HAYWARD — The proposal for a gate across Durham Way in the Hayward hills has divided neighbor from neighbor.

The issue will come to a head Nov. 18 when the City Council will decide if the 17 homes in the Woodland Knolls neighborhood should become Hayward's newest gated community. But at the moment, the Hayward Area Recreation and Park District is the focal point for the disagreement between neighbors.

At the next meeting of the district board on Oct. 27, neighbors will get the chance to voice their support or opposition to the gate in an open forum.

The district's role in the matter is to determine whether the gate would prevent pedestrians, cyclists and equestrians from accessing its greenbelt trails. District Park Superintendent Larry Lepore found that it would not.

Neighbor Bud Eckert said a perception now exists that the district supports the gate, and he wants that perception addressed before the City Council votes in November.

At a district committee meeting Monday, neighbors from both camps discussed their disagreements. Gate opponents Eckert and Gay Ostarello sat across a table from gate proponent Marshall Mitzman and conducted a wide-ranging discussion that touched on the topics of elitism, property rights, race, crime and access for the disabled to recreational trails.

District board member Minane Jameson and General Manager Rita Shue concluded the meeting by deciding that the issue would be placed on the agenda for the next district board meeting for further discussion.

Durham Way is a private road a little under a half-mile long. A majority of the residents on the road want a gate to keep out nonresident vehicles, citing crime concerns. Their street branches off from Oakes Drive, which runs through the Woodland Estates neighborhood in the Hayward Hills and then connects to wider Hayward.

On April 24, the Hayward Planning Commission rejected the gate proposal in a 4-3 vote. Woodland Knolls homeowners then appealed the decision, sending it to the City Council.

Eckert, whose house in Woodland Estates would be just outside the gate, is one of the gate's most adamant opponents. At the committee meeting Monday, Eckert said the gate might set a precedent in Hayward.

"All of a sudden it's going to be all these white people in the hills with gates, and poor people of color below outside them," he said.

Mitzman, who lives in Woodland Knolls next door to Eckert, would be just inside the gate. For Mitzman, the relevant issues are property rights and feeling safe in one's home. He said his home has been burglarized three times since he moved in 12 years ago, and that the windows of two of his vehicles were broken in burglaries. He also said he witnessed a pickup truck drive past his home with a dead deer in the back, which hunters had killed on the park and recreation district trail that connects to Durham Way.

"The gate is to keep cars off our road, not pedestrians, horses or bikes," he said. "We want to feel safe. That's why we want the gate."

Eckert said e-mails from Lepore to gate supporters and city staff had created the perception that district supports the gate. Lepore said he neither supports nor opposes the gate, and that his role was only to determine if the gate allowed for access to HARD greenbelt trails, which it did.

As Jameson concluded Monday's meeting, she stated that construction of the gate might "open a can of worms" that could spur the construction of gates throughout Hayward. "I'm leery of gates for a number of reasons," she said after the meeting. "I can also understand the other side of it. We as a board can ultimately vote on whether we support it or not, or are neutral. But the final decision is up to the council."

The Durham gate will be discussed by the HARD board at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 27 in the District Administration Building, 1099 E St.

Reach Jason Sweeney at 510-293-2469 or jsweeney@bayareanewsgroup.com.