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Foothills Park: City does NOT want to hear from most of you

Uploaded: Jul 27, 2020
Palo Alto's Parks & Recreation Commission (PRC) has scheduled a special meeting to have a two-hour panel discussion on "Foothills Park Access", to be held on Tuesday July 28. However, the ^announcement^ was published only 4 days before (Friday), suggesting that the City is hoping that residents won't hear of it in time. The membership of the panel is not announced -- another very bad sign. When a panel has been selected to be heavily biased in one direction, withholding who will be speaking prevents public pressure to have a balanced presentation.
Update: The panel has been announced. Details in ^news item^ or ^this comment^.
Update: Councilmember Lydia Kou has a ^survey^ seeking resident input on this issue, which is on the agenda for the August 3 City Council meeting (^https://www.lydiakou.com/ + Issues + Future of Foothills Park^).
There is no Staff Report or other background document attached to this agenda item, suggesting that the City wants to inhibit informed participation by the public. This has all the hallmarks of a highly partisan public relations event being disguised as a legitimate government function.

The City not wanting to hear from residents is a long-standing one, going back to the earliest of my blogs (#5 in 2013) and before. However, the extent to which identity politics and intersectionality are involved is dismaying. On the other hand, the amount of push back is encouraging.

In an earlier blog, I presented my beliefs that the proposal was not yet adequately developed -- not ready for a decision.(foot#1) In this blog, I address the politics that this has degenerated into.

----Introduction----

A very small portion of Foothills Park (FHP) is an urban-style park with green grassy areas and a few picnic facilities (^satellite view^). That portion is often very under-utilized. The vast majority of the park is a nature preserve with hiking trails (switch to "Map") and is labeled that way on many maps (^Google Map example^). This is a fragile environment, likely to become increasingly so with climate change.

The City's discussion of changing the admission policy for Foothills Park may have been started by the low utilization of the urban-style park. While many people have repeatedly expressed serious concerns to the City about destructive over-use of the nature preserve, the reports generated by hearings and other public outreach barely mentioned these concerns, failing to even outline any ways in which those concerns might be addressed.

The current policy limits access to Foothills Park to residents and their guests, and to hikers passing through the park on the many trails ("the restriction"). The City Council was scheduled to consider a pilot program to allow a limited number of non-residents' daily access, but this agenda item was bumped from the end of June to an unspecified date in August (Council was on break in July).

However, the recent public debate has not been on the proposed pilot program. At some point, the discussion was hijacked by those who want the policy revoked, with many characterizing the policy as on-going racism in Palo Alto.

----June 7 Letter to City Council signed by 90 prominent individuals including public officials----

The coverage of this ^letter^ (PDF) in the Palo Alto Weekly started a substantial public debate. This and subsequently articles contain almost all the prominent arguments, with many of them in the online comments.(foot#2)

When I read the letter, I expected it to frame the issue from the signatories' perspective. Instead, it came across as little more than empty ^virtue signaling^. Before moving on to a discussion of the predominant arguments, I will ask what can be inferred from the text of this letter.

Start with the second thing that jumped out at me. It was the second sentence of the second paragraph: "This policy sends a terrible message to our neighboring communities--particularly those which do not enjoy the same socioeconomic advantages that Palo Alto does--..." Whoa! Not my experience. Let's check some data. Median household income seems a good comparable: (source ^City-Data.com^):
• $277K: ^Los Altos Hills^
• $276K: ^Woodside^ (ignore the map placing it in Sacramento)
• $270K: ^Portola Valley^
• $232K: ^Los Altos^
--
• $154K: ** ^Palo Alto^ **
• $147K: ^Menlo Park^
• $135K: ^Mountain View^
--
• $ 65K: ^East Palo Alto^
The disparity between the letter's statement and the data suggests that there is a reality-distortion field at play.

However, city boundaries are not good proxies for socioeconomic status. For example, my neighborhood -- Barron Park -- contains some $7-9M houses as well as affordable housing of many types: older apartment buildings, Below-Market-Rate units, and the Buena Vista Mobile Home Park. Similarly for East Menlo Park: Although it is gentrifying (Facebook), it is more like East Palo Alto than central and western Menlo Park. In East Palo Alto, the median household income for "Asian" residents was $162K -- slightly higher than that of the median Palo Altan.

Many people still think of East Palo Alto as a predominantly Black city. However, the demographics have substantially changed. It is estimated to currently be 60-70% Hispanics, African-Americans 12-15%, and Pacific Islanders 11%, Whites 7-30% (huge range). There are many differences between the various estimates, with most of them have totals well over 100%, even those having an explicit category for "mixed-race".

Note: I don't like using racial and ethnic identities as major categories for these considerations because they are meaningless. For example, it bundles together CEOs of Chinese or Indian ethnicity with Hmong tribesmen from the rural highlands of Laos. However, many of the participants in these discussions have already demonstrated that they regard race and ethnicity as primary determinants of who people are. Therefore, you need to be prepared to address their claims.

Now, addressing the first thing that popped out at me. It was in the preceding sentence in the letter: "a crime punishable by jail time for non-residents to enter Foothills Park." This is disingenuous, if not outright deceptive. Has anyone actually been jailed, or is that just a hypothetical? Yes, ^subsection 22.04.150(a) of the Palo Alto Municipal Code^ does state that violating the restriction is a misdemeanor, and ^Subsection 1.08.010(a)^ specifies that a misdemeanor is punishable by a fine of up to $1000 and/or up to six months in jail. First, misdemeanor charges are routinely used as threats of punishment to induce compliance. Because of the over-crowded court dockets and jails, police say they are ignoring minor misdemeanors because they aren't worth the time. And the courts have long favored fines and community service as punishment, even for some felonies that have been plea-bargained down to misdemeanors. So while it is possible to be sent to jail for this offense, has anyone actually been so punished? Having seen no mentions of this be the advocates, I presume the answer is "NO". So why does the letter present this as the leading outrage over the restriction?

If the signers of the letter were actually worried about unreasonably punishments, why didn't they advocate for reducing this violation from a misdemeanor to an infraction where the maximum punishment is a $250 fine?

The letter's signatories called on the City Council to: "Direct staff and the PRC to craft, within the next 60 days, a 21st Century policy that demonstrates our City’s commitment to equality, openness and resource protection." The 60-day timeframe says that this is not a serious proposal. The PRC (Parks & Recreation Commission) managed to meet 6 times (^source^) in the previous 9 months (Sept - May). Even in normal times, it isn't uncommon for meetings to be canceled because Staff hasn't completed preparations. Now with the budget cuts' Staff reductions, more delays can be expected. Notice that at least 19 (21%) of the signatories are 12 are former Mayors or Council members, 4 are current and former members of the PRC, and 3 sit on a similar Commission (Human Resources). You might think they would be well-aware of the time it would take.

The phrase "a 21stCentury policy" deserves its own mention as an example of the "Because it's the current year" argument. If a 22-line letter resorts to this argument, could much thought have gone into it? Or maybe the signatories didn't feel the need to have a persuasive presentation?

In calling for the repeal of the restriction, the letter is also deceptive in leading the reader to believe that that is the recommendation of the PRC: a pilot program. However, in calling for the PRC to quickly "craft" a new policy, the signatories are effectively calling for ceasing consideration of the proposed pilot program.

Given the number and prominence of the signatories, I expected a carefully drafted and edited statement. When reading such, you should be on the lookout for signs of what is being glossed over: the awkward phrasings and words that don't need to be there. In this letter, the prominent example is "visitors who are prohibited by uniformed City staff from entering a public park." "By uniformed City staff" is utterly unnecessary, so why is it included? Are the (park ranger) uniforms problematic or worse?

Although the letter is very careful to avoid explicitly calling the policy racist, elitist, or exclusionary, various news articles -- here on Palo Alto Online and in other Bay area media -- have taken the inference, as have commenters on those articles.

----Background----

In 1959 Palo Alto purchased the land that is now Foothills Park after having sought to make it a joint purchase with surrounding cities. As a result of their refusal, Palo Alto restricted vehicle entry to the park to Palo Alto residents and their guests ("the restriction"). Over the years, multiple attempts to revoke this restriction have been rejected.

The Parks & Recreation Commission (PRC, sometimes PARC) has recommended to Council a one-year pilot program that would allow up to 50 vehicles of non-residents entry for a proposed fee of $6 per vehicle. There would be an online reservation system where the available reservations could be reduced on days where the park has historically seen larger numbers of Palo Alto residents.(foot#3) ^Parks & Recreation Commission Report and Recommendations^

Aside: I found the proposal for the pilot program to be grossly inadequate. It didn't try to predict how many of the additional visitors would be to the urban-style park and how many to the trails in the nature preserve. This affects a wide range of maintenance costs. The City Manager would be authorized to fund this pilot program by making cuts elsewhere in the City budget. There were strong objections to this: After months of City Council struggling with where to make cuts in the budget, ceding these decisions to the City Manager could undo the balancing.

----Having a restricted park is wrong/immoral----

Palo Alto has 36 parks, with ^more than 4500 acres of neighborhood parks^ and ^almost 4000 acres of open space^ (the Baylands, Pearson-Arastradero, Esther Clark, Foothills). Although Palo Alto has less park space per resident than is recommended in national guidelines, it has more than most nearby cities -- cities that allowed substantial housing developments without a corresponding increase in park land.

All of Palo Alto's many parks, except Foothills Park, are freely open to non-residents and are reportedly heavily used by those non-residents. Yet many of the comments advocating revoking the restriction on FHP are written as if all of Palo Alto's parks are restricted. Since those comments are anonymous, they could be from people with no knowledge of the situation.

The advocates of revoking the resident+guest restriction on Foothills Park declare that restriction to be wrong, racist, elitist, exclusionary, ... I don't remember seeing any that went beyond personal belief.

On the other side, I have seen anonymous comments that claim that a few cities in the Bay Area have a private park, but without enough information to try to confirm such claims.

----Do the advocates hope to achieve anything practical?----

Revoking the restriction on FHP access is being advocated as allowing socioeconomically disadvantaged and marginalized groups from visiting. But how many such people are actually going to do so? FHP is a long drive up a twisty road where bicyclists can suddenly appear around a curve. The need for high alertness can be stressful. Is the FHP setting attractive enough for a picnic that a low-income family would spend an hour on the drive (both ways) rather than at a nearby park even though it is crowded?

Or would most of the people who would benefit be from high-income areas? I don't know, and I don't see evidence in the Parks & Recreation Commission report that they considered this question.

----Racial arguments & demographic data----

--The (secret) REAL reason for the restriction was/is to exclude non-Whites--

A mind-set that "no evidence" is the best evidence is impossible to counter: Contrary evidence is deception and the absence of supporting evidence is itself supporting evidence: "It must be true, otherwise why would they be working so hard to keep it secret".

The claim is that because of the racism of the era, there is no way it couldn't have been the primary motivation for the restriction, and for its continuance into the current day. The stated reason -- that the refusal of the surrounding cities to pay meant that their residents couldn't play -- is just a convenient cover story.

When someone makes this claim, ask them why Palo Alto would be seeking to exclude non-Whites in 1959 when in 1954 it had annexed a neighborhood predominantly of Black homeowners: the current ^Ventura neighborhood^.

Tell them that Joseph Eichler was building hundreds of homes in Palo Alto in the 1950s and not racially discriminating. Attempts by some customers to exclude Blacks were soundly rejected by him.(foot#4) Ask them how that happened.
Yes, there was substantial racism in housing -- covenants, red-lining, ... -- but there was also growing rejection of it.

An example of this is in Geoff Paulson's Guest Opinion. (foot#2) (^direct link^). "When the citizens of Palo Alto voted to buy Foothills Park in 1959, lynching was still a frequent practice in the United States." (first sentence in the final section "The time for change is now"). The last lynching in this area was in San Jose in 1933 of two White men suspected of kidnapping and murdering Brooke Hart, the son of a prominent family. Nation-wide between 1950 and 1968, there were 13 lynchings: 9 Blacks and 4 Whites. The last recorded lynching was in 1964 in Mississippi of three Civil Rights workers Chaney, Goodman, and Schwerner (2 Whites, 1 Black).(foot#5) One is too many, but how is this "frequent"?

--Blacks are only 2% of Palo Alto, therefore racism--

A too common belief on the Left is than any under-representation of a "marginalized" identity group must be the result of discrimination and hate. Blacks are roughly 13% of the US population, but only about 2% of Palo Alto's. Therefore, that low number must be the product of racism. An example of "There are lies, damn lies, and statistics."

In the 2010 Census, Blacks were 2.4% of Santa Clara County's population, 2.8% of San Mateo's, and 1.8% of Palo Alto's. Between the 1950 and 1960 Censuses, Blacks declined from 2.1% to 1.6% but increased in numbers, from 542 people to 847 people. During the same period, Whites declined slightly, from 96.2% to 95.4%.

--Long-term persistence of housing patterns--

The claim is that the housing patterns established in the time when racial discrimination wasn't illegal persist to this day through influences that are subtle/invisible but strong.

How to explain that Whites are estimated to be under 60% of Palo Alto's population, with ethnically Chinese around 30%, other Asians around 5-8%, and Hispanics 6-7%? Don't be surprised to be told that this doesn't represent much of a change because Asians are "White-adjacent".

--Racism doesn't have to be intentional/conscious--

In the July 7 PA Weekly article (foot#2) (^direct link^), an activist is quoted: " 'The policy that makes it a misdemeanor to enter the park doesn't say anything racial in it,' Ramanathan said. 'But I believe we live in a society that is structured such a way that a policy doesn't need to be explicitly racist to be racist in practice.' " This represents an increasing schism in US society on questions of guilt and responsibility. US laws -- heavily influenced by English Common Law -- have long placed emphasis on intent. However, the Progressive/Social Justice philosophy gives little weight to the intent behind an action, and focuses on how it could be perceived or interpreted. It doesn't have to be a participant, it could be on-lookers or broader society. In Britain, this has become law: You can be arrested if the police decide that what you said might offend some unspecified person, although in Scotland, the police may need to recruit an actual person to say they were offended. Really. Actual case law, including one high-profile case (Count Dankula).

Isn't being offended for someone over their objects patronizing?

----Summary----

One of the advantages of using ZOOM to attend a City meeting is that you don't have to sit on those uncomfortable benches waiting and waiting for your turn to be ignored.

----Footnotes----
1. Previous blog: proposal not ready:
"^Foothills Park controversy back to Council yet-again on Tuesday: Why, oh, why?^", 2020-06-21.

2. Palo Alto Weekly/Online articles on this issue:
"^'Meet this moment' : Growing coalition calls for Palo Alto to expand access to Foothills Park^", June 8, 2020.
"^Guest Opinion: Please open Foothills Park to all^" by Geoff Paulsen, June 19, 2020.
"^Commissioner resigns after council declines to consider opening Foothills Park to non-residents: Ryan McCauley led the effort to craft a 'pilot program' to allow people outside of Palo Alto to visit open space^", 2020-06-25.
"^Despite calls for action, Palo Alto is in no rush to expand Foothills Park access: City Council votes to defer discussion of contentious issue until after its summer break^", 2020-06-27.
"^Activist group calls on city to 'desegregate' Foothills Park^", July 7, 2020.
"^Guest Opinion: Now's not the time for full Foothills Park discussion^" by Roger Smith, 2020-07-24.

3. Proposed pilot program:
^Parks & Recreation Commission Report and Recommendations^
Update: ^Staff Report (ID #11490) for the August 3 City Council consideration of this issue^.

4. Eichler's inclusive communities:
"^They Like Eich: How midcentury house designer Joseph Eichler made a comeback^" by Leora Tanjuatco, Curbed, 2015-09-23.
Search/find for "racially diverse".

5. "^Lynchings: By Year and Race^" (covers only Whites and Blacks).


----
An ^abbreviated index by topic and chronologically^ is available.


----Boilerplate on Commenting----
The ^Guidelines^ for comments on this blog are different from those on Town Square Forums. I am attempting to foster more civility and substantive comments by deleting violations of the guidelines.

I am particularly strict about misrepresenting what others have said (me or other commenters). If I judge your comment as likely to provoke a response of "That is not what was said", do not be surprised to have it deleted. My primary goal is to avoid unnecessary and undesirable back-and-forth, but such misrepresentations also indicate that the author is unwilling/unable to participate in a meaningful, respectful conversation on the topic.
A slur is not an argument. Neither are other forms of vilification of other participants.

If you behave like a ^Troll^, do not waste your time protesting when you get treated like one.
We need your support now more than ever. Can we count on you?

Comments

 +   16 people like this
Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Jul 27, 2020 at 7:32 am

Personally, I don't think any part of the park is like a city park. Even though there is a meadow and a picnic area, this is not a city park, it is a meadow where we can see the deer grazing as well as watch groups of wild turkey, the occasional heron, and other wildlife. Additionally, this park does not allow ball games, anything that needs a generator (eg bouncy castles) or amplified music.

Additionally, we should be looking at the safety side of things. There is no cell signal at the park and informing visitors of the need to evacuate in an emergency is very problematic. Unless hikers saw flames or smoke, or when they could hear sirens and a helicopter, it is unlikely they could be given sufficient warning to evacuate safely, particularly if they were hiking in a portion where getting back to their vehicles might take quite a long time.

Another very important point is access. There is only one entrance/exit and Page Mill is a very steep and winding road. This road attracts many bikes and of course is access to many residences. As a result in an emergency such as a fire, this road would need to be used as a means of escape for park users, residents and many people on bikes. At the same time, it would need to be used by emergency vehicles in the opposite direction. With only one access gate for vehicles, the amount of traffic on Page Mill would make for a very dangerous prospect.

Thank you for the information in this blog. These serious issues must be addressed, but unfortunately very little other than virtue signalling is being discussed either by the City or the critics.


 +   23 people like this
Posted by Justin McKensie, a resident of Crescent Park,
on Jul 27, 2020 at 8:53 am

As I recall, Foothills Park was independently financed by the City of Palo Alto (via it's resident taxpayers) & received no federal funding towards it's completion (unlike other municipal parks throughout the county).

So it should remain semi-private with access only to Palo Alto residents and their guests.

Eco-concerns are a priority and there are plenty of ther county parks/open space preserves for OUTSIDERS (regardless of ethnicity/socio-economic backgrounds) to enjoy & over run.

On the other hand (and for the pro-open mindsets), Palo Alto could CHARGE non-residents a fee for entering Foothills Park on a limited basis so as not to inundate the grounds with excessive people.

Palo Alto does not bear the responsibility of providing an outdoor experience for every Tom, Dick and Harry.




 +   29 people like this
Posted by Nayeli, a resident of Midtown,
on Jul 27, 2020 at 8:55 am

Nayeli is a registered user.

The notion that this is race-based is, well, stupid. I'm a Hispanic woman. As English is my second language, I speak with a noticeable accent. I have never been turned away from the park. If anything, I've been treated quite well (extraordinarily so) by the park's paid workers and volunteers.

This is one of those "boy who cried wolf" instances. It is a situation in which people are using a mob mentality set off by perceptions from a tragedy (George Floyd's death). It is also a movement that people are being publicly shamed if they don't support (despite the math that invalidates most of the claims of that movement).

If I wanted to walk over to the Googleplex campus and eat for free or utilize their facilities, I would be turned away. Why? I don't have a Google employee badge. That isn't racism. It's simply that I don't work for Google. The same is true for any business. I can't walk into one of the Stanford libraries without either working there are being a student.

I spoke with someone last week who tried to insinuate that white people in Palo Alto have within them the desire to "see other races fail." It made me sad. It isn't that I believe this (because I think that the statement is outrageously false). Rather, I'm saddened because there are individuals who actually believe this sort of nonsense. They are motivated by this notion to join movements.

Frederick Douglas once wrote, "The white man's happiness cannot be purchased by the black man's misery." The opposite is also true. However, I suspect that some people think that they are owed access rather than opportunity. I told someone about Foothills Park is off-limits to any wealthy white person who lives in Los Altos, Menlo Park and Atherton too. That person's response? "They wouldn't use that access anyway."


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Justin McKensie, a resident of Crescent Park,
on Jul 27, 2020 at 10:04 am

Quote: "Frederick Douglas once wrote, "The white man's happiness cannot be purchased by the black man's misery." The opposite is also true."

^ The 'opposite' taken into context..."The black man's happiness cannot be purchased by the white man's misery."

This concept would coincide with the conservative Republican platform.

Whether it is true is subject to debate as blue state-minded Democrats would most likely beg to differ.

Commiserating over perceived 'miseries' is part of the human condition and apparently this park issue knows no boundaries.


 +   11 people like this
Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Jul 27, 2020 at 10:28 am

Doug skewers the Wokesters


 +   18 people like this
Posted by Justin McKensie, a resident of Crescent Park,
on Jul 27, 2020 at 11:37 am

Curious...where does PC sensibilities and exaggerated acquiescense to ethnic sensitivities & socio-economic disparities end?

Even Costco requires a paid membership in order to enter regardless of one's background.

And no one gets into Disneyland for free except for employees.

Why all the fuss about Foothills
Park entrance protocols?

Are the majority of non-Palo Alto residents ( regardless of their backgrounds) really & actively seeking access to the park OR is this simply a matter of a few rabble-rousers in search of another issue to trivialize?






 +   4 people like this
Posted by Robby M, a resident of Los Altos Hills,
on Jul 27, 2020 at 1:21 pm

I appreciate the detail and thoroughness of this article!

The history behind why FHP is private and other natural treasures like our coastlines, state/national parks, etc are public happened long before I was born. I can't change the past, but I can voice my appreciation that Palo Alto's approach to criminalizing - albeit not enforcing - access to open space isn't more common.

I have fond memories of spending time in FHP when I was growing up. I think the vista point is one of the more spectacular and accessible views on the peninsula. It's a shame that not everyone who wants to enjoy the views or hike the trails can.

It makes no sense to me that someone who lived in Palo Alto but moved away can no longer enjoy the park. Do their tax contributions no longer matter?

Nor does it make any sense that someone who moved to Palo Alto last week can access the park but not the park's residential neighbors within walking and biking distance.

Opening the park to the public and charging a non-resident access fee seems like a realistic and simple way to keep this issue from coming up over and over again...


 +   6 people like this
Posted by Jonathan Brown, a resident of Ventura,
on Jul 28, 2020 at 12:19 am

Jonathan Brown is a registered user.

Doug, really informative and well-reasoned piece, thank you. Re your sentence:

When someone makes this claim, ask them why Palo Alto would be seeking to exclude non-Whites in 1959 when in 1954 it had annexed a neighborhood predominantly of Black homeowners: the current ^Ventura neighborhood.

As a resident of the still very diverse Ventura neighborhood, I find it disgraceful that anyone in Palo Alto would put the interests of non-Palo Altoans' access to Foothills Park above the interests of our less fortunate Palo Altoans (like some of my neighbors) who would really benefit from time and attention spent improving Boulware Park and other more easily accessible playgrounds and recreation areas. Let's get our close-to-home house in order before we search out such far-fetched injustices.


 +   4 people like this
Posted by Douglas Moran, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Jul 28, 2020 at 1:34 am

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

The panelists have been announced, with difficulties in finalizing the panelists cited as the cause of the delay.

• Lester Hendrie, retired Foothills Park Supervising Ranger
• Professor Nicole M. Ardoin. Sykes Family Director of the Emmett Interdisciplinary Program in Environment and Resources (E-IPER) in the Stanford University School of Earth, Energy, and Environmental Sciences
• Alex Von Feldt. Executive Director of Grassroots Ecology
• Roger Smith. Co-Founder and Director of Friends of Palo Alto Parks
• Taylor Peterson. Director of Biological Analysis with MIG, Inc.

From the Parks & Recreation Commission (PRC): "I want to affirm that the City and PRC are very interested in public comments and encourage the community to watch the panel discussion. I am hopeful this will be an opportunity for the community to gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of the varied perspectives and complexity of issues related to Foothills Park access."


 +   12 people like this
Posted by What Will They Do Next, a resident of Old Palo Alto,
on Jul 28, 2020 at 11:26 am

What Will They Do Next is a registered user.

I'm happy to see Roger Smith on this panel. He wrote a great piece last week on why this item should be tabled at least for now. Let's not rush to appease those hell bent on opening the park to everyone for whatever their reason might be.

The only fair way to do this is to let the tax paying citizens of Palo Alto vote on the issue, and not let seven council members make this determination. I would venture to guess that the support for keeping the park exactly as it is would win by a very large margin.


 +   12 people like this
Posted by Dan , a resident of Old Palo Alto,
on Jul 28, 2020 at 2:08 pm

Dan is a registered user.

Thank you Doug for a thorough and well stated opinion. I'm sure that I am like others who want to maintain the current aspects of FHP. I have stated previously that I consider it more of a Preserve than a Park. There are many, many parks in the city that are available to everyone. Please don't call us racist for wanting to preserve one parcel which the city bought without the help of neighboring communities for the use of its citizens.


 +   15 people like this
Posted by Jennifer, a resident of another community,
on Jul 28, 2020 at 2:24 pm

Claiming this is racism is absurd. If they really want to claim any type of discrimination (and there isn't) classism would make more sense. Other cities refused to pitch in financially, so it's restricted to Palo Alto residents. Oh, well.


 +   3 people like this
Posted by Douglas Moran, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Jul 28, 2020 at 3:40 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

Councilmember Lydia Kou has an online survey on Foothills Park access to gather resident opinions for the August 3 Council meeting where this issue will be considered.

https://www.lydiakou.com/foothills-park

If browser problems, go to https://lydiakou.comfo/, select tab Issues and then select from its drop down menu ==I Future of Foothills Park.

Disclosure: I am a member of Lydia Kou's re-election campaign.


 +   9 people like this
Posted by rita vrhel, a resident of Crescent Park,
on Jul 28, 2020 at 3:51 pm

rita vrhel is a registered user.

Thank you Doug for another complex and thoughtful blog. Easy to scream racism and elitism which I do not believe are supported by a factual review of the issue.

I request that the Bond measure use to purchase Foothills Park be made available for public review.

I would like to read the actual wording and see if a restriction to Palo Alto residents and guests is in the Bond measure. If not, when were the restrictions added and why. I do not believe City Staff have made the Bond measure or other vital Foothills Park documents available for public review. Seems hard to have a transparent and unbiased process without the original documentation.

I urge IF there is a recommendation to change ANYTHING about Foothills Park that Palo Alto voters be allowed decide.

They voted for the original Bond, paid for the purchase of Foothills Park have paid for Foothills Park all these many years,and continue to pay for Foothills Park. Voters in Palo Alto should vote on any changes recommended. Not the City Council or other unelected vested interests. Let's have a true democratic process! Thank you


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Jeremy, a resident of Midtown,
on Jul 28, 2020 at 6:59 pm

Jeremy is a registered user.

My understanding is that, for many years, the entrance to Foothills Park has only been staffed on weekends and holidays.

So most of the time, anyone can go there without any restrictions, and opening the park to everyone all the time would not be a huge change.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by musical, a resident of Palo Verde,
on Jul 28, 2020 at 11:58 pm

^ Most of the time anyone can drive 35 mph up Middlefield Road, so raising the speed limit would not be a huge change.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Granny B, a resident of Midtown,
on Jul 29, 2020 at 1:06 am

Granny B is a registered user.

"However, the recent public debate has not been on the proposed pilot program. At some point, the discussion was hijacked by those who want the policy revoked, with many characterizing the policy as on-going racism in Palo Alto."

I don't see how moving the discussion "pilot program or no" to a broader issue is "hijacking" the topic.

I read most if not all of the comments on the article "Activist group calls on city to 'desegregate' Foothills Park" soon after they were posted. Some of the comments had to be removed by Palo Alto Online moderators because they devolved into the bullying of Ms. Ramanathan (age 17) and otherwise were not meeting acceptable discussion guidelines. At least one that was removed made broad generalizations about race. Eventually the moderators closed discussion.


 +   3 people like this
Posted by Winnie Lewis, a resident of Downtown North,
on Jul 29, 2020 at 8:07 am

Make the decision AFTER the Pandemic. So many tranquil and local spots identified by sites like Tik Tok has led to massive number of non-residents descending there with their food, liquor and loud music [portion removed.]

We don't want this to happen to Foothills. As it is, many non-residents arrive before the rangers.


 +   3 people like this
Posted by Justin McKensie, a resident of Crescent Park,
on Jul 29, 2020 at 9:17 am

>>When someone makes this claim, ask them why Palo Alto would be seeking to exclude non-Whites in 1959 when in 1954 it had annexed a neighborhood predominantly of Black homeowners: the current ^Ventura neighborhood^.

^ Possibly due to added tax revenue base & expanding the city's 'sphere of influence'? Even cities have their own concepts of Manefest Destiny.

Speaking of Eichler housing tracts...despite his open view on residencies, very African-Americans purchased or resided in these homes at the time of their initial offerings.

Priced out via costs (albeit 'affordable' to many middle class
white families)?

>> How to explain that Whites are estimated to be under 60% of Palo Alto's population, with ethnically Chinese around 30%, other Asians around 5-8%, and Hispanics 6-7%? Don't be surprised to be told that this doesn't represent much of a change because Asians are "White-adjacent".

^ Many of the recently arrived 'ethnically Chinese' are wealthy individuals & families from the Mandarin-speaking People's Republic of China...and they often pay CASH for their costly Palo Alto residences.

That said...reiterating that Palo Alto's Foothills Park should be accessible exclusively to Palo Alto residents and their guests.

Restriction advocacy is not race-driven but rather based on ecological considerations, traffic/parking gridlock and requirements for added maintenance/security if Foothills Park is open to everyone.





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