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Nose Under the Community Tent

By Paul Losch

About this blog: I was a "corporate brat" growing up and lived in different parts of the country, ending in Houston, Texas for high school. After attending college at UC Davis, and getting an MBA at Harvard, I embarked on a marketing career, mai...  (More)

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Gymnasiums Needed

Uploaded: Jun 7, 2009
Every time I drive by the long ago closed ARCO gas station that adjoins the Winter Park Skating Rink, I see a gymnasium.

Too many who are into indoor sport activity such as basketball and volleyball have to go out of town to play.

I think some creative thinking is needed to expand gym space in Palo Alto for community purposes.

I perceive that the School Board and Superintendent Kevin Skelley have open minds about how gym space could be developed that not only serves our kids during the school times, but can serve oftentimes the same kids or their parents at times when school district needs are not in conflict. Now is the time to think that through, as the bond measure that passed in 2008 provides a great deal of funding for schools throughout town.

I perceive a number of properties, mainly churches, that are underutilized. This is not a judgmental comment on my part, one way or the other. But it does conjure up the notion from a community standpoint if there is a greater good if certain parcels became gymnasiums rather than languish in their current capacities.

There is a bit of good news on this gym front. The JCC complex under construction at Charleston and San Antonio includes some gym space that will be available to Palo Altans in general will have available. Also, once the JCC is operational, some gym space at Cubberley which they control will revert to the city's Community Services Department for general public use. These are encouraging developments, but insufficient to address the demand that's out there.

Even in this current environment, I think it is possible to identify private/public partnership arrangements that can create new gym space for Palo Altans. It does call for major creative thinking.
What is it worth to you?


Posted by jim h., a resident of ,
on Jun 7, 2009 at 9:00 pm

A couple of respected parents were/have been trying to convert the former Kiki's candy store on West Bayshore (Web Link

But, the ARB said the project was too bland and looked like it belonged in an office park. The gym is located along W. Bayshore where all there are are office buildings.

And, although this won't solve the whole problem, if it takes a few teams out of the other gyms, it opens up spots for others.

The city is one of the main problems with the lack of athletic facilities.

One note. I went by Paly yesterday and they padlocked the football field and there's a sign that states use with permit only. I understand their motives, but it eliminates another field for recreational, non-organized play.

Posted by Resident, a resident of ,
on Jun 7, 2009 at 9:46 pm

Garland neighbors have been successful in changing the plans for the new MP room to not be a gym. A gym here would have been very helpful as typically basketball is played in winter when it is dark and it is not possible to play outside after 6.00 pm. Practices and games at Garland would have not caused parking problems in the evenings as the Jordan fields can't be used in the dark. The neighbors imagine basketball can be played outside, but you can't play in the dark or when it is raining outside, but you can use a gym then. This was a very bad move, not having a gym in the "wonderful" new school that the community at large will not benefit from.

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of ,
on Jun 8, 2009 at 7:32 am

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

It is time to reduced city review of construction to public health and safety.

Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of ,
on Jun 8, 2009 at 12:03 pm


Are you saying that the PAUSD should consider redirecting some parcel tax money towards building a gym on the ARCO site?

The current parcel tax is 100% earmarked for campus construction. It can't legally be used for construction off campus or even outside the scope described in the original "proposition" that the voters approved. As a city resident - I did not vote to have our school-facility parcel tax used to build an off-campus gym that would be primarily, if not exclusively, used by organizations other than the schools.

Personally, I don't think the school district should ever spend money that doesn't directly benefit the students first. If anything - a gym in Mid-town should be the city's responsibility, or perhaps a public-private venture between the city and a non-profit or two.

Your suggestion of a public-private partnership is probably the only way any major recreation facility will get built. But the "public" portion should be the city, not the school district.

Posted by Paul Losch, a resident of ,
on Jun 8, 2009 at 1:20 pm

Paul Losch is a registered user.

CP Dad,

I absoltely am NOT suggesting that the school district do anything with regard to the ARCO site.

I fully concur that the school district bond money is for the school properties, and I am of the opinion that just as there has been private money raised to help with the athletic programs and facilities at the high schools, so too could some fundraising be done privately that could enable the gym space at the middle and perhaps the elementary schools to be developed in a way that they can better serve the community demand when the schools are not operating them. There are some parallels to this with the playing fields, which are managed and scheduled for non-school time use by the City's Community Services Department.

Apart from possibilities that could be brought to bear on the school gyms, I also am suggesting in this blog that perhaps there are some other privately owned parcels, such as the ARCO station, that could be scraped and have gym space built on them. This would clearly have to be funds generated by interested private parties in town, the City does not have the resources to make such an acquisition or pay for the design and construction. But, something along the lines of the Mayfield soccer fields, privately owned (by Stanford,)but managed and scheduled by the City, could be an exciting possibility.

I hope that clears up any misunderstanding you may have had around my original comments.

Posted by Jim H., a resident of ,
on Jun 8, 2009 at 4:49 pm

The developers putting the students in the schools and the participants in the sports programs should be paying for the needs of those buying their homes.

With all of the housing being built (and approved by the city), the facilities are overcrowded and/or run down. The city does not have the financial ability to mitigate the problem.

Does the city not realize that all of the housing they approve puts a greater strain on the infrastructure? And, obviously, a greater strain than is being offset by the new residents.

Who, other than Stanford, would build a gym for the city? And, why would Stanford do that? Sure, in a few years the city can hold it over their head as a contingency when they expand the mall, but that'll be many years from now.

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of ,
on Jun 9, 2009 at 2:50 am

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

Stop whining about overcrowding until the illegal Tinsley agreement is reversed and EPA grows up and takes back the obligation of educating their own children.

Posted by Resident, a resident of ,
on Jun 9, 2009 at 9:35 am


The issue of gym space has little to do with Tinsley. Just because a child is in PAUSD, it doesn't give them entrance into sports like NJB (National Junior Basketball) where you have to prove Palo Alto residency to join. Gym space for after school sports is much more of a problem than gym space for school sports. Not too sure of the details, but regardless how big the high schools are, not everyone who wants to play gets on a team. At the middle school level, everyone who wants to gets on a team and the number of teams is determined by the number wanting to play. Therefore the bigger the schools the bigger the demand for space will probably be.

Posted by Jim H., a resident of ,
on Jun 9, 2009 at 12:39 pm

The number of Tinsley students is set at 60 new students a year. The VTP numbers are fairly constant and predictable. On the other hand, new housing brings new students to the schools thus changing the overall quantity and putting more pressure on the schools.

I'm not saying I totally agree with VTP, and at some point it needs to be revisited. But, VTP is not the cause of school size increases. VTP students are fairly steady at under 600 district wide. Over the past 4 years, 300 new students have come from recent new housing developments in the city, plus another 145 from Stanford West Apartments built in 2001. Another 500+ are projected to be enrolled by 2010 coming from new developments in the city's pipeline such as Alma Plaza and the Elks property.

You can't blame a constant (VTP) for increasing the numbers.

Posted by TC, a resident of ,
on Jun 10, 2009 at 10:37 am

Several years ago, I looked into the possibility of converting a couple of unused warehouses on the east side of 101 to private gym space. I had a group of possible investors too, but what we found is that it would be extremely expensive to build such a space, and few people wanted to pay for the right to use it.

Check out John Paye of Paye's Place -- he is barely staying above water financially with his three courts in San Carlos. His internal charges for court space for both volleyball and basketball are about double what City Beach charges.

Additional gym space is one of those "public goods," and it's too bad that the Garland neighbors prevented another gym from becoming available.

Posted by Resident, a resident of ,
on Jun 10, 2009 at 10:43 am

NB The Garland neighbors are keeping really quiet on this one.

Posted by pat, a resident of ,
on Jun 11, 2009 at 5:50 pm

Sorry if this is a silly question, but can kids (or adults) use any of the school gyms during the summer? Another poster says the Paly fields are locked up. Seems a shame for facilities to sit idle.

Posted by Paul Losch, a resident of ,
on Jun 11, 2009 at 10:14 pm

Paul Losch is a registered user.


I believe some of the gyms may get used for Camps during the summer, but there is not access to the general public. The high school gyms are entirely off limits year round.

The real problem is during the school year, when there are numerous organized leagues, both adult and youth, that are crying for regular gym space in the later afternoons, evenings, and especially weekends. That is the "problem" that needs to be solved.

Posted by Reggie, a resident of ,
on Jul 27, 2009 at 5:13 pm

I believe it is very self serving for Paul Losch to lobby for basketball courts. He has been promoting basketball facilities and criticising tennis facilities for years. He should recluse himself from any discussion of athletic facilities.

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