City Policy: The road less traveled

City Policy: The road less traveled

Kriti Garg

Community and council divided on opening the Scenic Circle gate for students

The traffic in the MVHS-Kennedy-Lincoln tri-school area has been horrifying for years, and a proposal that could help alleviate some of the congestion is facing opposition. On Dec. 15, the City Council will continue discussing the potential opening of the Scenic Circle gate.


The gate leads from Scenic Circle onto San Fernando Ave., providing an alternative route for bicyclists and pedestrians who use McClellan Road to reach the tri-school area.  From San Fernando (which runs behind Blackberry Farm), pedestrians and bicyclists can turn onto Byrne Ave., which connects to McClellan Road.


The gate was closed in 2005 by a petition, as neighbors erroneously believed the Blackberry Farm renovation would allow vehicles to come through the gate.  In 2006, a petition to reopen the gate was presented to City Council, but verdicts were put off since all of Blackberry Farm was closed for construction, and the gate would not have been usable. 


Now, students, parents, and the PTSA are rallying to open the gate as an alternative for students who bike or walk on McClellan.


“McClellan has the steep hill, no bike lane, and there are 4000 cars a day based on the Environmental Impact Report,” said Carol Stanek, a local resident and parent of MVHS alumnae.  Stanek helped initiate the 2006 petition to reopen the gate, after talking to those who had signed the 2005 petition and realizing the misinformation.


“When we went back to those [who had signed the 2005 petition to close the gate] and said, ‘what about just allowing people to walk and bike through there?’  They said, ‘well, we didn’t intend to sign that, to close it off to the bicyclists and the pedestrians – we just didn’t want cars in our neighborhood’,” Stanek said.


On Nov. 17, a petition to open the gate was presented by neighbors to City Council, where it was assumed that the issue would be on the agenda for the Dec. 1 meeting.  Upon arriving at the meeting, however, Stanek and others discovered that the agenda item was to review a task force, an advisory group consisting of Bicycle Pedestrian and Parks and Recreation committee members, for safe routes to schools.


“We were fully supportive, if a task force was going to finally look at it to look at the real issues, because a lot of the concerns were never really proven one way or another, and I think a task force could have gotten to the bottom of some of that,” Stanek said.


However, some neighbors opposed the task force, as did Councilwoman and Mayor Kris Wang, who was the sole opposition vote on the council, citing a procedural issue with an incorrect date on meeting notes.  Wang had not commented at press time.


Those against opening the gate have concerns about vandalism and theft increasing with more people walking near their homes.  Additionally, there will be some costs linked with opening the gate, such as the installment of an ADA-approved wheelchair ramp, curb repair, and landscape restoration.  The Cupertino Public Works staff estimates all bridge and path-related costs to total approximately $125,000.  There would be no additional operating costs as there is already Park Service staff contracted for the farm.  However, those in support of opening the gate are thinking about the students. 


“For the most part, they’re trying to get to [MVHS] on time, so they’re not tardy and they don’t get points off,” Stanek said.


Councilman Mark Santoro proposed looking at the issue in two parts — one for safer ways for students to get to schools, and the second about whether Scenic Circle gate should be opened.


At the moment, PTSA and supporters are reaching out to students and the community to attend the meeting and send emails to the City Council.


“The City Council generally responds to vocal and visible support from the community," Stanek said.  "They need to know that there is community support and students who would want to use this and they intend to be respectful, and they’re really going to use this to get to school.”


The Dec. 15 City Council meeting will take place at the Community Hall (10350 Torre Ave) starting at 6:45 p.m.


Check back for more El Estoque City Policy updates on this issue on Wednesday.