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 Tuesday to lower the cap on visitors who can be at Foothills Park at one time from the current level of 750 to 400.
It also gave staff leeway to potentially raise the limit to 500 if conditions allow.
The council also voted to 6-1, with council member Alison Cormack dissenting, to institute a $6 entry 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.
— Gennady Sheyner
Ravenswood looks to reopen some schools
The Ravenswood City School District is looking to start reopening its campuses as soon as next week for small groups of high-need students, which school leaders hope will be an initial step toward safely resuming more in-person instruction.
Ravenswood submitted a waiver application to San Mateo County Health on Jan. 14 to bring back an estimated 42 students, including a transitional kindergarten class at Costa?o Elementary School and 31 students with moderate to severe special needs, from preschool to fifth grade. But the district doesn't need a waiver to reopen for select groups of "urgent learners," the county recently told Superintendent Gina Sudaria, and can proceed following existing state and local public health guidance pending direction from the school board, she said Tuesday.
Trustees supported staff's recommendation, presented at a study session last week, to start reopening schools for students "whose education has been massively disrupted" by months of remote learning, Sudaria said.
"We need to reimagine what is possible ... to make up for the disruptions of COVID," she told the board on Jan. 12. "This is just not about a few weeks of summer school. This is a long-term plan, a multiyear process that we need to start acting upon now."
The district is purposefully starting small with willing families and teachers to demonstrate that in-person learning can be done safely, which will hopefully encourage more teachers and families to come back, Sudaria said.
The district hopes to bring the first groups of students back as soon as Monday, Jan. 25. The 11 transitional kindergarten students would attend school every day in the mornings with one teacher. In the afternoon, the class would remain in a stable cohort and attend a district learning hub together, which opened in September to provide support — but not direct instruction — to students. About 200 students are currently attending the learning hubs, which are held on Ravenswood campuses but managed by local nonprofits.
The school board was scheduled to discuss the waiver and its reopening plan again at its virtual meeting on Jan. 21.
Resignation creates another opening on planning commission
The Palo Alto City Council will have a chance to fill three seats on the Planning and Transportation Commission in the coming weeks after commissioner William Riggs' recent resignation.
The resignation of Riggs, a professor at the University of San Francisco who chaired the commission in 2019, on Jan. 13 means that the recently reconstituted council will have a chance to leave a greater imprint on the city's most influential advisory commission, which is often seen as a stepping stone for would-be council candidates.
Riggs' resignation on Jan. 13 follows a contentious political battle between the council's two factions over commission appointments. Last year's council, which included Liz Kniss and Adrian Fine and on which the more pro-growth bloc enjoyed a 4-3 majority, favored making the appointments before the end of the year, a move that may have threatened the reappointments of commissioners Ed Lauing and Doria Summa. They ultimately relented after a political spat with the council's more slow-growth candidates, who obtained a council majority after the November election.
The council has received nine applications for the two seats that were open prior to Riggs' resignation. In addition to Lauing and Summa, the pool of applicants includes Kelsey Banes, Doug Burns, Alon Carmeli, Rebecca Eisenberg, Kathy Jordan, Kevin Ma and Jessica Resmini.
— Gennady Sheyner