energy.

This is a key point which the "open it up" folks apparently are unwilling to take seriously. FHP was never intended to be that kind of "park". We already have and use Rinconada and Mitchell parks for that, and, share the space and noise with people from all over. In normal times, the activity, noise, and energy level at those parks is very high.

Seriously, if the park can't be maintained as a *quiet* city resource, let's sell it to MidPen for use as an Open Space preserve. FHP hasn't been a budget priority ever for the pro-development majority we have now on PACC. Let's let MidPen downscale it, remove the barbecues (fire season starts too early now anyway), and keep it as a quiet preserve.


tom kearns
Charleston Meadows
on Jul 24, 2020 at 10:35 am
tom kearns, Charleston Meadows
on Jul 24, 2020 at 10:35 am
11 people like this

I was at the park this morning. Not crowded at all. If no one is
being turned away (no guard at gate), why is this even an issue.
People with way too much time on their hands trying to fix a problem that doesn't appear to exist.


Jim H
Community Center
on Jul 24, 2020 at 10:59 am
Jim H, Community Center
on Jul 24, 2020 at 10:59 am
39 people like this

I agree with the opinion piece. I particularly liked that it pointed out the great parks that we share with our neighbors. The park is open to anyone coming by bike. This is just another distraction issue. We have so many problems to solve in Palo Alto. This is not an issue and should not consume Palo Alto employee or council time.


ablt
Crescent Park
on Jul 24, 2020 at 11:14 am
ablt, Crescent Park
on Jul 24, 2020 at 11:14 am
30 people like this

Roger, thank you for this terrific opinion piece. You are an informed user of the park, as well as other available open space places in Palo Alto. This is not an issue for now, but can be decided by voters at another time. We have much more important budget necessities at this time.

Also, has there been mention of the current bathroom situation. It is in need of some maintenance and if we open up the park to greater numbers it needs to be enlarged. Money we do not have right now.


Robby M
Los Altos Hills
on Jul 24, 2020 at 12:07 pm
Robby M, Los Altos Hills
on Jul 24, 2020 at 12:07 pm
15 people like this

I grew up in LAH. Before I could drive, we would walk or bike to FHP and sneak in. It was part of that "greater backyard" we enjoyed as kids - within biking distance but not too far that we couldn't get home before dark. Criminalizing access to the park to the surrounding neighborhoods is very unneighborly.

Palo Alto is the heart of Silicon Valley. People from all over the world dream of coming here to start a business and change the world for the better. For such a progressive city with so much education and leadership, it's disappointing to see the selfishness and elitism that surfaces when this discussion continues to come up.

What a shame it would be if more municipalities followed Palo Alto's lead. Imagine if access to our coastlines or other treasures like state parks and forests was criminalized. Imagine if one couldn't visit the Grand Canyon if they weren't a resident of Arizona...


Dan
Old Palo Alto
on Jul 24, 2020 at 12:15 pm
Dan , Old Palo Alto
on Jul 24, 2020 at 12:15 pm
26 people like this

I'm a frequent user of the preserve and the last thing that I want to happen is that it's use ends up being a political sacrifice, with the residents of Palo Alto being the ones who suffer. Like Roger says, we have many, many open spaces in our city that are open, and used by all. This is a Preserve, not a park. And listening to people who say that we are racist because we want to conserve the environment of property that we bought is just ludicrous. Table the discussion and have the citizens of the city vote on it.


Michelle
Professorville
on Jul 24, 2020 at 12:21 pm
Michelle, Professorville
on Jul 24, 2020 at 12:21 pm
18 people like this

“In addition, gun violence also exists in our community and in the surrounding communities that have large numbers of Black and Hispanic citizens.”
Why was the above and other references to crime a relevant point to make in an opinion piece on opening up the park? Are you implying the park will become dangerous if more residents from neighboring communities are officially allowed to enjoy the park? I hope not.
Why not discuss the historical legacy of redlining that excluded Black residents from buying homes in Palo Alto? That would be far more relevant to this discussion and is why desegregation is an appropriate framework to discuss this issue. Read The Color of Law for a more thorough understanding of this history.
Finally, the BLM rallies are focused on racist policing. There are other rallies and movements laser focused on gun control laws - these movements are supported by many who are also supportive of BLM.
You wish you could ask the animals. That’s nice but why not also spend some time thinking about why Black residents of Palo Alto, including Judge La Doris Cordell, consider this an issue of great importance.


Margaret Petros
Los Altos
on Jul 24, 2020 at 1:17 pm
Margaret Petros, Los Altos
on Jul 24, 2020 at 1:17 pm
12 people like this

Roger, always rolling up your sleeves to do right by all people and by your community. It's nice to have an intelligent and sensible opinion shared for all to rationally think about, instead of a threat of a lawsuit! Suing the city for what? For carrying out their fiduciary responsibilities to their tax-payers, the Palo Altans? Here, in Los Altos, we have plenty of majestic nature space to enjoy on our own tax-payers' dime.


CrescentParkAnon.
Crescent Park
on Jul 24, 2020 at 3:13 pm
CrescentParkAnon., Crescent Park
on Jul 24, 2020 at 3:13 pm
19 people like this

Thank you.
I agree, table this pointless non-issue, or better yet drop it altogether. If we need to go through all the reasons and all the history to drop it, then so be it, but better yet report on the who, what and why of this issue being given time and a certain urgency if not priority.


Public Good
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 24, 2020 at 4:23 pm
Public Good, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 24, 2020 at 4:23 pm
22 people like this

@Robby M,
"What a shame it would be if more municipalities followed Palo Alto's lead. Imagine if access to our coastlines or other treasures like state parks and forests was criminalized. Imagine if one couldn't visit the Grand Canyon if they weren't a resident of Arizona...

Palo Altans taxed themselves for a really long time to pay for this park purchase, which would have been a lot easier if their "neighbors" had joined in. Your message seems devoid of any gratitude for what you enjoyed as a child by taking advantage of what these citizens did, and full of condemnation. I'm sure if Los Altos Hills were to effectively split the cost in today's dollars, that its residents could be included.

As for your being holier than thou, I use the COUNTY library on Arastradero, which Los Altos proceeded to charge a hefty $80/year for per non-Los Altos patron after voting a bond to improve it, even though as a taxpayer in the county, I help subsidize the lending assets of that library, and the library was the source of a huge philanthropic donation (which ultimately led to the fee being ended, but not immediately).

If anything, charging a fee that stiff for library usage was a lot more unneighborly and, frankly, de facto racist.

Grand Canyon is a poor example as it is federal land that we all pay for, and Arizona benefits economically from the tourism. According to NPS, "A new National Park Service (NPS) report shows that the 6.3 million visitors to Grand Canyon National Park in 2018 spent $947 million in communities near the park. That spending supported 12,558 jobs in the local area and had a cumulative benefit to the local economy of $1.2 billion."

A lot of visitors to Foothill Park, on the other hand, only cost residents more money, and it's not likely to improve equity to open to nearby tony (white) Los Altos Hills and Woodside, two rich communities who didn't want to pay to buy and maintain the park. Again, speaking of unneighborly.


Public Good
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 24, 2020 at 4:48 pm
Public Good, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 24, 2020 at 4:48 pm
13 people like this

@Robby M,
"Imagine if access to our coastlines or other treasures like state parks and forests was criminalized."

Access to many of our federal treasures ARE effectively “criminalized", in that in so many aspects of our lives where there is federal jurisdiction, there is a void of clear rules, especially rules by which citizens can defend themselves if accused falsely. If someone is detained in many federal jurisdictions, like national parks, the government might assimilate a state code to charge people (they gave themselves permission to do that legally), but because what they are doing is ad hoc anyway, they typically will not allow use of the state code to defend against a false charge. There are next to zero lawyers who practice this kind of law, and so it's not a stretch to connect this circumstance with the low usage of the national parks by citizens of color.

Not that that's the worst problem related to this void of federal regulations (especially rights) where there is federal jurisdiction. It has resulted in a large percentage of the population, including many employer-based insured, federal employees, and Medicare patients, being unable to enforce their insurance contracts and ineligible to seek protection under well-developed state insurance codes or consumer medical protection agencies because of the federal jurisdiction (and lack of rules). Where there is an utter void of federal rules, including something as simple as traffic rules on federal bases and national parks, in contrast to what the 10th Amendment promises, the rights DON’T automatically go to the states or individuals.

Protestors detained in Portland who are detained on city streets may have a way to defend themselves, but if they are detained on federal property, good luck, there is nothing to protect them short of a federal case.

It's no accident that when the GOP wanted to criminalize black citizens/voters in the ‘80s, they first arrested/imprisoned a lot of black citizens under FEDERAL statutes. According to the ACLU "October 2, 2007 "The most recent government statistics available show that in 2005, African Americans constituted more than 80 percent of those sentenced to federal prison for crack cocaine offenses, even though two-thirds of crack cocaine users are white or Hispanic.” How could that happen? It’s not only racism in arrests. Where there is federal jurisdiction, people’s ability to defend themselves using the law almost doesn’t exist, because all the protections and protection institutions exist at the state level, and the feds assimilate the criminal codes to charge people without allow people to consider the rights in those codes as also being assimilated. The code of federal regulations has nothing at all like the kinds of well-developed rules, rights and protections in so many areas of our lives as states do.

So, actually, yes, our coastlines and federal treasures at least ARE effectively criminalized.


Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 24, 2020 at 7:41 pm
Resident 1-Adobe Meadows, Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 24, 2020 at 7:41 pm
9 people like this

Good POV - I agree. As we go through the summer we will have to close that park due to fire danger. We do not have the budget to support a full time fire crew in that area. Thank you - lots of valid points.


rsmithjr
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 24, 2020 at 10:25 pm
rsmithjr, Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 24, 2020 at 10:25 pm
Like this comment

When I moved here over 50 years ago, my friends and I occasionally went to Foothill Park. We used a system of ferrying people in not unlike the missionary-and-cannibals problem.

Mostly, I went to parks in other areas, such as Golden Gate Park in SF, Huddart Park in San Mateo County, etc. in any event.

It is noteworthy that those other parks don't reject me because I don't live in their areas, but those of us here in Palo Alto don't seem to want to share and share alike.

I don't much care. I can still go back to missionaries-and-cannibals.

Agreed that this and all non-critical-now issues should be deferred until some sanity can return.


CrescentParkAnon.
Crescent Park
on Jul 25, 2020 at 2:47 am
CrescentParkAnon., Crescent Park
on Jul 25, 2020 at 2:47 am
7 people like this

> "What a shame it would be if more municipalities followed Palo Alto's lead.
> Imagine if access to our coastlines or other treasures like state parks and
> forests was criminalized.

Have you ever been to a state park or beach? Or you cheated the state and
just didn't pay the admission?

What a shame that you either do not understand what is going on her or that
you need to blatantly distort the truth so dishonestly, but that seems to be the
way of the troll.

Seriously, you need too be called out for what you are doing that is not helpful
to public discussion and making obviously twisted and broken analogies equating
the state's management of public spaces to this issue in Palo Alto is malicious to
the process of public discussion. Focus!

Posts like yours seem to be about toxifying the whole idea of democracy to serve
some hidden undemocratic agenda. I sure hope your conscience gnaws at you
and you try be more in line with reality in future comments.


Concerned About Palo Alto
Downtown North
on Jul 25, 2020 at 6:58 am
Concerned About Palo Alto, Downtown North
on Jul 25, 2020 at 6:58 am
9 people like this

I can't say how deeply disappointed I am in Mr. Smith. This boils down to "nature and public parks are for me and not for thee."

Our community is better than this level of selfishness.


senor blogger
Palo Verde
on Jul 25, 2020 at 8:15 am
senor blogger, Palo Verde
on Jul 25, 2020 at 8:15 am
10 people like this

What a terrific opinion piece. Let's leave things as they are with the park. And forget the frivolous threats of a law suit. (from a retired judge of all things).


Robby M
Los Altos Hills
on Jul 25, 2020 at 11:33 am
Robby M, Los Altos Hills
on Jul 25, 2020 at 11:33 am
6 people like this

"What a shame that you either do not understand what is going on her or that
you need to blatantly distort the truth so dishonestly, but that seems to be the
way of the troll."

Trolls tend to hide behind anonymous handles as clearly evidenced by these personal attacks on me for stating my opinion.

The history behind why FHP is private and other natural spaces are public happened long before I was born. I was simply trying to express how grateful I am that Palo Alto's approach to criminalizing access to parks and preserves is not more common.

This "we paid for it" attitude is silly. My grandparents raised one of my parents in Palo Alto during the period when the land became a park. Does it make any sense that someone who moved to Palo Alto last week has access but not someone who's tax dollars directly contributed to the acquisition and maintenance of the park? Of course not.

Open the park to the public and charge a non-resident parking fee. Stop being selfish by refusing others to access. Stop being elitist by suggesting the animals in the park don't want residents from other towns visiting. Or that only the gentle shepherds of Palo Alto can be trusted to maintain the land.

To the commenter mentioning the library: The Los Altos Library has always been open to the public just like all of our parks and open spaces. Even if your comment was accurate, I would remind you two wrongs don't make a right.


Public Good
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 25, 2020 at 12:26 pm
Public Good, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 25, 2020 at 12:26 pm
7 people like this

@Robby M
You can put your money where your mouth is. I am quite sure if neighboring communities like Los Altos Hills came through with cost sharing in todays dollars for their share of purchase and upkeep, that you could open access.

If two wrongs dont make a right, and you think the “we paid for it” argument is sillIy, then I expect Los Altos will make its schools open to everyone soon? At least to students in East Palo Alto as PAUSD does? Your arguments would be stronger without the hypocrisy. The $80/person/year was something I paid, but not before all my reserved materials were dumped and I had to wait up to six months for some of them again. Again, Los Altans did that because of their library bond, even though it’s a county library. As has been noted, PaloAlto has numerous parks that are available to everyone at no charge, and yet somehow this one that mainly Los Altos Hills has access to, is a problem for you. You know you could get your town to pay its share in todays dollars, have you troed approaching your own town to do that first? I’m not making a baseless charge to point out your hypocrisy. Rich Los Altos Hills residents are just trying to get a freebie at their less rich neighbors’ expense.


Public Good
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 25, 2020 at 12:38 pm
Public Good, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 25, 2020 at 12:38 pm
5 people like this

That is a good point. If people dont want to shelve this now, perhaps the city could come up with a good cost-sharing proposal for any communities around us that want to open things up, including the purchase in today’s dollars and any improvements, plus an upkeep cost-sharing proposal. For equity, everyone should shoulder the costs to include EPA. It will either settle this and provide a much-needed financial resource or it will shut up the hypocrites trying to exploit a social justice issue to leverage something unrelated that they turned down because they didnt want to pay for it. Let’s see how vociferous Robbie M is in asking his neighbors to pay their fair share for this.


Resident
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 25, 2020 at 12:58 pm
Resident, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 25, 2020 at 12:58 pm
6 people like this

This morning in the park there was a traffic jam inside as people who wanted to park waited for other cars to leave and so many cars parking parallel that two cars could not pass on the roads. This was inside the park.

I saw trash, including fast food wrappers that I have not seen there before.

Now I have no objection to who uses the park, but it seems like this morning there were more problems with the numbers of visitors than I have seen before.

At what stage does the park become full? If there are only 1000 cars who counts before the ranger gets to the gate? Who goes around picking up the trash on the trails? Even the bathrooms were well used judging by toilet paper left after users had used it to open the doors without touching the handles.

It is getting hard to see any wildlife or even hear the birds due to the loud voices all over the trails. Many people are making it difficult to take a picture of nature as they do not appear to be aware of nature all around them, or that someone is pointing a camera.

If there is supposed to be a cap on the number of visitors, then why is that not being observed? All the recent publicity plus the fact that there is now so little that bored housebound people can do during the pandemic means that a lovely serene nature reserve is as busy as a top tourist attraction. I am half expecting to see food trucks arrive! (sarcasm)


Public Good
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 25, 2020 at 3:01 pm
Public Good, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 25, 2020 at 3:01 pm
6 people like this

There was some land added later, and I can't remember how much that cost, but I'm guessing the cost of purchasing it in today's dollars, including the added land, the extra cost of financing it, the cost of amenities, etc, are going to be under $30million (maybe well under). It costs about $50,000/year to fill the lake, plus other costs. Let's assume with staff for the programs, upkeep, etc, overhead, we're talking $750,000/year?

So, what do you think Los Altos Hills? If you can get just one more community join, it will seem like a bargain.

I say we offer it to the complainers to help purchase it now, and if they join in, we open it.


Public Good
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 25, 2020 at 3:02 pm
Public Good, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 25, 2020 at 3:02 pm
10 people like this

Hmmm... I wonder if the publicity surrounding Los Altos Hills residents calling for it to be open will increase fire danger for LAH through the overuse. That would be ironic.


merry
Palo Alto Hills
on Jul 25, 2020 at 7:15 pm
merry, Palo Alto Hills
on Jul 25, 2020 at 7:15 pm
13 people like this

Why is this about race? If u live in PA u r good to go.
If not, make a friend and be a guest.
This is not complicated .


Public Good
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 25, 2020 at 7:50 pm
Public Good, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 25, 2020 at 7:50 pm
9 people like this

@merry,
There is a legitimate argument to be made that redlining has affected how many people of color live in Palo Alto. However, the people who are making the argument are mainly the rich more white people of Los Altos Hills who declined to pay for the park when they had the chance and they understood the implications of that -- they didn't care. So if they want access now, or to open access, they should ask Palo Alto and agree to split the costs in todays dollars, not be monumental hypocrites and use social justice arguments to get access for themselves for free, when all they would be doing would be discouraging use of the park by people of color by making it richer and whiter.


Hmmm
East Palo Alto
on Jul 25, 2020 at 8:07 pm
Hmmm, East Palo Alto
on Jul 25, 2020 at 8:07 pm
15 people like this

As an East Palo Alto resident and Palo Alto native I agree this isn’t the right time for the discussion. I don’t miss access to the park and have always been aware of its history. It was never about denying access to low income and/or POC; it was always about keeping out all the riff raff who said no thanks to sharing the costs with Palo Alto.


Jennifer Wu
Charleston Meadows
on Jul 25, 2020 at 10:21 pm
Jennifer Wu, Charleston Meadows
on Jul 25, 2020 at 10:21 pm
8 people like this

Not just now. Ever. There is simply no reason why this park should ever be opened to non-residents.


CrescentParkAnon.
Crescent Park
on Jul 26, 2020 at 1:10 am
CrescentParkAnon., Crescent Park
on Jul 26, 2020 at 1:10 am
4 people like this

Public Good
> it will shut up the hypocrites trying to exploit a social justice issue to leverage something unrelated that they turned down because they didnt want to pay for it.

Public Good, I like that comment, because I think you hit on the latest excuse for whoever it is to try to make this THE issue with the park and ignore all the other components.

One might think doesn't this at some point, when the park is paid for, a civilized society let bygones be bygones. After a generation, two, three ... five? I say this because I don't think the issue is wholly about money and who paid for the park.

After all there are a lot of non-Palo Altans who had no say in what their cities might have done about this decision.

There are Palo Altans who did not pay a penny except in some esoterically indirect way perhaps in the cost of their houses or rents.

I think this is mostly about keeping the traffic down and limited to people who feel a sense of care and ownership of Foothills Park.

The reason people feel they can roll out these guilt-tripping strategies is that it seems this is an unusual arrangement that is not copied anywhere else locally and seems off to people who don't give it much thought.

The major problem, if there is even a problem, is in the history of the park and taking care of it in a way a lot of other places are not taken care of.


resident 2
Barron Park
on Jul 26, 2020 at 11:58 am
resident 2 , Barron Park
on Jul 26, 2020 at 11:58 am
8 people like this

I agree with Resident, it is getting crowded since the pandemic. I never go much anymore, the park is mostly ruined...and it's not even opened up yet. Cars, crowds, picnics its awful. Even had a drone flying around (fire hazard and just plain annoying and ugly) called ranger he never showed up. I think they are mostly staying out of site for their own protection from covid.

It was such a nice and quiet place....Oh an by the way to the, "open it up cuz its racists if you don't" crowd, many if not most of the people I see there now are not white...are you happy now?

But anyway covid ruined the park, it's just like any other open space in the bay area...CROWDED.


Harry
Charleston Meadows
on Jul 27, 2020 at 11:24 am
Harry, Charleston Meadows
on Jul 27, 2020 at 11:24 am
6 people like this

Frankly it would be a bad time to open Foothills Park to the public due to the covid-19 epidemic. Palo Alto have very few cases and very few deaths and exposing Palo Alto citizens to the masses could create a severe health issue for Palo Alto residents.


Resident
Midtown
on Jul 27, 2020 at 8:05 pm
Resident, Midtown
on Jul 27, 2020 at 8:05 pm
10 people like this

There is an interesting article in todays Daily Post written by editor Dave Price.
He submitted a public records act, and not one person was arrested or given a ticket in violation with the ban at FHP in a two year period ending 12-31-19.

P.S. It is todays print, not on line.


Cal Ave resident
College Terrace
on Jul 30, 2020 at 6:02 pm
Cal Ave resident, College Terrace
on Jul 30, 2020 at 6:02 pm
Like this comment

Open the park to everyone. Close the park to cars. Create a safe, car free bike route from downtown.

The problem isn’t access for people. It’s assuming that everything should be accessible by car all the time, for free. If you do keep access for cars, charge for it. Make the bike option better and cheaper.

The problem isn’t the park, it’s your fixation on driving and parking.


Seeking Fairness
University South
on Jul 31, 2020 at 1:27 pm
Seeking Fairness, University South
on Jul 31, 2020 at 1:27 pm
Like this comment

Roger Smith and fellow Palo Altan elitists:

Keep your park to yourselves, but in fairness to the rest of the County, I hope you are not hypocritical enough to feel like you or your family can come out of your bubble into neighboring cities to shop, dine, visit medical professionals, attend entertainment/sporting events, work, seek county/state services, etc.

You are clogging up our roadways and using up our valuable, limited resources.


Grandma Afraid of Palo Altan Elitist Virus
another community
on Jul 31, 2020 at 5:52 pm
Grandma Afraid of Palo Altan Elitist Virus , another community
on Jul 31, 2020 at 5:52 pm
Like this comment

Harry:
You express concern that exposing “Palo Alto citizens to the masses (at your park) could create a severe health issue for Palo Alto residents.”

Do you think for one moment that the minimum wage Essential Workers who have been cleaning and renovating your homes, mowing your lawns, serving you your outdoor dining meal, delivering your Door Dash meals, or delivering your Amazon orders during this pandemic are Palo Alto residents? I think not. Shame on you.


Anon
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 31, 2020 at 5:56 pm
Anon, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 31, 2020 at 5:56 pm
Like this comment

Posted by Cal Ave resident, a resident of College Terrace

>> Open the park to everyone. Close the park to cars. Create a safe, car free bike route from downtown.

I agree with you that cars are a large part (but not all of) the issue. But, what route do you have in mind? Can you lay it out for us? Is there a viable path that doesn't require, say, shutting down Page Mill Road to auto traffic? I would love a good bike route up there that doesn't require riding up Page Mill, but, I don't expect to see it any time soon.


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