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Foothills Park access-for-$$ plan opposed

Original post made on Jul 12, 2007

For 42 years, Palo Altans have had access to 1,400 acres of chaparral-covered hills known as Foothills Park only with coyotes, jackrabbits, lizards and other critters. A proposal to trade funds for access could add Los Alto Hills residents to the mix -- but there's heavy opposition.

Read the full story here Web Link

Comments (72)

Posted by Resident, a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Jul 12, 2007 at 7:35 am

Be careful, our 8,000 residents might overwhelm your 60,000 residents in the park. $100,000 per year for firefighters might not be worth it.

Posted by A Neighbor, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 12, 2007 at 7:52 am

I think it's great that at last Los Altos Hills is offering to pay for their access to Foothill Park. As a 13 year resident of Black Mountain Road in LAH I used Foothill Park all the time. I walked my dog in the Foothill Park, my children played with their friends in Foothill Park, we hiked all over the hills in Foothill Park. If you want to keep LAH residents out of Foothill Park you will have to put a 12ft chain link fence around it. At last LAH is offering to pay for something they already have and use, easy access to Foothill Park.

Posted by Fred, a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 12, 2007 at 8:10 am

I'm glad there is some creative thinking going on about this.

My personal view is that having a "private" public park is probably wrong - it is out of step with what virutally any other communities do. I have seen it written that this is the only "residents only" park in California - anyone know of others? Googling around, I did see a couple others (one in Ohio) and references to parks that require permits which are available to anyone (kind of like how anyone can get a library card, regardless of residency, but you need a card to borrow).

I like FHP a lot and go there often; but I do not like the feel of PA exceptionalism.


Posted by Stanford resident, a resident of Stanford
on Jul 12, 2007 at 8:15 am

The Foothill park situation is the reason why Stanford needs to close off all access to the Dish area

Posted by John M., a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 12, 2007 at 9:50 am

First, how is it elistist to claim exclusive access to something that local residents bought and paid for, and continue to maintain, with hard-earned tax dollars? That's what one Council member is claiming.

To suggest otherwise - that non-residents should be admitted for free - is to imply a broader claim that certaiin kinds of private property should not be private, and that those who maintain private property have an obligation to share it. Using that as a premise, where does the line get drawn? Think about it. That this suggestion comes from Council member Cordell, who was a sitting judge - someone who dealt with property issues on a daily basis - is surprising.

It's a good thing to share, but doing so by attributing the undesirable qualities of stinginess and elistism to those who 'have' isn't the most effective way to make one's argument.

I'm with Peter Drekmeier on this one. We might consider letting in a quota of non-residents in - for a fee. We can use that fee to help maintain fire safety. This way we control numbers, maintain the quality of the ecosystem, and can turn off our decison to admit non-residents at any time, for any reason.

Certainly, $50-100K per year is too cheap to sell overall access to the treasure we know as Foothills Park. That's only $4-$12 per Los Altos resident, per year. Why does the Mayor want to sell access to this treasure so cheaply? How does ths square with the Mayor claiming to be a fiscal conservative? And, why would any agreement to share park access be designed to live in perpetuity? The latter would be a grave mistake.

What boggles is that the Mayor would float such a gargantuan politcal football over a measly $50-100K per year. How is it that we can't find a way to generate those dollars from another source, one that would be far less controversial, and not threaten bad feelings between communities (if the idea fails, which it very well would) and intra-community cohesion? (this is a very "hot potato" issue that could dilute community focus needed for more important matters)

The Mayor needs to rethink this idea, or dump it altogether. In a time of dear resources, it's not wise to leverage away great treasure for a pittance.

Posted by Ollie, a resident of The Greenhouse
on Jul 12, 2007 at 9:51 am

Stanford resident,

Would you mind explaining what you mean?

Posted by native interloper, a resident of another community
on Jul 12, 2007 at 11:06 am

I use Shoreline for biking and walking trails and they are all free to me. Mtn View doesn't discriminate and there's plenty of room for us people from "other" cities & towns.

I miss the Dish since the fires...I have a feeling I will soon miss it forever.

Stanford & PA are not too friendly to their neighbors. Can't we all just share! Maybe the town council is made up of only children.

Posted by Stanford resident, a resident of Stanford
on Jul 12, 2007 at 11:46 am

Ollie--PA refuses to allow non-residents to use Foothill Park, however they are constantly demanding from Stanford access to the Dish area and even trying to usurp Stanford's private property rights.
They are being hypocrites by demanding access to one property while denying access to another

Posted by Mary, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 12, 2007 at 12:49 pm

Stanford students and residents can use Palo Alto's libraries, Baylands, all parks, tennis courts, Children's Museum and Zoo all FREE. They can also use Palo Alto's golf course and swimming pool for a fee. Heaven help any Palo Alto resident without a student or faculty/staff card who sets foot on or in Stanford's golf course, tennis courts, swimming pool, driving range, or libraries. The Book Store is OK, but bring money. Buying a computer there? No way.

As for Foothill Park? To Mayor Kishimoto. Drop this idea and don't start another broohaha.
We've been that route and we don't need anymore uproar. You've already pushed through a new position for $181K a year incl benefits - for the first year -for an 'Environmental Coordiantor" with no set guidelines or job descrtiption - and it is a senior staff position that no doubt will have a lot of 'senior staff perks'. Staff? Acar allowance? Travel allowance? Maybe housing allowance??? And that doesn't include the 'staff' that this person will need. And the Council just approved going forward with this broadband idea as part of Utilities despite a strong warning from the City Auditor that it is very risky. and the company is risky. Stop fittering away money then keeping Fire Station 8 is a no brainer.

Posted by John, a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 12, 2007 at 1:15 pm

Palo Alto practically begged nearby towns to help buy that land (now Foothill Park). No takers. They were warned that it would be PA only. Still no takers. This is one case where Palo Alto NEEDS to be selfish. We paid for it, and continue to pay for it. It is OURS, and I don't think we should budge one inch. It is our treasure...let's keep it that way.

Posted by Fred, a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 12, 2007 at 2:37 pm

Interesting views.

For those that oppose letting others in because "we paid for it," does the fact that other towns/counties/states/countries do not limit access to their facilities influence your thinking? If we were barred from Shoreline in MV; Wunderlich or Huddart Parks; Golden Gate Park; Central Park in New York; or getting extreme, state parks and monuments in other states - would that be a better system?

It just feels like we are being a free-rider on a system that allows equal (though not always free) access to government run facilities, regardless of residence. Every town/county/state incurs the extra "burden" of use by out-of-towners, including crowding, trash, parking, etc. But that is just the way the system works. If too many people come, you can charge fees for parking, access, etc. - but generally all pay the same rate.

It seems that we would want a system where all towns give equal access to their parklands; or all towns restrict access to just residents. I'm not sure what the argument is that OUR town has a park that should be restricted, while others do not.

Please let me know if I am missing something about how the system works, for instance if there are many other residence-only parks elsewhere - I am just going off my general experience.


Posted by natasha, a resident of Meadow Park
on Jul 12, 2007 at 2:52 pm

Fred, there has been a rumor floating around that I have heard since I was a lot younger, that the reason it is a private park is that it was purchased and donated to the City with the covenant that it would be only for Palo alto residents. A conditioned gift needs to be used in accordance with the conditions, otherwise it is lost. I can't figure out if this is a true rumor or not. But if it is, then Palo Alto is not being selfish by keeping it exclusively for Palo Altans, it is keeping faith with the donor.

And for those who say covenants can be overridden, it's my impression that only illegal covenants (containing covenants requiring racist exclusions in naighborhoods etc.) can be voided.

Posted by Fred, a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 12, 2007 at 3:43 pm

Thank you Natasha. I did a bit of Googling and found this from a PA Weekly article in Oct '05:

"Entry to Foothills Park has been restricted since it first opened in 1965. The reason historically given for keeping the park closed to nonresidents was that other cities had refused Palo Alto's offer to help pay for the park, which cost the city $1.29 million."

So it seems (though not definitive) that the restriction is a choice, not a requirement.


Posted by John, a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 12, 2007 at 4:08 pm


Palo Alto has MANY parks and other facilities open to the general public, just like other cities. Foothills Park is a special case. When we needed help, for what should have a been a regional park, there were no takers. We dug deep, and made the sacrifice. It is ours.

Hold the line. It is a selfish thing that is fully justified. I think it send a positive warning to the REALLY selfish people who want a freebie.

Posted by Fred, a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 12, 2007 at 4:57 pm

Thanks John, and yes, it is certainly true that Palo Alto has many parks open to all. But I'm not sure why Foothill is a special case.

Presumably we residents paid of all our parks and facilities at some point (either by buying from private owners or declining to sell already public land); and of course so did every other town and government pay for theirs. I'm not familiar with the particulars of the FH purchase, but I'm also not sure if they are so important, almost 50 years later.

Also, what if Los Altos Hills had come in on purchasing Foothill with us, these many decades back. Would we simply be allowing only PA and LAH residents in? That's still the same question as now - what about people from Woodside? Or San Jose? Or Boston?

I'm still not sure why FH is such a different circumstance from all the other parks in California that we should keep it private, while others make theirs open to all comers. Does anyone know if there are other "restricted access" parks like Foothill?


Posted by John, a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 12, 2007 at 5:19 pm


I think you are missing something. The land that would become FH was offered, by Dr. Lee (I believe) for sale, at a reasonasble price, to be conserved as a natural park. Palo Alto had no obligation to purchase it. There was no particular pressure to preserve foothills lands in those days. Nevertheless, PA tried to enlist other nearby cities to help out on this conservation project. They all refused.

This piece of land SHOULD have been a regional park, but only PA stepped up to the plate. It was a controversial issue, and only put over the top by the argument that it would be OUR park.

If you are now saying that such sacrifices mean nothing, then you are also saying that such future sacrifices mean nothing. There will be many acres lost to development, if towns like Palo Alto are not alllowed to claim what they paid for in the name of conservation, especially when other offered no help.

Think about it, Fred.

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 12, 2007 at 5:51 pm

Fred and John

I agree that you both have valid points. However, I feel sure that on something like this there is a statue of limitations either in fact or in ethics.

The fact that this purchase was so long ago means that the conditions have been met. For many of us, we were not around here at that stage and so the controversy was something we were not involved in. I am sure that there have been many purchases of land somewhere along the development of the US whereby certain stipulations were put into effect and are no longer valid.

My own personal feelings is that a compromise should be invoked. Something along the lines of free for PA residents and all others should pay a nominal fee plus only allowing say 100 (or some such number) cars in per day.

I think that it is right to follow conditions of the agreement to the extent that the prime use is for Palo Altans. But, to the degree that we are such a small part of a bigger whole, and the fact that all open space should be available to all peoples while also keeping the tranquility of a private park, there is a prudency to keeping the flavor of the conditions if not the exact conditions.

There are many parks in European cities which are for the local residents only since they do not have a backyard. These parks are kept up by a residents upkeep charge (something like a condo association) and the local residents have access by a key. I do think there are times when privacy is acceptable, but not in this case.

Posted by John, a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 12, 2007 at 6:27 pm

"I feel sure that on something like this there is a statue of limitations"

Really? Where?

Is that how you are going argue about the next conservation buy, especially if it require a major expenditure or a bond issue?

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 12, 2007 at 7:04 pm


You did not read what I said. I am not stating an actual statute (sorry I just realised my typo) but a grandiose ideal ethic. I am no legal expert, just someone trying to find middle ground, a peacekeeper. No harm in trying.

Posted by Fred, a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 12, 2007 at 7:21 pm

I will think about it some more John. But not sure that our situation is that different from any other town that decides to spend money on a park. Again, if LAH had chipped in 50 years ago, would we be keeping all the others out anyway? What do you think?

I also agree with the "statute of limitations" notion that Resident raises. I don't think we'd care much if this happened 200 years ago. So is 40-50 enough?

I've seen others say that FHP needs to be protected from the masses that might come if it were open to the public. But if others had chipped in when we bought it, would we have made it open to all? If so, the issue of "too many people" would be moot.

I suspect that the main reason we keep FHP private is that we like it. Who wouldn't? It is a little like belonging to a private club. But it doesn't seem right that we have our private enclave, while everyone else shares theirs.


Posted by natasha, a resident of Meadow Park
on Jul 12, 2007 at 8:05 pm

In the town of Ross, in Marin County, there is a lovely little children's park and you can only get a key if you are a resident. I have no idea if it is public or private. In Larkspur, you can only get a library card if you are a resident of Larkspur, Corte Madera library you have to be from there. And local libraries often limit them selves to serving patrons of their city. Should they not do that too? I am not saying that to be confrontational, but just to point out that yes, we DO in fact limit access to some resources to the people who have paid for them.

Posted by John, a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 12, 2007 at 8:18 pm


I agree with you that there are a variety of ways to look at it. I think I fairly presented the way it was presented to us (Palo Alto voters) back then. I also do not think that a contract should be broken, without a consent from those covered by the contract.

If current Palo Alto voters are allowed to take up the issue, that is fine with me. I would vote "no", but I am just one voter. However, I would strongly object to a whimsical vote by a current City Council. This is a big deal, in certain ways, and I think it deserve a vote of PA citizens.

I would also mention that many realtors "sell" Palo Alto on the basis of good schools AND Foothills Park. Exclusive, elitist and earned... and legal and just.

Posted by Fred, a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 12, 2007 at 10:02 pm

John, of course you are absolutely right, that many in PA feel entitled to FHP and would feel bad if their exclusivity were taken away.

I don't know if it calls for a popular vote or Council vote; probably a matter of how the Charter reads. But sometimes we have to do the right thing because it is right, even if it is not in our narrow self-interest.

Posted by Local, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 12, 2007 at 10:17 pm

I have mixed emotions about this. I agree it is elitest and feels wrong. However, the parks in Palo Alto are SOOOO busy and crowded -people from all over come to use them. It is nice to have just one park that isn't crowded.

Posted by John M., a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 12, 2007 at 10:52 pm

Fred, Why is the 'right thing' you suggest right, and why do you label the interests of those who want to keep what they paid for as 'narrow' interests? It's often true that keeping an asset close DOES serve a population optimally. In this case, it also serves the land optimally. Look at what unlimited attendance has done to some of our once-heralded national parks. They've become garbage heaps.

The entire FHP debate is driven mostly by guilt, an emotion to which there is no end - only constant self-flagellation. It's disingenuous for anyone to try to use the "guilt" chip for this debate.

I LIKE the fact that I can go to FHP pand not have it overrun by loud, radio-toting, cigarette-smoking, running-around-half-naked-in-an-inebriated-state groups who have no respect for the peace and quiet of others in a pastoral setting. Anyone calling this impulse elitist is someone I want to have me invite over to their next sedate evening dinner party with my turntable and some hot vinyl.

What I would love to know is how many people claiming FHP exclusivity is elitist even USE FHP on a regular basis. Grandstanding on the guilt card is getting really, really, really old.

Posted by Fred, a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 12, 2007 at 11:00 pm

Local, I don't know if you would like any park suggestions, but some uncrowded nearby venues we enjoy:

- Windy Hill (off Alpine or Portola or Skyline) - fantastic hiking, one of my favorites, we've walked for miles with our kids and seen just one or two folks

- Arestradero Preserve - a huge, lovely landscape of rolling hills, and a new small nature center to boot

- Bol Park - in beautiful Barron Park (sorry, I'm a booster), one of the least utilized kid playgrounds around, and also lots of space for walking, sitting, playing - the path goes back all the way to Gunn/Arestradero. We have picnics there, it is quite serene.


Posted by bruce, a resident of Midtown
on Jul 12, 2007 at 11:20 pm

Many valid points have been raised on both sides. But none of them are more than opinions of how things should be. I get a sense that most are seeking a compromise - except John?

Let's accept the LAH $100,000 and charge LAH residents a fee each time they use the park. Consider this as helping to pay the $1M annual cost as well as catching up for not being part of the original purchase.

I note that an early poster said they and other LAH residents use(d) the park frequently since there are no real barriers to prevent them.

This doesn't sound like a contractual problem between the residents and our City Council since it can make changes without residents' approval per Gary Blum.

Posted by Fred, a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 12, 2007 at 11:26 pm

John M., that is quite a post and I'll try to respond.

I personally haven't called our FHP policy elitist and I tend to agree, that's a loaded term (some have said our policy is racist in the past, and I don't think that's called for either). I have pointed out instead that our policy is simply different from just about everybody else's in terms of access to public parks. And I wonder what the justification is.

And I'm not trying to "guilt" you or anyone (I didn't see other doing it either, though I'm sure others have in the past). I apologize if it seems so. It's more that it seems curious that we have this policy - if everybody did what we do (keep our best public parks private), it seems the world would be a poorer place. Since that seems odd, I wonder if there is a good reason for it. I said opening access was the "right" thing because it seemed like the fair thing, and because I haven't heard any compelling reasons against it.

Finally, I'm not sure about your description of the undesireables - are those the people of Los Altos Hills you are describing? They seem to be one of the principal groups we want to keep out, since they would not contribute to the purchase price! Personally I haven't seen groups like that in Windy Hill, Huddart, Arestradero Preserve, Montebello, Wunderlich, Bol Park, etc., despite their being open to all. Though I am sure big noisy groups do happen (even among residents of Palo Alto!).

And, fwiw, I am in FHP probably ~2-3 times a week, often on my bike. I really like the place, one of my favorite spots anywhere.


Posted by Richard, a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Jul 12, 2007 at 11:35 pm

Did Los Altos Hills et al screw up 40-some years ago by not finding a way to make Foothill into a regional park? Obviously.

Thankfully, we haven't repeated this mistake and now benefit from a fantastic collection of parks and open space areas that are open to all. I particularly encourage my Palo Alto neighbors to come visit the beautiful Byrne Open Space preserve and Westwind Barn located a short distance from Foothills Park in LAH.

It is time to move on from the mistakes of the past and find fair and constructive solutions for the future. Let's work together as neighbors to remedy the chronic underfunding of our park facilities. Let's work together to provide dearly needed fire protection. Let's work to interconnect our open space areas and expand the recreational opportunities available to both of our communities.

There is plenty of conflict in the world - lets settle this old feud! There is lots of good work we should be doing together.

Posted by Fred, a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 13, 2007 at 12:00 am

Richard, thank you for the invitation. I had no idea that barn/area on Altamont was open space!

Posted by Another Observer, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 13, 2007 at 2:00 am

The strangest thing about all of the people opposed to considering Los Altos Hills offer don't want to pay for a regular fire station in the park like other fire stations throuout Palo Alto.

Also it is open to Portola Valley residents. They just have to hike into it from the side that adjoins their city.

I question the high figure for people using it. How many parking spaces are in the park? Are there 100? 52 weeks x 100 = 5200x 4 per car =20800people. Are about 8 times this number really using the park? Who counts the people anyway? There are usually on week days no rangers around.

I read the city had $75,000 for play equipment in the new little city park, but has no money to staff the fire station that would help protect about 4000 acres of public owned lands in the hills and most of these lands are open to anyone to use 24/7 all year long.

Posted by Joe DeAngelis, a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 13, 2007 at 2:07 am

Under freedom of expression protections by the First Amendment, citizens are allowed to freely gather and conduct activities such as political debate and recreation. A "tradition public forum" is a place where the government customarily allows assembly and free debate of ideas, and includes areas such as streets and parks where the government holds title to the land but allows these areas to be used by its citizens.

A municipality could regulate and limit, on a first come, first served basis, the number of persons allowed in the park at any one time in the interest of safety but for a non-resident to be denied entrance there would have to be some peculiar evil attributable to nonresidents.

Posted by Chris White, a resident of another community
on Jul 13, 2007 at 6:42 am

Wow, where did you guys get your Mayor? FHP has always been one of the crown jewels of Palo Alto. One of the perks of living there. I can not understand how or why you guys would even consider opening it up to people from another city.

Why not just put it on the ballot? Yes vote to open it up to Los Altos. and a No vote to keep it closed and fund the firestation through a $10.00 a year tax or something.

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 13, 2007 at 10:22 am

One other point about the idea of an ethical statute of limitations.

I for one wasn't around when the park opened. I feel sure that many of the people who are so adamantly firm in keeping it PA only, didn't live here then either. It wasn't my money or taxes that bought the park and it wasn't most of the local residents of other cities whose money didn't pay for the park. Yes, we have had the luxury of having a park for x number of years. But, we didn't make the rules, our predecessors did. Yes we are following the conditions, but for how long do those conditions have to exist. Never is not going to be forever. At some stage, it is only ethically right to look again at the rules and judge them accordingly.

When my children got new toys and they were very special to them perhaps because they had saved up their allowance to pay for it or waited a long time for a birthday, I allowed them to put them away when my friends came over so that their kids would not spoil the new toys. However, as new toys got older and they got more new toys, the previous old toys were then up for grabs to any child who may visit us. This is probably not the exact analogy, but the premise is the same. When something is new and special, been bought by those who use it by their own hard work, it is worth preserving. Years down the road, it may still be something special, but the right to keeping it to oneself is no longer as valid.

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Jul 13, 2007 at 3:34 pm

So I can no longer take paid tours to the park? Dang!

Posted by Puzzled, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jul 13, 2007 at 7:57 pm

I am surprised to see the opposition to opening the park to Los Altos Hills residents. They are mostly affluent whites and Asians, and they will fit right in. It's not as if you'd be allowing the hoi polloi or undesirable minorities to pollute your pristine park.

Posted by Fred, a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 13, 2007 at 8:03 pm

Ouch! I guess in our defense, Puzzled, we discriminate against all equally ;-)

Posted by John M., a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 13, 2007 at 11:42 pm

Fred, Riff-raff know no economic boundaries.

Posted by Getting bored, a resident of another community
on Jul 14, 2007 at 1:19 am

With all due respect, Fred, since you are a newbie in these parts it might be a better idea to read for a while, before jumping in to issues that have long and emotional histories. The thread gets long and boring when used to educate one person. I hope this doesn't sound harsh, but this thread has become uninteresting because of its repetitiveness and length and posters have started joking around.

Posted by Fred, a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 14, 2007 at 8:17 am

GB, sorry that I have bored you. I have to admit, I ask the questions, primarily to get other people to think about them and to see what people say. Also, it is a respectful way of pointing out that someone else has asserted something that doesn't stand up. I could go the "Jane, you ignorant slut" route, but as Sun Tsu put it, "It is best to win without fighting."

I find when people say "this issue is too complicated for a newbie" what they usually mean is "the arguments on this are emotional, not rational, and we don't want to find out we're wrong."


Posted by eric, a resident of Mountain View
on Jul 14, 2007 at 11:55 am

I think that MV should impose a fee on PA residents for use of Shoreline Park, our well-funded libraries, etc, etc...

Posted by Gary, a resident of South of Midtown
on Jul 14, 2007 at 12:43 pm


If MV libraries do not charge out of town fees, then it is a foolish policy. I think every town should decide on how they want run their parks (they paid for them). Go ahead and charge for Shoreline. Palo Alto can also charge for Bixby, should they choose.

Palo Alto is VERY generous with its parks. Many MV soccer players enjoy our new soccer field, for instance. Palo Alto has one park that is really a conservation zone, that it keeps for itself. We paid for it, as a conservation zone, and nobody else would help us.

It is a crown jewel, and I want to keep it that way.

Posted by Getting bored, a resident of another community
on Jul 14, 2007 at 1:04 pm

Fred said " find when people say "this issue is too complicated for a newbie" what they usually mean is "the arguments on this are emotional, not rational, and we don't want to find out we're wrong."

Wrong. I did Not say it is too complicated, I said it has a long and emotional history. I suggested reading for a bit before asking what now turn out to be questions with an agenda. As though we haven't thought about many of the things you bring up. It's a question of bandwith and how much any one person should add to it. There are a lot of smart people, just wait till they write.

Posted by Fred, a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 14, 2007 at 1:28 pm

Hmm, that "Gotcha!" posting style seems familiar, maybe I've seen it under other names ;-)

Well, you are quite right of course, GB, you said "long and emotional history" not "complicated." Of course, I didn't say you had said "complicated" - I merely refered to "when people do." But who cares - this is minutae.

I am glad you have thought of the questions (and hopefully the answers!), and I would appreciate your thoughts. Why should PA keep its best park private while all others make their parks public? Aren't we a free rider on the public park concept? Others could do as we do - but would the world be a better place?


Posted by Getting bored, a resident of another community
on Jul 14, 2007 at 1:53 pm

There's no stopping you Fred. More and more pseudo questions. Here are a few answers.
-Other communities use all our other parks, libraries (alot!) and facilities.
-the history of payment for Foothills Park
-our park ordinance which requires a vote of the people before making changes
-the Trojan Horse offered by Los Altos Hills. If they wanted to contribute to the cost of the fire station, that would be neighborly and appreciated. They want something valuable for their "donation" which means it not a donation at all.

Posted by Fred, a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 14, 2007 at 2:09 pm

Thank you GB, I appreciate your sharing.

As I've mentioned above, of course everyone uses everybody else's parks, libraries, etc. (so PA is not different there); and everyone paid for their own parks either by buying them or by not selling off public land (so PA is not different there). So are we really so different? Maybe our park is especially expensive to maintain (I saw $1M/year - not sure how that compares to other parks, does anyone know?)?

On the ordinace, I did see this in a PA Weekly article: "Opening Foothills Park to non-residents would not need to go on the ballot, City Attorney Gary Baum said via an attorney's office staff member." Do you have any additional info on the ordinance you mention?

Any thoughts?


Posted by John, a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 14, 2007 at 2:14 pm

Getting bored,

Yes, Fred seems to have defined his role as a modulator of the tone of these threads. That's OK, because we can choose to accept or reject his style. However, when he accuses those who oppose his views of using several different handles, then he needs to provide the evidence.

Fred, you say: " maybe I've seen it under other names ". Please, Fred, here is your chance to be honest. Name those names. Then defend your evidence.

I think there is a tendency by Fred, and some others, to assume that multiple opposing views, to their own, simply cannot exist in Palo Alto. It must just be one person, spewing forth with multiple handles. Guess what, Fred: WRONG! It reminds me of that old reporter from one of the back east newpapers (Mary McGory?)saying , "How could that man (Reagan) get elected? I don't know a single friend who voted for him!"

Fred, I suggest that you put the FHP issue to a vote. I think you might find that the secret ballot box will be filled with people who do not share your guilt.

Posted by Fred, a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 14, 2007 at 2:36 pm

John - that is fair, and I agree that it is hard to recognize styles. But having gotten the same "wrong" the other day on another thread from an other name, it did catch my attention. And of course, ultimately it doesn't matter (much) if someone uses multiple names (so long as the person is not just agreeing with himself or something). Below are two posts (I don't know how to link directly to the post, but both are from a recent thread on the Libray Audit), we can judge for ourselves:

Post #1:

"pat says (about return on library investment) " it's not a return on investment as one would calculate in a business."

Wrong. In fact, corporations all over the world calculate ROI line items like "good will", which often derive from benefit arrays


Posted by Broccoli, a resident of the Charleston Gardens neighborhood, on Jul 6, 2007 at 6:12 pm

Post #2:


You're wrong. Where does the auditors's report say that the library system is badly managed? Where did the auditor's report conclude that as a general finding?


Posted by Broccoli, a resident of the Charleston Gardens neighborhood, on Jul 9, 2007 at 11:19 am


On guilt - I don't feel guilty at all John; I just don't like free-riders (be it me or someone else).


Posted by John, a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 14, 2007 at 2:52 pm


Let me first say that I appreciate your efforts on this site. You are giving it your best. We don't agree won FHP, but I like a good debate.

I thought you were saying something about multiple opponents to your views on FHP. Sounded like it to me, but sometimes I am tone deaf.

"On guilt - I don't feel guilty at all John; I just don't like free-riders (be it me or someone else)."

I don't like free-riders, either Fred, especially on this issue of FHP. It is a conservation park that we paid for, and I want to keep it that way. It IS selfish, and elitist...and the right thing to do. Why do people have problems with "exclusive". Palo Alto is very inclusive, in general, just not on this one. Do you think I should feel guilty about that, Fred (I don't, just asking your opinion)?

Fred, I hope you would support a vote of the Palo Alto citizens on this one. It would clear the air, even if it is not required by the opinion of the City Attorney.

Posted by Fred, a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 14, 2007 at 3:24 pm

Thank you John, I like a good debate too. I apologize if my post above was a bit cryptic.

What's the concept of a "conservation park?" I'm not familiar with it. Are there others around here? It may be that different norms apply, I am just not familiar with the concept. In general, there don't seem to be other "exclusive public parks" around.

On guilt - I don't feel guilty, I'm not sure why anyone should. The policy just doesn't make much sense to me, given what everybody else does. I don't think it is elitist or racist - I just think it doesn't make good sense.

Sometimes controversial issues should go to a general ballot, sometimes not. Generally I think it makes sense for the entity that has the authority to make the decision. There are problems that can arise when a body flinches from making controversial decisions it is elected to make. But usually practice is based on precedent - do you know of any precedents that might apply here?


Posted by John, a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 14, 2007 at 3:42 pm


I would ask you to do your homework on this one. Dr. Lee sold his land to Palo Alto with the understanding that it be held as a nature preserve. This has always been interpreted as a small footprint of human activity.

This is a unique situation for Palo Alto. It is NOT an open public park, becasue it IS a conservation park. Limited use, light footprint, etc. I think Palo Alto has a done agood, job, overall, in keeping with Dr. Lee's original contract with the city. The wildlife like it, even if some humans do not.

PA City Council flinches all the time (same for the School Board). I wouldn't worry about that one, Fred. A public vote would provide political cover for the Council. It would also be transparent. Why not, Fred?

Posted by Fred, a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 14, 2007 at 4:03 pm

Thanks John, but can you help - is the FHP concept materially different from Arestradero Preserve, Baylands, Shoreline, Wunderlicht, Windy Hill, Byrne Preserve, Huddert, etc.? Seems similar, in that all these are "light footprint" (vs. say Rinconada Park).

You read my mind of course - the flinching you mention is exactly what I had in mind when I said "problems can arise." Precedent would be the most important guide for me - if a public vote is consistent with past practice ("we (almost) always submit controverisal issues like this to a plebiscite"), that's cool; otherwise, a plebiscite might set a bad precedent ("if FHP went to the voters, why not [insert your favorite controversial issue]!?").


Posted by John, a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 14, 2007 at 4:28 pm


I am not aware that the other properities you cite were sold under restrictive covenants, as was FHP. Do you know?

Palo Alto is extremely generous with its parks. Even with the single example, where it is restricted (FHP), a single PA resident can still get in two car loads of non-PA residents. Hardly a draconian restriction.

Some of the parks you mention are county parks, not city parks. I don't think you want to go down road....

I would like to know exactly which major parks LAH and Portolla Valley share with the general public. I am not aware that they have actually invested in major public parks for the public interest.

When Stanford complains, well then open up Stanford to the general public. We would love to use their pools and libraries and playing fields. Anyone ever try to hold a practice on a Stanford playing field?

FHP is one of those special cases that will deserve a special and specific vote.

Posted by eric, a resident of Mountain View
on Jul 14, 2007 at 6:09 pm

Gary, thanks for yoir amising post. MV gets less benefit from PA services then the reverse, by leaps and bounds (and good luck charging for access to byxbee...). good thing that those MV soccer players licve in a hospital friendly town to treat their asthma from sucking carbon monoxide fumes at your awful new field (but most of them are playing on MVs abundant well mantained fields along with their PA neighbors anyway)

Posted by Fred, a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 14, 2007 at 8:10 pm

Thanks John, I will do a little research. Why do you think county parks are different, btw? I would say they are the same - they could choose to limit access to non-county residents.

On the FHP covenant - I have tried Googling for info (looking for FHP covenent, deed restriction, etc.) but no luck. I did find this on the City web site: "The land for Foothills Park was sold to the City of Palo Alto by Dr. Russel Lee, founder of the Palo Alto Medical Clinic, in 1958, on the condition that it be preserved as open space." It doesn't mention resident restrictions; is there more to it?

Wunderlich (a SM County park) says this: The next owner of the property was contractor Martin Wunderlich, who purchased the property from the Folger's in November 1956. In 1974 he graciously tendered it for public recreation by deeding 942 acres to San Mateo County for use as park and open space.

Huddart (a SM County park) says it was deeded on the condition it be developed as a public park.

Byrne Preserve in LAH seems similar to FHP: "In January of 1968 the Town of Los Altos Hills agreed to the purchase of the land subject to the stipulation of Nature Conservancy that it remain in its natural state." They also apparently bought an additional 21 acres to connect Byrne to Hidden Villa (required as part of the initial purchase).

Shoreline and the Baylands appear to have been city owned for a fairly long time (largely before anybody thought marsh land was worth conserving).

Arastradero Preserve was purchased "through an inverse condemnation lawsuit" - wow!

Posted by John M., a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 14, 2007 at 9:44 pm


Bottom line: FHP has been exclusive to Palo Altans for a long time. A LOT of people want to keep it that way.

What's ironic about this decision is that there has been a history between most regional municipalites of very little cooperation toward leveraging assets.

So, here we have FHP, a priceless municipal asset, being leveraged for an annual pittance, ESSENTIALLY because we have not been able to come up with the funds to man a fire station.

That fire station would normally protect Los Altos AND Palo Alto citzens shuold there be a fire. Palo Alto has been funding that station, WITHOUT LA Hills help.

The irony: Palo Alto (actually, the Mayor and City Manager, from what I've heard) has chosen to GIVE AWAY part of an inheritance for othe FAVOR (ha!) of LA Hills helping to pay for something that it should have been helping to pay for ANYWAY (the fire station that protects both Los Altos, and Palo Alto). It's absurd.

Given the above, how can anyone legitimately call ths a good deal?

This is WEAK negotiation, and not unlike the wimpy stuff that we have seen in past years between PA and Stanford, where Stanford regularly cleans our clock (which is now being weirdly overcompensated for by oru Cty Council holding Stanford's feet to the fire in an unreasonable way on the upcoming hospital build - pathetic!)

The Mayor calls herself a fiscal conservative - how does this deal show fiscal conservatism? It's more like fiscal 'convenience' spun to look like a win-win.

Right now LAltos officials are jumping up and down with joy; they're looking like heros, when - finally paying for something that they probably could have been compelled to pay for ANYWAY (to help protect their citizens), because the fire station is NEEDED to protect LAltos - they have been given the extra bonus of unlimited LAltos community access to FHP.

And what will PA residents get? More dissension and controversy. Sheesh! Isn't there an executve program on negotiation basics at Stanford? hint, hint...

This is a FAR from optimal deal - some will attempt to spin this as a PA win, because we're getting funds for the fire station. Balderdash!

What will PA get? The firestation it could have EASILY found the money to find ANYWAY - if we'd been able to negotiate from strength, we could have compelled partial payment to man that fire station and possibly opened up FHP to Los Altos residents for a fee, at our leisure. That would give us control over keeping FHP the pristine nature preserve that it is - with the ability to limit access in the future, should we need to.

My objection IS NOT about limiting LA access to FHP; it's more about getting more optimal returns for assets than this far-from-optimal attempt - one that looks more like a kid trying to please peers in a scenario where all the good candy is given away to the smart kids on the block in exchange for for a measly pack of chewing gum.

Posted by Getting bored, a resident of another community
on Jul 14, 2007 at 10:19 pm

Thank you John M. The LAH council must be laughing all the way to the bank at the curve ball they tossed at us. You know, in order to raise $135,000 some of the people who live in Los Altos Hills have to work a Whole Day!
Funding fire station 8 is coming up at Monday's council meeting. Maybe this deal will be discussed and hopefully dismissed.
(anticipating still more questions from Fred: the agenda is on page 13 of the Weekly.)

Posted by John M., a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 14, 2007 at 10:55 pm

on the lighter side, perhaps Palo Alto should simply annex Los Altos Hills and bring their City Council in to joint sessions on Monday evenings. We could sell Los Altos Hills City Hall, and rent it out for posh LAH/PA parties.

Just imagine the possibilities! We could then simply tax the new 8,000 LAH residents for FHP firestation protection, and give them permanent entry to FHP as bona fide LAH citizens. Now THERE's a deal. I mean, really, does LAH _really_ need a City Council, for 8,000 people, most of whom are in a very privilieged demographic? Do they really need all the duplication of services that our city could provide, probably for less money. C'mon!

LAH citizens, arise! and smell the opportunity. Tell you what, we'll even call the new city "Los Palo Altos Hills" - there are lots of tall trees in FHP. :)

Gosh, kidding aside, this is beginning to sound better and better, especially when one considers the current FHP proposal. Hmmmm.....

Posted by John, a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 15, 2007 at 9:18 am


County parks are paid for by all the citizens of the county. FHP should have been a county or regional park, but we got no help. We begged for help...the answer was "no". Palo Alto then made the case to its own citizens that if they would spend the money, it would be our own park, and only open to PA citizens. We paid the price. It is our park, and it should stay that way, unless a vote of the people says otherwise.

For those who say (words to the effect)'OK, you won't share FHP, then we won't share Huddart and other SM County parks', I would only say: OK, you use SM county parks and stay out of Santa Clara County parks...who would get the worse of that deal? At least that's an apples-to-apples comparison.

BTW, I am not, in principle, against restrictions on county parks that favor county residents. For instance, if the parks are being used to capacity, then county residence should be a filter. Why not? Same applies to city parks.

If Palo Alto and all other peninsula cities restrict their parks to only their residents, it would soon be seen that Palo Alto would be the HUGE winner, and the other cities would be HUGE losers. Why? Because Palo Alto already shares MORE parks/parkland than do the other cities. It is time for Palo Alto to call the bluff of the whiners of LAH, Stanford and other nearby cities.

Posted by eric, a resident of Mountain View
on Jul 15, 2007 at 11:10 am

John, you'll need to back that assertion up. I think you are mistaken

Posted by eric, a resident of Mountain View
on Jul 15, 2007 at 11:10 am

John, you'll need to back that assertion up. I think you are mistaken

Posted by John, a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 15, 2007 at 2:04 pm


OK, I did a little digging. You can do your own and correct any mistakes I may have made.

Palo Alto lists 30 urban parks. The number of parks do not include dog runs, skate parks, Arastradero or FHP nature preserves, Mayfield soccer fields, airport, golf course, schools facilities (administered by the City for recreational purposes).

Mt. View list 35 parks. However it includes dog runs, sports pavillion, skate parks.

In terms of number of parks, it is about a draw, I would say. However, when Arastradero Preserve is thrown in, it is not even close. Palo Alto wins hands down. Shoreline is great, for those who like sailing, but Byxbee has more in terms of hiking and birdwatching. I don't like either, so I won't argue the point either way. Both Mt. View and Palo Alto have golf courses. Only Palo Alto has an airport, one, BTW which is used by many Mt. View pilots (yes, it is run by the county, but that is coming to an end...and Mt. View refuses to open up Moffet airport to light planes).

BTW, it is not clear to me that Mt. View owns Shoreline Regional Park - or does it just administer it? An honest question, just don't know.

Bottom line: Mt. View, if you want to close off your parks to Palo Alto, please do!

Posted by Laughing, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 15, 2007 at 11:49 pm

I get a chuckle out of people talking about not allowing folks outside of Mountain View have access to Shoreline park. My god... that park was built on a mountain of trash. FH, on the other hand, was paid for with cold hard cash. Any other park, pool, or golf course in PA is open to folks outside of PA. Aren't we entitled to at least one park to be for the residents only?

Posted by CeCe, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 16, 2007 at 11:11 am

Selling FHP for a little funding for Fire Station 8 is uncalled for. Fire Statiion 8 has to been part of the Fire Departments annual budget. Why is it separated out like it is something special. This is just ridiculous every year the City playing this game of maybe you will have a fire station maybe you won't. There is no other fire station that every year they say maybe we will open it or maybe we won't. No other neighborhood has to raise ear marked funds for their Fire Station.

Posted by Getting bored, a resident of another community
on Jul 16, 2007 at 12:43 pm

I think CeCe makes a serious point. I've been wondering for several days why this mishmash of issues has been brought forward. But I can't figure out what is going on.
Is there some other unwatched expenditure that we are being distracted from? I agree this firestation is not very expensive if you look at other expenditures.

Posted by eric, a resident of Mountain View
on Jul 16, 2007 at 12:59 pm

John, you are largely correct (MV developed Shoreline park, for the record). Comparing Shoreline to Byxbee is silly, however, and the crowds at both prove it. Arastradero Preserve-- nice but you're forgetting about Deer Hollow and Rancho SA (Deer Hollow operated by MV Rec, Airports: MV doesnt control Moffett, nor does PA control theirs. MV also led the way on development of the Stevens Creek Trail.

I'll agree that listing the skate park is a stretch, but the sports pavillions are not-- they have outdoor amenities.

MV also does not list its schools as parks, though they, too are jointly managed.

I would never suggest closing down parks or other public benefits to other communites (and you forgot libraries, and I forgot our performing arts center). I just find PA's attitude on this silly beyond belief

Posted by eric, a resident of Mountain View
on Jul 16, 2007 at 1:00 pm

oops. Meant to delete Rancho SA- thats in los altos

Posted by Bored already, a resident of another community
on Jul 16, 2007 at 1:47 pm

Mountain View is a great town with lots of $$$ from the dot com industry.
But it has nothing to do with this subject Station 8. If you want to talk about MV, please begin another thread.

Posted by Society Hill, Philadelphia resident, a resident of another community
on Jul 17, 2007 at 3:57 pm

Greetings from the city of Brotherly love,

I write to you from banks of the Schuylkill River amidst the 8000 acres of Philadelphia's Fairmount Park open to all (no fees) . It has been many years since I left Palo Alto and when I visit I too can't get into Foothills Park which I always treasured. Many points of view in this forum have validity seems to me but I haven't seen yet a proposal for Los Altos Hills to buy into the Park.
Let me see:
market value of unbuildable land in the bay area is between $40000 and $50000 per acre,
excluding infrastructures
1400 acres of Foothill Park have a market value of about 56 million dollars (as Unbuildable landand again without the infrastructure value accounted for ).
ratio of PaloAlto residents/Los altos Hills residents is about 7.5
the share that Los Altos Hills wants to buy for 135,000 dollars/year for ever (always a projected decreasing value ) has a value of at least 7. 5 million dollars + share of infrastructure.

That amount when very conservatively invested should provide the Park with about $375,000/year interest + lump sum for infrastrucure.
Why would Palo Altans want to sell FP so cheaply? * Palo Alto already put in and maintained infrastructures at a cost to the City of Palo Alto only for over 5 decades. Why would Palo Altans support Los Altos Hills residents and at an eco-cost billable to residents of the city only?

The argument that all the other communities have all their parks open has valid nuances but as someone pointed out neither libraries nor schools are open to all the other communities without restrictions . If Palo Alto wants to let in residents of LAH without monetary consideration (not the pilfering amount offered) then they should open it to all (including me when I visit), the only consideration being how many people can the Park ecologically tolerate and what the entry fee will be to cover costs. I pay a $4/day/per person beach tag when I set foot on the beautiful New Jersey beaches so that the municipalities can maintain them adequately, I will not berate PA if you charge me for the pleasure of FP. Finally, I wonder if the rangers at the Park ask people for their resident proof when they are on the trails. They should even if you look as if you belong (what does that mean? )

*btw, I have a large bridge here over the Delaware River for sale, good condition, cheap, going fast hurry ...

Society Hill, Philadelphia resident

Posted by Alex, a resident of another community
on Jul 22, 2007 at 1:16 pm

Why doesn't Palo Alto just charge non-residents a fee, let's say $5 per person? I find it very snobby to reject non-residents access to public lands; I live among the commoners in San Jose, and there is no public place that is off-limits to Palo Altoans. Maybe we should rethink this and charge you a hefty fine or keep you out alltogether.
Ok, seriously, this seems like municipal protectionism and will be about as successful as protectionism in trade.

Posted by Enough already!, a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Jul 22, 2007 at 6:17 pm

The subject is off the table. The city council has decided not to open the park access issue, and is funding the fire station.

Posted by John, a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 22, 2007 at 6:49 pm

"The city council has decided not to open the park access issue"

I hope so. That would be a victory for common sense. Maybe the upcoming bond issues will now have a fighting chance.

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