The Barron Park Association

Markus Fromherz

Jan 072017
 

Dear Barron Park neighbor,

I hope you had a joyful and relaxing holiday season and are starting a health and happy new year. I am writing this email as the immediate past President of the Board of the Barron Park Association. I am happy to announce that Richard Elder has been elected as the new President by the Board and has started in this position at the beginning of 2017. Rich has been on the Board since 2014 and has lived in Barron Park with his wife Linda for over twenty years. The Board also elected Jon Affeld into the position of Vice President.

I’ve been on the BPA Board since 2010 and President for the last three years. I enjoyed the work (and I will stay on the Board), but I feel it is important that we turn over this position on a regular basis, ideally every year. This way, new ideas and new energy are constantly brought to the fore on the Board, and no one person remains in this position for too long. Most of the BPA’s work gets done by the committee chairs and their committees, but the President runs the monthly meetings and represents the BPA toward the public, so he or she sets the tone and the pace for the BPA to some degree.

We are fortunate to have a strong board, with several new members and candidates joining over the last two years. As you hopefully know, there is a lot of activity around various kinds of events, the environment, membership development, business relations, the newsletter, our website, community outreach, and much more. I’d like to thank the members of the Board and the committees for their hard work and for their support over the years!

As regular readers of our newsletter know, I believe that the BPA has a very important role to play in building community in Barron Park. The BPA does this through neighborhood events, communication and education, and collaboration with the City. The BPA has been successful in helping to improve infrastructure, bringing ideas and concerns to relevant organizations and businesses around us, and bringing Barron Park residents together.

If you are a BPA member, you can support this work by maintaining your membership and encouraging your friends and neighbors to become members. In fact, this is the only way that the BPA can be successful. If you can do more, please volunteer in whatever capacity you are able to help. And I hope you support Rich, Jon, and the rest of the board however you can! (If you are not a BPA member, please join!)

See you around the neighborhood!

Markus Fromherz

Jul 032016
 

As many residents know, the City of Palo Alto is working on a 25-year Parks, Trails, Open Space and Recreation Master Plan for Palo Alto, including Bol Park. For each park, the city is proposing a variety of upgrades in response to today’s requirements and interests of our population, and the city has been reaching out to ask for community input and feedback on the proposals (e.g., community workshop on 2/11/16, community meeting on 5/25/16, online review at the above website, and more to come).

Overall, this is an exciting long-term development for our city, even as some of the concrete proposals for Bol Park may not fit our environment (e.g., the heritage of this park). In order to ensure organized involvement, the Board of the Barron Park Association has authorized the formation of a committee to study this issue, prepare a response, and work with the city to ensure appropriate upgrades that reflect community-wide concerns. The board appointed long-time resident and former BPA President Dick Placone as chairperson.

Dick will reach out with further information in the coming days and weeks. We are hoping for wide-spread input and participation, from long-time residents to newcomers, and from our youth to families to senior residents, reflecting the diverse community of our neighborhood using this park. We believe that we need to strive for a balance between remembering our past and providing for today’s needs. And, while Bol Park will be the focus, we believe that it may also make sense to think beyond it, in particular to Juana Briones Park and “Strawberry Hill” (the triangle area on the edge of Gunn’s property), where some of the proposed features could be implemented. Note that there is plenty of time, as even the short-term work is scheduled for around a 5-year time frame.

Further options to be involved is to provide feedback to the city online and to attend some of the community meetings. You can also sign up for emails from the city to stay involved and updated with the city’s process.

Markus Fromherz
BPA President

Apr 072016
 

The Spring issue of the quarterly BPA newsletter, which goes to all residents of Barron Park, just came out. I hope you enjoyed this amazing collection of articles about people, events, and developments in our community. (If you didn’t get it, you can find an electronic copy on this site.)

Are you a member of the Barron Park Association? If yes, you are one of the roughly 450 residents who support the BPA’s many activities and receive all four quarterly newsletters, not just this one.

If you are not a member, you are still benefiting from the BPA’s various community events, such as the May Fête, Movie in the Park, the Meet and Learns, monthly Community Happy Hours, and our cultural diversity events (like the very popular Lunar New Year and Diwali celebrations). You are also benefiting from the BPA’s advocacy on traffic, development, and environmental issues. All of these are just the latest of the continuing activities in the BPA’s over 60 years of community engagement. (Did you know that the BPA was instrumental in creating Bol Park, in ensuring flood control for Barron Park, and other community improvements of lasting change?) The BPA is playing a key role in making our neighborhood fun and safe.

So if you are not a member, we would like to invite you to become one. Just use this site to sign up. Please support your neighborhood association. Almost 10% more of your neighbors decided to join the BPA last year, but we are missing you!

If you are a member, please drop me a note about what it is that you enjoy about the BPA (email to: president at bpapaloalto dot org). And then tell me what more we should be doing as a community. We are one of the most active associations in Palo Alto, but I know there is more that we can do. I hope to hear from you!

Sep 142015
 

(This is an updated version of my Summer 2015 BPA Newsletter column.)

In the right context, good ideas beget more good ideas. In the BPA, we are seeing the evidence this year with the emergence of a number of new events and volunteers for the BPA. Two years ago, former board member Lydia Kou started cultural diversity events with the first (Chinese) Lunar New Year celebration. She organized another successful Lunar New Year event earlier this year, which inspired BPA member Jaya Pandey to propose an (Indian) Deepawali celebration event. With the help of board member Gwen Luce and a small army of new volunteers Gwen helped recruit, we can now look forward to this event in November. For another example, late last year membership chair Lisa Landers suggested an informal member event to enhance interaction between BPA members and the board. We held the first BPA Community Happy Hour in January, and it is promising to become a regular and popular event (attended by 10-15 residents each month). In turn, it was the first Happy Hour where BPA member Catherine Hendricks proposed a new kind of event where residents and friends of Barron Park present and teach their expertise in small groups. This became the BPA Meet and Learn, and we have had four so far.

All of these events came out of suggestions from BPA members, and the board has been happy to support them. Past efforts also included support for a booth at the Palo Alto Chili Cook-Off, for the Juana Briones Run, and for several bicycle events. In the meantime, Lydia Kou turned her energy to organizing another Movie in the Park event, and BPA member Jeannie Lythcott, who volunteered for the BPA in the past, stepped forward with several new ideas for community events. (See the event calendar in the upcoming BPA newsletter.) And of course there was our very interesting annual meeting in March, and board member John King, former resident Sarah Van Zanten, and an army of volunteers put together another fantastic May Fete.

It is wonderful to see all of these activities from volunteers contributing to the community. They are not limited to community events, but those currently see the most popularity. Other recent BPA-sponsored activities included the bike path committee and a group that invested substantial time to investigate the proposal for a hydrogen refueling station on El Camino Real. Also, Maurice “Maury” Green recently joined the BPA board to take on Neighborhood Safety and Emergency Preparedness, and we’re very grateful to have such an experienced member support this important area. Look for articles on these activities in the upcoming BPA newsletter.

Where else could we use help? Two committee chairs that are currently vacant are Zoning and Land Use, and Traffic and Streets. We know that BPA members care about these. In fact, those were core topics at the recent Palo Alto 2030 Summit, and Barron Park was well represented among the large number of attendants. Or perhaps you’re interested in our surrounding businesses and/or schools; we would benefit from liaisons to these organizations. If you have another favorite topic that you believe the BPA should support, please do not hesitate to bring it to the board. In fact, join us at an upcoming Happy Hour and tell us all about your interests. The board and your neighbors will be very happy to hear your ideas and benefit from your contributions!

Jun 112015
 

Please join us for the

BPA Community Happy Hour

Every month

on the third Tuesday, 5-6pm

at Cibo (bar area)

 

The BPA Community Happy Hour is an informal gathering for Barron Park residents
to meet neighbors, discuss current affairs and new ideas, and meet BPA Board members.

All that in an informal setting –
and the BPA will buy your first drink.

There is no need to RSVP, but do put it on your calendar:
every third Tuesday of the month!

The Board of the Barron Park Association

 

PS: We would like to thank Cibo for accommodating us for this monthly event. Very rarely, we may have to move or cancel the event due to a conflict at Cibo. We will send out a notice to the BPA-News mailing list if that is the case.

Jun 022015
 

(This is an updated version of my Spring 2015 BPA Newsletter column.)

In February, Palo Alto Online published an article about the College Terrace neighborhood association that rang familiar: an organization that has been around for about four decades and which played an important role for many residents over the years has difficulty attracting new blood to its board and may be at risk of folding. As BPA newsletter readers know, the lack of new volunteers is something the BPA board has been grappling with as well over recent years.

Why is it so difficult to find more volunteers to organize events, watch out for neighborhood safety, interact with the city and developers, or publish the BPA newsletter? As our survey last year showed, it is not that residents don’t care about these issues. Quite the opposite is true: throngs of people come together for the May Fete and Movie in the Park, concerned residents attend city council meetings, and the newsletter consistently gets very high marks. The Barron Park community clearly values what the BPA has to offer. More than that, and more broadly, community gatherings, activism, and communication demonstrably lead to a more enjoyable, livable, and resilient community.

So why aren’t more folks stepping up to contribute? In the past, people joined the BPA board mainly for one of two reasons: either to simply contribute to the community they live in, or to get the BPA behind a specific cause they cared about (e.g., CPI). One obvious answer why there are fewer of the former is that people have less time to volunteer, both because more people work (and work longer hours) and because there are many more competing activities to choose from than decades ago. The latter — activists — still exist, but it’s easier than ever to voice your opinion or rally people using online tools and social media. While the BPA may provide more weight to an opinion, it also takes longer to act and has to be more considerate by its very nature (serving a large and diverse membership).

You may think of other reasons why fewer people make themselves available to the community. The effect is the same, though: most current board members have been in their roles for a long time, and new members are hard to recruit. As a result, several important committee chairs are vacant. Rather than just lament this situation, though, the board has been active to work out a “Plan B”: considering the outsourcing of some of its activities. For example, the fact that events bring neighbors together and thus lead to a vibrant and resilient community is not necessarily diminished by having events organized by professional event planners. While most of us would prefer to have volunteers from the neighborhood organize our events, it is more important to continue those events than to insist on free labor. This has in fact happened to the May Fete: our marquee event has become just too much for a volunteer group to organize, but by all accounts paying a professional to plan and run it for the last few years has done nothing to decrease its popularity. So that is what we are considering for other offerings from the BPA. We have some creative ideas, and I think some may change the BPA for the better. We’ll do it carefully, and certainly not for everything. We’ll also have to look at the financial impact, and perhaps we’ll have to raise membership dues (which haven’t changed in many years). None of this is decided yet, but this is the time to think about it. We are fortunate to have a solid organization with a strong history, which provides a good foundation for its next phase. (Since I first wrote this, a few people have stepped forward to volunteer and even join the BPA board. We still need more help in some of the departments. Check board meeting announcements for vacant chairs, or contact us with your interests. Even better: join us at a BPA Community Happy Hour!)

We’d like to hear your opinion on this issue. Send me an email to president at BPA palo alto dot org or post a comment here. We know that the BPA is a valued institution for many, but we can’t stand still if we want to remain relevant.

Mar 312015
 

BPA Members are part of an influential community that interacts with local residents and city officials to enhance the Barron Park community. Members of BPA receive quarterly newsletters, access to baby sitting/job posts in addition to the many other resources offered by BPA.

Membership dues support popular Barron Park activities such as Email lists, neighborhood social/cultural events, BPA Newsletters, Emergency Preparedness, BPA website and the annual May Fete. We appreciate your timely renewal, as dues received by April 30th enable BPA planning for upcoming activities.

How to join:

  • A membership form is in the center of the Spring newsletter and can be mailed in
  • Membership can be processed on our website

Please note the many volunteer positions listed on the BPA membership form.  The more participation BPA receives, the better we can meet the needs of our community.

Dec 292014
 

posted by Markus Fromherz

Over the summer of 2014 the BPA ran a survey of the Barron Park neighborhood about interests and priorities in the community. We got a wonderful response. 172 people filled out the survey. The number does not describe the amount of write-in comments, though. Before I get into details, I’d like to draw attention to the informal gathering we have planned for January 7, 5-6pm, to discuss two of the top interests. Please see our email on BPA-News and RSVP if you’d like to help and contribute to the BPA.

In this post, I’d like to summarize the survey responses and comments. Full details can be found here.

First, there is strong support for the BPA’s activities. A great majority of the respondents find the annual meeting, May Fete, and casual/cultural gatherings important. There are good ideas on how to improve some of them and what other events to organize. For example, how about a teen event? There is also near-universal support for and interest in the newsletter, website, and email lists. The responses on general activities and interests were more differentiated and will help us understand where to put our energy and look for help. Emergency preparedness scores very high, while the ratings of the other interests (e.g., babysitter list, senior activities) reflect the local demographics.

We asked about a number of safety, livability, and environmental concerns. All safety issues rate high, with the relative exception of crime. Some people would like to see more sidewalks, others fewer bumps on their roads. There is strong support for cycling, but it is recognized that there are a good number of unsafe drivers and unsafe cyclers in the neighborhood. All livability concerns score high, especially (and not surprisingly) housing density, building codes, Barron Park’s rural character, and traffic. However, respondents have diverse ideas about how to address these concerns. On shuttles: “I want to see much more public transit and shuttles.” / “Keep shuttles out.” On sidewalks: The desire for more sidewalks comes up repeatedly, but others want to keep the streets unchanged. On CPI: “I really value that we can speak as one voice through the BPA on the CPI site issues.” / “The BPA has been noticeably absent in helping Chimalus Drive residents.” (Notice that several BPA board members and residents have provided detailed evaluations and recommendations that have clearly influenced city staff dealing with the issue. Some respondents seemed unaware of such valuable contributions.)

People are also divided on the role of the Barron Park Association in these matters. Some want the BPA to take an even more active role in addressing these issues, while others think the board is too activist and anti-change and want it to stay out of politics. The comments remind us that not everyone is against increasing housing density, for example, if it can be done in a reasonable way. Yes, many are siding with this sentiment: “Population density will destroy this area. Barron Park will be the only quiet, graceful, safe place for family’s to live in peace. Stop the madness!” But a noticeable number of respondents expressed this opinion: “The number one problem in Palo Alto is the shortage of affordable housing. That should trump all other concerns.” As one person wrote, “There are many different points of view in the community.” It is an ongoing challenge for the BPA to represent all residents in these matters.

To my delight, there is quite a bit of interest in a Barron Park community center. What would it be like to have a place with meeting rooms, a BBQ patio, perhaps even a swimming pool in Barron Park? A sentiment by more than one respondent was, “This would be AWESOME to have here in the neighborhood! I don’t know where we would put it – but I would LOVE it if we had such a place!” While not everyone agrees there is a need, there are many ideas for location and features.

We also got several pages worth of comments on our request for the top five items of priority for the BPA. I can’t possibly do them justice here, and many fall into the hot topics mentioned previously. As intended, the responses will help us prioritize our efforts. There are many ideas we will have to pass on to the city or county. Clearly, all residents like this neighborhood and would like the BPA to foster community and preserve livability. One respondent reminds us to “Make Barron Park more friendly AGAIN – know, greet and help your neighbors.”

As you have seen in my recent newsletter columns, the BPA board has been quite active on many of these concerns. Most of the work happens outside board meetings and often out of sight, e.g., when Nancy Hamilton and Patrick Coyne spend countless hours assembling the newsletter, Richard Elder manages the mailing lists daily, Lydia Kou prepares for a multifaceted movie in the park evening, and many board members attend regular housing development, traffic, CPI, and Palo Alto Neighborhoods meetings.

However, it is important to remember that the BPA is not a separate entity with paid staff. You are the BPA. The BPA is a group of neighbors volunteering to get things done, and we are all volunteers with families and day jobs. So if something is important to you, please join the board and contribute. More community services via the BPA are very much needed and appreciated.

Looking for ideas? Emergency preparedness got a 95% importance rating, but we need a new chair! Housing development appears in every other comment, but we lost our housing chair to the startup life. There are votes to revive social meetings like the holiday party or the welcoming party, but we need those caring people to organize them. The community needs you! A good way to check out opportunities to help is the aforementioned gathering on January 7.

Thanks again for your input to the BPA. Please consider volunteering for the BPA and working on one of those important issues.

(This is an updated version of my Fall 2014 BPA Newsletter column.)