BY BRADEN CARTWRIGHT
Daily Post Staff Writer
Palo Alto City Council tonight (Aug. 21) questioned the legality and transparency of City Manager Ed Shikada scheduling a private meeting to talk about acquiring land at the Cubberley Community Center before council has held any public discussions on how to proceed.
Council voted 7-0 to cancel a closed session on Cubberley and schedule an open session as soon as possible.
“Transparency is key here. This is going to be one of the largest projects the city is undertaking in the next several years,” Vice Mayor Greer Stone said. “To start the process in this way is not the way we want to gain that community trust.”
The city should hear from the public and set a policy before talking privately about a real estate deal, Stone said.
Neighbors of Terman Park have mounted a campaign to the city to not use their park as a trade chip with the Palo Alto Unified School District.
The Palo Alto Unified School District has invited the city to make an offer for up to seven acres at Cubberley, and officials have floated the idea of swapping for city land Terman Park, which is next to Fletcher Middle School.
Neighbors of Terman Park have mounted a campaign against a land swap, fearing they’ll lose access to some of the only open space in the area.
They were uniformly against swapping the park during public comment on Monday.
The city already owns eight acres at 4000 Middlefield Road and is interested in building a new community center there, because the old high school, which houses nonprofits and youth programs at an affordable rate, is falling apart.
“Cubberley is somewhat of an embarrassment to the city, when it could be a source of pride,” Councilwoman Vicki Veenker said.
Council received a confidential memo about Cubberley before the meeting. Much of its contents could’ve been made public, Councilman Pat Burt said.
The Ralph M. Brown Act sets rules for meetings held by government agencies, including when they can go into a closed session.
The closed session was only to discuss terms of payment at Cubberley, not any other pieces of property, City Attorney Molly Stump said.
Council would’ve given direction to the city’s real estate team, led by Shikada. The meeting was scheduled to take an hour and a half.
“I’m at a loss as to how we could have this discussion,” Burt said, “without having gone through the narrowing of alternatives of which method we’d want to pursue for acquiring the land, and how much land.”
BY BRADEN CARTWRIGHT