PALO ALTO (KPIX) – From the top of Foothills Park in Palo Alto, there are sweeping views all the way to Mount Diablo – miles of hiking trails and a quaint lake. It seems inviting until you take a gander at the sign on the front gate, which reads, “Palo Alto residents and their accompanied guests only.”
“Public parks should be open to the public,” says former Palo Alto city council member Cory Wolbach. “We can’t imagine going to New York City and having to show a New York ID or going to Golden Gate Park or show a San Francisco ID.”
Wolbach is also a lifelong resident who happens to love Foothills Park.
“It’s been exclusive to Palo Alto residents since the park was created in the 1960s, which is unfortunately a time when Palo Alto does have a history of racial segregation.”
Palo Alto has a median home price of over $3 million dollars, setting a very high price tag on access to the park.
“Unfortunately, the housing prices have increased over the years and the policy hasn’t changed along with that,” Kristen O’Kane, spokesperson for the City of Palo Alto told KPIX 5.
Sarah Ochoa and her friend Bianca Lopez were hanging by Boronda Lake on Monday. Bianca lives in Palo Alto. Sarah does not, which meaning she couldn’t get past the guard stand where ID’s proving residency are checked on busy weekends without her friend.
“I think that’s unfair because not that many residents can have this big space to be coming here to go hiking or having natural space. I just think everyone should be here,” said Lopez.
The City of Palo Alto says Foothills Park is not the only option in the area.
“There are other open space preserves right next door to Foothills Park – Pierce and Arastradero Preserve is owned and operated by the city of Palo Alto and it’s right next door – so there are other options in Palo Alto for any one to come and enjoy a similar open space preserve,” O’Kane said.
Changing the policy to open Foothills Park to outsiders rests with the city council.