New blueprint for Palo Alto parks OK’d
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.”
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.