Letter: Community leaders push to open Foothills Park to all

The entrance to Foohills Park in Palo Alto. File photo.

The following letter appeared in the Monday, June 8, edition of the Daily Post.

Dear Editor: At this historic time, civic leaders across America are being challenged to reassess the policies and systems we’ve ensconced in law to find more equitable ways to achieve our communities’ goals and values.

Palo Alto’s 50-year-old ban on non-residents at Foothills Park is one such outdated policy that requires action.

Since the 1960s, Palo Alto has made it a crime punishable by jail time for non-residents to enter Foothills Park. This policy sends a terrible message to our neighboring communities — particularly those who do not enjoy the same socioeconomic advantages that Palo Alto does — and leaves a bad taste in the mouths of thousands of would-be visitors who are prohibited by uniformed city employees from entering a public park. It is also expensive, costing nearly $90,000 per year to enforce.

Last year, the city Parks & Recreation Commission undertook an extensive analysis of visitor and resource data and heard lengthy public input, which led to their recommendation that the council reform this policy. We applaud the council and staff for taking this issue up this month. The urgency of reforming this ordinance is more apparent now than ever.

As concerned faith and community leaders, we call on Palo Alto to:

(1) Repeal this ordinance (P.A.M.C. 22.04.150(a)), and

(2) Direct staff and the Parks & Rec Commission to draft, within the next 60 days, a 21st century policy that demonstrates our city’s commitment to equality, openness and resource protection.

In the past several months, we have seen the admirable speed with which our local governments can respond to big problems. This Foothills Park ordinance is only a small piece of the much larger policy choices that we need to consciously reconsider at this time, but it is a long simmering issue that we can and should address now. Please meet this moment.

Signed by the following:

Congresswoman Anna G. Eshoo
Judge LaDoris Cordell, retired Superior Court judge and former council member
Assemblyman Marc Berman
Rev. Kaloma Smith, pastor, University AME Zion Church
Rabbi David Booth, Congregation Kol Emeth
Rabbi Sarah Graff, Congregation Kol Emeth
Rabbi Jonathan Prosnit, Congregation Beth Am
Rev. Terry Gleeson, rector, All Saints Episcopal Church
David Smernoff, board chair, Grassroots Ecology
Elliot Wright, executive director, Environmental Volunteers

Leland Levy, former mayor
Pat Burt, former mayor
Gail Woolley, former mayor
Dena Mossar, former mayor
Betsy Bechtel, former mayor
Vic Ojakian, former mayor
Peter Drekmeier, former mayor
Nancy Shepherd, former mayor
Cory Wolbach, former council member
Gail Price, former council member

Jennifer DiBrienza, PAUSD school board trustee
Shounak Dharap, PAUSD school board trustee
Don McDougall, former Parks & Rec Commission chair
Anne Warner Cribbs, Olympian and Parks & Rec Commission vice chair
David Moss, Parks & Rec Commission member
Ryan McCauley, Parks & Rec Commission member
Valerie Stinger, vice chair and past chair, Human Relations Commission
Steven Lee, Human Relations Commission member
Patti Regehr, Human Relations Commission member
Larry Magid, CEO, Connect Safely

Sarah Fields, president, on behalf of Peninsula Young Democrats
Dr. Luke Terra, director of Community Engaged Learning and Research, and associate director, Haas Center for Public Service, Stanford
Dr. Carol McKibben, lecturer in Urban Studies, Stanford
Blakey Vermeule
Munira Almire, president, Associated Students of Stanford University
Vianna Vo, vice president, Associated Students of Stanford University
Steve Levy, director of the Center for Continuing Study of the California Economy
Rod Sinks, Cupertino council member and former mayor
Uriel Hernandez, vice chair, East Palo Alto Planning Commission
Paul Lazarow, civil rights lawyer

Charlie Krenz, open space and trails advocate
Peter Fortenbaugh
Will Davis
Sandy Couser, nursing instructor, retired public health nurse practitioner
Sue Funkey
Dr. Hank Lawson, M.D.
Cynthia Welch Campbell
Shelley Taylor
Jon Lash
Kathleen Denise Podrasky

Heidi Bodding
Geoffrey M. Creighton
Daniel Spitzer
April Ledgerwood Robinson
Reid Yalom
Mandy Spitzer
Wilson Anderson
Rae Chester Wedel
Mark Culbard Peters

Previous stories about the Foothills Park ban

Nov. 13, 2019 — Parks & Rec Commission recommends pilot program to open Foothills Park to non-Palo Altans

July 25, 2019 — Commission to consider options for easing up on ‘Palo Altans only’ rule in Foothills Park

Nov. 13, 2018 — More land added to Foothills Park

March 25, 2014 — Light shed on secret land deal


  1. Parks including Foothills Park should be for all people of the city, county, state and beyond to enjoy. Its beauty is magnificent. I know as my family has enjoyed the park on various occasions.

  2. I’d favor opening it up to all if they charged a fee at the gate to cover the cost of maintaining the park. Since Los Altos and Los Altos Hills refused to help Palo Alto pay for the park back in the day, Palo Alto had every right to close the park to non-Palo Alto residents. But if people are willing to pay their fair share, why not let them in?

  3. “Meet this moment”. That sounds like the stupid cliche Gavin Newsom always uses. You’d think they could come up with something original.

  4. It’s an exaggeration to say people are being jailed for using the park. Everybody gets a warning and repeat offenders get a ticket, but that’s extremely rare.

  5. Isn’t it enough that residents from EPA, Mountain View and Redwood get to flood our other parks? Can’t we have just one park we can enjoy?

    • Oh yes, my entitled little Palo Alto flower! You should have a special park just for you!
      Wake UP! You live in a big wide world. Learn to share.

  6. I don’t see this as a racial issue. I realize it’s popular right now to turn every dispute into a racial dispute, but Palo Altans of all races, creeds and colors are allowed to use Foothills Park.

    • I agree. How is this a racist issue if people in Atherton, Los Altos Hills, Portola Valley and other wealthy areas can’t use the park?

  7. Growing up in Palo Alto, I remember going to lots of Birthday Parties at Foothill Park. It was a great place for fun and games, hiking and barbecues. That park had everything including a lake. It was also great for flying kites on windy days. It was also never ever overcrowded, since only Palo Alto residents could enter the park.

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