A city park that bans bikes and trees? | News | Mountain View Online |


A city park that bans bikes and trees?

SF utility imposes odd rules for proposed MV mini-park

A tangle of restrictions and costs led many at Tuesday's City Council meeting to denounce plans for a new mini-park near Fayette Drive.

The site for the future park is a vacant cracked asphalt stretch between El Camino Real and Fayette Drive, just west of the San Antonio CVS drugstore. City officials have long envisioned using the property as a passive-use park and trail, but the narrow corridor is currently fenced off to the public by its owner, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC), due to underground water pipes from the Hetch Hetchy aqueduct. Mountain View receives 90 percent of its water from SFPUC.

Mountain View agreed to a number of concessions under a proposed deal with the utility, which took about three years to negotiate. The terms bar city workers from planting any trees at the park, and obligates the city to remove dozens more trees along SFPUC land in Mountain View. City officials would also agree to shoulder the water district's liabilities, maintenance costs and property taxes for the new park, as well as for seven other utility-owned properties in the city. But what really infuriated the council and the public was an ironclad restriction barring any bicycles from the future park.

Many pointed out this rule flew in the face of the united efforts by Bay Area agencies to encourage bike riding, and it ruined one of the city's main goals for the mini-park.

"This is a travesty," blasted local resident Greg Unangst at the Feb. 2 meeting. "We have a beautiful right of way through our city that we can't utilize. It makes no sense."

City leaders for the most part agreed with that assessment, and explanations from water district officials did little to clear up the matter. Speaking by teleconference, SFPUC attorney Rosanna Russell said the agency had previously encountered problems with developers building trails with poor connectivity. For now, the district is taking a "pause" on allowing smaller trails, but there was the possibly more public use could be allowed in the future, she said.

"We're not against bike trails," Russell assured. "We're not saying no forever; We're saying we'd prefer bike trails in a certain form."

Whatever the reasoning, council members pointed out that the bike restriction made zero sense. Calling the deal "repugnant," Mayor Pat Showalter, who works as a water utility engineer, said it was infeasible for bicycles to put enough load on a trail to jeopardize an underground water pipe.

"I was really appalled that the (public utility commission's) rights of way should be so closed off," she said. "We have an excellent track record of working with trail owners."

In response, Russell pointed out that many utilities completely forbid the public from using their land. On the other hand, few utilities own as much land as the SFPUC, which controls 66,000 acres of watersheds and about 2,700 miles of pipeline right of ways.

The San Francisco utility has long been accused of dragging its heels when it comes to public recreation. Further up the Peninsula, for more than a century the water district has closed off 23,000 acres of open space surrounding the Crystal Springs Reservoir. Over the years, the public agency has come under increasing pressure to open more of its land for recreational use, but it has avoided fully opening a completed trail system to the public.

Given the utility's severe limits on any new Mountain View park, some city leaders suggested it would be better to jettison the whole deal. Councilman Lenny Siegel made clear he was ready to reject the park until a better compromise could be reached.

"It's not like we're trying to get unilateral authority to build trails," he said. "To me, this is an inconsistency in how they're handling this."

In their report, city staff members broke from the typical impartiality and noted they were "disappointed" with the deal, but they had little leverage to haggle. This was the best deal the city could hope for, said City Manager Dan Rich.

"I'll be honest that we've been frustrated with this process, but if we want to proceed with anything at Fayette, this is best deal we have," he said.

The council approved the deal in a 4-3 vote, with Siegal, Showalter and Councilman John Inks opposed. City staff said the council would be presented with plans for the future park at an upcoming meeting.

As part of the deal, the city agreed to sign new licenses, not just for the Fayette property but also for all other SFPUC parcels currently in use at Rengstorff Park, Klein Park, Rex Manor Park, the Senior Garden, Whisman Park and other sites. For all those sites, the city agreed to remove a total of 27 trees and perform regular maintenance, including mowing, weeding and cleaning garbage, at a cost of about $117,500 per year. The city would also pay about $34,000 in annual property taxes for them.

The deal would last initially for 10 years, but the water district stipulated that it could terminate it at any time without cause.

What is it worth to you?


3 people like this
Posted by bike rider
a resident of Rengstorff Park
on Feb 3, 2016 at 7:49 pm

Unclear to me. Does this mean bikes are banned at these parks, Rengstorff Park, Klein Park, Rex Manor Park, the Senior Garden, Whisman Park and other sites? All of them or just parts? If partial, how will it be marked? Who would enforce? Could the city council vote to tell the police and city officials not to enforce any bike ban beyond putting up signs? Though there wasn't a city council vote or discussion on it, ignoring and non-enforcement seems to be the method used for enforcing the smoking bad on Castro Street the last few years -- just walk by all the people sitting outside places smoking.

14 people like this
Posted by Say what?
a resident of Monta Loma
on Feb 3, 2016 at 9:58 pm

Why does the SFPUC care if our network of bicycle trails have poor connectivity? Shouldn't they just care whether we maintain the land in a way that works with their pipes?

5 people like this
Posted by Taxes
a resident of Martens-Carmelita
on Feb 3, 2016 at 10:02 pm

Do government agencies pay property taxes or is SFPUC not a government agency?

3 people like this
Posted by SRB
a resident of St. Francis Acres
on Feb 3, 2016 at 10:56 pm

@Taxes - That question was asked during the meeting. While a government agency, SFPUC has to pay taxes on properties outside of San Francisco County.

8 people like this
Posted by Annexation next?
a resident of Slater
on Feb 4, 2016 at 9:02 am

Homeowners in the San Antonio area may want to get their properties annexed to Palo Alto and then sell them for an extra million dollars.

20 people like this
Posted by Cyclist
a resident of The Crossings
on Feb 4, 2016 at 9:49 am

Put in the park, put in a "walking" trail, and put up a sign banning bikes, and then write the agreement so that it's the SFPUC which will be responsible for "enforcing" the ban which they won't do. Revisit in a couple years, and when they finally remove the restriction take the signs down. But don't scuttle the whole deal.

7 people like this
Posted by SRB
a resident of St. Francis Acres
on Feb 4, 2016 at 10:55 am

Got to wonder if the "no bike trail" policy is linked to the Target parcel and its legal dispute with the SFPUC (Santa Clara Superior Court Case No.: 1-12-CVC-227801 ?)

8 people like this
Posted by Tree hugger
a resident of Waverly Park
on Feb 4, 2016 at 2:37 pm

And what problems are the 27 trees causing?

10 people like this
Posted by jean struthers
a resident of another community
on Feb 4, 2016 at 3:04 pm

Long ago when i worked as a park commissioner in Los Altos we got the Hetch hetchy right of way for a bike route to Palo Alto. I goes from Los Altos Avenue to Arastradero in Palo alto. It crosses Adobe Creek and parallels the Alta Mesa Cemetary. Why now no bikes. It is a paved wide trail and is used a lot. it seems very inconsistent to now not allow bikes. These trails should connect. It is a very good off-road route to work for employees at Gunn Hi or the industry in the Stanford lands.

4 people like this
Posted by Tim
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Feb 4, 2016 at 3:16 pm

Not allowing bicycles seems silly. Can we turn off the pipe so San Franciscans drink sea water instead?

10 people like this
Posted by Probably74
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Feb 4, 2016 at 3:51 pm

Could someone please explain to me what good it is to have this park if it's going to cost money, reduce clean air (by removing trees) and be useless to residents? It sounds like a big lose-lose to me.

6 people like this
Posted by Reason
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Feb 4, 2016 at 4:59 pm

Maybe they want it to "SAAAY" bikes are banned, but have no care at all about anyone enforcing it.
I would guess, (right or wrong) that liability goes up when you allow cyclists, so this way, they just put up 2 signs saying No Bikes Allowed
If an accident happens involving a bike and lawyers get involved, they can just point to the No bikes allowed sign, shrug their shoulders and walk away.

5 people like this
Posted by Those pesky trees
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Feb 4, 2016 at 5:58 pm

They want to be able to freely and easily use aerial survey of the pipeline so at times trees can and do inhibit that. I'm sure the plan was to just to let them eventually die, or maybe remove only if necessary, but now they can get them down at the cities expense.

16 people like this
Posted by gardener
a resident of Castro City
on Feb 4, 2016 at 8:37 pm

May we please have the city consider using at least 50% of this new park as a community garden. Mtn View only has one (for non-seniors) and the wait list is nearly a decade long.
Thank you.

4 people like this
Posted by DoctorData
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Feb 4, 2016 at 9:49 pm

DoctorData is a registered user.

"We are altering the deal. Pray we don't alter it any further."

Darth Vader said it best.

Web Link

4 people like this
Posted by Otto Maddox
a resident of Monta Loma
on Feb 5, 2016 at 11:37 am

Amazing when the people own land and then aren't allowed to use it.

3 people like this
Posted by Peter
a resident of another community
on Feb 5, 2016 at 11:39 am

About the only reason I can think of for banning bikes is construction/maintenance of the bike path would mean bringing in heavy vehicles. The reason for the trees, I would imagine, is that tree roots can mess up pipes.

3 people like this
Posted by Jean Struthers
a resident of another community
on Feb 5, 2016 at 2:29 pm

Their reasoning stated back in the 70's was that tree roots could be a problem with the pipes. Only shrubs were allowed then. so that is at least consistent with their former rules. But bikes should be allowed. Maybe the city needs to install a paved bike and walking trail like the one in Los Altos.

Cutting off the water that is the supply for Mountain View certainly does not make sense.

5 people like this
Posted by Tom
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Feb 5, 2016 at 6:27 pm

Nice way to support sustainability Mountain View.

7 people like this
Posted by Scott
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Feb 5, 2016 at 7:50 pm

Does this ban include unicycles? What about hover-boards, pogo sticks, skateboards, scooters, and inline skates?

8 people like this
Posted by Public BeneFAT
a resident of Gemello
on Feb 6, 2016 at 8:04 pm

I hope people remember that the developer who built housing next to this property was given concessions for promising to develop this park (right next to his property which would largely benefit his tenants) and has not had to do anything.
The citizens of Mountain View get screwed by big developers yet again, but in a whole new way!

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