NAACP of San Jose/Silicon Valley et al. v. City of Palo Alto (Racial & Economic Justice)

Status:
Active Case
Sep 16, 2020

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Signage at entrance of Foothills Park

Foothills Park is a 1,400-acre public green space located in the city of Palo Alto. For decades, the city has kept the park exclusive to Palo Alto residents under an ordinance that threatens non-residents who enter the park with jail time and a hefty fine unless they enter as guests of a Palo Alto resident.

This exclusionary policy is a vestige of a well-documented history of racial discrimination. Well into the middle of the 20th century, government agencies, lending institutions, realtors’ associations, and private individuals combined to prevent Black Americans from residing or purchasing homes in Palo Alto. As a consequence of this discrimination, just 1.6 percent of residents in Palo Alto today are Black, a far lower proportion than in neighboring communities.

These communities have long been turned away from the gates of Foothills Park under threat of arrest if they attempt to enter its grounds—despite the fact that it is public land.

On September 15, 2020, the ACLU Foundation of Northern California and the firm Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP filed suit against Palo Alto to compel the city to remove the park’s residents-only restriction. The suit was brought on behalf of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People of San Jose/Silicon Valley (NAACP) and 10 individual plaintiffs who are residents of Palo Alto, East Palo Alto, Menlo Park, and neighboring communities throughout Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties.

The lawsuit asserts that this exclusionary policy violates both the U.S. and California Constitutions because it infringes on the plaintiffs’ fundamental rights of freedom of movement, freedom of speech and freedom of assembly. The suit also seeks to prohibit the city’s wasteful and unlawful expenditure of public funds to enforce the ordinance.

By the city’s own admission, Foothills Park is the only residents-exclusive park in California.

Read more about this case here.

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