Parks and Rec commissioner quits in protest over delay in Foothills Park decision

Ryan McCauley

By the Daily Post staff

Palo Alto’s Parks & Recreation Commission member Ryan McCauley resigned today in protest after City Council postponed consideration of a pilot program to open Foothills Park to non-residents.

Council, citing a crowded agenda, put off the matter until a date in August when council returns from its summer break. It had previously been scheduled for consideration on Tuesday.

McCauley, who is a state deputy attorney general and has served on the commission for five years, said in a letter he resigned because “I cannot abide the council majority’s deliberate and politically calculated inaction.”

The city has kept the 1,400-acre park closed to non-residents because when it purchased the land in 1959, Los Altos and Los Altos Hills were asked to contribute, but they refused.

On Parks & Rec, McCauley has called for opening Foothills Park to everyone regardless of residence.

“Just two weeks ago, the council unanimously proclaimed in its Black Lives Matter resolution that it ‘ha(s) an obligation to protect and serve everyone, no matter who they are or where they come from.’ Last night, in an abrupt move without public comment or notice, a majority of the council hollowed out those thoughtful words by postponing — perhaps indefinitely — its consideration of alternatives to the 1960’s-era Foothills Park ‘residents-only’ ordinance,” McCauley wrote in his resignation letter addressed to Mayor Adrian Fine.

“The council is aware of the many reasons why the ‘residents-only’ ordinance — which makes it a crime for a non-resident to enter a public park — is a costly, ineffective, unconstitutional and immoral policy,” McCauley wrote. “Notwithstanding these infirmities, a majority of your colleagues refused to entertain even the discussion of alternatives. In doing so, the Council ignored the unanimous recommendations of both its Parks & Recreation and Human Relations Commissions — informed by years of study, analysis and public input — to repeal and replace this ordinance.”

Earlier this month, council received a letter signed by more than 130 people from several mid-Peninsula communities urging the opening of the park. Those who signed the letter include Congresswoman Anna Eshoo, Assemblyman Marc Berman and retired judge and former councilwoman LaDoris Cordell.



  1. Don’t understand how allowing only Palo Altan’s to use their own park amounts to race discrimination … unless they’re saying Black Palo Alto residents aren’t allowed in … that would be wrong … but I have never noticed a sign there saying Blacks Prohibited.

  2. McCauley s comments are ridiculous. Foothills park permits residents of any color to enter. Non residents, including whites, are excluded. If non residents want to pay for the cost of admittance, then that could be considered.

  3. I strongly support Ryan McAuley’s protest. The fact that the Foothills park excludes non-Palo Altans has been a local disgrace for quite some time. As to other commenter’s remarks that non-residentd should have to pay and that exclusionary policies from public spaces have no bearing on race, may I suggest googling the following terms:


    Income disparities by race in Bay Area

    Ethnic makeup of Palo Alto

    Perhaps this research may shed some light on why it is that not too many Black people, who were kept in chattel slavery for 250 years in this country, then another hundred years of legalized second class citizen status, then fifty years of half-hearted and begrudging legally equal status, often are not afforded the opportunities which make breathing the ultrararified air of Foothills Park possible.

  4. A park that excludes anyone, particularly those that may not live in affluent Palo Alto, contributes to class division and prejudice.

    Also, Stanford residents (students, professors, etc) who contribute to Palo Alto cannot visit the park. Maybe Stanford should ban Palo Alto residents from entering and walking on its campus?

  5. Is McCauley planning to run for office soon and wants to use this as his platform?

    People in Atherton, Menlo Park, Los Altos Hills and other expensive zip codes can’t go to Foothill Park. So how is this racist?

    • It’s racist because it affects people of color disproportionately, and they have fewer free alternatives.

      Please pipe down with your belligerence to people who have a different skin tone to yours.

  6. At the least, Foothills Park contributes to the impression of Palo Alto as the a-hole of peninsula towns. People, and towns may have the right to be a-holes, but what’s to really gain? Make other towns want to ban Palo Altans from their parks?
    Sure, PA paid for the land. PA retains ownership, benefits from any future sale, lease or other use of the land. What, besides cementing stereotypes, does PA gain from the status quo?

    • @Glib, Palo Alto gains by keeping the crowds in the park down to sustainable levels. Have you visited Palo Alto’s other parks? They’re overrun by people from neighboring cities. A city should be allowed to have its own refuge, especially since it’s taxpayers paid for it. If the other cities are serious about wanting access to Foothills, they should write a check to Palo Alto.

  7. Mike R —

    If I were a Palo Alto resident, I’d be more concerned with my tax dollars paying so many large settlements re police officers they still keep on the force. It’s a disgrace to your whole town.

    I avail myself of the parks in all neighboring towns and PA. Have not found them to be overrun with “outsiders”. Your need for refuge makes me and many others think PA would rather be a gated community. If push comes to shove, resident only ordinances for public parks have been found unconstitutional elsewhere, and the same could happen to this one. This is a holdover from a past marred by redlining and other bs practices designed to keep poor folks out. But sure, ask EPA for a check.

  8. This mind set creates division – the “haves” and the “have nots.” Whether or not justified, Palo Alto has a reputation of being elitest. Restricting Foothill Park to PA residents only just reinforces that. Maybe we should call it “Shallow Alto.”

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