Palo Alto teenagers could soon have more options when it comes to fun programs and activities. The City Council's Policy and Services Committee unanimously voted to recommend up to $84,000 for teen programs, events and services on Tuesday night.
The funding would come from fees collected from a city-owned commercial space attached to downtown's Bryant Street parking garage and would cover the 2015 fiscal year. Commission chair Gail Price and members Greg Scharff, Larry Klein and Greg Schmid praised the proposal raised by city staff as an opportunity to show a commitment to the city's youth through largely teen-directed programs.
The bulk of the revenue, $60,000, would be used to hire three hourly teen-activity specialists to coordinate events, programs and services. One each would be assigned to the Library Department and the Arts and Sciences and Recreation divisions of the Community Services Department. Community Services Department staffing has shrunk by 25 percent since 2000, when the Downtown Teen Center closed, according to a staff report.
The new specialists would be temporary, non-benefited employees, and they would ideally be in their 20s, so they would connect well with the teens, Community Services Department Assistant Director Rob De Geus said.
"I want them (the youth) to come away with the experience that the city really cares about young people," he told committee members Tuesday.
Another $24,000 would be used for supplies, events and programs.
The new funding would support teen programs that already exist but that have relied on outside grants, De Geus said.
To gauge what kinds of activities teens want, city staff conducted two focus groups and a survey of youth, which received 541 responses.
Teens said they wanted opportunities for self-directed socializing in unstructured spaces, more visual and performing arts, evening activities, special events, volunteer and work opportunities, special-interest classes and more events located downtown, according to staff.
Teens recommended various ideas, including a teen drop-in studio at the Palo Alto Art Center; "Behind the Scenes at the Museum" workshops at the art center to allow teens to see what it would be like to be a museum professional; continuation of makeX: Teen Mobile Makerspace, a teen-created platform that provides the tools and space to design and prototype physical projects; "Business Community Speaks," which invites speakers from Stanford University, Google, IDEO and others for talks about science, technology, engineering and math; and college tours.
The expenditure plan does not draw down on a $217,334 reserve fund, which consists of accrued revenue from 2009 through 2013. Staff members recommended retaining a reserve rather than spending it on one-time expenditures that might not have a lasting impact, they said. However, if the council or local teen community expresses an interest in spending the reserve, it could be considered, staff said.
Klein on Tuesday did make a motion that some uses for the reserve funds be identified within six months of the opening of Mitchell Park Library, which will host a variety of youth programs. He was opposed to any surplus being reserved for an indefinite time, he said.
Committee members approved Klein's motion 4-0.
High school students from three existing programs -- ClickPA, an interactive website that posts teen events and activities; the Teen Arts Council, which hosts events such as open-mic nights; and makeX -- gave presentations Tuesday on how the money could engage and benefit youth.
Though those programs are largely managed by the teens, along with a mentor, the students said they would welcome the aid of specialists.
"It would be really helpful to have someone to pull resources together for us," Riley Burt of the Teen Arts Council said.
When the council planned construction of the Bryant Street garage in 2001, it also approved using the revenue from taxable "certificates of participation" to construct a commercial space alongside it. That space is currently leased by Form Fitness. Seventy-five percent of the revenue goes to Palo Alto teen programs; the remainder subsidizes the Palo Alto Housing Corporation's low-income Barker Hotel on Emerson Street.
The committee's recommendation about the $84,000 will now go to the council for approval.