In his resignation letter to Mayor Adrian Fine, Ryan McCauley criticized the council for ignoring the recommendations of both its Parks and Recreation Commission and its Human Relations Commission, which had both recommended that the council repeal a law that makes it illegal for residents outside of Palo Alto to enter the nature preserve unless they are accompanied by a resident.
The council was scheduled to consider it on Tuesday but voted on Monday to postpone its discussion until after its summer break, citing a heavy workload on its June 22 and June 23 agendas. Council members voted 5-2 on Monday night, with Fine and Councilwoman Alison Cormack dissenting, to take the item off its agenda. It did not set a new date for the discussion.
While the topic of Foothills Park access has been a political hot potato in Palo Alto for decades, calls to abolish the ban on non-residents have grown louder over the past few weeks, as calls for social justice and racial equality have grown both in the community and elsewhere in the nation. The city's Human Relations Commission earlier this month urged the council to expand Foothills Park access as part of a broader strategy to promote equality.
The city also received a letter signed by more than 90 residents, legislators and faith leaders, urging it to "meet the moment."
The decision to postpone the item also drew instant rebukes from residents, including retired Judge LaDoris Cordell, a former city councilwoman who submitted a letter threatening a lawsuit if the council doesn't immediately agree to stop enforcing its ban on non-residents.
Downtown opens streets to dining
Emboldened by its recent success on California Avenue, the Palo Alto City Council moved Tuesday night to dramatically expand opportunities for outdoor dining elsewhere in the city, including on University Avenue.
In its final action before a monthlong break, the council voted unanimously to approve a package of resolutions and ordinances that collectively relax existing rules pertaining to outdoor alcohol consumption, encourage the creation of parklets and allow the conversions of parking lots into outdoor shops and dining areas. The move comes two weeks after the city closed California Avenue to traffic to facilitate outdoor dining — a decision that has received overwhelmingly positive reviews from businesses and residents.
The most dramatic proposal that the council approved calls for closing University Avenue to traffic to make room for outdoor tables. The experiment will begin this Friday morning and conclude on Sunday night. If successful, it will continue through the shutdown and potentially be expanded to closing downtown's main commercial strip for seven days a week.
Palo Alto's new rules allow businesses to use up to 50% of parking lot areas for dining or retail and create guidelines for restaurants anywhere in the city to apply for parklets, which extend the sidewalk into existing parking spaces.
"There haven't been very many joys in the last couple of months, but it's been one of them," Councilwoman Alison Cormack said.
County on COVID 'watchlist'
Santa Clara County had its highest number of COVID-19 cases ever recorded for a single day on Tuesday, raising concerns about the trajectory of the virus and causing the state to issue a notification that the county is on a "watchlist" because of the increase.
The county had its second-highest single-day count — 122 — recorded on Tuesday, county Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody told the county Board of Supervisors on June 23. (Update: The number of new cases rose to 125 recorded for Wednesday.)
The rise in cases is part of a trend that the Public Health Department has seen over two weeks. New hospitalizations also appear to be trending upward, Cody added.
Seventy-two people were hospitalized as of Thursday; over the past month, that number has ranged from 38 to 75 patients, according to the county.
Cody received word during the board meeting that the county is now on the state "watchlist," dashing hope for the time being that the county can petition the state to allow additional reopening.
"It's a worrisome sign. It reflects widespread testing but also an increase in cases because the virus continues to spread," she said.
She said health experts don't have a way to measure the percentage attributable to increased testing versus the increase in actual cases. The county has run pop-up testing clinics over the past several weeks and opened new testing facilities in the southern part of the county.
"There's generally a lag between uptick in cases and uptick in hospitalizations. The hospitalizations are the most stable trend; we're watching it very closely. If hospitalizations rise and stay consistently up, that's an indication that rise in reported cases represents rise in actual incidence, not just in (testing)," she said in an email to this news organization.
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