Los Altos parks are gems, offering our kids an active alternative to computers and video games and our seniors an oasis of tranquility and beauty.
They build community naturally, in every sense of that word – a respite from the pavement and buildings of our increasingly urbanized environment and a place to interact with our neighbors, children and friends.
Unfortunately, this invaluable asset is at risk. Unprecedented high-density housing development along El Camino Real has resulted in an influx of new students.
The Los Altos City Council has proposed Rosita or McKenzie park as a site for a new school to solve this problem. However, this proposal is not in the best long-term interests of Los Altos and its residents. Once a park is lost to development, it never comes back.
According to the Los Altos City Council’s own parks plan from May 2012, Los Altos already has a substandard park-space-to-citizen ratio of just 1.57 acres per 1,000 residents, well below that of neighboring communities like Mountain View and Palo Alto, each with 2.5 acres per 1,000 residents.
The council’s offer of the parks also contradicts the mandate of the Los Altos General Plan, Policy 1.1: “Preserve existing parks and establish new neighborhood parks to enhance neighborhood identity within Los Altos.”
Using parkland to solve population pressures is not sustainable, as parkland is already minimal and the population will continue to increase. Park eradication also sets a negative precedent regarding the importance of our environment and a sustainable future.
We endorse the idea of locating schools near where the population growth is occurring, following the recommendations of the Los Altos School District’s Enrollment Growth Task Force Final Report.
Land throughout this area is costly, but years from now, it will be even more difficult to acquire. This approach also supports the district’s expressed preference for small schools and encourages environmentally friendly transportation, such as walking and biking. Requiring students to drive or bus to remote school sites will worsen air quality and traffic congestion for the entire region.
We urge the Los Altos and Mountain View city governments to work with the Los Altos School District to find creative ways to place new schools where their future attendees actually live.
The decision by the Los Altos School District Board of Trustees to remove Rosita and McKenzie parks from consideration for new school construction is an important step. The Los Altos City Council now needs to rescind its offer to discuss the two parks with the school district, and follow up by establishing a means of guidance for our city leaders to ensure that they abide by the Los Altos General Plan, Policy 1.1. This would show a true commitment by our elected representatives to enhance the quality of life for all Los Altos residents.
Contributors to this column include Carolyn and Tim LeBaron; Doug and Basia Baney; Julie and Ed Kim; Kristen, Doug and Nathaniel Edwards; Mike Trainor; and Susan Klepper. For more information, visit SaveLosAltosParks.org.