ACLU sues Palo Alto over ‘unconstitutional’ restrictions at residents-only park

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PALO ALTO — The ACLU filed a lawsuit Tuesday to compel the metropolis to capture away what it calls an “unconstitutional residents-handiest restriction” on the routine Foothills Park, arguing the put together perpetuates long-standing racial discrimination.

The lawsuit comes about two months after activists resurrected a decades-long battle over the 1,400-acre park, a nature purchase off Page Mill Toll road believed to be the handiest publicly owned park in California that excludes non-residents, unless they’re company accompanied by Palo Altans.

Filed on behalf of the NAACP of Silicon Valley and ten particular particular person plaintiffs from Palo Alto, East Palo Alto, Menlo Park and 10 assorted neighboring communities, the suit alleges that the restrictive ordinance is a vestige of a “well-documented history of racial discrimination” that has saved brown and Sunless of us out below possibility of jail time and a hefty handsome. Within the previous twelve months, the metropolis estimates it has refused get entry to to about 8,200 of us.

William Freeman, spokesman for the ACLU Basis of Northern California, compared the restriction to San Francisco posting a “residents-handiest” mark at Golden Gate Park, or Palo Alto limiting get entry to to University Avenue. The park comprises nearly 10 percent of the land in Palo Alto, the suit says, and a favored space for weddings, social gatherings and free music concerts that entice thousands a twelve months with associated security payments to the metropolis of about $89,000 a twelve months.

“No metropolis has the factual to place aside public property exact into a non-public people-handiest club and originate a wall towards others,” acknowledged Freeman. “What we’re in search of is frequent fairness to of us exact by the neighborhood. Public parks are pretty that: public.”

The lawsuit, filed in Santa Clara County Optimistic Court docket, asserts that the Palo Alto ordinance violates each the U.S. and California Constitutions on fable of “it infringes on the plaintiffs’ traditional rights of freedom of stream, freedom of speech and freedom of assembly.” The suit also seeks to ban the metropolis from “wasteful and unlawful” spending of public funds to place in force the ordinance, which carries with it a misdemeanor fee and doable fines.

Joining the ACLU within the suit is Los Angeles-primarily based mostly entirely co-counsel Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP, who’re taking up the case pro bono.

In August, the metropolis council approved a pilot program that would possibly perchance well presumably enable some non-residents to internet passes and enter the pristine purchase.

Mayor Adrian Elegant acknowledged at some stage in an interview that he did no longer know whether the metropolis would observation on the pending litigation given standing policy no longer to assemble so. Nonetheless talking for himself — acknowledging that he’d seemingly get pushback from his colleagues on the council — Elegant acknowledged the ACLU and plaintiffs within the suit “are completely inner their factual to file a lawsuit towards the metropolis” and called the residents-handiest ordinance a “policy which has had discriminatory effects.”

“I will continue to claim that the metropolis can and would possibly perchance well launch the park to non-residents,” Elegant acknowledged. “Here’s a regional venture and Palo Alto must be a beautiful neighbor.”

The decades-long debate has reared its head all another time this twelve months following frequent nationwide protests towards systemic racism and police brutality.

Since June, activists and protesters comprise marched on the main path toward the park and comprise painted the discover “desegregate” on the doorway several events. A video posted on Twitter July 6 shows a park ranger stress-washing the message off of the pavement.

The controversy in every single place in the restrictive park also led to the resignation of parks commissioner Ryan McCauley. Several local officers and new congresswomen Anna Eshoo (D-Palo Alto), Jackie Speier (D-San Mateo) and Zoe Lofgren (D-San Jose) comprise also signed a petition urging the metropolis council to repeal the ordinance.

City of Palo Alto @cityofpaloalto is rapidly to erase demands to #DESEGREGATE. @adrianfine #FoothillsPark pic.twitter.com/c937Jl52Je

— Vigil For Democracy 🆘🗽 (@vigil4democracy) July 6, 2020

Plaintiff Gwen Gasque, who owns the Letter Supreme stationery retailer on University Avenue but lives in Menlo Park, acknowledged in a assertion that she finds the residents-handiest restriction offensive.

“Even though I bustle a commercial in Palo Alto and comprise for a lot of years paid taxes that fund the park, I cannot enter it,” she acknowledged.

Laura Martinez, a historical mayor of East Palo Alto who’s also a plaintiff, felt in an identical fashion.

“I attended colleges in Palo Alto Unified College District for a lot of years, I currently work and assist as a volunteer in nonprofit organizations in Palo Alto and comprise spent a lot of my occupation in public carrier, but I am barred from entering the overall public grounds of Foothills Park,” acknowledged Martinez, who lives in East Palo Alto.

For retired Santa Clara County Optimistic Court docket device to a call LaDoris Cordell, the venture of Foothills Park is personal, and a reflection of Palo Alto’s racist previous.

In an interview on Tuesday, Cordell acknowledged she used to be straight struggling from the discriminatory housing policies Palo Alto exact estate brokers and public officers employed towards of us of colour when she first wished to internet a home within the 1980s.

When she ran for metropolis council in 2003 and won, she made it her goal to launch the park. She acknowledged the pushback she got used to be intense and came from all directions: the metropolis council, the parks and sport commission and longtime residents “all of whom had been white.”

Reviving the battle in June this twelve months, Cordell sent a letter to the metropolis attorney asking the council to launch the park to non-residents, but she acknowledged she used to be unnoticed.

“There’s no political braveness,” Cordell acknowledged. “Here’s regarded as one of many causes I went into the regulations. The attorney in me knows that they would possibly be able to’t constitutionally capture a public dwelling and make it personal. We now comprise got Sunless, White and Latino girls, males and youngsters on this lawsuit who signify the rainbow. The rainbow says launch it up. Parks scrutinize swish with rainbows.”

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