PALO ALTO (CBS SF) – Ending a decades-old restrictive policy, the Palo Alto City Council voted to open Foothills Park to all people.

In a 5-2 vote, the Council ended a 60-year old policy that allowed only Palo Alto residents and their accompanied guests into the park.

The policy has come under fire for years, but the City Council stood firm, refusing to open the park, even amid protests. Bowing to pressure, Monday night’s vote came after the ACLU filed a lawsuit on behalf of the NAACP of Silicon Valley in September, challenging the policy, calling it unconstitutional and discriminatory.

“Well into the middle of the 20th century, lending institutions, government agencies, and private individuals combined to prevent Black Americans from residing or purchasing homes in the City,” the group said in its court filing. “The Ordinance perpetuates this historic exclusion and violates the constitutional rights of individuals who are not Palo Alto residents.”

Palo Alto mayor Adrian Fine told the East Bay Times, he was “sorry it’s taken a lawsuit to get us here.”

In September, Mayor Fine called the policy inequitable.

“Effectively we’re saying, you can only enter Foothills Park if you’re wealthy enough to live Palo Alto,” he said.

The Council also voted to continue the maximum capacity of 1,000 persons at one time (approximately 370 vehicles) and to ensure that Palo Alto residents have first access to reservations for Towle Campground, Oak Grove Picnic Area and the Interpretive Center Meeting Room.

Members also voted to temporarily reduce the maximum capacity to 750 visitors at one time (approximately 250 vehicles) for the first 90 days of opening Foothills Park to the general public.

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