Jeff Blum's recent guest opinion ("Thursday night's HRC meeting will tackle two sensitive situations," July 11) left all of us at Peninsula Peace and Justice Center feeling unfairly attacked and smeared. Mr. Blum's article could easily be misconstrued as having been written in his official capacity as a member of Palo Alto's Human Relations Commission.
Because of this, his reference to unspecified and untrue "allegations of anti-Semitism" at PPJC come across as doubly harmful to our reputation. As a public official, Mr. Blum has a special responsibility to make absolutely clear whether he is writing as an individual or as an official. He failed to do this.
Mr. Blum cited recent letters to the Weekly as his source of the supposed allegations, yet not a single one of those letters used the inflammatory term anti-Semitism. Rather, the letters challenged our position on the Israel-Palestine conflict. That's fair enough -- debate and dialogue are at the core of PPJC's work.
Perhaps Mr. Blum confuses criticism of Israeli government policies with anti-Semitism. If so, that would be a shame, because then no policy debate could ever take place. PPJC's criticisms arise from a genuine concern that Israeli government policy, backed up by U.S. policy, is proving to be one of many obstacles to peace in the region and is leaving innocent people on all sides in harm's way.
Mr. Blum's poorly considered essay has caused harm to our organization's reputation and the individuals at PPJC were deeply hurt on a personal level. Three of our eight board members are Jewish. My partner is Jewish. Can you imagine how we all felt last week when we read Mr. Blum's piece?
I believe Mr. Blum owes us an apology.
Kingsley Avenue, Palo Alto
Foothills not for sale
According to "Parks of Palo Alto," the property known as Foothills "Park" was offered to the City of Palo Alto in 1958 by Dr. Russel V. Lee at a special price of $1,000 an acre so that it would be preserved as open space rather than being subdivided. An election was held in 1959 with a vote of 6,542 for the purchase and 3,997 against.
Payment of $1.294 million was spread over seven years on an interest-free loan. The Lucie Stern Foundation contributed a $30,000 grant. Additional land was added over the years, bringing the total to 1,399.6 acres. (It is true that when other nearby cities were offered the chance to buy into the park purchase they refused, and the Palo Alto City Council affirmed that the park would therefore be reserved for Palo Alto residents. That policy was reaffirmed by the council unanimously in 1973 and by a 5:4 vote in 1991.)
Foothills has approximately 1,400 acres but only 90 acres of that are developed. These developed acres include the maintenance yard, the interpretive center, restrooms, the lake, parking areas, the seasonal fire station, roads and a water reservoir.
Practically speaking, there are probably about 50 acres for actual recreational use, such as picnicking, camping and walking. Fifty acres reserved for 60,000 people is not unreasonable, not when Palo Alto has about 34 other parks open to the public, including large ones: Rinconada, Eleanor, Mitchell and Greer, and smaller ones such as Bol. Also open to the public are the libraries, the Junior Museum and Zoo, the golf course, the Baylands, the Duck Pond, Gamble Garden Center and all the tennis courts, even ones that are lighted.
Stanford, on the other hand, does not allow "outsiders" to use its tennis courts, check out library books or use the golf course and driving range, nor the swimming pool. But Stanford residents and students can use Palo Alto's facilities -- and public schools. Foothills Park is pristine, safe, quiet and beautiful. Wildlife of all kinds is plentiful. Picnickers clean up after themselves, and if they forget something someone will do it for them. It is peaceful -- an oasis in the middle of 11 million people.
It is remote and still it is safe. There is nothing elitist or racist about the residents-only policy because Palo Alto is one of the most generous cities on the Peninsula, sharing its many other facilities. It is good common sense to preserve a precious treasure. Foothills would be strained with 500 people at one time, let alone 1,000 or 2,000.
The people of Palo Alto love and cherish Foothills Park, and they take care of it. The policy should not change.
Palo Alto has other ways to cut the budget and find money for Fire Station 8, such as cutting salaries, cutting expenses for consultants and reducing the number of staff and not hiring any new ones at $150,000 plus benefits.
Selling access to "Foothills Nature Preserve" to well-heeled buyers is not one of these ways. It is a dangerous and unprecedented way of saving money. Who will be next in line?
Walter Hays Drive, Palo Alto
Let shops use space
I am dumbfounded by the Palo Alto's apparent contempt for downtown merchants. In its latest action on behalf of its citizens, the city has been cracking down on displays that merchants place outside.
If there were a fire hazard or a display were blocking the entrance of another business I would understand. However, in talking with merchants, I have not found a single instance where these posed a threat. In fact, in some cases the displays were on private property set back from the sidewalk.
It is thrilling that business has returned to downtown Palo Alto after the bust. The new barrage of boutiques is particularly awesome. One would think that the city would rejoice and want these businesses to invite people inside to visit, but instead it has reverted to its pre-bust control-freak unpleasantness.
I have even heard that the city is giving pointers to business owners on how to make more sales. That is laughable since the city itself is so horrible at catering to its own business clientele.
Excuse me, Palo Alto, but please let the shops use space outdoors that does not interfere with safety or other uses.
Central Avenue, Menlo Park