By Diana Diamond
Save Palo Alto's park landUploaded: Jun 5, 2019
In 1981, Elizabeth F. Gamble willed to Palo Alto her large house and garden on a 2.3 acre lot at the corner of Waverley Street and Embarcadero Road. The Palo Alto City Council had to decide what to do with that beautiful parcel. A number of housing advocates clamored that affordable housing be constructed at the site.
The clamor was the same need then as there is now for below-market-rate housing. It was housing enthusiasts vs. the residentialists who wanted the Gamble property preserved as a garden that the community could enjoy in all year long. I supported the latter group.
The garden proposal won council approval, and to this day, 37 years later, residents continue to enjoy strolling around the flowered pathways or just sitting in the gazebo. Gamble Gardens are a site for weddings and celebrations, plant sales and classes.
The same type of issue (housing advocates vs. park land preservers) is now before the community. The city council and the Palo Alto School District will have to decide which is more important.
For the past couple of years, consultants have been working with residents, the school district, and the city on plans for how to redevelop the Cubberley site at 4000 Middlefield Road as public land. The school district owns 27 acres of this former high school site, and the city owns eight acres. The city has been managing the property.
Current proposals include an area for several health-centered programs for young and old, art studios, a new pool, and a place for many other community activities. Ideas have blossomed, but there was no real mention of housing for the site.
But suddenly affordable housing supporters have stood up to say Cubberley’s 35 acres must contain some affordable housing for seniors, teachers and city workers.
Yes, Cubberley could be a great site for housing, but, once again, I want park activities on that land. I want Cubberley preserved for parks and sports, and as a wonderful spot for many community service organization. I do support more housing in town – just not on the Cubberley property.
What if nearly four decades ago the Gamble Garden acres had been used for below-market-rate housing? Would that have been a treasured amenity in town the way Gamble Gardens now are?