News

Palo Alto moves to expand access to 'residents-only' Foothills Park

City Council supports pilot program that would allow nonresidents to buy passes to preserve; looks to send issue to the voters in 2022

The Palo Alto City Council voted on Aug. 3 to move ahead with a pilot program that would allow a limited number of non-residents to visit Foothills Park. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

Palo Alto's prolonged and highly polarizing debate over whether nonresidents should be allowed to visit Foothills Park moved toward compromise on Monday night, when the City Council agreed to expand access to the city's exclusive natural preserve.

The council voted 5-2, with Mayor Adrian Fine and Alison Cormack dissenting, to approve a pilot program that the Parks and Recreation Commission crafted last year, which will allow the city to sell up to 50 permits per day to nonresidents wishing to visit the 1,400-acre preserve off Page Mill Road. In doing so, however, the council also indicated that it wants to send the highly contentious issue to the voters in 2022 and directed staff to make the program "revenue neutral."

With its vote, the council took a small step toward amending a divisive policy that has been in place for half a century and that prior councils have tried and failed to change time and time again. Much like in the past, the council found itself in the midst of an argument between those who claimed that the existing "residents-only" restriction is exclusionary, elitist and embarrassing and those who maintained that allowing more visitors would diminish Foothills Park's pristine setting, imperil wildlife and require costly maintenance.

On Monday, the vast majority of the public speakers belonged to the former camp. Some argued that the residency requirement is deeply discriminatory at best, downright racist at worst. Bruce Reyes-Chow, pastor of First Presbyterian Church, said that when he was preparing to move from San Francisco to Palo Alto, his friends told him "Oh, Foothills is yours now." They did not mean it as a compliment, he said.

The way in which the city engages in "racist, exclusive behavior is symbolic in the park," Reyes-Chow said.

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Claire Elliott, a Ventura resident and ecologist with the nonprofit group Grassroots Ecology, noted that she often enjoys the parks and nature preserves at other cities, including Shoreline Park in Mountain View and the Redwood Grove Nature Preserve in Los Altos. But when people from those cities come to work with Grassroots Ecology, many go away dismayed that they cannot visit Foothills Park unless accompanied by a resident.

Nonresidents already have some options for entering Foothills Park by walking in from Arastradero Preserve or by visiting on a weekday, when the requirement is not enforced. Even so, the city has been turning away more than 3,100 vehicles per year from the park, according to Daren Anderson, assistant director for open space, parks, golf and animal services in the Community Services Department.

Numerous speakers pointed to Palo Alto's history of redlining, which kept many Black families from buying homes in Palo Alto. Given this history, the residents-only policy only prolongs the legacy of discrimination, they argued.

Canoes sare tied to a dock at Boronda Lake at Foothills Park on June 26, 2013. Embarcadero Media file photo by Veronica Weber.

Others framed expanding access as simply an act of being good neighbors. Rohin Ghosh, a Palo Alto High student, said he often volunteers at Foothills Park. For his Eagle Scout project, he helped build a set of stairs by Boronda Lake, Ghosh told the council.

"The fact that some of the people who volunteered to help on my project, in the hot sun, digging into the hillside so that Palo Alto residents can use that trail, cannot themselves access that park is beyond me," Ghosh said.

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Those favoring the current policy argued that the policy has nothing to do with racial justice and everything to do with preserving sensitive natural habitat in the 1,400-acre open space preserve. Foothills Park is not really a park, said Mark Nadim, who lives close to Foothills Park in the Palo Alto Hills neighborhood. It's a "very delicate ecological system that is environmentally sensitive." The more people trample on grasses and vegetation, Nadim said, the longer it takes for grasses and vegetation to recover.

"To frame this issue as racism, segregation or social injustice is an insult to every resident of Palo Alto," Nadim said. "This is one of the most progressive cities in the country, so let's not pay attention to words that are meant to intimidate you into opening the park to nonresidents."

Carlin Otto, a resident of the Charleston-Meadows neighborhood, told the council that many of her neighbors strongly oppose expanding access to the park. She said 33 of her neighbors had signed petitions saying they don't want to open Foothills Park to the general public. If the council wishes to change the policy, she added, it should do so through a vote of residents.

"I'd sincerely hope that you do not intend or wish to force this down our throats," Otto told the council. "Remember, we the residents of Palo Alto are the owners of Foothills Park — not you. Your job is to manage this resource according to our wishes."

Fine and Cormack favored moving ahead with the pilot program with no strings attached. Both argued that expanding access is the "right thing to do" and lauded the Parks and Recreation Commission for crafting the pilot program.

"It isn't going make it any less special if we share it," Cormack said of Foothills Park. "I firmly believe, having sat through all of the meetings and going through the details of the pilot program, that there is room. We turn people away and there is room for us to share it."

Fine chafed at the idea of sending the issue to a vote and predicted that the measure would not pass.

"You don't put civil rights to a vote," Fine said. "It's something significant here, where we are literally discriminating against nonresidents because they're not wealthy enough to live in Palo Alto and we're not allowing them access to open space."

Others were less sanguine about welcoming more visitors to a park that everyone acknowledged was "special." Councilwoman Lydia Kou cited fire danger, budget challenges and uncertainty over environmental impacts as reasons for proceeding cautiously on opening access. She advocated for preserving the status quo until 2022 and then letting local voters decide.

Councilman Greg Tanaka focused on the city's budget challenges and hinged his support for the pilot on assurances that the program would be "revenue neutral."

A 2019 memo from the Parks and Recreation Commission detailing the pilot program stated that staff estimated it would cost $89,000 per year. According to Anderson, the city would need to hire a ranger to ensure proper maintenance under the pilot program (the park's vacant supervising ranger position is currently frozen due to budget cuts).

Both ultimately agreed to support the pilot program as part of a compromise proposed by Councilwoman Liz Kniss, which called for the pilot program in the short term and the people's vote in the longer term.

While Kou's motion called for settling the issue in an election, the directive is non-binding and it will ultimately be up to the City Council in 2022 to determine whether such a vote will be held.

Even with these uncertainties, the Monday vote represents a long-awaited breakthrough in a debate that has repeatedly resurfaced in the community over more than half a century. Palo Alto purchased Foothills Park from the family of Russel V. Lee in 1959 at a cost of $1,000 per acre. At the time, it asked two neighboring cities, Los Altos and Los Altos Hills to contribute to the purchase. Both declined.

After opening the park to the public in 1965, Palo Alto instituted the residents-only requirement four years later.

According to a report from the Community Services Department, the city unanimously reaffirmed the restriction in 1973, pointing out that the park's acquisition was "paid for out of the City's general fund, and no federal funds were used." Since then, the issue of expanding access to nonresidents has bubbled up every few years, only to falter under political opposition.

Calls for opening up the park have grown louder in recent months, with both the Parks and Recreation Commission and the Human Relations Commission voting to expand access to nonresidents. To mitigate concerns, the Parks and Recreation Commission suggested a pilot program that would limit the number of daily passes issued to nonresidents to 50 (on traditionally busy days and weekends, the city would issue fewer passes). Nonresidents would also be charged $6.

Social justice advocates, including the Rev. Kaloma Smith, who chairs the city's Human Relations Commission, and former council member LaDoris Cordell were among the more than 100 residents, community leaders and elected officials who signed a letter in June calling for the council to abolish the residents-only requirement. Since then, groups of students have staged numerous demonstrations near the park, at one point spelling out the word "Desegregate" in large letters near the entrance. And Ryan McCaulley, a former Parks and Recreation Commission member who helped put the pilot program together, resigned from the commission in June after the council voted not to take up the item until after its July recess.

The Monday vote authorizes staff to draft an ordinance for the new program, which would kick off in the fall or winter of this year. The council will still have to approve the ordinance before the program officially launches.

The pilot program falls well short of the type of change that many advocates had clamored for: namely, removing the residents-only policy entirely. Even so, it represents a long-awaited victory for those wishing to make the sprawling preserve less exclusive. According to a report from the Community Services Department, the council considered removing the residents-only requirement in 1991 and 2005 and rejected it both times.

Debbie Mytels served as executive director of Peninsula Conservation Center (now known as Acterra) when the council rejected the policy change in 1998 by an 8-1 vote. At that time, much like today, residents who opposed the policy cited concerns over protecting the natural habitat or focused on the fact that other cities did not pay for the land. Others, she said, made statements such as, "We don't like those people in our park."

"This barely veiled racism was shocking to me," Mytels said, "I thought Palo Altans were more open to diversity and less involved with prejudice. I was wrong and disappointed when the council voted 8-1 (not to expand access). My hope is that 20 years later, we have matured in the community and have learned that people of all races and ethnicities can be respectful to nature."

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Palo Alto moves to expand access to 'residents-only' Foothills Park

City Council supports pilot program that would allow nonresidents to buy passes to preserve; looks to send issue to the voters in 2022

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Tue, Aug 4, 2020, 1:02 am

Palo Alto's prolonged and highly polarizing debate over whether nonresidents should be allowed to visit Foothills Park moved toward compromise on Monday night, when the City Council agreed to expand access to the city's exclusive natural preserve.

The council voted 5-2, with Mayor Adrian Fine and Alison Cormack dissenting, to approve a pilot program that the Parks and Recreation Commission crafted last year, which will allow the city to sell up to 50 permits per day to nonresidents wishing to visit the 1,400-acre preserve off Page Mill Road. In doing so, however, the council also indicated that it wants to send the highly contentious issue to the voters in 2022 and directed staff to make the program "revenue neutral."

With its vote, the council took a small step toward amending a divisive policy that has been in place for half a century and that prior councils have tried and failed to change time and time again. Much like in the past, the council found itself in the midst of an argument between those who claimed that the existing "residents-only" restriction is exclusionary, elitist and embarrassing and those who maintained that allowing more visitors would diminish Foothills Park's pristine setting, imperil wildlife and require costly maintenance.

On Monday, the vast majority of the public speakers belonged to the former camp. Some argued that the residency requirement is deeply discriminatory at best, downright racist at worst. Bruce Reyes-Chow, pastor of First Presbyterian Church, said that when he was preparing to move from San Francisco to Palo Alto, his friends told him "Oh, Foothills is yours now." They did not mean it as a compliment, he said.

The way in which the city engages in "racist, exclusive behavior is symbolic in the park," Reyes-Chow said.

Claire Elliott, a Ventura resident and ecologist with the nonprofit group Grassroots Ecology, noted that she often enjoys the parks and nature preserves at other cities, including Shoreline Park in Mountain View and the Redwood Grove Nature Preserve in Los Altos. But when people from those cities come to work with Grassroots Ecology, many go away dismayed that they cannot visit Foothills Park unless accompanied by a resident.

Nonresidents already have some options for entering Foothills Park by walking in from Arastradero Preserve or by visiting on a weekday, when the requirement is not enforced. Even so, the city has been turning away more than 3,100 vehicles per year from the park, according to Daren Anderson, assistant director for open space, parks, golf and animal services in the Community Services Department.

Numerous speakers pointed to Palo Alto's history of redlining, which kept many Black families from buying homes in Palo Alto. Given this history, the residents-only policy only prolongs the legacy of discrimination, they argued.

Others framed expanding access as simply an act of being good neighbors. Rohin Ghosh, a Palo Alto High student, said he often volunteers at Foothills Park. For his Eagle Scout project, he helped build a set of stairs by Boronda Lake, Ghosh told the council.

"The fact that some of the people who volunteered to help on my project, in the hot sun, digging into the hillside so that Palo Alto residents can use that trail, cannot themselves access that park is beyond me," Ghosh said.

Those favoring the current policy argued that the policy has nothing to do with racial justice and everything to do with preserving sensitive natural habitat in the 1,400-acre open space preserve. Foothills Park is not really a park, said Mark Nadim, who lives close to Foothills Park in the Palo Alto Hills neighborhood. It's a "very delicate ecological system that is environmentally sensitive." The more people trample on grasses and vegetation, Nadim said, the longer it takes for grasses and vegetation to recover.

"To frame this issue as racism, segregation or social injustice is an insult to every resident of Palo Alto," Nadim said. "This is one of the most progressive cities in the country, so let's not pay attention to words that are meant to intimidate you into opening the park to nonresidents."

Carlin Otto, a resident of the Charleston-Meadows neighborhood, told the council that many of her neighbors strongly oppose expanding access to the park. She said 33 of her neighbors had signed petitions saying they don't want to open Foothills Park to the general public. If the council wishes to change the policy, she added, it should do so through a vote of residents.

"I'd sincerely hope that you do not intend or wish to force this down our throats," Otto told the council. "Remember, we the residents of Palo Alto are the owners of Foothills Park — not you. Your job is to manage this resource according to our wishes."

Fine and Cormack favored moving ahead with the pilot program with no strings attached. Both argued that expanding access is the "right thing to do" and lauded the Parks and Recreation Commission for crafting the pilot program.

"It isn't going make it any less special if we share it," Cormack said of Foothills Park. "I firmly believe, having sat through all of the meetings and going through the details of the pilot program, that there is room. We turn people away and there is room for us to share it."

Fine chafed at the idea of sending the issue to a vote and predicted that the measure would not pass.

"You don't put civil rights to a vote," Fine said. "It's something significant here, where we are literally discriminating against nonresidents because they're not wealthy enough to live in Palo Alto and we're not allowing them access to open space."

Others were less sanguine about welcoming more visitors to a park that everyone acknowledged was "special." Councilwoman Lydia Kou cited fire danger, budget challenges and uncertainty over environmental impacts as reasons for proceeding cautiously on opening access. She advocated for preserving the status quo until 2022 and then letting local voters decide.

Councilman Greg Tanaka focused on the city's budget challenges and hinged his support for the pilot on assurances that the program would be "revenue neutral."

A 2019 memo from the Parks and Recreation Commission detailing the pilot program stated that staff estimated it would cost $89,000 per year. According to Anderson, the city would need to hire a ranger to ensure proper maintenance under the pilot program (the park's vacant supervising ranger position is currently frozen due to budget cuts).

Both ultimately agreed to support the pilot program as part of a compromise proposed by Councilwoman Liz Kniss, which called for the pilot program in the short term and the people's vote in the longer term.

While Kou's motion called for settling the issue in an election, the directive is non-binding and it will ultimately be up to the City Council in 2022 to determine whether such a vote will be held.

Even with these uncertainties, the Monday vote represents a long-awaited breakthrough in a debate that has repeatedly resurfaced in the community over more than half a century. Palo Alto purchased Foothills Park from the family of Russel V. Lee in 1959 at a cost of $1,000 per acre. At the time, it asked two neighboring cities, Los Altos and Los Altos Hills to contribute to the purchase. Both declined.

After opening the park to the public in 1965, Palo Alto instituted the residents-only requirement four years later.

According to a report from the Community Services Department, the city unanimously reaffirmed the restriction in 1973, pointing out that the park's acquisition was "paid for out of the City's general fund, and no federal funds were used." Since then, the issue of expanding access to nonresidents has bubbled up every few years, only to falter under political opposition.

Calls for opening up the park have grown louder in recent months, with both the Parks and Recreation Commission and the Human Relations Commission voting to expand access to nonresidents. To mitigate concerns, the Parks and Recreation Commission suggested a pilot program that would limit the number of daily passes issued to nonresidents to 50 (on traditionally busy days and weekends, the city would issue fewer passes). Nonresidents would also be charged $6.

Social justice advocates, including the Rev. Kaloma Smith, who chairs the city's Human Relations Commission, and former council member LaDoris Cordell were among the more than 100 residents, community leaders and elected officials who signed a letter in June calling for the council to abolish the residents-only requirement. Since then, groups of students have staged numerous demonstrations near the park, at one point spelling out the word "Desegregate" in large letters near the entrance. And Ryan McCaulley, a former Parks and Recreation Commission member who helped put the pilot program together, resigned from the commission in June after the council voted not to take up the item until after its July recess.

The Monday vote authorizes staff to draft an ordinance for the new program, which would kick off in the fall or winter of this year. The council will still have to approve the ordinance before the program officially launches.

The pilot program falls well short of the type of change that many advocates had clamored for: namely, removing the residents-only policy entirely. Even so, it represents a long-awaited victory for those wishing to make the sprawling preserve less exclusive. According to a report from the Community Services Department, the council considered removing the residents-only requirement in 1991 and 2005 and rejected it both times.

Debbie Mytels served as executive director of Peninsula Conservation Center (now known as Acterra) when the council rejected the policy change in 1998 by an 8-1 vote. At that time, much like today, residents who opposed the policy cited concerns over protecting the natural habitat or focused on the fact that other cities did not pay for the land. Others, she said, made statements such as, "We don't like those people in our park."

"This barely veiled racism was shocking to me," Mytels said, "I thought Palo Altans were more open to diversity and less involved with prejudice. I was wrong and disappointed when the council voted 8-1 (not to expand access). My hope is that 20 years later, we have matured in the community and have learned that people of all races and ethnicities can be respectful to nature."

Comments

Kathy
Registered user
Greater Miranda
on Aug 4, 2020 at 7:47 am
Kathy , Greater Miranda
Registered user
on Aug 4, 2020 at 7:47 am
186 people like this

Wonder what else folks will claim is racism.


Nayeli
Registered user
Midtown
on Aug 4, 2020 at 8:07 am
Nayeli, Midtown
Registered user
on Aug 4, 2020 at 8:07 am
202 people like this

Despite what some agitators claimed, Foothills Park entry standards are NOT "racism." This notion is simply and utterly ridiculous. This impulsive decision is the product of a mob mentality spurred by recently mass hysteria. Why did the city council even vote for this? Aren't they supposed to represent the people of Palo Alto?

I will NOT vote for any candidate who agreed to this.


Mary
Registered user
College Terrace
on Aug 4, 2020 at 8:24 am
Mary, College Terrace
Registered user
on Aug 4, 2020 at 8:24 am
8 people like this

No mention in this long article of when the pilot program might begin. This weekend? Next year? Although rather vague, the Palo Alto Daily Post at least gives us some indication - it starts off their article with: "Palo Alto’s Foothills Park will open to non-residents on a trial basis starting this fall or winter..."


Gennady Sheyner
Registered user
Palo Alto Weekly staff writer
on Aug 4, 2020 at 8:48 am
Gennady Sheyner, Palo Alto Weekly staff writer
Registered user
on Aug 4, 2020 at 8:48 am
13 people like this

@Mary,

There is no set date for the program's launch, but the council specified that it should begin in the fall or winter of this year. I added the information to the story. Thanks.


Nayeli
Registered user
Midtown
on Aug 4, 2020 at 9:00 am
Nayeli, Midtown
Registered user
on Aug 4, 2020 at 9:00 am
93 people like this

Why couldn't the council send this to voters NOW and not two years from now (in 2022) after they've already started a program?


Eric Filseth
Registered user
Downtown North
on Aug 4, 2020 at 9:39 am
Eric Filseth, Downtown North
Registered user
on Aug 4, 2020 at 9:39 am
111 people like this

I believe I’ll weigh in on this.

This notion that “some issues are too important for voters who might disagree with me, and I’ll decide what those issues are,” floated around in the SB50 discussion last year, and came up last night from a few corners as well.

We ought to watch out for that one. We may expect it from Trump, but government ought to work for residents, not the other way ‘round. Democracy isn’t perfect, just better than the alternatives.


Bob Dylan
Registered user
Crescent Park
on Aug 4, 2020 at 9:59 am
Bob Dylan, Crescent Park
Registered user
on Aug 4, 2020 at 9:59 am
95 people like this

I also will vote against "the 5" who voted for this. "Racist". Hogwash and insulting, Debbie.


Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 4, 2020 at 10:00 am
Resident 1-Adobe Meadows, Adobe-Meadow
Registered user
on Aug 4, 2020 at 10:00 am
67 people like this

Comments on last night - but first Eric used Trumps name in vain. The SB50 in CA is a WEINER issue and NEWSOME issue. Weiner and his troops are relentless in this endeavor. If we all are going to fight fair then assign blame where it belongs. We have a governor who sees himself as separate from the federal government and conducts business in that manner. And we have the CA legislators which have allowed an out-of-control series of expenditures.

The discussion on financing should have gone first. Bathrooms, streets, trails, personnel to be present in the park are financial issues that are the reality. And always have been. Where is the money coming from when we have laid off a number of city personnel? That is what sets the stage for further discussion. This all costs money.

They put the city commentators first who are busy recounting the history of racism and assigning it to the park and using the park as their totem pole. No recognition of fiscal responsibility from these people - only racial purity. Because it is some one else's money.

I always wonder when major churches chime in on the many aspects of the problem. The majority have private camps in the big tree areas that are for their meetings and their summer camps. Surely they know the trials and tribulations of the cost on maintaining facilities in locations that do not have the standard hook-ups. Have they opened their camps to any and every one who is tooling down the road? Are they paying the liability insurance for any potential damage their camps may produce - like fires? That is very real and very specific to FHP and the residences surrounding it.

People solve problems in very different fashions - left brain vs right brain.


Resident
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 4, 2020 at 10:22 am
Resident, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Aug 4, 2020 at 10:22 am
93 people like this

>> I will NOT vote for any candidate who agreed to this.

The two dissenters objected not to opening the park, but to the 2022 ballot measure.

Kou ran a 1000+ response survey that showed 80% resident opposition to opening the Park. Cormack made the first motion, to just proceed with the pilot plan. Kou made her substitute motion, which added the ballot measure, out of worry that a pro-growth council majority would simply adopt an “open the park” plan without further community input.


Stepheny
Registered user
Midtown
on Aug 4, 2020 at 11:10 am
Stepheny , Midtown
Registered user
on Aug 4, 2020 at 11:10 am
86 people like this

In order not to be considered prejudiced, elitist or racially insensitive, one has to be LGBTQQX, disabled, and belong to four different minority or ethnic groups. Enough. Just because I disagree with you, does not mean I am a racist. Get over using that excuse and look instead to the reasoned arguments against the BLM mural with a black terrorist honored in it and opening Foothill Park to all comers to show Palo Alto isn't a racist city.


Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 4, 2020 at 11:13 am
Resident 1-Adobe Meadows, Adobe-Meadow
Registered user
on Aug 4, 2020 at 11:13 am
88 people like this

Kou did a great job. She isolated both short term and long term concerns here and framed the park within it's larger framework of the demands on the city at this time. Big demands on the city and the other 37 parks that are open to anyone and everyone. Good discussion from Kou.


slc
Registered user
another community
on Aug 4, 2020 at 11:19 am
slc, another community
Registered user
on Aug 4, 2020 at 11:19 am
43 people like this

It's interesting that people have no issue going to other towns' open spaces, despite the fact that those places are also environmentally fragile and also cost those towns money to maintain, but vociferously defend their rights to deny access to "outsiders."


Richard Mamelok
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Aug 4, 2020 at 11:19 am
Richard Mamelok, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Aug 4, 2020 at 11:19 am
82 people like this

While reasonable arguments exist on both sides of this issue, calling the present policy racist is a now an in vogue misuse of the term and attempt to circumvent the actual issue at hand: Will opening up the park to more people affect this sanctuary for wild life? It seems to me that 50 permits a day might not but we shall see. It will be interesting to see how many of these permits are actually used. Also, how will the city monitor the environmental effects? While housing may have been discriminatory in the past this is now clearly illegal. It is true that living in Palo Alto requires a certain level of financial means, anyone living in Palo Alto, regardless of race, is allowed in the park. All our other parks are open to anyone who wants to use them. We don't allow everyone to enroll in our schools. Does that make us racist as a city? Of course not. Not all forms of discrimination are race based.


Julian Gómez
Registered user
Midtown
on Aug 4, 2020 at 11:21 am
Julian Gómez, Midtown
Registered user
on Aug 4, 2020 at 11:21 am
123 people like this

80% resident opposition
And they're doing it anyway. Wow.
How do we stop this and tell them to get back to real problems, like the staggering budget shortfall? Lawsuit?


Historic and Systemic
Registered user
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 4, 2020 at 11:22 am
Historic and Systemic, Duveneck/St. Francis
Registered user
on Aug 4, 2020 at 11:22 am
56 people like this

To everyone in this thread claiming that the civil rights and racism argument in favor of opening the park is a red herring, I ask you to consider this - a policy does not have to be explicitly racist to hold up racist systems. Strong voter ID laws and the closure of polling places in Republican states right now are not explicitly to "stop Black people from voting," but they are disparately impacting Black and brown communities, which makes them racist.

Palo Alto has a long history of racist redlining policies and housing covenants, both of which prevent Black and brown people from buying homes in Palo Alto. This history of segregation is what lead to Palo Alto's racial demographics, while pushing Black and brown people towards places like East Palo Alto. Palo Alto's citizens and government were responsible for creating the segregation between East Palo Alto and ourselves, so holding up a policy that only allows Palo Alto residents and not residents of other places to access Foothills is a vestige of that racism. If you take a look at the public comments around the time of the policy passing, the comments are explicitly racist - Palo Alto citizens wanted this policy to keep out Black and brown people. The policy is not just based on where people live, it codifies a history of forcing certain people out of Palo Alto.

Foothills Park is a beautiful nature preserve that deserves to be enjoyed by all residents. Other parks in Palo Alto are already open to everyone - why mar a natural park with our historical biases? Opening the park is a great idea - if you love something, you should share it.


Be accurate
Registered user
Charleston Meadows
on Aug 4, 2020 at 11:33 am
Be accurate, Charleston Meadows
Registered user
on Aug 4, 2020 at 11:33 am
125 people like this

Wrong move by an out-of-touch council. The area was purchased with the residents' money and only residents can decide. This is as hypocritical as can be. By the same logic, if you own a home it is so racist and exclusionary and elitist. It does not matter that you were paying for it for so many years; it has been a long time and you need to start sharing it. At least let people barbecue in you back yard. You can sell permits though. Cormack, there should be room at your yard to share.
What happened, "mayor" Fine? Why do you not want to put the issue to a vote? Afraid you are going to lose? For once, work for the people who elected you, not against them. Why do you not like PA that much? It is not a civil right for all to walk on your property. This is anarchy.

50 permits a day is insane; it is pretty much anyone who wants to come in.

Thank you Lydia for trying to represent your constituents.


Me 2
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Aug 4, 2020 at 11:35 am
Me 2, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Aug 4, 2020 at 11:35 am
69 people like this

"I ask you to consider this - a policy does not have to be explicitly racist to hold up racist systems. "

"Palo Alto has a long history of racist redlining policies and housing covenants, both of which prevent Black and brown people from buying homes in Palo Alto."

You're going to tell us credibly say that we have a racist system? Last time I checked, if you have a bag full of money, you can buy or rent in Palo Alto regardless of skin color.

Lots of people of color live in Palo Alto today, so your statement is patently false.

" This history of segregation is what lead to Palo Alto's racial demographics, while pushing Black and brown people towards places like East Palo Alto. Palo Alto's citizens and government were responsible for creating the segregation between East Palo Alto and ourselves, so holding up a policy that only allows Palo Alto residents and not residents of other places to access Foothills is a vestige of that racism."

History is, as they say, history. None of the residents today had anything to do with those policies. The policy was clearly budget-based back then and should be the consideration today.

It's not even sins of the father! It's sins of the... long dead residents of Palo Alto?

And the beneficiaries of this policy are not people of color, but the rich folks of Los Altos Hills. And the People of Color in Palo Alto are now having to pay more for the less diverse folks in Los Altos Hills to access the park.

Way to go, Big Brains. You just hurt the people of color in Palo Alto.

Get that nonsense out of here. I want a use a stronger word, but according to MP people, we need to be nicer.


Be accurate
Registered user
Charleston Meadows
on Aug 4, 2020 at 11:39 am
Be accurate, Charleston Meadows
Registered user
on Aug 4, 2020 at 11:39 am
13 people like this

Julian,
Vote in November.


AngelaD
Registered user
Ventura
on Aug 4, 2020 at 11:41 am
AngelaD, Ventura
Registered user
on Aug 4, 2020 at 11:41 am
30 people like this

Perhaps concerns about overuse might be assuaged if parking is kept as it is, rather limited. Excluding others from our park while we continue to use the parks of other cities seems wrong to me.


Park is Already Open to the Public
Registered user
Community Center
on Aug 4, 2020 at 11:54 am
Park is Already Open to the Public, Community Center
Registered user
on Aug 4, 2020 at 11:54 am
41 people like this

This park is already open to the public on weekdays, its only on the weekends, which are busier, which are restricted to residents. Even on weekends you can walk in from Arastradero Preserve, which is open to the public all the time.


Jonathan Brown
Registered user
Ventura
on Aug 4, 2020 at 11:57 am
Jonathan Brown, Ventura
Registered user
on Aug 4, 2020 at 11:57 am
57 people like this

"To frame this issue as racism, segregation or social injustice is an insult to every resident of Palo Alto," Nadim said.


ofer
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Aug 4, 2020 at 11:58 am
ofer, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Aug 4, 2020 at 11:58 am
51 people like this

Wow, Preventing access to a Local park to local residents than cannot afford the most expensive real estate in the area, is justifies only with a logic of spoiled rich people. Shameful.

I’ll vote out any member that keeps this. Also, see Ling permits is absurd, just open the park to all that want access. There are many parks in the area and all of them should be open to all people.


Stepheny
Registered user
Midtown
on Aug 4, 2020 at 11:59 am
Stepheny , Midtown
Registered user
on Aug 4, 2020 at 11:59 am
77 people like this

While purporting to come from a enlightened place opposite of Trump, Mayor Fine uses many of the same tactics -- writing letters which purport to represent the whole City Council -- which do not -- and unilaterally putting a 10 day draconian curfew into effect with the aid of our City Manager. (Luckily, cooler heads prevailed and the curfew was rescinded.)

Fine uses the same sweeping self righteousness as Trump to assume unauthorized powers, not given to him by Palo Alto's city government. We need to watch his actions more closely, particularly as his term as mayor comes to a close. He's just like Trump, but from a different angle.

As for Alison Cormack, I made the mistake of voting for her before. I won't make that mistake again.


Nayeli
Registered user
Midtown
on Aug 4, 2020 at 11:59 am
Nayeli, Midtown
Registered user
on Aug 4, 2020 at 11:59 am
96 people like this

@ Historic and Systemic - Your post is absolutely wrong. You've literally labeled the city of Palo Alto as "racist" and suggested that racism played a part in why the park isn't open to outsiders. That is simply not true and such an assertion is deeply offensive.

Q: Do you know who couldn't use Foothills Park?
A: Non-residents.

Most of those non-residents are white. Like all other non-white residents of Palo Alto, I've had access to the park.


Premature Action
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 4, 2020 at 12:01 pm
Premature Action, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Aug 4, 2020 at 12:01 pm
67 people like this

Did anyone recently formally ask LAH, Los Altos or Portola Valley to contribute to funding the park operations in exchange for access? What was their City Council’s formal response? If this work hasn't been done, Council should have kicked this back to staff to do their homework.

It appears to me that the most likely beneficiaries of this proposal would be the very well-heeled Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, and Portola Valley communities whose grand homes and properties are closest to the park. Their property values benefit from the views (and now, access)—at our city’s expense—in a moment when our city is cutting services to Palo Alto residents of all income levels. If these wealthy communities have not been formally asked in public and their response shared publicly, I think action on this item should should have been postponed.

Back when PA bought this land to preserve it, abutting communities said they couldn't afford to help with the purchase. Now they CAN afford to help, so let's ask them again, to help cover the cost of access and fire safety, This will benefit them. They should be PUBLICLY asked to help, and their response should be made public as part of our city's decision-making process. Council is giving away any leverage we have to persuade them to collaborate in the preservation of this beautiful landscape. I think this is very foolish. A $6 entrance fee is no barrier to LAH, Los Altos, PV residents, but it will be an access barrier to some lower income community residents.

To me, the cost of intensified use seems understated. Fire liability and mitigating impacts on wildlife should be very the highest priority. I'm not convinced that proposed entrance fees completely cover these costs. I’d feel better about opening the space if abutting wealthy communities who will benefit were our partners in this, paying a fair share.

We have just cut $30 million in services from City of Palo Alto’s budget. Why is this a priority in this moment of economic and pandemic crisis? The staff report does not persuade me to support this change. I don’t get the sense that a majority of the community supports it either. Where is this push coming from? From my perspective, this is not about racism. It is about leverage--to get our wealthy neighbors to SHARE the cost of opening access to the nature preserve and park space.

Palo Alto is undergoing major budget problems right now. Our city is already more generous than most in both the quantity and quality of parks and program sharing. However, this preserve needs more funding, and Los Altos, PV and LAH and afford to help now. Make the ask publicly before you give away our resources to these very wealthy communities.


Nayeli
Registered user
Midtown
on Aug 4, 2020 at 12:07 pm
Nayeli, Midtown
Registered user
on Aug 4, 2020 at 12:07 pm
71 people like this

It won't be long before the perpetually-offended activists and agitators declare that a permit is "racist" because it will cost time and money. They will undoubtedly claim that selling permits discriminates against the "brown" people of this area.

Of course, this is the same argument in which some bleeding heart people of this state use to claim that access to California state parks is "racist" too.

And, of course, this is an argument used by some of the "open borders" people who argue that this nation shouldn't have a border in the first place.

This decision should have been put up to a vote of the residents of the city. It should never have been a decision made by the city council. It is a shame when elected representatives don't actually represent the people.

Of course, this has been the norm in Sacramento and Washington D.C. for quite some time now.


Neighbor
Registered user
Greenmeadow
on Aug 4, 2020 at 12:13 pm
Neighbor, Greenmeadow
Registered user
on Aug 4, 2020 at 12:13 pm
49 people like this

Whatever happened to elected representation??? Why take a survey if you aren't going to consider the results???? I realize it's repetitive, but this has nothing to do with race or elitism and everything to do with protecting a nature preserve. I join with others and will not vote for any who support this.


Ashamed Resident
Registered user
Midtown
on Aug 4, 2020 at 12:20 pm
Ashamed Resident, Midtown
Registered user
on Aug 4, 2020 at 12:20 pm
32 people like this

I have yet to see an argument against removing the resident-only restriction that holds any water.

1. Budget/Cost
- This seems to be the most popular concern among the council who approved this motion. During the meeting, staff stated that the costs of the pilot would be $48k at the high end, and re-hiring the currently frozen ranger position would cost $150k. This is a total of $200k, which is less than 0.5%(!) of the community services budget in 2020 (library, parks & rec, golf, etc). I am all for fiscal responsibility (especially under a Covid-19 stressed budget), but dismissing this for budget reasons is nonsensical. I would like to add that the cost to put an issue on the ballot was reported by the clerk to be $50k - $100k. This is the sort of argument I might hide behind if I was worried taking an actual stance could hurt my future re-election.

2. Environment/Preservation
This argument comes from a place of legitimate concern. Preserves have value because they allow us to connect with a natural environment, and maybe even contemplate our place in it. Humans are destructive, and it is right to worry about ruining some of the land that has been set aside. However, unless we believe that people from other cities are more destructive to preserves, the only factor is the total number of humans using the space. The pilot program is thorough in addressing this, and very clearly limits the total number of people in the park at any time to the same limits that currently exist. Park staff estimated that under the pilot, usage may increase 10-20%, which would be less yearly traffic in some of the busier last 10 years. BTW, during those "busy" years, the park staff noted that the difference in maintenance, crowdedness, and costs were unnoticeable. In addition, there are tons of open space preserves in the bay area that are open to the public, and maintain the serene beauty we all search for in the outdoors. Yes, most of those spaces limit the number of people allowed, which is exactly what is being proposed here. NONE of them require you to be a resident in the city/county/state by which they are owned and maintained.

Finally, Council member Cormack made a great point in her comments: If we were purchasing land and building a new park today, is there any chance that it would ban non-residents?
Council member Tanaka pointed out in comments that there are maybe 3-4 other cities in the entire USA who have a similar policy for their public land. Is that a top 5 list we want to be on?
The only reason we have hung onto this for so long is because exclusion by its nature benefits those who are doing the excluding. With the restriction in place, it requires us to voluntarily give up a privilege, and boy do we have a hard time doing that. I think if we rip this band-aid off, we might find that it really wasn't so bad.
I love you all, but please take a moment and challenge your assumptions and fears on this issue.


long view
Registered user
South of Midtown
on Aug 4, 2020 at 12:31 pm
long view, South of Midtown
Registered user
on Aug 4, 2020 at 12:31 pm
17 people like this

If access is limited with a reservation system or by counting cars inside the park on weekends, that is an acceptable way to manage the human impact on the park.

To manage access to the park solely by requiring Palo Alto residence? I find this hurtful to residents of other cities. This Palo Alto resident is happy to manage how many visitors are allowed. This Palo Alto resident does not support prohibiting access to residents of other cities.

I did not receive Lydia Kou's survey. Perhaps Lydia Kou's contact list includes older homeowners upset that the region has grown, including those who opposed the Maybell affordable senior housing. I hope that the rest of Palo Alto has a more inclusive vision of our City.


Rebecca Eisenberg
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Aug 4, 2020 at 12:56 pm
Rebecca Eisenberg, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Aug 4, 2020 at 12:56 pm
20 people like this

@Eric Filseth - As a member of a legislative body, you are misstating the relationship between matters that are determined best by election (majority rule) and those that are protected by our US Constitution. The protection of minorities, by definition, never can be left to majority rule. I will clarify.

It was official Palo Alto policy to prevent minorities from living in Palo Alto and using our park, and those minorities are protected by our federal and state constitution. Putting this matter up to public vote furthers the discrimination (and likely is unconstitutional).

Foothills Park is an example of enforced segregation, based on a history of segregation. Yes, Palo Alto paid for it, while our less white, less wealthy neighbors did not, but that was due to Palo Alto's racial policies that deprived minorities of financial opportunity.

Palo Alto engaged in decades official racial redlining, including mandatory restrictive covenants making it a crime to sell property to a person of color. With the force of government and backed by the police powers, black and brown people were prevented from living in Palo Alto, were prevented from obtaining high paid jobs in Palo Alto, and were otherwise deprived of economic opportunity and racial justice in Palo Alto.

It is illogical and wholly unjust to intentionally create a economic underclass through racist withholding of financial resources from people of color, then to use the poverty we created in others in order to justify further entrenching the racial segregation WE caused and continue to enforce through the unfair distribution of resources between the wealthiest among us, and the most poor.

This is the EXACT kind of decision that should NOT be made by majority rule. It was majority white rule and the systematic exclusion of people of color that prevented our neighbors of color to participate in this purchase.

Although I recognize that few here today were involved in the racial discrimination that comprises so much of our beautiful city’s history, I urge you not to personalize or individualize the matter. I am not calling anyone a racist. Rather, I urge you to consider the movement to open Foothills Park in the manner advocated by author author Robin Dee-Angelo in her phenomenal recent book, _White Fragility_: Although our mostly-white current residents - and governance - of Palo Alto did not cause this segregation, we must acknowledge the way that white people - including you and I - are benefited and privileged by this unjust, racist past.

If you did not run for Palo Alto City Council in part in order to create a more just, fair, anti-racist community, then WHY are you there? I believe that it is the responsibility of all of us - especially those in governance, or those like me who seek leadership positions, to do everything we can to create a better world.

Although I favor removing all artificial economic divisions between Palo Alto and our neighboring communities of color such as East Palo Alto, opening up Foothills park to our neighbors is a small, essential step. It is virtually the *smallest* thing we can do.

Finally, I take offense with those who object to sharing the park on the pretext of environmentalism. We witnessed over the past month the city council’s decisions to defund electric shuttles, to withhold support of safe separated bike lanes, and refuse to consider the only environmentally responsible approach to train grade separations: under grounding.

If the city council could afford to build a dozen car-attracting garages over the last few years, as well as set aside as much as $20 million of taxpayer money towards the private airport that supports only the most polluting private planes, as well as the brand new expensive headquarters for the police force that many or most of us seek reforming and reducing, you can afford to invest in protect Foothills Parks natural environment. As well you should.

It is the job of our elected officials to act in the best interest of the community, with an eye towards justice and an awareness of historical context. Continuing to insist that a white majority has the entitlement to act in disregard to the historically marginalized does not achieve those goals.

As I mentioned last night, I was gratified with and impressed by the comments and advocacy made by Councilperson Alison Cormack. With humility and grace, she explained how she took the time to learn the historical context of Foothills Park, and how City Council has the moral and legal authority - obligation - to amend past wrongs. Thank you, Alison.


SW
Registered user
Palo Alto Hills
on Aug 4, 2020 at 1:15 pm
SW, Palo Alto Hills
Registered user
on Aug 4, 2020 at 1:15 pm
62 people like this

Personally, I think City Council's response was well considered and very appropriate. I enjoy hiking in Foothills Park, and I'm pleased to see a concrete proposal designed to allow non-residents to experience its natural beauty without unduly burdening City finances.

I am happy to see this new pilot, and look forward to casting my vote to ratify and make it permanent in 2020.


Annette
Registered user
College Terrace
on Aug 4, 2020 at 1:20 pm
Annette, College Terrace
Registered user
on Aug 4, 2020 at 1:20 pm
41 people like this

What drove this, really? My impression is that this is the outcome of strongly held beliefs by some Palo Altans, not whining by residents of Los Altos and Los Altos Hills about wanting to use a Palo Alto park with a residents-only restriction. Presumably they know they can enjoy Foothills 5 days out of 7 w/o proof of residency. ANYONE can.

To have made this a priority issue at this point in time warrants some criticism. There are far more critical issues before PACC than access to a park that is already open all but 2 days each week.


plantfruittrees
Registered user
Greendell/Walnut Grove
on Aug 4, 2020 at 1:52 pm
plantfruittrees, Greendell/Walnut Grove
Registered user
on Aug 4, 2020 at 1:52 pm
60 people like this

May I point out on the subject of redlining, since it's being brought up again and again as an excuse, one of the reasons Palo Alto considers itself to be historically liberal is the fact that Joseph Eichler made a point of selling homes to anyone who could afford one--at a time when by Federal law FHA home loans could not be given to people of color and if a developer sold to anyone of color, everybody, white or black, trying to buy into that development lost their chance to get an FHA loan. Eichler dared to do it anyway and famously threw out a white couple in his office who objected to finding out they would have black neighbors.

He testified before Congress and shamed them into rescinding that terrible, racist law.

So imputing redlining to all of Palo Alto's past is simply false--and there are those of us who bought Eichler's homes in part because we wanted to be part of that history of standing up for others.

Trying to shame residents who want to preserve a nature preserve as a nature preserve that we paid for to be a nature preserve is simply wrong. If the city's neighbors want to come see it on a weekday we already let them. Leave it as is.


Me 2
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Aug 4, 2020 at 2:08 pm
Me 2, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Aug 4, 2020 at 2:08 pm
57 people like this

" Although our mostly-white current residents - and governance - of Palo Alto did not cause this segregation, we must acknowledge the way that white people - including you and I - are benefited and privileged by this unjust, racist past."

I'm not white. How dare you pull me into your own self-loathing. I know who I'm not voting for.


Gale Johnson
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 4, 2020 at 2:14 pm
Gale Johnson, Adobe-Meadow
Registered user
on Aug 4, 2020 at 2:14 pm
41 people like this

Well, well, well, the Bickersons are at it again!

I could write a long dissertation comment in response to the article and other commenters, but I won't. I'm not sorry I dozed off early last evening and missed the online CC meeting. I do savor the dreams I had instead, during that time.

In the absence of my comment, I will just refer you back to comments by Resident 1, Adobe Meadows (my neighborhood), Lydia Kou, Nayeli, Premature Action, and Richard Mamelok. They pretty much speak for me. And please, please, don't keep bringing up old history of bad behavior and decisions on the part of our city council and leaders re redlining. And if you think it's not really gone, but just officially sanctioned and thrown under the rug by legislation. then I need to tell you another story about my end of town, South Palo Alto, and my neighborhood when we bought our house in 1963. We were solidly integrated by then and mixed with our neighbors at block parties, PTA meetings, thru baby sitting co-ops, Welcome Wagon groups, Tupperware parties, bridge card clubs, and the father and son group, Y Indian Guides, sponsored by the YMCA located just a few blocks away from me. We were connected in many ways. I could count 5 black neighbors, a couple East Indian neighbors, including the family that lived just across the street from us, and dozens of Asians, primarily those of Japanese ancestry, living on Nathan Way, a long block of originally look alike houses, built by Brown and Kaufmann in the 50's.

Most of that is gone today, so it's a struggle to keep going and hoping for better days and the way it was in "those good old days". The neighborhood has changed, the demographics have changed, so it would take a younger person, maybe a teenager, to better describe our neighborhood like it is now. I'm just an old guy who was privileged to buy a house and make it a home in this neighborhood.


Richard Mamelok
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Aug 4, 2020 at 2:57 pm
Richard Mamelok, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Aug 4, 2020 at 2:57 pm
66 people like this

re R Eisenberg's comment: "Although our mostly-white current residents - and governance - of Palo Alto did not cause this segregation, we must acknowledge the way that white people - including you and I - are benefited and privileged by this unjust, racist past." I guess by white she is also talking about the many Asians and other people of color who live here as well. It is the hubris of some white "liberals" to pretend they know what other people think, or ought to think. Making up for old history is a trope used to justify many things. By that argument we should all just leave and let native Americans resettle California. The donation of our valuable property would be fine reparation.


cmarg
Registered user
Palo Alto High School
on Aug 4, 2020 at 3:14 pm
cmarg, Palo Alto High School
Registered user
on Aug 4, 2020 at 3:14 pm
37 people like this

Disappointed. I guess the residents have no say here.


Annette
Registered user
College Terrace
on Aug 4, 2020 at 3:43 pm
Annette, College Terrace
Registered user
on Aug 4, 2020 at 3:43 pm
40 people like this

Too bad we cannot click on the "+" sign and see who likes a comment. If we could, my name would be listed under both of Rick Mamelok's comments and Gale Johnson's comment. There are enough problems that have their genesis in race; Foothills isn't such an issue and I think we are not well served by efforts to make it one.


Alice Schaffer Smith
Registered user
Downtown North
on Aug 4, 2020 at 3:55 pm
Alice Schaffer Smith, Downtown North
Registered user
on Aug 4, 2020 at 3:55 pm
51 people like this

Because I oppose expanding access to the park does not make me a racist.

I have written to the council and reiterate: this is a valuable fragile area which is already heavily used . That more than 3000 cars have been turned away this year tells you something. The fire hazard, the very dangerous rural road into the park, children going off paths into areas ripe with wildlife and poison oak out of pure lack of supervision by their unthinking guardians, visitors playing music from boomboxes and using the park like an urban venue disturb me already. Smoking on the path around the lake: when I said this was a no smoking park, I was ignored. Smoking in this park could be life-threatening to the entire foothills.

The infrastructure projects: Chaucer Bridge, Newell Bridge and Lucie Stern upgrades - are much higher priorities for our limited resources.

We already need more park rangers, fire coverage and greater supervision with brochures with clear rules and real enforcement of the rules to protect this valuable asset.


Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 4, 2020 at 4:09 pm
Resident 1-Adobe Meadows, Adobe-Meadow
Registered user
on Aug 4, 2020 at 4:09 pm
26 people like this

All parks in CA have an organization that is it's management and financial owner. That can be the federal government, state government, county government, city government, and special organizations organized for specific purposes. All of these organizations are legal entities, pay taxes, and have huge liability issues for potential problems. All have to report yearly to maintain their status.

Decisions have to be made when a new park is set up as to all of the criteria applied to the governance of that park. Based on the available financing specific decisions were made and the end results are a beautiful, well managed park. It was good management based on the time of occurrence. To suggest that people sat around and made racial decisions at that time is absurd. They made decisions based on the available funding. Trying to contort the park's beginnings and budget into something other than what it is based on what ever else is happening in the world is very sad. I call it opportunism.


Stephen
Registered user
Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Aug 4, 2020 at 4:55 pm
Stephen, Leland Manor/Garland Drive
Registered user
on Aug 4, 2020 at 4:55 pm
19 people like this

I wish this discussion focused on the specific question of Foothills Park access and was less politicized. All this talk about racism being at the root of restricting access just doesn't ring true to me. Exclusion is not always race based, and I don't believe it is in this case. That said, I don't understand why kids who volunteer their time to improve the park don't get immediate access to the park no matter where they happen to live. (Frankly, I am amazed that they would volunteer at all to maintain natural space they cannot visit!) That IS exclusionary and in a mighty snooty way.

Charging an entrance fee must be someone's idea for recognizing Palo Alto's investment in the original purchase of the land and the city's ongoing costs for maintaining the park. Wouldn't it be better for the surrounding communities to pay a share of the maintenance and make the park free to anyone who is allowed in? I also imagine the $6 figure was arrived at by looking at the fees charged by county parks, like those in San Mateo (actually, some of the San Mateo parks charge more than $6). Why aren't San Mateo County residents, who pay taxes to San Mateo County, allowed into San Mateo's parks without admission? They are already paying taxes to San Mateo County, after all. San Mateo parks' fees mean all visitors are treated equally. If you like the idea of having all visitors treated equally, what if Los Altos Hills and Los Altos used their tax money to help with Foothills Park (as opposed to charging admission)? That would right some of the original "wrong" when those same communities did not help with the purchase in 1965.


hkatrs
Registered user
Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Aug 4, 2020 at 6:46 pm
hkatrs, Leland Manor/Garland Drive
Registered user
on Aug 4, 2020 at 6:46 pm
12 people like this

Thank you City Council for voting to open the Foothills Park to non-residents.

To everyone on this string of comments, do you know that Gamble Garden is a PUBLIC GARDEN, and seemingly a PARK in many respects?

It is maintained by over 300 volunteers, who give over 35,000 hours annually, and who constantly fund raise to maintain the main house, carriage house, gardens, have horticultural and culinary classes, and host luncheons available to everyone who would like to purchase a seating. (Closed for luncheons until further notice.)

"At her death in 1981, at age ninety-two, Elizabeth Frances Gamble, granddaughter of the co-founder of Procter & Gamble, left her house and garden to the City of Palo Alto. Today’s Gamble Garden, a public place of beauty and civic pride, was born from this extraordinary gift – one that came with minimal guidance and no endowment to secure its future."

"For four years the City Council presided over lengthy and impassioned deliberations for what to do with the property. The Garden Club of Palo Alto – a private, separate organization – succeeded in leading a community campaign to restore and maintain the garden and buildings. In 1985 Gamble Garden became a public garden entirely supported by its newly formed non-profit horticultural foundation. Our 2019, 2018, and 2017 990s are available to the public."

Admission is FREE everyday
1431 Waverley Street
Palo Alto CA 94301
Tel: 650-329-1356
Fax: 650-329-1688
Email: [email protected]

HOURS:
Garden Hours
Open every day during daylight hours.
Garden is disabled accessible.

Please note, we are closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays mornings so our volunteers can safely work.

Home, library and office hours
Weekdays 9:00 am to 2:00 pm

Guidelines for Photographers and Artists
Download our guidelines for photographers and artists.

PLEASE CHECK OUT THE WEBSITE FOR MORE INFORMATION. Web Link
STROLL INTO THE GARDENS with your mask on and maintaining 6' distancing from other patrons! ENJOY the environment, no matter who is there. It is OPEN TO THE PUBLIC.


Silence is golden
Registered user
College Terrace
on Aug 4, 2020 at 6:52 pm
Silence is golden, College Terrace
Registered user
on Aug 4, 2020 at 6:52 pm
38 people like this

We learned last night there are 37 Palo Alto parks available to non-residents, including three other nature preserves. Everyone is welcome to use all those other parks. So much so that the Astradero parking lot is filled up with so many non-residents we have to turn around and leave. Curious how Palo Alto can be name-called racist when no one is excluded from all the city parks and the other three nature preserves residents pay for. And even then Foothill Park is open to all people walking in from adjacent open space preserves, or as guests.

We all recognize that Foothills Park is a fragile environment, parking is limited, and summer weekends are extremely popular, especially the picnic tables. Staff implied that residents won't be turned away and will also have priority for the barbeques and picnic tables. So what if the park reaches 1,000, the maximum number, before I arrive and all the parking spots and tables are already taken? Is a park ranger going to ask a non-resident to take their car away, or tell someone using a picnic table they have to pack up because a resident wants to use it? That information was skated over.

It makes sense to have a pilot program to collect information, etc. and with that data available put non-resident access to the park to a vote in 2022.

It was disappointing that the Commission and/or staff hadn't already prepared a rough budget for council and the public to have better information as to what it will cost to open the park to more visitors. It was interesting to learn there is only a skeleton crew of three park rangers responsible for staffing all four preserves seven days a week, dawn to dusk, plus a few temporary weekend hires during the summer. The 4th park ranger position, currently on hold because of the budget cuts, will have to be filled at approximately $150K+. Which may not include the benefit and pension cost to the city. The cost of a consultant at the beginning and end of the pilot to take baseline measurements of wildlife and plants to compare the impact on higher use. An increase of tens of thousands of dollars to the maintenance and trash collection contracts. All three restrooms badly in need of repair and replacement, currently on hold for 3-5 years because of budget cuts, will need to be brought forward. An approximate cost of $400K each for two and $7000K the third. Paving will probably need to be brought forward.

Perhap fiscal responsibility is not in high regard by members of the Park and Recs Commission and some members of council, or some members of the public who remind me of kids pestering mom and dad for a swimming pool!

At a certain point, if the park becomes so popular with non-residents that either residents are turned away or the experience is changed from quiet and serene to more like an urban park, perhaps we should consider whether the cost of funding Foothill Park is worth it. As much as I have loved Foothills Park for many years, like non-residents, Palo Alto residents have so many other open space preserves to access that weren't available fifty years ago. And these open space preserves are funded at the country and state level rather than only by the residents of one not especially large town.


Silence is golden
Registered user
College Terrace
on Aug 4, 2020 at 6:56 pm
Silence is golden, College Terrace
Registered user
on Aug 4, 2020 at 6:56 pm
15 people like this

@hkatrs

Are you volunteering to put together a similar organization and do the fundraising necessary to keep Foothills Park operating?


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 4, 2020 at 8:11 pm
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on Aug 4, 2020 at 8:11 pm
7 people like this

Re park fees elsewhere and in Palo Alto

Back in the good old days, we used to routinely go to small group events held at state and county parks and beaches in Marin and Sonoma County. Usually, we had to pay a deposit to reserve an area for our groups of 20-50 people as well as fees for parking and use.

A few years back, we attended a memorial service next to the Mitchell Park dog and I remember a collection was taken up to reserve that space. About 50-100 people attended. I forget total amount PA collected for use of that space but many of us kicked in between $5 and $20 so it wasn't a negligible amount.


Anonymous
Registered user
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 4, 2020 at 9:28 pm
Anonymous, Duveneck/St. Francis
Registered user
on Aug 4, 2020 at 9:28 pm
36 people like this

Disappointed in the virtue signaling, illogical...even childish thinking.
Stick to facts and reality and residents’ input.
We know the background/history and logical reasoning to keep this preserve limited use.
Phonied issues diminish the real issues in this world regarding BLM.


William Buttlicker
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 4, 2020 at 10:12 pm
William Buttlicker, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Aug 4, 2020 at 10:12 pm
13 people like this

Sad to see people being so miserly over a reasonable pilot program. People here are so open-minded until it comes to the only private public park in the state.


Mark Weiss
Downtown North

Registered user
on Aug 4, 2020 at 10:16 pm
Name hidden, Downtown North

Registered user
on Aug 4, 2020 at 10:16 pm

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Native to the BAY
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Aug 5, 2020 at 12:08 am
Native to the BAY, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Aug 5, 2020 at 12:08 am
7 people like this

Foothill Park? Really. Hello! Diversionary tactics. Housing is needed badly here. Stanford expands its hospital, luxury apartments along ECR between Stanford and Ventura Ave, Sandhill properties moves in. Yet. Empty under utilized commercial bldgs abound around our PA city perimeter. Still no substantial decisions, plans for affordable housing for local moderate to low-wage workers — the back bone of our economy hum. If not now, then when? Another four years of nothing on the books but yielding arguments for “open” dpace access . Yes. Certainly expand Foothills for outside residents. However how will we house our own is up for grabs in November. PA sitting council make a stand and live and work for us. Convictions are only as long as a public meeting at this moment in time. Unprecedented times calls for real and substantive measures. Make it happen, in REAL TIME!


PA Resident
Registered user
Midtown
on Aug 5, 2020 at 1:57 am
PA Resident, Midtown
Registered user
on Aug 5, 2020 at 1:57 am
30 people like this

When it comes time for re-election - just remember who supported opening this park up and objected to a resident vote: Adrian Fine, Alison Cormack. For new candidates, make sure you know where they stand: Rebecca Eisenberg, an attorney who is running for council this fall, said the park SHOULD be opened to non-residents, citing racial discrimination. The only way to have our PA voices heard is to make sure the council allows us to vote in 2022.


Mark Weiss
Downtown North

Registered user
on Aug 5, 2020 at 9:58 am
Name hidden, Downtown North

Registered user
on Aug 5, 2020 at 9:58 am

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Steven Nelson /MV
Registered user
Mountain View
on Aug 5, 2020 at 10:23 am
Steven Nelson /MV, Mountain View
Registered user
on Aug 5, 2020 at 10:23 am
5 people like this

The history of the wealthy mid-peninsula is racist. Not as much as the Deep South or of my Southern California city of Glendale, but it does persist in Social Class related racism. As a white wealthy old guy (50 yr but now ex-Republican) I can start to recognize the vestiges of this racist/classism. Asian wealthy person? AH - we see that Social Class sort of exclusion in that community also (Eng and her vocal NIMBY / housing stance).

So, I do think all the "residual racists" in Palo Alto should be ashamed! Even if you are now, partially, Asian wealthy,( South or East), or Latin wealthy (Hispanic to Afro racist) and not just White residual racist!

A restriction on total front-gate admittance would totally answer the naturalist worries of over-use / destruction of 'special' habitat. The 'so much costs' racist chant does not even (IMO) deserve so much as 'a laugh'.

I as a Mountain View resident, will be asking to restrict SHORELINE PARK to residents only, with a fee for non-residents on weekends if the noon-residents come from a jurisdiction that charges non-residents! Tit-for-tat, good for the goose - good for the gander. East Palo Alto, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills etc residents would not be affected!


Resident
Registered user
College Terrace
on Aug 5, 2020 at 10:29 am
Resident, College Terrace
Registered user
on Aug 5, 2020 at 10:29 am
10 people like this

As a low income resident allowed to liv here, I don’t use Foothill park and neither do my childrenI. I don’t carry on my person the appropriate identification for “legal” entrance. It feels icky to even contemplate stepping one foot there, anyway. Yuk on PA.


Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 5, 2020 at 11:13 am
Resident 1-Adobe Meadows, Adobe-Meadow
Registered user
on Aug 5, 2020 at 11:13 am
16 people like this

I am laughing at the MV Nelson post - comes from Glendale? Home of corporate Disney as well as the biggest population of former soviet Armenian community. As well as Ukrainian population. TV-NCIS - Los Angeles the protagonists are always middle-eastern. Home of D-Adam Schiff - looking for the Russian Connection. He lives in the Russian Connection. And he knows it.

I grew up in LA and can vouch for the totally diverse population that carves out their specific identities then markets those identities very well. You can travel to each of the communities for good food, good entertainment, and identity in what ever population mix you desire. Makes all of the comments above on racism somewhat bizarre given that we live in CA. PA is just a carve out of the bigger picture. If you need a different mix then just move to what ever community has that mix.

But in the meantime do not waste everyone's time by trying to dictate what each community mix is suppose to be. Just move to the one you like better and spare all of the hair pulling. Have to wonder about all of the "progressives" who somehow move to isolate an area and change it. Please progress to some other location that already fits your bill.


Mark Weiss
Registered user
Downtown North
on Aug 5, 2020 at 1:15 pm
Mark Weiss, Downtown North
Registered user
on Aug 5, 2020 at 1:15 pm
Like this comment

“ I don’t know when it was/
I got rabbit in my blood/
I don’t recall the age”
Tim and Greg
If we open the park I will donate the appearance of the mother hips to play the new Lee Meadow a family member told me that was one of their original family concepts we could limit the people and shuttle-bus them in from the flats like they do at Montalvo


Samuel L
Registered user
Greenmeadow
on Aug 5, 2020 at 3:20 pm
Samuel L, Greenmeadow
Registered user
on Aug 5, 2020 at 3:20 pm
10 people like this

@Steven Nelson, Mountain View does add a surcharge to non-residents to play golf at Shoreline. I believe it's $7-$8. Palo Alto and most other cities do the same. Residents also usually get priority with tee times.

Your "what's good for the goose" comment is appropriate given the amount of goose turds all over Shoreline.

It is ironic that the city wants to make it more available to those of all backgrounds, but then the solution is to charge money which makes it more difficult for those of less economic means. So, welcome to all of the new Los Altos/Hills, Portola Valley and Atherton guests...


TimR
Registered user
Downtown North
on Aug 5, 2020 at 3:53 pm
TimR, Downtown North
Registered user
on Aug 5, 2020 at 3:53 pm
44 people like this

Has Bruce Reyes-Chow or others complaining of racism ever even visited Foothills park? Because I go there a lot, and sometimes I'm the only white person on a trail (I'm running, and so pass the people who are walking). Under the current policy, the park is used and enjoyed by many "people of color," and to say it's like some kind of racist, exclusive white club is simply a lie. And the lying needs to stop.


Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 5, 2020 at 6:27 pm
Resident 1-Adobe Meadows, Adobe-Meadow
Registered user
on Aug 5, 2020 at 6:27 pm
18 people like this

Love the comments where the history of the city is used as a cudgel to manipulate a desired outcome. So that tactic is now on record and an advisement as to the elections coming up. Word to the wise - do you want to hear continual verbiage as to manipulation and guilt to guide every city function and outcome?

Bottom line is there is a cost to everything going on here and we do not have a bucket of money to assuage the history of the city and what ever guilt can be milked from that. Nothing will get done. The park is stretched to the limit now as well as all other city functions. And what ever financial plans for the future are just words and are elusive as to outcome.


CC
Registered user
Professorville
on Aug 5, 2020 at 6:53 pm
CC, Professorville
Registered user
on Aug 5, 2020 at 6:53 pm
38 people like this

Let me state the obvious and what everyone is afraid to admit: I love Foothills Park and enjoy the solitude. I love this perk, thanks to being a Palo Alto resident.




William
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 5, 2020 at 8:30 pm
William , Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Aug 5, 2020 at 8:30 pm
4 people like this

At least you have the guts to admit it. People on here, on either side of the issue, throw up a bunch of, frankly, irrelevant issues. Just say you don't want to share.


Sunshine
Registered user
Barron Park
on Aug 12, 2020 at 1:54 pm
Sunshine, Barron Park
Registered user
on Aug 12, 2020 at 1:54 pm
21 people like this


Allowing only Palo alto residents into Foothill Park is not racist. As long as you live in Palo Alto you may visit Foothill Park regardless;ess of your race or income level.
Attempts to designate allowing only Palo Alto residents to use Foothill Park had nothing to dp with your or ethnicity; it has only to do with your place if keg residence.
The other statement by some is an attempt to pretend that anything that leaves some people out. It has to do with the place of residence, not with ethnicity or race!


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