No referendum on Foothills Park access, city quickly finalizes settlement with ACLU, NAACP

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

Daily Post Staff Writer

The petition drive to force a referendum challenging Palo Alto City Council’s decision to open Foothills Park to nonresidents is dead after the sponsors were unable to get enough signatures by yesterday’s 5 p.m. deadline.

As a result, the council’s decision to open the park to all will stand and the park opens today at 8 a.m. for everyone.

Irina and Boris Beylin were circulating petitions to put the question of opening Foothills Park to nonresidents on the ballot in 2022. They needed 2,581 signatures. But City Clerk Beth Minor told the Post the couple did not get enough signatures and didn’t show up to submit their petitions by yesterday’s deadline.

An hour and five minutes after the deadline, the ACLU announced the city had settled a lawsuit it filed seeking to allow anyone to go to the park, regardless of whether they live in Palo Alto.

Irina Beylin told the Post in an email that Covid restrictions limited her ability to gather signatures. She said that she asked the city for a deadline extension and to allow for electronic signatures, neither of which happened.

“We would have enough signatures if the request was granted,” Beylin said.

The council had previously planned to put the matter to voters before the ACLU filed a lawsuit against Palo Alto on behalf of the NAACP of San Jose/Silicon Valley and 10 residents alleging the city’s ban of nonresidents was a violation of the rights to freedom of movement, freedom of speech and freedom of assembly. Council then voted 5-2 to drop the Palo Alto residents-only restriction on Foothills Park last month. Opposing the opening were council members Lydia Kou and Greg Tanaka.

Then the Beylins began circulating their petition.

Mayor Adrian Fine said he was concerned the petition would succeed in getting enough signatures because “this is an issue that generates a lot of conversation in Palo Alto.”

“Palo Alto has had many opportunities to do the right thing and open our park to the community,” Fine said. “I still know in my heart that the right thing to do is open this park to everybody. That is the right and just thing to do.”

Racism alleged

The ACLU called the park’s residents-only restriction a “legacy of the city’s history of racial discrimination.”

LaDoris Cordell, a retired Superior Court judge and former member of the Palo Alto City Council and a plaintiff in the ACLU’s lawsuit, called the petition’s failure “great news.”

“It means that, as we come to the close of a very dark year, our community has chosen inclusion over exclusion,” Cordell said. “I am thrilled to know that the park’s entry restrictions are now a thing of the past.”

“The people of Santa Clara County can breathe more freely now, knowing that the public land of Foothills Park is at last open to all,” Rev. Jethroe Moore II, president of the NAACP of San Jose/Silicon Valley, said in a statement.

He added he looks forward to “seeing youth groups from East Palo Alto and the surrounding communities freely enjoying the beauty of the park — youth groups that have not had an equal opportunity to experience nature preserves and to understand what they are.”

Previous stories about Foothills Park

Dec. 16, 2020 — Guest opinion: Former mayor Le Levy says its time to turn the page on Foothills Park

Dec. 5, 2020 — Petition drive to force vote on opening Foothills Park needs 2,600 signatures

Nov. 27, 2020 — Couple start petition drive to put Foothills Park access to the voters

Nov. 2, 2020 — Council votes 5-2 to open Foothills Park to non-Palo Altans

Sept. 15, 2020 — ACLU sues Palo Alto over access to Foothills Park

Sept. 3, 2020 — Guest opinion: Opening Foothills Park will create problems

Aug. 4, 2020 — Foothills Park to open to non-residents on trial basis; residents to vote in 2022

Aug. 2, 2020 — Opinion: Nobody’s been jailed for entering Foothills Park

June 24, 2020 — Parks and Rec commissioner quits in protest over delay in Foothills Park decision

June 19, 2020 — $6 fee for non-residents proposed for Foothills Park

June 8, 2020 — Letter: Community leaders push to open Foothills Park to all

Nov. 13, 2019 — Parks and 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


  1. The democratic process of letting the people decide was taken away from the people. Who knows, Palo Altans might have done “the right thing” as Adrian Fine put it? But we’ll never know because the people at City Hall always know what “the right thing” is, and the people can’t be trusted.

  2. Oh come on Rev. Moore. What nonesense to assert that children from EPA and elsewhere needed Foothill Park to open to experience nature preserves. There are nature preserves all over the place – Palo Alto’s foothills Enid Pearson Preserve and many MROSD preserves pepper our foothills. All free and accessible. Do you not know this?

    I didn’t support the referendum and do support the opening of the Park with use caps and other strict regulation, but this sort of rhetoric and similar exaggerations in the lawsuit made me hold my nose while doing so.

    • Reality abased, there are literally nature preserves in East Palo Alto and immediately adjacent. Some are just outside peoples’ yards.

  3. The Beylins should be thanked for their efforts. I can see how it would be impossible to do a petition drive with the pandemic. You can’t pass round a clipboard and ask people to sign given how fearful people are of catching the virus. We should have an online process. Or maybe a coupon in the paper, where the citizen signs a statement and mails it in. The Beylins deserved some sort of accommodation from the City. Of course the “fix” was in and the City wasn’t about to help them. I suspect his won’t be the last pandemic that shuts down our community, so we need to figure out how to allow petitions under circumstances like these.

  4. I fear this is just a test. LaDoris and the others used race to extort the city into changing a policy. They saw that this approach worked. So what’s the next thing they’re going to pull? I think caving to them will just embolden them to try something like this again.

  5. Let’s hope youth groups and visitors from everywhere respect nature and keep the park clean. Otherwise it will look like the playing fields and track at Cubberley when there are soccer games going on — trash everywhere.

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