Handley Rock Park in the Emerald Lake Hills area is a half-acre of open space marked by a 20-foot-high sandstone rock that's popular with local residents and climbers -- as well as late-night partiers.
Over the decades, residents have complained about drug and alcohol use there, as well as noise, graffiti, litter and the occasional firework launched from the boulder into the surrounding unincorporated San Mateo County neighborhood in the hills above Redwood City.
"It's a nuisance," said one neighbor who lives next to the park and would only give his first name, "Steve."
Though privately owned and operated by the Handley Rock Association -- a group of neighbors and rock climbers -- the park has been open to the public under a county permit since 1992.
At a public hearing on Thursday, the county's zoning hearing officer is scheduled to consider renewing the public use permit five more years, as recommended by staff.
County Project Planner Camille Leung said Monday that having the association go through the use permit process "is the only way to make sure the area remains safe."
This year sheriff's deputies responded to 31 park-related complaints, including 12 crowd gathering calls, four drug activity calls, four trespassing calls, three noise calls, one fire hazard call and seven "others," according to the staff memo.
Lin Brown, who has a full view of the rock and the places where young people and others like to hang
"Whenever you have a park, you're going to have some problems," Brown said.
In recent years, the association has been working with the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office to ensure the park is patrolled and any problems are quickly dealt with, Leung said. There also have been community clean-up events and increased communication with residents about rules, including the fact the park closes at dusk. Daytime uses include family play, picnics and rock climbing, residents say.
Park representative Alice Fischer-Colbrie, who lives in the neighborhood, said she hopes the permit will be renewed because there's been a concerted effort to address community concerns.
"The park is a spectacular rock formation, there's nothing like it in the county," Fischer-Colbrie said. "You get this amazing view of the Bay Area and our neighborhood."
Other residents said they also believe the advantages of having the park in the neighborhood outweighs any headaches.
That includes Steve, who said he's for "zero tolerance" enforcement against after-hours visitors, noise and litter, but doesn't want to lose the open space.
"By and large, it's a good neighbor to have," he said.