Jutting into the bay and surrounded by tidal estuary, Cooley Landing had a storied past but sat vacant and inaccessible due to its former life as a landfill. The City of East Palo Alto saw this abandoned site as a jewel in the rough with the potential to provide the community with greater access to parks and open space.


The nine acres of land that is now Cooley Landing was built up over several decades of use as a municipal dump. After another incarnation as the site of Palo Alto Boat Works, the site sat vacant and unusable for over a decade, largely due to its contaminated soils.

Over a multi-year, multi-phased process, this forgotten, contaminated spit of land has been slowly transformed into an award-winning slice of open space providing public access to amenities for education and recreation, along with additional connections to adjacent nature preserves.

Some of the unusual challenges faced over the course of this project include identifying and facilitating grant funding to continue the project through an era of park closures and economic downturn; and safeguarding the habitat of two endangered species: the California Clapper Rail and the Salt Marsh Harvest Mouse.


The City selected CALA to lead an extensive public outreach process and to guide master planning efforts. The team worked closely with local organizations, property owners, and stakeholders such as Mid-Peninsula Open Space District (MROSD), Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST), Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC), and myriad permitting and regulatory agencies.

CALA has continued to facilitate partnerships between these agencies to complete multiple phases of the new park: capping the landfill, installing utilities and improving access roads, adding restrooms, picnic areas, interpretive signage and trails.

    Cooley Landing
    East Palo Alto, CA
    Park Planning Award, CPRS District IV
    $5 million, Prop 84: Statewide Park Development and Community Revitalization Program
    Conceptual Design
    Design Development
    Grant Assistance
    Public Outreach
    Construction Documents
    Bidding Assistance
    Construction Support

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