By Wilson Walker

PALO ALTO (KPIX 5) — It is a discussion that has come and gone many times over the years, but the current social justice movement might be the final push needed to make a Bay Area park open to the entire public.

It is a beautiful piece of land, and the 1965 dedication plaque tells the story: Palo Alto’s Foothills Park park was purchased by, and solely for, the residents of Palo Alto.

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“I’m not a resident of Palo Alto,” laughed Leena Srivastava in the park Thursday.

Lucky for her, enforcement is pretty lax on weekdays but now there is another push to scrap the ‘residents only’ rule altogether.

“I just believe the moment is now, where the city council needs to step up,” says retired Judge LaDoris Cordell. “Limiting access to that park was just wrong, it should never have happened, and now more people are getting it.”

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Judge Cordell is the second name on a growing petition to open the park to everyone. It describes the matter as an issue of equity, as the policy has long been criticized as exclusionary.

“People of color coming over from East Palo Alto or Menlo Park,” Cordell explains. “Brown people coming up from San Jose. There’s this whole sense that ‘we don’t want them coming into our wonderful park.'”

“I definitely agree,” says Srivastava. “I think parks are maintained by their respective cities and I think it’s kind of exclusionary for one part to only be limited to the residents of that city.”

There have been efforts to open the park over the years, with the city council discussing it as recently as last year. Petitioners say this time is different, and the momentum is on their side.

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“So it’s time, if we mean it, about changing things and this is a tipping point,” Cordell said of the park opening. “That is something that can be easily done. All it takes is a vote of the majority of the city council members to say let’s open up the park.”