New blue­print for Palo Alto parks OK’d

The Mercury News - - Local News - By Kevin Kelly kkelly@ba­yare­anews­group.com Con­tact Kevin Kelly at 650-391-1049.

Palo Alto Mayor Greg Scharff last week floated the idea of plac­ing a mea­sure on the Novem­ber bal­lot to speed up planned im­prove­ments at city parks.

The City Coun­cil has unan­i­mously au­tho­rized those im­prove­ments by adopt­ing the Parks, Trails, Nat­u­ral Open Space and Recreation Mas­ter Plan. The plan en­vi­sions im­prove­ments and pro­grams at the city’s 32 parks and four open space pre­serves over the next 20 years.

Planned im­prove­ments in­clude de­vel­op­ing uses for 26.2 acres of city park­land; iden­ti­fy­ing new sites for parks and recre­ational pro­grams in un­der­served ar­eas; en­hanc­ing sports fields; re­de­vel­op­ing Cub­ber­ley Com­mu­nity Cen­ter and up­grad­ing Rin­conada pool; de­vel­op­ing new dog parks and com­mu­nity gar­dens; build­ing new re­strooms; and ex­pand­ing aquat­ics, se­nior and nonaca­demic pro­grams for teens.

Be­cause the city has just $4.5 mil­lion avail­able for such im­prove­ments and the coun­cil wants to get to the projects sooner than later, Scharff asked that the Parks and Recreation Com­mis­sion, charged with find­ing funds for mas­ter plan projects, be al­lowed to ex­plore a bal­lot mea­sure.

“We should di­rect the Parks and Recreation Com­mis­sion to look at fund­ing sources for the mas­ter plan, in­clud­ing a pos­si­ble bal­lot ini­tia­tive,” Scharff said, adding that there isn’t much time left to put a mea­sure on the bal­lot this year. “I think they’re the best group to come up with a fund­ing plan … (and) if they say, ‘I want to do a bal­lot mea­sure,’ I don’t want staff to say, ‘You need coun­cil di­rec­tion to do that.’”

Parks and Recreation Chair­man Keith Reck­dahl agreed, but said the com­mis­sion would fo­cus first on other fund­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties.

“If you re­ally want to im­ple­ment a ma­jor­ity of things in the mas­ter plan (soon), we would need a bal­lot mea­sure,” Reck­dahl said. “But we could do por­tions of it with­out a bal­lot mea­sure.”

Added Parks and Recreation Vice Chair­man David Moss, “We can’t wait un­til the 19th year to try to find new park­land.”

Sec­tions of the city iden­ti­fied as lack­ing park­land are be­tween El Carmelo and Palo Verde el­e­men­tary schools, along Los Robles Av­enue be­tween Bol and Bri­ones parks, be­tween Jor­dan Mid­dle School and Ohlone El­e­men­tary, near Du­ve­neck El­e­men­tary School, and be­tween John­son and Eleanor Pardee parks.

The coun­cil also fur­ther mod­i­fied the Parks and Recreation Com­mis­sion’s rec­om­mended lim­i­ta­tions on pri­vate use of pub­lic parks.

As a re­sult, pri­vate or­ga­ni­za­tions won’t be able to rent parks or por­tions of parks for pri­vate func­tions for more than five con­sec­u­tive days. That change was re­quested by the com­mu­nity af­ter Palan­tir, a Palo Alto-based data min­ing com­pany, rented parts of Cub­ber­ley Com­mu­nity Cen­ter’s syn­thetic turf field for a com­pany party off-lim­its to the pub­lic for 17 days, from April 24 to May 10.

The coun­cil also man­dated that for any planned pri­vate uses at city parks, ap­pli­cants must no­tify the neigh­bor­hood 14 days in ad­vance of is­su­ing a per­mit, not 14 days be­fore the event is sched­uled. The re­stric­tion was sug­gested by Coun­cil­woman Karen Hol­man, who said no­ti­fi­ca­tions 14 days be­fore an event wouldn’t give res­i­dents enough time to comment for the record.

Coun­cil­woman Ly­dia Kou asked that pri­vate rentals be capped at three days but her mo­tion didn’t re­ceive any sup­port.

“Five days is ex­ces­sive, even with setup and break­down … even the wine fes­ti­val, ev­ery­thing is done in one day,” Kou said. “I can’t fig­ure out why five days was cho­sen.”

The staff has said it set­tled on five days to avoid an event last­ing through two week­ends. Dur­ing the meet­ing, the staff said re­quests for five con­sec­u­tive days have been rare and that likely will remain the case.

Scharff also floated the idea, sup­ported by the rest of the coun­cil, to ex­empt 10.5 acres of avail­able park­land at the Palo Alto Golf Course from pri­vate rental re­stric­tions, mainly be­cause the golf course, which is also be­ing re­de­vel­oped, could use the rev­enue.

“The golf course is the park where we want to en­cour­age pri­vate events,” Scharff said. “We hope the golf course will break even.”

STAFF FILE PHOTO

Layla Kir­sh­ner, 4, of Moun­tain View, en­joys the wa­ter play­ground at J. Pearce Mitchell Park in Palo Alto. The Palo Alto City Coun­cil has au­tho­rized im­prove­ments to lo­cal parks through the Parks, Trails, Nat­u­ral Open Space and Recreation Mas­ter Plan.

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