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Oak Knoll School Ground Access

This section of our website is to provide a forum for commentary and discussion relating to our neighborhood's access to Oak Knoll School ground by use of the two pedestrian gates on Vine Street at/near Palo Alto Way.  As often is the case, there are lots of views on this topic and many people want to weigh in with their own thoughts.   The goal is therefore to get a dialog going and hopefully come to a neighborhood consensus as to how best to address issues raised in a manner that meets the needs of the neighborhood as a whole.  

If you don't see the comments and discussion on this page, click here to see full information and discussion.

History:

Our University Park neighborhood shares a long border with Oak Knoll School.  Our neighborhood has had access to this land since the beginning, even back before the school when this land was owned by Stanford University and known as Cedro Cottage.  About 1950, the City of Menlo Park, through a lawsuit with Stanford,  acquired the 8.9 acres for $39,228.   Stanford retains ownership of the easement between Vine St and the school.  

1937 map of Cedro Cottage, now Oak Knoll School

Cedro Cottage land -- 1937 (Stanford Archives)

From the beginning of the school in 1951, our neighborhood has used the school grounds as a surrogate play park, since no other play ground or park are nearby.  In the 1970s, Menlo Park built 2 tennis courts and again many in our neighborhood took advantage of this and walked down to use the courts.  Pretty nice as the tennis courts were almost like our "own" because we were the primary users.

Over time, the school population continued to grow from an initial 230 to, in 1996,  568 students and with that growth came a significant issue:  Oak Knoll parents began using our neighborhood, especially Vine Street as an alternative student drop off/pick up.  In 1997 this issue came to a head, and parents were instructed not to use our neighborhood for student drop offs and restrictions were put in place to help insure this.   The current parking and stopping restrictions along Vine Street were an outcome of the mitigation, as was the locking of one of the two gates.    

After the student drop off issue was addressed around 1998, our neighborhood continued to have access to the school grounds via the tennis court gates on Vine Street, just south of Palo Alto Way, and many of the neighbors recall that our  annual UnivPark neighborhood Easter Egg Hunts, Halloween Parades, Friday Frolics, and 4th of July activities used or spilled over on to the school grounds.  It was easy to take the kids over to the school and play in the playgrounds there or to pickup a baseball or basketball game with other kids.  Parents felt safe there as did many of the seniors who used the school grounds for walking and exercise.

However, our neighborhood's use was not all rosy for everyone.  There was still a lot of cut through traffic due the old Sand Hill road configuration and further traffic restrictions were put in place to mitigate that issue during the Sand Hill construction.  Once the new Sand Hill construction was finished around 2006-2007, there have been few issues.  We still have a lot of home construction and service worker traffic and occasional neighbor parties but that seems to be the norm for most west Menlo Park neighborhoods. 

University Park School Gate at Vine St and Palo Alto Way

Current Discussion:

For some neighbors, there was, and is still, a fear that our neighborhood access to the school from the Vine Street gates might cause the old 1997 issue to reappear.  When the construction of the new field at the school and the other construction occurred a few years ago our tennis court gate access was stopped and there has been a desire from some residents to keep that gate and the recently repaired gate permanently closed from use by anyone, our neighborhood included.   The thinking is that by keeping these gates closed, and not allowing them to be used for any purpose, then the problems of the past can't repeat.

On the other side of the thinking, the prospect of the gates being open during non-school hours has some reasoning too, as it addresses the student drop off issue (gates are closed during school hours) and restores access for our neighborhood to a safe place for seniors and kids to have use of the walking track, sport fields, and playgrounds. 

 

If you don't see the comments and discussion on this page, click here to see full information and discussion.

Comments

A few neighbors have asked that we share opinions and open up discussion on use of the Oak Knoll School pedestrian gates that are on Vine Street.  One at Palo Alto Way and the other gate  located between Palo Alto Way and Perry.  

Share your ideas, concerns and suggestions.  Be constructive and curtious and keep the discussion civil and respectful.   With around 120 households in the neighborhood, their is quite a spread of opinions. and ideas.  Weigh in on the discussion and consider what others have contributed.  

If you wish to post annoymously, please email UnivPark@UnivPark.org to facilitate your post and authorship will not be disclosed on the website.

Opening the back gate to Oak Knoll outside of school hours will not be an issue wrt pick up traffic. There will be a few residents that will be able to enjoy the playground and school grounds in the afternoons, and I believe people primarily will do so as pedestrians without cars. People who drive to the school with cars will still use the current main parking lot. I see a big plus allowing easy pedestrian access to the school from parts of West Menlo Park that are currently pretty far due to the gate closure.

You continue to comment on something you were not involved in and over the years you seem obsessed with changing the agreement we have with the County, the school and Stanford. For some reason you have chosen not to post my rebuttal that I sent you a week or so ago. If you want to mange the Univ. Park site, manage it for all of us.

History: The access to the school from Vine street created huge safety issues for the children living on Vine Street and the neighboring streets. As Vive street residents we took the initiative and worked with the entire Univ. Park neighborhood to come up with a solution that we all agreed to. As you should recall we met with each household, provided accurate historical and current issues around safety and then asked them to sign petitions. Note the use of the term "WE" . Historically you may have some details about how the land use developed but you've left out the nightmare of traffic jams,kids walking on an off campus because of no supervision and the challenge it was to live on Vine street during that time. The County, the school and district leadership at the time as well as the Stanford Land management team agreed to a solution. Let's not worry about having to walk around the block to attend a meeting. Use your energy to support all of us, not just your personal agenda. Several of us on Vine street have reached out to you and all you've suggested is private meetings. That's not how this works. gari

You were upset that one of our neighborhood pedestrian gates were open for the important safety meeting with the County.   The purpose of opening our gate was to accomodate our neighbors and Menlo Commons residents, a short safe route to the meeting at Oak Knoll .  Our use eliminated our traffic from the rest of the 100+ attendees going to the meeting.  For those using the gate, it met a very short and safe walk, rather than a round about trip through other neighborhoods and streets that would  have added a distance of well over a mile round trip.  

Your small group seems to be have a ridged view that does not consider the quality of life and safety of the rest of the neighborhood and the children that live here.   Restoring our access to the school grounds can easily be done without incuring school drop off and pick up traffic, simply by having the gates closed during school hours.   We could then restore our access to the school afterhours and on weekends/holidays for our neighborhood to enjoy the facilities, have our kids play together at the school, use the walking track, and have a beautiful park like area to meet with other neighbors and parents.   

I would like to see others in the neighborhood voice their ideas on compromise and come up with a solution that restores access, address your concern about school drop off/pickups.   That way we can regain a valueable  neighborhood asset and enjoy the school grounds -- a great place for fun, playdates, excercise, and social interaction.

Can you please clearly explain how you would be able to enforce access by sports teams on weeknights and weekends? For example, with the fields, you can have games ebery hour for most of the day. If people pickup and drop off in the back gate since it is closest (very likely) the car count in our neighborhood would explode. How is that enhancing quality of life and safety for our neighborhood??? We have seen it happen without an open gate and had to politely ask people to respect the agreements in place. Unfortunately, you do not have the experience or knowledge of this occurring.

I think you answered part of the question when you asked people to use the front of the school.  Other schools have asked Menlo Parks Department and AYSO coaches to use specific parking and access locations and I am sure this would be the case.  The County has "No Stopping" and Parking time restrictions all along Vine St.  While some of those restrictions have been victim to midnight sign removal, we can have County re-install those and ask for enforcement.   

It is important that you are open to people using the parking that is provided in the easement.  The rest of the neighborhood knows that some non-resident traffic occurs and is tolerant of this.  When baby sitters, house cleaners, construction workers, service providers, or parties occur and all these people are driving through the neighborhood to get to Vine St homes, we are not trying to block them nor do you see a slew of complaints.  

You live across from an easement and school and with that proximity comes a common sense expectation that the neighborhood wants to have their families enjoy access to the school grounds and all the many benefits that provides.

 

The explanation of the issues on Vine street are incomplete and unfortunately are skewed by a personal perspective. This should be a discussion about abiding by the contract between the school, the county, Stanford Univ. and our neighborhood. That agreement was entered into in good faith by all parties and should not be jeopardized or confused by other issues facing the neighborhood.

The school, county and neighborhood determined that there cannot be conditional access just for the neighborhood - so any public access is default public access. There is no fear or the hypothetical result of public access as you suggest - in fact, this is exactly what led to the issues you refer to in 1998 which are not in dispute. The safety and traffic issues caused by access meant emergency vehicles could not access Vine street, residents had their driveways blocked etc.

While it is unfortunate that neighbors need to walk a few extra blocks and understand that is an inconvenience for many, we are fortunate to have access to such a nice school ground so close. The community living on Vine Street has spent countless hours working on this issue with the school and the county - not to mention maintaining the easement.

Almost 20 years ago, and after exhaustive meetings between the school, the County of San Mateo, Stanford University and University Heights and other neighbors, an agreement was met to address the extensive misuse of Vine and other local streets used to access the rear of the school, before and after school hours, as well as for organized sports during the weekends. This traffic posed a significant threat and danger to the residents of University Heights, realized through extensive car traffic on streets that are almost 1/2 the width in adjoining cities. A faculty lot accessed off Vine Street, designated just for faculty use, was agreed to be put in to help the school and their own parking.

To allow open access to the gate now will once again prompt people to once again drop off and pick up in the back of the school and would potentially be much worse during the weekends for soccer and baseball seasons. Keep in mind, those games can be scheduled every hour on the weekends, peak times the neighborhood kids are in the already narrow streets without safe sidewalks, moving around and playing.

In the end, it is simply just not worth the trade off of increased traffic and the hazards that come with it if the gate were to be open. We saw how bad it was back then and fear it would only be worse now if it were changed. We have a great, country type neighborhood. Let's keep it that way..thx.

I am having a difficult time following the logic that closing off access, as agreements in place currently uphold ( and involved years of collective work between neighborhood safety groups, governments agencies and Stanford University) "does not consider the quality of life and safety of the rest of the neighborhood and the children that live here". To the contrary, the agreements were actually put in place in the name of safety and to curb the extreme traffic realized at the time via drop-offs for school and sporting events after school and on weekend and thus increasing safety in the University Park neighborhood for our kids. Now, to make matters even more challenging compared to back then, since the remodeling of the school, the sports fields are built and oriented in the very back toward our neighborhood along the rear fence lines. This closer proximity of the athletic fields makes it even more tempting for all to try and use this area as drop offs or to park to watch the events. Believe me, even with closed gates now, we find cars parked illegally to gain access and have documented this behavior. Quite simply, it is far too dangerous to have our kids walking on the streets under these types of conditions.

You state that "Restoring our access to the school grounds can easily be done without incurring school drop off and pick up traffic, simply by having the gates closed during school hours". Could you clearly delineate the logistics how you could even be able to accomplish that, particularly with respect to preventing the increased traffic from sporting events after school and on weekends? Most importantly, have you pondered the gross amount and volume of drop-offs and increased traffic (i.e. reduced safety for our kids, pets, etc) that would quickly ensue for all the different sporting events after school on both weekdays and on weekends? With games every hour in some cases, this could create an exponential volume of traffic added to all the narrow and confined streets in our neighborhood. How would such increased traffic make things safer?

I think a worthwhile question is, is it worth all the increased traffic when it is so easy to walk around to gain access to the school the few times it is desired? Otherwise, we would have to live with the increased traffic every day, something that won't go away...

Also, for some reason the responses are not placed in chronological order and it would be helpful to reorganize as such. Thx.

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