S.M. Lieu/Town Crier A group relaxes in Los Altos Hills’ Byrne Preserve, above. The city council last week voted unanimously to adopt an ordinance prohibiting powered model vehicles, including drones and remote-control cars.

Powered model vehicles, including drones and remote-control cars, are not welcome at Byrne Preserve in Los Altos Hills.

The city council last week voted unanimously to adopt an ordinance prohibiting their use in the 55-acre nature preserve, though at least one council member wanted to go further. Councilmember Lisa Schmidt supported banning them at all seven of the town’s open-space preserves, noting they should all apply because of their natural surroundings.

But town officials focused on Byrne, determining that powered model vehicles were “not suitable for use” because they posed a “public safety concern.” Bans are already in place at Purissima Park riding arena and

Westwind Community Barn, where horses are present. Horse riding also occurs at Byrne Preserve.

The council voted unanimously at its April 15 meeting to introduce the ordinance, even as Schmidt suggested bans beyond Byrne. The town’s Parks and Recreation Committee April 19 voted against extending the ban to all preserves, including Juan Prado Mesa, O’Keefe, Saddle Mountain, Rhus Ridge, Murietta Ridge and Central Drive.

Councilmember George Tyson said the committee felt a blanket ban was “too draconian,” and pointed out that changing the ordinance at its second reading would delay passage by a month.

The council left open the opportunity for town committees to recommend a second ordinance prohibiting the model vehicles at all open-space preserves.

Parking safety

Later at the council’s May 20 meeting, Mayor Kavita Tankha gave voice to residents’ concerns over parking along Altamont Road and along Page Mill Road at the edge of Byrne Preserve.

Resident John Lewis, who lives near Foothills Park in neighboring Palo Alto, cited safety issues with pedestrians crossing Page Mill to reach the park, reminding the council that a pedestrian was killed in the area in 2015.

“We continue to see a large number of people crossing Page Mill,” he said. “If steps are not taken, it’s only a matter of time until there is another accident at this location.”

Tankha noted “concerns over increased parking – along with that, Byrne Preserve users concerned over what restrictive parking would look like. My question: Do we want to do something about it so both stakeholders are happy?”

City Manager Carl Cahill said he would work on a compromise solution to bring back to the council.

Firearms storage

The council last week unanimously approved the first reading of an ordinance requiring safe storage of firearms. The directive also would require users to report lost or stolen


The ordinance is intended to prevent accidental shootings or deaths by suicide. According to a town staff report on the ordinance, a 2018 Santa Clara County Public Health Department report estimated that one in 10 adults in the county keeps a firearm in his or her home. The department reported that 11% of injury deaths in the county are related to firearm injuries, with an average of 81 deaths per year resulting from firearms from 2012 to 2016.

Kelly Traver of the group Moms Demand Action said 80% of school shootings can be traced to an unsecured firearm.

“Safe storage is entirely constitutional,” she said, adding that users can still access firearms for self-protection in a matter of seconds.

Councilmember Linda Swan called gun safety an “extremely important issue.”

“I just heard of a 4-year-old girl who picked up a gun and killed herself,” she said.

“We have a very bad gun violence epidemic in our country right now,” Traver said. “If it saves one innocent life, this ordinance will be worth it.”

The city of Los Altos is in the process of drafting a similar firearms storage ordinance after city council approval at its April 27 meeting to proceed with one.