The current Comprehensive Plan calls for the city to maintain 4 acres of in-town park space for every 1,000 residents. The actual ratio is now below this ratio as our population has grown. What should we do?

The City has three categories of parks:

  1. Neighborhood parks: These are smaller parks that are supposed to be within easy walking distance of residents.
  2. District parks: These are larger parks, such as Rinconada Park and Mitchell Park.
  3. Open Space parks: Foothill Park, Enid Pearson-Arastradero Preserve, the Baylands.

The first two are what are counted for "in-town park space" and each has its own ration. We currently have a deficit of 88 acres. The 4-acre target is the recommendation of professional planners and not unique to Palo Alto.

When you have a large development, the City can require that space be provided for a neighborhood park. For example, when Palo Alto Medical Clinic moved, Heritage Park was created. However, much of the advocacy for substantially more housing either involves in-fill – which provides no additional park space – or higher-densities where it may infeasible to provide the expected amount of neighborhood park space. As for district parks, I have seen no credible proposal for providing more space as the population increases.

Given the difficulty of providing the additional park space, some are advocating abandoning the 4-acre target and instead intensifying the use of the existing parks. I oppose this. Many residents value the tranquility that parks offer: Densification makes such spaces more important than ever. Similarly, densification results in inadequate play space around homes and parks become a necessity for families seeking space for unstructured play and unorganized athletics.

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