Town Square

Post a New Topic

Residents launch referendum petition to keep ban on nonresidents at Foothills Park

Original post made on Dec 1, 2020

Palo Alto's recent decision to expand access to Foothills Park by welcoming nonresidents to the exclusive nature preserve is facing a challenge from a group of residents who are hoping to reverse it through a referendum.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, December 1, 2020, 8:58 AM

Comments (227)

Posted by Lee Forrest
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 1, 2020 at 9:25 am

Lee Forrest is a registered user.

A referendum is a good idea regardless of the ACLU & NAACP lawsuits.

A comprehensive environmental impact report should be prepared prior to opening the gates (aka floodgates) to any & all outside visitors as this is a nature preserve & not a conventional suburban park.


Posted by Squidsie
a resident of another community
on Dec 1, 2020 at 9:30 am

Squidsie is a registered user.

Excruciatingly liberal Palo Altans have discovered that it is a lot more fun to make others be generous with their property and money, than to share their own.


Posted by TimR
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 1, 2020 at 9:41 am

TimR is a registered user.

Great! When and where can I sign it?


Posted by Eric Filseth
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 1, 2020 at 10:07 am

Eric Filseth is a registered user.

I believe Lydia’s and Roger’s polls, which suggest most Palo Altans don’t believe the current Foothills Park policy is unjust. I also believe that given a choice, most Palo Altans would prefer the pilot program to the Settlement.

It’s important to understand that while the ACLU etc have thrown around a lot of public rhetoric about social justice and segregation, their actual Legal case has absolutely nothing to do with those things. Zero. The Legal case is about Constitutional Law only; it is purely a matter of the First Amendment, which affords a spectrum of legal protections to various facilities: certain protections to Sidewalks and Parks, others to other public facilities such as municipal tennis courts and swimming pools, others to individually-owned private properties, and still others elsewhere.

This is an instance where public rhetoric and legal substance diverge. An obvious analogy, not necessarily a perfect one, might be the Trump Campaign fighting about Voter Fraud in the court of public opinion, but once they get in actual courts of Law there’s no mention of any of that.

The Legal case has nothing to do with Social Justice or individual opinions on Fairness; it starts and ends with the First Amendment protections of free speech and assembly. Residents considering signing this petition should be significantly guided by their knowledge of Constitutional Law, their assessments of the costs and risks of the case, and their judgment of the probability of getting a better outcome than the Settlement. Ideally the petition itself would also address these things.


Posted by Conservative
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 1, 2020 at 10:31 am

Conservative is a registered user.

Please contact Irina ([email protected]) if you want to sign this petition.


Posted by slvrgrl1048
a resident of Professorville
on Dec 1, 2020 at 10:43 am

slvrgrl1048 is a registered user.

If the PA public wants this, who are these people who this they know better? Can someone tell me what the referendum process is? How many signatures? Honestly!


Posted by JB
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Dec 1, 2020 at 10:52 am

JB is a registered user.

Hello. Here is a link to the petition information sent out by Lydia Kou. I will also include a copy of the petition (included in the email from Ms. Kou). I just want our voices to be heard and for the city council not to roll over every time they are faced with a lawsuit. This happened with the Hotel President and now with the new plans for Foothills Park. I believe this sets a very bad precedent.

Web Link

Web Link

Web Link


Posted by RPopp
a resident of Monroe Park
on Dec 1, 2020 at 11:01 am

RPopp is a registered user.

This is awful - I do not support Lydia or her position here and want to strongly say she does not represent Palo Alto in the way I hope our Council should. We should be open, welcoming, and tolerant. There is no reason Foothill Park should be closed to others. Lydia is the voice of exclusion and restriction and I want no part of her behavior.


Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Dec 1, 2020 at 11:08 am

Anonymous is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


Posted by TorreyaMan
a resident of Palo Verde
on Dec 1, 2020 at 11:23 am

TorreyaMan is a registered user.

Kudos to RPopp (above comment). I want to additionally comment on one aspect of the arguments against opening Foothills. While it may to some extent be a nature preserve, the primary areas visited are the lake, picnic grounds, grass field, etc, which don't really protect nature (at least not pre-park conditions), and which would be equally impacted by PA residents and non-residents.


Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 1, 2020 at 11:42 am

Nayeli is a registered user.

@ RPopp - So, if a poll or referendum shows that a majority of Palo Alto residents don't want to become subservient to this demand by activists (who pretend that our city and its residents are "racists" because we don't cave into those demands), will you agree that Lydia Kou is, in fact, REPRESENTING PALO ALTO?

It is funny that people who claim to believe in democracy only support it when it favors their ideological persuasions. If the majority of our residents do NOT want to surrender this preserve to the whims of ever-agitated activists, then we should not surrender to their demands.


Posted by TLM
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 1, 2020 at 12:03 pm

TLM is a registered user.

Whenever this issue comes back up, many people seem to forget, or were never aware, that the reason the park became "exclusive" for Palo Alto residents, was that none of the neighboring cities were interesting in putting any money up for the park to happen. The financial responsibility fell solely to Palo Altans to pay for.


Posted by Name hidden
a resident of Downtown North

on Dec 1, 2020 at 12:10 pm

Due to repeated violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are automatically removed. Why?


Posted by Duveneck neighbor
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 1, 2020 at 12:16 pm

Duveneck neighbor is a registered user.

Thanks to Gennady Sheyner for continued, quality reporting.

Thanks to Councilmember Filseth for articulating an important issue.

Shame on others for mis-representing these issues, for instance by injecting race into the immediate discussion.

My opinion, for what little it may be worth:

First, I believe the City Council should place before the voters, an advisory referendum regarding whether the Park should be exclusive, or non-exclusive.

Second, before the Referendum, I believe the Council should engage in one or more trials regarding access and use. That is: even under the First Amendment, local jurisdictions can specify rules for access and use relative to all manner of rights. Permits and costs for use, hours of use and access, types of allowed access... all can be specified by law, today. State parks, for instance, can have different fee structures for residents and non-residents; national parks can have different fee structures for seniors 65 and older, and those under 65. And so forth. Council should propose rules and regulations which allow and even encourage non-discriminatory, and non-exclusive, access and use, while respecting the need to preserve and conserve the resource, in a sustainable manner.

By 'sustainable', I mean in particular that Park resource managers should determine what level of various uses is compatible with long-term/sustainable use; and, in that light, Council should then specify how much of each use may be reserved for residents, and how much for non-residents.

Also in my opinion, a specification of 'zero' use for non-residents, is wrong.

I also believe Council needs to address the types of trail use in Foothills Park. Foot, horse, and bicycle uses are the main trails uses. Foothills excludes bicycle use. In my opinion, this exclusion is appropriate; yet, I continue to find evidence of illegal mountain bike use, including especially on the lower sections of Los Trancos Trail, where the bicycles have worn the narrow track so markedly that it is difficult -- in dry weather, but worse in wet weather -- to find foot purchase.

I cannot recall seeing equestrians in Foothills Park, but both the Park web page, and the Park trail map, are silent regarding whether or not equestrian use is allowed.


Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 1, 2020 at 12:32 pm

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

The ACLU has jumped on the WOKE bandwagon. They are using a political situation to increase their "name". I have received solicitations for donations for their organization to pursue their WOKiness. WOkiness does not pay the freight for the added cost to the taxpayer of this city for all of the additional cost to manage and upgrade the programs at the park. And the animals are all running around because people who do not respect the nature preserve are looking for a more quiet place to be. The whole point of why the park is there has now been trashed. Literally and figurately. And a lawsuit is just costing this city money they do not have.
The ACLU is in my sites as a frivolous organization that once had a purpose but is now just seeking publicity. And the City of PA should not reward them for their efforts. [Portion removed.]


Posted by Joel
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 1, 2020 at 12:38 pm

Joel is a registered user.

As a former Parks and Recreation Commissioner for Palo Alto I have been strongly encouraging the opening of Foothill Park since my tenure in the early 2000's. Just think; that Palo Altons who have moved from here are not allowed into the park except with guardians (family and friends who they might be visiting.). To share the land and its bounty of flora and fauna with all people is the caring way to proceed. I, respectfully, disagree with Lydia (who I voted for) on this issue. I hope we do not have to go through the arduous process that the referendum entails. This issue has been a thorn in Palo Altons side from its inception since the early 50's. Can you imagine if Golden gate Park or Huddard Park had the same restrictions? Time to open our hearts to the opening of Foothill Park.


Posted by Anne
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 1, 2020 at 12:58 pm

Anne is a registered user.

These days Palo has tremendous racial and ethnic diversity, so the idea that keeping Foothills Park reserved for Palo Altans is somehow racist is just silly. We like living here BECAUSE of the diversity, and I support Black Lives Matter. Don't the ACLU and NAACP have anything better to do?


Posted by Lee Forrest
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 1, 2020 at 1:12 pm

Lee Forrest is a registered user.

>"...many people seem to forget, or were never aware, that the reason the park became "exclusive" for Palo Alto residents, was that none of the neighboring cities were interesting in putting any money up for the park to happen. The financial responsibility fell solely to Palo Altans to pay for."

^ This is reminiscent of 'The Little Red Hen' children's story...when the Little Red Hen sought the assistance of the other animals to help her plant & harvest a wheat crop, none of them offered any assistance...so she did it herself.

But while she was baking bread for herself & her chicks, all of the non-participant animals came sniffing around, seeking a share of her SOLE efforts.

The story of Foothills Park...along with an indictment of 'free-spirited' progressive ideals.





Posted by JB
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Dec 1, 2020 at 1:41 pm

JB is a registered user.

I personally believe that the residents of East Palo Alto should be allowed into the park since their city provides no real exposure to a wildlife habitat, but I don't believe that this should extend to everybody being allowed into the park. I'm worried about the effect on the animals and other wildlife. I just wish they had proceeded with the trial opening planned for 2021 before passing this permanent park opening without input from Palo Alto residents. I also wonder how the upkeep of the park will be addressed. Will all people, including people from Palo Alto, need to pay an entrance fee? As a Palo Alto resident, I would gladly pay a reasonable yearly entrance fee (we hike in Foothills Park a lot, and have done so for over 30 years). If you charge more for East Palo Alto residents, our city could be hit with another lawsuit, claiming racism. I miss seeing many of the previous park rangers and would like them to be able to reclaim their jobs if they desire. What a mess!


Posted by James
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 1, 2020 at 3:17 pm

James is a registered user.

It might be an act of conspiracy.

Some super riches in Los Altos Hills want to access the park. But they don't want to pay for it. Instead they "DONATE" to ACLU and NAACP, with the understanding that lawyers from these two organizations will do the bids on their behalf. Racism etc. are just tactics.

These super riches stay behind the scene, and get nice tax deduction.

I mean realistically how many people from EPA will visit the park? It's just too far. It is far for many in midtown or downtown PA. There are many other park choices close to EPA. The real beneficiaries of the opening are the riches of LAH.


Posted by Barron Parker Too
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 1, 2020 at 3:31 pm

Barron Parker Too is a registered user.

Lydia Kou's petition for a referendum is here:
Web Link

This is our only chance to reverse the misguided caving of the City Council, and to allow the residents of Palo Alto to assess the environmental impact and make an informed decision about Foothills Nature Preserve.

We need 2500 signatures by Dec. 16.

Please print it and give your neighbors a chance to sign it.

Please send it to your friends in Palo Alto and ask them to do likewise.


Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 1, 2020 at 3:53 pm

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

Horses - in any park brochure they indicate if riding horses is allowed with a Picture of a horse. I have seen people riding horses at Atascadero Preserve as there is a horse ranch down the road. Arastedero Preserve has the right type of trails for horses. I have not seen any indications that riding horses is allowed in the FHP reserve. You have to have marked trails. The roads in FHP are cement. Just my top level observation - I could be wrong. Have not seen any horse trailers for transport.


Posted by Mike Bechler
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 1, 2020 at 4:01 pm

Mike Bechler is a registered user.

This is complete hogwash.

"including the right to travel, the right to free speech and their right to free assembly"

They have the right to travel. The roads in Foothill Park don't lead anywhere but Foothill park. It is a destination, not a route. They have the right to assemble and exercise free speech anywhere it is legal for them to be.

This does nothing to rectify past racial discrimination. Creating affordable housing units is much more effective, and Palo Alto is doing that. Whether it is enough or not is a different argument, but those who live in it are residents and so are allowed to use Foothill Park.

By the way, the word is out. The place was more jammed than I've ever seen it on Wednesday evening, with people littering, speeding and drinking. I'll bet many of them were not Palo Alto residents.


Posted by Me 2
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 1, 2020 at 4:41 pm

Me 2 is a registered user.

Close the park. Save the money and put it elsewhere.

Or just turn it into housing. Better yet, let's take the George Lucas approach to dealing with pain in the backside Marin neighbors.

Los Altos Hills wouldn't mind if we put a bunch of affordable housing there would they? Solve the access problem and we can quickly achieve our ABAG goals in a place away from existing R-1 neighborhoods (Palo Alto Hills lots are so big they won't even notice).

Even South Palo Altans might like this idea.

The Foothills Towers.


Posted by Lee Forrest
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 1, 2020 at 4:52 pm

Lee Forrest is a registered user.

>"By the way, the word is out. The place was more jammed than I've ever seen it on Wednesday evening, with people littering, speeding and drinking. I'll bet many of them were not Palo Alto residents."

^ A sign of times sans a referendum restricting access into Foothills Park?

Apparently some outside visitors are either unwilling and/or unable to behave like good guests...an indictment of opening the park to non-residents of Palo Alto?

In addition to the added strain on park premises & ecosystem, the job just got tougher for park rangers & maintenance crews.





Posted by Native to the BAY
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Dec 1, 2020 at 4:54 pm

Native to the BAY is a registered user.

And Palo Altans are so self involved, busy organizing a referendum to bar public , open space access. Do BLM and All Lives matter? Absurd priorities. Why don’t these what’s mine is mine / what’s ours and yours is mine too, greed — organize a food, toilet paper or utility payment drive, for those in desperate need, instead. Put any extra personal wealth , energy for something for the larger common good . Get your head out of the control hole and live life !


Posted by What Will They Do Next
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 1, 2020 at 4:56 pm

What Will They Do Next is a registered user.

The SJWs who believe the park should be open to all and claim the majority of Palo Altans want it that way don't have any basis to make that statement. The majority of Palo Altans want to keep the park the way it has been since the land was purchased. A vote will prove that fact. The lawsuit is frivolous and will fail if it should go to court. The city council should not cave on this and demand city attorneys mount a defense that includes the recovery of legal fees.


Posted by What Will They Do Next
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 1, 2020 at 5:13 pm

What Will They Do Next is a registered user.

@ Native to the Bay .... sorry, but this is private land owned by the City of Palo Alto for the use of it's citizens. That is an undeniable fact. Nothing you say can change that. I'll be happy to donate to any effort you make to organize and mobilize people to help those in need, in addition to what I already donate to organizations that do just that. You'll have to get your head out of the control hole and get to work !


Posted by It sounds like we need more legal information
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 1, 2020 at 6:32 pm

It sounds like we need more legal information is a registered user.

Since City Council discussed this in closed session with their lawyers most PA citizens do not have a clear understanding of just what the 1st amendment allows and doesn't allow. It would be nice to have some constitutional lawyers (are there any in Palo Alto??) weigh in and educate us as to what is legal and what isn't and if we stand any chance in court of winning to keep the park private. I'd hate for the city to waste millions of dollars on a case that most constitutional lawyers think we will not win, but if we stand a good chance that would be nice to know before I sign any petition.

In any event, at a minimum we should take out all BBQ pits, picnic tables, bathrooms and drinking fountains. No more boating or fishing on the lake. No driving cars into the park. It should be a quiet nature preserve, all noisy devices banned, with limited facilities for people and no ability to harass or disturb the wildlife. Plus there should be a high enough entry fee that the park rangers are paid for by the people who enter the park.

Give it back to the wildlife and keep the people from bothering them. There are too many of us and not enough room for the rest of the species on earth. PA can do our part by giving this land back to the wildlife.


Posted by Eric Filseth
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 1, 2020 at 7:34 pm

Eric Filseth is a registered user.

>> "The referendum petition similarly frames the issue as one [of] transparency"

>> "It would be nice to have some constitutional lawyers weigh in"

>> “Can someone tell me what the referendum process is? How many signatures? Honestly!”

>> “The lawsuit is frivolous and will fail if it should go to court.”



I'm probably risking some trouble here, but people need to know this stuff, so let me speak as frankly as I can on matters of litigation.

The lawsuit is deadly serious, and “what happens if the referendum passes” is a central question. I’ll try my best to answer that, and add some more information; people deserve to know what they’re signing up for here. I’m going to focus only on the Legal aspects, not the cultural ones. Again, the crucial Legal issue is the First Amendment. But first let me say something about the “Transparency” aspect.

People are not wrong to be unhappy with that. When the City gets hit with a lawsuit like this, one of the first things the Attorney’s office does is to bring in outside expert counsel on the subject area at hand (in this case Constitutional Law), to discuss the issue with Council. All of us on Council have been through that, and I hope it’s not divulging anything improper to say that we barraged them with exactly the same questions you would ask. People ask: if the actual lawsuit is about the Constitution, shouldn’t you seek knowledge from Constitutional Lawyers? We did, and we got it.

However, while our legal system has many admirable qualities, one of its vagaries is that any such discussion that happens in Public can potentially be used as evidence in the actual litigation. In other words, if the expert counsel says, “I think the City’s case is strong on point X but weak on Point Y,” that statement can actually be used against us in a trial. It sounds absurd, but it’s how it works. That’s why these things are done in Closed Session, and everybody’s language in public comes across as so careful and cagey: it’s to keep the City, and therefore residents, in the best possible position in case there’s a real trial. I don’t like this process either – it keeps relevant information from the public, and it’s not like individuals want to go retain their own expert counsel to understand the nuances. But it’s driven by the way our legal system works in America. I’m truly sorry for that.


As for the referendum: I personally think the real fork in the road is not the Referendum itself, but whether the petition succeeds in collecting 2,500 signatures by Dec 16. In my opinion the ballot itself is less important than the Petition to put it there. The following (as with everything Legal) is oversimplified and I apologize if I misstate any of it. But:

If the Petition collects 2,500 signatures, the Settlement is immediately void and litigation presumably proceeds. That normally involves a lengthy process generating large amounts of Discovery and paperwork and billable Legal hours, followed eventually by a trial.

If the City wins the litigation, then we can do whatever we like. Our costs are limited to our own legal expenses, including our outside expert counsel (always used on Litigation matters).

If the City loses the litigation, then the referendum is irrelevant; the ordinance will have been found in court to violate the First Amendment; it’s conceptually like states that pass laws restricting abortion, only to see them struck down as unconstitutional. The Park must then be opened to everyone. It’s unclear what terms that would be under (the Settlement waives us paying the ACLU’s legal fees, and allows a few things like resident priority access to facilities like barbecue pits; but the Settlement will no longer apply).

In this outcome, the City’s costs are not limited to its own legal costs, since the Plaintiffs will also likely seek to recover their Attorneys’ costs as well. The Plaintiffs have retained very high-profile and expensive counsel, who in this time of Covid are working on a pro bono basis. But if they win in court, the pro bono element will almost certainly be dropped and they will attempt to recover their entire accumulated legal costs from Palo Altans. Those costs could be quite high and must ultimately come out of the same General Fund that sources things like the Children’s Theater, Youth Community Services, Public Safety, and, ironically enough, Parks.


Signing the Petition is essentially a high-stakes bet that Palo Alto will prevail in a Constitutional First Amendment lawsuit, with a significant chance of becoming just an expensive protest statement. What those chances are depends not on peoples’ views of fairness or transparency, but on Constitutional Law.

Furthermore, this is not for November, or for 2022; it’s this week and next. I’m trying as hard as I can not to explicitly tell anybody what to do; indeed, though Council voted in favor of the Settlement, it was not unanimous. But especially given the short timeframe, people have a right to know what they’re signing up for, and also that they’re not just signing themselves up, but all their neighbors too. It’s ironic that though we have 67,000 people in town, it only takes 2,500 of us to commit us all to that bet. So let the 2,500 choose wisely.


The preceding discussion reflects my own personal layman’s understanding, and should not be considered a Legal opinion or any official position of the City of Palo Alto.


Posted by Much ADU About Noth’n
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Dec 1, 2020 at 7:54 pm

Much ADU About Noth’n is a registered user.

Please, ACLU the lack Palo Alto and the lack of access to Affordable Housing is ripe for civil investigation. In this COVID war like crisis with an invisible virus, property here is out of reach for low-wage workers. This for health and safety reasons — it’s unequal access galore . I am sure there is a Constitutional argument / connection if one looked .


Posted by What Will They Do Next
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 1, 2020 at 8:22 pm

What Will They Do Next is a registered user.

So, Eric ... it sounds like you're wimping out. Am I wrong?


Posted by Douglas Moran
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 1, 2020 at 8:27 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

When I was writing my blogs on the lawsuit (Web Link I searched for the precedents related to free speech and parks. I found none related to nature preserves. They were downtown parks. One prominently cited case being a park directly across from the County Government building complex. Another prominent one was interwoven between museums, auditoriums, concert halls, ...

The closest is from Connecticut and was decided in a *state* court (not a legal precedent in other states, but its reasoning may be cited). The park was a beach on the edge of the city and was used for political gatherings such as campaign rallies.


Posted by Allen Akin
a resident of Professorville
on Dec 1, 2020 at 9:26 pm

Allen Akin is a registered user.

@Eric Filseth: I don't understand why the validation of the Petition (as opposed to the passing of a Referendum) voids the Settlement. But what you've said convinces me that Foothills is now a liability rather than an asset. We should close it immediately, and in time perhaps find a buyer.


Posted by Douglas Moran
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 1, 2020 at 9:35 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

@Allen Akin:
The plaintiffs specified in the settlement offer that the qualification of a referendum would cancel the offer.


Posted by Lee Forrest
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 1, 2020 at 9:36 pm

Lee Forrest is a registered user.

>"Signing the Petition is essentially a high-stakes bet that Palo Alto will prevail in a Constitutional First Amendment lawsuit, with a significant chance of becoming just an expensive protest statement. What those chances are depends not on peoples’ views of fairness or transparency, but on Constitutional Law."

^ So rather than 'beat around the bush' on this issue and based on the legal input provided by the 'constitutional' attorneys the city sought for advisement...is restricting access to Foothills Park constitutional or non-constitutional?

And if the city opted to charge non-residents a park entrance/usage fee, would that also be considered discriminatory?


Posted by Equal Access to Open Space
a resident of Los Altos
on Dec 1, 2020 at 9:56 pm

Equal Access to Open Space is a registered user.

The procedural argument of the petition proponents regarding “secret city council action” is just a cloak for continued exclusive behavior on the part of Palo Altoans. Justifying the exclusive use of Foothills Park because Palo Alto paid for it (and other cities declined to chip in) is more nonsense. Who do you think paid for the parks in neighboring cities, and throughout California? Those cities and their residents! Foothills Park isn’t some unusual investment by Palo Alto — it’s what cities do: purchase park land, which they then offer to the general public. Except for Foothills Park and Palo Alto.

Are the signatories to the petition part of the public record? It would be interesting to know which closed-minded Palo Alto residents furthered this ungenerous, misguided project.


Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 1, 2020 at 10:04 pm

Anonymous is a registered user.

Doesn’t Cooley Landing qualify as a nature park in EPA?


Posted by rita vrhel
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 1, 2020 at 10:09 pm

rita vrhel is a registered user.

Let's set the record straight.

I contacted Irina after the Post ran an article (11/19) on the Foothills Preserve Referendum. Irina indicated Greg Tanaka had worked with her on the Referendum. I offered to help and contacted Lydia Kou after the Referendum had been submitted to the City Clerk and the announcement posted in the Post.

So while it may make people happy to once again BASH Lydia; this referendum was not her idea. Please give credit or hate where it is due.

I am helping with this Referendum because, while I personally have no problem with Foothills Preserve opening to non -residents, like Irina, I feel the City Council outlined a plan in November, which was overruled by a lawsuit which, IMO, is without merit.

The lawsuit, rather than residents, will now dictate how the Preserve is opened, who will be allowed in and what the costs will be. Likely, the lawsuit's entire conditions of settlement have not been release and will not be until after the lawsuit is settled.

This continues the lack of transparency and decisions made behind closed doors, which has become so widespread in our City government.

Also, IMO, the City caves every time there is a lawsuit. This must stop. Remember the Hotel President.

This Referendum petition is about transparency, honoring what the City Council decided in November on opening the Park to non-residents via a revenue neutral pilot program and then a vote by PA residents in 2022.

So please know the facts and then decide what you would like to do. Thank you.


Posted by Douglas Moran
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 1, 2020 at 10:24 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

This is a very disturbing trend -- implicit, but clear, threats of retaliation against those that disagree with you. We have multiple prominent Democrats calling for retaliation against Trump's enablers, potentially including all those who voted for him, including as the "least worse choice". The common euphemism in such calls for retaliation is "Truth and Reconciliation", but if you listen to what else those advocates say, there is no interest in either truth or reconciliation (eg "removed from polite society").

This is much worse than Nixon's "Enemies List" -- it is neo-McCarthyism.

===
Note on commenter James' use of "White Supremacist": You don't have to be White to be a "White Supremacist" -- many who are labeled such are of other races and ethnicities. All you need is to subscribe to the values of "Whiteness" as determined by those throwing the slur.


Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 1, 2020 at 10:26 pm

Annette is a registered user.

This is nuts. Like parents arguing over custody, it is the very subject of the tug of war that suffers. Those behind the lawsuit have played their cards better than the City did. Is anyone really surprised about that? Unfortunately, that side is focused on winning the access argument, not the practical aspects of managing and protecting the preserve. Or the budget to assure that Foothills remains as special as it is today. A Pyrhhic victory. What a shame.

The proposed trial was a good idea. Why were those behind the lawsuit not willing to let that play out? Opportunity of the times? Too bad, doing so would have been in the best interests of this special place and provided some data on which to build a management plan. Also, I think many who rather Foothills access remain unchanged would, over time, see that it was a workable, reasonable compromise.

As for the accusation that the policy was racist - I think that is an accusation that is more opportunistic than accurate. Palo Alto has to own its share of undesirable traits (elitist, pretentious, often ridiculous, come to mind) but racist isn't one of them.


Posted by Douglas Moran
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 1, 2020 at 10:35 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

In my comment above, the statement being referred to was omitted. It was

@Equal access to open space: "Are the signatories to the petition part of the public record? It would be interesting to know which closed-minded Palo Alto residents furthered this ungenerous, misguided project."


Posted by PetPoo
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Dec 1, 2020 at 11:25 pm

PetPoo is a registered user.

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


Posted by Eric Filseth
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 2, 2020 at 12:31 am

Eric Filseth is a registered user.

@What Will -- it's not a question of wimping vs not wimping, it's a question of the wisest possible stewardship of our mutual property and money in an imperfect world. Besides, at this point it's really up to you, not me.


@Allen -- @Doug Moran is right about the Settlement, and @Lee Forest asks the critical question. There’s a huge amount of confusion around this whole issue, but what people really, really need to understand are two things:

First, most Petition efforts fall along the lines of, “let’s put it on the ballot, and then we can discuss it, and then we'll vote on it.” This one does not. If the Petition reaches 2,500 signatures, the litigation goes forward.

Second, that litigation will ultimately be decided by the answer to @Lee Forest’s question “will a court find our Policy to be Constitutional?” We all have to take our best guess, which is hard since most people are not Constitutional lawyers. People should consider the stakes for winning and losing, and they may take some clues on what the council and the Plaintiffs think by looking at their actions.


Posted by Douglas Moran
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 2, 2020 at 12:58 am

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

@Eric Filseth
As I understand it, there are three costs associated with litigating this
1. City of Palo Alto lawyer fees
2. Cost of staff time during Discovery and costs of taking staff away from their normal work.
3. Cost of the plaintiffs lawyer fees and other expenses if Palo Alto loses and the judge decides to award them those costs.

Since their lawsuit appears to be a matter of constitutional law -- what the law is, not the facts of the case -- it would seem that the discovery would be quite limited. Or is the judge likely to allow the plaintiffs broad powers of discovery?

-----------
The costs of settling would be upgrade Foothills Nature Preserve to handle a larger volume of visitors starting Dec 17. Staff testimony in June and August indicated a minimum of several million dollars of immediate capital expenditures, deferrable capital expenditures, and increased ongoing maintenance expenses.

With the likelihood of further budget cuts being needed because of projected tax losses due to more COVID shutdowns, where is that funding going to come from?


Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 2, 2020 at 4:37 am

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

I love it when people point to Golden Gate Park as an equivalent comparison (Joel). GGP is partially funded by the state, is directly in the middle of a major city, and has major highways crossing the junctions within. You will find major museums, major tourist attractions - all of which are funded by anyone who subscribes to be a member. You all get mailings to join the Natural Science Museum - not cheap. And you have a restaurant/bar there - the Beach Chalet. Along with soccer fields.

Why is that a comparison to FHP? FHP is isolated, hard to get to, has no pretensions to being a major tourist attraction. It has no commercial interests, no tourist shop with cute animals, and no food unless you bring your own.

I think the "Constitutional" argument is a side show - a distraction. We have numerous organizations that buy land - POST being one of those. POST buys large sections of land, formerly private ranches and farm land, that then takes them out of the arena for development and housing. The City of Palo Alto has bought a section of land to take it out of the housing arena. This section of land is surrounded by other private land - specifically SU land. Other land in the area is owned by other regional organizations to prevent housing being built.

FHP is isolated, is difficult to get to, is not in the middle of a major city. It is not supporting any major tourist attraction or commercial interest - like a restaurant.

Los Altos Hills does have a park that you need reservations to get into and pay for that reservation. That is a way to control the number of people in the park at any one time. They have a small zoo so that is their tourist attraction.

If POST, SU has private land then figure out why there is no constitutional argument concerning how they are approaching their land acquisitions. PA has a lot of parks that are in developed areas, are easy to get to, Mitchell park has food available, and qualifies for a different type of financial roadmap as to how managed - lots of rentals to groups. A major library. Mitchell Park could be a tourist attraction since it borders on the Little League Fields and has commercial events with food trucks. The business model has to be qualifier for how "constitutional" any property would be classified.


Posted by Leslie York
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 2, 2020 at 4:39 am

Leslie York is a registered user.

Some people feel they are entitled to use the park even though someone else is footing the bill.

Something for nothing.


Posted by Missing Point
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 2, 2020 at 7:35 am

Missing Point is a registered user.

Here’s what everyone is missing -
The council voted that 2nd time under threat of lawsuit and paying opposing counsel’s fees without having all the information they asked for and needed.

Right before they voted, Vice mayor DuBois asked if the court would have a role after the lawsuit was settled? Molly Stump said she couldn’t tell them in public - they would have to stop the meeting (or continue the item?) to go into closed session for her to give them that information. This was presumably so disruptive and time consuming it was declined and council moved on to vote (why was this vital issue not covered in the 2 closed sessions before this meeting?).

I think what DuBois was asking about was the lawsuits permanent injunction which hadn’t been discussed. Was the park/city going to be subjected to long term court oversight? This is a big deal - kind of like being on probation. The council needed to know this and its ramifications before they voted, as did the public. It could make a difference.

If council, staff and some residents are puzzled about why this referendum is happening, look to this sort of reprehensible behavior - settling without knowing all the facts with the public still not knowing the terms of settlement. Eric Filseth’s vague ramblings about Constitutional issues doesn’t help.

I don’t support the referendum, but I understand why it’s happening, as should staff and council.


Posted by Eric Filseth
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 2, 2020 at 7:56 am

Eric Filseth is a registered user.

@Doug,

Great questions – so glad you understand this so well.

Discovery – it’s hard to be sure, but obviously the Plaintiffs and their counsel have a big incentive to push for as broad as possible. It's a real concern.

On the costs – the recession has obviously squeezed every budget in town. It’s important that nothing here keeps us from limiting the total number of Preserve visitors, ie the net environmental impact; only our ability to sort them based on residence.


Posted by Lee Forrest
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 2, 2020 at 8:01 am

Lee Forrest is a registered user.

>"I think the "Constitutional" argument is a side show - a distraction."

^ As in NAACP & ACLU vs Palo Alto?

Being a 'constitutional' matter, if this case were to go the SCOTUS, then it would truly become a sideshow.

Picture the liberal pundits on CNN commenting with their 'Oh the humanity'
moral outrage while the more conservative FOX News defended the right to keep outsiders off both public & private property.

A conservative leaning SCOTUS would then makes its 'landmark' decision.

The result & regardless of the outcome...more protests.


Posted by Name hidden
a resident of Downtown North

on Dec 2, 2020 at 8:53 am

Due to repeated violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are automatically removed. Why?


Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 2, 2020 at 9:06 am

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

Lee - you are over=dramatizing this whole topic, as are the people who mounted this "grievance". And it happened at an opportune time when the PACC was on vacation and the political scene was ripe for a "story". The "story" has moved on. There are new topics to pursue that require funding.

I still take the position it is not a constitutional event. FHP is an isolated piece of land that has no commercial attributes. We are not making money on it. We are spending money on it. It is in the land preservation and conservation category. It is in the forestry category. There are protections dedicated to that type of land. We just have not positioned it correctly.


Posted by Lee Forrest
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 2, 2020 at 9:28 am

Lee Forrest is a registered user.

>"Lee - you are over=dramatizing this whole topic, as are the people who mounted this "grievance".

^ Not over-dramatizing...just being a bit sardonic.

And as for the people who filed this 'grievance' opposing restricted access...only in Palo Alto (or so it seems).



Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 2, 2020 at 9:54 am

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

The city needs to look at how this property is reported in the budget and for tax reporting. It is not in the same category as Greer Park and other income generating properties. It needs to go in a separate category to track the cost to the city.

There is no income except when a group reserves a specific spot. Also the insurance liability for this site should be separated. The city needs to be able to report the total cost of supporting this area including the waste pick-up and personnel cost. It needs to go into a different category for reporting purposes - Conservation land, Refuge etc. If you combine it with all of the other parks you have changed the identity of the park.


Posted by Name hidden
a resident of Downtown North

on Dec 2, 2020 at 9:54 am

Due to repeated violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are automatically removed. Why?


Posted by Lee Forrest
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 2, 2020 at 10:40 am

Lee Forrest is a registered user.

Curious...what's next on the ACLU/NAACP agenda in Palo Alto?

Elimination of green fees at the Palo Alto Municipal Golf Course because it excludes those who cannot afford to play golf...or will they be targeting the Palo Alto Hills & Country Club for its 'exclusionary' membership fees?


Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Dec 2, 2020 at 10:56 am

Anonymous is a registered user.

Does anyone know whether I can donate my money to support the plaintiff in this particular lawsuit?

Looks like this will be the first year I donate to ACLU and NAACP.


Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 2, 2020 at 11:00 am

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

Just checking Google for sites that are specific to land that has no commercial purpose. This property needs to be pulled from the Parks and Recreation category. It is not a park and not for recreation (golf, baseball, soccer). A tax expert needs to categorize this as a refuge, land management, undeveloped land with exception for fire trails, bathrooms, etc. Su has probably already done this for their property up in the hills.

My suspicion is that it is grouped for tax purposes on the city books so that it's costs are merged with all of the parks. There are a lot of approaches to take here but need a tax expert specific to land management to isolate out the qualifications. Check with Nature Conservancy, POST, SU, etc. for advice here. You will have to do this for the legal case so start now.
Create it's own category on the city books - maybe Land Conservancy. Quit trying to sell it as a Park.


Posted by Jennifer Landesmann
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 2, 2020 at 11:24 am

Jennifer Landesmann is a registered user.

@Eric Filseth

".... That’s why these things are done in Closed Session, and everybody’s language in public comes across as so careful and cagey: it’s to keep the City, and therefore residents, in the best possible position in case there’s a real trial. I don’t like this process either – it keeps relevant information from the public, and it’s not like individuals want to go retain their own expert counsel to understand the nuances. But it’s driven by the way our legal system works in America. I’m truly sorry for that."

Then again...on matters such as FAA, Council has been unnecessarily misleading- using closed sessions as an excuse. I wonder if having an elected City Attorney accountable to the people would minimize poor communications with the public or misinformation.

In three cases that have the same type grounds in common (when FAA misuses and abuses NEPA rules intended to protect the public) PACC gave three very different responses to why they passed on legal action. In 2014 the City did not do public outreach when the City was notified that an FAA action was happening, how a challenge could have been mounted, or if the city even looked at the case. In 2018 with new cases lining up, then Mayor Kniss announced that the City didn't have a case to challenge "at this time" - implying that when a case was on the table that the City would maybe step up? I know many were heartened by that "not at this time" phrase.  In 2019, with a case (PIRAT) that particularly affects night time air traffic over Palo Alto and neighbors, Mayor Filseth gave no further comments to residents about why PACC declined to file a petition for review. But a letter was sent out to the roundtable officials to share why PACC voted as they did (that did not even reflect what residents were asking for). 

One communication (or no communication) for residents and another for others. IMHO the quirks and burdens of the legal system should not include what I felt butchered resident voices in the case of PIRAT, and improvements are possible.

This is not meant as a distraction from the original thread, just that the City Attorney, external legal counsel and other advisors I suppose weigh more heavily in those closed sessions  - and so no wonder things come back to catch up later - in increasingly complicated ways- cagey has long term costs.

Lastly - what PACC does today needs to be read decades from now and people should not have to dig up old press articles to know history. Reminder that Town Square discussions also still leave the broader population "out" so I can understand a referendum for stakeholders to participate more fully and process what's up or down with the Foothill or ANY situation. 


Posted by Michele Landis Dauber
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 2, 2020 at 11:40 am

Michele Landis Dauber is a registered user.

The good thing about this is that it clearly exposes the racist NIMBYism of Palo Alto once and for all.

Other than that, it's an embarrassing, sickening moment in which the fake mask of liberal progressivism is finally ripped away to show the world who many Palo Altans really are.


Posted by Childish
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 2, 2020 at 12:30 pm

Childish is a registered user.

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


Posted by Palo Alto Resident
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 2, 2020 at 12:38 pm

Palo Alto Resident is a registered user.

I'm fine with opening the Park/Preserve to the public. But I am very disappointed in the city staff (Shikada, Stump, and their predecessors) and council (current and former) that they put the City in a position where it has no options, and is being dictated to by a narrow group with a specious argument. That's a lousy situation, and there's no excuse. They could have - and should have - seen this coming for years and done things to prevent it. This is what weak leadership looks like.


Posted by Michele Dauber
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 2, 2020 at 2:16 pm

Michele Dauber is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


Posted by Lee Forrest
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 2, 2020 at 2:18 pm

Lee Forrest is a registered user.

>".... That’s why these things are done in Closed Session, and everybody’s language in public comes across as so careful and cagey: -it keeps relevant information from the public,"

^ And why is that...perhaps due to a lack of PACC adherences to The Brown Act, (aka California Government Code 54950)?

"The Brown Act, originally was enacted in response to mounting public concerns over informal, undisclosed meetings held by local elected officials. City councils, county boards, and other local government bodies were avoiding public scrutiny by holding secret "workshops" and "study sessions." The Brown Act solely applies to California government agencies, boards, and councils."

source: wikipedia


Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Dec 2, 2020 at 2:53 pm

Anonymous is a registered user.

I just donated to ACLU for the first time with the following comment on my donation: "Please keep up your good work on forcing the City of Palo Alto to open up Foothills Park to the general public".

I encourage you to do the same.


Posted by Lee Forrest
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 2, 2020 at 3:06 pm

Lee Forrest is a registered user.

>"The good thing about this is that it clearly exposes the racist NIMBYism of Palo Alto once and for all."

^ Such a harsh indictment of the good people of Palo Alto...have you ever been to Danville/Orinda/Walnut Creek in Contra Costa County?

They 'wrote the book' on what you are describing.


Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 2, 2020 at 3:13 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

To the blogger posting here who thinned about "retaliation" against Trump enablers-It would every federal employee for sticking to the truth and calling out his lies is petty retaliation.

As a left wing progressive, I find the accusation of racism re FHP too ridiculous to even argue against. I have always thought that FHP should be closed off to humans and retained as a nature and wildlife preserve. Now is the time to do what should have been done years ago and be done with it.


Posted by Eric Filseth
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 2, 2020 at 4:05 pm

Eric Filseth is a registered user.

@Resident1 – “I still take the position it is not a constitutional event.”
== That’s what I thought too, six weeks ago. It was a shock.

@Missing – sorry if I’m being vague. If what you’re asking is, “what are the chances of winning or losing?” of course I have a personal guess. I can’t share it in public for all the previous reasons. But everybody considering signing the Petition should have a guess of their own.

@Jennifer – believe it or not, the PIRAT discussion hewed quite closely to those guidelines: a legal-centric discussion of risks, benefits, chances of success vs failure, alternatives etc. The FAA, you know my views. Beyond that … let me buy you a cup of coffee in a couple years.

@Lee Forest – after decades in the Corporate world I find the Brown Act to be a pain in the tail, but it’s there for a reason. Interestingly, the state legislature in Sacramento isn’t subject to it. I think we might benefit if it were.

Yours, btw, is still the pithiest description yet (including mine) of the central issue here: is our policy Unconstitutional, because of the First Amendment?

If it isn’t Unconstitutional, then we’re free to choose our own destiny. But if it is Unconstitutional, then:

1. Just =signing the petition= (not even voting) will likely have significant financial consequences for the City

2. The Pilot Program will not go forward no matter how anybody votes. FHP access will be determined in a federal court in accordance with the First Amendment.


@Lee Forest – different facilities are treated differently via case law. At one end of the spectrum is Sidewalks and Parks. At the other end is private residences. Everything else (Golf Courses …) is somewhere in between.


FYI the City has just posted a sizable FAQ on its web site with answers to a number of the questions circulating on this board. Here’s the link: Web Link

Also, the terms of the Settlement Agreement are here: Web Link

Finally, anybody who wants to discuss this offline, send me an email at [email protected]


Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 2, 2020 at 4:39 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

"^ Such a harsh indictment of the good people of Palo Alto...have you ever been to Danville/Orinda/Walnut Creek in Contra Costa County?

They 'wrote the book' on what you are describing."

The East Bay cities you mention may represent communities that have staunchly resisted demographic diversity over the decades. But I would suggest that it is Palo Alto that "wrote the book" on discriminatory suburban housing practices. "The Color of Law," by Richard Rothstein was featured as the city's first "Palo Alto Reads" selection in August. It details Palo Alto's important role in embedding racially discriminatory "redlining" not only in local real estate lending practice but in national policy. Redlining warped post-war residential development and left a legacy of segregated housing, jobs, and schools that stubbornly divides the nation even today.


Posted by Douglas Moran
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 2, 2020 at 4:53 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

@Jerry Underal: "... "Palo Alto Reads" selection in August. It details Palo Alto's important role in embedding racially discriminatory "redlining" not only in local real estate lending practice but in national policy."

I missed that in the book -- Could you give a page number and rough description of what areas in Palo Alto were redlined and approximate dates?

As you acknowledge, redlining was done by lenders: banks, Federal agencies,... I missed where the Palo Alto government was one of these lenders. Details?

I also missed the part where Palo Alto had an "important role" in establishing "national policy". Details would be useful.


Posted by Lee Forrest
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 2, 2020 at 5:25 pm

Lee Forrest is a registered user.

>"But I would suggest that it is Palo Alto that "wrote the book" on discriminatory suburban housing practices. "The Color of Law," by Richard Rothstein...It details Palo Alto's important role in embedding racially discriminatory "redlining" not only in local real estate lending practice but in national policy."

> "I missed that in the book --"

^ Concurring with Mr. Moran as Richard Rothstein was focusing on post-war East Palo Alto real estate practices.

Having grown up in Palo Alto, I can attest that there were a sizable number of African American families residing in the Ventura neighborhood. Their children attended the old Mayfield School on ECR along with primarily white students from the Evergreen, Southgate & College Terrace neighborhoods.

Ventura was a working-class neighborhood that offered affordable housing to people of color during the late 1940s through 1970s.

To lump Palo Alto real estate practices with those of East Palo Alto is both misleading & innacurate as one's income level, occupation & education pretty much determined where one resided in Palo Alto 'back in the day'.

Same as today.


Posted by Chris Robell
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 2, 2020 at 7:09 pm

Chris Robell is a registered user.

I support the petition since I think it's important that we NOT (1) undermine a democratic process by not letting voters decide (and instead have things behind closed doors) and (2) further cement a pattern of rewarding people who file a lawsuit with a settlement.

Regardless of what you think of this petition, we should all be worried about how our City Manager and City Attorney are managing this petition process. The petition requires a Palo Alto voter to witness and obtain signatures in person of anyone wanting to sign which is unreasonable given we are in the critical weeks of a raging pandemic. I asked the City Clerk if some exception process could be used whereby electronic signatures could be allowed given this emergency situation (i.e., do you really want me going door to door to collect 2600 signatures?). She said the City Manager and City Attorney are not willing to implement any exceptions to the process. I asked if this could be agendized as a City Council item but no answer as of yet.

I think ANY petition (even without Covid) should allow voters to easily vote. It cannot be that hard to implement Docusign or some such service so everyone's vote can be easily counted. But certainly some form of electronic signatures (even scanning signature as a pdf) should be allowed given the stated desire not to spread Covid.


Posted by Pragmatic
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 2, 2020 at 8:04 pm

Pragmatic is a registered user.

I do support Lydia and Eric on the council, but in this case, I don't think a referendum is worth it, of all the things we could referend. I would have preferred to go after the rezoning of the President Hotel that allowed the company to kick out the residents, or if the council allows retail spaces to be rented for non-retail uses, definitely that should be overturned.

We all know that it's just rich Los Altos Hills residents who will use the park if it's opened. And I understand the history that Palo Altans took it on themselves to purchase the land and Los Altos and others wouldn't, which is why it's restricted. But I also have lots of memories of the optics of it, people saying "oh, and snooty Palo Alto has a park that only lets Palo Alto residents in."

Pretty much every rec department has a lower rate for residents and advantages their registrations, but does not restrict people from outside from taking classes there. I think this is the way forward. The park should go on a reservation system with an annual fee that goes to upkeep and even programs for youth, and the fee should be lower to Palo Alto residents, a lot higher for everyone else including Los Altos Hills residents who can afford it, with an income-based waiver (like the rec department classes have for tuition already). That way, no one is kept from the park based on income or where they live. The park could institute a reservation system in order to prevent over crowding, but one that doesn't exclude people who don't live here. If it begins to excluse Palo Altans, then the system can be revisited.

I'd really prefer we put our energy into coming up with a good plan similar to the above and just move forward. Even if residents win a referendum, it won't make the controversy go away.

People who supposedly care about equity, please take your legal time and get the city libraries to stop charging fees and fines for overdue books. I'm not talking about during the pandemic when all that's suspended anyway. I'm talking after this is over -- listen to the recent NPR story on how overdue fines and fees don't really get people to bring their materials back on time, and they have been shown quite definitively to shut out people who can't afford to pay them and most need the library's free services. Our City has long enjoyed taking the library overdue fees for the general fund, and sets some of the most punitive and ridiculous fines of any library system I've ever used. It turns out to be an actual social justice issue (as opposed to this stupid fight over Foothill Park which is a made up one).

Open up the park, make it equitable while still protecting the access of residents so they aren't shut out, make the fees support the park and programs, and waive them for anyone who can't afford them. Shake hands and move on to other more important matters. Times are hard.


Posted by Mike Bechler
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 2, 2020 at 9:17 pm

Mike Bechler is a registered user.

Eric Filseth: What do the rights of free speech and assembly have to do with the right to go somewhere where you are not allowed to be? The right to travel does not guarantee access to places where you are not allowed to go. And if you are not allowed to be there, you are certainly not allowed to assemble or give speeches there. What's really at stake here is the right of a city to restrict access to any property it owns to residents of that city.

If 751 people go to the park, is person number 751 allowed to travel, assemble and speak there?

Duveneck Neighbor: According to the article, it was the lawsuit that injected race into the discussion. I agree it doesn't belong there, but commenters didn't put it there; the people who filed the lawsuit did.

When you cut through the rhetoric, this lawsuit is about whether people who are not residents of a city can demand that a city grant them access to its city property. The racial arguments are a specious attempt to get the camel's nose under the tent.


Posted by Chapter and Verse
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 2, 2020 at 9:46 pm

Chapter and Verse is a registered user.


Posted by Douglas Moran
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 2, 2020 at 10:03 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

The right to travel is not explicitly in the Constitution, but has evolved by court decisions. It is more of a right of *movement*, including permanent moves between the states. This includes significant disincentives to move, for example, a requirement that a person be a resident of a state for at least a year before becoming eligible for state benefits such as welfare. It also includes measures meant to discourage people from leaving a state, such as an exit tax (Gov Newsom has been mentioning such, but I haven't seen anyone saying it is unconstitutional). I don't know the details of the state's right to travel.

Restricted access to Foothills Park would seem to be an incentive for people to move to Palo Alto, rather than a disincentive.

Note: I am not a lawyer. This is the result of my online searches when the lawsuit was filed.


Posted by Lee Forrest
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 2, 2020 at 10:29 pm

Lee Forrest is a registered user.

>"What do the rights of free speech and assembly have to do with the right to go somewhere where you are not allowed to be?"

>"When you cut through the rhetoric, this lawsuit is about whether people who are not residents of a city can demand that a city grant them access to its city property.

^ Good points as there is NOTHING in the U.S. Constitution addressing park access. Thus it is absolutely ludicrous to view this conflict as a constitutional issue.

On the other hand, another key federal law could be the arguing point for the ACLU & NAACP & that one involves civil rights.

Under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, segregation on the grounds of race, religion or national origin was banned at all places of public accommodation, including courthouses, parks, restaurants, theaters, sports arenas and hotels.

Now whether a PRIVATE city-owned park falls under 'places of public accomodation' is subject to debate as are the racist accusations currently being alleged by 'progressive reformers'.

Given the 'places of accomodation' examples (and with the exception of courthouses), perhaps the only way to keep Foothills Park 'semi-private' would be to charge non-residents an entrance fee (like the city used to at the old municipal dumpyard) while allowing Palo Alto residents free access.

And perhaps most importantly...establish maximum capacity limitations to ensure the park isn't overun by hordes of park guests.








Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 2, 2020 at 11:20 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

@Doug Moran

In Chapter 1, "If San Francisco, then Everywhere?" Mr. Rothstein begins his narrative with brief but pregnant case studies of housing and race in two Northern California cities, Richmond and Palo Alto (pp.10-14), in the post-WWII period and ends with this summary:

"In ways like these, federal, state, and local governments purposely created segregation in every metropolitan area of the nation. If it could happen in liberal San Francisco, then indeed, it not only could but did happen everywhere....The government was not following preexisting racial patterns; it was imposing segregation where it hadn't previously taken root."

My response to Lee Forest's directing our attention to East Bay suburbs was intended to draw attention back to Palo Alto's post-war experience as a setting where government policies and real estate industry practices, including redlining and blockbusting, led to two highly segregated communities, Palo Alto and East Palo Alto, and deprived African-American home-seekers of a fair opportunity to benefit from the amenities that would come with Palo Alto residency.










Posted by Good on Race
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 2, 2020 at 11:21 pm

Good on Race is a registered user.

Mr. Underdall says the book, Color of Law, "...details Palo Alto's important role in embedding racially discriminatory "redlining" not only in local real estate lending practice but in national policy."

I own the book, read it, and attended the webinar he mentioned that the author held. I did not read or hear what Underdall asserts.

In Palo Alto's history we had the sorts of race based discrimination of the times, shared by other towns and cities around us.

In other ways Palo Alto has been racially progressive which makes sense given the town's politics and voting record over decades:
-In 1964, Proposition 14 was on the CA ballot, passing 2-1. It made it legal to refuse to sell or rent housing, or make loans based on race, repealing fair housing laws. Going against the grain, Palo Alto voted against it. Three years later the CA Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional.
-In Prop 14's wake, Mid-peninsula Citizens for Fair Housing was established to educate, investigate and litigate housing discrimination cases. It was the first fair housing agency in the country and developed the method of investigation to find proof of discrimination still used today for housing, bank lending, car loan investigations.
-Joseph Eichler built his Post WWII housing developments here with explicit inclusionary agreements, welcoming diversity to south Palo Alto which is reflected here today.

Having some historical perspective that includes a fuller range of our history in context with other towns makes for a more honest view of ours.


Posted by Good on Race
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 2, 2020 at 11:49 pm

Good on Race is a registered user.

Mr. Underdall, the pages 10-14 you cite above solely concern US govenment FHA loans which were not prohibited to African Americans everywhere, including in Palo Alto.

This is systemic racism at work, with consequences for our town and its people, and the people not allowed to live here. But what this isn't is, unfortunately, anything unusual - it was universal.

The point is, Palo Alto does not have an unusally bad racial past and in fact has some good history of doing the right thing. We need to keep that in mind and in proportion.


Posted by Leslie York
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 3, 2020 at 12:09 am

Leslie York is a registered user.

"this lawsuit is about whether people who are not residents of a city can demand that a city grant them access to its city property. The racial arguments are a specious attempt to get the camel's nose under the tent."

The lawsuit is an attempt to strongarm the city of Palo Alto into granting non-residents access to the park, with the "race card" being used as a bludgeon by people with a great sense of entitlement who are acting as if it is THEIR park and they have a God-given right to use it.

The fact is, people who live in East Palo Alto and Menlo Park don't even live in Santa Clara county. They pay their taxes to San Mateo county, so they contribute NOTHING to the upkeep and maintenance of the park. They're demanding something for nothing.

Yosemite is a national park owned by the U.S. government and all have access to it, but its maintenance and upkeep are paid for by users ($35 per vehicle) and by U.S. taxpayers. Palo Alto taxpayers pay to keep Foothills park open, so non-residents don't have an automatic right to use the park IMO.

I think it only fair that residents of Palo Alto should determine who may use an asset they own.

How disappointing that the city simply rolled over and caved in to this lawsuit without even imposing an admission fee for non residents.


Posted by Privileged
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 3, 2020 at 12:35 am

Privileged is a registered user.

Will I still be asked to prove my Palo Alto residency to dispose old paint or pesticides at our city's Household Hazardous Waste Station on Saturday morning?


Posted by Douglas Moran
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 3, 2020 at 1:20 am

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

On entry fee for non-residents: The settlement offer requires that the fee for non-residents be no more than 1/3 higher than that for residents (alt: residents can have a discount of 25% from the non-resident fee).


Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 3, 2020 at 1:39 am

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

@Good on race

"This is systemic racism at work, with consequences for our town and its people, and the people not allowed to live here. But what this isn't is, unfortunately, anything unusual - it was universal.

The point is, Palo Alto does not have an unusally bad racial past and in fact has some good history of doing the right thing. We need to keep that in mind and in proportion."

I agree with you in large measure, but there's room for improvement, according to many. There's disagreement about the proper resolution to the Foothills Park issue and its connection to social equity. For myself, I'm with former Mayor Leland Levy and other Palo Altans who have long argued that it is not just tone-deaf but wrong to hold onto current policy.

I appreciate Eric Filseth's cautionary message. I'm eager to learn more about the legal arguments that were persuasive enough to convince a majority on the council that it would be better to settle than take a chance in court. There's significant monetary as well as reputational risk for the city if a petition forces further legal proceedings. I hope we don't go down that road, but it'll be interesting if we do.


Posted by Leslie York
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 3, 2020 at 3:53 am

Leslie York is a registered user.

Wouldn't it be better for the park's fate to be decided by a majority of residents who actually use the park as it would be in a referendum, than by a jury of out-of-towners in a court of law?

"The place was more jammed than I've ever seen it on Wednesday evening, with people littering, speeding and drinking."

I rest my case.


Posted by Alex
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 3, 2020 at 4:05 am

Alex is a registered user.

What a joke. You people will while about “but we’ll have to spend more money on the park” as of the lawsuits we’ll have to fight and lose will be completely free of taxpayer money! Lydia Kou is an absolute grifter, and you all should be embarrassed to go along with this charade.


Posted by Good on Race
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 3, 2020 at 7:05 am

Good on Race is a registered user.

Typo Correction - above I wrote that:
“FHA loans were not prohibited to African Americans everywhere”.

I was re-writing and didn’t take the “not” out.

FHA loans were prohibited to African Americans everywhere by the US government, including in Palo Alto which had no control over them.

Also, Palo Alto united to support saving the mostly Latino Buena Vista and the city spent $14 million toward buying it.

By the way, I oppose the referendum.


Posted by Michele Landis Dauber
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 3, 2020 at 8:46 am

Michele Landis Dauber is a registered user.

For all the people who are pressing this referendum, perhaps you are not aware that placing measures on the ballot is not free. In fact it can be quite costly, because the County registrar of voters sees ballot measures as a profit center and charges for measures are steep and will be paid by the taxpayers of Palo Alto.

This could cost potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars -- money better expended on improvements at the park (excuse me, preserve) you all claim to love so much.

Honestly, when the non-residents get into Foothills, they are going to realize that it's nowhere near as nice as Rancho (free) or Huddart (six dollars) and wonder what all the fuss was about. Everyone knows that.

If we take the proponents of this measure at their word, [portion removed] they are saying that they want to open the park to non-residents but they want to spend potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars to put this on the ballot, and potentially millions on defending a lawsuit in legal fees, to accomplish literally nothing.

[Portion removed.]


Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 3, 2020 at 8:59 am

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

The city allowed this whole scenario back when certain PACC members (red hair) were touting the idea of music festivals in the FHP, great light shows, etc. I suspect that those people are included in the pack animals that started this. A VISION. Like Shakespeare in the park. That is the DRAMA section of the citizens. You can see those comments when they compare to GGP where great festivals take place. Recreate the LOVE generation smoking weed. And part of the GROUP that started this had a vision of a bus service that took people up and down the one-lane sheer drop off street - a contract with the city for all of those buses that have no other use. An age group that remembers all of the crazy activity of that time period. End use a commercial venture. There is your constitutional issue.

If the city includes this in the Parks and Rec listing of PARKS that can be reserved then you have positioned it in a commercial category - like baseball at Greer Park. Like music venues at Mitchell Park along with the Chili Cook-off.

FHP has to be defined as a Nature Preserve, Fire Break area - which it is. Take out of the hands of Park and Rec and create a new line of city budget activity which could include Arastadero Preserve and the bay lands. These are non-commercial pieces of land that qualify as land preservations, bay protection. A whole different category for tax purposes. Tax purpose is part of where the law defines any function as to category.

So the rest of Silicon Valley has figured this out. POST, Land Trust, SU. Whole sections of land that have no commercial requirement for use to generate money.
SU, POST, Land Trust, Nature Conservancy can we get some help here?

Create a whole different category on the "books" called Land Conservation and Bay Protection. That is a different category in the Tax Codes - and the Tax Codes which define the end use of any venture.

Most parks are closed right now due to Covid and fire danger. Close the park for now. Get it redefined starting year 2021. It is not a PARK. It is a Nature Conservation area created as a fire break in part, a protect animal and plant pathway that allows the animals to connect across the hills. And allow people to reserve a time and date when they can come in and hike, HELP the staff, build trails and define the waterways. Yes - a stream that overruns.

And anyone can come in and reserve a space to help the staff work in the area to reduce potential fire sections.

You can do this and remove any "Constitutional" definition that you have already created. It is not a commercial venture, It is not a revenue generating location. It is a science based location to study the stars, promote land conservation, create animal pathways across the hills. And allow people to come in and assist the staff in land clearance, trail stabilization, fire reduction.


Posted by Lee Forrest
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 3, 2020 at 9:16 am

Lee Forrest is a registered user.

>"The city allowed this whole scenario back when certain PACC members (red hair) were touting the idea of music festivals in the FHP, great light shows, etc. ...Recreate the LOVE generation smoking weed."

^ Woodstock in Palo Alto? Imagine what a bizarre documentary film that would make...Deadheads vs NIMBY's, PAPD 'interventions', PACC interviews, helicopter shots showing the traffic gridlock up Page Mill Road, various entrepreneurial endeavors (some illegal), skinny dipping in the park lake, wild animals scurrying into the more remote areas, aid stations treating poison oak & other medical emergencies, massive amounts of litter scattered about...a musical 'lovefest' including both residents & COUNTLESS non-residents flooding into Palo Alto Foothills Park for a day/night, weekend or week of open-air festivities.

Imagine the possibilities.


Posted by Mike Bechler
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 3, 2020 at 9:32 am

Mike Bechler is a registered user.

"Will I still be asked to prove my Palo Alto residency to dispose old paint or pesticides at our city's Household Hazardous Waste Station on Saturday morning?"

They have asked me several times in the past.

"In fact it (the referendum process) can be quite costly."

That's a fine excuse for not exercising democracy. Besides, it might succeed.

"So either they are racists and elitist ..."

You forgot to mention people who resist being steamrolled by specious accusations of racism.


Posted by Good on Race
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 3, 2020 at 9:55 am

Good on Race is a registered user.

It seems Michele Dauber is incapable of restraining herself from calling people names [portion removed] because she disagrees with those gathering signatures for a possible referendum.

I too disagree with the referendum, but people have a right to do this, win or lose. Calling people names and impuning everyone's character who disagrees with you is destructive. It only entrenches positions, makes people understandably angry, making things worse not better.

[Portion removed.]





Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 3, 2020 at 10:03 am

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

Lee - your sarcasm is not appreciated. I am providing a pathway to get out of this mess and it is a legal position. The city created this mess and needs to get re-aligned to get out of it. The US tax Code is where legal definitions come into the forefront - they define the end use of any activity. That is where the big bucks are - dollars. And the Constitutional definition of any activity.

Reality is I can remember who specifically is the PACC member who was touting the recreation of the love generation in FHP. If I said his name this would be bounced.

I contribute to the Land Trust, POST, Nature Conservancy, and have prior family history on the end use of properties specific to SU. We are looking at fighting a law suit and also extricating the city from the mess they allowed to happen. It is to be expected that if you have good thing going - which we did - then multitudes will get on the band wagon to financially capitalize on that. The story of PA - capitalize on anything that is working well and get yourself in the papers with a "cause'.


Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 3, 2020 at 10:07 am

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

@Good on Race

Thank you for being a voice on this thread for the socially progressive side of Palo Alto that I have always held dear but fear is in danger of being shaded by the determination of many to avoid the largely symbolic step of opening Foothills Park to non-residents regardless of the cost to the city's finances and reputation. You remind us of the important work that has been done by principled, creative, resilient and progressive (in the modern, not early 20th century sense) Palo Alto residents over the years in pursuit of a more just and equal society.


Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 3, 2020 at 10:27 am

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

So we have the Ideologues. drama queens, comics, etc who have somehow used FHP as a symbol of their various POV's. The great FHP "story" in the sky - and yes already fully documented by the papers, and the News. If you have not noticed we get in to the NEWS. But the ACLU also likes the NEWS and they have a target on the city's back. If you want to argue the NEWS, POV's, go ahead.

The real issue here is the city budget and reputation. On the balance scale right now the city budget and reputation is forefront. That is what the city is looking at. Ideology, POV's are just that. It is now the budget that is the issue on the table - the city budget.


Posted by Lee Forrest
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 3, 2020 at 10:34 am

Lee Forrest is a registered user.

>"Lee - your sarcasm is not appreciated. I am providing a pathway to get out of this mess and it is a legal position."

^ Does your pathway also involve spending personal out of pocket expenses (via costly legal fees) to protect the Palo Alto Foothills Park domain or is it purely editorial in content?

>"Reality is I can remember who specifically is the PACC member who was touting the recreation of the love generation in FHP. If I said his name this would be bounced."

^ At best...just a moderator's [portion removed] designation pertaining to the individual (or individuals) promoting this visionary & somewhat non-eco friendly idea/pipedream if so elected (no pun intended).

For some & to quote Joni Mitchell's song 'Woodstock' (later recorded by CSN&Y)...
"We've got to get ourselves back to the garden"...could this also be taken (by some) to include a metaphorical Foothills Park?

Inquiring minds are curious.



Posted by RPopp
a resident of Monroe Park
on Dec 3, 2020 at 11:01 am

RPopp is a registered user.

Nayeli - If a referendum was conducted I would respect the outcome. That does not change my opinion of how awful I believe Lydia's position on this is.


Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 3, 2020 at 11:15 am

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


Posted by Lee Forrest
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 3, 2020 at 12:37 pm

Lee Forrest is a registered user.

@Resident 1-Adobe Meadows...

>"Lee - you have had too much coffee this morning."

^ It's the best part of waking up (especially as one gets older)...except that I don't brew Folgers.

An early riser allows one to test the adage 'that the darkest hour is just before the dawn' (as per David Crosby in 'Long Time Gone') and so far it isn't...given this Foothills Park debacle.


Posted by Mark Weiss
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 3, 2020 at 2:00 pm

Mark Weiss is a registered user.

@LeeF-
If there were a concert at Foothill Park to celebrate the defeat of racism here, Black Lives Matter or the renaming of the park, for example for Al Young — a former CA poet laureate who lived here — attendance might be by lottery, we’d arrive by bike or shuttle. Maybe capped at 1,000 fans.


Posted by Eric Filseth
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 3, 2020 at 3:30 pm

Eric Filseth is a registered user.

@Mike Bechler – “What do the rights of free speech and assembly have to do with the right to go somewhere where you are not allowed to be?”

Most of our initial response on the First Amendment issue was the same as Mike’s – utter disbelief. We spent a fair amount of time with the outside Constitutional Lawyers trying to understand this. So with the usual disclaimers, here’s my understanding and gross oversimplification of what I learned, and apologies for any mistakes. Also, @Doug is correct that all this involves case law (which I am including in “Constitutional”), so there is no 100% certainty either way without actually going to court. But here goes:

You’re not supposed to interfere with people speaking and assembling, but there are also such things as property rights, so there’s potential for clash. The clash has a spectrum. At one end is private citizens’ private property: I can’t expect a right to just show up and yodel in @Doug’s back yard. At the other end, specifically, are Sidewalks and Parks. Everything else is somewhere in between. In the messy real world, your “Constitutionality” varies with where you are on the spectrum.

Now imagine Mt View passes a law saying it’s illegal for Palo Altans to stand on Mt View sidewalks and talk to passersby. Every court would rule that violates the First Amendment and is therefore Unconstitutional, even though the City of Mt View owns and maintains those sidewalks; they’re still considered public sidewalks and therefore protected. It’s not a perfect analogy, but it’s representative of the principle that would apply in a Park.

To go much deeper takes Constitutional Law expertise. But to say breezily, “the lawsuit, IMO, is without merit” … well, two months ago I thought that too. I don’t think that anymore, at all. It is quite a serious argument, and anybody considering signing the Petition should consider that. Again, the ACLU brief spends most of its 30-odd pages discussing social-justice issues, but the core Legal argument is not those topics; it is the terse First Amendment speech-and-assembly claim.


@Leslie York – “non-residents don't have an automatic right to use the park IMO.”

If Palo Alto’s residents-only Policy, including the Pilot Project, is indeed Unconstitutional on First Amendment grounds, then legally nonresidents in fact do have that right, just as they have the right to walk on our sidewalks. The Constitution trumps local ordinances.

However: non-residents don’t have any =more= rights than residents. Even if our currently policy violates the First Amendment, we’re still allowed to set visitor limits, limit parking, ban dogs, set open hours, all the usual things, as long as we don’t discriminate (with some minor exceptions) based on Residency. For example, I know people who would be happy to simply close the Preserve and give it back to nature. Nothing in the Constitution (or the Settlement, which sticks closely to the Constitution) stops us from doing that, since we’re still treating residents and nonresidents equally.


Discussions about “caving or not caving” and “self-determination” miss the point: the Legal question that really matters is, “is our residents-only policy Unconstitutional, on First Amendment grounds?” A lawsuit outcome would be a test of that, not the other way ‘round.

The Settlement, posted here Web Link is narrow and is favorable for a world in which “residents-only” is in fact Unconstitutional. It hews closely to the limits imposed by the First Amendment and not farther. IF what we have now, including the Pilot Project, is in fact Unconstitutional, then we’re unlikely to do better; a referendum would simply be set aside. However, IF “residents-only” actually is Constitutional, we can do whatever voters want. So Constitutionality – the First Amendment limits of free speech and assembly – is the crucial question.


Posted by Eric Filseth
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 3, 2020 at 3:47 pm

Eric Filseth is a registered user.

Incidentally, the ACLU filing details the Palo Alto history also covered in “Color of Law,” and aligns to @Good on Race’s comments.


Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 3, 2020 at 4:08 pm

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

Eric - you are not using a wide enough net here. You are boxing yourself in. And being boxed in.
1. We have the FHP listed as a PARK available for reservations for a group. You have classified this as a profit center. That puts you into the cross hairs because it is classified as a profit center. Therefore the qualifier of who can enter.

2. Remove it from the Park and Rec listings and create a new classification on the city budget system as Conservation Land. Put in with that the Baylands Center and Arastadero Preserve. These are not profit centers and have tax codes that protect conservation lands. This is not a PARK - it is Conservation Land.

3. You need to re-classify the land and it's end use. You will note that the opposition is trying to drag this land further into the profit center arena - making the problem more dire. They are thinking up all kinds of events and festivities to entrench the profit center tax codes.

4. Stage this as a Conservation land and people can make reservations to come in and assist in clearing trails, helping with the stream that overruns. and any other directed activity by the staff. And if they have lunch there with a group so be it.

5. the Constitution does understand the difference between a profit center and conservation land. FHP on the map is surrounded by conservation land. SU has their own section next to Arastadero Preserve.

And of course Mark is Mr. Entrepreneur. Mark - put yourself to good use and think up a concert at CHS. CHS is a profit Center.


Posted by Leslie York
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 3, 2020 at 4:42 pm

Leslie York is a registered user.

"@Leslie York – “non-residents don't have an automatic right to use the park IMO.”

If Palo Alto’s residents-only Policy, including the Pilot Project, is indeed Unconstitutional on First Amendment grounds, then legally nonresidents in fact do have that right, just as they have the right to walk on our sidewalks. The Constitution trumps local ordinances."

By the same token, I can't simply walk into your home and take a shower. Remember that thing called "property rights"?

Again, the entrance policy is based on residence, not race. So where do the plaintiffs get off playing the "race card" with the NAACP getting involved? The "race card" is their strongarm bludgeon and a red herring, IMO.

Charge non residents a per-car fee to help with the park upkeep and the law-enforcement costs involved in ejecting visitors who litter, speed and drink.


Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 3, 2020 at 5:58 pm

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

Talking about side walks here is irrelevant. Has noting to do with this situation. The fact that the property is limited to residents only is a plus. It says that this property is not a profit center. That is a PLUS.

The comments about being race limited is irrelevant. The stipulation of entrance is Resident. That is a plus - no race mentioned.

Provide what the cities goals are for this by priority. What is the end result the city wants? You have allowed this to be guided by PARKS. It is not a PARK, it is a Conservation Area. Get your self out of the PARK category. Reclassify it now to reduce confusion.

What are their arguments? - they can be reduced to non-relevant one by one.
But you have to know what the cities end goal is to focus the arguments to relevant topic.


Posted by Eric Filseth
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 3, 2020 at 6:09 pm

Eric Filseth is a registered user.

@Leslie York –

“By the same token, I can't simply walk into your home and take a shower. Remember that thing called "property rights"?”

No, that’s the point; there’s kind of this spectrum and Private Citizens’ property has the most “protection,” if that’s the word, from other peoples’ freedom of speech and assembly rights. Public Sidewalks and Parks have the least “protection.” Even though Sidewalks and Parks are owned by cities, they’re still considered “public” not “private.” So they’re different from your shower.


“Again, the entrance policy is based on residence, not race. So where do the plaintiffs get off playing the "race card" with the NAACP getting involved? The "race card" is their strongarm bludgeon and a red herring, IMO.”

In my opinion the ACLU approach has been misleading, and to some extent divisive.


“Charge non residents a per-car fee to help with the park upkeep and the law-enforcement costs involved in ejecting visitors who litter, speed and drink.”

If “residents only” is in fact Unconstitutional, then to comply we would have to charge residents a fee too, though, it could be moderately lower.


Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 3, 2020 at 6:34 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

@Eric Filseth

That the account of Palo Alto's history in the ACLU filing aligns well with @Good on Race's comments is welcome information. It suggests that the ACLU is not singling out Palo Alto for behavior that was the norm at the time. Additionally, I'm sure that the filing reveals an awareness of the legacy of struggle against racial inequality by individuals, organizations and institutions in Palo Alto. That should be reassuring to those who suspect that the ACLU's filing is just an exercise in Palo Alto-bashing rather than an attempt to resolve a serious legal matter involving constitutional issues.



Posted by rita vrhel
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 3, 2020 at 8:58 pm

rita vrhel is a registered user.

Eric... have ALL the conditions of the lawsuit been made public? Every single one of the conditions which settling this lawsuit will impose on Foothills Parks/Preserve for ALL time moving forward?

Do the lawsuit conditions apply forever? Can they ever be changed over time?

Can you provide us a link to where ALL the conditions are listed? And we can take your word that every condition is listed?

Have ALL these conditions been made public; front page so residents can read them? If not, why?

How much would a special election cost? Why can't the issue wait until 2022?

How much will opening the Park cost? How was that estimate made?

Is it true that one of the attorney's (the City hired for advice) works for a law firm that has the NAACP as one of their clients? If yes, why was this not seen as a conflict of interest?

As I gather signatures, I am hearing that almost 100% of the residents signing are willing to open the Park to non -residents but are tired of the way Palo Alto is being run. No transparency. I think the Park is just the final straw! guess the recent elections were also.

By your own admission this lawsuit has nothing to do with racism; yet that ugly flag keeps being waved. Why? And people trying to exercise their democratic right to sign a petition are called racist? Shame, shame.

Anyone wanting to sign the Referendum petition, please email @ [email protected] we have until 12/16 @ 2:30 to gather signatures and turn them into Beth Minor at 4pm. I look forward to your answers Eric. Thank you.


Posted by Name hidden
a resident of Downtown North

on Dec 3, 2020 at 9:13 pm

Due to repeated violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are automatically removed. Why?


Posted by Squidsie
a resident of another community
on Dec 3, 2020 at 9:36 pm

Squidsie is a registered user.

I am an attorney, but my last encounter with Constitutional law was long ago in law school. I agree that the ACLU case is weak, indeed, frivolous. But the wild card here is the fact that the case will be tried in the Ninth Circuit, a circuit with a well-deserved reputation for "legal innovation" and stretching existing law into unrecognizable form in the pursuit of what the judges and justices may see as a "social justice" agenda. While the Supreme Court can overrule an unsupported judgment, they only agree to hear relatively few of the appeals submitted to them, so Palo Alto may be stuck with any crazy decision, no matter how legally unsupportable.


Posted by Douglas Moran
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 3, 2020 at 10:31 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

@squidsie: "... 'legal innovation' ... 'social justice'..."

For those intent on risk assessment, the judge *currently* assigned the case received his law degree from UC-Berkeley's Hastings College of the Law in 1979 and was appointed to the US District Court in 2011 on the recommendation of then-Senator Barbara Boxer.

Such an assessment is likely irrelevant because the case may be re-assigned to a different judge and because District Court judges try to write decisions that won't be overturned by the Appeals Court.
Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer, nor do I pretend to be one on the Internet.


Posted by Name hidden
a resident of Downtown North

on Dec 3, 2020 at 11:08 pm

Due to repeated violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are automatically removed. Why?


Posted by Lee Forrest
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 3, 2020 at 11:23 pm

Lee Forrest is a registered user.

Curious...from how far away would an average 'non-resident' travel just to visit Foothills Park?

Are we talking about park visitors from the immediate area (i.e. San Mateo County and other cities comprising Santa Clara County) or potential visitors from even farther away...as in the entire state of California and beyond?

While it's hard to picture anyone driving from Modoc or San Diego Counties just to picnic at Boranda Lake, open access is open access & perhaps one way out of this 'social injustice' debacle would be to establish a 'participating cities' program whereby other municipalities contributed financially to the regular upkeep & security of Foothills Park.

In other words...an alliance of membership cities who in turn would also jointly defend against any future frivolous lawsuits initiated by the ACLU/NAACP or other disgruntled non-resident/outside municipalities who for reasons of their own, opted not be be a part of this cooperative venture.





Posted by Mike Bechler
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 4, 2020 at 1:08 am

Mike Bechler is a registered user.

@Eric Filseth: "At one end is private citizens’ private property: I can’t expect a right to just show up and yodel in @Doug’s back yard. At the other end, specifically, are Sidewalks and Parks."

If a park is equivalent to a sidewalk in this respect, then the original sin might have been calling it a park instead of a nature preserve. We certainly cannot prevent non residents from using our sidewalks, and if the equivalence holds, we cannot prevent them from using a park.

Others have suggested that we re-designate it as a nature preserve. That might be a winning strategy if we can get away with it, however the court might dismiss that as window dressing, saying that if it looks like and acts like a park, it is a park.

We could flip that argument and say that if it looks and acts like a nature preserve, it really is a nature preserve even if we call it a park.

"Again, the ACLU brief spends most of its 30-odd pages discussing social-justice issues, but the core Legal argument is not those topics; it is the terse First Amendment speech-and-assembly claim."

What's the point of those 30-odd pages if they are not part of the core issue? Publicity? Do those pages exist just to race shame Palo Alto? The articles I've seen seem to imply that they race issue is the main issue. Maybe that could be used to make their arguments seem less credible. I certainly find them specious and objectionable.

If we cave or if they win in court, they will tout it as a social justice victory even if social justice had nothing to do with the outcome.


Posted by Leslie York
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 4, 2020 at 2:08 am

Leslie York is a registered user.

"If “residents only” is in fact Unconstitutional, then to comply we would have to charge residents a fee too, though, it could be moderately lower."

A Menlo Park homeowner pays property tax to San Mateo county. Their contribution to the upkeep of Foothills park is zero.

A Palo Alto homeowner pays property tax to Santa Clara county and a portion goes to the upkeep of Foothills park, so the Palo Alto homeowner is effectively paying twice to use the park if you charge everyone who enters the park. That's my "something for nothing" analogy.

I'm still at a loss to see how race and the NAACP enter the picture.


Posted by Lee Forrest
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 4, 2020 at 6:23 am

Lee Forrest is a registered user.

>"...the ACLU brief spends most of its 30-odd pages discussing social-justice issues,"

>"What's the point of those 30-odd pages if they are not part of the core issue?"

>"I'm still at a loss to see how race and the NAACP enter the picture."

^ Social injustice & systemic racism are effective & convenient platforms for addressing anything that's wrong with American society these days.

The ACLU & NAACP are high-profile organizations capable of garnering extensive media & public attention.

And they tend to choose their battles accordingly...for both added exposure as well as the issue/cause per se.


Posted by Mike Bechler
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 4, 2020 at 7:33 am

Mike Bechler is a registered user.

>Social injustice & systemic racism are effective & convenient platforms for addressing anything that's wrong with American society these days.

^If all you have is a hammer, the rest of the world looks like a nail.

If @Eric Filseth is right and the Constitutional issue is the only relevant legal matter, then the social justice issue is there merely for publicity. Regardless of how this plays out, they can either claim a victory for social justice, or they can claim that Palo Alto is unjust. Heads I win, tails you lose.

As for the Constitutional issue, I'm more of a logician than a lawyer, but it seems to me that the right to speak and assemble would depend on the right to be there in the first place. And it seems to me that a park is both like and unlike a sidewalk: they are both public spaces owned by the city, but a sidewalk is a route while a park is a destination. The right to travel would apply to one but not necessarily to the other. In that case, you'd have to examine the precedent that is cited to conflate the two.


Posted by Lee Forrest
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 4, 2020 at 7:57 am

Lee Forrest is a registered user.

> "If @Eric Filseth is right..."

All things considered & given the 5-2 PACC vote on this matter, it is reasonably clear which council members support open access vs those who support restricted access to Foothills Park.


Posted by Good on Race
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 4, 2020 at 8:26 am

Good on Race is a registered user.

I just read the city's new blog on the Foothill Park situation and lawsuit. It's clearly a reaction to the referendum threat. A lot of good information there - see the link below for the lawsuit, settlement, etc. One mistake is made though about city transparency - the public does NOT comment before closed sessions about them.

I came away once again upset about the lawsuit when reading the settlement. This from someone who supports opening Foothill and doesn't support the referendum. Two things stand out -

First, the settlement is entirely based on location not race, requiring that all people have access to the park no matter where they live. Race is not the basis of the lawsuit though it mentions race a lot, nor is race found in the settlement where it's never mentioned. Many of us have said from the start that this is obviously about location, not race. Disparate impact does not apply here.

Second, that the lawsuit gratuitously uses race is disturbing, serving to stir emotions and besmirch our city. It cherry picks racial history, never mentioning Palo Alto's progressive record, while failing to note that redlining and restrictive covenants have been illegal since 1948 or the 1960's. It's baseless claim about post-WWII racism is really completely unsubstantiated and the city rightfully takes exception.

If anyone wonders why this referendum is happening it surely lies in part with the strategy and tone this lawsuit chose to take, causing a reaction. You all didn't have to do this to Palo Alto to be successful.

Web Link


Posted by Mike Bechler
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 4, 2020 at 8:57 am

Mike Bechler is a registered user.

"All things considered & given the 5-2 PACC vote on this matter, it is reasonably clear which council members support open access vs those who support restricted access to Foothills Park."

I'm not sure you understood what I was trying to say. The context of "If @Eric Filseth is right..." is about his take on the Constitutional issues in which he appears to believe that Palo Alto will not prevail. He and other council members might want to keep park access restricted but believe that if it goes to court, Palo Alto will lose. Perhaps they believe they are bowing to the inevitable rather than getting something that they want.


Posted by Lee Forrest
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 4, 2020 at 8:59 am

Lee Forrest is a registered user.

>"Race is not the basis of the lawsuit though it mentions race a lot, ...the lawsuit gratuitously uses race is disturbing, serving to stir emotions and besmirch our city."

^ Is this not 'hitting below the belt' in a concerted effort by the NAACP/ACLU & other 'progressives' to promote yet another 'matter' mindset?

How about an 'APM' (All Parks Matter) movement to address both sides of the coin in a reasonable & equitable manner?


Posted by Allen Akin
a resident of Professorville
on Dec 4, 2020 at 10:45 am

Allen Akin is a registered user.

If the suit were designed to open Foothills to everyone, the First Amendment claim would have been enough to do that, and probably wouldn't even have been too controversial. Instead, the suit is designed to provoke over-reaction.

The referendum falls for that tactic. By pursuing it, the likely outcome is that Palo Alto gets slammed in the press, is forced to pay for the plaintiffs' legal costs, loses even more control over how Foothills is managed, and has to cut back on other programs we all care about. It's more a matter of vengeance than justice.


Posted by Lee Forrest
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 4, 2020 at 11:29 am

Lee Forrest is a registered user.

>"Instead, the suit is designed to provoke over-reaction...The referendum falls for that tactic."

^ If so...it's a very cheesey (aka manipulative tactic) on the part of the NAACP/ACLU & implemented to create a reactionary response from those wishing to ensure the peaceful & idyllic nature of Foothills Park sans overcrowding & environmental impact considerations.

Whatever the outcome, the sky is not falling in Palo Alto as quality of life issues have already deteriorated to a certain extent & those opting to remain or move here will simply have to live with the consequences.


Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Dec 4, 2020 at 12:25 pm

Anonymous is a registered user.

Filseth cannot say so explicitly, but it seems clear to me that he thinks that the expert legal opinions he heard is that not only the outcome of the lawsuit (if it proceeds) is uncertain, but the city is more likely to lose than win in such a lawsuit. (Read his discussion about the hypothetical Mountain View sidewalk law and the grouping of parks and sidewalks at one of the ends of the spectrum of first-amendment protection.)

So, what games are Kou and Tanaka playing? If they had been doing their jobs and paying attention to what the outside constitutional lawyers were saying, they should have heard the same things as Filseth. Do they fancy themselves to be experts in constitutional laws and know better than the outside lawyers? Or they are just putting their own political ambitions above the interests of the city?

Finally, before anyone tells me that the petition is for the sake of “democracy”, let me refer to the point that Filseth made: in a city of 67,000 people, it takes only 2,500 signatures to put the referendum on the ballots and thereby renew the lawsuit and put the city in serious legal jeopardy. That does not seem to me to be “democracy”. Furthermore, the settlement was passed 5-2 by the city council, all of whose members were duly elected.


Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 4, 2020 at 12:47 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

There's a certain irony in seeing one PASZ council member, who strongly supported the referendum overturning the Maybell project, doing his best to gently convince PASZ-sympathetic voters not to follow the lead of another PASZ council member in supporting a referendum on the Foothills Park settlement. How will this impact residentialist solidarity?


Posted by Lee Forrest
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 4, 2020 at 12:54 pm

Lee Forrest is a registered user.

>"...the settlement was passed 5-2 by the city council, all of whose members were duly elected."

^ Duly elected while also reflecting the best interests & majority voice of city residents?

That concept is subject to debate & in many ways, no different than Congress.

Perhaps it's best to leave the Foothills Park issue up to a resident vote & leave it at that as there are already too many clandestine & vested interests going on behind the scenes in Palo Alto politics.

Full disclosure is not a PACC trademark & it's blatant disregard for the Brown Act speaks volumes.


Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 4, 2020 at 1:00 pm

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

The suit is directing attention down a road that most people are not familiar with - Constitutional Law.

Another road that is getting a lot of attention these days is Exclusionary Use of Property for any number of reasons.
1. This property was purchased to avoid the building of homes in a difficult location regarding fire protection, and power sources. The city owns the property and is responsible for providing resources which at the time, and now are costly and unpredictable. Fire protection and personnel resources are high cost factors. As owners of the property the city has a financial responsibility to mitigate the risk factors associated with the land. The city is legally responsible for this property which by any definition is in a very high risk area. The city has spent a considerable amount of money to manage the property to reduce the risk factors.

Many local examples: 1. Portola Valley is fighting SU who wants to build housing in a vulnerable hillside location. 2. RWC is fighting Cargill who wants to build housing on the salt flats.

Exclusionary use of property: 1. The garage under the PA City Hall - majority is permit parking. Drive around forever to find a place where you will not get a ticket. 2. UC Berkley - parking by permit for students, etc. 3. FHP - parking by drivers license - a form of permit parking. 4. Road in HMB to beach closed off by owner - continually in the news.

Conservation is a big topic - depending on what organizations you donate to. I have no relation to or donations to civil rights groups so not a focus of my attention. However I do donate to a lot of conservation groups which are local - Save the Bay, Tuolumne River Trust, etc. which are continually focusing on use of property, limitations on use of property, exclusion on use of property, etc. Many major state and federal properties are now closed off due to fire damage, potential fire damage, etc. Mitigation of risk being a major topic leading to exclusionary use of property.

Another factor is lack of budget by cities, counties and the state to maintain the personnel and facilities for busy, tourist locations. Many closed right now as a COVID reason but really lack of funding to keep the locations open and safe.

Bottom line is that the ACLU is going down a road that there is not a lot of experience in. But the road for conservation and land management is very busy right now with a lot of legal and journalistic activity. Not the ACLU's usual area since they cannot make money off these type efforts.

These are not award winning points but there has to be counter-arguments regarding the accusations and cost associated with those accusations. Cost mitigation is important. Assignment of fault - avoidance of same is important.


Posted by jlanders
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 4, 2020 at 2:04 pm

jlanders is a registered user.

If we know one thing about council member Filseth, it's that Filseth keeps his eye on the financial bottom line. But, he's not a great listener. That was pretty obvious during last summer's budget hearing and they way he responds here. Council members Kou and Tanaka are terrific at engaging with the public even though their feedback makes others on the council uncomfortable. That's the reason both easily won seats again in last month's election. It's as simple as that.

The City's record on predicting the outcome of lawsuits is, to put it mildly, mixed. The City was sued by Enron (yeah, those chuckle heads) for $48 million. Staff and consultants claimed the City would not only loose the lawsuit but also be on the hook for another $12 million in legal fees. So, the City agreed to settle with the bankrupt Enron and paid them over $21 million to end our lawsuit. However, it turned out that other agencies willing to fight Enron either paid only pennies on the dollar or received rebates from the Enron bankruptcy. The outcome of any legal case is uncertain until it's either settled or adjudicated in a court of law.

The Plaintiffs make accusations of racism against Palo Alto because they are attempting to overturn a government action that was made decades ago. To do that they need to make a connection between some guy running around in an antler decorated moose hat fifty years ago and the harm they incur by being denied entrance to FHP today. They need to explain the decades long delay between government action and their lawsuit (doctrine of laches). It's not personal. In their mind, they are simply chipping away at the last vestiges of long ago racism that personally affects them. It doesn't help to doubt their sincerity any more than it helps be hurt by what most feel are unfounded accusations.


Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Dec 4, 2020 at 2:15 pm

Anonymous is a registered user.

@Jerry Underdal: What is the irony? The city was not at risk for being sued in federal courts on constitutional grounds with respect to the Maybell project. Now it is.



Posted by Allen Akin
a resident of Professorville
on Dec 4, 2020 at 2:15 pm

Allen Akin is a registered user.

@Lee Forrest wrote: "If so...it's a very cheesey (aka manipulative tactic)..."

And effective, judging by how the media reported the whole situation. Spectacularly effective, if it motivates residents to qualify the referendum and then the City loses the lawsuit. The plaintiffs will be reimbursed for their legal expenses and the residents will be punished.

"...quality of life issues have already deteriorated to a certain extent & those opting to remain or move here will simply have to live with the consequences."

They also have the option to try to improve things, or at least keep things from deteriorating again.


Posted by Pragmatic
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 4, 2020 at 2:28 pm

Pragmatic is a registered user.

It's interesting to see that after all this time, Jerry Underdal has not let go of two-dimensionally characterizing everyone in ideological terms. I really am disappointed that after what we have endured from Washington for four years, that this inclination thrives here, albeit under a different banner, to label (mislabel, in this case) and "other" people rather than dealing with the issue at hand. This is nothing like the Maybell situation in which there were major implications to unhealthy redevelopment by major for-profit developers if the dominant land use was changed, and specific safety issues at that site. (For one, there's no way Buena Vista could have been saved anymore than the President Hotel if the Maybell referendum had gone the other way, all the nastiness by the very ideological aside.) That was a situation in which a referendum became necessary. This situation, not so much. Not only can decisions be made to allay everyone's concerns, but the parties' motivations are relatively transparent (where they seem appropriate or not).

Personally, I just want to say "A pox on both your houses" i.e., don't you all have better things to do right now?

The optics are bad all around here. I recently asked the ACLU to take on a small case that nevertheless has major implications to social justice and the fair access by people of color to federal lands/the outdoors (including national parks), whether the case was litigated or not, and they declined. I see they were too busy protecting the rights of uber-wealthy Los Altos Hills residents to use Foothill Park and not pay for it, while calling it a social justice issue. Ugh.

I support Lydia and Eric on the council, but just think encouraging people to spend the time and money on a referendum is misplaces. Spend the time and effort figuring out how to compromise in a way that satisfies the major stakeholders, which seems eminently doable here. Save the major energy for things that really matter, and there are many in this town right now. I seem to recall Eric running on a call to ensure that our City began to take a more holistic, systems-oriented look at for-profit and office development in light of the limitations of resources and infrastructure, and we're still waiting.

The most alarming proposal has been to allow non-retail use of retail spaces, putting already stressed retailers in competition with tech companies and medical offices, rather than letting the pandemic encourage more reasonable rents by landlords. (More of private profit, public risk.)

To those who want to mount a referendum, given the many challenges we all face right now, is this really the battle you want to choose? Referenda cost time and money, and they (like loaded guns -- and lawsuits) should only be used when there are no alternatives and the issue at hand is very important. Couldn't you ALL (all of you) be using your time to mount capital campaigns to make sure people don't lose their housing or their small businesses or that they can eat (in this town with more billionaire per capita than just about anywhere else)? Couldn't you be using your legal time to take on cases that are hard and that no one else will take and involve actual, current social injustice?

The last thing we need is to go through another season of the small segment of ideological Palo Altans "othering" each other and sowing division over a situation that really should just be solving be coming together and hashing it out. Shame on all of you.


Posted by Pragmatic
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 4, 2020 at 2:36 pm

Pragmatic is a registered user.

Given the pandemic, can we please get an online system that allows residents to verify their residency, register, and lodge their opinion in real time during City meetings? This idea that we have to control public input to very brief comments said in person is so archaic. Why not let people basically answer the council as things are being said, through polls and comments? Why not let people make suggestions in the public meeting in writing, or afterwards (if and only if they watch the meeting, to minimize the peanut gallery and ideologically-driven othering).


Posted by Lee Forrest
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 4, 2020 at 3:13 pm

Lee Forrest is a registered user.

>"Conservation is a big topic -...Not the ACLU's usual area since they cannot make money off these type efforts."

^ In the absence of a comprehensive environmental impact report citing the adverse effects of expanding park access, how about getting the Sierra Club, Audubon Society, Friends of the Earth etc. to challenge the NAACP/ACLU legal threat/challenge?

This might provide some added impetus towards keeping the park pristine & unadulterated by hordes of non-residents seeking their Patagonia experience at the expense of enraged Palo Alto residents & concerned environmentalists.

It would also be interesting (and perhaps even entertaining) to witness prominent national non-profit organizations promoting & advocating their respective ideologies at the other's expense...with their staff attorneys doing all of the dirty work.

That way there would be no need for the city to incur the added expense of hiring any 'constitutional' lawyers.


Posted by Name hidden
a resident of Downtown North

on Dec 4, 2020 at 3:25 pm

Due to repeated violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are automatically removed. Why?


Posted by Jennifer Landesmann
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 4, 2020 at 3:30 pm

Jennifer Landesmann is a registered user.

@jlanders,

"The City's record on predicting the outcome of lawsuits is, to put it mildly, mixed. The City was sued by Enron (yeah, those chuckle heads) for $48 million. Staff and consultants claimed the City would not only loose the lawsuit but also be on the hook for another $12 million in legal fees. So, the City agreed to settle with the bankrupt Enron and paid them over $21 million to end our lawsuit. However, it turned out that other agencies willing to fight Enron either paid only pennies on the dollar or received rebates from the Enron bankruptcy. The outcome of any legal case is uncertain until it's either settled or adjudicated in a court of law."

Using @Eric Filseth's description of what happens in deliberations – "a legal-centric discussion of risks, benefits, chances of success vs failure, alternatives etc." -

Legal-centric (run by the City Attorney, outside counsel, consultants, "other advisors") does not sufficiently cover representation of resident's voices. Some consequences are not only monetary either. So if my preferred legal route is not taken by PACC, ideally - PACC would then speak to my concerns after their vote/decision; maybe even issue a press release - saying we voted this way (in the case of PIRAT, opposite of public input) but we understand what our residents are saying - use the opportunity to accurately and respectfully state the "losing" residents position. Instead, with PIRAT a letter went out to others that did not reflect - at all - what residents asked for or why.

About Costs which somebody posted about - the City's FAQ (which should be a pre-requisite before any closed sessions) could show *realistic estimates the legal costs involved that I would expect any good attorney should be willing to provide. In the case of the FAA challenges which are petitions for review, my understanding is that they run about $20-30K for filing the form, 2-3 briefs and one oral argument which is all that happens to get an answer from the court. Not millions or millions of years, they run a pretty predictable schedule. That "cost" that Palo Alto saves by not challenging flawed NEPA processes btw ends up as is a direct benefit to all who want Palo Alto to stay quiet about all that goes on in the skies.


Posted by Lee Forrest
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 4, 2020 at 5:11 pm

Lee Forrest is a registered user.

Another consideration...return the land to its original inhabitants & let their descendants decide how to manage the acreage including visitations & ecological considerations.

The Muwekma Ohlone Tribe has members from around the San Francisco Bay Area, and is composed of descendants of the Ohlones/Costanoans from the San Jose, Santa Clara, and San Francisco missions.

Then the NAACP & ACLU can go away & focus their energies on other social ills.


Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 4, 2020 at 6:52 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

@anonymous

"What is the irony?"

The irony is that "residentialists," who experienced great electoral success in November and were well positioned to bend policy their way next year, are facing a split over an issue where positions don't divide easily into the usual categories of "residentialist" and "pro-development." Eric Filseth is attempting to talk down fired-up populists eager for a repeat referendum success. He rightly stresses the likely negative legal and financial consequences of getting enough petition signatures to qualify a referendum.

If I were in his place, looking at the names of individuals and organizations that are signatories to the ACLU/NAACP filing, and knowing the perseverance of those who have fought for years to remove what is widely seen as a stain on the city, I'd worry that a referendum would weaken the residentialist movement and benefit the Progressive Movement, which isn't going away any time soon.


Posted by Jennifer Landesmann
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 4, 2020 at 7:19 pm

Jennifer Landesmann is a registered user.

Jerry Underdal,

“..knowing the perseverance of those who have fought for years to remove what is widely seen as a stain on the city...”

I missed this - the fight for years about this, can you please share some links to council meetings over the years about this fight and the shame of the stain because I don’t recall any meetings or press over the years, or not many.


Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 4, 2020 at 9:16 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

@Jennifer Landesmann

I'm glad you are concerned enough to seek verification for my statement. I don't have dates and articles to give you off the top of my head to cover the 45 years I've lived here, but I suggest that you do a Google search on relevant keywords as a start. "Foothills Park controversy" for example. Relevant Weekly articles are among the many that come up readily, or you can use the search tool at paloaltoonline for a search of the Palo Alto Weekly only. Another suggestion would be to ask neighbors or acquaintances if they recall this coming up in the past. Please let me know what you find. If you can't verify that this has been an ongoing concern, especially among the small but persistent social justice activist community, we can look together.


Posted by Squidsie
a resident of another community
on Dec 4, 2020 at 9:54 pm

Squidsie is a registered user.

@ Douglas Moran. I am glad that you don't pretend to be an attorney online. You would quickly embarrass yourself.

The Ninth circuit is the most frequently overturned, and has a well-deserved reputation for being liberal. Attorneys frequently choose particular venues to bring actions in, thinking them more favorable to their actions. It is called "forum shopping". While there are conservative judges, they are more likely to be liberal here due to the historical practice of using recommendations from the senators of the state. During the careers of most of the judges and justices, the California senators have been Democratic, hence, most will be people whose views align with the Democratic senators. It is no secret that liberals are more receptive to a "social justice" narrative. Here, you have a famously rich town excluding out-of-towners, people who are more likely to be poor and minority. The script writes itself.


Posted by Maryan
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 4, 2020 at 10:56 pm

Maryan is a registered user.


Palo Alto cannot win this
Web Link


Posted by Lee Forrest
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 5, 2020 at 7:44 am

Lee Forrest is a registered user.

All things considered...the City of Palo Alto (including it's past/present PACC members & top administrative officials) are SOLELY to blame for this Foothills Park debacle & legal intervention by the ACLU & NAACP because there is no direction on their part...just politics as usual & mindless in-house beauracracies.

Palo Alto residents are not racist as a whole but many are protective of what's left in this ever-expanding city.

That said...since Foothills Park is considered a natural gem by both residents & non-residents alike, perhaps the best way to provide open access FOR ALL visitors would be to create an online and/or in-person reservation/entrance system & establish a fixed limit as to how many people can be on the park premises at any given time...to ensure both uncrowded/quality visitations & minimal adverse impacts on the ecosystem.

Like a good restaurant or hotel, mandatory in-advance reservations should be required & if deemed necessary, a minimal standard entrance fee charged...one that is reasonably AFFORDABLE & EQUITABLE to all park visitors regardless of who they are or where they came from.






Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 5, 2020 at 9:26 am

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

@Lee Forest

A missed opportunity. Had these ideas been introduced at the start of this discussion there might have been more back and forth on your recommendation. More voices might have joined in, generating greater appreciation of differing points of view as the city wrestles with a difficult decision. But as we scroll through the comments from the start, what we see is a one-sided argument against a decision already made by the PACC by a 7-2 vote. Supporters of opening the park haven't even bothered commenting, content to have one council member carry the burden of suggesting that it might be wise to stand down on gathering signatures for a petition that would scuttle the settlement, with unintended adverse consequences for the city.


Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 5, 2020 at 10:23 am

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

Sorry: thinking about the old 9 member council. The vote was 5-2.


Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 5, 2020 at 10:23 am

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

What ever settlement has been made is yet to see the light of day as to IMPACT.
Everyone has different POV's as to what goal here is. And you all have yet to see what the impact is. WE already have had a hint here - lots of people with dogs. People leaving a giant mess. People from other locations that have no investment in keeping the area clean and safe. If that is the IMPACT then it is not going to work. That is very clear.

The city needs to organize the priorities for that location relative to the reality of where it is located. It has to stage a viable, legal basis for how to move forward. And the legal basis has to be consistent with how other same type locations are managed. It is not a commercial venture or a stand-alone unique location. Get the priorities straight and prioritize them. One of the top priorities is cost associated with the priorities - personnel, land management, tax basis, impact to budget for other park locations that are at ground level and have a lot of use, wear and tear.


Posted by Lee Forrest
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 5, 2020 at 10:24 am

Lee Forrest is a registered user.

First of all...spell check time & correcting an earlier misspelling on my part.
beauracracies > bureaucracies

>"A missed opportunity. Had these ideas been introduced at the start of this discussion there might have been more back and forth on your recommendation. More voices might have joined in...But as we scroll through the comments from the start, what we see is a one-sided argument against a decision already made by the PACC by a 7-2 vote.

^ A 5-2 vote and as far as any 'missed opportunities', it is the overall RESPONSIBILITY of the PACC & upper tier city administrators to prevent these types of conflicts from occuring & getting out of hand...not commenters in the PA Weekly.

And as far as one PACC member carrying the 'burden' of suggesting a 'stand down' to prevent further litigation on this issue...obliqueness is not a convincing argument.


Posted by Jennifer Landesmann
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 5, 2020 at 10:27 am

Jennifer Landesmann is a registered user.

@ Jerry Underdal

"Please let me know what you find. If you can't verify that this has been an ongoing concern, especially among the small but persistent social justice activist community, we can look together."

As only a 20 year resident but with dozens of hours waiting my turn to speak for couple of minutes in PACC chambers in the last six years including hundreds of hours scouring council packets full of emails from the community, you run into people, causes, activists - it's hard to miss something that is a burning issue. Also, in 12 years at PAUSD schools community where students, teachers and parents take on social justice issues Foothill didn't come up. The online searches are 2020 stories and the City's search engine does not yield any Council items on this "controversy."

This leads me to believe that "those who have fought for years to remove what is widely seen as a stain on the city" have either had a whispering campaign outside of Palo Alto and inside Palo Alto and I can judge for myself that there was no prior "fight."This being said, per the Weekly story on how PACC decided to settle thaWeb Link the statements from some PACC members suggest that the City got caught at being bad when most people want to open the park, have never been against doing so or ever asked.

The strongest case for the referendum (which I understand is to open Foothill to all) is per the quote in this article from Baylin >>creates a "slippery slope" in which other outside groups can pressure the city with lawsuits to overturn policies favored by the public."

Unfortunately, there is a pattern of PACC getting bullied by outsiders and the City has zero communication methods to actually engage the public in a way to avoid these messes. The closed sessions may be "legal-centric" but PACC ends up using those sessions to do politics. That's wrong.


Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 5, 2020 at 10:41 am

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

A central problem here. The residents are the taxpayers / stockholders and the biggest political machine relative to where the city is going. Each of the activist groups are funded by outside entities with their own goals for entrenchment of power grids. It is the job of the residents - the stock holders to make clear to city management what is expected of them as to central goals for the city.

If the PACC allows a two minute per person voice on any topic then that needs to be changed up. Possibly a quarterly city meeting for a statement of goals and priorities. I have attended those type meetings when held at Mitchell Park. I think we used to do these activities so that everyone got their two cents in to create a collective POV as to we all proceed. We need to do that more.


Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 5, 2020 at 11:16 am

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

A word to the wise here. If you use your actual name the comments you make now pop up on a Google search of your name. But the comments are out of context to the subject at hand. So if you make a smart ass comment then that is what people will see. Best for you all to cut the snark, cut the political positioning, and focus on how your comments will appear in a google search. Organize your thoughts so that what you say at any point is your best take on the Subject. Those takes will follow you. And you do no service if those are snarky comments.


Posted by Lee Forrest
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 5, 2020 at 11:54 am

Lee Forrest is a registered user.

>"It is the job of the residents - the stock holders to make clear to city management what is expected of them as to central goals for the city."

^ Good luck with that concept as ideals & reality are often two different universes.

>"Best for you all to cut the snark, cut the political positioning, and focus on how your comments will appear in a google search."

^ Everything nowadays is political to a certain extent (as evidenced not only in regards to various Palo Alto specific issues but nationwide as well) with or without the enhancements of Google.


Posted by Jennifer Landesmann
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 5, 2020 at 1:39 pm

Jennifer Landesmann is a registered user.

@Lee Forrest,

"Good luck with that concept as ideals & reality are often two different universes."

re residents or the public having a say

By definition, the farther from ideal means the more troubles and tussles you can expect and why addressing a "slippery slope" matters because who or what drives PACC matters.

So, if the issue is that everything has to be political, the "overreaction" here seem to be the lawsuits. Lawsuits are hopefully usually last resort - this was sudden. Where was the communication to avert this? There seemed to be this acceptance by PACC of the need to ensure that the litigants could be assured that their strategy was successful and that is just odd, for PACC to be so understanding and concerned about the other side's strategy.

Yet that is signature PACC. A ton of concern about others but never bothered to take the time to inform the community about this "fight" in decades and yes it could have been on the annual priorities or somewhere.

The "good luck with that" is not helpful because spending time on political crisis after crisis, problems that could be solved without lawsuits is wasteful. Even with the FAA, the residents asked for something reasonable -na toll on the statute of limitations for PIRAT to work to resolve something proactively..more like "can we talk?" vs I don't want to talk anymore and am suing.


Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 5, 2020 at 2:02 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

@Jennifer Landesmann

Thanks for getting back. From your comments it's clear that you don't believe that there has been a fight over this issue prior to now. I'll see what I can find to back up my position that this is not a new issue has been artificially inserted into the current political context.

Thanks for calling out use of the "how long have you lived here " card. How long you've been here doesn't matter. A recently arrived resident has as much right to be listened to and participate in civic affairs as anyone. Several Progressive candidates who have lived here a relatively short time took that to heart and raised issues in the recent election that merited consideration. We owe our appreciation to all who participate in trying to make this a better city.


Posted by Lee Forrest
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 5, 2020 at 5:25 pm

Lee Forrest is a registered user.

> "...addressing a "slippery slope" matters because who or what drives PACC matters."

>"There seemed to be this acceptance by PACC of the need to ensure that the litigants could be assured that their strategy was successful and that is just odd, for PACC to be so understanding and concerned about the other side's strategy."

> ..."that is signature PACC. A ton of concern about others but never bothered to take the time to inform the community..."

^ Concurring...which is why the PACC & Palo Alto city administrators are totally RESPONSIBLE for this legal entanglement.

No public disclosures or any concerted efforts by the PACC to FULLY inform residents of this contentious matter..until it was seemingly too late.

There are too many 'closed door sessions' taking place...what more are they trying to hide?


Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 5, 2020 at 5:40 pm

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

We are talking about a law suit here and a payment by the city which will cut the budget for ALL of the parks and what ever else is out there. That any one individual is commandeering this activity which will be reflective of their POV is a problem. You all have provided hints that a small number of people and their POV's is going to damage the city and it's long term budget woes. People keep tripping over the same mistakes as in the past. Unbelievable.

Suggest you close the FHP now due to the highly touted fire danger. The reason they are shutting off power to a large number of locations and closing other parks in the bay area. Treat this park like every other park in the bay area. Close it. And if you do not have enough budget to have personnel there then keep it closed. Keep it closed until you have enough budget to have personnel there and make it functional. treat it like every other park in the bay area. Most of which are CLOSED. Hey - no budget? Then no use of facilities.


Posted by Lee Forrest
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 5, 2020 at 6:57 pm

Lee Forrest is a registered user.

>"Suggest you close the FHP now due to the highly touted fire danger."

Good point R-1/AM & the current SC County Covid-19 public health protocols might also be applicable.

A good time for the city to take some additional time to further address the issue & keep Palo Alto residents fully informed of any pertinent developments.


Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 6, 2020 at 12:00 am

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

@ Jennifer Landesmann

Using the paloaltoonline site I came up with these mentions that I believe confirm that non-resident access to Foothills Park has been a chronic issue, with variations in details of the debate with each cycle. Centering public debate squarely on issues of racial justice and inequality is a feature of the current cycle. Here are some mentions from past years, not in chronological order.

1. Nov. 15, 2019: "Behind the Headlines-Debate over Foothills Park"; interview with Parks and Recreation Commissioner Ryan McCauley. Jocelyn Dong: "It's been many, many years that people have talked about how come Palo Alto's Foothills Park is residents only . . ." Gennady Sheyner: "the council batted it around years ago but didn't push it through"
2. Jan. 18, 2006: LaDoris Cordell-Guest Opinion: Time to Open up Foothills park
3. Dec. 27, 1995: Letter to the Editor: A Sharing Solution
4. July 10, 2020: Around Town: "the issue of opening up Foothills Park to the greater public has been a point of contention in Palo Alto for decades . . ."
5. March 10, 2000: ReaderWire: "Ron Andersen (former council member) is back again petulantly demanding nonresident access to Foothills Park in the name of altruism, morality and democracy, and . . ."
6. June 30, 2013: Foothills Park: Still (mostly) just for Palo Altans: "It (the issue of the park's residency requirement) has been put to council vote in 1973, 1990 and 2005."
7. Dec. 11, 2007: Foothills Park to stay closed to non-residents: "(Mayor) Larry Klein called the issue of opening the park to non-residents "the Halley's Comet" of Palo Alto because it comes around every few years."




Posted by Jennifer Landesmann
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 6, 2020 at 4:35 am

Jennifer Landesmann is a registered user.

@Jerry Underdal

I appreciate you posting these references.

It makes me sad and embarrassed that Foothill policy never got the fight it should have had. There are two types of fights here, one is to get on PACC’s agenda and the other is if PACC had put the Foothill policy for a vote pro/con changes and Palo Altans had fought about it. The latter fight does not seem to have happened. And it hardly looks like it would have been a fight. We have changed school names and other social justice initiatives, this would be something that people would have wanted to be a part of.

To get on the public agenda, to maintain City and the public’s attention about a matter residents care about is absurdly tedious for any person (figuring out about council meetings, packets, showing up, making posters, waving hands, repeat year after year ).. and how a PACC agenda actually happens is totally *mysterious.* I believe it’s a combination of staff and Mayor? It’s never really disclosed or justified.

I would want to know why no Mayor or staff ever thought to educate the public about Foothill. And nobody ever put it on a council election platform. Sporadic discussions are reckless.

Worst, to rely on sporadic resident initiatives to manage real issues or the press as the only source for institutional memory. I recall a PACC member suggested that to prove that more than a few people cared about SFO jet noise that citizens do a petition (I still hear council members say we need to show more people care), and former City Manager James Keen asked if we were going to form a group.

For an issue that affects people’s health and productivity? We have to become a group and then it’s up to us to keep the issue alive? The City has zero methods for effective or transparent communication with residents on issues affecting old or new residents which makes the closed sessions with the sush and “bye” all the more insulting because it’s not just “legal-centric” decisions that are made.


Posted by Lee Forrest
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 6, 2020 at 7:10 am

Lee Forrest is a registered user.

>"I would want to know why no Mayor or staff ever thought to educate the public about Foothill. And nobody ever put it on a council election platform. Sporadic discussions are reckless."

^ Simple...earlier on, the majority members of the PACC were in favor of keeping Foothills Park closed to non-residents despite council member Cordell's objections.

In other words, they presumed the issue would disappear on its own.

But with the recent progressive movement & legal intervention by the ACLU/NAACP, they were now forced to confront the issue again.

And rather than be branded as racists and/or elitists, the PACC simply acquiesced to the demands of the ACLU/NAACP fearing bad PR & additional financial outlay for legal fees during a time of limited incoming tax revenues.

Thus there was a reason for not adequately informing Palo Alto residents of this contentious issue.

Since Palo Alto is reputed to be a local bastion of liberal thought & unilateral equality, the PACC assumed that no one would question their subsequent & clandestine decision on the matter.

They guessed wrong.


Posted by ndn
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 6, 2020 at 9:57 am

ndn is a registered user.

I'm old enough to remember that there was a time (in the 1980's I think) that you had to pay to get in the FP. I think it was a dollar per car/visit (worth app $2.5 now) charged to residents.I can't remember when it changed to free/visit but we, residents, did pay even during the week. But at that time the FP was managed full time.


Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 6, 2020 at 10:02 am

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

Reading the Real Estate section of today's SFC (12/6) it is extolling the beauty of the St. Francis Woods area and the parks included within that are for specific use of residents and their guests. SF also has Camp Mather that is reserved for the citizens of SF. Cities and residential areas that have to pay for the upkeep of their city assets do exercise leverage as to who can use those city assets. It is more normal than the law suit supporters would like us to believe. More normal than the ACLU would like us to believe.


Posted by Lee Forrest
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 6, 2020 at 11:08 am

Lee Forrest is a registered user.

>"Cities and residential areas that have to pay for the upkeep of their city assets do exercise leverage as to who can use those city assets.

>"It is more normal than the law suit supporters would like us to believe. More normal than the ACLU would like us to believe."

^ Concurring but in matters of park access & housing issues, the PACC seemingly prefers to 'roll over & play dead' to outside forces rather than take pro-active positions in the best interests of their residents.

Of note...
Web Link

Sometimes the PACC reminds me of a high school student council...focused more on their own universe & outside aspirations.


Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Dec 6, 2020 at 11:15 am

Anonymous is a registered user.

The analogy with Camp Mather is not appropriate. As you can easily verify on the web:

Web Link

one has to win a lottery and pay a substantial sum to use Camp Mather. Currently any Palo Alto resident can enter the Foothills Park. In other words, Foothills Park is much more similar to (say) Mitchell Park than to Camp Mather. I suspect any competent lawyer will notice this point.

By the way, as I understand it, the settlement that the city has with ACLU does not preclude the city from implementing a scheme similar to the one used by Camp Mather and does not disallow the city from giving Palo Alto residents preferential treatments. On the other hand, if the lawsuit proceeds and the city loses, I doubt any such freedom of action will be left. The city will be at the mercy of the court.


Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Dec 6, 2020 at 11:28 am

Anonymous is a registered user.

@Jerry Underdal: Thanks for explaining the irony you meant.

Come to think of it, I really should cheer on the petition drive. A serious legal setback will be something the "residentialists" will have a hard time to recover from. When the federal court strikes down the resident-only access and the city has to not only pay the legal fees but open Foothills Park on terms not of its own choosing, I shall buy a bottle of bubbly wine to celebrate.




Posted by resident3
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 6, 2020 at 12:26 pm

resident3 is a registered user.

@Anonymous

“When the federal court strikes down the resident-only access and the city has to not only pay the legal fees but open Foothills Park on terms not of its own choosing, I shall buy a bottle of bubbly wine to celebrate.”

I can’t judge your assessment as you are “anonymous” and not an official source. I have witnessed a lot of odd legal arguments even from officials and why transparency matters. There’s an unanswered email to Molly Stump, and various officials including Congress about how local officials have been misinforming the public about the application of a mysterious “2012 legislative FAA Catex” to do NEPA shenanigans under fancy labels like Nextgen which by all accounts so far the legislative Catex has never been used. A regular vanilla Catex is used to do shenanigans and the differences matter which I won’t bore you with all the details.

But the misinformation is a tool to spread fear and rationalize local officials’ inaction.

I welcome learning more about the legal issues and also want to see realistic estimates of the cash costs involved. Right now the cost of having PACC set free in these closed sessions is scary and however this goes, processing all the facts and information and history should be the least residents can have access to.




Posted by Jennifer Landesmann
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 6, 2020 at 12:32 pm

Jennifer Landesmann is a registered user.

and the previous comment about the 2012 legislative catex is mine but was using my phone and had a handle from an old device.


Posted by Lee Forrest
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 6, 2020 at 4:00 pm

Lee Forrest is a registered user.

> "...the cost of having PACC set free in these closed sessions is scary and however this goes, processing all the facts and information and history should be the least residents can have access to."

^ Hmm...maybe the PACC prefers to govern via 'a few good men' (including some women council members) who collectively adhere to Jack Nicholson's classic line..."You (aka Palo Alto residents) can't handle the truth."

Thus certain city matters are kept on a 'need to know' basis.


Posted by Allen Akin
a resident of Professorville
on Dec 6, 2020 at 4:29 pm

Allen Akin is a registered user.

In ordinary circumstances, a referendum would be exactly the right thing to do to fix a mistake made by Council or Staff. They've certainly earned enough mistrust to justify this one.

In this case, though, the mere act of qualifying the referendum will unleash an already-existing lawsuit that the City is highly likely to lose. (@Maryan's link given above, Web Link is a good place to begin understanding how that could happen.)

Losing that lawsuit means there will be major bills to pay, cuts to programs that most or all residents care about, endless bad press, and probably less control over the future of Foothills.

This is frustrating, but it's the hand we've been dealt. We should end the referendum effort, let the settlement go ahead, and move on to other issues where we can do some good.

In the meantime, if anyone has already signed the petition but is now having second thoughts, you can contact your signature gatherer and ask to have your signature removed.


Posted by Pragmatic
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 6, 2020 at 8:55 pm

Pragmatic is a registered user.

@ Jerry Underdal
"I'd worry that a referendum would weaken the residentialist movement and benefit the Progressive Movement, which isn't going away any time soon."

What is your point here? You don't make any sense. It just looks like yet another attempt by you to pigeonhole opinions you don't like by using political ideological ruts that don't apply. [Portion removed.]

Residentialists are progressives, they just don't buy the water-carrying-for-developers spiel that lets people who think they are advocates sleep at night when the policies they espouse actually encourage development that damages the environment, ignores safety and resource limitations like droughts, and has exactly the opposite outcome of what is stated (e.g.,jacking up costs while displacing low- and middle-income people, especially people of color, as developers competed harder for land they get to absurdly densify).

[Portion removed.] Everywhere I've lived and been involved, one really great thing about being a progressive is that it's not like the other side of the aisle where people have to toe the line and have no freedom to have their own opinions or disagree. The beauty of being on the left in this country is that people can have diverse opinions and debate them.

[Portion removed.]


Posted by Eric Filseth
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 6, 2020 at 9:05 pm

Eric Filseth is a registered user.

@Rita Vrhel

The core condition, that we grant residents and nonresidents equal access, persists as long as FHP keeps its current use. Assuming that’s the Constitutional requirement and the Constitution will persist, it’s not much of a constraint. Also if the use changes to something not subject to the same protections – housing, for example – then the condition goes away.

The entire Agreement with all conditions, and some of the signatures too, is Exhibit B at this link Web Link

Yes it’s all public.

A referendum could happen anytime; 2022 would not be a crisis. But the lawsuit would proceed immediately on receipt of the Petition, irrespective of the referendum; the Plaintiffs will understandably not wait.

The cost of maintaining the Park/Preserve really varies with how many people we allow in (presumably 750 max to start, since that’s the Pilot Program figure), but should for the most part be independent of where they live. Things like setting up an online campground reservation system smart enough to allow priority access to Palo Alto residents would cost something, but it’s probably not huge.

On the attorney-conflict question, I hadn’t heard that; I’ll ask. Obviously the NAACP uses a lot of attorneys for a lot of things. Pretty hard to imagine one of those who consulted for us working on this same case for the other side, all these firms are sensitive about that kind of thing. I'll ask.

I believe the ACLU and NAACP are widely admired in Palo Alto, but it's not obvious we’re better off that the social-justice debate and the Constitutional Law issue got tangled up the way they did. In retrospect I wish the Plaintiffs had brought a dry basic message: “we think your ordinance has a First Amendment problem, and we’re suing you over it,” which would have got us all to the same point, with considerably less confusion. If there’s anything we’ve learned nationally over these last four years, it’s surely that whipping up the people who already agree with you tends to also whip up the people who don’t agree with you, which is daggers for thoughtful problem-solving. I hope after the next 45 days we’ll see less of this “those people are Evil, so Unfair!!” divisiveness coming out of certain quarters of our country, and we’ll all have a chance to take a breath and reflect a little. If we can’t agree on most things, and yet not demonize each other for principled disagreement on the other things, then we’re all in big trouble.


Posted by Pragmatic
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 6, 2020 at 9:19 pm

Pragmatic is a registered user.

If people have energy for a referendum, I would much rather see an initiate that any new developments and construction (high percentage or all affordable exempted, and office to housing conversions exempted) be required to agree that their occupants (especially offices) will be the first to cut back when the impending drought restrictions kick in. And cut back in a major way before anyone else has to.

Eric Filseth promised us a systems analysis to looks at all these competing resource and civic function issues, and we're still waiting.

As for the ideologues who blindly believe that Build Baby Build has any benefits, start reading about the precipitous drop in occupancy of rentals in SF. There's lots of vacancy now, but pretty much all the articles point out that a drop in average rents does not equal "affordable" and is never likely to equal affordable There are other factors involved, including that landlords do not want to enter into lower-cost leases when they'll do much better when the economy returns, especially since they have so many advantages (like they get to still deduct their property taxes and expenses while the property appreciates) just sitting on the land empty until the economy picks up. And of course, there's still plenty of competition for living spaces even with lots of vacancies, it's just that now people who rent can actually shop around a little.

I think we're long past the point where we can afford to be laissez faire about business or residential occupancy. I'm not talking about some kind of police state, far from it. I'm talking about the need for holistic planning.

To summarize:
We haven never had a residentialist majority on the Council. There's no residentialist manifesto or political party, it's just residents who care about the city and putting residents first (including low-income residents), rather than profiteering developers. People can be residentialists (and progressives for that matter) and disagree with each other.

Foothill Park is not a residentialist isssue, unless someone wanted to build baby build there. A lot of people don't believe it's a social justice issue and this does not expose them as whatever the hateful litmus test gobbleygook was spewed above; those who try to make it so seem to be all virtue signaling and no substance.

Just. Close. It. Make it a nature preserve. Let people buy annual passes, with Palo Altans paying less because they pay in their taxes. Let entrance be by reservation, which people who don't have computers can make at the libraries which are open to everyone, too. Anyone who can't afford an annual pass can get a waiver just like they can for rec department classes. Charge residents of Los Altos extra since they made us pay so much for the use of their libraries when we let them use ours free for several years there.

[Portion removed.]


Posted by Pragmatic
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 6, 2020 at 9:26 pm

Pragmatic is a registered user.

Clarifying:

If people have energy for a referendum, I would much rather see an INITIATIVE that any new developments and construction be required to agree that their occupants (especially offices) will be the first to cut back when the impending drought restrictions kick in (high-percentage- or all-affordable projects exempted, and office-to-housing conversions exempted). And cut back in a major way before anyone else has to.

If the epidemic has shown us anything, it's that it's really not that hard for big tech companies to site their workers in places where costs are lower and not force so many negatives on this area, including the ignoring of drought conditions that will only get worse with global warming.


Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 6, 2020 at 10:32 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 7, 2020 at 8:48 am

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

SO today (12/7) we are back in the papers with all of the caste of characters - the Mayor Fine defending his position on the actions to date. If we did a Meyer-Briggs test on the Progressive brain we would find a DNA chip missing for Financial Responsibility - top level planning.

So there is a former PACC member who appears to have never attended any discussion about the budgets assigned to the city functions, including the Parks and Rec. Or members of the Parks and Rec Commission who somehow do not bake the words "budget" into the total picture.

BUDGET determines the amount of tine, energy, and manpower that can be devoted to any function in the government. So said former PACC member launches a law suit that will totally gut the total budget for the Parks and Rec. And caps that action with a current social action to top it off. SO PROUD.

Meanwhile the ABAG rep is sharpening his quivers to go in and destroy neighborhoods. PA actually prints a magazine called Neighborhoods. The end result of that activity will result in more law suits. And hopefully the state auditor will go in and investigate the ABAG people who are getting under the table donations from the leading home builders.

Since the BUDGET for Parks and Rec is now destroyed suggest that the FHP Conservation area be closed until further notice. The city does not have the personnel and available fire crews to protect that whole neighborhood - which includes people's homes. And the city can legally do this because we are now in a fire threat period when ALL is closed down.


Posted by Jennifer Landesmann
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 7, 2020 at 8:57 am

Jennifer Landesmann is a registered user.

@Eric Filseth

"In retrospect I wish the Plaintiffs had brought a dry basic message: “we think your ordinance has a First Amendment problem, and we’re suing you over it,” which would have got us all to the same point, with considerably less confusion."

I wish that this had been averted at all costs -a situation of residents against residents because of yet another horrible case of City's management by "kick the can down the road and see if those residents go away." Even sporadic and unsuccessful attempts to get the city and public's attention about Foothill Park policies should have added up at City Hall, be counted, studied, turned into a PUBLIC report. Instead of the mysterious ways of setting Agendas, there should be a transparent method. Some of those things that PACC requires residents to work like mad to prove somebody "cares" about before they bother to put on an Agenda actually matter. The comment from Larry Klein about "Halley's Comet" reminded me of the P&S meeting when after hearing from dozens to make SFO airplane noise a priority that year Klein and Keene chortled and made residents sound like idiots. That is called misrepresentation.

Instead of the City Attorney and City Manager acting like the cat ate their homework

Web Link
"In a report recommending the change, City Attorney Molly Stump and City Manager Ed Shikada noted that such a regulation is "extremely rare" and that city staff is not aware of any other California municipality that limits access to parkland to residents and their guests."

I wish they (because they are the "we" here) had figured that one out before, and that we had legal minds that care about letting residents know stuff. A friend tells you hey, there's a pool of water on that floor that needs to be cleaned up before somebody takes a spill.

I wish that the people filing the lawsuit had given residents a chance instead of leaving it to 7 people in a closed room. Asked me and my neighbors to show up and demand that PACC vote on this. I would have gladly shown up. Instead of the random stories from ages ago or that a commission was looking at it which leaves it unclear. And how could the majority council all these years have done nothing about this, but then lectures residents with that we have been maintaining nazi policies.

So - the good stuff, "the City" always takes credit but when it's foul, it's the residents.

I still can't find realistic estimates of the legal costs involved here because for example in the case of FAA challenges posts here sounded like it would be millions and it was less than 40K. That would not have been a loss but an investment in truth in my view. The City FAQ does not have any realistic estimates of the legal costs or I missed that an would appreciate any info.


Posted by Lee Forrest
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 7, 2020 at 12:04 pm

Lee Forrest is a registered user.

>"SO today (12/7) we are back in the papers with all of the caste of characters -
the Mayor Fine defending his position on the actions to date."

^ Not surprising...at all.


>"...there is a former PACC member who appears to have never attended any discussion about the budgets assigned to the city functions,"

^ Likes to wear the hat...absent of any responsibilities?


>"Meanwhile the ABAG rep is sharpening his quivers to go in and destroy neighborhoods."

^ So who's holding down the fort...the intruders?


Posted by Pragmatic
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 7, 2020 at 8:56 pm

Pragmatic is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 7, 2020 at 10:37 pm

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

At the CC meting tonight it was mentioned that the SU dish location is closed due to potential fire threats across the bay area. The fire threat is due to dry air and projected wind. Electricity could also be shut of in the east bay hill areas.

FHP is in an established PA neighborhood - Palo Alto Hills. It is located in a higher altitude than the SU dish and more vulnerable due to the extensive amount of dry brush. There was no mention of this area being closed.

Since FHP is now a "tourist attraction" with up to 700 visitors expected a day suggest that the city use the standard guidelines for all bay area hills and close FHP. WE should be operating consistent with the guidelines throughout the bay area relative to fire threat closures.


Posted by Lee Forrest
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 8, 2020 at 8:40 am

Lee Forrest is a registered user.

>"FHP is in an established PA neighborhood - Palo Alto Hills...There was no mention of this area being closed."

^ Wouldn't Foothills Park ordinarily be closed due to the current Santa Clara County mandated Covid-19 restrictions...or has it remained open to park visitors?


Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 8, 2020 at 11:13 am

Annette is a registered user.

The City's position invites future lawsuits b/c, as this situation demonstrates, filing one creates leverage for the petitioner(s). We (the city and therefore the residents) are in a corner and, just like the housing shortage, this is a problem of our own making. I see that as a failure of leadership. Since our City Attorney is part of this community's leadership team, I question if the right person holds that position. It shouldn't be easy to back Palo Alto into a corner. Yet it has been for this group of plaintiffs and for the new owners of the Hotel President.

We need a compromise that buys the City some time, allows the proposed pilot program to go forward and gives some time to develop a reasonable opening plan that speaks to the unique needs of the Foothills preserve. Fire safety and response time, maintenance, parking, operating costs are all legitimate concerns and expenses. I assume the group bringing the lawsuit cares not only about access but also the ongoing welfare of the preserve. There's got to be a better outcome than what we've got before us now. If compromise isn't possible, rolling the dice by signing the petition may be the only way to buy needed time for determining the best way to expand access w/o damaging the preserve.


Posted by Lee Forrest
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 8, 2020 at 3:38 pm

Lee Forrest is a registered user.

>"The City's position invites future lawsuits...I see that as a failure of leadership. Since our City Attorney is part of this community's leadership team, I question if the right person holds that position....rolling the dice by signing the petition may be the only way to buy needed time for determining the best way to expand access w/o damaging the preserve."

^ Concurring...the PACC & upper tier city administrators have clearly demonstrated to date that they cannot be relied upon to handle this sensitive environmental matter in an effective & viable manner.

Succumbing to unfounded racist allegations by the ACLU & NAACP in lieu of providing any constructive pro-active measures tends to make one wonder...is Palo Alto being governed & operated by a flock of 'Chicken Littles' easily afraid of their own shadow?


Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 8, 2020 at 4:26 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

Has the other council member who voted on the eve of the election against approving the settlement because it didn’t allow for resident input taken a position on this signature drive? I would have expected a statement by now. Maybe I missed it.


Posted by Finally
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 8, 2020 at 5:35 pm

Finally is a registered user.

The most similar use restrictions I've found are in the City of San Marino in California. There is a park called Lacy Park which is open to everyone during the weekdays (basically like it is now at Foothills Park, since the gates are not manned during the week) and then during the weekends, it charges $5 per non-resident, while residents get in free. This would be a good compromise, and is also why I support the referendum.

Web Link


Posted by Lee Forrest
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 9, 2020 at 2:05 pm

Lee Forrest is a registered user.

>"I believe the ACLU and NAACP are widely admired in Palo Alto,..."

^ Yes...along with the PACC members who allowed this prickly issue to get TOTALLY out of hand behind closed door sessions.

Of note...the ACLU & NAACP often receive complaints from outside parties & upon review of the details, then decide whether to threaten legal action.

Curious...who are the other plaintiffs listed alongside the ACLU/NAACP as chances are, one or more of them filed the initial complaint(s).


Posted by Name hidden
a resident of Downtown North

on Dec 9, 2020 at 8:26 pm

Due to repeated violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are automatically removed. Why?


Posted by Chris Robell
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 10, 2020 at 12:02 pm

Chris Robell is a registered user.

Regardless of how one feels about this referendum, I think we should ALL be concerned that the city is requiring people who want to collect signatures to come in close contact with other people in the most critical few weeks of a pandemic. The city charter requires a registered Palo Alto voter to witness the signature of another Palo Alto voter. That means lots of door to door solicitation. Very unwise and unsafe, but the city manager and city attorney (according to my conversation with the city clerk) has said is required. No exceptions.

I spoke to Liz Kniss on the phone yesterday and she was very concerned and said she would follow up given the Covid risk of people walking around gathering signatures face to face. Hopefully she will help allow electronic signatures.

I also hope the new City Council will change the charter so that, going forward, any referendum on any matter can be pursued using electronic signatures. Docusign has been used by the city for other purposes (e.g., RPP signatures) so seems appropriate to be used for referendums as well. Citizens should be able to vote and express their views in the easiest way possible.


Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 10, 2020 at 12:28 pm

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

Eric - the constitutional lawyers are using a dictionary description of a PARK.
It is not a PARK. It is a PRESERVE. Look at the dictionary description of a PRESERVE. It has always been treated like a PRESERVE. It is surrounded by other properties called Preserves. Rename this the Foothill Park Preserve.

As a Preserve you can limit the number of people at any time, limit parking, charge fees.
Get out of the PARK description. It is killing this whole legal application of the law.


Posted by ralphc
a resident of The Greenhouse
on Dec 10, 2020 at 12:39 pm

ralphc is a registered user.

I go to the park to walk, hike, have lunch with Barbara, enjoy the quiet, etc. Usually there's almost no one there. Even on weekends hardly anyone goes there. The tables and benches, trails are empty.
What a pity. What a waste.
What is all the fuss about.
For heaven sakes, let the public use the park.
Even residents of Stanford, our neighbors haven't been allowed to use the park.
It's not that easy to get to.
It's a big place. It's nice for families.
Stop the opposition.
Are the foes even going there themselves?
Stop and think about why you are doing this.


Posted by Lee Forrest
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 10, 2020 at 1:24 pm

Lee Forrest is a registered user.

>"I go to the park to walk, hike, have lunch with Barbara, enjoy the quiet, etc. Usually there's almost no one there. Even on weekends hardly anyone goes there. The tables and benches, trails are empty."

^ That idyllic pastime will most like change a bit after December 17th...when hordes of non-residents flock to Foothills Park to partake in their 'selfie moment' Patagonia experiences.


Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 10, 2020 at 1:51 pm

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

Ralph - SU is not allowing non-SU personnel on it's private land. It is letting people walk the dish in limited numbers. Su is not your best comparison.


Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 11, 2020 at 11:23 am

Annette is a registered user.

I am persuaded that NOT signing the petition is best. This decision feels a lot like an election in which voters are stuck voting for the least bad candidate(s). I hope CC will take a hard look at what and who helped maneuver us into this untenable corner and make all necessary changes so that we aren't so easily beaten in the future.


Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 11, 2020 at 11:34 am

Annette is a registered user.

Another comment about Foothills: I think the concern about hordes of people going there and behaving badly and ruining it are a bit dramatic. Getting to Foothills takes much more time and effort than popping across town to a local park. Also, I think most people who visit preserves do so because they cherish the natural world and peace and quiet. I think most visitors will do no harm; those that do can be fined for littering or whatever it is they have done. Right?

And, since the City will retain management responsibilities, can't bad players be asked to leave or denied access in the future? Meaning: if someone makes a reservation and abuses the preserve in some way, won't the City have the right to not allow a subsequent reservation?


Posted by Jennifer Landesmann
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 11, 2020 at 11:56 am

Jennifer Landesmann is a registered user.

Annette,

"Another comment about Foothills: I think the concern about hordes of people going there and behaving badly and ruining it are a bit dramatic. Getting to Foothills takes much more time and effort than popping across town to a local park. Also, I think most people who visit preserves do so because they cherish the natural world and peace and quiet. I think most visitors will do no harm; those that do can be fined for littering or whatever it is they have done. Right?"

I not only agree with the fact that people visiting a preserve go there to cherish nature but I think we should encourage that after the city has a grip on the situation.

Its key to distinguish that limiting usage of the park initially until the City has a grip and money, is because of costs to manage Foothill with more users not because non-residents are different. Especially with fire and traffic hazards, the City has a lot of work to do.. See this article about parks in Europe experiencing challenges when more people use the parks Web Link

Unfortunately, the lack of transparency about what happened here is not going to be fixed by PACC. If the referendum does not move forward, I would suggest an independent party to look into what happened and to make independent suggestions. Years ago a San Mateo grand jury looked into the way the SFO roundtable was serving the public and made recommendations. Not that it helped us much but some of the stuff was useful for San Mateo communities.


Posted by Lee Forrest
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 11, 2020 at 3:12 pm

Lee Forrest is a registered user.

Curious...with six days remaining, how is the referendum count proceeding in terms of numbers?

The PR people at City Hall are apparently trying to squash the referendum via an online video presentation & posted option to rescind one's petition signature with the City Clerk's office by closing time December 16th.

Interesting development.

Web Link


Posted by Lee Forrest
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 12, 2020 at 9:27 am

Lee Forrest is a registered user.

>"And Palo Altans are so self involved, busy organizing a referendum to bar public , open space access. Do BLM and All Lives matter? Absurd priorities."

^ FHP access needn't become racial issue
because the the key issues are ecological sustainability & PACC transparency.

As far as BLM (which used to be the more recognizable acronym for the Bureau of Land Management)...certain leadership platforms on their part might also be construed (to some) as borderline 'absurd'.

Web Link


Posted by Name hidden
a resident of Downtown North

on Dec 12, 2020 at 9:41 am

Due to repeated violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are automatically removed. Why?


Posted by JB
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Dec 12, 2020 at 2:28 pm

JB is a registered user.

Hello. I just contacted Irina Beylin last night to see if she knew how many signatures have been obtained so far in the petition drive. She said that she knew of about 1000 so far, but she will be in contact with 20 petition circulators this weekend to get a better count. She said that, even if the 2561 petition signatures aren’t obtained, she feels good that people signing the petition had their voices heard. I think we all want to have our voices heard, no matter how we feel about the opening of Foothills Park.

She also said something I didn’t know. If you circulate the petition to your friends or family, you can’t sign the petition yourself and have it count. You have to sign a new petition yourself and have somebody else witness your signature. If anybody else doesn’t know this, here is a link to the petition:

file:///C:/Users/steve/AppData/Local/Temp/ReferendumFoothillsFinal%20(4).pdf


Posted by Chris K
a resident of Southgate
on Dec 13, 2020 at 11:38 am

Chris K is a registered user.

I've lived in Palo Alto since 1989, and have been a resident of Southgate since 1996. I'm an avid hiker, a member of a local Search and Rescue team, and I hike in the many and varied Peninsula preserves for enjoyment and training. I'd estimate that I hike in Foothills Park about 20 times a year.

Let me put it to you plainly: it's time to welcome our neighbors to Foothills Park.

Palo Alto is on the wrong side of this argument. We have enough challenges in front of us - we shouldn't be spending money and resources defending a lawsuit about this issue. Let's open up Foothills Park and make the issue moot.

In this time of reduced tax revenues and tight budgets, I would prefer to spend money on opening libraries, improving schools, and repairing roads, rather than defending a lawsuit that serves no one.


Posted by jc
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 13, 2020 at 11:46 am

jc is a registered user.

"welcoming nonresidents to the exclusive nature preserve"

More accurate to say "fragile nature preserve"


Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 13, 2020 at 12:02 pm

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

Palo Alto has over 30 parks that are actually PARKS - on the flat ground and accessible by anyone. No one ever talks about those parks or complains because they are closed? Any one, from anywhere can use those parks. And there is a budget associated with keeping the grounds well maintained, trees trimmed, grass mowed. Are those parks open now? If not when will they be opened? There are no civil rights issues with those parks. Tree lines have to be maintained so that limbs are not falling on people. Lots of maintenance.

As to hiking trails in Rancho some are closed off after wet weather because they are collapsing due to overuse. I was on one when the trail collapsed, luckily not in a big drop area. Son is in East Bay and knows that some close to city lines are closed because of fire danger, kids come up and set off fireworks - Bear Mt.

The management of Reserves in the hills is not all golden. Trails collapse from overuse. Streams divert because too many people are disturbing the support systems set up to control water flow.

Mitchell Park is the go to place for festivals - it is specifically set up for that purpose. Support systems for fire are on-site.
Focus on each section of the city and what is available within bike or walking distance. The city has paid a lot of money to make those places available and kept up so that all can enjoy them. Next time someone gets on TV to complain make sure they tell everyone about all of the parks that we have for their enjoyment. YOu'all Come.


Posted by Jennifer Landesmann
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 13, 2020 at 12:09 pm

Jennifer Landesmann is a registered user.

Chris K,

The pesky questions about managing Foothill may seem like being on the “wrong side” but no library will teach just how tedious management of an environmental asset is, and especially in times of reduced revenues.

I challenge you to in the same breath as increasing Foothill usage that you help raise money for increasing Foothill usage.

As far as lawsuits are concerned, that is the one thing the city could manage better given that residents are on the frontlines of improving libraries, schools and probably next is we may need to repair roads too.

It’s time to not see this issue as being on the right or wrong side because anyway most people want to open Foothill and “how” its being done matters lawsuit or not.


Posted by Lee Forrest
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 13, 2020 at 12:43 pm

Lee Forrest is a registered user.

>"I challenge you to in the same breath as increasing Foothill usage that you help raise money for increasing Foothill usage."

^ Curious...does this 'challenge' also include any fiscal outlay from the projected non-residents who will now have access to Foothills Park or does the burden rest solely upon Palo Alto resident tax-payers to foot the additional & necessary expenditures...in the name of social justice & rising above our alleged racist past?


Posted by Jennifer Landesmann
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 13, 2020 at 1:22 pm

Jennifer Landesmann is a registered user.

@Lee Forrest,
“Curious...does this 'challenge' also include any fiscal outlay from the projected non-residents who will now have access to Foothills Park or does the burden rest solely upon Palo Alto residents to foot the additional & necessary expenditures”

First I agree that a comprehensive impact analysis is needed before increasing usage and the impact analysis will likely need funding and support.

The management risks are not because of “residency” of users but greater usage if you increase access. A start should be for a comprehensive impact analysis to be supported by both residents and non-residents.


Posted by Be realistic
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Dec 13, 2020 at 1:57 pm

Be realistic is a registered user.

Chris,

This is not about not welcoming our neighbors, as you may know. This is about how things are done in this town. Not just the democratic process has been violated (mind you, this is about a preserve whose area is about equal the rest of the city). The process of the CC has not been followed which led to this insane stupid turn. The CC has already designed the plan of gradual reasonable opening the park. The CC actions caused this inflammatory lawsuit.

This is not the first, or second time when the residents became frustrated with CC. The petition serves the purpose of having them (and all of us) learn the hard way and be responsible for our actions - the electeds and us who elect.

The cap on the number of visitors is proposed to be 1000, I believe, which is insane for that park/preserve. I agree that otherwise it does not matter from which city those people are, as long as they pitch in the maintenance cost. However, the PA citizens who are paying for that land should be asked how they feel about it.

Many of us are sick and tired of being stepped over again, and again, and again.

Enjoy your hikes.


Posted by Lee Forrest
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 13, 2020 at 2:43 pm

Lee Forrest is a registered user.

>"...I agree that a comprehensive impact analysis is needed before increasing usage and the impact analysis will likely need funding and support."

^ Now wouldn't 'common sense' have dictated that consideration to the five PACC members who immediately caved-in to the arbitrary pressures of the ACLU/NAACP?

In other words...buy some time & hire a consultant (which the city is quite adept at doing) to prepare an EIR prior to making any blind promises to outside parties...or maybe ask them to 'chip-in' towards the study in a concerted effort to expedite & facilitate matters.





Posted by Jennifer Landesmann
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 13, 2020 at 3:38 pm

Jennifer Landesmann is a registered user.

@Lee Forrest,

"In other words...buy some time & hire a consultant (which the city is quite adept at doing) to prepare an EIR prior to making any blind promises to outside parties...or maybe ask them to 'chip-in' towards the study in a concerted effort to expedite & facilitate matters."

Given the immediate responsibility, time and resources, and dedication and costs to manage greater access to Foothill, I doubt the savings on the legal fees were worth it to "expedite" the opening. Yes, PACC should have pushed back and not made promises but it's also now dishonest to say, oh we can reduce usage to 10 people.

It doesn't have to be all or nothing. All who will have the benefits of usage will need to care that everything is done right and quite frankly engaging people in environmental reviews may sound like heresy to like the oil industry but they are probably better than school.


Posted by Lee Forrest
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 13, 2020 at 3:51 pm

Lee Forrest is a registered user.

Concurring Ms. Landesmann & to use an old adage, "haste makes waste"...an apparent PACC trademark.


Posted by jc
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 13, 2020 at 5:55 pm

jc is a registered user.


Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 13, 2020 at 6:11 pm

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

People keep trying to create false equivalencies. How many parks does Los Altos Hills have? Menlo Park? Los Altos?. LAH has a park that only residents can go to by reservation - go to their city web page. Chris K hikes all over and helps clear trails at locations that are funded by who? The county? The State? Private Organizations? Every variation on the themes available.

PA the city funds FHP. PA the city provides for the maintenance and personnel. PA does it all. And not only for FHP - for all of the parks in the city - over 30. And anyone can go to any one of those parks - no questions asked.

So why the focus on FHP? there are multiple Open Space Preserves all over the place. All have great trails and amenities. Rancho is extremely popular. I like it better because I see people I know there. Lots of animals and birds (turkeys), ducks, peacocks walking around. A little farm with goats and pigs.

If I was sympathetic before I am less sympathetic now. People have a lot of agendas and FHP is a tool for those agendas. I see no reason why we should allow a piece of land we own be trashed and ruined because of some people's agendas.
And it is not a park - like the other 30 that we make available - it is an open space preserve - to be protected.



Posted by Balance
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Dec 13, 2020 at 8:25 pm

Balance is a registered user.

I posted some questions on Nextdoor yesterday, yet none there answered them so far. Trying here now.

I looked at all the most recent discussions on Nextdoor and on Palo Alto Online I could find, and at the publicly shared legal documents, such as

Web Link
and
Web Link

My questions for those neighbors who are more knowledgeable than me in legal matters are based on the general content, and in particular on two statements in the legal documents:

(1) In the lawsuit:

"The City of Palo Alto (the “City”) describes the crown jewel of its parks system— the 1,400-acre Foothills Park (the “Park”)—as a “nature lover’s paradise.”".

(2) In the settlement:

"The Parties acknowledge and agree that:
(a) The City is responsible for managing the Park.
(b) Subject to City ordinances, rules, and regulations, entry to and use of Foothills Park will be open to the general public. Other than as provided in this Settlement Agreement, the City shall not enact or maintain any ordinance, policy, practice or procedure that restricts or limits access to Foothills Park on the basis of residency."

My first two questions are about the *object* of the lawsuit, for which so far I haven't found a crisp legal definition:

(A) Is it a correct interpretation that the settlement, in the context of the lawsuit, takes as input the heretofore wholly owned by Palo Alto multi-purpose *parcel of land* being currently used as a nature preserve, which could be subdivided, rented out, repurposed, renamed, sold etc., and converts it into an indivisible mono-classified *park*, which the City is obligated to manage in perpetuity?

(B) If answer to (A) is Yes, then how large would be the projected material loss to the City? For instance, from no longer being able to subdivide and rent the land out, sell, repurpose, temporarily suspend its use, or do anything else with it. In another sub-thread on Nextdoor, the estimate of the market price of the land in question came to $4B+, so it is not an insignificant property.

A hypothetical test scenario could be, for instance, subdividing and selling portion(s) of that property to other legal entities, for instance to Los Altos School District (LASD), which could for example build a new neighborhood school on a peripheral part of the land.

If "The Park", described in the lawsuit as a whole of 1,400 acres, is subdivided and a part of it is rented or sold to another entity, such as LASD, which does impose the access restrictions based on residency, then the City would be in breach of both the settlement agreement and the permanent injunction, right?

How about even a milder test scenario? Let's imagine that Palo Alto desires to temporarily rent out a part of its green space in the Foothills to a Boy Scouts or a Girl Scouts troop, membership in which is residence-based. Then, according to the settlement and to the permanent injunction, Palo Alto wouldn't have a right to restrict other visitors access to the immediate vicinity of that rented space, or even to the rented space itself. Is such legal interpretation plausible?

My question (C) regards the refusal of the City to allow contactless collection of signatures for the Referendum. Did the City evaluate legal risk of that decision?

Clearly, and especially given the fact that the publicly shared copy of the Settlement was signed electronically, we have a lack of equal protection here: city employees and outside parties are deemed worthy of protection from Covid, whereas the citizens aren't.

Plausibly, other legal claims can be made in regard to this situation, up to criminally negligent endangerment of senior citizens, who are especially susceptible to Covid.


Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 13, 2020 at 10:55 pm

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

Are the people who were involved in this trying to commit city suicide?
1. This is an Open Space Preserve. The city got boxed into calling is a park - which is where the constitutional legal definition issue is. By word it got converted into a PARK. Go hang yourself. The mouse walked right in and ate the cheese - bang.
2. Don't get the hypothetical concerning LASD. Not going to happen.
3. It is not the crown jewel. Mitchell Park is the crown jewel. Mitchell is full all of the time and has multiple purposes - library, food, rooms for rental, land for rental, etc. Mitchell park is where the city is making money. There is an on-site fire department. Baseball, soccer, tennis, basketball, computer for kids.
4. FHP has a kid summer camp - go to the FHP google search - you can see a video of the kid camp. Don't need scouts -we got "scouts".

Who is our legal team that signed this? You backed the city into a corner and threw away the legal get out of jail card. Unbelievable.

Do us all a favor and sell to the Mid-Peninsula Open Space Organization.


Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 14, 2020 at 9:17 am

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

Since it appears that we hired a "Constitutional" lawyer ask said lawyer where the definition is relative to the constitution. There has to be a single description for legal purposes that all parties have agreed to and is universally legally supportable. Where is that? Point that out.

Webster says anyone can enter a PARK. IF not that definition then what is it?

Based on the above every attempt has been made to singularly classify this property as a PARK. It looks like every attempt has been made to disqualify this property as a PRESERVE. Despite that every property in that specific area is called Open Space or Preserve.

Ask the "Constitutional" lawyer where and what the legal definition is of a Preserve / Open Space. He is paid to legally distinguish the difference between the two.

Ask him why he allowed us to get boxed in to a legal interpretation that is not accurate to the facts.

What you all need is accuracy to the FACTS. If you are now not legally accurate to the facts then the agreement is moot. Not legally supportable.

All of the other "issues" are OPINIONS. Opinions are not legal facts. They are attempts by people to manipulate the end result. Start with facts. Then determine where you want to go but don't undercut the facts. The FACTS are your get out of jail free card for any future law suits.


Posted by Name hidden
a resident of Downtown North

on Dec 14, 2020 at 12:11 pm

Due to repeated violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are automatically removed. Why?


Posted by Be realistic
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Dec 14, 2020 at 12:51 pm

Be realistic is a registered user.

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows,

Yours are all good points. That is the goal of the petition - to stop this and get back to the facts. The problem is that people who are getting handsome salaries from us do not give a rodent's behind about working for that salary. The mayor's spite for this city is more a clinical matter.
It is much easier for our city government to give the farm away and seal it with all the "injunction" language and other stuff only lawyers could figure.

People need to use their head when they cast their ballots.


Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 14, 2020 at 1:44 pm

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

Erik is the person talking to the lawyers. Any legal action has to cite the references that support the conclusions.

Erik has an MBA from UCLA Anderson School of Business. Part of that curriculum is legal contracting basics. Always ask the right questions at the beginning. Get the cites that support any position.
ACLU is pushing an agenda. Make them provide cites for their assumptions.


Posted by Lee Forrest
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 14, 2020 at 1:57 pm

Lee Forrest is a registered user.

>"...every attempt has been made to singularly classify this property as a PARK. It looks like every attempt has been made to disqualify this property as a PRESERVE. Despite that every property in that specific area is called Open Space or Preserve."

^ All things considered, the name Foothills Preserve (Hidden Villa/Adobe Creek area) is already taken and since that 'preserve' is open to the general public, a Palo Alto Foothills Park to Palo Alto Foothills Preserve designation would seemingly make minimal difference in this contentious matter...unless the so-called constitutional lawyers were to spend their boundless energies debating semantics for the sake of added clarity.

Perhaps back in 1965, the PACC should have named the area Foothills Preserve as its emergence as an outdoor recreational area preceded that of Foothills Preserve by about 6-7 years.

An unfortunate decision as the 'name game' & it's purported definition has now become a key element of a somewhat nebulous 'constitutional' debate.


Posted by JB
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Dec 14, 2020 at 6:32 pm

JB is a registered user.

Hi again. I’m sorry I didn’t check earlier to see that my link to the petition didn’t work. If you signed a petition and had other friends sign it, you can’t be the witness to your own signature. You need to sign a new petition and have somebody else witness your signature. This link from an earlier post of mine should work. I apologize for the mistake. Signatures need to be received by December 15. The addresses are listed in the link below.

Web Link


Posted by Balance
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Dec 14, 2020 at 11:25 pm

Balance is a registered user.

Regarding the "Park" vs "Preserve" distinction. It can be called whatever on a map - for instance, the city of Menlo Park obvioulsy is not a "Park". What matters is what Palo Alto agrees it legally is.

As it stood, Palo Alto could even argue that there are two entities in question: the smaller Park and the larger Preserve. Once Palo Alto agrees that there is just one entity, and its legal classification is Park, the City is indeed in a corner.


Posted by Lee Forrest
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 15, 2020 at 8:05 am

Lee Forrest is a registered user.

>"As it stood, Palo Alto could even argue that there are two entities in question: the smaller Park and the larger Preserve. Once Palo Alto agrees that there is just one entity, and its legal classification is Park, the City is indeed in a corner."

^ A suggestion...just remove the 'P' and call it a Reserve.

This will give the opposing attorneys 'something to shout about'.


Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 15, 2020 at 10:07 am

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

Glad we have so many Opinions - me being part of the Opinion pack. However my educational and work background is specific to contract law so am not overcome by the theatrical and emotional aspects of this debacle.

Start with who is making money and who is loosing money. The ACLU is making money. Go to their website where they celebrate the continual fight against government abuse and overreach - over 100 years experience. They have already through many adventures carved out a legal position that has served them well. They have told the PACC reps what qualifies as a PARK. It is the Webster Dictionary definition of a PARK. WE know what a park is - we have over 30 in the city. Those parks are open to anyone who wants to use those parks - within reason. The city cannot be classified as a racist and white supremacist entity.

The ACLU needs to keep the city corralled into that definition if it wants to make any money and prove/win their point relative to FHP.

The city has not played it's hand well here - it knows the Preserve is a thorny issue and has yet classified it as a crown jewel. It has over-publicized its' city asset. So now extricate itself from it's bragging. Put this PRESERVE back into the classification that all Preserves in the bay are enjoying. There ae many Preserves in the bay area that have more attributes than FHP.

Most preserves have constraints on use of the land - the whole purpose being to protect a natural asset, the animals, the flora, etc. And since the city is directly responsible for any and all things that happen at the park - including the downside of fires and fire protection - then the city is within it's rights as the legal conservators of the property to manage it within the budget they have available. Crowing about the park in the press is not a good management tactic and has led us to the logical end result - too much publicity going sideways. City - take charge here. You have all of the ight cards, just play them well.


Posted by Lee Forrest
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 15, 2020 at 10:46 am

Lee Forrest is a registered user.

>"City - take charge here. You have all of the ight cards, just play them well."

^ Good advice but kind of difficult for the PACC to adhere to...especially when they are collectively locked (aka consumed) in a game of blind man's bluff.


Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 15, 2020 at 11:15 am

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

I was just on the site for POST and also Los Altos Hills Parks. Some require a reservation for parking spaces. Some planning required for a serious day of hiking and viewing. This location on the peninsula is surrounded by parks with hiking trails.

Avenidas has a group that visits a different trail every adventure - they are all over the bay area. I was hiking with a work group that planned a different hike every week. For the serious hiker they are all over the place. FHP is nice but no fish coming up the steams, no turkeys walking around in their groups, not a lot of "nature". Rancho has deer that are fairly used to people and just keep on eating if you go by. Also turkeys.

Most of those locations are funded by the Mid-peninsula organizations and counties.
They make it clear who is financially supporting each of the locations.

Who is funding a location is key to who ends up being able to access a location. Next time you plan a hike research the site to see who is funding that site. In any legal issue who controls the finance is a top level criteria of how the property is used.


Posted by Be realistic
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Dec 15, 2020 at 2:55 pm

Be realistic is a registered user.

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows,

I agree with your assessments. However, don't you think that it is late to be calling on the city to take charge? It is falling on deaf ears. You said Eric is talking to the lawyers. Eric - you mean Eric Filseth - that Eric? He posted long texts here calling for the citizens not to sign the petition. He is not interested in this matter to go any further for several reasons. One is that they are hoping that quickly losing this debate is the least evil that will cover for their ineptitude and lack of willpower. Who cares about a bunch of deer and which people are drinking in that park/preserve?
This is who we got for the city council.

Another reason for starting the petition is to try and correct the way they do the city business. I do not want to remind about projects like the Mitchell library, Ross Rd, bike overpass, HOUSING/OFFICE development !!, etc.


Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 15, 2020 at 5:45 pm

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

One of the elements in any decision making is knowing what you know, and knowing what you don't know. Most have no visibility as to the workings of this issue other than what we glean by people tossing the ball back and forth. As more pieces of the puzzle are revealed then more opinions are formed. Then the picture starts filling out. We start filling in the blanks with actual FACTS. And since we live in PALO ALTO where very smart people live then we will like herd dogs start getting the herd up and moving. And once the herd gets up and is moving then watch out. They make movies and write songs about stuff like this.


Posted by Be realistic
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Dec 15, 2020 at 8:28 pm

Be realistic is a registered user.

OK ... I just do not think there are further legal options once the petition falls flat tomorrow. Well, there are always options but they get progressively more difficult. That was the calculation of the "deal makers"; no one will want to go into more trouble. Even more so now when no one wants to be near other people. That was a sordid deal.


Posted by [email protected]
a resident of Mountain View
on Dec 15, 2020 at 8:41 pm

[email protected] is a registered user.

WOW!

If anything I understand Palo Alto in this.

I am scared that this park will get overused and the place will get damaged because of it.

So I will also understand if Palo Alto decides to make it resident only, and if challenged I hope you win.

Speaking as an gaijin (outsider)


Posted by Lee Forrest
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 16, 2020 at 8:55 am

Lee Forrest is a registered user.

Curious how the referendum petition has progressed this being the 16th of December with tomorrow potentially being 'open season' at Foothills Park.

Did the ACLU/NAACP & their legal threat successfully impose it's will upon Palo Alto?


Posted by Jennifer Landesmann
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 16, 2020 at 5:11 pm

Jennifer Landesmann is a registered user.

ACLU wins and I still don’t think it’s their fault. Anyone can come up with not just lawsuits but other ways to sway our Council.

Representation methods need to change, starting with how PACC Agendas are put together, time to check the black box.

Foothill will be great because I still trust Palo Alto residents to help lead on those pesky environmental questions and appetite for facts.


Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.

Email:


Post a comment

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

Stay informed.

Get the day's top headlines from Palo Alto Online sent to your inbox in the Express newsletter.

Two sister restaurants under one roof: Koma and Kanpai Sushi merge operations in Palo Alto
By The Peninsula Foodist | 0 comments | 4,164 views

“It is not a lack of love, but a lack of friendship . . .
By Chandrama Anderson | 2 comments | 2,975 views

"It's too little too late" and other reasons why not
By Sherry Listgarten | 10 comments | 2,813 views

PA's downtown business problems not simple to solve
By Diana Diamond | 0 comments | 1,830 views