Consistent smoking ban in Palo Alto parks likely | September 26, 2008 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - September 26, 2008

Consistent smoking ban in Palo Alto parks likely

Parks commission smoking discussion slated for October

by Becky Trout

Although its not a burning issue, the Palo Alto Parks and Recreation Commission agreed Tuesday to examine whether to ban smoking in some or all of Palo Alto's parks.

The city's current mishmash of policies is confusing, Commissioner Alex Panelli said.

For example, smoking is not allowed on trails in Foothills Park, but isn't regulated at the Pearson-Arastradero Preserve, a flammable grassland, or at Byxbee Park, which sits atop trash-generated methane, said Greg Betts, the city's interim community services director.

Smoking is also prohibited at playgrounds, baseball backdrops and bleachers in all parks.

The six commissioners — minus absent Commissioner Joel Davidson — expressed a range of opinions, with most agreeing that smoking shouldn't be allowed in the foothills due to fire danger.

Commissioner Deirdre Crommie took the strongest stand against smoking in parks.

"I think smoking is completely incompatible with health and doesn't belong in parks," she said.

But Chairwoman Pat Markevitch said she doesn't see a need to intervene.

"Smokers are taxpayers too. ... I'm really tired of these nanny laws that are slowly being leached into us on all sides."

Commissioner Carl King said he agrees that smokers aren't criminals, but he would like to reduce the amount of smoking in parks.

The commission could expand the list of non-smoking areas within parks to include pools, trailheads, picnic tables and restrooms, for example, Commissioner Daria Walsh said.

Of local communities, Belmont's prohibition on all smoking in public is the strongest. Menlo Park does not restrict smoking in parks, and Mountain View prohibits smoking near playgrounds and restrooms in parks.

In other business, the commission approved a revised field-use policy with a few changes, including expanding residency status (which allows for priority field bookings) to children who attend Palo Alto schools.

The vote was 6-0 with Commissioner Joel Davidson absent.

"No policy is going to be perfect," Commissioner Carl King said. "I hope there won't be any huge discontinuity for the user groups."

It is the city's first attempt to formalize a brokering system.

The policy states that help with fields is appreciated, but it does not earn any group preferred status to use the field.

Youth sports groups composed of at least 75 percent Palo Alto residents receive priority.

To accommodate adult soccer players, the policy now includes expanded Monday, Wednesday and Friday playing hours at the Stanford/Palo Alto Playing Fields.

The City Council is expected to discuss the policy further in October.

Staff Writer Becky Trout can be e-mailed at


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