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Palo Alto leaders could decide Monday whether to open Foothills Park to nonresidents

Original post made on Jul 31, 2020

A thorny issue that has created controversy for decades is about to get a hearing on Aug. 3 before the City Council: whether the city should launch a pilot program to allow non-Palo Alto residents access to Foothills Park.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, July 31, 2020, 6:58 AM

Comments (41)

Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 31, 2020 at 9:53 am

I hope that the city votes not to cater to the demands of agitators. After all, those same agitators will not be happy. They will argue that a permit (even one that costs $6) should be construed as "racism" in some way, shape or form.

Posted by PA Resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 31, 2020 at 10:21 am

Not sure the park can handle. It is already very crowded. MV/SV residents have similar parks, already. Also, basing the arguments on racial disparity does not make sense.

Posted by Voter
a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 31, 2020 at 10:27 am

Palo Alto resident voters will be watching this one. Any "leader" who votes against the interests of their own constituents and ruin this open space will be voted out of office. For an issue like this , voters have a long memory.

Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 31, 2020 at 10:41 am

So, after 50+ years, LAH gets the last laugh?

Time to transition FHP to MidPen.

Posted by Hiker
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jul 31, 2020 at 10:50 am

Palo Alto provides public access to its parks, most notably Arastradero.
My husband and I, Palo Alto residents, are rarely able to obtain a parking place at Arastradero, but we have been able to park and hike in Foothills Park. I would hate lose accessibility to this park too. I doubt those who are criticizing the favoring of Palo Alto residents will be satisfied with anything but complete parity. And in terms of charging a non-resident fee, although I'd personally be OK with both residents and non-residents being charged a high enough fee to maintain our beautiful park-- this would be financially discriminatory. Yet if the fee is not high enough to maintain the park, Palo Alto residents will be responsible for the difference. Is that fair? And there are apparently questions about whether opening the park could cause damage to its ecosystem. I think we need more time to make this important--irreversible-- decision. Can't we wait until after the pandemic is over to re-open this question?

Posted by Astonished
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 31, 2020 at 11:03 am

Just wanted to say, can you please leave this issue ALONE. We are in the middle of the biggest crisis in recent world history. I would think that Palo Alto politicians have better things to work on. Also, please please please not another "study" or "pilot project" to waste hundreds of thousands of dollars on while the local economy and schools continues to collapse.

Posted by Heather
a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Jul 31, 2020 at 11:04 am

As a resident of a wealthy neighborhood ALSO BARRED from Foothills Park, I can assure you the park issue is NOT about race, and it's NOT about class, and it's NOT about privilege. If any of those were the issue my rich neighbors would be waltzing into the park daily. I have two primary concerns about opening it up. Page Mill Road is narrow & windy and dangerous. People get killed on it. Pedestrians have been killed, bicyclists have been killed. Increasing the traffic could be a recipe for disaster. Secondly, the City of Palo Alto has essentially abandoned maintenance of the park from a fire prevention standpoint. Misguided "environmental" policies have left downed wood in place and now that park is a tinderbox just waiting to explode. The more people inside building fires, dropping cigarettes alongside paths, the greater the chance that thing is going to blow. And as a resident of the area obviously I don't want it to blow. And if it does, the City of Palo Alto willl have a fleet of very high powered LIABILITY lawyers knocking on their door when the rich folks get burned out. Finally, not a concern but a point. If the multitudes of Bay Area residents who feel they deserve access to Foothills Park want a fabulous regional park experience, they've got about 17 others to choose from, in the area. How about we wait until those parks are crowded to capacity before bringing another one online?

Posted by Crescent Park Mom
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 31, 2020 at 11:08 am

Give the property to PAUSD. Redirect budget to PAUSD. Hire Park Dept to manage it. This gives access to PALO Alto residents and students. Then the PAUSD policies for using PAUSD properties can be used by non-residents.

Posted by Financial discrimination?
a resident of Ventura
on Jul 31, 2020 at 11:11 am

In what world does charging a $6 entrance fee constitute “financial discrimination“ but requiring a residency that costs millions to buy or $3k+ to rent does not?

Palo Alto has long used exclusionary zoning and Byzantine process to keep out low-income communities of color. The stark segregation between Palo Alto and East Palo Alto is an abomination, as is keeping our park for residents only.

Posted by anonymous
a resident of another community
on Jul 31, 2020 at 11:27 am

How is this really an issue in this day and age? It reeks of privilege and a lack of thinking.

Posted by Fair
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 31, 2020 at 11:37 am

In order to make usage of the preserve fair, we will need to collect racial and ethnic identity of each visitor as they enter the preserve. Multiracial children will need to identify their parentage on the entrance forms.

For example, 37% of California is LatinX, yet Palo Alto is 6.2% LatinX. Therefore we will need to ensure that on any given day, 37% of the people admitted identify as LatinX. California is 6% Asian , while Palo Alto is 27.1% Asian, therefore we will need to make certain that 6% of preserve admissions are Asian. The same is true for all other races, children of mixed parentage will count as .5% towards the non-white parent or the parent of their choice. This is only fair solution.

Posted by Anne
a resident of Mountain View
on Jul 31, 2020 at 11:43 am

The city of Palo Alto bought the land for this park over 50 years ago and limited access because the neighboring cities wouldn't chip in. That's where all this came from.
Residents who don't want to "lose access" would not, they would have the same access everyone else would - who buys a ticket. This decision is not irreversible, because the city is proposing a pilot program. Those posters who want this "left alone" and are worried about "agitators" have not added any reasonable defense of this situation, which is way overdue for a change.
The city of Palo Alto should have made this park accessible to all many years ago. Certainly Palo Alto residents were not going to volunteer to change things. It's indefensible to claim any basis for excluding non-residents, and saying "leave things as they are" is how a lot of bad things are left to continue.
There are lots of mentions of $$ and parking, and harm to wildlife, but how is this different than with any other park?

Posted by Josie
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jul 31, 2020 at 11:45 am

'But on a recent visit, she said she encountered plastic bags of dog waste along the trails'

I'm also seeing bags of dog poop along local trails. Really, people?? If you can bag it, you can pack it out!!!

Posted by Local
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jul 31, 2020 at 12:20 pm

Why not just allow access to PA residents plus black and hispanic members of our neighboring communities?

Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 31, 2020 at 12:38 pm

As a Hispanic American woman who has visited Foothills Park quite a few times, I can attest that this has nothing to do with "racism." This claim is a straw man based upon no credible statistical evidence.

There is no racial prohibition for living in Palo Alto. There is no racial discrimination to visit Foothills Park. It is no more "privilege" than being able to check out books at the Palo Alto City Library.

It's a shame that these types of ridiculously illogical claims are used by agitators in this day and age.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Community Center
on Jul 31, 2020 at 12:44 pm

The article does a good job of laying out the actual proposal for limited access by nonresidents rather than unlimited access than many posters seem to be concerned with.
There would only be a maximum of 50 nonresident vehicles allowed per day and those users would need to pay a fee and purchase passes online ahead of a visit. The park would keep its limit of not more than 1000 visitors at a time.
There are legitimate concerns about dog walkers needing to take greater responsibility and other issues, but they need to be addressed regardless of this limited access proposal.

Posted by KJH
a resident of Stanford
on Jul 31, 2020 at 12:54 pm

Not to mention the closing of the fire station #6.

Posted by Bob Gleason
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 31, 2020 at 1:18 pm

Why don't you focus on the things that can get us back to opening our businesses. How many more of our local restaurants need to permanently close. Spend time on opening up Foothill feels like a "I did something" checklist item. Leave it as is and put the decision out to the VOTERS...

Posted by jc
a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 31, 2020 at 1:41 pm

Very easy for those who do not have financial or liability responsibility to demand Foothill Park be opened to non-residents. Reminds me of children begging mom and dad for a swimming pool.

Posted by Dixie Storkman
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jul 31, 2020 at 1:46 pm

As I recall Palo Altons were asked to vote on an additional cost if they wished the lake at Foothill Park to remain when the dam was being repaired ... Exclusively a Palo Alto cost. No outside help!! Which we paid!!

Posted by Rick
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 31, 2020 at 1:52 pm

This shouldn't be up to the council.

Posted by also vote
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 31, 2020 at 2:31 pm

There is a pandemic, the GDP just went down by 33% and there is a psycho-maniac in charge of the White House...and our local leader worry about this?

Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 31, 2020 at 2:31 pm

Shame on those who want to bring the race issue into this discussion. Unfortunately LaDoris Cordell can't refrain from doing that as a black women, former County Supreme Court judge , and PA city council member. Currently, the debate should only be about residents and non-residents using the preserve...and about the original deed agreement and subsequent ordinances limiting access.

I think the days of the redlining of homes and property sales in PA is long past. We are more accepting and more welcome to diversity in our community than ever before. I see it everyday in my end of town...probably more than in the really well off neighborhoods of the really rich folks on the north end of town. That's what makes us special. Yes, we are a special city, and we welcome newcomers who will add to the experiences and diversity we enjoy in our city. And, yes, that means being able to afford to pay a higher price for housing here.

Please don't degrade us and bring down our level of acceptance into this great community. It took dedicated people to get here, to stay here, and to make it what it is.

Posted by also vote also vote
a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 31, 2020 at 3:28 pm

Re: also vote's comment.
This is a "hot button" issue, so news websites and the media will NOT leave it alone, it grabs attention, gets people upset and thus - drives revenue. Tackling real issues is not as exciting but more important.

Posted by Sally
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 31, 2020 at 3:33 pm

This council just cut Community Services budget by 40%. We cut arts, theatre, jmz, seniors... council's "blow with the wind" cowardice will be on full display again if they open without the needed funding boost... which we simply don't have right now.

Posted by cmarg
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jul 31, 2020 at 4:14 pm

Please don't miss race and tie this to Black Lives Matter. It is so sad to try to put this type of issue in that bucket --- why to make us all feel guilty or something. Really, we need to focus on the more important issues within City Council. We are in very unusual times. We may not even be able to be out and about so why are we even talking about Foothills Park. Focus on what matters right now and that is health, safety, education, and the economy. Stop waisting time please.

Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 31, 2020 at 7:40 pm

Depending on things, this may be my last post on this subject. 40-and-some years ago, there were a number of "special" things about Palo Alto that were the result of-- luck, prosperity, but, also, a willingness to tax ourselves for shared community services. That included FHP, but also, the libraries, the schools, the bike-friendly routes, the street-tree program, and so on. Some of the amenities contributed to "peace and quiet". Many people found it attractive, many others thought it was a waste of tax money that could be better spent on a new family car or whatever and chose to live elsewhere.

Over the last two decades, actions by the city government have helped erode that specialness. I wish that PACC could find it in its collective heart to look at how our quality of life has been reduced and try to take corrective action. FHP will probably be the next chapter. Palo Alto will become like the joke, "Palo Alto? Nobody goes there any more. It's too crowded."

Posted by Lifetime Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 31, 2020 at 8:06 pm

Foothills Park is a rare treasure and an amazing animal habitat because it restricts access so severely. Rather than see the downside of the fact that we don't hit the max entrants, I see the upside which is it remains a sanctuary. If we start hitting the max of 1000 per day we will definitely see a different level of impact, so the actual comparison should be "current usage and impact" versus potentially "1000 people per day and impact."

If we can agree that limiting access is the right, best thing in order to maintain this amazing place, how is it fair that the residents that pay for it (tax dollars) may find they cannot use it because nonresidents whom pay almost nothing ($6 per carload could mean less than $1 per person) have already filled the quota?

For Anne of Mountain View, your question as to how is this different than "any other park" epitomizes the real issue: This is not just "any other park," and the residents striving to protect this place fear that exact attitude.

Also, it makes no sense to limit the number of visitors to 1000 people while considering allowing 50 vehicles on non-residents. There is no way to regulate how many people are in a vehicle. For an extreme example, if 50 vehicles that each have 8 people in them (not impossible in this day of SUVs and minivans) that is 400 of the 1000 "visitors" allowed.

Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 1, 2020 at 10:13 am

Article today in the SFC concerning all of the parks in the surrounding counties. They are all overloaded. Some are on reservations only. And cars all over the streets leading into the parks. And many will be closed during the high heat time period due to fire threat.

Bottom line is that there are parks all over the place where ever you live. You are not isolated in this region - there are parks galore. And they are not counting race and ethnicity. That last time I was up there - about a month ago - it was dry and the air quality was bad due to fires in other areas which contaminated the air quality throughout the bay area.

If you look at the entrance to the SU dish walk there is a checkpoint going in. Cars backed up on the residential street. And dry. The hills are a fire trap.

Why people focus on this park given all of the parks in the area is a matter of people trying to make a point- the point having nothing to do with the health and well being of the park itself and the animals that live there.

Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 1, 2020 at 12:12 pm

This issue strikes me as unnecessary given that ANYONE can go to Foothills ANY weekday, which means the access issue is effectively about weekends. How can something relevant to so few days be a priority topic at this particular point in time given all that is going on and the budget cuts this city faces? And how can open access ever be considered without a simultaneous commitment to staff the fire station full time most of the year?

It's my understanding that today, the first day of the new budget, PAFD is operating under "brown out" conditions, meaning it is down one engine. This impacts response time city-wide. Imagine if an engine had to get up to Foothills. Like it or not, in addition to the obvious need to protect the preserve in order to keep it as wonderful as it is, finances and public-safety must also be taken into consideration - and given their due.

Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 1, 2020 at 1:42 pm

As a Left wing Democrat I can attest that this issue as absolutely nothing to do with racism. There is so much racism in our country that there's no need to bring it up where it doesn't exist. It makes no sense to increase the traffic on a narrow winding road that's already unsafe to drivers and cyclists. Additionally, neighboring communities that refused to join in when the property was up for sale have no right to demand anything. This is a property that was purchased by Palo Alto tax payers, has a unique location that makes it unsuitable for mass visitation, and since all other Palo parks are open to visitors who aren't residents, there's no problem.

This country is in an existential disaster and is ruled by a dictatorial incompetent madman, we should pay our entire attention to that, not to this silly issue, and not to allowing an exclusive girls private school located in a residential area to receive special dispensation despite years of user permit violations.

Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 1, 2020 at 4:16 pm

CC: please print out Mauricio's comments and keep that paper in front of you while you debate this topic and the Castilleja expansion.

Priorities matter, as does common sense.

Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 1, 2020 at 6:43 pm

I am reading the printed copy today of the Weekly and the header for one opinion is "Desegregate Foothills Park". Does the Weekly have a vested interest in perpetuating
nonsense? FHP is NOT SEGREGATED. Newspapers do have opinions and push their own interests but perpetuating nonsense should not be one of those editorial adventures. We see that in the SJM and SFC where the header to an opinion has presented a conclusion or opinion as a given. That is what is called fake news. The criteria for entry at FHP is residents of the city. And the city is not segregated. Perpetuating any opinion that it is segregated is fake news.

Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 1, 2020 at 7:45 pm

@ mauricio: I agree that the issues surrounding Foothills Park have nothing to do with racism (as alleged by various protesters in the area).

Yet, I noticed that you went a bit further with your post (again) and made certain to include yet another partisan political shot. Those aren't helpful in discussions like this. They have nothing to do with the problem. They offer no real solution.

Besides: You don't REALLY believe all of the things that you posted, do you? You can dislike President Trump all you want; however, it is laughable to call him a "dictatorial incompetent madman." While Trump is far from perfect, he has nothing to do with this issue. He has little to do with many of the local issues in which I've noticed the same people bring him up.

Now, it is possible that your self-identity as a "Left-wing Democrat" might cloud the lens through which you view individuals from "the other party" or those with whom you might disagree. However, I personally cringe when I read such wild generalizations or rhetorical caricatures. There's no need to bring up divisive, partisan political rhetoric ad naseum.

Maybe I see things differently. Of course, that could be because I was born in Mexico (a nation with plenty of skin color and class warfare issues). I've traveled throughout this nation as a migrant farm worker. I also have studied and traveled abroad. America is an amazing nation.

I'm always struck by those who visit this nation and discover it is much better than the deranged generalization presented by Hollywood or the media. Unfortunately, the exaggerated caricatures used as straw men to fight against don't really help in conversations about things like this.

Yes, some activists and agitators raised this issue as if it were a "racial" issue. Some of those same individuals are the ones who point fingers at "systemic racism" in the Palo Alto Police Department, Palo Alto's public schools, various city policies and even the cost of simply living in Palo Alto.

One of the people who was demanding that Foothills Park be "opened up" also claimed that attacks on certain minority groups suddenly increased in this area over the last four years (which isn't true) -- and stated that this would be one of many concessions that the Bay Area needs to implement to "make things right."

Unfortunately, trying to reason with this sentiment is like trying to reason with those who point the finger of blame at Republicans or President Trump when their car doesn't pass smog, the cost of tuition goes up, their utility bill increases or when they simply stump their toe.

It's better to focus on the issue at hand.

Posted by CGPA
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 2, 2020 at 12:03 am

Great. And once we get this issue settled, we have a lengthy list of other things we're coming after:

Palo Alto schools are among the best in the country. This is an injustice. We intend to force you to open your schools to all the peoples of the country. You are a wealthy town and should pay for the education for all. Medicare for ALL and education for ALL. We intend to put 50 of our disruptive students into *each* of your classrooms so that our kids can learn in our own classrooms in peace and quiet.

Fire department. We should NOT have to pay for our own fire department, when Palo Alto has a perfectly good one to be used by ALL. Why should the firefighters you pay for sit at your lilly white fire stations protecting your homes, most of which are sprinklered and alarmed? Send them and the equipment you paid for to OUR firehouses. If your house burns down while the fire fighters you paid for are busy saving my house, that's merely the price of equality.

Libraries. Our cities are sick and tired of funding our own libraries while yours are not nearly filled to overcrowding. That needs to change. It's an injustice to black lives and all lives that you have it better than we do and your libraries are ripe for the picking.

Utilities. Why does the richest city in the area have the cheapest utilities? It is an injustice. You should be swapping rates with the poorer areas so that they take your lower utilities and you take theirs. This is not even up for discussion.

Yes, we are SALIVATING at your capitulation on this first issue. That's right, the first, as in, one of many. We are going to come back to the well over and over until you finally say no. We'll send our minions into your council meetings to scream and protest like we did pulling down statues and burning down buildings. Power to the people! As soon as you show weakness on this issue, we will show you NO MERCY with our subsequent demands, which will be endless. Go ahead, and vote for this out of guilt, in spite of the fact that everyone slammed the door in your face when you went looking for help to fund this park.

We're going to milk your guilt for all we can. We can always find some way to twist race into the issues above. Your even discussing them will be branded as racist, because the term ha slost all meaning. And if you refuse, we'll get you to stupidly agree to a "pilot program", as if you'll be able to take these privileges away without being branded as racist. Think of how bad that's going to look if we tear your park apart, burn half of it down, and you even *try* to shut the doors. Just try to take away your "pilot program" and watch the real fireworks begin!

Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 2, 2020 at 12:34 pm

WOW - I am not keeping up here. Who - or what is CGPA? If the person lives in the city as indicated then they are benefiting from the closed restaurants, shut down streets, children in their home classrooms, and the police who are being beaten up. They get to benefit from an increased tax because there are few open businesses and hotels which support the city tax base. Since it was posted around midnight then assume there is some drugs or alcohol fueling these sentiments.

Justin Phillips is a new writer for the SFC. He is young and black and spends his allotted section trying to explain what is going on. Latest entry is "Black protestors pay price for bad behavior of others." In Oakland a group of white Antifa went over to burn down a car dealership and came back and changed clothes under a tree to get out of their descriptive attire. The local Neighborhood Watch viewed this all and were reporting on it.

As in Portland and Seattle, Chicago, and NY there is no bottom line - just destruction. No one is going to go on vacation to these places - no hotel tax, no restaurants, no bars, no festivities. No one is going to move there or start a new business there. And people who do live there are going to leave to calmer, less obtrusive places.

the people who participate in these activities have no vested interests in the locations where they gather. What is the end result they are looking for?

Take that down to FHP - it is a small location in a difficult place to get to with limited resources and in fire prone area. Yet a lot of people are intent on damaging it beyond repair and the homes surrounding it. What is the point of it all? Do homosapiens poop in their own nests?

Posted by Me 2
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 2, 2020 at 1:38 pm

[Post removed.]

Posted by S_mom
a resident of Community Center
on Aug 2, 2020 at 8:30 pm

If they do the pilot program I hope they track the city of residence for the people who buy the permits. If would be useful to know at the end of the pilot when they are deciding whether to make the program permanent whether the it actually attracted visitors from less wealthy cities or whether it just added visitors from Los Altos Hills.

Posted by Novelera
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 3, 2020 at 4:23 pm

Watching to see what the City Council does tonight. Anyone who is up for re-election who votes for this "pilot program" won't get my vote. And kudos to the poster above who said that once the "pilot program" gets the camel's nose into the tent, they'll never un-do it.

Posted by Mark Weiss
a resident of Downtown North

on Aug 3, 2020 at 10:01 pm

Mark Weiss is a registered user.

Due to violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are only visible to registered users who are logged in. Use the links at the top of the page to Register or Login.

Posted by supply & demand
a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 4, 2020 at 7:48 am

supply & demand is a registered user.

Keep status quo! Don't do any experiment during pandemic time!

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