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Competing for Palo Alto fields

Original post made on Sep 10, 2008

To a spectator, passerby or even a casual participant, it appears natural: Two teams meet at a Palo Alto playing field, compete intensely — enjoying the exercise, camaraderie and usually excellent weather — cool down a bit, and then leave, ready to return again the next week.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, September 10, 2008, 8:47 AM

Comments (35)

Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 10, 2008 at 9:27 am

I do thank all those working on this problem, for problem it is.

One possible aid to solving the problem would be to use floodlights at many of the bigger fields. Certain areas of Mitchell Park and Greer Park, possibly others, could have extended life during the fall/winter/spring seasons by having lights allowed til say 8.30. This would mean that a field could be used by younger players til 6.30 and there would still be 2 hours practice time for adults. At present, light prevents two practice sessions per field at most sites and improving the lighting could make a big difference. The later leagues for adults who would be using the lights could pay a larger fee since they are normally filled by working adults who can afford to pay more than parents with two or three children involved in sports. This should then cover the cost of the lights in a few years. Perhaps even a sponsor could be found for the adult leagues who would be willing to help with the cost of funding the lights.

This problem really does need to be addressed. We are increasingly becoming a society which wants to get involved in sport, particularly team activities, for reasons of health, team bonding, crime prevention and with the influx of residents from countries that consider soccer their first choice sport, it is getting more and more important to provide this sort of accommodations to our residents - even those daytime residents who work here rather than reside here.

Posted by soccer mom
a resident of Ventura
on Sep 10, 2008 at 10:27 am

Great idea about lights and getting adult leagues to pay for them. Please forward to Parks & Recreation Commission members and the City:

Posted by Palo Parent
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Sep 10, 2008 at 10:57 am

Oh yeah, just what the surrounding neighbors would want. More noise, yelling and penalty whistles than they currently put up with. Who in their sane mind would allow something like floodlights to be approved to flush their property values down. Plus, some of these adult players tend to hang out and socialize after. While that's probably OK in a free-standing playing field like The Baylands facility, it's not appropriate in fields adjacent to or in family neighborhoods.

Posted by Paul
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 10, 2008 at 11:43 am

Close the PA airport and make it into playing fields. There's lots of level land there; let it benefit everyone.

Posted by j baer
a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on Sep 10, 2008 at 11:52 am

Before AYSO's volunteer leadership allows a higher use access for soccer fields, why not ask the 3 compeititive soccer clubs how many volunteer hours each team's parents provide. I suspect the parent leadership at the team and club directorship levels is beyond or equal to the AYSO volunteer level.
AYSO provides a great initial experience for the very young soccer player, but for any child really hoping to learn the game it probably won't come from AYSO. Parks & Rec. with its "draft" policy is in essence endorsing AYSO as the best soccer experience in PA for its youth. I don't agree.
Perhaps if Palo Alto had one competitive soccer club with an adult program some of the "bureacracy" could be reduced. I'm probably to idealistic here, but it wouldn't hurt for Parks & Rec. to encourage this.
The U.S. and P.A. is so far behind the world regarding community soccer organization. Most world-wide communities have one "Club" manage the Kinders thru adult soccer experience.

Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 10, 2008 at 12:09 pm

Palo Parent

If you had read my suggestion properly you would have seen that the idea was for lights at areas of Mitchell Park and Greer Park as well as maybe some other places. I was not saying everywhere because I know that all parks would not be suitable. There are areas of Mitchell and Greer Parks where lights would be suitable because they are not near residential areas and they both have reasonable parking areas. For these reasons lights would have little impact on residential areas. I would not suggest that areas near Jordan, most of the elementary schools and other parks would be suitable for this type of arrangement.

Posted by mo bb
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 10, 2008 at 12:52 pm

Isn't Palo Alto big enough to have 2 LL baseball fields (softball fields not included). Look how many kids play LL.
Soccer and baseball cannot coexist on the same field. Soccer cleats tears up an outfield like you wouldn't believe.

Hoover should be dedicated to LL baseball and a permanent fence built.

Posted by Midtown Mom
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 10, 2008 at 12:57 pm

I think there is quite a difference between the tearing up done by the cleats of 150 lb. U16 players; and the cleats of 50 lb. AYSO kinder league players. Hoover Park is only used by the youngest age groups.

Posted by Club Soccer Fan
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 10, 2008 at 1:00 pm

There is some talk in other communities of clubs having a "home field" with use priority so that the club can contribute to the maintenance (mowing, lining fields, filling in holes, reseeding problem areas, making sure the sprinklers are working). It seems like there would be a benefit to both the city and the club to make a relationship like that work.

Posted by mo bb
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 10, 2008 at 2:28 pm

When it rains, it doesn't matter if it is 150lbs or 50lbs.
Besides, there can still can be at least 2 soccer fields with an outfield fence at Hoover.

Posted by Midtown Mom
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 10, 2008 at 2:42 pm

You are right about the wet fields - any play on them really trashes the surface. The city is usually pretty careful about closing fields if it has rained, but they are not so careful about allowing play on fields that have been over-watered, such as the fields at Addison a while back.

But doesn't baseball have a dedicated field by the baylands, and one by Mitchell Park, as well as the heavy use of Cubberley fields for softball? Why do they want to build a permanent fence at Hoover, which is very heavily used by kids and families in the neighborhood all year round, in addition to the young AYSO teams?

Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 10, 2008 at 4:46 pm

The baseball field on Middlefield (near mitchell park) is owned by PA Little League, not the city. Baseball shouldn't be played on a soccer field and vice-versa. . I suspect that they only want to fence the baseball diamond at Hoover, not the whole field. I do find it funny that Heritage Park has trees planted in the middle, perhaps to prevent pick-up soccer games, yet they just play around them

Posted by Karen
a resident of South of Midtown
on Sep 10, 2008 at 5:13 pm

Why not put synthetic turf and lights on various fields, where appropriate, and allow ALL sports to play? Cross-mix fields can be very successful, and can seriously increase supply of fields, without demanding new real estate.

I think we need to think outside the traditional box on this issue. There may be a real need for new fields, on new land, but we need to make our current fields much more efficent, with turf and lights.

Posted by J
a resident of Menlo Park
on Sep 10, 2008 at 9:25 pm

Almost all of the fields in Redwood City have been converted to turf. The users love it and the playability is year-round. The fields are in constant use. It's great during a time when so many kids are obese to see this much activity. So much better than video games!

Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 10, 2008 at 9:36 pm

No idea of the maintenance costs of each, but turf must mean less upkeep and less watering, both of which must reduce maintenance costs. Apart from that, Palo Alto is famous for closing fields for 24 hours after a sprinkle and on many occasions games get cancelled because of this, which is very annoying when we want our kids to get the exercise and the fields are usually waterlogged from overwatering anyway.

Posted by Close the Airport
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Sep 10, 2008 at 9:47 pm

Since we are counting heads and trying to figure out how many Palo Altans are on a team, let's take a look at how many Palo Altans have their planes tied down at the airport. (My guess is less than 100.)

Divide 103 acres by that number. Over an acre per person.

Now let's look at the golf course. Number of annual rounds of golf is probably down to 75,000 or less. Last time I checked 87% of those rounds were played by non-Palo Altans. So let's say 9750 rounds played by residents. If those residents average one round per week, the 83 or so acres of the golf course are serving 195 residents per week. So divide 83 by 195 and you get 0.43 acres per resident.

So you have maybe 300 Palo Alto residents tying up almost 200 acres of potential parkland. Go ahead and remain distracted by arcane field allocation debates, discussions over lighting and artificial turf. Or you could start asking the city some tough questions about all that land at the end of Embarcadero.

Remember you'll need to fight off the wealthy guys with the funny headsets and the other wealthy guys with the ugly plaid pants and the wealthy older women who want to keep all those loud people from "their" baylands. Unless you drag your hundreds of kids into City Hall every Monday, you won't get past this small band of constituents.

The city talks a good game about having a culture of fitness but has recognized for years a severe shortage of playing fields. The city is mostly built out. The airport and/or golf course are the only available sites to build anywhere near the number of fields Palo Alto needs.

I'm not holding my breath. Don't waste yours debating field allocation.

Posted by Midtown Mom
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 11, 2008 at 9:26 am

Indeed, the airport would be an excellent site for sports fields. It's flat, plenty of parking, can have lights . . . it could even have a small stadium for important games, or be leased to the new Women's Professional Soccer team.

But how do we move out the airport?

Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 11, 2008 at 9:57 am

That is a great idea to use baylands sections that have already been developed (as opposed to undeveloped portions) for sports fields. I support getting rid of the little airport and the golf course. Palo Alto needs playing fields. I don't have children at home anymore so I am not in it for my own family but I do appreciate physical fitness.
Airplane owners can go to San Carlos
Golfers can easily go to Shoreline

Posted by mo ball
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 11, 2008 at 3:01 pm

Yes close the airport and golf course and build a Big League Dreams park and a soccer stadium. They both will rake in tons of income. Look at BLD in Manteca.

Posted by Cruz
a resident of South of Midtown
on Sep 11, 2008 at 4:12 pm

Excuse me, but why should we shut the airport and golf course? We are shutting the DUMP! What am I missing here?

Why can we not use the soon-to-be old dump to develop playing fields and recycling, and energy production?

Posted by Close the Airport
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Sep 11, 2008 at 4:26 pm

Because it will take 10 years after the dump is closed for it to be used. And there is some debate about whether you can level the dump or need to have it remain "mountainous" for the release of methane. I believe that is what Fremont found but can't speak with any certainly on that point.

The ten year wait, however, I'm pretty sure of.

Posted by Bill
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Sep 12, 2008 at 6:11 am

The City dump at the Baylands is designated parkland after 2011. If the land were to be used for soccer fields it would have to be put to a vote of the people of Palo Alto. Designated parkland is just what it says, it is not soccer fields.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 12, 2008 at 9:07 am


Interesting point. Mitchell Park and Greer Park, along with most other PA parks are presumably designated parkland, but sports are played on them. Did the residents vote on this? Why can't the Baylands Parkland have sport played on them?

This brings to question the definition of Park and Parkland. Is there a difference? If Parkland is not used for sports, what can it be used for? Can it be picnic areas with tables and barbeques?

If this "Parkland" is going to remain fallow ground, then it won't do anyone any good other than the birds, and of course drug dealers and low life forms. I would much prefer to see this area as useful park with bathrooms and sports facilities than just allowing our criminals a new hangout space.

Posted by John
a resident of South of Midtown
on Sep 12, 2008 at 11:35 pm

Byxbee Park or the present City dump will become parkland after 2011. I think the intention is to make it an extension of the Baylands for the birds. To turn it into soccer fields you would presumably have to flatten out the hills and get rid of the methane gas which will leach from the debris for next 10 years or so.

If it is turned into soccer fields, used for composting and a recycle center etc. that will change the designation of the parkland and will have to be put to a vote of the people of PA.

Posted by Mike
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 13, 2008 at 7:43 pm

What put the chip on your shoulder about all the wealthy people playing golf at PA Muni, and dressed in ugly plaid pants no less.

Go to the course someday, and meet the people who play and practice there. I don't think you will come away thinking wealthy. Retired, blue collar and learners predominate.

The wealthy have plenty of other choices other than a muni. As for the plaid pants, if you do see some (it will be someone 80+ if there is) consider how nicely it would coordinate with one of your tie-dyed shirts!

Posted by Close the Airport
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Sep 15, 2008 at 8:24 am

Like I said - Close the Airport.

Got a lot of retired, blue collar types owning planes?

As for the golf course, how many Palo Altans of any type use it on a weekly basis? Is this the highest and best use of the land? If we were planning today, would a golf course be considered?

The truth is a very small number of Palo Altans is tying up a very large percentage of available space.

As you libs like to say "what about the children"???

Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 15, 2008 at 8:47 am


As you say, what about the children? The children are not the only people in this city. In fact there are many children who use the golf course (if you call teens children). As for the airport, there are many businesses that use that airport and we have had discussions before on why that should be left alone.

Adults need exercise and recreation just as much, if not more so, than children.

What would help are lights at some of our existing parks. We also need astroturf or similar on some of our playing fields so that we can get more use out of them. If kids could do their thing in the afternoon/early evening and there was still some time for adults afterwards because of lights and turf that is suitable for that amount of play each day, we would be better off.

Leave the golf course and the airport alone. Once gone, they will never be able to return. Instead find more playing space in Bixby Park and extend the useful hours at others.

Posted by Close the Airport
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Sep 16, 2008 at 9:33 am

There is no legitimate business purpose to keep the airport open. Those are recreational planes. HP isn't flying their corporate jets to Palo Alto.

The neighborhoods are already up in arms against expansion of the field hours. If you lived near one of the fields currently being used I bet you'd be looking for a new place to house them.

We should absolutely share the city's resources fairly. That's my point. Dedicating 103+ acres to a handful of people isn't my idea of sharing. Dedicating another 80+ acres for a few hundred Palo Alto golfers?

Let's tally up who exactly needs what kinds of acreage, how often and what type. When the needs assessment is complete, allocate the fields, airport and golf course based on the assessment numbers. If there are sufficient golfers to cover 80+ acres and there are sufficient pilots to cover 103 acres, then by all means keep those two open.

If you do this analysis my guess is you will find the city is currently allocating something like 1/100th of an acre for each baseball, soccer, lacrosse or other field user and almost a full acre for each pilot.

Sound fair to you?

Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 16, 2008 at 9:51 am


We have already gone into great detail why the airport should or should not remain open. I personally know two separate Palo Altans who work for or run a small business using planes into Palo Alto airport. For them, they would lose their job or their business if the airport was closed. It is not just for joy flights even if the big boys are not using it. These are hardworking people whose livelihood is dependent on the airport to some extent.

If a new hotel is built at Ming's the proximity to the golf course would be an asset. I know myself that my teenage son and his friend go there to hit golf balls (at $$ per bucket) at the driving range as something fun to do and they are not serious golfers. So don't say that the golf course has no value either.

As for Bixby Park, it is being used now by PASCO, but not the whole of the Park. The duck pond was originally built for recreational swimming but unfortunately the ducks took over and now we are told that it is vital to the environment, even though the birds are too fat to fly and stay year round when they should be off migrating somewhere else. Perhaps the duck pond would be a more sensible thing to close and some of the other areas of the parkland and playing fields could be built there instead. The ducks are not native to Palo Alto and the cost per duck........

Yes, close the duckpond and build playing fields.

Posted by Paul
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 16, 2008 at 9:56 am

I think CTA is spot-on with the airport. It's coming up on a decision point, anyway, and we should use those hundred level acres for the benefit of the most citizens possible. (Private flying is a fun but very exclusive hobby) Convert the airport to playing fields and put our beloved town compost heap in a corner.

But I'd let the golf course alone for the time being. Let's fry one egg at a time and get that much accomplished.

Posted by Mike-Crescent Park
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 16, 2008 at 10:46 am

What is the real value of lobbying for more playing fields? There are plenty around town at schools and existing parks. Are they properly scheduled and utilized?

How many kids who are bused to play soccer by their parents develop a lifetime love for the game, and continue to play? The evidence is slim that it happens-even by college age the percent of kids playing is small.

The real value of kids' sports(outside of team sports in school to promote the concepts of team work and work out discipline)should be to get them interested and reasonably competent in a sport they can play for a lifetime. That would include running, tennis and golf and other sports that can be continued into adulthood.

Soccer is mostly about the parents, who are the current day evolution of the last generations or two of little league parents. I see disinterested and bored kids out on the soccer field every time I attend my niece's or nephew's games.

It appears the contemplated elimination of the airport or golf course is more about fulfilling some people's dreams of social justice, fueled by envy of the 'wealthy'. I myself know four people (none 'wealthy') who fly small planes into Palo Alto for work, and live elsewhere. There must be many, many more than that given that mine is a small and random sample.

Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 16, 2008 at 11:47 am


I think you have it wrong on the advantages of playing sport for kids.

The value of active after school sports has so many different advantages. The biggest plus imo is giving them exercise which so many need. They don't need to be in tutoring classes, or playing video games and since so many parents won't let kids play out on their own, then organized sports are fulfilling that role. Another thing about team sports is that they are part of a team. They don't get this at school until middle school when most of the skillsets needed for the sport should already be in place. There is nothing like a kid, perhaps one who is not naturally a skilled player, pulling on his uniform and playing for his/her team and rooting for their friends. These are life lessons which can't be beat.

Apart from that the advantages of getting to know different kids from different schools is a real plus once they get to middle school and know so many of the other kids not from their own school. They have a history which is unifying in a classroom of strangers.

Many parents would rather have their kids playing organized sports than hanging outside 7-11 or the library.

Finally Mike. If you read the article to begin this thread, you will see that we don't have enough playing fields for all the kids and adults who want to use them. We don't have enough hours of daylight to allow double practices on the same field. Since houses are continually being built in this city, the amount of field space for kids' sports is going to increase with all the new families.

Whether kids are good enough to play beyond college is not the point. Getting them to learn to do exercise is much more the point. Starting young is a habit of lifetime health, not just a habit for the parents of the kids, so please understand where we are coming from.

Posted by Close the Airport
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Sep 16, 2008 at 9:03 pm

Like I said - do a needs assessment and let's figure out how many people are using the airport and how many people are using (or waiting in line) to use playing fields.

The city knows how many people are tying down at the airport and how many are Palo Altans. There may be a few commuting in to work by plane. How much revenue is generated for the city by their businesses? Are their businesses even in Palo Alto? Can't they fly to San Carlos?

I've been around long enough to know where this is going. No place. So don't worry about the airport. Our city leaders don't have the political backbone to even do the needs assessment. They are too busy saving the planet from global warming and Republicans.

And I don't have "wealth envy". I'm a lifelong Republican and my father was a pilot of a V tail Bonanza so I've been around airports all my life. I have kids and they play sports but not the kind that need these fields so I don't have a particular vested interest other than seeing some equity brought to bear on the allocation of a scarce resource.

Posted by Mike-Crescent Park
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 17, 2008 at 9:17 am

Thanks for the meaningful responses to my remarks.

It seems that like many challenges, the heart of this problem is increasing population. As current local housing policy requires we cram more and more homes and therefor kids and parents into Palo Alto, the resulting resources that they need or want have to come from somewhere. More adults and kids means more demand for everything-fields, schools, streets, golf courses, grocery stores, etc.

My preference is that we stop trying to fill in every space in Palo Alto with dense housing. If we continue this policy, we will need to tear down more structures and clear more land to make room for support facilities. The logical end point for this is a place very unlike what most of us moved here for, and appreciate.

Take a look at what has been done re housing on Embarcadero in SF between the end of 280 and the ball park. Dense condo buildings and supporting stores and restaurants. But it is located right at the Cal Train station, and allows many of them to easily commute up and down the Peninsula, including to jobs in Palo Alto. SF converted old abandoned warehouse and manufacturing space, gets tax revenues and people get to live in a community that does not juxtapose high density units against traditional single family neighborhoods.

To a certain extent, the same thing has happened all along the 85 corridor, and also the light rail corridor from Mountain View to San Jose.

Does Palo Alto really need to grow its population, and can we afford the resulting costs and changes? It is not just playing fields that will be in short supply.

Posted by Midtown Mom
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 17, 2008 at 3:48 pm

While I would love to see some long term consideration of using Baylands for recreation (and maybe even as a site for a magnet/language immersion school to free up neighborhood schools for kids in the neighborhood); there is a more immediate question of whether the proposed field allocation results in a fair use of resources.

The proposed guidelines put priority of youth over adult, volunteer over paid coaching leagues, and resident over non-resident. It seems fair enough, although I do have some sympathy for adult teams that cross town borders.

Maybe the rec department should juggle the fees a little? Grade the fees according to the number of non-resident players (they already charge more for adult than for youth leagues). It seems like there is room for some use of market forces to lower demand for fields and at the same time generate more revenue to help keep the fields in good shape or to develop new fields.

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