News

New parking fee, lower visitor cap on the horizon at Foothills Park

Rules created due to recent surge of people at preserve

Hikers walk towards Wild Horse Valley in Foothills Park, the upstream area of Buckeye Creek, before the park was opened to visitors from outside Palo Alto. Embarcadero Media file photo by Veronica Weber.

After seeing a spike in visits to Foothills Park, the Palo Alto City Council moved on Tuesday to sharply curtail the number of people who can enter the scenic preserve.

Responding to reports of heavy traffic and environmental damage over the past month, the council agreed to lower the cap on visitors who can be at Foothills Park at one time from the current level of 750 to 400.

The new cap is well below the park's historic limit of 1,000 visitors, which the council reduced to 750 for 90 days as part of its November decision to remove a residents-only restriction at the park. It is also below staff's recommended cap of 500 visitors, though the council gave city staff leeway to potentially raise the limit to 500 if conditions allow.

The move is one of several that the city is preparing to institute as it seeks to limit access to a park that has seen a surge of visitors since Dec. 17, when the council officially repealed the residents-only requirement and opened it to the broader public. Daren Anderson, assistant director at the Community Services Department, said the number of people who visited the 1,400-acre preserve between Dec. 17 — the day the park officially opened to everyone — and Jan. 2 was 33,647, a roughly six-fold increase from 2019, when the park saw 5,687 visitors, he said.

Council members acknowledged on Jan. 19 that some of this can be attributed to the high publicity that Foothills Park has been receiving over the past year for being the only park in the region that was closed to nonresidents. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the trend, with open space areas throughout the region also seeing more visitors.

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Council member Greer Stone noted that Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District preserves have also seen attendance increase by about 200% during the pandemic.

"We're not just seeing the influx of visitors to Foothills, we're seeing it in other preserves and parks throughout the area. … We don't know what's going to happen when the novelty ends with Foothills Park, but we do know that with COVID-19, people's desire to get out of their house is going to continue in the near future."

Council members Greg Tanaka and Lydia Kou, who had both voted against removing the ban on nonresidents, pushed for more stringent restrictions and higher parking fees. Kou said she had hoped to see a limit of 300 visitors and called the 400-person limit a "compromise." Tanaka supported setting the parking fee at $10, making it one of the most expensive parks to visit in the region. While council member Eric Filseth initially supported the $10 fee, the council ultimately voted to 6-1, with council member Alison Cormack dissenting, to institute a $6 fee, the level recommended by city staff, and directed its Parks and Recreation Commission to further refine the city's policy of park admittance and fees.

Cormack supported retaining the limit at 750 visitors, giving staff leeway to lower it as needed, and deferring the discussion on fees until the Parks and Recreation Commission vets the issue. She recalled volunteering at the park in recent weeks and called it a "wonderful, positive and welcoming environment."

"Many people said they used to live in Palo Alto and they're so glad to be able to come back here again," Cormack said.

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While she acknowledged the traffic problems at the park since the Dec. 17 policy change, she argued that much of the impact has been addressed by the city's recent decision to bar entrance to the park on mornings and afternoons when the number of visitors hits the 750-person limit, which has only happened during weekends and holidays.

During Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the park reached its capacity at about 9:45 a.m., Anderson said, and the entrance gate remained closed until about 2 p.m. The park had about 1,600 visitors that day, he said.

Jeff Greenfield, chair of the Parks and Recreation Commission, told the council that the crowds and impact are "more significant than most people have anticipated."

"The visitor experience now is quite different — perhaps best epitomized by a mass of cars circulating in search of a parking space, kind of similar to Golden Gate Park on a busy weekend," Greenfield said.

But while Cormack favored a lighter regulatory touch, others argued for more stringent measures. Kou supported starting with a small cap and then gradually widening it, as circumstances allow. Tanaka argued that the entrance fees for Foothills Park should help make the park "revenue neutral," a restriction that does not apply to any other parks or open spaces.

While the council majority stopped short of adopting the most extreme proposals on the table, members agreed that the city needs to take immediate action to address the impacts of crowds on the park's delicate ecosystem. Filseth said he has recently visited the park and confronted an "amusement park" atmosphere with cars everywhere and people disregarding park rules.

"I saw people walking down hillsides," Filseth said. "I saw someone throw their trash on a hillside. I saw dogs off leash chasing squirrels through the underbrush. I saw kids throw rocks at water fowl."

While Filseth said he would support a $10 fee for entrance, Mayor Tom DuBois and Vice Mayor Pat Burt both pushed for $6, which would be better aligned with other parks in the region.

"A $10 fee is going to be viewed as onerous by residents and by nonresidents alike and it will, I fear, smack of a backdoor attempt at exclusivity, and leave us open to that accusation," Burt said.

The city hasn't set a date of when the new rules will go into effect. City staff will return to the council next week with an emergency ordinance listing the changes.

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New parking fee, lower visitor cap on the horizon at Foothills Park

Rules created due to recent surge of people at preserve

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Wed, Jan 20, 2021, 12:52 pm

After seeing a spike in visits to Foothills Park, the Palo Alto City Council moved on Tuesday to sharply curtail the number of people who can enter the scenic preserve.

Responding to reports of heavy traffic and environmental damage over the past month, the council agreed to lower the cap on visitors who can be at Foothills Park at one time from the current level of 750 to 400.

The new cap is well below the park's historic limit of 1,000 visitors, which the council reduced to 750 for 90 days as part of its November decision to remove a residents-only restriction at the park. It is also below staff's recommended cap of 500 visitors, though the council gave city staff leeway to potentially raise the limit to 500 if conditions allow.

The move is one of several that the city is preparing to institute as it seeks to limit access to a park that has seen a surge of visitors since Dec. 17, when the council officially repealed the residents-only requirement and opened it to the broader public. Daren Anderson, assistant director at the Community Services Department, said the number of people who visited the 1,400-acre preserve between Dec. 17 — the day the park officially opened to everyone — and Jan. 2 was 33,647, a roughly six-fold increase from 2019, when the park saw 5,687 visitors, he said.

Council members acknowledged on Jan. 19 that some of this can be attributed to the high publicity that Foothills Park has been receiving over the past year for being the only park in the region that was closed to nonresidents. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the trend, with open space areas throughout the region also seeing more visitors.

Council member Greer Stone noted that Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District preserves have also seen attendance increase by about 200% during the pandemic.

"We're not just seeing the influx of visitors to Foothills, we're seeing it in other preserves and parks throughout the area. … We don't know what's going to happen when the novelty ends with Foothills Park, but we do know that with COVID-19, people's desire to get out of their house is going to continue in the near future."

Council members Greg Tanaka and Lydia Kou, who had both voted against removing the ban on nonresidents, pushed for more stringent restrictions and higher parking fees. Kou said she had hoped to see a limit of 300 visitors and called the 400-person limit a "compromise." Tanaka supported setting the parking fee at $10, making it one of the most expensive parks to visit in the region. While council member Eric Filseth initially supported the $10 fee, the council ultimately voted to 6-1, with council member Alison Cormack dissenting, to institute a $6 fee, the level recommended by city staff, and directed its Parks and Recreation Commission to further refine the city's policy of park admittance and fees.

Cormack supported retaining the limit at 750 visitors, giving staff leeway to lower it as needed, and deferring the discussion on fees until the Parks and Recreation Commission vets the issue. She recalled volunteering at the park in recent weeks and called it a "wonderful, positive and welcoming environment."

"Many people said they used to live in Palo Alto and they're so glad to be able to come back here again," Cormack said.

While she acknowledged the traffic problems at the park since the Dec. 17 policy change, she argued that much of the impact has been addressed by the city's recent decision to bar entrance to the park on mornings and afternoons when the number of visitors hits the 750-person limit, which has only happened during weekends and holidays.

During Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the park reached its capacity at about 9:45 a.m., Anderson said, and the entrance gate remained closed until about 2 p.m. The park had about 1,600 visitors that day, he said.

Jeff Greenfield, chair of the Parks and Recreation Commission, told the council that the crowds and impact are "more significant than most people have anticipated."

"The visitor experience now is quite different — perhaps best epitomized by a mass of cars circulating in search of a parking space, kind of similar to Golden Gate Park on a busy weekend," Greenfield said.

But while Cormack favored a lighter regulatory touch, others argued for more stringent measures. Kou supported starting with a small cap and then gradually widening it, as circumstances allow. Tanaka argued that the entrance fees for Foothills Park should help make the park "revenue neutral," a restriction that does not apply to any other parks or open spaces.

While the council majority stopped short of adopting the most extreme proposals on the table, members agreed that the city needs to take immediate action to address the impacts of crowds on the park's delicate ecosystem. Filseth said he has recently visited the park and confronted an "amusement park" atmosphere with cars everywhere and people disregarding park rules.

"I saw people walking down hillsides," Filseth said. "I saw someone throw their trash on a hillside. I saw dogs off leash chasing squirrels through the underbrush. I saw kids throw rocks at water fowl."

While Filseth said he would support a $10 fee for entrance, Mayor Tom DuBois and Vice Mayor Pat Burt both pushed for $6, which would be better aligned with other parks in the region.

"A $10 fee is going to be viewed as onerous by residents and by nonresidents alike and it will, I fear, smack of a backdoor attempt at exclusivity, and leave us open to that accusation," Burt said.

The city hasn't set a date of when the new rules will go into effect. City staff will return to the council next week with an emergency ordinance listing the changes.

Comments

BP
Registered user
Barron Park
on Jan 20, 2021 at 1:53 pm
BP, Barron Park
Registered user
on Jan 20, 2021 at 1:53 pm

Wonderful. So now as a Palo Alto resident I have to pay a fee to get in, I have to get to the park before 10am, and then spend time trying to find a place to park. Can't wait to see what it will be like in the summer time. Seems I won't be going there anymore. Wonderful. Thanks City Council Members and City Lawyer.


Marie
Registered user
South of Midtown
on Jan 20, 2021 at 2:31 pm
Marie, South of Midtown
Registered user
on Jan 20, 2021 at 2:31 pm

I watched the PACC meeting last night. What isn't addressed in this article are the concerns about illegal parking outside the park when people cannot find parking and the chaos and danger from this parking, including around other entrances to the park. With an entrance fee, this problem will increase. Also, the fees only apply on the weekend and not to bicyclists and walkins (from their illegally parked cars). Eventually they hope to have an automated system to accept payment.

The city administration has truly failed to respond to this onslaught. Again and again, we don't have enough personnel to man anything but the main entrance on weekends. We don't have enough personnel to give tickets to the bicyclists (probably just a few bad apples amongst the mostly responsible cyclists) who run down pedestrians and bike on non-bike trails. We don't have enough personnel to give tickets to people who walk off trail, devastating the landscape. We don't have enough personnel to give tickets to people who let their dogs off leash. We don't have enough personnel to give tickets to illegal parkers or perhaps they aren't parking on Palo Alto land.

Never do they ask for money to hire temporary help to enforce these rules.

I hope Los Altos police and County Sheriffs step up to the plate and stop illegal parking.

One suggestion discussed by Greer Stone, not reported above, was the possibility of providing waivers for parking fees to students, seniors and low income people, rather than just discounts. Parks and recreation prefer one fee, preferably not needing change, so as to minimize time to get through the gate.

How about if we be really creative and offer 200 waivers for free parking to be picked up somewhere in Palo Alto, to first come first serve (not restricted to residents so as to not violate the lawsuit), on the way to the Foothills preserve? As the waivers are picked up, they immediately count as part of the quota. I hope that will be taken up by Parks and Recreation committee when they are work on a permanent ordinance for entrance fees at the Foothills Preserve (not a park as I understand it).


Curmudgeon
Registered user
Downtown North
on Jan 20, 2021 at 2:32 pm
Curmudgeon, Downtown North
Registered user
on Jan 20, 2021 at 2:32 pm

City council fouls up another one. They wreck the arrangement that has worked smoothly for decades, then they want to band-aid its adverse consequences with another bad "solution".

Gang, the simplest solution is to undo your original mistake and go back to what we know works


mauricio
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 20, 2021 at 3:57 pm
mauricio, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on Jan 20, 2021 at 3:57 pm

The only righteous thing to do is to turn FHP into a wildlife nature preserve that is off limits to humans.


JM
Registered user
Barron Park
on Jan 20, 2021 at 6:46 pm
JM, Barron Park
Registered user
on Jan 20, 2021 at 6:46 pm

This is egregious and unbelievably unfair to the citizens of Palo Alto. We have paid taxes to maintain this park and now you’re forcing us to pay even more? You address the park’s overcrowding by limiting the amount of people allowed? Yes, this will potentially reduce the amount of trash thats being thrown into this preserve from. However, the traffic cluster F*** will still persist on Page Mill from all the people who need to turn around when they realize they didn't get there early enough. This initiative to open the park during the pandemic clearly isn't working. The park is becoming trashed and soon the wild life will have stomachs full of plastic. Is the appearance of being socially just truly worth the lives of all these animals and the integrity of this impeccable park? We need charge more money in order to compensate for ecological damages. We should look to how we charge for parking on beaches for inspiration. Additionally, the citizens of Palo Alto should not have to pay an entrance fee


Tanya
Registered user
Community Center
on Jan 20, 2021 at 7:48 pm
Tanya, Community Center
Registered user
on Jan 20, 2021 at 7:48 pm

I was originally not too pleased but overall resigned and supportive of opening the park. But the opening has been a disaster for PA residents. (1) The park is now effectively closed from 10 am to 3 pm on weekends, so many PA residents cannot go to the park unless they can hit this time window (2) the park is crowded and for the first time littered, (3) the traffic jam at the entrance is a danger for cars and cyclists and in general the much higher traffic level in the very windy road is accidents waiting to happen on a regular bases, (4) you are now proposing entrance fees, so as a PA resident I would pay for it with my taxes and with an entrance fee, great! Why can't we turn it in to the state and let the state run it as a state park, as a resident I am not happy with paying for a park that I can no longer visit. In retrospect I think the community should have fought the ridiculous lawsuit. I am so disappointed with the city council on this!


Thank You!
Registered user
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 20, 2021 at 9:48 pm
Thank You!, Duveneck/St. Francis
Registered user
on Jan 20, 2021 at 9:48 pm

The park had gotten way to crowded to support a friendly environment for the wildlife. Thank you to the City Council for listening and lowering the daily entrance limit of 400 and instituting a fee. $6 sounds fine to me.


Longtime Resident
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Jan 21, 2021 at 3:06 am
Longtime Resident, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Jan 21, 2021 at 3:06 am

Hike around Foothill College. Less people, beautiful views, and wildlife too.
It has been paid for by local public taxes and bonds.


Foothills Park Maven
Registered user
Midtown
on Jan 21, 2021 at 8:45 am
Foothills Park Maven, Midtown
Registered user
on Jan 21, 2021 at 8:45 am

I hope the City Council is keeping track of park attendee demographics, before and after opening, limiting cars, assessing fees, etc. I believe that the original point of the lawsuit brought against the city was ending systemic racism. Has Foothills Park been desegregated?


Annette
Registered user
College Terrace
on Jan 21, 2021 at 11:26 am
Annette, College Terrace
Registered user
on Jan 21, 2021 at 11:26 am

This comment: "But the opening has been a disaster for PA residents" tells only part of the story, and it is not the most important part. The opening has been a disaster for the preserve. It's mind-boggling that people entrusted to make good decisions missed the mark on this one. Significantly. And one PACC member seems intent on allowing the damage to continue by imposing a "lighter regulatory touch". Did she not hear what Filseth reported? Unfortunately, it's a little late for a lighter touch.


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 21, 2021 at 11:34 am
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on Jan 21, 2021 at 11:34 am

""Many people said they used to live in Palo Alto and they're so glad to be able to come back here again," Cormack said.

While she acknowledged the traffic problems at the park since the Dec. 17 policy change, she argued that much of the impact has been addressed by the city's recent decision to bar entrance to the park on mornings and afternoons when the number of visitors hits the 750-person limit, which has only happened during weekends and holidays."

Isn't that special, hitting residents with fees so others can benefit. When are we going to have sensible "leaders" who anticipate problems before they destroy something. I'm disgusted with the city attorney and other "leaders" who jumped the gun on this one. There should be consequences for them.

By the way, is our attorney STILL slow-walking OUR payments from the PAU "over-charges"??


Cal Ave resident
Registered user
College Terrace
on Jan 21, 2021 at 11:58 am
Cal Ave resident, College Terrace
Registered user
on Jan 21, 2021 at 11:58 am

Give us a safe care-free way to bike to the park and create safe bike connections between all the open spaces. This is a parking problem not a park capacity problem. The model of driving to recreate doesn't work today. The city spent $50M on a parking garage on Cal Ave which sent a clear message you can drive everywhere for free all the time. It's no surprise this kind of thing is the outcome. Stop wasting money on unsustainable car infrastructure and squabbling over parking fees. Foothill and the other open spaces are not full. The parking lots are full because there is no other way to get there.


Annette
Registered user
College Terrace
on Jan 21, 2021 at 12:37 pm
Annette, College Terrace
Registered user
on Jan 21, 2021 at 12:37 pm

Cal Ave Resident may be on to something: if all parking at Foothills was eliminated and a 2nd entryway was added somewhere in town where people either carpooled or caught a shuttle to Foothills, that "gate" could be used to regulate access, traffic, and parking. Then the person at the gate at the preserve could collect entry fees from those who enter by other means (foot, bike, scooter, horse, etc) and relay headcount information to the person staffing the gate in town. This is complicated and time consuming, but one way or the other, Palo Alto is going to have to spend resources (time, money) on this. It makes sense to me to spend resources in a way that provides the most protection to Foothills Preserve.


dena
Registered user
Midtown
on Jan 21, 2021 at 1:42 pm
dena, Midtown
Registered user
on Jan 21, 2021 at 1:42 pm

I've been going to Foothills Park all my life. I probably won't be able to get in anymore. Palo Alto opened the park to everyone because of the threat of a lawsuit. Is that all it takes to get something done? Maybe now we have enough evidence to argue the request reasonably and come up with some sort of solution that everyone can agree to.


Rose
Registered user
Mayfield
on Jan 21, 2021 at 1:56 pm
Rose, Mayfield
Registered user
on Jan 21, 2021 at 1:56 pm

With all the comments for months concerning the park, in a comment above it is mentioned that there is no parking fee on weekdays. Finally that's clear -- assuming the writer is correct.

Someone else asked why we don't just donate the land to the park service and let them manage it. Ever since a lawsuit was pending I've been wondering why we shouldn't sell it to POST or the open space district and let them manage it.

I'd love to hear a response to someone else's question regarding the new visitors -- are there large numbers of people of color now visiting the park? Did the threat of a lawsuit meet the goals of those who found Palo Alto's private park discriminatory (even though all races were always welcome!)?


Resident
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 21, 2021 at 2:05 pm
Resident, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Jan 21, 2021 at 2:05 pm

Another illustration of the growing split between the Woke Social Justice movement which now includes the ACLU, and the Environmental movement.


JB
Registered user
Evergreen Park
on Jan 21, 2021 at 2:07 pm
JB, Evergreen Park
Registered user
on Jan 21, 2021 at 2:07 pm

Hello. I also listened to the city council discussion on Foothills the other night (it lasted past midnight!). Please note that this new 400 person limit and $6 entrance fee is just a temporary emergency memorandum and won't take effect until about February 20, I believe. Meanwhile, the council will return on February 1 to refine the issue of parking fees, capacity limits, and other things of importance. I'm personally very pleased that the 400 person limit is a temporary limit, but it could be raised to 500 as time goes by. Lydia Kou suggested this 400 person limit so that the limit could be adjusted upwards if needed. She personally favors 350-400 as a capacity limit. To give some idea of park capacity, my husband went to the park one day and counted 266 cars (many families were there). People were walking all over the roads and hillsides. He turned around and left because he felt it was a covid spreading situation. There were many discussions about the park entrance fee. Some people mentioned that the park has been financed by Palo Alto citizens through their property taxes and other taxes. However, one slide showed that more than $1 million is needed for park maintenance and employee salaries, and the park fees will only pay a portion of this needed budget. Of course, our city is now experiencing a budget crunch. If we don't raise some fees for the park, the cost of maintenance and salaries will have to come from some other place in our city budget. Right now, there is temporary caution tape preventing new visitors from walking up the hillsides near Boronda Lake and the upper overlook area. City council would like to put wood fencing to protect the hillsides, but this will of course cost more money. The city council is asking the parks and recreation staff to also discuss a yearly park entrance fee, which could range between $50-60 for Palo Alto residents and about 25% more for non- Palo Alto residents, before the February 1 meeting. They also suggested a discount for seniors, low-income residents, and students for this yearly fee. They are also waiting for some parking meters to be delivered; the shipment was supposed to arrive in December, if I heard correctly. Greg Tanaka favored the $10 park entrance fee just to speed up things at the gate by paying with one bill and not making the rangers search for $1 and $10 bills if the fee is $6 and somebody pays with a $10 or $20 bill. The issue of bikes and pedestrians entering the park and causing dangerous conditions on Page Mill Road was heavily discussed. The park staff wanted to charge bikes and pedestrians a smaller park entrance fee like $3 but felt that it would be too crowded at the entrance station with one line for bikes and pedestrians and one line for cars. The idea of reservations was also discussed and will be addressed again at the February 1 city council meeting. People who live along Page Mill Road or along places like Alexis Drive have been complaining about the bad parking situation for them and the dangerous road conditions on Page Mill Road. Since the holiday period, there have been no park closures during the week (except some Fridays have come close). The weekends and holidays are the worst problem. As of right now, they don't plan to have rangers at the entrance station during the week (probably because they can't afford to hire them). Any of the people wanting more answers from city council or wanting to voice their complaints can email them through the link below. You can also sign up to talk via Zoom at the February 1 city council meeting. I hope this helps and that our precious park can remain the peaceful wildlife preserve that it used to be. By the way, my husband (who hikes there about 3-4 times per week on weekdays), has only seen Afro Americans there one time, a family of 3 fishing at Boronda Lake a few weeks ago. However, he rarely visits the Boronda Lake area now due to crowding, so this could have changed.

Web Link




Caput Mollis
Registered user
Midtown
on Jan 21, 2021 at 2:11 pm
Caput Mollis, Midtown
Registered user
on Jan 21, 2021 at 2:11 pm

Hold on, so now my taxes not only pay for the wealthy residents of Los Altos Hills to access the park for free, but I have to pay an additional fee to use the park I already pay for, assuming I can get in? Here's a better solution -- Stephen Lee, Adrian Fine, and everyone else who squandered city resources to signal their own virtue get their wages garnished until the damage done to Foothills Park is fixed.


Sharlene Carlson
Registered user
Charleston Meadows
on Jan 21, 2021 at 3:07 pm
Sharlene Carlson, Charleston Meadows
Registered user
on Jan 21, 2021 at 3:07 pm

I have lived in Palo Alto for almost 50 years and have been a frequent visitor to the park. Since it was opened to everyone I was turned away 3 times but finally made it in last Sunday at 9am only to encounter a total mess. Cars everywhere. Bikes on the trails. People walking on hills roped off as sensitive areas. All the cars were newer and nicer than my Honda. I did not feel safe on the trails or roads, either from COVID or risk of a fall at age 72. Crazy.

There was a previous comment about diversity. Everyone I saw was either white, Asian, or Indian. I did not see a single Black or LatinX person, not did I hear Spanish spoken. I would think the ACLU and NAACP would be quite disappointed with this result. Seems like wealthier people than those who historically visited the park have now taken it over. Sad.


Too little. Too late.
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 21, 2021 at 3:19 pm
Too little. Too late., Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Jan 21, 2021 at 3:19 pm

We need strong critical thinkers who challenge staff by asking probing questions on Council. We have many talented staff, but they are people and they are not always right. Many of our current staff (and one or two Council Members) are new and inexperienced--and lack historical knowledge and good training and supervision.

My observation conforms with Eric Filseth's comments. I am concerned that the actions taken do not address the serious on-street parking and circulation safety problems AND the safety and health of the environment there.

There are simply too many people, and enough of them are behaving badly to undermine the fragile ecosystems in the nature preserve. It saddens me that opening the preserve has been so destructive in such a short time to this precious natural space. Council's actions are insufficient to turn that around. Taking time to make a solid plan that protects the land and creatures there would be smarter. Also, Palo Alto citizens who pay local taxes have paid their fees in advance. Alison Cormack disappoints again. A "lighter regulatory touch" on a nature preserve is, well, ridiculous. Human behavior must be regulated in such places in order to preserve nature.


Martinimaas
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Jan 21, 2021 at 3:59 pm
Martinimaas, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Jan 21, 2021 at 3:59 pm

It appears to me that the visitor target is not in the right place - it is too high - and other use parameters deserve reevaluation. Wherever that attendance target is set, this is Palo Alto's park and Palo Alto residents really should not be turned away. I think we need to think this thru more. Capping non-Palo Alto resident use deserves deliberation. Simply because there is a cap on it is very different than total exclusion. The degree to which park staff are enforcing rules also deserves deliberation. In the months leading up to the access rule change, it was rare to see park staff checking residence id, which I interpret as a conscious action to allow open access by not enforcing that rule. I think it's perfectly reasonable for non-residents to be asked to purchase and display a use permit online in advance. That way we could gather information on the home city and other demographics of users to the park, as the threat of lawsuit will likely rear its head again and we should really be taking steps now to respond to that. Perhaps we allow residents to have the option to secure a certain number of "guaranteed access" passes per year. Consider whether residents who value very regular use at Foothills would purchase a "guaranteed entry" permit (dashboard sticker). I would buy one if it were offered. Regarding the destructive behaviors, if someone is throwing rocks at waterfowl (which they are) cite him/her. If someone is chasing wildlife (which I often see) cite them. Heck, I have seen a family doing archery on the great lawn...those arrows could have very easily killed the nearby deer (or people)! The amount of trash all around has increased exponentially! Regarding demographics of use if this is the basis of the threatened lawsuit we should be trying to gather this info upon entrance to the park. I do not think it would be too burdensome to require all park visitors to complete a short scantron questionnaire upon entry. I use the park 2-3 times a week. It seems rather odd to write about this, but to put labels on it, I mostly see Asians at the park. After that, it's a bit of a toss up between people who look as if they are from India and white people. I do not see many Hispanic groups. I see very few black people as in African American. We should not rely on people's "thumb in the air" perceptions of this tho. If it's the basis of the lawsuit, let's gather that into!


ndn
Registered user
Downtown North
on Jan 21, 2021 at 4:42 pm
ndn, Downtown North
Registered user
on Jan 21, 2021 at 4:42 pm

Congratulations to LaDoris Cordell on her achievement? Now we all have to pay fees (even the poor) to get in the Preserve, making more difficult to visit for a significant slice of the Bay Area residents. There are still no speeches being declaimed in the park, well-to-do Los Altos Hills residents getting in the park for free (it's in their backyard, no need for transportation) and all manner of problems for roads and people.

A' la demagogue LaDoris made her point but she lost her cause, unless her cause was to make it really difficult to have a Foothill Preserve for the people. I trust that those* who misrepresent who they really serve will have their comeuppance next time they want to run for office. I, for one, will not forget.
See you at the polls.
*all of them(Fine&Company) not just Cordell


Samuel L.
Registered user
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 21, 2021 at 5:01 pm
Samuel L., Duveneck/St. Francis
Registered user
on Jan 21, 2021 at 5:01 pm

@BP - As Yogi Berra said,"Nobody goes there anymore. It's too crowded."


Rose
Registered user
Mayfield
on Jan 21, 2021 at 5:05 pm
Rose, Mayfield
Registered user
on Jan 21, 2021 at 5:05 pm

Most of us are referring to the people who now are overusing and therefore abusing the "park". We should all remember that it is a "preserve" that was created to protect nature -- the flora and the fauna. We are lucky we get to enjoy the preserve too. We must continue to protect this asset and the current program is nothing less than abuse.


Perception
Registered user
College Terrace
on Jan 21, 2021 at 6:12 pm
Perception, College Terrace
Registered user
on Jan 21, 2021 at 6:12 pm

The problem as I see it is that that there are two mutually exclusive approaches of what Foothills Park should be.

Those behind and supportive of the lawsuit consider Foothills Park should be considered and used as an "urban city park" because the amenities it offers are similar to those found in city parks.

Others see Foothills Park as predominantly a nature preserve that happens to provide some "city park-like" amenities. With the attraction of "city park-like" amenities now attracting a surge in non-resident use, the combination of providing these amenities and preserving Foothills Park as a nature preserve will likely become, if not already, mutually exclusive.

Optimists have opined that the high numbers of visitors are likely temporary.
But as anyone who hiked other local "nature preserves" pre-Covid19 on weekends and weekday evenings can witness, parking lots were previously overflowing during the most popular evening and weekend hours. As long as Foothills Park offers "city park-like" amenities coupled with more parking than other nearby preserves it is highly unlikely that demand at Foothills Park will decrease much, if at all. Certainly not to sufficiently protect it's fragile nature without some mechanism to discourage overuse.

I favor an annual pass or daily use fee coupled with Council member Greer Stone's suggestion of discounts for senior and low income citizens.

I do not favor requiring advance reservations. For many Palo Alto residents, if not most, the joy of Foothill Park has always been the ability to decide on the spur of the moment to visit. Even if just to watch the fog rolling in from Vista Point. I suspect that supporting advance reservations is suggested and supported by those who are infrequent Foothill Park visitors.

Adding the additional hurdle of requiring advance reservations will very likely lead to reduced visits by Palo Alto residents. Ultimately leading to many residents, especially those who don't use Foothill Park, questioning the value of the trade off necessary in reductions to other city services to divert scarce city resources to a substantially increased Foothill Park budget.

A Foothill Park that has changed and provides a diminished value to residents. Especially now there are so many other local nature preserves funded by county money. None of which existed when Foothill Park was purchased by Palo Alto residents, and who taxed themselves to do so.


JB
Registered user
Evergreen Park
on Jan 21, 2021 at 6:16 pm
JB, Evergreen Park
Registered user
on Jan 21, 2021 at 6:16 pm

Hi again. Besides contacting city council members directly as I mentioned above in my previous post, you can also contact Greg Tanaka's office at [email protected] (see the link below) to be a participant in his weekly Zoom webinar this Sunday or the following Sunday. I participated in a Tanaka Zoom webinar devoted only to Foothills Park about 2 weeks ago. There were about 10-12 of us signed up, and we all got to speak about 2 times. He listened carefully to all of us. Everyone was very upset about the massive crowds in the parks over the holidays and on the weekends, as well as the lack of planning for the opening of the park and its effect on the environment. He definitely wants to make the maintenance of the park as revenue neutral as possible, so he probably won't agree with you if you are a Palo Alto resident and don't feel you should pay a park entrance fee. However, if you feel strongly about this, just express your opinion during the Zoom meeting. Here is a link to contacting his office to sign up for a Sunday webinar (ours was held at 2:15 to 3 PM, as I recall). Good luck with getting your opinions heard by city council, the parks and recreation staff, and the city manager!

Web Link



Annette
Registered user
College Terrace
on Jan 21, 2021 at 7:14 pm
Annette, College Terrace
Registered user
on Jan 21, 2021 at 7:14 pm

If there are problems NOW that are damaging the preserve NOW, why keep it open while solutions to the problems caused by this unmanaged opening are being studied? Why not instead protect the preserve during this interim and temporarily close Foothills? Sure, people who can walk in will still have access, but that number will be far lower than the damaging number that is accessing the park now.

Q about the settlement and the lawsuit: what are the City's options now? I imagine they are very limited, but that's just a guess.


Jim H
Registered user
Community Center
on Jan 21, 2021 at 10:25 pm
Jim H, Community Center
Registered user
on Jan 21, 2021 at 10:25 pm

This haphazard approach to Foothills just keeps getting worse. Don't overreact. People are coming now because it' still a hot topic on the Internet, Covid , holidays, and a bucket list item for a park closed for decades. I go there several times/weeks. Already I see a dropoff in visitors even though it's still busy. I've talked with people that are coming from 20-30 miles away. They will not be regulars.
The most important thing I believe is to have an online reservation system ONLY approach to entrance. Don't let people just show up. This allows the park planners to know how many visitors, how many cars, and from where. And it prevents unnecessary traffic up Page Mill and people showing up to a closed park. Let's gather some stats and less knee jerks.


Longtime Resident
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Jan 22, 2021 at 12:53 am
Longtime Resident, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Jan 22, 2021 at 12:53 am

Where is the wealthy Los Altos girl from Nueva school who started all this controversy?


Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on Jan 22, 2021 at 7:44 am
Resident 1-Adobe Meadows, Adobe-Meadow
Registered user
on Jan 22, 2021 at 7:44 am

I am reading the article today - 01/22/21 in the BAN/SJM - "Foothills Park to start charging $6 per vehicle". It is reporting the "Council Direction" which is incorrect on a number of points. I belong to a group that reserves and pays for two events a year in the barbecue area - June and October. There is a reservation systems for groups and there is a payment system for the reservation system. There is a process in which the names of the guests are provided at the guard gate so those individuals who are not PA residents can join the event. It states there are no fees. Yes - there are fees for reserving spaces and there always have been.

It is maddening that incorrect information is provided to the public by a local paper, and further maddening that the reporter in question has been following this since the beginning and should know better.

I look at all that has gone on here as a combined misreporting by the papers and a lack of knowledge by those providing cover for the paper and the people involved. People - get your act together.


JB
Registered user
Evergreen Park
on Jan 23, 2021 at 7:32 pm
JB, Evergreen Park
Registered user
on Jan 23, 2021 at 7:32 pm

I just read today in the January 22 edition of the Palo Alto Weekly that the Palo Alto Parks and Recreation Commission will discuss the Foothills Park visitor limit and the entrance fee policy at their upcoming virtual meeting this week on Tuesday, January 26 at 7 PM. They will also elect a new chair and vice chair and get an update on Boulware Park upgrades. I can't tell by the article, but they may be discussing Foothills Park after they elect chairs and talk about Boulware Park. This gives people on this forum another opportunity to comment via Zoom about Foothills Park by calling 669-900-6833 and using Meeting ID 999 3789 9745. Good luck getting your voices heard! It's important to participate before the February 1 city council meeting, when they will try to finalize an emergency plan for Foothills Park.


coughvid
Registered user
Palo Alto Orchards
on Jan 26, 2021 at 6:44 pm
coughvid, Palo Alto Orchards
Registered user
on Jan 26, 2021 at 6:44 pm

The council should have just opened the park but not agreed to the restrictions in the suit. Understand that Palo Alto now cannot make the park free for residents and charge others. Forever. It made Adrian Fine feel good, but Foothills park had zero to do with racism. That pissed me off as we "admitted" to something that was simply untrue.

Here's what we do, we create minimal work for rangers:
You register by cell phone before you go to the park. Rangers do not staff the gate. A "meter maid" goes around with software that checks license plates against the day's database. My company has computer vision models that do that. Palo Alto can "fund" residents who choose to visit with 12 free passes a year. Others: $6/car is reasonable.

We don't need to buy 300 new parking meters. Sheesh people. Park access in "unrestricted". We charge for parking. Tickets are $20.


Alice Schaffer Smith
Registered user
Downtown North
on Jan 27, 2021 at 6:57 am
Alice Schaffer Smith, Downtown North
Registered user
on Jan 27, 2021 at 6:57 am

I told you so is just one thought.

My fear is ALSO the bicyclist being injured because drivers aren't used to Page Mill Road and drive too fast up that dangerous road.

Some of the paths are still 2 way which makes this also dangerous. I have had to tell walkers to put on their masks.


R. Cavendish
Registered user
another community
on Jan 27, 2021 at 7:52 am
R. Cavendish, another community
Registered user
on Jan 27, 2021 at 7:52 am

quote: "How about if we be really creative and offer 200 waivers for free parking to be picked up somewhere in Palo Alto,"

∆ that is a terrific idea. as a promo incentive, smaller retail stores situated in Palo Alto could dispense these waivers to encourage local business patronage & the PAPD could hand out a few as goodwill gestures to the Palo Alto community & it's residents.

non-residents would also be eligible to receive these waivers BUT they could only get them at a Palo Alto-based store OR by accidental & random interaction with a PAPD officer.


Context matters.
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 27, 2021 at 5:41 pm
Context matters., Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Jan 27, 2021 at 5:41 pm

What if Council made it possible to make a reservation and pay in advance for parking online? This would save frustrated people from driving there and being turned away because they are over capacity. Residents might be issued a credit that acknowledges their tax contribution to supporting the nature preserve. Handicapped folks should not have to pay to park there, in my opinion.

Friends, please be gentler with this precious land. We are blessed to have it. Let's enjoy this place with gratitude and take care of it. Follow the park rules, please. Stay on the trails. Keep dogs on leash. Bikes yield to hikers (It's the law.). If you bring stuff in, pack it out. Don't leave your trash where it will be a hazard to wildlife and an eyesore. Let's teach our children how to behave with respect for nature.


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