Voters to decide if bus lane goes through park land

A city-produced map depicting what Stanford is proposing.

Daily Post Staff Writer

The thought of doing away with parkland in Palo Alto would typically be controversial, but a pitch by Stanford to build a bus lane through a portion of El Camino Park is facing almost no resistance.

Council voted 5-1 tonight (April 22) to move forward with putting a measure on the November ballot asking voters to remove one-third of an acre as dedicated parkland.

Voter approval would allow Stanford to extend Quarry Lane from El Camino Real to the downtown bus station.

A new bus lane would speed up bus trips by five to eight minutes and reduce congestion at the University Avenue circle, said Lesley Lowe, Stanford’s director of transportation.

Council members made it clear — they aren’t talking about building a road through the middle of Mitchell Park, Greer Park or some other highly enjoyed area.

This portion of El Camino Park is undeveloped, has a large utility box and is separated from the ball fields by a fence.

“Honestly that area is almost an embarrassment of weeds right now,” Councilwoman Vicki Veenker said. “It is tacky looking. If I were going there after dark, I would not feel particularly safe.”

“This isn’t, in my view, land we are sad to lose,” Councilwoman Julie Lythcott-Haims said.

Representatives from Stanford hospitals, Caltrain, Samtrans and VTA bus agencies spoke in favor of the project.

Mayor Greer Stone said he wants Stanford to offer parkland in exchange, or to pay for the project.

“There’s going to have to be some kind of way the city can market this in a way where the voters feel like they’re getting a good deal,” Stone said.

Resident Winter Dellenbach said the same, because the city will need more parkland when more housing gets built.

“Undedicating parkland, that’s hard to think about,” Dellenbach said.

Members of the city’s Parks and Recreation Commission had similar comments as Dellenbach and Stone when they reviewed the project on March 26.

Lowe said tonight that Stanford sees the bus lane as a public project with a public benefit. Stanford’s real estate team would have to speak to any land swap, she said.

Councilwoman Lydia Kou voted no because she said she wanted more information about how the lease with Stanford will work. Councilman Ed Lauing was absent.

Council needed to move forward tonight to meet the deadline for the Nov. 5 ballot, Assistant City Attorney Tim Shimzu said.

Residents can file a written protest of the ballot measure until June 10, when council will consider officially placing the measure on the ballot.

Councilman Pat Burt said he is going to recommend a package of other locations that council can dedicate as parkland at the same time.

The new parkland would take up significantly more space than the “sliver” at El Camino Park, Burt said.

Council can create new parkland, but not the other way around.

The city has a rule that only the voters can undedicate parkland. It’s only happened once in recent history.

Voters in 2011 approved Measure C to allow a composting facility to be built in the future at Byxbee Park. Environmentalists were split on the issue.

Last year city officials floated the idea of giving Terman Park to the Palo Alto Unified School District in exchange for land at Cubberley Community Center.

Residents mounted a letter-writing campaign to keep Terman Park under city control, and over 240 people signed a petition until council took the idea off the table.


  1. To be clear, I generally support this project, but only if new parkland is dedicated elsewhere equaling the amount lost. We need more not less land for parks.

    Replacement should include the undeveloped area that will be cut off from the park by the road – unless easy access can be make this area usable. A dog park? That this area isn’t utilized now is on Stanford and the City, and is no reason to regard it as worthless.

    Given the road extension would save money for Stanford by cutting time and fuel costs for its 86 Marguerites running daily to to Transit Center, it should finance the new parkland.

  2. This is stupid. Bus ridership is dropping every year, Palo Alto has shut down its shuttle service in favor of a city run Uber system. Once we give away parkland we’ll never get it back. Promises of a trade will never materialize. And besides it’s a lousy way to negotiate a deal. You should get your trade up front, not after the giveaway is on the ballot. But nobody on council is a good negotiator.

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