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Palo Alto to weigh uses for new Foothills Park land

Original post made on Aug 19, 2014

In a moment acknowledged to be three decades overdue, an enthusiastic City Council on Monday night officially dedicated as parkland a flat, undeveloped and long-forgotten parcel next to Foothills Park to ensure the land will be used for "park, recreation or conservation purposes."

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, August 19, 2014, 12:10 AM

Comments (47)

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Posted by Sorry Arrillaga!
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 19, 2014 at 7:43 am

Ah, Mr Arrillaga in bed again with the city. $1,100 a year to lease 7.7 acres, and then he offers 175K to buy the land? I guess he's a real "low baller" when it comes to making offers. And the CofPA only writing a thank you letter to the donor now, after it was gifted to them in 1981? nice belated thank you.

While I'm glad this parcel is finally becoming official parkland, seems like it is shrouded in some shady history b/w Arrillaga and the city.


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Posted by boscoli
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 19, 2014 at 8:09 am

Why was the city even negotiating with Arrillaga a possible sale of this parcel of land? The fact it was a possibility is scary.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Sickened
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 19, 2014 at 8:16 am

Our city council is shameless, unapologetic, and a huge embarrassment to us all


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Barry Chopper
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 19, 2014 at 9:58 am

Who should our new city council be? Who are we voting for?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Mercinary Residents
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 19, 2014 at 11:00 am

Palo Alto deserves better that what is has and has become over the past decade. Are we at the bottom yet? We can only hope.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Mr.Recycke
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 19, 2014 at 11:03 am

in a Mercury News article about this fiasco, the reporter wrote, "A series of easements exchanged between the city and Arrillaga in 1985 limits public access to a 60-foot-wide, steeply sloped section."

Is that accurate? How much of the original 7.7 acres is now open to the public, and is any of the 7.7 acres being used by Arrillaga?


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Posted by eyes now open
a resident of University South
on Aug 19, 2014 at 11:58 am

Our city council should be ashamed. They act immorally--secret meetings, cheap lease of public property, always giving in to deep pockets.

I, for one, can hardly wait to vote them out.

Leasing the land for a song--Maybe that's how it got to be a "dustbowl" as Kniss claims it to be. I'd imagine Arrillaga storing building equipment there for so long might have caused environmental damage. Will he be held responsible? Not by this council--they are all now pretending their deceit didn't even happen.




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Posted by Emily Renzel
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 19, 2014 at 12:09 pm

Thank you to Councilmembers Karen Holman, Pat Burt, and Greg Schmid for getting this matter before the Council. As Holman pointed out, they're not making any more land. Hopefully the City will take better care of this 7.7 acres now that it's park status is acknowledged.


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Posted by Mark Weiss
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 19, 2014 at 12:42 pm

It might be interesting to require a type of public service for leadership or stakeholders who drift outside the normal lines of discourse or procedure, in the form of requiring he or she or they to sit up there and greet us as we hike on by or picnic with our friends and families, a cute little type of atonement and reminder that the 250th anniversary of Spanish conquering of this area is coming up in 2019.

It is zoned public facility, right?

Awaiting the response to the Grand Jury report of June 16, 2014...


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Timothy Gray
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Aug 19, 2014 at 12:53 pm

I hope that it is absolutely clear to everyone that reads the story that it is abosolutely shameful that the very same council that sat on this land without dedicating it, and even entertained discussion of selling it, are now trying to rebrand themselves as preservers of this land.

Greg Scharf, we have been lied to. Nancy Shepherd, your participation in this near give-away of the land, and now turned turned protector of the land, is the ultimate bullying of the electorate. Shameful.

Greg Scharf and Nancy Shepherd, thanks for delivering this new low in Palo Alo leadership. Your actions are an embarassement, and do not represent the Palo Alto we know and love.

P.S. Thanks for making our voting choice in the upcoming election so easy.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Jg
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 19, 2014 at 1:17 pm

Palo Alto Weekly,
How about a map showing this parcel? Seems it would make a lot clearer to everyone what is being discussed here.
Jg


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Dan
a resident of Southgate
on Aug 19, 2014 at 1:26 pm

Based on a very conservative valuation of $3M, I calculate Mr. Arrillaga was undercharged rent of approximately $700k. In addition, the gravel and other material he dumped there need to be cleaned up by someone. Will there be no effort on the part of our City to recoup these costs from Mr. Arrillaga? I'm sure it must be nice to have a billionaire owe you a favor, but the CC was bartering with something they had no moral right to trade.

A tidbit from the June PA Weekly article on the subject:
"Though the deed specifies that the land would be used for "conservation, including park and recreation purposes," the city in 2012 considered an offer from Arrillaga to buy it for $175,000. As part of the discussion, council members took trips to the site in groups of three to avoid violating the Brown Act, which requires public disclosure when a majority of the council meets. The Weekly learned about these meetings in late 2012 after filing a Public Records Act request and receiving emails between staff and council members arranging the meetings. "


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Posted by Enid Pearson
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 19, 2014 at 2:35 pm

This is what the Park Dedication Ordinance was supposed to do - protect public park land from sale or misuse by private parties. The 7.7A should become an additional public open space added to the present large open valley.
It should not be allowed to fall into the use of any one organization. Acterra (formerly Peninsula Conservation Center)
was given a contract in 2005 whose purpose was " the preservation, protection and enhancement of the 7.7 A parcel" and "to propagate native plants for re-vegetation of the 7.7A parcel". My recent tour of the site showed that little or nothing has been done to restore the 7.7 A in the last 9 years.

Perhaps more oversight and maybe another restoration group might do more especially now that the public is aware that it has this great new asset. It is possible that new trails can be added to existing ones or even just short ones for limited use. I hope the public steps forward and actively claims this valuable land for its use. Enid Pearson, former PA council member/vice mayor


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Margita
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 19, 2014 at 2:35 pm

Was the site impacted by its use as a construction materials storage site?

Perhaps Mr. Arrillaga would be willing to donate funds to help replant/reseed the area. Worth an ask....


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Keep wondering
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 19, 2014 at 2:55 pm

Yes the Council has been corrupt in this matter.
But City Manager Keene and ex-Deputy City Manager Emslie have a history of backroom dealings with Arrillaga. It took a Grand Jury to tell us about it. This is just another example.
Mr. Keene seems to have a soft heart when it comes to dealing with billionaires. And millionaire developers. I keep wondering again and again, what's in it for him?

Of course Arrillaga should clean it up and repair the damage he has done!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Aug 19, 2014 at 3:30 pm

Regarding a map: somewhat convoluted path, try the county tax website -- Web Link -- and figure out how to search by Assessor's Parcel Number. This parcel is APN 182-46-006. Cannot search by Address because the parcel doesn't really have one. If you can find it, there's a little button for "Print Assessor's Parcel Map", which brings up a pdf file of assessor's book 182, page 46. With a capable browser there is a way to property search by map, but that presupposes knowledge of where the property is. I find the website a bit frustrating.

The adjacent privately-owned parcel is APN 182-38-021, which is on the book 182, page 38 map. Other adjacent parcels are 19 acres labeled "Common Area" (no parcel number), Foothills Park (APN 182-37-010), and a far end of 88 acres labeled "Open Space Common Area."

If the "common areas" are up for grabs, it appears that our 7.7-acre parkland parcel is not as landlocked as people might think. Looks like easements and rights-of-way would allow access from Los Trancos Road. And the Los Trancos Creek drainage runs through there somewhere, unmarked on these maps.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Rupert of henzau
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 19, 2014 at 3:32 pm

Not sure why some people are singing the praises of Karen, Greg and pat, while vilifying other members of the council. Did they for get that all the members of,the council knew about the arillaga offer. That all the members of the council visited the site and that the council was lambasted by the grand jury for their lack,of transparency.
Karen, pat and Greg were all smart enough to,write a colleagues memo to make it look that they actually cared.
Cannot wait for the Mitchell park library to open so that the council can congratulate themselves on another in well done.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by resident
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 19, 2014 at 3:51 pm

The Santa Clara County Department of Planning has a website for viewing information on a parcel; website is Web Link

and as one of the above posters noted, put in 182-46-006 for the APN . You can zoom in/out of the map, and see that the access points to the parcel.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 19, 2014 at 4:05 pm

Is it true that access to this parcel, from Los Trancos Road, can only be used by emergency equipment? So hikers/bicyclists will not have access? If this is the case, this is an excellent place to install playing fields.


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Posted by Dan
a resident of Southgate
on Aug 19, 2014 at 4:23 pm

Approximate location is 37.36483,-122.19362 on Google Maps. Parcel is just south of Mr. Arrillaga's estate (which is hard to miss).

Since it's already a bit of a moonscape, how about a hardcore mountain bike course? Best case: Palo Altoans get a bit more fit. Worst case: high school kids go there to drink beer and shoot bottle rockets north :)


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 19, 2014 at 4:39 pm

@ Dan

How about a Motocross track, like the one we used to have on the old Bressler property. Enid Pearson can inform us on what happened with that property.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Aug 19, 2014 at 5:05 pm

Thanks resident, for the more user-friendly planning dept link to a map.

On the Google Maps aerial photo I suppose that's the 1/2-acre Acterra nursery (mentioned in the article) just behind the Foothills Park maintenance sheds. I'm curious about the big barn-like structure (with underground parking?) just to the southwest. It has no associated parcel number. It's just outside our 7.7-acre parcel.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 19, 2014 at 5:11 pm

Can we get a response to Mr. Recycles' comments;

in a Mercury News article about this fiasco, the reporter wrote, "A series of easements exchanged between the city and Arrillaga in 1985 limits public access to a 60-foot-wide, steeply sloped section."

Is that accurate? How much of the original 7.7 acres is now open to the public, and is any of the 7.7 acres being used by Arrillaga?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 19, 2014 at 6:49 pm

Just after this item last night,tangentially, Manager Keene announced,
in response to media investigations prompted by resident complaints about the huge residential basement excavation and dewatering at the corner of Newell and Northhampton,which started just about the time the State enacted
new water restrictions on residents,that this was misdirected criticism because for the first time the City was actually recovering some of the water for use in City trucks like streetsweepers. This dewatering which started about a month ago, runs 24 hours a day. So it begs the question, what percentage of the water is being recovered? Mr Keene talked about the number of gallons being reused. To grasp the scale of this project we need to know how many gallons are being lost? What about the effect on nearby landscaping including the adjacent "protected" Oak tree on the neighbor's property?






 +   Like this comment
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Aug 19, 2014 at 7:14 pm

A little off-topic, but since @resident brings up water... Looking at these maps I'm wondering what Mr Arrillaga's water usage looks like, and how the utility bill compares him to his neighbors. Not just irrigating his landscape, but keeping those quarry-lakes full. A couple years ago Palo Alto said we spend $65,000/year keeping Boronda Lake filled -- Web Link -- which has a somewhat smaller surface area.

Regarding Mr Recycle's questions about current access status of the park parcel, I'll try to drop by Acterra next time I'm in the baylands and see whether they have any insight.


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Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 19, 2014 at 7:55 pm

Here is a link, to last nights action item, regarding the parcel.

www.cityofpaloalto.org/civicax/filebank/documents/43430


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Nighbore
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 19, 2014 at 8:01 pm

Here is a paragraph from page 2:

In order to provide an additional emergency access route and underground utilities to
Foothill Park and to complete the Foothill Park Erosion Control Capital Project, in 1985,
the City conveyed easements for utilities, landscaping easement (exclusive - along the
entire northern border of the parcel (Attachment E, Attachment E(a), and Appendix A to
Exhibit A-28 (contained within Attachment C-Ordinance)), and ingress/egress on the
property for underground utilities, in exchange for an easement for the drainage
channel and an additional easement to create an emergency ingress and egress road
connection between Foothills Park and Los Trancos Road through the property, and
underground utilities. The City is required to honor the easements granted in 1985. The
landscape easement will restrict public access to a steeply sloped portion of the site. For
additional information regarding the exchange of the easements please see CMR:
399:5, dated July 3, 1985 (Attachment E)


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 19, 2014 at 8:14 pm

@ Enid Pearson

So according to the following paragraph, the land that Acterra leased, does not NOW benefit the Pearson- Arastradero Reserve?

On August 1, 2005, the City Council granted a five-year lease to conservation partner,
Acterra, Inc., for a 0.53-acre portion of the parcel closest to Foothills Park to be used as
a native plant nursery for the sake of propagating plants for habitat restoration projects
at the Pearson-Arastradero Preserve, Foothills Park, Mid-peninsula Open Space District,
and other Palo Alto parks and creek margins (Attachment F – Staff Report; Attachment
F (a) agreement). The agreement provided for two five-year extensions of the lease
upon mutual consent between the City and Acterra. The City and Acterra extended the
nursery lease August 2, 2010. Acterra continues to operate the nursery with an annual
work plan, developed cooperatively between park staff and Acterra stewards. Acterra
provides the City with an annual report of its stewardship activities, including plant
propagation at the native plant nursery. The City will continue to honor the current
lease with Acterra, which continues to August 2015. (Note: A similar native plant
nursery used for propagating bay habitat plants is operated on dedicated park land at
the Baylands Nature Preserve in the maintenance area of the Duck Pond.)


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 19, 2014 at 8:26 pm

Again, here is the web browser to last nights action item, just copy and paste.

Web Link


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Posted by Kate
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 19, 2014 at 9:31 pm

As for the seven acres. how about just leaving it alone? It's behind the maintenance area. There are more important things to worry about. No doubt the council will pay a consultant half a million consulting fee to think of something.
Enough already.


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Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 19, 2014 at 10:13 pm

It seems to me that two private entities, Acterra and Arriaga. Benefited from our public land,on our dime. Arriaga needs to scrape and haul off 2 1/2 inches of decomposed granite from 2 plus acres. Furthermore Acterra was supposed to renovate the land, which did not occur.
So yea, Enough already!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by iconoclast
a resident of University South
on Aug 19, 2014 at 10:30 pm

" Acterra (formerly Peninsula Conservation Center) was given a contract in 2005 whose purpose was " the preservation, protection and enhancement of the 7.7 A parcel" and "to propagate native plants for re-vegetation of the 7.7A parcel". My recent tour of the site showed that little or nothing has been done to restore the 7.7 A in the last 9 years."

That would surprise nobody who has seen all the little brass plaques with developer Jim Baer's name on them covering the walls in Acterra's HQ. That self-alleged environmental group has been bought and paid for by development interests, and it faithfully serves their objectives.


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Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 19, 2014 at 10:48 pm

@Iconclast

Thank you for enlightening us about Jim Baer's involvement with Acterra.
I think it is time to terminate Acterra's lease.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Aug 20, 2014 at 2:21 am

Thank you Neighbor for the link to the City filebank document. I note that in an earlier comment I misidentified Buckeye Creek as Los Trancos Creek. Their confluence is a bit further downstream than I was aware.

"opening the property to the public could cause neighbors to fence their properties" was one line that caught my eye. There are also security issues with Acterra's plant nursery, which is proposed to remain on the parcel. (The half-acre nursery is sited within the 7.7 acres, so I think Gennady misunderstood when he totaled it 8.3 acres in paragraph 6 of his story above.)

Fascinating illustration of metes and bounds on the Record of Survey map-sheet. 19th-century theodolite meets 21st-century GPS with a 1.000072 fudge factor.

I disagree somewhat with semantics of the thank-you letter (Attachment D), which claims "nearly four million total visitors since the park opened!" By that count, I am myself probably 1000 of those visitors in the past 48 years.

This park parcel will get very expensive once people begin arguing about how to "develop" it. I'd be happy to see it environmentally remediated and left with no public access, rather than have a campground, a pavilion, additional parking, bathroom structures, security lighting, and public art, all while trying to manage an erosion-prone creek running through the middle of it.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Mark Weiss
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 20, 2014 at 9:27 am

My understanding is that Jim Baer arranged for BAA (Acterra prototype) to use the basement of what is now TCV/West Elm i.e. the corner of Emerson and Uni, entered on Emerson, for years rent-free. I took this as the good side of the complicated Baer, and not that the whole thing was a greenwash.

I worked on Earth Day there, and met: Peter Drekmeier, Owen Byrd, David Coale and more.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 20, 2014 at 8:08 pm

What, no feedback from the environmentalist?

Do not worry, we will see you at the polls.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by another res
a resident of Community Center
on Aug 20, 2014 at 8:29 pm

TIm Gray,

"I hope that it is absolutely clear to everyone that reads the story that it is abosolutely shameful that the very same council that sat on this land without dedicating it, and even entertained discussion of selling it, are now trying to rebrand themselves as preservers of this land.

Greg Scharf, we have been lied to. Nancy Shepherd, your participation in this near give-away of the land, and now turned turned protector of the land, is the ultimate bullying of the electorate. Shameful.

Greg Scharf and Nancy Shepherd, thanks for delivering this new low in Palo Alo leadership. Your actions are an embarassement, and do not represent the Palo Alto we know and love.

P.S. Thanks for making our voting choice in the upcoming election so easy."

It's clear. Thank you for the reminder though.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Hmmm....
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 20, 2014 at 11:42 pm

The land is adjacent to Arrillaga's you say? Perhaps he was grading it in preparation for the City to rezone it to put a 100 foot office tower next door. (I shouldn't joke, they'll start turning the foothills into an ugly high-density mess, too.)


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 21, 2014 at 1:20 pm

On page 56 of the City filebank document it shows a parcel map of 7.7 acres containing color coded easements . Can some one explain why the boundary notes,egress and ingress and other info are blacked out?

Web Link


 +   Like this comment
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Aug 21, 2014 at 2:48 pm

@Neighbor, mystery to me, but the following page looks identical, with the notes not blocked.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by iconoclast
a resident of University South
on Aug 21, 2014 at 3:33 pm

City debates uses? Why not use it as a park?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 21, 2014 at 9:25 pm

We are just people in the middle waiting for some truth.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 22, 2014 at 7:01 am

@ musical

On page 56 and 57 The boundary notes are blocked. Are we looking at the same page?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Aug 22, 2014 at 8:00 am

Looking at your link -- downloaded as a pdf. Page 56 is the color denoted easement map, sideways rotated in portrait orientation, with blocked out notes. Page 57 is a very much larger rendition of the map, in landscape format. All the notes and numbers are legible to me.

Nothing mysterious, e.g. Boundary Note says "The map of tract no. 9273 does not indicate setting monuments along the common boundary; however, we found iron pipes at the appropriate angle points, believed to have come from tract no. 9273, and accepted them as marking the corners. The legal description for APN 182-46-006 does not close by 4.50 feet. The limited number of monuments shown on tract no. 9273 and tract no. 7579 were searched for and not found."

Other blocked items are mostly longitudes, latitudes, and bearings, perhaps to unsupportable precision.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 22, 2014 at 8:16 am

On the deed, one of the monuments,used to describe boundary lines, was a 3/4" pipe.So, possibly this has moved.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Mary Carlstead
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 22, 2014 at 10:02 am

This area is tucked behind the corporation yard where equipment is stored including heavier vehicles. It is beyond the group picnic area. The best thing is to leave it alone - remove any accumulated gravel if necessary.Don't hire a consultant at mega-$$S. Don't envision some grandiose scheme. Read the Palo Alto Parks book put out by the city of Palo Alto describing the early days when committees discussed what to do in the park: Archery ranges, mini golf course, horses, merry-go-round. Then some brilliant folks decided "Let's make it a nature park". Not too long after the park opening, the designation was actually changed from a "park" to a bona fide "Nature Preserve". So let's keep it that way. All of this is detailed in the city publication, Parks of Palo Alto.
The Council should concentrate on doing something about the Baylands where the boardwalk is now off bounds, and no one can walk out there because it's falling in the water.. It was a wonderful experience written up in AAA magazine and Sunset and other travel books. The Interpretive Center needs a big rehab too. No consultants. Just hire a contractor and FIX IT. And maybe clean up the 'pile of concrete' near the boat launch.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Neighbor
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Aug 22, 2014 at 11:12 pm

No more government subsidies for "Non Profits". Acterra needs to go!


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