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Kids, bike safety debated at expressway meeting

Original post made on Mar 6, 2009

Despite the best-laid plans of Santa Clara County road engineers, some Palo Alto parents and residents remained concerned that some alternatives for the $3.5 million Oregon Expressway improvements project won't increase safety.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, March 6, 2009, 7:09 AM

Comments (28)

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 6, 2009 at 9:40 am

It is not right that elementary children should have to cross an expressway to get to school.

Many parents will drive their kids to school rather than walk or bike (which is what everyone wants to see increasing rather than decreasing). This will mean that there will be a great deal more traffic trying to cross Oregon rather than turn onto Oregon and until decisions are made on boundaries the amount of cross traffic will be unknown. Greer, Louis and Ross will all become very much busier with traffic trying to get to Garland and the back ups at Louis and Ross in particular will be more than one red light long in the busy am commute.

The most sensible thing to do is to not have elementary age children crossing Oregon.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 6, 2009 at 10:22 am

Currently many middle school children cross the expressway at Middlefield. The sidewalk is too narrow to accomodate the bikes and the walkers. Thus, they ride in the street on the north side of Oregon. If the lanes are narrowed here, this presents a very unsafe situation (far more unsafe in my opinion than putting the sidewalks closer to the street). I like trees, and I am sure I would be a NIMBY if they wanted to take the trees in the public right-of-way in front of my house, but I think this new solution is miss-guided. I think all of the noise to save the trees has been NIMBY driven. (note that they are already gone in Palo Alto south of Oregon). Sometimes the community good outways the opinion of the homes who have enjoyed using the public right-of-way for the past 50 years.

Posted by Sarah
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 6, 2009 at 10:24 am

I think pedestrian crosswalks on Oregon Expressway can be made very safe if (1) the stop lights respond quickly to the pedestrian push buttons, (2) car traffic in all directions is stopped when the walk light is lit, and (3) no-right-turn-on-red signs are posted and strictly enforced. The most dangerous part about crossing the street is getting hit from behind by a car that runs the red light to turn right.

Posted by resident and mother
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 6, 2009 at 10:57 am

As a parent of kids most likely to be asked to cross Oregon Expressway with my children heading to Garland, I would disagree that it is not right. The alternative is often forcing parents to drive their children to other, much farther schools because they do not get to go to their current neighborhood school due to over crowding. I think as long as the School Board and the city work together to make crossing Oregon safely a top priority you will see parents walking their children to school. Additionally letting our kids go to Jordan, again much closer, so that they can stay with their peers as they head to Paly High, is also something very important to consider so that would include safe bicycle crossing for the Jr High students. The concerns on Middlefield are warranted, which is why the city should keep looking at the safe bicycle crossing/bike blvd at Ross Rd. as shown by the county in their plans Weds night.

Posted by Penny
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Mar 6, 2009 at 11:23 am

The city does not control how the expressway is engineered. The county does. Oregon is a county expressway. The city can make requests and recommendations, but the county has the final say with regard to Oregon Expressway.

However, the Palo Alto Police Department is responsible for enforcement on Oregon. It is not clear that adding crossing guards would make the crossings "safe." Further, it is not clear how many guards (at $17,000 annually each) will be needed to cover the Oregon intersections, because the Board has not determined what the future boundaries will be. Therefore, we do not yet know which Oregon intersections (probably plural) will be used by future Garland students.

I would prefer a plan that does not require elementary school-age children to cross a five-lane expressway. Children this age are still learning street skills. Their bodies are small so they are not easily seen by crosstown expressway drivers who won't be looking for children on an expresswway. For a variety of safety reasons too numerous to recount here, any boundaries plan that requires south PA children to cross the expressway should be a plan of last resort. There is no way to make this expressway really safe for small children.

Peer streaming might still be accomplished without having children cross the expressway if the planning process prioritizes that as it is supposed to. The process also was supposed to prioritize traffic safety and neighborhood schools. I think we need to look at all of the options, with absolutely NOTHING off the table. We need to consider all of our agreed upon priorities for the attendance boundaries decision.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 6, 2009 at 11:26 am

The only safe way for pedestrians to cross Oregon at Louis and Ross is on a four way red light (as at Waverly/Meadow and Embarcadero/Middlefield, otherwise turning traffic - both left and right would be trying to turn at the same time as pedestrian traffic trying to cross. If turning traffic has to wait until all the pedestrians cross before turning it would probably mean in effect that only one car can turn at each green light. Therefore a four way red light is the only option. This means that the light sequence would take much longer and would probably cause more red light jumpers and speeders in their haste to "make it" without having to wait for the long sequence to give them their green.

Posted by Penny
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Mar 6, 2009 at 11:32 am

Here is a letter that the Palo Alto PTA Council Traffic Safety Committee submitted to the BOE on this subject last month.

February 10, 2009

Dear Board of Education Members, Kevin, Bob, and Scott,

Opening Garland implies changes in elementary school boundaries that impact student safety, neighborhood schools, commuters, and city and county budgets. I will focus on traffic safety. We hope that the district will immediately begin discussions with our Safe Routes to School partners at the City of Palo Alto regarding attendance area boundary options so that the city may provide information that will help district staff and the board evaluate the public street safety trade-offs of each option.

We know that Bob Golton has a meeting scheduled with Steve Emslie this week. That is a start. However, we understand that Bob doesn’t yet know what the specific boundaries proposals will be, or what the distribution of students will be within the proposed boundaries. These are critical pieces of information, and no substantive discussion re: traffic safety impacts and potential mitigations can take place until that information is made available.

Further, will the Garland site be a neighborhood school or will it house the new MI program or both? If Garland will not provide a permanent home for MI, what is the long-term plan for the new choice school? What kind of school should we be planning for in the long term on this site? Transportation mitigations often take years to plan, budget and implement. It would be helpful to have a longer term picture of what impacts may be.

If PAUSD is going to require students to cross the expressway, will the district be willing to help mitigate the impacts of that decision by providing busing as they did when the site previously was fully occupied?

As the BOE reviews this proposal we respectfully ask you to consider carefully…

How Do Proposed Attendance Boundaries Address PAUSD Goals & Values?
Traffic safety and valuing neighborhood schools are among the major district and community values pertaining to enrollment and boundaries. How do the proposed attendance boundaries address these values?

Attendance Areas Determine Volumes and Circulation of Traffic
By deciding attendance boundaries, PAUSD is making a land use decision of huge significance to the city, the affected school sites, and surrounding neighborhoods. Without knowing the attendance area boundaries, neither the city nor the school district can project trip volumes or circulation of traffic coming to a site. These are critical pieces of information for creating safe commute routes for students. The boundaries will determine:

How many children might have to cross Oregon or other high volume streets?
Which neighborhoods/streets will children be coming from? (By studying origin/destination of school commute trips, the city can project which streets and intersections might require engineering improvements or other safety mitigations, like crossing guards.)

Until the city knows precisely what the proposed attendance areas are they cannot provide information about what mitigations may be required or possible or affordable on public streets. We hope that PAUSD will provide the city with a proposed boundaries map and some projection of the distribution of students in the proposed attendance area. This would be a good starting point for a discussion about safety issues related to proposed changes.

With regard to site planning, district architects cannot adequately design sites for safe commuter connections and facilities without knowing where the commuter trips will be coming from. Circulation patterns determine driveway flow, placement of bike/ped facilities to minimize conflicts with autos, and more. Once we know what the boundaries will be, a district traffic engineer should be made available to provide guidance to the architects regarding on-site traffic circulation and safety.

How Is Oregon Expressway Different?
Some of you have asked me how Oregon is different from Charleston, or Middlefield, or El Camino. Expressways have characteristics that differentiate them from these other roads and make them dangerous environments for small children. That is why we hope the school district will consider boundary options that cross a county expressway only if no other option is available.

Palo Alto’s Comprehensive Plan provides a number of policies and goals that direct decision-makers to engineer safe bike and pedestrian routes with particular emphasis on school commute routes. Our Safe Routes to School Partnership is a direct outgrowth of Comp Plan policies and goals that prioritize promotion of safe routes to school.

That said, the Comp Plan organizes Palo Alto’s streets into various categories, depending on their purpose and design and the amount of traffic they carry. This street hierarchy is defined below:

Freeway: Major roadway with controlled access; devoted exclusively to traffic movement, mainly of a through or regional nature. (examples: 101)
Expressway: Major roadway with limited access to adjacent properties; devoted almost exclusively to traffic movement, mainly serving through-traffic. (examples: Oregon and some portions of Foothill)
Arterial: Major roadway mainly serving through-traffic; takes traffic to and from expressways and freeways; provides access to adjacent properties (examples: El Camino Real, Alma)
Residential Arterial: Major roadway mainly serving through-traffic; takes traffic to and from expressways and freeways; provides access to adjacent properties, most of which are residential properties located on both sides of the roadway with direct frontages and driveways on that roadway (examples: Charleston, portions of Arastradero, and portions of Embarcadero, Middlefield)
Collector: Roadway that collects and distributes local traffic to and from arterial streets, and provides access to adjacent properties. (examples: Louis, East Meadow, Channing, Stanford Ave.)
Local: Minor roadway that provides access to adjacent properties only.

Expressways are designed to move automobiles quickly across town. Oregon Expressway is posted at 35mph with prevailing speeds at about 40mph. Higher speeds result in more deadly crashes, especially when children are involved.

As a point of reference, a pedestrian is nearly twice as likely to be killed by a vehicle moving 35 mph than a vehicle moving 28 mph. There is a reason school routes are posted at 25mph. Ideally, we avoid putting school commuting children on streets with higher speeds. Children are more likely to make mistakes on the road and their small bodies are more vulnerable to injury in a crash.

Expressways provide almost no access to adjacent properties. If you drive Oregon, you will experience a wide, expansive roadway with no frontage property connections along the segment that probably will be affected by the proposed attendance area. This is important because these characteristics of the street affect driver behavior. Studies show that this kind of street environment causes drivers to lapse into what I call “expressway mode.” Think about how you drive an expressway vs. a local street, and you will understand this well-studied psychological phenomenon. Without visual cues, like driveways, houses, close trees or people along the road that suggest drivers should be watching for pedestrians, drivers go into expressway mode, look straight ahead at the horizon, stop scanning for pedestrians and bicyclists and use the accelerator more freely. This is what happens on Oregon, especially because many of the drivers on the expressway are travelling to or from 101 (they already are in “freeway mode”). They are not expecting to see crossing children on an expressway, and so they don’t look for them.

While Oregon and El Camino have similar posted speeds, Oregon has an expressway design. El Camino is designed as an arterial, with adjacent property access. This characteristic prompts drivers to scan more for entering cross traffic of all kinds. (That’s not to say that high volume, high speed El Camino Real is an ideal environment for elementary school children. Ideally, neither of these streets would be a designated school route. (There was a time when PAUSD used buses to get young children safely across high volume arterials.)

Expressways have long crossings with multiple lanes. This is a significant safety problem for families with elementary school children. What may seem a reasonable crossing length for an adult (the crossing length at the applicable Oregon intersections is five lanes) is a very long distance for a child. A child may not get all the way across on a single signal (assuming there is a signal).

If there is not a signal, (and there presently is not one at Ross/Oregon), a child would be expected to judge speed of oncoming cars, and two-way traffic. This is beyond the cognitive skills of most children under nine or ten years old….and it’s tricky for older children, too. In addition, there is no convenient way to get from the Ross/Oregon intersection to a signalized crossing without making a significant detour, something that kids on bike and on foot are not likely to do.

The biggest problem with multi-lane school crossings for young children is the inability of drivers to see past a stopped car at an intersection. Children are short. When one car is stopped for a light, the stopped car creates a visual obstruction preventing a passing car from seeing a child who may still be actively crossing the intersection when the signal changes.

While very young children usually commute with their parents, they can run ahead. Older children who commute independently are still short enough that this sight line problem is an issue.

Oregon Expressway is controlled by the county, not the city. As I mentioned previously, the county currently is well into the process of developing plans for limited improvements to the segment of Oregon Expressway that PAUSD's proposed attendance boundary changes might affect. However, the City of Palo Alto, not the county, is our Safe Routes to School partner. We have far less control over what school commute safety mitigations may be put in place on a county expressway than on a city-controlled street.

PAUSD should engage with the city transportation planners immediately so they can share information that will help the district make a well-informed boundaries decision that considers the real safety impacts of each boundary choice before you. Further, we hope that the consulting advice of a traffic engineer will be made available to the architects as they proceed with site planning. Safe routes to school must be engineered thoughtfully on-site and off-site by transportation professionals. The school district doesn’t have a transportation engineer on staff, so we ask you to engage a consultant to advise you in these efforts.

The safety of children who live south of Oregon depends on a thoughtful decision here. We rely on you to consider carefully your obligations as a Safe Routes to School partner and to exhaustively explore alternatives to a county expressway crossing.

Thank you for giving this matter your usual thoughtful attention.


Penny Ellson, 2008-9 Chair
Palo Alto PTA Council Traffic Safety Committee

Posted by Ruth
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Mar 6, 2009 at 11:32 am

Many parents and schools don't teach the children especially teenagers to ride their bikes on the bike lanes. Starting young, families ride on the sidewalk creating a bad example. I don't see why we have to spent needed money on bike lanes for this reason to Fairmeadow School or the Jane Stanford Junior High School. The same for adults biking. Almost NO ONE uses the bike lanes along Middlefield Road to East Meadow Drive. Instead they race along the sidewalk. There are children walking, mothers pushing baby strollers and older people exercising by walking. Often the bikers rush up in back of us scaring us. They want to race on. Bike lanes are for bikers and the sidewalks are for NON-BIKERS.

Posted by Palo Alto Native
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 6, 2009 at 11:37 am

I happen to support re-opening Garland and leaving Ohlone as an alternative school within the PAUSD. However, I think it is foolish to believe that crossing Oregon is safe for elementary school children. Even middle school children are at risk, since children believe they are invincible and are not developmentally able to be as cautious crossing streets as this requires. My own son was riding his bike on Middlefield on the sidewalk but on the wrong side of Middlefield a few years ago. He stopped at the crosswalk, pushed the button and waited for the walk light. When the signal changed for him, he walked into the crosswalk with his bike to walk across. He was struck by a car turning right, because he was short enough to fit in the driver's blind spot. The driver was trying to drive carefully, did not expect a pedestrian to be there, and my son was trying to cross carefully with the light but was struck anyway. He was not badly injured, thankfully, but this can and will happen again to someone. Cross guards will help, but we cannot rely on children to make consistently good decisions and even if all drivers are careful, there will be mistakes.

Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 6, 2009 at 11:39 am

What I find interesting is how the lengthy letter implies MI is a forever here program. I thought it was on trial.

Posted by Jeff
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 6, 2009 at 12:00 pm

Enforcement is so sporadic as to be laughable -- all over town -- and seems to get only lip service when raised as an issue related to planning. Which it is, repeatedly and to no avail. $millions for infrastructure are debated, but not for a few more traffic cops. It really affects the quality of life when at every intersection and every long stretch of a main roadway self-entitled scofflaws blow off basic safety and courtesy practices. As pointed out, kids are hard to see and put into complex situations, and are especially at risk when these drivers short-cut the rules. Watch any intersection in town, or any main street, and you will see a culture of constant traffic violations as the norm for many drivers. Enforcement is a budget issue, not a planning issue. Too bad we don't see getting this under control as a real priority when we consider the safety and utility of the transportation scheme. Enforcement can be educational among other things, and is an investment in reducing the need for ... enforcement.

Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Southgate
on Mar 6, 2009 at 12:27 pm

As a former Ohlone parent living north of Oregon, I'm familiar with the issues involved with crossing Oregon with kids on bikes. And I agree that school-age kids are not competent or visible enough to cross the expressway alone. However, that might mean that parents should cross with their kids rather than that the expressway design should be modified to accommodate children traveling alone. Also, I'm not sure I agree with those who feel that every crossing of Oregon needs to be made equally pedestrian and bike friendly. People can modify their paths to get to streets that have good signaling, including lengthy enough pedestrian crossing times. And I don't think that every road need be (or can be) made equally bike friendly. I personally would *never* ride a bike in the street on Alma, El Camino, Oregon, Embardadero or Middlefield. There just isn't enough room to ride safely and the traffic is too fast. I would be happier to see a few more bike boulevards, with good sized bike lanes, along slower and wider streets. Crossing guards at *one* of the crossings during school hours would be good too.

One last point. It seems likely that traffic congestion itself poses a safety issue. As traffic backs up and becomes slower, people on their (legitimate and necessary) way to work become impatient and frustrated and are more likely to do reckless things (for example, zooming through an intersection though the light has just turned red). If drivers could proceed smoothly along, with fewer though lengthier stops at pedestrian/bike safe crossings, I think overall the situation would be safer. And I agree there should be better traffic law enforcement at peak times of the day.

Posted by Sarah
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 6, 2009 at 12:52 pm

There are bike lanes on Middlefield Road in south Palo Alto. Why is north Palo Alto so anti-bicycle?

Posted by fireman
a resident of another community
on Mar 6, 2009 at 4:05 pm

FYI. I taught the bike safety program for several years over at Cubberly.
Just one thing I did while an Employee of the CPA. That I hope you find out about.

The fireman you love to hate. Did it for the kids.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 6, 2009 at 4:08 pm

"There are bike lanes on Middlefield Road in south Palo Alto. Why is north Palo Alto so anti-bicycle?" Because they prefer to have street parking for their vehicles and there isn't room for both parking and a bicycle path.

This is an old debate.

Posted by biker
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 6, 2009 at 5:29 pm

Michael Murdter who ran the meeting and a hired consultant strongly advocated for Alternative 3 for Middlefield Road which has two lanes going straight through towards town and one lane turning left onto Oregon Expressway. Alternatives 2 and 4 call for a dedicated right turn lane, one through lane and one left turn lane. Even though the consultant and Mr. Murdter repeatedly told us Alternative 3 was our best option, all the residents who commented at the meeting Wednesday night preferred Alternatives 2 or 4.

Many commuters who would turn right onto Oregon Expressway cut through on side streets to avoid getting stuck behind a car in the right lane planning on going straight. As a bicyclist, I'd prefer to know cars queuing in the right lane, will be turning right. And if no cars are in the right lane, I've got a clear shot across Oregon Expressway.

As a driver, I'd actually use Middlefield Road to get to 101 North, if I knew I would be able to turn right on red and not sit through 2 traffic light cycles. Has the County taken into consideration the drivers who avoid taking Middlefield because of the traffic back-up?

I hope the City and County listen to the residents and give us a dedicated right turn lane on Middlefield at Oregon Expressway.

It was a long meeting, made longer because Mr. Murdter spoke slowly, belaboring points he wanted to stress and was patronizing to a number of the residents who had questions and comments. He even went so far as to state he is an expert on traffic issues, I guess to imply we should trust the experts know what's best for us. We just live here. Hope he learns to listen better.

Posted by joe
a resident of Southgate
on Mar 7, 2009 at 11:40 am

if it is just a couple of trees cant they plant more trees but somewhere else taht keep the kids safe.. i mean you should be more considerate of animals than trees

Posted by Trees are not gone
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Mar 7, 2009 at 11:47 am


Just to clarify - trees on San Antonio are only temporarily gone. The particular type of tree that was there had a propensity to uplift sidewalks and trees every couple of years. The median is being replanted with different types of trees - Canopy approved.

See thisWeb Link

for more informatino.

Posted by Pam Radin
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 7, 2009 at 12:04 pm


The Countys Oregon Expressway Improvements with the goal of improving pedestrian, bicyclist, vehicular operations and safety have been in the works previous to 2008. The County has responded to our Resident concerns by taking input and using it to develop Planned Alternatives. You can view the latest Proposed Conceptional Alternatives based on our Community Civic Engagement at: The following is a snippet of the Kimberly Horn Report Executive Summary for the Project. This is how the County Engineering Team envision the improvements to help our Community:

“…Oregon Expressway has some unique needs that vary from the other expressways in Santa Clara County. These “These needs are recognized in the vision for Oregon Expressway as a multi-modal, pedestrian-friendly arterial roadway with slower, smooth-flowing traffic. With residential neighborhoods, schools, and community services on both sides of the expressway, accommodating pedestrian, bicycle, and motor vehicle crossings of the expressway are just as important as the multi-modal travel along the expressway. The challenge is balancing the needs of the many users while maintaining a safer environment for everyone.”

Pam Radin
Midtown Residents Association, Traffic Chair

Posted by Ann Crichton
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 7, 2009 at 2:25 pm

This Article and comments are more about redistricting issues than about The Oregon Expressway Project. The Oregon Expressway Improvements are needed now for the residents and schools located closest to the project. I have worked on the project for eight years and support the latest planned alternative proposals for my community.

Ohlone Elementary School parents, teachers, and leadership support the improvement plans that were outlined in the County Plan reviewed this past week. The Ohlone PTA and Site Council all approved the safety proposals that were jointly developed with the City and County.

We look forward to the Oregon Expressway improvements ahead. The proposal provides desperately needed safety improvements for our families and all modes of transportation.

Ann Crichton
Parent, Ohlone Elementary School

Posted by Penny
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Mar 7, 2009 at 4:14 pm

Looking forward into the very near future when Garland will be reopened, we need to think about school commute safety for the future Garland students NOW. Funding for expressway improvements of this kind doesn't come available often. If we miss this opportunity, it will be YEARS before we will have another opportunity to make Oregon intersections safer for those children. I hope everyone will advocate for safe routes to school for all school-bound children.

I wish the district would step up the attendance area review process so we'd know WHICH intersections will be affected so the city and county could assign safety improvements to the right intersections in a cost effective way.

I'm very glad that the Ohlone parents who opt to travel Oregon for their school commute will have a safer route. However, this plan also must address the needs of the south PA families who have been displaced by the district for Ohlone's benefit.

Ohlone was not always a choice school. It was a neighborhood school first. Essentially, the Ohlone and MI choice programs displace neighborhood children from a site that could provide them with a very safe route to school. Instead, these neighborhood children are being assigned to a school on the other side of a five-lane expressway. Given that, I hope that the very good people at Ohlone will advocate for a safe route across Oregon Expressway to Garland with the same energy that they advocate for safe routes to Ohlone.

Let's get this right for all of our school-bound children.

Posted by Erin
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Mar 7, 2009 at 10:47 pm

Penny- It's nice to hear you advocating for safe routes for the Garland kids. Thank you!

I have to mention that the last time Ohlone (or Van Auken) was used as a neighborhood school was in the 70s when the district had 22 elementary schools. If you look at the district's tables that show where the students at each school are coming from you might be surprised to see that two-thirds of Ohlone's students come from within that school's attendace area. They really are not displacing as many as people think or like to claim.

Nonetheless, even if you were to move Ohlone to Garland, which I don't think will ever happen based on the farm, etc., you'd still have kids from the north side of Oregon who are already at capacity at Addison and will be at Duveneck and Hays who will have to cross Oregon.

Posted by Penny
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Mar 8, 2009 at 10:48 am

What if MI were moved to Garland to share the campus with a neighborhood school program as is done at Escondido? The MI program is still in its infancy. It is an ideal time to move it. Parents who are signing on for the first time will look at their commutes and make the school choice, to some extent (as some Ohlone parents have), on the fact that it is in their neighborhood.

While you might expect a choice program to have higher traffic impacts (because they usually do). I think this might have a negligible increase in traffic on the Garland site if you compare it to what is currently being proposed. The majority of kids who have to cross Oregon won't be walking and biking to school because of the difficulty of the commute. Their parents probably will drive them to keep them safe. The auto traffic impacts at Garland on California St. and connecting neighborhood streets actually might be worse with the current proposal because what is being proposed is NOT a neighborhood school from a transportation perspective. It provides terrible school commute routes for the children coming from south PA across Oregon.

Likewise, a neighborhood school component could share the expanded Ohlone site with the Ohlone choice program. That way, no elementary school children would have to cross Oregon Expressway.

There may be other options. However, when making decisions with these kinds of impacts on safety, all options should be on the table for public discussion.

Children's safety should be our top priority with regard to attendance area decisions. In fact, it is listed as such on PAUSD's published values that are supposed to guide this decision. Valuing neighborhood schools is also high on that list.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 8, 2009 at 4:06 pm

I think that those who live in the Garland neighborhood may not realise the impact of kids needing to cross Oregon could make on their own neighborhood.

Because access to Garland on California is so poor, many will find that it will be much easier to enter Ross and Louis turning into Garland, to find the back entrance to the school. Parents will both park and walk their kids to classrooms as well as drop off kids to walk in by themselves at this back entrance. It will be used, not only at drop off and pick up times, but during the day as parents volunteer or need to be in classrooms as well as whenever there are parents' evenings at the school.

It will not just be the kids getting to school who do not want to cross Oregon, but the parents themselves when it comes to back to school nights, conferences, open houses, and everything else that happens at the schools who will use this back entrance as a parking lot rather than using the front entrance.

Posted by Sarah
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 8, 2009 at 4:47 pm

Please make Oregon Expressway pedestrian-friendly regardless of what the schools are doing. There are lots of non-student pedestrians in this area, e.g., people walking to the store on Middlefield Road or to the Caltrain station or to the restaurants on California Ave.

More people walking = less car traffic.

Posted by Erin
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Mar 9, 2009 at 9:47 am

We are fully aware of people who will use the back entrance to the school. That entrance has been there as long as the school has and people have used it before.

I haven't heard from anyone yet on Garland who is opposed to the school opening and they are fully aware that people will use the back entrance to get their children to school.

Let's also put into perspective that the boundaries have not been set so we really do not know how many kids will be crossing Oregon. I don't think it can be more than about 25% of the school given the overflow we already have in the north. I think we just have to wait and see what the boundary discussions are like before people jump to conclusions. I know the district is working hard on this and they will try their best to limit the number of students having to cross Oregon.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 9, 2009 at 10:37 am


I take your point on how you feel your neighbors feel on reopening Garland, but since this neighborhood has a strong voice about the sports activities at Jordan field, I feel sure that they will not be silent about the parking when it also becomes a problem.

As for trusting the school district, I am glad you have so much faith. I personally was a member of the AAAG when it last discussed boundary changess. I know that really all they do is set a series of alternative proposals put together by their demographers, really nice people, who work with information that is already old. They look at birth rates in the various zip codes five years prior to set the proposed kindergarten numbers and although they take into account new housing where they use averages from similar developments not necessarily in Palo Alto, they do not take into account people moving into Palo Alto after their babies are born into existing housing. They do have spot maps where every single PAUSD student resides which is a useful tool for spotting where students live, particularly in relation to choice schools.

But, there are also a great deal of politics which take place also. They have to ensure that the demographics of each school, lower income housing for example, are split among the various school boundaries.

Since the district had a group of about 30 people on the AAAG, containing teachers, administrators and parent volunteers from all the schools, and many hours over the course of 15 months or so were spent on discussing these issues, I feel that they should take into account those who were on that AAAG as having a valued and educated opinion as to what these people who spent so much time on the issues should think. As the representative of my own school, I had many parents and prospective parents contact me giving me their input as well as others in the community who were concerned (including some teachers).

I think that the district may be working on this very diligently but as someone who now knows something about the process, I am concerned that all the points of view collated at that time may now be disregarded by a few professionals who may not actually live in Palo Alto themselves and be adversely affected by the outcome of the boundaries.

I also think that the way things are going that anything happening to Garland is only going to be a bandaid as the real future growth is so far south of Garland that within a couple of years there will be no option but to consider using space at Greendell after the evacuation of the JCC for elementary schooling. For this reason, I am also opposed to creating a need to change boundaries again within a few years' which will only affect the same neighborhoods in the south once again.

Posted by Erin
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Mar 9, 2009 at 11:52 am

I do have faith in the district to do their jobs. I don't have faith in the demographers. They've always been off.

I appreciate your comments about the AAAG. I think if the district had listened to your opinions and recommendations and taken them more seriously, Garland might already be open, instead of having to wait 3 more years.

As for the neighbors concerned with the Jordan field noise, they probably won't be impacted by cars parking for Garland because the cut-through to Garland is on the first cul-de-sac closest to Louis and the Jordan field noise issue is much closer to Ross. I also feel that cars parked on the street is a tad different than loud whistles and screams at 8 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday mornings in your backyard.

I also agree about Greendell. I'm sure it will open at some point but I don't think we can wait for that before we open Garland. There is just too much enrollment growth at this point and in the next few years to not make this immediate change.

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