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Palo Alto mulls dedicating new parkland

Original post made on Mar 19, 2014

A long forgotten and largely abandoned parcel of city-owned land next to Foothills Park could be spruced up and added to Palo Alto's verdant empire of dedicated parkland under a proposal offered this week by three City Council members.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, March 19, 2014, 4:35 PM

Comments (38)

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Posted by parent
a resident of Mayfield
on Mar 19, 2014 at 7:27 pm

Is a map of this parcel available? Does it connect to both Foothill Park and Los Trancos Road? Opening up the land to the public could create a much safer route for families to bicycle to Foothill Park than the treacherous Page Mill Road.


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Posted by Gus L.
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 19, 2014 at 7:34 pm

I find that offer of $175,000. for 7.7 Acres of forgotten Palo Alto property very generous on the part of Mr. Potter.
That would be the buy of the century if The City Council allowed that to happen.


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Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 19, 2014 at 10:07 pm

I'll double Arrillaga's $175,000 offer for 7.7 acres now that the closed door machinations have aired.


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Posted by neighbor
a resident of Green Acres
on Mar 19, 2014 at 10:47 pm

I notice no mention of the Maybell orchard. Neighbors just want the City to temporarily purchase it so we residents over here have to time and permission to figure out how to pay for it.

City has the option of first right of refusal on the property. If you want them to give us the chance, even for 6 months or a year, please let them know. The orchard faces the hills, has 100 established trees that live without water, and faces an existing park and school. If you think sometimes the City should think of amenities on this side of town and not just dense housing, please ask them to turn the orchard into parkland. If the houses on the end were renovated or auctioned, the orchard could be a steal as these things go...

city.council@cityofpaloalto.org


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Posted by Justin
a resident of Mountain View
on Mar 20, 2014 at 1:02 am

@parent
No, Los Trancos is not a particularly safe road for biking-it's probably more dangerous than Page Mill although there are fewer cars. You also have to go on Arastradero and Alpine to get there from Palo Alto. The safest way to bike to Foothill's Park is to take Elena off of Purissimma to Black Mountain Road. You don't need to go on Page Mill at all-there is a path immediately after you cross that goes all the way there. I think it is more the distance and the hills that stop most families from biking up there. My dad never biked with me to Foothill's Park.


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Posted by parent
a resident of Mayfield
on Mar 20, 2014 at 8:38 am

@Justin - I think you are wrong. There are bike lanes on Alpine Road all the way from Stanford to Los Trancos. Los Trancos has very little traffic and the traffic there is slow and safe. The route you suggest is too steep and narrow with too many blind turns for most pre-teen children. What's the point of having a beautiful park if you can't bike there with your kids?


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 20, 2014 at 8:46 am

Love Foothill Park, but my family looks on it as a place to hike, picnic and explore rather than a destination only.

When the kids were small we would pack them all into the car (possibly with a friend or two), take food, spend the day hiking, eating, exploring the lake, etc. and pile into the car for the ride home and most of them would be fast asleep. Good memories.

I would never dream of taking them by bike as they would then be too tired to enjoy the beauty of the park, and if they were too tired they would never have managed to ride home. Bike rides are great to the Baylands, but find it hard to think that families would have much energy to hike if they rode bikes up the hill.

Pleased that there is the opportunity to expand Foothill Park. Look forward to new area to explore.


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Posted by Old Timer on a bike
a resident of another community
on Mar 20, 2014 at 10:01 am

I agree that its stretch to bike to Foothills park as a family. With older kids, maybe, but not for young families. There will always be exceptions, but in general I don't see many young families planning a ride up there. I have mixed feelings about opening up this parcel. As someone who has been accessing this quiet little place for years, using it as a rest/food/think spot on my bike rides, I've grown to love it as a semi-secret spot. Open enough, but not attractively open, if that makes sense. That said, if its at risk I would prefer the parks dept take control of it than that king of backroom deals Arrillaga. Does that situation warrant investigation???


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Posted by Justin
a resident of Mountain View
on Mar 20, 2014 at 10:10 am

@parent
Los Trancos get steep right before this area would be I think. It's also narrow with a lot of blind turns and there is consistent traffic that is not particularly slow. When I bike there, I don't see many other bikes despite the fact that it has quite a challenging climb if you go to Ramona and Vista Verde. Also Alpine road crossing 280 is not safe for experienced bikers, much less pre-teens. Arastradero Preserve is relatively easy to bike to and connects to Foothill's Park.


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Posted by curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 20, 2014 at 11:10 am

This is a no brainer. The city already owns the land. Just do it, gang.


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Posted by Jg
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Mar 20, 2014 at 11:43 am

This property should be opened ASAP. No delay.


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Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 20, 2014 at 12:00 pm

YES - great idea!!!!!!
1. Focus on the topic of this blog - the Los Trancos site. YES, YES, TES
People who hike - there are a lot of us will love this. I can't wait to see it.

The Maybell Orchard is a separate topic - don't confuse the two.
However - I see a demonstration garden there which has a volunteer staff and school children coming to garden. Also some chickens so children can see the egg producing farm situation. Maybe two goats to keep it tidy?

My grammar school in West Hollywood has a garden where the children learn how to plan the garden, plant, harvest, and cook up what they grow. That is VERY SPIFF. And that is next to decorator row. Very chi-chi.


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Posted by Kevin
a resident of Greendell/Walnut Grove
on Mar 20, 2014 at 12:25 pm

Kevin is a registered user.

I was looking at the area with Google maps, and noticed that the area where the two water-filled gravel pits used to he has been developed. Anyone know what the place is, is it just a private home, or something else?


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Posted by Enid Pearson
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 20, 2014 at 12:33 pm

It's about time it was dedicated. The Park Dedication Ordinance states that when land is acquired for park use it is supposed to be dedicated. The fact that the staff leased it (for $1,250/yr) to the developer to use as a staging ground for the quarry is unbelievable. Dr. Lee stated that the 7.7 A were to be used for open space, conservation and parks. He actually hoped for a regional park. So, I support dedication as soon as possible. Prior comments show that the public has great ideas for use of these 7.7 acres.


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Posted by Mike Alexander
a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on Mar 20, 2014 at 1:22 pm

The article locates the parcel on Buckeye Ck., beyond the end of Los Trampas Valley (the landscaped valley by the ranger station). So it must be the parcel roughly centered on 37.21.52 / 122.11.33. It abuts Los Trancos Rd. one mile up from Alpine Rd., at 600 ft. elevation. Except for Alpine@280, it's a much easier bike destination than the park entrance, which is at 840 ft. and requires navigating a moderately gnarly part of Page Mill. Still, probably not a great family ride.

It should definitely be added to the park.


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Posted by Mike Alexander
a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on Mar 20, 2014 at 1:25 pm

@Kevin: the quarry and ponds are on John Arrillaga's property. You can get an idea of the boundaries on wikimapia.


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Posted by curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 20, 2014 at 2:41 pm

"The fact that the staff leased it (for $1,250/yr) to the developer to use as a staging ground for the quarry is unbelievable."

B
Unbelievable but very credible. And very probably a small faction of the value Arrillaga realized from the deal. Maybe they wanted to be nice to him so he'd build those towers for them and give them more material their resumes.


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Posted by Gus L.
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 20, 2014 at 7:09 pm

Posted by Kevin, a resident of Greendell/Walnut Grove
6 hours ago
Kevin is a registered user.
I was looking at the area with Google maps, and noticed that the area where the two water-filled gravel pits used to he has been developed. Anyone know what the place is, is it just a private home, or something else?

That "COMPOUND" is owned by Arrillaga.
It used to be a rock quarry where we swam as kids. Now its Mr. Potters Private reserve...and Lake etc. Wonder how he got to develop that, Eh?
Here is Arrillagas Bunker complex from the air...
Web Link


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Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 20, 2014 at 7:20 pm

There is a Los Trancos Open space Preserve on Page Mill Road - is this what we are talking about> Comments on Google are Great Hiking


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Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 20, 2014 at 10:17 pm

I am concerned that some people here are trying to identify this property via bicycles. That is great for the bicycle people but there are a lot more of us that are hiking people. And we do that as a group. If we have a group picnic here then it is not going to be via bicycle. Think total usage for the community as a whole however we all get there.

We live on the coastal range - by anyone's calculation that is for expert bikers only. And I know some that ended up in Stanford Emergency with broken bones. Page Mill / the coastal range is a difficult go from anyone's standpoint.


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Posted by Kevin
a resident of Greendell/Walnut Grove
on Mar 20, 2014 at 10:50 pm

Kevin is a registered user.

@Mike and @Gus

Thanks for the info.


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Posted by klimmtt
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Mar 20, 2014 at 11:29 pm

So mega-billionaire Arrillaga lives in a gravel pit.

Oh, man.

In the midwest community where I grew up, the local Country-Western radio station ran catchy, if un-PC, ads for Culligan water softeners. Culligan's ad agency's schtick was personable customers who were somewhat short of high end. The catchphrase was "Hey, Culligan man!!"

One variant has stuck in my memory for 50 years: "Hey Culligan man!! Over here!! In the gravel pit!!"

It has defined my image of the bottom of the social heap for fifty+ years.

But so what? Heck, nobody actually lives in a gravel pit.

Right?


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Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 21, 2014 at 6:57 am

I love the idea of the Comprehensive Plan for Conservation and Recreational environmental protection.
Notes on those themes -
1. Rancho San Antonio is filled with hikers, school children, older people enjoying the deer, turkeys, other wildlife. It is a great resource for the region. It is always full of people. It has a demonstration farm for children to learn about food production. Check it out.
2. San Francisquito creek is an identified flood problem by the SCV Water District. It is currently being managed in pieces vs a total end-to end management from Searsville lake to the bay. Note in SJM 03/21 Anderson Dam in Morgan Hill is going to be emptied to repair damage and update for earthquake current specifications. Searsville Lake Dam is a candidate for total overhaul and update for current earthquake and flood control specifications. This is a county issue for both Santa Clara and San Mateo counties.
3. Coyote Creek in San Jose is now under a law suit to clean up the homeless camps damaging the creek. Coyote is a recognized flood control creek. San Francisquito creek has a similar problem and needs to be cleared from top to bottom and maintained with vegetation clearing on a seasonal basis.
4. Looking at the map for Palo Alto and regional open space preserves it is unclear who is in control of these properties. This article points up that all of our resources are not being used in the most effective manner for all citizens.
5. Suggest that PA set up a volunteer conservation corps so that the citizens can participate in the clean-up and planning for these properties.
You will get a LOT OF VOLUNTEERS. You do not need to pay a bunch of people who will isolate some of these properties for their own use.


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Posted by Mike Alexander
a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on Mar 21, 2014 at 7:34 pm

@ resident1: In the entire Bay Area there ARE a lot of parks and open space agencies, at many levels. Locally, though, just a few:
-- Midpeninsula Regional Open Space Dist: (60,000+ acres in 26 preserves,
including Los Trancos & Monte Bello on upper Page Mill Rd.)
-- Santa Clara Co. Parks (Rancho San Antonio Park, for one)
-- San Mateo Co. Parks (Huddart Park, Memorial Park, for two)
-- State of California (Butano & Portola Parks, San Mateo Co. beaches)
-- City of Palo Alto: Foothills Park
Check 'em out. They all play important roles and need your support!


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Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 22, 2014 at 7:14 am

Mike - I am part of a hiking group that regularly visits all of the local open space parks. We know all of them - and the coffee shops that are next to them. Tons of people are at Rancho San Antonio. All ages - even a young mother's group with their carriages that have a play date for the babies on the tennis courts.

Some hikers helped make Shoreline Park - Mountain View into the total success that is there now.

If you go to another blog on this topic it brings out that Acterra is using the parcel for its tree growing nursery. It seems to think this parcel is theirs.
Acterra thinks it is a overseer of parks in general. Go to its home page. It notes San Francisquito Creek - that is now a total disaster. The golf course is now turning into a total disaster.
If nothing else a light is now focused on our PA sites and what needs to be done. It is time for a volunteer corps to help out - people who do not have a financial interest in the properties for their own use.

I went to the Los Trancos site yesterday - the entrance from this road is very nice - much better that Page Mill that has all of those "expert" bikers struggling up hill, as well as trying to keep their bikes in check on the downhill. For a 25 MPH road the bikers can not get it right.


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Posted by DC
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 22, 2014 at 10:01 am

I'm sorry, but WHAT?? Some developer wants to buy 7.7 acres from Palo Alto for <$8000...??? Which spectacularly conniving city employee(s) made THAT deal? Because they need to held accountable for such a totally inappropriate bribe. If any citizen wanted to buy that land, you can bet the city wouldn't sell it for less than a couple million. So again, how does this happen in a town with so many reallyreally smart people???And why do all we reallyreally smart people let them get away with it? Is there no process for accountability/penalizing such obvious breaches of public trust and disregard for the stated (as in WRITTEN ) wishes of the Lee family? Really?? Nothing???


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Posted by Mike Alexander
a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on Mar 22, 2014 at 1:40 pm

@resident 1: I'm glad that you visit the open spaces, and hope you'll get involved, too.

I'm sure you know that these places are open and available to you because of the decades-long effort of a huge phalanx of volunteers and a handful of professionals, doing their work with meager, hard-won resources.

Almost all local open space was once used hard, for logging, ranching, mining, and other industries. Acterra is largely about focusing the diverse energies of environmental volunteers to help restore these places to a more natural state. Their nursery at Foothills Park (staffed by volunteers) supplies native plants for a host of local restoration projects (including Foothills Park) and so provides a key benefit to the entire community.

See Web Link


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Posted by leadership failure
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 22, 2014 at 2:07 pm

Mike Alexander,

"Acterra is largely about focusing the diverse energies of environmental volunteers to help restore these places to a more natural state. Their nursery at Foothills Park (staffed by volunteers) supplies native plants for a host of local restoration projects (including Foothills Park) and so provides a key benefit to the entire community."

I would be wary of non-profits, as they are also a good way for having preferentially salaried people with jurisdiction over something which appears to be beneficial to many, but in fact may be a shell to control, lobby, or advance a definition of "benefit" which is relative.

There are many non-profits doing good work, and any one np's involvement should be looked at in context. So, how did Palo Alto decide on giving Acterra sole jurisdiction of this park?


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Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 22, 2014 at 3:34 pm

Mike - nothing like being lectured to - I am 4th generation California so know everything you have to say on the subject of our local history.
And thank you to Dr. Lee for providing that land for addition to Foothill Park for everyone's use. I am sure that everyone is going to enjoy it when it is added to the Foothill Park footprint.

Mike - you show San Francisquito Creek as one of your group's focus items.
That whole situation is in deterioration. The baylands - where you all hang out is in deterioration. Be careful here - we are focusing on the property - don't think you want us to focus on your group. We will start looking for performance measurements on how you are doing.

Go over to Shoreline Park - that is a superb example of conservation and recreation that everyone is enjoying. My hat is off to Mountain View and the group that put that together. I know who they are - very smart people.

Otherwise I am sure all the residents of PA will enjoy hiking around the new portion of the property. I believe that Parks and Recreation are the top level coordinator for the PA specific properties.


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Posted by Mike Alexander
a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on Mar 22, 2014 at 5:10 pm

Sorry, resident1, but you seemed a little weak on the facts.

Palo Alto granted use of that little bit adjacent to Foothills Park to Acterra for the nursery, to raise plants for use in the park and at other local restoration projects. Acterra has the scientific and organizational strength to make it a good fit for the task. I don't know the terms.

A governmental entity called the San Francisquito Joint Powers Authority has the duty to resolve flooding of San Francisquito Creek. See Web Link

I'm not affiliated with Acterra -- not my group. I do volunteer for the MROSD, and hang out in the hills more than at the bay.

Dr. Lee donated all of the land for Foothill Park to Palo Alto in 1981, including these 7.7 acres, which were held out of the park because the Lee's used them until 1996.

Finally, I agree, Shoreline is a nice park, especially since they fixed the cap so that methane from the old dump doesn't set fires on the golf course.



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Posted by Disgusted 2
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Mar 22, 2014 at 7:50 pm

From what I have heard,.. Arrillaga used the public parcel as a staging area for construction material ( huge boulders etc..)Instead of off hauling the old material, he simply ground it up. And left it on site.


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Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 22, 2014 at 10:36 pm

Thank you Mike - you identified what the problem here is - we are all weak on the facts.
1. The first issue would be who specifically granted Acterra permission to use the site. If you look at the situation end to end the purpose of the site was for addition to Foothill Park for use by everyone. Whoever that was did not have the legal authority to provide permission. The nursery appears in the phone book so maybe has a commercial value.
2. You need to review the other threads on the Joint Powers Authority - they got shot down by other government agencies and Stanford is stonewalling them. Not a good situation. Acterra should remove reference to the Creek since it appears to not have any involvement in the activities in process. It is blowing up it's references.
3. The info on Dr. Lee was included in the full write-up.
4. Yes - methane is a big problem. When they first planted trees they all died because of the methane gas. Technical evolution - the place looks great now.
5. I am a great fan of the Nature Conservancy and the scientific knowledge they bring to projects - also their ability to broker issues with the government agencies. They are big money boys - but you need big money boys when you are dealing with big money projects. Stanford is big money so you have to roll at that level.


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Posted by Mike Alexander
a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on Mar 23, 2014 at 8:56 am

from above: In presenting the 7.7-acre gift to the city, the Lee family specified that it "shall be used for conservation, including park and recreation purposes."

I think it's an easy argument that the nursery is use consistent with the Lee's wishes. The following links show the formal relationship between CPA and Acterra, and some community activities involving the nursery.

License agreement for operation of the nursery:
Web Link

Stewardship agreement for environmental education and habitat restoration at Arastradero Preserve:
Web Link

About the Lucie Stern Demonstration Garden:
Web Link

About the City's LawnGone program:
Web Link


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Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 23, 2014 at 9:07 am

The presence of the nursery on site precludes / excludes the use by everyone else. It blocks out the property for the exclusive use of a few people.
That is not what Dr. Lee intended. If you look in the phone book it comes up as specifically the nursery.
I am not interested in all of the other activities - we are focused on the use of this specific property for the intended use by the family that provided the property.
You need to go up to Enid Pearson's post. She is Arastadero Preserve and the most knowledgeable person on this stream. She is the expert here.


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Posted by leadership failure
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 23, 2014 at 10:02 am

Mike Alexander,

"the Lee family specified that it "shall be used for conservation, including park and recreation purposes.""I think it's an easy argument that the nursery is use consistent with the Lee's wishes."

Conservation generally means not destroying something, and doing necessary things to keep something conserved.

The Lee family clarified that their interpretation of conservation includes park and recreation purposes.

In other words, they did not intend that a "conservation non-profit" entity be gifted jurisdiction of the land. Either to build a nursery or a barrier against residents to protect the Arrillaga property. Such a gift cannot possibly have happened without City Council vote, and what about the $1,250/year lease? Hauling or a storage POD costs more than that!

Acterra and Arrillaga seem to be more focused on conservation of the land, as an end purpose to exclude park and recreation. The best conservation sites around the world are for people to experience them to promote more conservation. They're not a locked out space.

The Lees could have donated this land to a conservation non-profit, but they chose not to. Anyway, they did not gift it to Acterra or Arrillaga, and other than appropriate neighborly relations, there is nothing that either of them can demand or claim.

Interesting that Acterra's nursery happens to be so strategically positioned.


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Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 23, 2014 at 10:50 am

Leadership Failure - you are right on. Let's go back in time to the true pioneers of Stanford and Palo Alto. Dr. Lee, J. Pierce Mitchell ( Mitchell Park) collectively with others built this city to what it is today, including Children's hospital, Palo Alto Medical Center, Mitchell Park, Palo Alto Golf Course, etc.

Dr. Lee donated the property to create a second entry for the Foothill Park.
It has never served that purpose.

People donate land and money to those organizations that they have been involved with over many years. Most universities and colleges have buildings with people's name on them. Hospitals have wings with people's name on them.

People can chose who they donate any resources to. If any entity is unable or incompetent in the realization of the donor's goals then other people will donate to other well qualified organizations. There is no lack of conservation organizations in this specific area that will gladly accept donations of land.


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Posted by leadership failure
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 23, 2014 at 2:26 pm

resident1,

I think what you may be saying is that Palo Alto could also be shooting itself in the foot for other philanthropic donations in the future, if it does such a shabby job of caring for something entrusted to the citizens.

I am not that knowledgeable about PA history, and admit this thread being the first time I hear about Dr. Lee, Web Link.

Dr. Lee sounds like a bold thinking guy and when the Lees specified "park and recreation" they must have had more in mind than a nursery or leasing storage for a billionaire in mind.

When and if the park is dedicated, it would be nice to dedicate the park to the Lee family.


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Posted by Disgusted 2
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Mar 23, 2014 at 9:55 pm

Resident 1

"Dr. Lee donated the property to create a second entry for the Foothill Park.
It has never served that purpose."

Looks like "The powers to be", made sure that this would never happen.


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