Wed09172014

News

Neighbors unite to protect park


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
A modern-art sculpture graces McKenzie Park in Los Altos, the subject of recent discussion as a possible school site.

A group of residents recently launched a petition effort to prevent McKenzie Park from being considered as a future school site.

Clinton Road resident John Snedigar told the Town Crier via email that he’s among a group of nearby residents and business owners who established a Change.org petition website and created a Facebook page, Save McKenzie Park, to preserve the park and prevent it from being designated a school site.

The group’s bid comes on the heels of an ad hoc committee meeting in June between members of the Los Altos City Council and the Los Altos School District that discussed school site options on city-owned land. The committee formed after the council sent a letter to the district board of trustees offering discussions on two specific sites: the 5-acre Rosita Park site and a 7-acre combination of McKenzie Park and the city’s Maintenance Service Center. The district is currently discussing whether to place a bond measure on the November ballot to build a new school.

“We want to send a strong message to the school board and city council that we won’t stand for the development of our parkland,” said Snedigar, whose petition had 637 signatures as of Monday. “Los Altos already lags behind Menlo Park, Palo Alto and Mountain View in per-capita park acreage. To willingly give up more parkland when we don’t have enough to begin with is something I just can’t rationalize.”

Randy Parsons, a 36-year Los Altos resident, said he supports the effort in part because if converted to a school campus, the site would generate additional traffic congestion and safety concerns for pedestrians, cyclists and motorists. Parsons added that the neighborhood already experiences congestion from Loyola School and medical businesses on nearby Altos Oaks Drive.

“Someone’s going to get hurt – it’s almost a certainty,” said Parsons, who called the park “totally unique and totally Los Altos.”

Another Clinton Road neighbor, Doug Baney, said he hopes that the effort will lead to increased dialogue between residents and officials from the city and the school district. He added that the effort is about more than simply saving his neighborhood park.

“It’s not that the community around McKenzie is losing a park – it’s that Los Altos is losing a park,” said Baney, who also noted the existence of more than 100 heritage trees in the park.

Councilwoman responds

Reached by the Town Crier, Councilwoman Jeannie Bruins – who with Mayor Megan Satterlee represents the council on the ad hoc committee – said she’s reached out to concerned residents for additional dialogue on the matter.

She termed the ad hoc meetings a “good faith effort” that aims to explore all alternatives ahead of the loss of parks and recreational facilities.

“All of the city councilmembers are painfully aware of the lack of parks in the city,” she said. “Bottom line – we’re not taking these discussions lightly.”

She added that while there are no simple solutions to the district’s needs, the city will “continue to have these discussions in a public setting” throughout the ad hoc committee process.

As for possible alternatives, Baney cited Hillview Community Center as an option for city and school district officials to consider.

“It just doesn’t make any sense why we’re not putting that into the perspective,” said Baney, who added that the district could also consider more densely populated school sites featuring two-story buildings to accommodate growth.

Snedigar pointed to the 7.5-acre Stonebrook Court manor property in Los Altos Hills, listed at $28.5 million, as a potential site for the district to consider instead.

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