Residents clash over Dish parking plan

Proposal to move parking from Stanford Avenue to Coyote Hill Road draws mixed and heated reaction

A plan to move dozens of parking spaces from the street next to the Stanford Dish to a parking lot more than half a mile away has created a rift between visitors to the scenic preserve and the residents who live next to it.

Opponents and supporters of the controversial proposal squared off at City Hall on Monday night, with each side painting the debate over driving and hiking as a matter of life and death.

For Palo Alto's regular Dish hikers, dozens of whom attended the City Council meeting, the plan proposed by Stanford University in partnership with the city would do nothing less than cut off access to the immensely popular nature preserve, which attracts a reported 600,000 visitors annually. Jacques Adler, a regular Dish runner, told the council that he has had four bypass surgeries and was told by his doctor that he probably wouldn't have been alive if not for the regular exercise he'd been getting. The council can help save citizens lives by keeping Dish access as is, Adler said.

But for residents who live on Stanford land near the Dish, it is the existing situation, not the proposed one, that requires fixing. Cars routinely clog up Stanford Avenue, numerous speakers told the council, and drivers regularly make illegal U-Turns and other hazardous maneuvers, a troubling trend given that Nixon Elementary School is just a few blocks away from the main gate. By removing 33 of the 60 Stanford Avenue spots and creating a new parking lot on Coyote Hill Road, a largely undeveloped area a little more than half a mile away from the Dish, the city will improve safety and prevent a future accident, proponents of the plan said.

Tim Assimes, who is on faculty at Stanford and whose children go to Nixon, called Stanford Avenue an "accident waiting to happen." He said that while he supports opportunities for leisure and exercise, he will not support these opportunities "at the expense of the safety of our children."

"I think the Stanford perimeter trail project is a good compromise," Assimes said. "It improves access to the gate without increasing traffic."

Many of the residents on campus, Assimes said, support the plan, which is part of a broader proposal by Stanford and Palo Alto to enhance trails around the Dish and make various pedestrian and bike improvements on El Camino Real. But if an accident occurs near the popular Stanford site, he said, faculty will rally and "will close the gates."

James Mark, a physician who has lived on the Stanford campus since 1965, stressed the issue "is not access or convenience."

"As far as I'm concerned, it's safety," Mark said.

Other Stanford residents wondered aloud why so many hikers vehemently oppose walking an extra 10 to 20 minutes to get to the Dish. Several Palo Altans, meanwhile, countered by wondering why Stanford has decided to place a parking lot next to what one speaker called a "path to nowhere," a location that (as another pointed out) would require them to cross the big and traffic-heavy Junipero Serra.

Critics of the plan also brought props -- green signs that read, "Palo Altans for Dish Access." At least one Stanford campus resident took issue with this message.

"Stanford is not eliminating Dish access for anyone and I think that's very misleading," Dee Dee Schurman told the council.

The debate over Dish parking was prompted by a successful joint application by the city and university in 2012 for grant funding to pay for a slew of trail and bike projects. The money, which was distributed by the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors and initially contributed to the county by Stanford as part of its permit requirement for campus development, will help pay for Palo Alto's proposed bike bridge over U.S. Highway 101 and for a new system of trails around the perimeter of the Dish, a project that campus residents have long coveted.

Because the subject was not on the council's agenda, members did not discuss it Monday. But after both sides had their say, Vice Mayor Liz Kniss told the speakers, "We have heard you," and pointed out that top city staff heard the comments as well. The debate is now likely to resurface at a future council meeting.


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Posted by Marjorie McCracken
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 5, 2014 at 12:21 pm

Stanford is pathetically unneighborly. Hike and run on Mid Peninsula open space trails instead. They are close to home, prettier than the dish and open to all.

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Posted by Glenn Meyer
a resident of another community
on Feb 5, 2014 at 1:26 pm

This is just a parking issue.If it is too inconvenient to park at the "lot",go somewhere else.Let the Stanford residences have back their neighborhood.

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Posted by pvrez
a resident of Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
on Feb 5, 2014 at 2:01 pm

the answer seems so obvious - put the parking lot next to the trailhead: Web Link

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Posted by Live Oak Avenue
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Feb 5, 2014 at 3:11 pm

Stanford is in fact being quite "neighborly" by allowing the public to access and enjoy its property. Hiking Stanford's Dish is a privilege, not a right. To enjoy this privilege, it doesn't seem like to much to ask to ensure children's safety on Stanford Avenue, preserve local resident's quality of life, and have Dish users park 10 minutes away from the trailhead.

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Posted by dish runner
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 5, 2014 at 5:39 pm

The school is far enough away from the Dish access that it's really not a big issue. Yes, there are people who do illegal u-turns. Do you think they won't do that at the other site, too?
Stanford could make it easier and a lot safer for Dish users but this proposal is not it by a long shot. The lot is too far from the Dish, and it's absurd to expect safe crossing of Page Mill. This is purely an attempt to limit community use of the Dish. Stanford is just not being a good neighbor. Dump all its traffic onto nearby communities, and then shut off the few decent things it does share.

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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 5, 2014 at 6:06 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"then shut off the few decent things it does share."

Like the Cantor Museum, the Bing Auditorium, the hospital, the arboretum, the entire main campus??????

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Posted by Margo
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Feb 5, 2014 at 6:52 pm

I see 2 other possibilities. One is to put a parking lot along the dish fence on Junipero Serra. If it is only to replace 13 spaces, it could actually add to the total, b/c 13 spots, perpendicular to the road would not take much space. The other is to provide an access gate near the proposed parking lot, with a light at the point where hikers would need to cross the road. Crossing that road without a light is much more dangerous that possible dangers to Nixon children, but we don't have to make that choice.

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Posted by Stop the Baloney
a resident of another community
on Feb 5, 2014 at 9:48 pm

Stanford is being greedy and unneighborly here trying to stop the community from using "it's" trails. Open up access to the public. We have enough obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. Stanford's elitism will be it's own downfall if it keeps up policies like these.

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Posted by neighbor
a resident of another community
on Feb 6, 2014 at 10:30 am

Mr./Ms. Baloney
In the same spirit you expose -- to prevent obesity and disease -- can we expect Palo Alto to open Foothills Park to its neighbors? Wow, Palo Alto's own elitism and pure gall is really amazing. "Greedy and unneighborly" is a label Palo Alto wears well.

The "parking area" that walkers abuse with dangerous driving/parking behavior poses daily hazards to residents and their families.

It is disengenuous for Palo Alto residents, who restrict parking in the interests of their residents, to be clueless when Stanford wants to do the same for their residents.

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Posted by MP runner
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Feb 6, 2014 at 5:05 pm

Stanford has just framed this all wrong. They should have made the following press release: "To show our appreciation to our neighbors, we've decided to extend our popular Dish trail by an additional half mile!"

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Posted by Linda
a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Feb 6, 2014 at 8:32 pm

The Dish Trail is just as important as the hospital and clinics. It prevents people from being ill and restores health. Perhaps a shuttle could help to drop off people off.

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Posted by neighbor
a resident of another community
on Feb 6, 2014 at 10:11 pm

The Dish Trail is not just as important as the hospital and clinics -- that's absurd.

I agree that exercise is terribly important for health and disease prevention, but you can get exercise in a lot of venues without walking on someone else's private property. You can go to any park, any street, any gym, etc. etc. etc.

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Posted by Menlo Parker
a resident of Menlo Park: University Heights
on Feb 7, 2014 at 1:29 pm

The Entitled Society rears its ugly head again. I value the Dish trail highly, but I don't consider it public property. Stanford generously maintains and staffs the trail at its sole expense; the university allows the public to use it at no cost. Why on earth do some greedy Palo Altans also expect the university to provide free parking on Stanford Ave? My preferred solution would be a new gate at the new parking lot, but perhaps Stanford has good reasons for not proposing one. How about installing parking meters at $5/hour? $10/hr? Enough to cover the expenses of maintaining and staffing the Dish, anyway. :)

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Posted by SteveC
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Feb 7, 2014 at 2:34 pm

SteveC is a registered user.

Post it as NO PARKING Tow Away, issue citations and tow the vehicles. That will get there Attention real fast!! Signs cheaper than meters.

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Posted by gunste
a resident of Portola Valley: Ladera
on Feb 7, 2014 at 2:45 pm

Walking from Coyote Dr. is not the point. One would have to cross the worst intersection for traffic (by PA and Santa Clara judgements), Page ill and Junipera Serra.
Parking at the Dish hiking entrance on Alpine is similarly limited in the mornings and on weekends.

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Posted by Roy Thiele-Sardiña
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 7, 2014 at 2:57 pm

Roy Thiele-Sardiña is a registered user.

I always remind all these residents of Palo Alto that Stanford is not a Benevolence Society. If you keep pushing them they will service their constituents. Mark my words, if these whining keeps up ONLY currently Registered students, Faculty, and Dues paying Alumni (collectively "their constituents") will be allowed to use THEIR property.

Keep it up Palo Alto, your day is coming......

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Posted by neighbor
a resident of another community
on Feb 7, 2014 at 6:18 pm

Mr. Thiele-Sardina
Your letter has the perfect solution: Limit entrance to the Dish to students, faculty, staff and dues paying alumni.

Palo Alto residents can use Foothills Park, the Arastradero Preserve, or other city parks.

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Posted by sick of stanford
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 7, 2014 at 9:57 pm

For having such a vast amount of land, Stanford is the WORST place to find parking. Parking on the farm makes finding a parking spot in NYC a cakewalk. Stop building so much and take care of your community!

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Posted by neighbor
a resident of another community
on Feb 8, 2014 at 8:12 am

Sick of Stanford: Campus building projects (including parking for those buildings) was negotiated with -- and approved by -- Palo Alto several years ago.

Stanford -- whose streets are PRIVATE property, not public property -- is obligated to accommodate their own community first. Isn't that the same argument that Palo Alto is using to limit parking on PUBLIC property downtown?

Campus parking gives preference to faculty/staff/students until 4pm. Those people pay for parking permits so they can go to work/attend classes.

After 4pm and all day on weekends, all Stanford parking is open and free to everyone. However, I agree that some additional metered spaces would be helpful for weekday-daytime visitors.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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