ACLU Sues Palo Alto over Discriminatory Policy that Denies Non-Residents Access to Public Park

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By Cailin Garcia

Palo Alto — Foothills Park in Palo Alto is a scenic area well known for its nature trails, grassy hills, and strikingly green flora.

But this beautiful park is now the center of a civil rights controversy because of a discriminatory policy that bars non-residents from entering without being faced with high fines or potential jail time.

The ACLU Foundation of Northern California has teamed up with Munger, Tolles & Olson, LLP to act against this policy by filing a lawsuit against the City of Palo Alto, charging the Foothills Park non-resident policy is not only unconstitutional, but also highlights Palo Alto’s well-documented history of racial discrimination.

According to the complaint filed by the ACLU in Santa Clara County Superior Court, the Palo Alto ordinance violates both the U.S. and California Constitutions by infringing on plaintiffs’ rights to freedom of movement, freedom of speech, and freedom of assembly.

The suit’s plaintiffs include the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People of San Jose/Silicon Valley (NAACP) and 10 individuals who are residents of Palo Alto, East Palo Alto, Menlo Park, and neighboring communities throughout Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties.

The complaint maintains that the non-resident ban “traces its roots to an era when racial discrimination in and around the City was open and notorious,” citing past racist policies enforced by Palo Alto government agencies, lending institutions, realtors’ associations, and private individuals.

The ACLU alleges that Palo Alto’s population reflects the city’s racist past – only 1.6 percent of Palo Alto’s residents are African American.

“Palo Alto’s exclusion of its neighbors violates the civil rights of communities who too often still find those rights under threat: Black and Brown communities,” said William S. Freeman, Senior Counsel at the ACLU Foundation of Northern California.

Plaintiff Alysa Cisneros said the park’s policy had personally affected her, noting, “This past Fourth of July, I took my daughter to Foothills Park to protest the exclusion of non-residents. The park ranger turned us away from the entrance because we do not live in Palo Alto. On this most American of holidays, we were reminded of the inequities that still exist in our own backyards. I want to show my daughter that it is important to face the things that are wrong in our communities, and to work to do something about them.”

Rev. Jethroe Moore II, President of the NAACP of San Jose/Silicon Valley, issued a statement on the Foothills Park lawsuit, emphasizing the importance of allowing public access to the park amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“In our communities, we need more inclusive spaces. We need public green spaces that truly reflect the meaning of the word ‘public’—‘for the people.’ This is even more important during this time of global pandemic, when outdoor public areas are some of the few places where we can safely and responsibly enjoy time away from our homes. This experience should not be exclusive to those who hold the most racial and socioeconomic privilege,” said Moore.

The ACLU also aims to use the suit to stop Palo Alto from using public funds to enforce the discriminatory policy. Several plaintiffs expressed negative feelings about their tax dollars being put toward preventing others from entering the park, including LaDoris Cordell, a retired Superior Court judge and former member of the Palo Alto City Council.

“I cannot in good conscience sit by while the city of Palo Alto uses my tax dollars to perpetuate the exclusion of people from public spaces in my community. The practice of blocking non-residents from Foothills Park perpetuates inequity, and it must end,” said Cordell.

Plaintiff and Palo Alto business owner Gwen Gasque also weighed in: “As a Black woman who grew up in the segregated South, I find this ordinance particularly offensive. Even though I own a business in Palo Alto and have for many years paid taxes that fund the park, I cannot enter it.”

“I attended schools in the Palo Alto Unified School District for many years, I currently work and serve as a volunteer in nonprofit organizations in Palo Alto, and have spent much of my career in public service. Yet I am barred from entering the public grounds of Foothills Park,” said Laura Martinez, who is not only a plaintiff but also the former Mayor of East Palo Alto.

“It is time for Palo Alto to end its exclusionary policy and welcome all members of the surrounding community to Foothills Park,” Martinez concluded.

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The Vanguard Court Watch operates in Yolo, Sacramento and Sacramento Counties with a mission to monitor and report on court cases. Anyone interested in interning at the Courthouse or volunteering to monitor cases should contact the Vanguard at info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org - please email info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org if you find inaccuracies in this report.

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125 thoughts on “ACLU Sues Palo Alto over Discriminatory Policy that Denies Non-Residents Access to Public Park”

  1. Keith Olsen

    So it’s okay to have racially segregated safe spaces on college campuses but it’s somehow racist for Palo Alto to have a resident only, not based on race, city park?

          1. David Greenwald

            Exclusion is often about race. It’s not like they have a sign in 2020 that says, ‘no n-words allowed’ – you seem to be suggesting anything short of that is not only permissible but it’s not racially based. That’s just absurd.

            White men have had the longest and broadest access to higher education in the United States. They have not been subjected to the same systematic exclusion. So I have a hard time taking some of this stuff seriously. Especially when there are advantages to people of color, often distinct minorities on campus having a place to come together with people from similar backgrounds who may have experienced similar racism or microaggressions could provide the type of supportive environment these students need to graduate, particularly if they feel silenced or not validated elsewhere on campus.

            Comparing that to an ordinance by a city to exclude non-residents from a public park is really pushing it in my view. And another distractive comment by you, aimed at pushing conversations away from uncomfortable subjects and toward more comfortable ones by you.

        1. Keith Echols

          It seems to me….and I’m jumping into the middle of a conversation that I’ve only half read:

          Keith Olson is taking the equitable present day view of how things should be.  Or in other words…what’s fair is fair for everybody right now.

          Where as David is taking the let’s make up for past inequity that leads to the inequities of today.

          Do I have that right?

           

        2. Alan Miller

          Keith Olson is taking the equitable present day view of how things should be.  Or in other words…what’s fair is fair for everybody right now.

          Where as David is taking the let’s make up for past inequity that leads to the inequities of today.

          Do I have that right?

          I’d say you nailed the issue not only between those two, but the national divide.

        3. Ron Oertel

          I’d say you nailed the issue not only between those two, but the national divide.

          True.

          And then there’s this “third half”, of which I’m sometimes a part of:

          that I’ve only half read:

    1. Alan Miller

      I’m wit’cha KO.  I do not believe the solution to racial exclusion is racial exclusion.  I understand the ‘now it’s our turn, former oppressors’ mindset.  It’s not invalid.  But any outright racial exclusion on a public facility is morally dangerous policy.

  2. Bill Marshall

    For one big thing, there is a difference between denial of public facilities and having a designated space.

    Yes… like schools, restrooms and water fountains in the deep south in the 30’s-50’s… right…

    All public facilities, with designations as to who they were for…

    1. Keith Olsen

      Last time I looked it wasn’t the 30’s – 50’s.

      So how do you feel about having designated areas on campus for designated races?  Sounds like a 30’s-50’s type of thing.  You think?

  3. Bill Marshall

    Comparing that to an ordinance by a city to exclude non-residents from a public park is really pushing it in my view.   

    Yet…

    Exclusion is often about race.  [As is “inclusion”, by your own admission…]

    And (from posted article)…

    “Palo Alto’s exclusion of its neighbors violates the civil rights of communities who too often still find those rights under threat: Black and Brown communities,” said William S. Freeman, Senior Counsel at the ACLU Foundation of Northern California.

    Same could be said about campus facilities that have inclusive/exclusive rules for use…
     

    1. Bill Marshall

      I guess we could designate Arroyo Park as only resident, POC, only…

      Or Community Park as resident only… (kiss the soccer tourneys goodbye)…

      Or, declare the DJUSD schools ‘resident only’…

      1. David Greenwald

        If you read the suit, you see that’s probably not true.

        “But the Park is a gated paradise that unconstitutionally excludes non-residents. The ban on non-residents traces its roots to an era when racial discrimination in and around the City was open and notorious. It is long past time to relegate this unlawful exclusion to the dustbin of history. Plaintiffs seek injunctive and declaratory relief to end the City’s unconstitutional prohibition against entry by non-residents into the Park, and to prevent the City’s wasteful and unlawful expenditure of public funds to enforce the prohibition. ”

        So they believe even the restriction is unconstitutional.

  4. David Greenwald

    “It’s this kind of reasoning that makes people just shake their heads that everything has to be about race.”

    Also I think your comment is incredibly naive.  Underlying politics is race.  The political divide in this country is a racial divide.  So of course every political issue is ultimately about race – IT HAS TO BE BY DEFINITION.

    I understand, you’re a white male of privilege living in an upper middle class privileged white community and you don’t see this every day.

    But the biggest predictor of how you are going to vote is ideology and the biggest predictor of ideology by far is race.  There are some gender effects.  But the vast majority of white people will vote for Trump this year and the vast majority of people of color will vote for Biden.  There are effects for gender and religion and geography, but they are dwarfed by race.  Whites in the south  vote for Republicans, Blacks in the South vote for Democrats.

    So yes – everything is about race.  When you are a person of color, what’s different, is you are confronted with that issue every day, while whites can often live without confronting it most of the time.

    1. Bill Marshall

      But the biggest predictor of how you are going to vote is ideology and the biggest predictor of ideology by far is race. 

      So yes – everything is about race. 

      And who passed the laws to end discrimination?  Who signed those into law?  Thought it was white males, but I guess I don’t know my history as well as I thought I did…

      May more folk come to realize “everything is about humanity”, rather than “everything is about race”… but many will hold on to that “everything is about race”, as did Bull Connor, David Duke, George Wallace (in his earlier years… he had a ‘revelation’ when he was shot by a white man), etc.

      So “everything is about race” is an ignoble, time-honored “concept”… interesting to see who promulgates it.

  5. Eric Gelber

    In progressive Davis, our City Council would never pass an ordinance limiting the use of public parks to residents. When it comes to approving a development agreement that restricts non-residents from buying a home in a housing development for seniors, on the other hand, . . ..

  6. Keith Echols

    To me this is about money.  Who pays for what.

     

    The policy does not discriminate by race.  I understand that these kind of policies have in the past been enacted to exclude people of color.  But this is where it takes more than a simplistic extremist view of law to look into the gray area.  Is there any relatively recent past (say 20 years?) of discriminatory policies created or proposed by the city of Palo Alto?  If not, then I do not believe you can show any kind of intent by this non-direct form of discrimination.  If there is a history of discriminatory practices by the city of Palo Alto then you have to consider their new policy to be potentially discriminatory.

    I kind of find the reasoning similar to how the Covid regulations are applied to places of worship.  Some churches argued that they were unfairly targeted and that the rules violated their constitutional rights.  But I believe the legal view was that there was nothing that specifically said that people could not gather to worship.  The regulations simply said that people couldn’t gather indoors in large groups (over 50 I think?).

     

    But as for who can use what?  It’s about who pays for what.  If Foothills Park is under the city’s jurisdiction and it’s management and upkeep are by the city of Palo Alto resources (funds and manpower), then it’s the city’s park to do with what it wishes on behalf of the city of Palo Alto.  But if the park takes any county, state or federal resources then the park should be for anyone in the county, state or country to use.

    I believe here in Davis, Manor Pool charges more for non-residents to use the pool.

    1. Keith Olsen

      I believe here in Davis, Manor Pool charges more for non-residents to use the pool.

      There are many municipal golf courses that charge more for out out of towners or have special privileges for tee times for residents.  That might be because of racism too if we are to go along with this article’s premise.

      1. Keith Echols

        I think that it can be easily reasoned that golf courses and pools have hard maximum number of people that it can admit.  So preference or priority is for residence of the local community of golf courses and pools…etc…

        I’m guessing that Foothills Park has been getting crowded during the Covid pandemic.  Heck, I used to love running at nearby Rancho San Antonio (near or in Mt. View) and it would get kind of crowded on weekends and that was 20 years ago.

    2. Eric Gelber

      Is there any relatively recent past (say 20 years?) of discriminatory policies created or proposed by the city of Palo Alto?  If not, then I do not believe you can show any kind of intent by this non-direct form of discrimination.  If there is a history of discriminatory practices by the city of Palo Alto then you have to consider their new policy to be potentially discriminatory.

      Racial discrimination does not have to be intentional to be unlawful. If the policy would have  a discriminatory impact on racial minorities, it would violate anti-discrimination laws.

      1. Keith Echols

        I know it doesn’t have to but I’m trying to voice some reason.  There are numerous laws, regulations and ordinances that could be interpreted as unintentionally discriminatory.

        1. Eric Gelber

          There are numerous laws, regulations and ordinances that could be interpreted as unintentionally discriminatory.

          The fact that there are other discriminatory laws is not a defense here. I’m not sure how pointing that out voices any reason.

          1. David Greenwald

            Disparate impact is an unintentional discrimination or a discriminatory effect, whereas disparate treatment is intentional.

        2. Keith Echols

          I understand it.  I just don’t simply accept it without some room for grey area and nuance.  I think my initial statement pretty much sums up my belief about it:

          But this is where it takes more than a simplistic extremist view of law to look into the gray area. 

        3. Eric Gelber

          There’s always room for disagreement, and things are rarely clear cut. That’s why we have a legal process for resolving such disputes. But you have misstated the law—e.g., by saying that intent is required.

    3. Richard McCann

      The policy does not discriminate by race. 

      The policy itself doesn’t explicitly list race, but it’s based on an entrance requirement that is built on racial discrimination in two ways. First, like most communities, Palo Alto most likely had racially exclustionary deed covenants plus discriminatory federal house financing  into the 1960s. (NPR recently had a story about an attempt to start a housing development coop that was racially diverse that was denied specifically on the base of race.) This closed non-white families out of the ability to gain housing within the city, which has significant multi-generational legacy impacts for decades as either the house or the associated wealth is handed downtown. Second, as has been stated repeatedly here, Black households have only 10% the wealth on average compared to White households. It is wealth that determines the ability to buy a house, especially in a high priced community such as Palo Alto. Thus, Black households do not have the entrance fee, that amounts to a million dollars or more, to enter Foothills Park. That’s really no different than the poll tax which didn’t talk specifically about race, but made it too expensive to vote for poor Blacks in the South.

      1. Keith Echols

        , Black households do not have the entrance fee, that amounts to a million dollars or more, to enter Foothills Park. That’s really no different than the poll tax which didn’t talk specifically about race, but made it too expensive to vote for poor Blacks in the South.

         

        That’s an extreme stretch of reasoning.  Poll taxes restricted the rights of black people to vote.  The right to vote was already established.

        You’re under the assumption that people other than the people in Palo Alto have the right to use Foothill Park.

      2. Alan Miller

        First, like most communities, Palo Alto most likely had racially exclustionary deed covenants plus discriminatory federal house financing  into the 1960s.

        Can you cite this?  I’m not saying it’s  not true, as I didn’t hear of Davis’ until recently.  I just don’t want to assume it of PA unless it happened.

        (NPR recently had a story about an attempt to start a housing development coop that was racially diverse that was denied specifically on the base of race.)

        Can you cite a link?  I looked online and couldn’t find from your description.

        1. David Greenwald

          The ACLU complaint (here) has extensive citations.

          Starting on Page 3, Paragraph 6.

          And then page 4, Pragraph 7.

          Also I don’t know if you saw Richard Rothstein when he spoke in Davis last November, but his book goes into some of it as well, “The Color of Law.”

        2. Richard McCann

          Yes, it was the NPR interview with Rothstein that I first heard this. Here’s another link as well: https://www.paloaltoonline.com/news/2020/06/28/un-forgetting-the-segregationist-history-of-palo-alto-and-daly-city-and-san-francisco-and

          Here’s a cite to the coop initiated by Wallace Stegner: https://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2017/05/the-color-of-law.html

          You’re under the assumption that people other than the people in Palo Alto have the right to use Foothill Park.

          Keith E, I’m saying that Palo Alto has created the exclusion that limits entry through housing segregation. A city is not a club with exclusive membership that can limit benefits to its members. It’s a local government that is created under the auspices of the State of California to act as an agent for the state. A city does not have powers, authority or rights that exist outside of those of the state. (See the California Constitution. If you don’t agree, provide a citation from the Constitution that supports your assertion.) Cities can be abolished by the state (see efforts with regard to Vernon and Bellflower.) So every citizen in California has the right to access any public space held and maintained by any city. Cities do not have the right to create exclusive clubs even if their citizens paid for by their citizens. Note that every city gets tax funds from the state so to be able to pay for these facilities, they must draw from their always-mingled funds that include money from other citizens in the state.

      1. Ron Oertel

        This information (along with that in Janet’s post below) might make a significant difference regarding this issue.

        It certainly changes my thoughts regarding it (to some degree, at least).

        Maybe Janet’s idea (regarding restrictions on the number of people) is the best approach – if needed.

        As a side note, there’s lots of great (county/open space) parks along Skyline (road).

        1. Ron Oertel

          Though if the concern is actually about environmental (e.g., trail) damage, one might wonder about this (from the article that Edgar posted, above):

          “I think the perception that this is closed is erroneous, and many, many people from Los Altos Hills ride in on a regular basis on their horses,” Kniss said.

          Still, I suspect that a lot of natural areas (in general) were preserved as a result of the efforts of equestrians (and hunters) in the first place.

        2. Edgar Wai

          Personally I think it is wrong to ‘ban’ outside visitors to a park regardless who ‘owns’ the park.  Instead of ‘ownership’ and ‘exclusion’, I think the more morally correct concepts should be ‘custody’ and ‘priority’.

          Custody means “whoever able to take the best care of a resource may continue to take care of the resource.” Priority means “if a resources is scarce, those who produce or maintain the resource have highest priority in getting their fair share.” Fair share roughly means equal access.

          So, in an ideal application of these principles, a Palo Alto resident would consider that since they may enjoy the park conveniently, they would try to visit the park outside holidays so outside visitors may visit during holidays without “exceeding visitor quota”. Meanwhile, outside visitor would visit the park with appreciation of Palo Alto residents as good custodians of the park, and leave the park as clean as before their visits.

  7. Ron Oertel

    David to Keith O:  And another distractive comment by you, aimed at pushing conversations away from uncomfortable subjects and toward more comfortable ones by you.

    That’s why white people won’t read “White Fragility”.  Makes them too uncomfortable, according to David.  😉

    (Sarcasm intended.)

    I think most people on here are pretty comfortable talking about the subject.

  8. Janet Krovoza16

    This really upsets me. I grew up in Palo Alto (I am the third generation of my family to live there) and remember vividly when Foothills Park opened in 1965, when I was 9. Restricting it to Palo Alto residents had nothing to do with keeping out POC, and to state that racism was “open and notorious”in Palo Alto is absurd. I am not denying that racism existed it, but Palo Alto was, and is, about as progressive a place as you could ever find in California.  It was a gift to the city from the Lees, who intended that it be used for the citizens of Palo Alto — in fact, that may have been one of the terms of the gift. I attended camp there for every summer until I was old enough to become a volunteer “junior counselor,” and then was a paid counselor for several years. It is a beautiful haven where I’ve watched bobcats hunt gophers, discovered a mountain lion kill, stepped around rattle snakes, marveled at woodrat nests, studied and learned California flora. Since moving from Palo Alto to Davis in 1991, I’ve accepted that I can never return without a resident companion — or on a weekday when it’s basically open to all.  Do I miss being able to visit whenever I want? Yes. But I rest easier knowing that human use is limited and that the environment and its unique and threatened ecosystems are protected.  If the city loses this battle, I hope that that strict limits on the number of people admitted are enforced.

  9. Keith Olsen

    As a “white male of privilege living in an upper middle class privileged white community “, as David puts it, I would like to visit Foothills Park but I won’t be allowed to because I don’t live in Palo Alto.

      1. Keith Olsen

        I never knew I was discriminated against so much until I read the Vanguard and some of the comments.  I wish I had a yacht, a summer vacation home in Tahoe, Warrior season tickets, I could go on forever.  But I guess since I can’t afford those things I must have been discriminated against.

        1. Ron Oertel

          You (and everyone) are “discriminated” against, based upon the color of green.

          (Not denying the situation which led to some minority communities having less of that.)

           

    1. Keith Echols

      I lived in Palo Alto for 3 years.  My father lived there for 17 years.  My grandparent(s) lived there for over 30 years.  And I can’t visit Foothills Park.

       

      Here’s my cynical take:  We’ll call this the UC out of state tuition model:  The city will figure that enough people from outside the city want to go to the park.  So they’ll start off with a modest $5 fee for non-residents.  The city will realize that it’s source of funds and jack up the price to $10, $15, $20.  The city will let in more and more non-residents.  Residents will then start complaining about all the non-residents in the park….even though the city has come to depend on the revenue from non-resident visitors to the park.

      1. Keith Echols

        If the city of Palo Alto decides that it has to regulate who and how many can go to the park they may find that kind of management will be an expense.

        In fact this reminds me of a “South Park” Episode where Eric Cartman inherits enough money to buy an amusement park. He wants to enjoy the park all for himself because he hates crowds and waiting in lines.   Because  he won’t let anyone in his park, it becomes the most desirable place to be.  And  across the country denying people the use or chance to buy something becomes a popular marketing strategy (kind of like Seinfeld’s Soup Nazi).  But Cartman learns he has to pay for security, maintenance and other services..so he is forced to start accepting more and more paying customers until it gets the point where he can no longer enjoy his park.

        1. Ron Oertel

          I’m thinking that there might be a disparate impact that you can’t be a Warrior.

          You (and most of the people reading this) would be minorities, on there. (What with not being able to jump, and all.)

        2. Eric Gelber

          “Is it “disparate impact” that I can’t afford Warrior season tickets?”
          Not all discrimination is unlawful.

          Fun fact: According to the sign pictured above, on weekends and holidays, Palo Alto treats non-residents like dogs.

        3. Ron Oertel

          Palo Alto treats non-residents like dogs.

          Are dogs allowed? We know that horses (apparently) are, according to the other article posted above.

          Of course, dogs and horses must be “accompanied”, regardless.

          I won’t refer to the term used to refer to the person accompanying dogs, here. I prefer to think of them as “caretakers”.

           

        4. Ron Oertel

          Thought I’d check:

          Dogs are not permitted anywhere in Foothills Park on weekends or city holidays. Dogs are only permitted on weekdays and must be on a leash under physical control at all times. More information is on our Dogs page.

          https://www.cityofpaloalto.org/gov/depts/csd/parks/preserves/foothills/default.asp

          Apparently, this goes for “resident dogs”, as well.  😉

          But, good to know that they have a link to a “dogs” page, on their website. So, they get special treatment.

  10. Alan Miller

    I grew up in Palo Alto, and our family went to Foothills Park regularly, from the moment the park was created.  I went to summer camp there:

    Out in the forest way back in the woods

    There’s our day camp

    And it’s mighty good

    FOOT-hill day camp!

    FOOT-hill day camp!

    Boom-de-ahda, Boom-de-ahda, Boom-de-ahda, Boom-de-ahda

    (I despise that earworm camp song today as much as I did half a century ago.)

    From the timing, sounds like Janet Krovoza could have easily been one of my junior camp counselors.  JK, do you remember “Big John”?  He was the icon of that program for years.  [Ah ha!  Tishnik!]

    This article leaves out a lot of history, details that other, more-balanced articles have covered – not just one-sided articles focus on race.  Why would you not at least include those details for context?  Palo Alto acquired the land with the intention of making it into a regional park with the financial assistance of surrounding communities.  The other communities declined, and Palo Alto had to pay for the entire acquisition and considerable – I mean massive improvements for trails, picnic area, roads, parking, buildings, ongoing maintenance, nature/environmental restoration/conservation, rangers, etc.

    This is a HUGE park that starts in the low foothills and extends into a pristine watershed and wildlife area.  Palo Alto was never a poor community, but at the time it wasn’t the wealth mecca that it has been the past few decades with the emergence of silicon valley, so this was a major expense that the city took on it’s own.  So with no help from neighboring communities to make a regional park, the city back in the early 60’s made the decision that the park would be for residents of Palo Alto only.

    Another aspect is that a huge part of the park is wildlife habitat.  Palo Alto always took this very seriously and built an interpretive center to promote the conservation in the park and help the humans understand the delicate balance between humans and nature.  My dad would time it so we could watch the deer come down from the hills into the valley as the sun set, and make it to the gate just before they put up the chain up for the night.  A couple of times we didn’t make it out in time, resulting in some interesting ‘situations’ with the car on the wrong side of the chain.

    Were the park opened up, there would have to be restrictions on the total number of people at any given time.  I think a max for attendees may already be a policy.  Among the concerns are that if it is opened up, a lot of the newcomers would be looking to use it as family picnicking spot.  There are a couple of picnic areas, but they are quite limited and were already full on the weekends even in the 60’s.  And of course a huge question is who is going to pay for the increased wear on the delicate hills from increased use.  Palo Altans took great care with the park’s environment – we were proud of our park and the understanding that residents had regarding the balance with the environment – such as the erosion control projects limiting access to certain areas.

    As for the racial accusations hurled at Palo Alto – I’m not hearing a lot of specifics – just an assumption.  I’m not saying it’s not a super white community – I sometimes refer to it as Palo White-O myself.  This has to do with the immense wealth brought by Silicon Valley.  It’s actually more like Palo White-Asian-O, at least on the street I grew up on, which is now about 30% Asian, many wealthy first-generation immigrants.

    If you say there’s a massive wealth disparity between races in the US, there is no doubt about that.  Taking that to mean we need to subsidize housing in every wealthy city so less-wealthy people, of whatever race, can live in high-value housing regions — that’s a different argument.  When I grew up in Palo Alto, I never considered that, as a Jew, I should ask to have the government subsidize housing for our family in Woodside, Atherton, Los Altos Hills, or Saratoga.  I always knew we were far too poor to live in such areas, and never considered that wedging a subsidized apartment building for Jews in between the mansions of the rich would help in the societal balancing of historical hatred against Jews.

    I remember Palo Alto in the 1960’s as being a city that actively supported the Civil Rights Movement.  My first grade teacher, Mr. Fleming, was one of the most beloved teachers in Palo Alto.  She was black, and I never heard a bad word spoken about her.  She owned a house about two blocks from our house, and it was much bigger than our house!  The Japanese family directly across the street were interred at Tule Lake in WW-II, but they did get their land back (if I understand correctly, they didn’t talk about it), and sold their farm to the school district and developers and were able to buy a house.  One of their sons became one of the most distinguished astrophysicists in the world, Michio Kaku.  I didn’t meet him as a child, because he left for college at Age 14, about the time I was born.  As an interesting aside, wikipedia notes that he assembled a particle accelerator in his parents’ garage for a science fair project at Cubberley High School.  That particle generator was about 100′ from my childhood bedroom.

    In my entire time growing up in Palo Alto, I can’t remember an outright racial incident (not even someone detained for mowing their lawn while black).  We were taught about the civil rights movement and equality.  True there weren’t many black families, but there were some.  In addition to Ms. Fleming, there were other black teachers such as Mr. Pitts, who spoke with a heavy southern drawl and called all the kids “Hamburgers”.  Some kids didn’t like him, but I never heard anyone say it was because he was black, just because he was kinda strict.

    There were some black kids who lived in town, and I don’t ever remember anyone treating any of them differently or saying anything racial.  Ever.  Or hearing about such a thing.  As always, not saying it didn’t happen – I’m sure it did.  But the fact it wasn’t so prevalent that I never saw it belies a bit the implication in the article of Palo Alto’s ‘racist history’.  We also had transfer students from East Palo Alto, a mostly black and hispanic community, and had a sister school there to promote cross-cultural understanding – including an exchange of students for a play.

    I also don’t remember ever hearing of Jews being put down or called names.  Which is very different from what my mom described growing up in a Jewish slum in Cambridge.  Plenty or kids being cruel and bullying, as anywhere else, I just don’t ever remember any race overtones.

    None of this is to say that there aren’t repercussions from the USA’s vile racist and genocidal past – and to some degree present –  that have perpetuated a huge overall wealth gap in this country between racial groups.  Clearly that is the case.  What to “do” about that is a key issue that varies by political viewpoint, and it seems people don’t want to talk about that directly.  They’d rather finger-point and call the ‘other side’ clearly ‘wrong’.  That will get us to, well, where we are.

    Personally, I don’t have a problem with Palo Alto opening up the park.  The terms of that are going to be a bear.  My main concern isn’t ‘outsiders’, it’s about keeping the park’s nature-preserve aspects intact and respected.  It’s about keeping a cap on the number of people in the park total at any given time, which will mean less PA residents can use it on weekends – though they pay for it all.  Will the region finally chip in on maintenance and preservation of the park?  Possibly forming a JPA or similar governance structure?

    Boom-de-ahda    indeed!

    1. Keith Olsen

      I think some people wake up in the morning and think about what they can deem racist on any given day.  They sometimes have to look hard and come up with clever definitions.

      1. David Greenwald

        And yet you fail to deny that race is still the defining feature of our political system. We’ve had 400 years where Blacks and people of color have been treated as second class citizens, and people living in bubbles think it’s over for some weird reason.

    2. Ron Oertel

      Alto, I never considered that, as a Jew, I should ask to have the government subsidize housing for our family in Woodside, Atherton, Los Altos Hills, or Saratoga.  I always knew we were far too poor to live in such areas, and never considered that wedging a subsidized apartment building for Jews in between the mansions of the rich would help in the societal balancing of historical hatred against Jews.

      Regarding stereotypes (and resulting hatred), isn’t one of them that “Jews are wealthy”?  Isn’t that part of the basis for the Third Reich, etc.? (I might have this part wrong, not sure.)

      But, isn’t this “allegation” made (even in this country), today? With claims such as controlling the banking system, etc., or whatever? (Pardon my ignorance, since I tend to not pay much attention to this stuff. Unless I can “see” more obvious differences in wealth of communities, based upon skin color.)

      1. David Greenwald

        I see these comments both by Alan and Ron, and there is a huge history here of restrictive covenants and subsidized housing both of your guys seem uneducated on. I lack the time to do a full history level. But I urge you Ron – research and read first, before posting stuff.

        1. Alan Miller

          restrictive covenants and subsidized housing both of your guys seem uneducated on.

          We “seem” uneducated.  Quite an un-“seem”-ly thing to say. 

          Quite familiar with restrictive covenants, and those that restrict by race are beyond vile.   Not sure what you mean by subsidized housing in this context, and I assume you aren’t talking about A-ffordable subsidized housing.

      2. Alan Miller

        Regarding stereotypes (and resulting hatred), isn’t one of them that “Jews are wealthy”?  Isn’t that part of the basis for the Third Reich, etc.?

        Yes.  And about how “they” get that way.  Feeds into envy, which feeds into hate.  This is why I don’t see racism as a one-way street from oppressor to oppressed by overall racial-group wealth status.  And yes, the Nazi’s used this to smear Jews, though most were not in the high-wealth class.  This ‘stereotype’ used to rip my mom, who came from a poor Jewish family, that came from the area that is now Belarus, and probably from a “Fiddler on the Roof”-ish community, though I don’t know much about that side of the family before they came to the US.

        1. Ron Oertel

          Thanks for that explanation.

          And yes, the Nazi’s used this to smear Jews, though most were not in the high-wealth class. 

          That’s what I thought, as well.  I never understood any of this.

    3. Alan Miller

      I read some of the ACLU attorney briefs, and I see they site some of the same arguments Palo Alto used that I used above (not knowing the city used them), regarding concerns about overuse of the park — and they considered those arguments racially tinged.

      So, I say f*ck it!  Humans don’t deserve the park.  The solution is shut the gate, burn down the interpretive center, ban humans, and leave the park for the trees and the wildlife.

      Problem solved.

    4. Janet Krovoza16

      Actually, as I remember it, the song went:

      Oh we’re from Camp Towle, our camp is a good one, we fight the mosquitoes, they’re seven feet tall!

      Mosquitoes might eat us but they’ll never beat us ’cause we’re from Camp Towle and we’re on the ball, singin’, singin’, singin:

      Oom gow wah, oom gaw wah, oom gaw wah, oom gaw wah, oom gaw wah, oom gaw wah, oom gow wah wah!

      Yes, and Big John was John Walton. Was and still is one of my heroes.

       

       

    1. Ron Oertel

      From the article you posted:

      “Many fewer African Americans today, than in the past, can afford to move to Palo Alto even if it did change it’s zoning. And that was not true in the past. So we need compensation, financial remedies, subsidies for working families (I’m not talking about poor people). We need subsidies for working-class African Americans to be able to buy into communities from which they have been excluded and which would have been affordable to them. Simply opening up those communities by relaxing zoning is not going to accomplish what needs to be accomplished.”

      Personally, I don’t see this as very likely to occur.

      I think it’s more likely that communities such as Elk Grove will provide opportunities (e.g., for those moving from the Bay Area).  And, they’re no longer excluded, as they were in the past (e.g., as in the Daly City example listed in that article).

       

    2. Ron Oertel

      Also, note that few (if any) of the commenters on here can afford Palo Alto anymore, I would think.  Regardless of their skin color. Probably true of most people in Davis.

      Many of the commenters and residents of Davis (and the Sacramento area) are “expatriates” of the Bay Area, and have been effectively and permanently priced-out.

      Again, regardless of their skin color.

      All that they have are “memories” of the time prior to the technology industry’s arrival (and effect on housing prices). Though that may not be the only cause.

      Capitalism at work.

      1. Alan Miller

        Many of the commenters and residents of Davis (and the Sacramento area) are “expatriates” of the Bay Area, and have been effectively and permanently priced-out.  Again, regardless of their skin color.

        I’ll say this:   this Jew can’t go to Foothill Park without an escort.  And yes I said escort just to be funny.

    3. Eric Gelber

      Palo Alto’s extensive history of discrimination in housing, extending well into the mid 20th century, is well-documented and described in the ACLU complaint. The result was that non-whites were steered to East Palo Alto, resulting in the skewed demographics of Palo Alto and East Palo Alto that exist today. Now, the residents of those surrounding communities are prohibited from utilizing a resource that comprises over 8% of Palo Alto’s land area.

      While the park is maintained by Palo Alto, as the complaint also notes, the funds are from the city’s General Fund, consisting largely of taxes paid by business owners and business patrons who live in surrounding communities but are not residents of Palo Alto.

      Bottom line is the residency requirement perpetuates the effects of Palo Alto’s shameful history of racial discrimination of the not so distant past.

      1. Alan Miller

        the funds are from the city’s General Fund, consisting largely of taxes paid by business owners and business patrons who live in surrounding communities but are not residents of Palo Alto.

        And yet, I get the feeling that opening it up to people who own businesses in Palo Alto wouldn’t enough . . .

    4. Ron Oertel

      Here’s why housing costs rise, and why some groups get left behind:

      Silicon Valley led the pack. As reported to the SEC, Google employees are the most made of money: their median annual pay in 2018 was $246,804. That’s an increase of nearly $50,000 from what Google employees made in 2017.

      https://www.sfgate.com/tech/article/Silicon-Valley-tech-workers-companies-salary-pay-14047115.php

      Though there’s evidence of significant change afoot:

      Leaving SF? Remote tech workers could face big pay cuts

       Given that it is only base salary, not bonuses, workers may not be as affected as one might expect.

      https://www.sfgate.com/tech/article/sf-tech-company-work-from-home-pay-cut-15569918.php

    5. Alan Miller

      Thanks, CP.  I didn’t know of any of this, all before my birth.

      I’m not sure ‘conveniently forgotten’ is how I’d put it.  Palo Alto largely filled in after all this, and I don’t think most of us knew.  I’m also not sure finding evidence of a racist realtor that played on people’s racial fears to set up a scheme to make money is much of surprise to anyone.  Disgusting, yes, but I’m not sure it reflects on the people of Palo Alto.

      There are some odd errors at the beginning of the article, and some clarifications that need to be made for anyone reading this.  Palo Alto and East Palo Alto were never the same city.  In fact, they aren’t even in the same county!  The article starts out taking about “Palo Alto”, but is actually talking about East Palo Alto.  It’s unfortunate they have the same name, I think it leads to a lot of confusion.  I’m not sure about today, but at one time East Palo Alto wasn’t even incorporated.

      East Palo Alto had a very high black and Hispanic/Latino population.  I am not surprised that there was white flight, especially if it was orchestrated by a racist realtor.  I believe Menlo Park had the opportunity to annex East Palo Alto at one time, and didn’t want it, so that could be another racial factor or not. Today with the insane housing prices, the white population is increasing. Is that considered a good thing or a bad thing?

      I’m really unclear on the whole COOP thing.  My parents had friends deep into the Food and Housing COOP movements in Palo Alto.  They were about the least likely people to ever have a racist bone on their bodies.  But the housing COOP collapsed long before the food COOP did.  I don’t know much about any race-based suppression of the effort, but it’s unclear to me from the article what that was about.

      1. Keith Echols

        The first major thing to change in East Palo Alto was Ikea, Sports Authority (not there anymore), Best Buy (probably struggling) and Home Depot going in there.  Then came Whiskey Gulch turning into University Circle.  I remember meeting some lawyers (of some large law firm who’s name I can’t remember) located there a few years after University Circle was built and I thought it was funny that their business cards said Palo Alto despite the fact that they were technically in East Palo Alto.  In 2006 a Four Seasons went in.  I think a new 6 story building has been proposed for University Circle.

        A few years after the the office buildings in University Circle went in my boss was had a housing project he was trying get done in the eastern part of East Palo Alto on the other side of 101.  He was mugged outside a community meeting (I think at a high school)…(while my boss at the time was in his mid 60’s he was a big Canuk who still played full contact ice hockey…so he was okay).   At the time there were all kinds of issues that made development in East Palo Alto difficult including having multiple jurisdictions (city, county, coastal commission…maybe even the army corp of engineers) to deal with for some of it’s land since it’s near the bay (I was not part of the proposed project so I don’t know the exact details).  I’m not sure if the project ever went anywhere.

        Anyway, my point is that if there was ever a red line in Palo Alto it was initially the San Francisquito Creek which is the city limits and later (with the exception of Whiskey Gulch) the line became highway 101…..getting stuff approved near 101 appears to be far easier than other areas of East Palo Alto.

        1. Alan Miller

          I remember meeting some lawyers located there a few years after University Circle was built and I thought it was funny that their business cards said Palo Alto despite the fact that they were technically in East Palo Alto.

          Is that racist?

          In least, it’s really weird, like, “we, as hoity toity lawyers, can’t be associated with those EAST Palo Alto people” (said in Mr. Howell voice).  Come to think of it I went to see a lawyer there and went to an ear doctor there, and may have been the same on the dropped “East”.  I just checked, and about half the places there are shown as “Palo Alto” and others are “East Palo Alto”.   Should we “call them out” ? Have them “cancelled” ? Whoooooooze with me ?

          Do the ones listed as “Palo Alto” get to go to Foothill Park?

          Why does the post office put up with this S ? Same zip either way.

          I miss Whiskey Gulch.  Great tacos!

  11. Keith Echols

    So let’s go with Disparate Impact.  In business a company can simply say show some sort of business necessity for their practice.  In the case of hiring….I’m thinking that’s why Airlines aren’t under fire for not hiring any wheelchair bound flight attendants (I’m struggling to draw on I/O Psych from 25 years ago).

    So when it comes to Palo Alto and Foothills Park, I’m guessing Palo Alto decided to do this now because of Covid.  I said in an earlier post that I recall nearby Rancho San Antonio park was crowded on the weekends 20+ years ago.  I think Foothill wasn’t much better and it likely hasn’t gotten better over time.  On top of crowding now you have Covid to make crowding a serious problem.  So it makes sense to limit access to the park.  And if you’re going to limit access, then you’re probably going to place a priority on who the park was originally intended….the residents of Palo Alto.

    So the question is, would crowding and possibly Covid be reason enough to accept the disparate impact (access to the park) on people of color (based on the lack of them in the city of Palo Alto).

    I will contend that I don’t believe Disparate Impact is even applicable in the first place. Disparate Impact in labor laws assumes that everyone that applies for a job or works at a job has the same rights to start with.   I do not believe the general public outside of the the city of Palo Alto have any right to the park in the first place.   So any disparate impact would only be applicable to the people of Palo Alto.

    Finally, the Moderator is killing the vibe here.  No one’s posts were offensive.  People talk about subjects and go off on tangents at times…it happens.  My basketball story was funny….and it illustrated my athletic disadvantages and that maybe I like other people born into or with disadvantageous need  systemic equality and equity…in my case I needed someone to spot me 100 points in basketball.  And Michio Kaku is cool…I’ve seen many science shows with his commentary.

    1. Bill Marshall

      Keith E’s 2nd paragraph makes sense, except the story line says it was adopted by ORDINANCE

      Not resolution, not directive… ordinance… which will remain in effect, long after current crisis… unless repealed… I suspect there were no ‘findings’ in the resolution approving the ordinance citing Covid concerns… I could be proven wrong, but I seriously doubt it…

      1. Keith Echols

        I did not mean to imply that Covid was the sole reason for the ordinance….though I can see how my comment can read that way.  I mentioned how I had experienced crowding at a near by park over 20 years ago.  I imagine that kind of crowding exists for Foothills Park (in fact I’m almost certain of it….I recall my brother mentioning crowds as to why he didn’t run there often 20 years ago).  I was just thinking that Covid might have been the thing to put the crowd control idea over the top.

        I’m not sure what “findings” you’re referring to or implying.  My guess is that like many initiatives these days it was pushed forward into action and awaits a challenge.  Politics these days seems very much to ask for forgiveness later rather than permission in the first place.

    2. Eric Gelber

      I don’t know where to begin in explaining how off Keith E.’s analysis is. Even if COVID had anything to do with Palo Alto’s policy, if it results in a disparate impact on a protected class, it could be illegal, particularly if there were alternative, non-discriminatory measures to address the health and safety concern (e.g., limiting the number of visitors per day).

      The assumption that “any disparate impact would only be applicable to the people of Palo Alto” is also erroneous. We’re talking about a public recreation area. Palo Alto is not free to establish policies for the use of public facilities that discriminate against protected classes or impact fundamental rights (e.g., the right to assemble, the right to free speech).

      As to paraplegic flight attendants—the issue would be whether a disabled job applicant can perform the essential functions of the job (with or without reasonable accommodations). By the way, the term “wheelchair bound” is considered offensive by most wheelchair users. We don’t refer to bike riders as bicycle bound, for example. It’s a mobility device.

      1. Keith Echols

        oh jeez….I don’t know what to do with your comment.

        Define PUBLIC.  The public is in this case those that are RESIDENTS of Palo Alto.  There are plenty of services and resources by cities that restricted to residents.  WHY?  Because they’re funded by the city.  Foothills Park is owned and managed by the city of Palo Alto.  Again, (from my original comment way above) if federal, state, county or other cities are involved (funds, resources..manpower)…then yes the greater general public has rights to the park.   If you can cite something that says that a city must provide services or resources for non-residents; I will change my mind.

        As for your sensitivity lesson.  While I hate tiptoeing on egg shells around political correctness….I don’t mean to offend anyone.   I would not use the term “wheelchair bound” to refer to wheelchair users in general…not because I know it’s offensive to wheelchair users (but I sincerely thank you for informing me) but because it’s technically not correct.  But if you want to get technical about your use of terminology in my comment; it doesn’t work.  In the example I gave, if the person isn’t bound to a wheelchair then it’s a moot point.  If a person can get up out of their wheelchair…then likely they can use an airline aisle in some way.  In the example those who can not forego the use of a wheelchair (bound) are the ones applicable to the example.   So would it have been less sensitive terminology if I had said in my example; “those who can not get up out of a wheelchair”?

        We don’t refer to bike riders as bicycle bound, for example.

        A ridiculous example in reference to the comment;  hmmm…ya think bicyclists are not referred to as “bound” because….I don’t know….they’re not bound???

        1. Keith Echols

          you failed to read or understand my comment.  you just provided general links about the use of the term for general wheelchair users…..which doesn’t apply to my specific comment.  that’s too bad you didn’t take the time to learn the use of specific terminology.

           

          Actually Richard McCann made the comment (that I’ve just noticed and will review) in response to city’s rights.  I don’t see anything by you that addresses it.  If you have something to add, I’d welcome the opportunity to read it.

        2. Keith Olsen

          A ridiculous example in reference to the comment;  hmmm…ya think bicyclists are not referred to as “bound” because….I don’t know….they’re not bound???

          LOL, I know Keith, it gets so tiring sometimes.

        3. Eric Gelber

          Keiths of a feather …

          I did read your comment. Your distinction between “general” wheelchair users and more “specific” wheelchair users shows you don’t get it.

        4. Eric Gelber

          It’s not about what I don’t get; it’s about what you don’t get. Even people who use a wheelchair all the time don’t consider themselves “bound” to or confined by their chair. From the second link I provided:

          For those who do not rely on wheelchairs, they may see life in a wheelchair as limiting, confining and restricting. For those who rely on wheelchairs, we know that the opposite is true; wheelchairs offer mobility, freedom, and independence.

          You can continue to argue the point and rationalize distinctions, or you can listen to and accept what people who use wheelchairs feel about use of the term.

        5. Ron Oertel

           or you can listen to and accept what people who use wheelchairs feel about use of the term.

          I would think that (like all people), they may vary regarding how they feel about the use of any particular term.

          Terminology such as this is often ever-changing.

        6. Keith Echols

          I get that your sensitivities about the subject are ruffled.  As I said, I wouldn’t and won’t use the term “wheelchair bound” about wheelchair using people….as in general I don’t think it’s accurate anyway.  But your feelings aside...my words were very specific and correct WITHIN THE CONTEXT I WROTE  You fail to acknowledge that and keep going back to the generalized political correctness.

          What word would you use to refer to people that can’t get out of their wheelchairs?   

  12. Bill Marshall

    Keith E’s 2nd paragraph makes sense, except the story line says it was adopted by ORDINANCE

    Not resolution, not directive… ordinance… which will remain in effect, long after current crisis… unless repealed… I suspect there were no ‘findings’ in the resolution approving the ordinance citing Covid concerns… I could be proven wrong, but I seriously doubt it…

  13. Ron Oertel

    Eric (to another commenter): I’ll let your misconceptions about the asserted right of cities to discriminate against protected classes go, since I’ve addressed them already.

    Here’s a question (that occurred to me):  What if East Palo Alto had instituted something like this?  Would that be challengeable, legally? (Just thought that might be interesting to ponder.)

     

      1. David Greenwald

        Why would you link to some random website for a definition of a “protected class”? Ironically the link you cited is actually dated because it was from last year and the Supre Court this year extended it to include Sexual Orientation.

        Here is Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964: https://www.eeoc.gov/statutes/title-vii-civil-rights-act-1964

        Title VII prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin.

        This year the Supreme Court extended that to Sexual Orientation.

        1. Ron Oertel

          That’s the first one that popped up during a search.  Sounds like it’s accurate, except for the modification you’re describing.

          But of the two links, I find the one that I posted more straightforward.

          Bottom line may be that “protected class” isn’t necessarily what some people may assume it to be.

        2. Eric Gelber

          Moreover, David’s link applies only to Title VII – employment discrimination – not to other types of discrimination (e.g., discrimination in government services, private businesses, housing). And keep in mind that California law frequently provides broader protections than federal law, including in what groups are protected.

    1. Eric Gelber

      Ron – Anti-discrimination laws were enacted to protect racial minorities and other disadvantaged groups. But the laws are worded more generally; so it’s  possible, but I don’t think there’s a clearcut answer. It would be dependent on the facts and the standard the court applied.

      The ACLU lawsuit isn’t based only on race discrimination. It also alleges violations of the right to free speech and the right of assembly. The complaint describes the nature of those alleged violations.

      1. Ron Oertel

        From what I’m reading, a protected class could theoretically include “protection” based upon white skin color, for example. However, rare or implausible that may be. Not sure how that works regarding Affirmative Action, however.

        Regardless, it seems to me that Palo Alto should dump the restriction.  I’m surprised it still exists.

  14. Keith Echols

    So there’s more to this story than the Vanguard’s article states:
    In November 2019, Palo Alto Parks and Rec commissioners unanimously agreed to recommend the council adopt a yearlong pilot program allowing up to 50 nonresidents a day to enter the park by paying a $6 fee. Attendance would be adjustable, with a focus on facilitating field trips for nonresident children, but Palo Alto residents’ access would remain a top priority, Commissioner Jeff LaMere assured his colleagues. Palo Alto Parks and Recreation Commission members have advocated for a one-year pilot program opening Foothills Park to nonresidents who pay a fee. At the Aug. 3 city council meeting, five of the seven council members voted in favor of a motion directing staff to draft an ordinance allowing the program.The council’s motion also directed a non-binding direction to a future council to bring the issue of whether nonresidents should be allowed to Foothills Park to the voters in 2022. However, they requested conditions the remaining two members – Mayor Adrian Fine and Alison Cormack – deem infeasible and unlikely to secure final council approval. Those conditions include ensuring the $200,000 endeavor remains revenue-neutral and placing the issue on the 2022 ballot for Palo Alto voters to decide; a city attorney warned council members they cannot legally bind a future council to a ballot measure.
    So, I’ve likened the ability for cities to place restrictions on city services to prioritize residents similar to cities charging non-residents fee for the use of public recreation facilities.  For example Manor Pool charges an additional 10% to non-residents (outside of DJUSD) for season pool passes.  For summer outdoor activity registration priority is for Davis Residents Only.  For adult softball a $50 fee is charged to teams with more than 6 players from outside of city limits.  San Francisco’s Zoo has reduced admission for it’s residents.
    I stand by my earlier comments (which I made before learning of Palo Alto’s attempt to charge non-residents entrance to the park) about this possibly turning into the UC out of state student tuition model and then turning into Cartmanland.

    1. Ron Oertel

      All I can say is that this must one heck-of-a desirable park – like Cartmanland.

      Never mind that the entire area is near some other large parks. (Apparently, with one connecting to this park that is used for access to this one.)

      Do they have someone at this particular gate, checking IDs?  😉

      Seems to me that other wealthy communities sometimes try to restrict public access (e.g., to beaches, etc.). Not based upon race, though.

      1. Ron Oertel

        And in some places (like some in Bolinas) don’t even want us to know where they are.  (Not all of whom were “wealthy”, though it takes money to locate there, now.)

        There’s always some ongoing fight regarding that, there.

      2. Keith Echols

        Actually they do have someone checking IDs.  And it’s a $1000 fine if busted when you’re not supposed to be there…but hasn’t cited anyone since 2017.

        Since the 1960s, a Palo Alto city ordinance has made entering Foothills Park a misdemeanor crime for nonresidents, meaning trespassers could face imprisonment of up to six months in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000. Guards check the identification of visitors approaching the parking lot by motor vehicle; nonresidents are turned away if they’re not accompanied by a friend or family member with a Palo Alto driver’s license.

        On the other side are people like Roger Smith, co-founder and director of the fundraising group Friends of the Palo Alto Parks, who has said that opening the park to more visitors would increase costs for maintenance — costs the budget-strapped city can’t currently pay for. In a July 24 op-ed in the Palo Alto Weekly, he argued that now is not the time to make a decision about opening the park, given the pressing financial and staffing issues facing the city because of the pandemic.

        Besides the financial considerations, opponents of opening the park to all assert that doing so would inflict damage on the fragile ecosystem. Residents such as Shani Kleinhaus, who is an environmental advocate for the nonprofit Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society, argue that Foothills is a special place that has remained so because access is limited. Opening this unspoiled gem to all is an act that would take away from the very qualities that make it special, they say.

        On Tuesday night, during a Parks and Recreation Commission meeting about Foothills, Kleinhaus said that she is used to taking frequent hikes in the park. The expansive open space preserve offers opportunities to find bird species as varied as the red-pompadoured, pileated woodpecker, the second largest woodpecker in the U.S.; the belted kingfisher; majestic golden and bald eagles and colorful Western bluebirds and lazuli buntings.

        But on a recent visit, she said she encountered plastic bags of dog waste along the trails and loud music blaring from picnickers’ boomboxes in the verdant lower meadow. Deer by the dozen usually frequent this spot to graze, but not when humans create a racket.

        These problems, while perhaps not new, have been increasing steadily during the COVID-19 outbreak, Kleinhaus said, as residents seek outdoor spaces as relief from the county health officer’s stay-at-home order.

        Based on what she has seen, Kleinhaus, who was speaking on her own behalf and not for Audubon, told the commissioners she worries giving more people access will damage plant and animal habitats and frighten wildlife away.

        “I really don’t care who is there and I never have,” she said. It’s the number of people and their behaviors that make a difference to the environment.

        The city should take the park opening to the voters to decide, she said, and perform an environmental-impact study.

        Resident Winter Dellenbach told the commissioners she also doesn’t care if the visitors are from Palo Alto or other cities but is concerned about moving ahead with a change at this time.

        The city had a $40 million budget shortfall that forced the closure of libraries and curtailment of other city services. If opening the park will require added costs for security, registration and infrastructure improvements, now is not the time, she said.
        Parks and Recreation Commission staff liaison Daren Anderson estimates the pilot could lead to a 10-19% increase in visitation. Compared to 2019, the park this year has experienced approximately an 8% decrease in foot traffic on weekdays and, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, a 137% increase on weekends.
        Concerns about the program expressed by council members last week included its potential effects on habitat and wildlife; the added cost of repairing and maintaining infrastructure like restrooms within the park; increased exposure to fire threats for the land and of COVID-19 to visitors; and the potential necessity of pulling financial resources from other city programs to pay for the endeavor, estimated to cost $198,000.
        “I don’t see where $200,000 is going to come from to do this,” Councilman Eric Filseth said. “I think a number of the speakers said it’s time to go beyond symbolism and take some concrete actions here, but this, actually, seems to me about as symbolic as it’s possible to get. I mean, we’ve got 34 other parks in town that are all open to everybody. … I think some people feel really passionate about this, but I think it’s really a stretch to call this a racial kind of thing.”
        Thirty-two members of the public, including some Los Altos residents, spoke at the Aug. 3 council meeting. One speaker employed a chime sound to accentuate each “Shame!” he directed at critics of the pilot. Former Palo Alto Mayor Leland Levy set his thoughts to a familiar Woody Guthrie tune.

        “This park is my park; it is not your park. From Lake Boronda to the Page Mill roadway. From Monte Bello to Arastradero, this park was meant for only me,” Levy sang, filling nearly the entirety of his allotted two minutes with verse after satirical verse.

        Palo Alto resident Carlin Otto’s message was more pointed. She cited an informal poll of the Charleston Meadows neighborhood that indicates at least 33% of its residents believe the pilot will degrade the park’s “pristine condition.”

        “I would sincerely hope that you do not intend or wish to force this down our throats,” Otto told council members. “Remember: We the residents of Palo Alto are the owners of Foothills – not you. Your job is to manage this resource according to our wishes.”

        This account might be the most damning:

        “During a small protest on June 27, 2020, Plaintiff Cordell witnessed a young, white non-resident family in an electric car being admitted to the Park (Foothill),” according to the lawsuit. “Although not City residents, they were allowed in as so-called ‘guests’ of the guard. The person seeking to enter immediately after that young family, a female driver who was planning to join the protest inside the Park, was refused entry, as were two pedestrians and a single male from East Palo Alto driving an older Chevrolet truck, who stated that he has been repeatedly refused access in the past.”

         

      3. Ron Oertel

        Guards check the identification of visitors approaching the parking lot by motor vehicle; nonresidents are turned away if they’re not accompanied by a friend or family member with a Palo Alto driver’s license.

        It’s always the motor vehicle that “gives one away”!  😉  The easiest thing to target.

        Yeah, I can see that there are environmental concerns.

        Sometimes, I wonder how much the Native Americans “paid” to maintain open spaces, for thousands of years.  Very few “parking/traffic” problems, as well!

        Since you mentioned dog waste, I’ve often wondered why they don’t factor that into the cost for dog licensing. (Another issue that Native Americans were able to avoid.) 😉

      4. Ron Oertel

        The city had a $40 million budget shortfall that forced the closure of libraries and curtailment of other city services. 

        Sounds “familiar”.  Despite that city’s comparative wealth.

        driver who was planning to join the protest inside the Park,

        Sounds “familiar”.

        I will say that this article seems to have unexpected/extended “legs” (interest by commenters).

        1. Keith Echols

          I guess I’m going to have to be the one to bring this up…….but..uh…given my history about the subject…lol

          So Stanford University is NOT located within Palo Alto city limits (in much the same way much of UCD is outside of Davis’ city limits).  I’ve said before that Palo Alto is cost prohibitive for most students to live there.  So they either live in dorms on campus (outside of the city) or live in neighboring relatively less expensive cities like Mountain View, Sunnyvale, Santa Clara…even San Jose or north in Redwood City…..   So as it stands now….Stanford students are largely prohibited (based on Palo Alto likely being too expensive for them to live) from entering Foothill Park (unless there’s some agreement with the Stanford that I don’t know about).

        2. Ron Oertel

          Toll booths on Davis bike paths (leading to UCD)?

          Folks, I’m just kidding!  😉

          Though I think the city’s agreement with UCD itself could have been better.

  15. Alan Miller

    Despite the elegant ramblings of the ACLU and commenters, I suspect the ACLU doesn’t have a case.  Rather, I believe they are throwing all the racial mud against the wall in an attempt to shame Palo Alto into seceding to their demands.  This would come via guilt-ridden residents demand this of their council in loudness, the City tearing itself apart between each side.

    I suspect this will never go to court, and there will be a partial agreement – with open access as there is today on weekdays, a larger number of non-residents allowed on weekends who pay a fee, and the 1000-person cap remaining in place, with Palo Alto using the nature-preserve aspect as reasoning.  Possibly a reservation system will be set up for entrance and use of the picnic areas so people don’t come up and get turned away – a waste of gasoline and time.   And I like the idea of allowing unlimited entrance of anyone on bike and foot – they won’t ever be in large numbers (it’s a effort to get there) and will have a minor footprint.

    There’s never going to be wide-open access, and non-residents have unlimited use on weekdays by default already.  So the needle will move enough for the ACLU to claim victory, and the suit will be dropped.

    1. Eric Gelber

      Not sure where you’re seeing that non-residents have access on weekdays. That’s not what the ordinance says (Complaint at page 2) or the sign pictured above. It’s dogs that apparently have weekday access. (See sign.)

      You seem to imply that filing a lawsuit with the intent of settling is a bad thing.  Most cases don’t go to trial. Settlements involve compromises by both sides.

      I believe they are throwing all the racial mud against the wall in an attempt to shame Palo Alto into seceding [sic] to their demands. 

      What’s the basis of your implication that the case does not have merit?

      1. Alan Miller

        What’s the basis of your implication that the case does not have merit?

        My gut.  I’m not a lawyer.  You tell me.  Actually you have been.  If you want to take on my gut, go ahead. My gut didn’t go to law school either.

        I don’t think it’s bad it gets settled.  I’m in favor of outside access, just not more people.  If that means not all Palo Altans who want to go the park get to go whenever they want, fine.  I think reservations are the answer.

        I find many of the arguments without merit.  If they have merit, that’s up to the court, not my gut.  But as I said, I don’t think merit is the point.  Just because arguments are filed don’t mean they are true or have merit, even when filed by a morally perfect organization such as the ACLU #cough#.  If that were true, both sides would win, every time, which is patently ridiculous. Yet the arguments one side makes are considered as “truth” here. Poppycøck.

        I find the implication that Palo Alto has a ‘racist past’ as a real broad brush.  Having racists that manipulate real estate makes them and those that participated racists. Excluding non-residents is not necessarily evidence of a “racist” city.   You can argue it that way, but your arguments must be decided by a judge, not by one’s own righteousness.

        1. David Greenwald

          In the legal world without merit means it would be thrown out on summary judgment. I wonder when the last time the ACLU has had a case thrown out on summary judgment? Despite what some people think, the ACLU is actually really careful about which cases they take – some might even say too careful.

        2. Alan Miller

          Regardless, I stand by belief that this suit is meant to pressure, not to win.  Or to win by pressure.  I’ll bet it never goes to court.

          And as I said, the arguments both sides make in a court case cannot, by simple logic, both be right. So someone is wrong. It’s not always the side you want it to be. Deal with it, and stop quoting the side you believe in’s arguments as God’s truth.

        3. Ron Oertel

          Having racists that manipulate real estate makes them and those that participated racists.

          Actually, if you’re referring to the article posted by someone else (from something that happened many decades ago), it sounds more like they were “opportunists”, hoping to tap into fears/racism from others. I suspect more based upon “fear”, than “hatred”.

           

        4. Eric Gelber

          Deal with it, and stop quoting the side you believe in’s arguments as God’s truth.

          Point to anything I’ve written here saying that the ACLU is right and the city is wrong. I believe the  allegations of the complaint, if proven, state a valid claim of discrimination. At this point I don’t even know what the city’s position will be, since they haven’t filed their initial pleadings yet.

          And it’s not true that one side has to be completely right and the other completely wrong. It’s often more complicated than that. There can be legitimate arguments on both sides. One side may prevail on some claims and the other party on other claims. Or a party might prevail on a claim but not get the relief they sought. These are reasons why parties settle—to avoid the uncertainties of going to trial.

  16. Ron Glick

    “So it’s okay to have racially segregated safe spaces on college campuses but it’s somehow racist for Palo Alto to have a resident only, not based on race, city park?”

    You always like to point out these sorts of inconsistencies but I always have the same response that two wrongs don’t make a right. Of course both your position and my own lack nuance that most of the comments try to tease out. However, looking at the big picture, pointing to these inconsistencies as an expression of white resentment generates little pity in the face of America’s long history of racism.

    1. Keith Olsen

      One’s based specifically on race, the other is based on residency.  So it’s not two wrongs, only the racially segregated college campus spaces are wrong.

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