The project does not, however, include a dog exercise area, an amenity that several council members lobbied for during the planning process. In August 2012, the council approved $2.5 million for the new recreational amenities that included a dog run, but the component was later struck from the plan because of the park's proximity to the San Francisquito Creek and its endangered steelhead trout.
Much like the city's renovation of its golf course and the ongoing makeover of City Hall's ground floor, the El Camino Park project has undergone a significant evolution in scope and cost since its inception.
In addition to looking for ways to add a dog park, the city's Parks and Recreation Commission since summer of 2010 has discussed changes to the park including, upon direction from the council, a way to integrate the historic Julia Morgan building that is currently at 27 University Ave.
Last year, however, commissioners concluded that neither the dog run nor the Julia Morgan building could be adequately accommodated at the 12.2-acre park. At a March 2013 meeting, then-Chair Ed Lauing concluded that the park has too many amenities to also accommodate a dog area and the Morgan building, known as Hostess House. Commissioner Jennifer Hetterly called the proposed design "mashed potatoes" and also rejected a dog park.
The commission is now spearheading a pilot project that would create a larger dog-exercise area at another Palo Alto park during morning hours.
Even without the dog run, the price tag of the improvement project has gone up by more than $1 million since the council last discussed it more than two years ago. The new amenities, as well as the expansion of the parking lot to accommodate 22 new spaces, brings the project's cost to $5.5 million, well above the $4.4 million budget that the council adopted in 2012.
To pay for these amenities, the city plans to tap into $1.6 million from the Utility Department's Water Fund, use $2.2 million in park-development fees for the project and draw about $510,000 from the Infrastructure Reserve. A new report from the Public Works Department indicates that staff will be requesting more funding to cover the gap.
The council's approval allows the city to go out to bid for construction in November, solicit proposals by December and complete the improvements by the end of 2015.
This story contains 499 words.
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