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About this blog: Growing up in Brooklyn, NY I lived in high-density housing and experienced transit-oriented services first hand. During high school and college summers I worked in Manhattan drafting tenant floor plans for high-rise office buildi...  (More)

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The November Menlo Park Council Election: The Incumbents Need to Speak Up

Uploaded: May 26, 2014
With the June Election headed to history in a couple of weeks, attention will quickly turn to the November Election. Three seats on the Menlo Park Council will be available. Rich Cline, Peter Ohtaki and Kirsten Keith's terms will conclude. Rich has already served two terms. None have announced their intention to run for an additional term.

There are some interesting artifacts to consider. If all decide to run, and there are no challengers, the incumbents will automatically return for another four years without any vote. Co-pending ballot Menlo Park measures have historically been coupled to candidates. Like-minded candidates with a ballot measures traditionally enjoy a lot of support from the concurrent ballot campaigning. And a popular ballot can bring new faces to office.

Comments

Posted by think again, a resident of Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks,
on May 26, 2014 at 2:50 pm

If there were ever 3 incumbents who need to step aside and let some new blood run, this is the time. One incumbent thought fees paid by developers (Stanford) should be considered as public benefit, another was assigned to be on the Specific Plan sub committee and claims to have had 19 meetings working out a compromise but, in fact, met only 2 times with the residents and the other 17 must have been with Stanford and the last (on the council for 8 years) took every word Staff spoke at the council meetings as the bible truth when, in fact, every word was an instruction directly from Stanford. Answer: Ohtaki, Keith and Cline.

And now we have a $140,000 study of the initiative!

Why didn't the city pay for a consultant to analyze the Specific Plan in November 2013 when the one-year Plan review was conducted by the council. The council needed help then but instead they muddled through and ignored the comments of residents who are long time, experienced land-use analysts. Also, the Sierra Club analyzed the Specific Plan, in light of the 2 El Camino Real development proposals and advised the council to allow no more than 20% office construction for Stanford's proposal as a way to correct the housing imbalance caused by so many employees coming into MP. The Council never discussed or even acknowledged the Sierra Club's advice despite the fact that Council Member's Kirsten Keith and Rich Cline were endorsed by the Sierra Club. It was so disrespectful. Candidates continue to seek out the endorsement of the Sierra Club but cannot even recognize a thoughtful analysis based on smart growth policies these council members claimed to cherish.

The council needed help in November 2013 but never sought it. The initiative is clear, simple and consists of 4 elements. The City is paying for a consultant to confirm the council's approval. There cannot be an independent analysis when it's the city that is picking up the tab. The dice are loaded, once again and the taxpayers keep picking up the bill.

Savemenlo is a group of families who relied on the city to create a plan that included moderate mixed use developments and an El Camino real that has a human scale to it and encourages residents to cross it by foot and bike. Instead we have Council Member Peter Ohtaki pushing for adding traffic lanes and double turn lanes, an out dated concept that is in direct contradiction with the goals of the Specific Plan. Hello Sunnyvale. Hello Lawrence Expressway!

Ohtaki and Keith need to step down and make room for council members who will think about residents, families, children pedestrians, cyclists and people using wheel chairs as their mode of getting around the city.


Posted by Menlo Voter, a resident of Menlo Park: other,
on May 26, 2014 at 3:49 pm

Menlo Voter is a registered user.

think again:

just because you keep repeating the same lie over and over doesn't make it true. I've asked before and I'll ask again, do you have one iota of EVIDENCE (you know those pesky facts that are accepted in court)that staff were "following Stanford's instruction?" Of course you don't. No one does. Because it didn't happen. Please provide evidence to the contrary as I've asked before. I'm still waiting. I won't hold my breath.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood,
on May 27, 2014 at 12:36 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Save Menlo represents a small number of residents who did not get their way in the final Specific Plan and now they want to become Stop Menlo. They use nice, warm words to describe what they want but in truth they simply want to protect their narrow self interests without regard to the needs of the entire community.

As Stoffer wisely observes "Co-pending ballot Menlo Park measures have historically been coupled to candidates. Like-minded candidates with a ballot measures traditionally enjoy a lot of support from the concurrent ballot campaigning." This whole Save Menlo Lanza/Fry is a sham effort to deceive the voters. Their web site is full of mistruths (i.e. lies) and they continue to violate the campaign financial reporting laws.




Posted by Our town, a resident of Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks,
on May 27, 2014 at 9:54 pm

To Peter C and his doppelganger, MV: no need to wear out your fingers typing and retyping the same tired, flawed arguments over and over again. Just put "insert usual drivel here" and we'll all get the picture.

Thanks, think again, for the astute analysis. I hope we see some Menlo-centric candidates this time around. Ohtaki and Keith were on the council to pursue their own agendas, and they have shown, time and time again, their lack of concern for the wellbeing of this city. Rich started off with the best intentions, but over the years he's become cynical and stopped caring about the people he allegedly serves. It should be an interesting election.


Posted by Dana Hendrickson, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park,
on May 28, 2014 at 12:54 pm

There are lot of false claims surrounding the Specific Plan, the Stanford project and the SM Initative.

What facts?

Go to www.mpcdforum.com


Posted by Elizabeth, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park,
on May 28, 2014 at 1:42 pm

Well said Stuart. We are dealing with something similar with wasted tax dollars and staff time chasing a private well in a public park for an elite private country club, where less than 150 members actually live in Menlo Park, and who can certainly afford to pay for the water they use. We don't want our true open space parks (not a 4th floor balcony,) absconded by the City and Country Club to take water that doesn't belong to them and water our City Attorney says has no value - so we give it to the Country Club for FREE - because it's not 'drinkable' only because it's not treated.

We deserve better from Staff - we deserve better from Council. I attended the opening of the new Police Sub-Station only to find Keith show up at the last second for a Photo Op, butting out the Belle Haven resident who was responsible for getting the new station in. It was smarmy - bu many residents certainly noticed her!

It is certainly refreshing to sit on the Chief of Police's Citizen Committee - there is a level of transparency and accountability that is much needed in the City - especially after Hooker-gate and now parking-gate, yet, crime statistic are improving daily, and we have new and renewed police presence in the Belle Haven neighborhood.

Thank you for your learned words and don't worry what the blowhard developers and Stanford's paid voice says - they're getting old and we're getting stronger.

There will be fantastic good growth, problems will be addressed, traffic will get worse, and my property will certainly see another burst of the bubble we are now in - how sad to see all the office space that sits empty, un-rented while retail continues to die and Santa Cruz Avenue becomes a food court for the Business Mall that will be El Camino in Menlo Park... dependent on all that is bubble.

Again, thanks for all you do and your love of Menlo Park.


Posted by Elizabeth, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park,
on May 28, 2014 at 2:15 pm

Menlo Voter; I read the memo from Stanford to Staff - there are many things from the memo that Staff simply cut and copied into the final SP - after public and Council review. Staff even admitted it. That is why we have the Public Records Act - but it's simply awful that we have to request public records to find out what Staff and Stanford pulled on the residents of Menlo Park - in fact it should be criminal - where is the Grand Jury when we need them? CBS - 60 Minutes; Producers: Shawn Efran and Rome Hartman are you listening?


Posted by Menlo Voter, a resident of Menlo Park: other,
on May 28, 2014 at 5:50 pm

Menlo Voter is a registered user.

Elizabeth:

yes, all done in public, if one was paying attention. Were you one that wasn't?


Posted by Menlo Voter, a resident of Menlo Park: other,
on May 28, 2014 at 5:51 pm

Menlo Voter is a registered user.

Our town:

please point out the "flaws" in our arguments.


Posted by Roy Thiele-Sardiña, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park,
on May 28, 2014 at 6:49 pm

Roy Thiele-Sardiña is a registered user.

Stu,

I would imagine that they will wit to hear the consultants report on the effect that Lanza/Fry initiative will have on the current Specific Plan.

It is OBVIOUS to everyone that this initiative was written (poorly I might add) to allow the usual Anti-Development people to run for City Council. I hope the residents see the negative consequences of this ill advised, ill written initiative and vote NO on it and the candidates that attach themselves to it.

Roy Thiele-Sardina


Posted by keith is running, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park,
on May 29, 2014 at 7:00 am

For some time now, Keith has been running. She has been out soliciting endorsements for her campaign for re-election this fall. This despite the baggage of her husband, Woodell, whose apparently goes around stealing campaign signs, and then sues when he is caught.

Surely, Roy Thiele-Sardina, a huge supporter of Keith can become her campaign chairman, and they can both can see how their support of the totally defective Specific Plan will play with the public.

We need a new council, and sweeping away Keith, Ohtaki and Cline is the beginning.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood,
on May 29, 2014 at 8:01 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Let's compare:

1 - The Lanza/Fry initiative process:
Created by two people and an unnamed lawyer without benefit of any drafts or any public comment.

2 - Public Process Leading to the Specific Plan

Between 2007 and 2012, the City conducted an extensive long-range planning project for the El Camino Real corridor and the Downtown area. The commencement of this project represented a reaction to a number of high-visibility vacant parcels and several requests for development-specific General Plan and Zoning Ordinance Amendments, resulting in the desire for an approach that would instead be comprehensive, long-term, and community-focused. The planning process acknowledged from the beginning that Menlo Park is a community with diverse and deeply-held opinions regarding development, but proposed that a deliberate and transparent process would provide the best option for a positive outcome.
The project started with a visioning project (Phase I: 2007-2008) to identify the core values and goals of the community and to define the structure of the second phase of planning. The culmination of the first phase of work was the City Council's unanimous acceptance of the Vision Plan in July 2008. The Vision Plan established 12 overarching goals for the project area, which served as the foundation for the subsequent Specific Plan. The Specific Plan process (Phase II: 2009-2012) was an approximately $1.69 million planning project informed by review of an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) and Fiscal Impact Analysis (FIA). The Specific Plan had as a key objective the establishment of a comprehensive, action-oriented set of rules, which would establish much greater clarity and specificity with regard to development, with both respect to rights as well as requirements.
Both the Vision Plan and Specific Plan benefited from extensive community involvement, with excellent attendance at workshops and related events, as well as regular public review by a diverse Oversight and Outreach Committee. In total, the Vision Plan and/or Specific Plan were an agendized topic of discussion at over 90 public meetings over five years, including at least 28 City Council sessions and 18 Planning Commission sessions. The development of the Vision Plan and Specific Plan was promoted by numerous citywide newsletters/postcards, in addition to promotions at the downtown block parties, updates to the Chamber of Commerce, newspaper coverage, and regular email alerts. Each phase of the project was guided by a consulting firm with technical expertise in the required tasks. Both consultants were chosen through public selection processes, which included opportunities for the public to review the proposals, attend the consultant interviews, and consider the firms' relevant clients and projects.
Both the Planning Commission and City Council elected to significantly expand their respective reviews of the Draft Specific Plan in Summer-Fall 2011, in order to provide clear direction on improvements and refinements to the Plan. Among other topics, Floor Area Ratio (FAR) thresholds (and associated development feasibility), land use regulations, and building height and massing requirements were publicly discussed in detail during this and other phases. The impact of such standards and guidelines on key opportunity parcels were a particular area of focus throughout the Specific Plan process, and were subject to advanced visualization techniques (photomontages, massing models, and artistic renderings) in order to clearly relay what buildings could look like. At the Draft Specific Plan stage, the City Council (acting on the Planning Commission's recommendation) specifically lowered overall building height by one full story (from 60 to 48 feet in the Station Area West (SA W) district and along Alma Street and for parking garages in the Downtown from 48 to 38 feet). In addition, the Council lowered the façade heights by one full story (from 48 feet to 38 feet) in the Station Areas (SA E and SA W) and the ECR SE district and directed changes to the upper floor controls for several zoning districts, in order to proactively address potential concerns with bulk and visual character.

After those and other changes were made, the Specific Plan process culminated with the City Council's unanimous approval of the Plan and related actions in June 2012, following a unanimous recommendation for approval from the Planning Commission.

The resultant Specific Plan can be and is reviewed and revised by both the Planning Commission and the City Council on a regular basis.

*******************
It is no wonder that the Lanza/Fry initiative is rife with errors and unintended consequences and none of those can be remedied without an expensive city wide vote for each correction.


Posted by Roy Thiele-Sardiña, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park,
on May 29, 2014 at 11:44 am

Roy Thiele-Sardiña is a registered user.

@keith is running

Has anyone else pulled papers? Not that I know of. we will see if this is as big an issue in the upcoming election.

Cline, Keith and Ohtaki were elected for their fiscally responsible position in supporting Pension Reform in Menlo Park. The initiative won in a landslide and helped unseat Councilman Robinson, and later unseat Councilwoman Fergusson for opposing the will of the people.

Come August we will get to judge the Anti-Development candidates that Lanza/Fry will front.

Roy


Posted by Roy Thiele-Sardiña, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park,
on May 29, 2014 at 11:44 am

Roy Thiele-Sardiña is a registered user.

@keith is running

Has anyone else pulled papers? Not that I know of. we will see if this is as big an issue in the upcoming election.

Cline, Keith and Ohtaki were elected for their fiscally responsible position in supporting Pension Reform in Menlo Park. The initiative won in a landslide and helped unseat Councilman Robinson, and later unseat Councilwoman Fergusson for opposing the will of the people.

Come August we will get to judge the Anti-Development candidates that Lanza/Fry will front.

Roy


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood,
on May 29, 2014 at 11:55 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

I have seen strong signals that Fergusson will run and will do so on a pro Lanza/Fry initiative platform - in which case I predict that both she and the initiative will be defeated.


Posted by Our town, a resident of Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks,
on May 29, 2014 at 12:22 pm

Repeating a lie, over and over, does not make it true. The repetition merely calls into question the integrity and agenda of those doing it.

From the initiative petition:

"The measure...retains the overall cap of 474,000 square feet for all net, new non-residential development.." 474,000 square feet of office! Same as in the approved plan! And "voter approval would not be required to exceed the 680 residential unit limit."

Almost 500,000 square feet of office space and 680+ residential units added to a fairly small stretch of (already gridlocked) road -- that's actually quite a bit of development. I'm not sure what makes SaveMenlo "anti-development." Unless the prevaricators need to persist in repeating this falsehood to fit the fable they've concocted.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood,
on May 29, 2014 at 12:57 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

". I'm not sure what makes SaveMenlo "anti-development." Unless the prevaricators need to persist in repeating this falsehood to fit the fable they've concocted."

Clearly you haven't read the initiative:

Here are some relevant excerpts:
""…office space in any individual development not exceed 100,000 square feet, caps the total net, new office space approved after July 12, 2012 at 240,820 square feet "

""…the City Council cannot amend the definitions and development standards set forth in the measure as these provisions can be amended only with voter approval. In addition, voter approval is required to exceed the office space and nonresidential square footage limits."

The flaws and unintended consequences in this privately written and unveiled proposal are numerous and significant. The supporters cannot claim that it makes no difference while also claim that it makes a big difference. For example, any small property owner on ECR who wished to replace an existing building would, under the initiative, have their ground floor footprint reduced by 30%.


Posted by fact checker, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park,
on May 29, 2014 at 6:23 pm

The initiative does limit total office space to the same 240,820 SF as was described to be the "most reasonably foreseeable" amount of office for the next 30 years. That is a lot of net new office development, roughly the equivalent of five office buildings the size of the new building at Lytton and Alma in Palo Alto.
The 474,000 SF of net new non-residential space is equivalent to about nine buildings the size of the new building in Palo Alto. Hardly no growth

Since these amounts were supposed to last 30 years, it's reasonable to me that the decision to exceed these amounts would be made by the next generations (my children and grandchildren) who can vote to approve more development when they think it makes sense.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood,
on May 29, 2014 at 7:52 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

The proposed measure's desired cap on total square feet of all new office space (240,820) appears to be based on the Specific Plan's "Illustrative Plan" description (page C20), which describes ONLY ONE potential development concept as an example, illustrated by that amount of square footage. Providing such an example – as an illustration only - is typical of a long-range planning document. To be clear, the Illustrative Plan description is not intended to put forth a fixed limit on square footage; rather it describes "how the plan area could potentially build out." This section of the Specific Plan states clearly and repeatedly that the actual build-out will likely vary from the initial projection over 20 to 30 years.

There have been suggestions that the City is not enforcing the "EIR impact limits" for the Specific Plan, based on the misinterpretation of the "Illustrative Plan" square footage example. Since that number is in fact an example and not a limit, this suggestion is inaccurate. When mentioning the Illustrative Plan for reference, the EIR clearly notes (page 3-11) that "the precise location of development and the precise types of non-residential development that will result from the Specific Plan are necessarily uncertain."

Further, the EIR accurately analyzes potential impacts, which do not typically differ by the specific type of non-residential development. In other words, such impacts and associated mitigations would not generally vary based on whether an office building was proposed, versus a retail, restaurant, or hotel structure.


Posted by neighbor, a resident of Menlo Park: other,
on May 31, 2014 at 10:28 am

Elizabeth, I was also at the opening of the new Police Sub-Station. The other council members were in attendance while the mayor and others gave presentations. This ribbon cutting was like every other, the mayor invited his fellow counil members to come up for the photo.


Posted by Stu Soffer, a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks,
on May 31, 2014 at 5:58 pm

Stu Soffer is a registered user.

This thread has gone off topic. It began with discussing the upcoming council election and councilmembers. It morphed into the specific plan food fight.

This morning the vacationing managing editor of the Almanac forwarded to me a request from Peter Carpenter for the IP addresses of the commenters in the thread. He asked whether party A was the same as party B.

Peter followed with nice message to me saying "Thanks for your thoughtful blogs." Thank you, Peter, for that recognition.

The purpose of his request I assume was to see if one IP address was used by multiple 'nom de plumes.' IP addresses of commenters are available to the bloggers for their blog only. One person using multiple names can give the unfair impression that there is more support for one side of an issue. I assure everyone that I have better things to do with my time than track this down, like flossing my teeth.

Now, I believe in privacy of online data; I don't believe that an IP address uniquely identifies an individual; and the novelty of seeing the IP address of commenters has long ago evaporated (probably at the end of my first blog post in October.)

I'll answer Peter's question without disclosing IP addresses of anyone: each and every name above, fake or real, comes from its own unique IP address. You're welcome.

I wish everyone provided real names on the blogs. It is a big thing for those whose use their names to do so, including Peter, Roy and myself, and to stand behind what we say. Over time I have also seen nom-de-plumes offering good information, and real names offering incorrect information.

I also understand the comfort afforded by using a non-de-plume. People can sometime be more candid with that fig leaf. They have a role; they can be quite correct in content but not want to protect the source.

And with that: San Antonio 6, Oklahoma City 13.


Posted by the future, a resident of Menlo Park: other,
on Jun 1, 2014 at 12:22 am

Stu, in the future there will simply be too many trolls for this system to continue. There was a time in the mid 90's when it was possible to use an email account without any spam filtering. Those days are long gone.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood,
on Jun 1, 2014 at 6:52 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"Since these amounts were supposed to last 30 years"

NOWHERE in the Specific Plan or the process that lead to it was there any timetable for development. Menlo Park now has a lot of vacant property on ECR - it makes no sense to keep that property vacant and unproductive for 10 or 20 years - unless your intention is simply to stop development.

While the two proposed projects account for a substantial percentage of the Specific Plan's development caps (61.5% of non-residential; 57% of residential), it is understandable and reasonable, given that these two locations are the largest and most vacant opportunity sites within the Specific Plan area.

Under the Specific Plan significant percentage of development capacity would remain for smaller sites within the area. Under the Lanza/Fry initiative these smaller ECR parcels would be severely penalized by new setbacks that would prohibit lot line buildings via an unintended(?) quirk in the initiative's definitions- a huge disincentive to rebuild properties like the old theatre.


Posted by Roy Thiele-Sardiña, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park,
on Jun 4, 2014 at 11:01 am

Roy Thiele-Sardiña is a registered user.

Stu,

At last nights City Council meeting. A number of speakers presented at Public Comment about his very issue. The new group is called "Menlo Park Deserves Better"> Henry Riggs spoke for the group, and we all presented various issues about the Lanza/Fry initiative that are flawed and will harm Menlo Park. We also ALL said we are backing candidates that DEFEND the Specific Plan.

As Henry said, "this initiative is an assault on the most open and thoughtful community process this outspoken city has ever undertaken."

And we wanted the Council to know we had their back with regard to the specific plan. We as a group will defend Council Candidates who stand up for the Specific Plan, and work against ANY candidate that aligns themselves with this misguided initiative.

So while we don't know who is running, candidates will now know they have a large group behind them with financial and political support should they choose to defend the 7 years of hard work for and by the residents of Menlo Park.

Roy Thiele-Sardina


Posted by Roy Thiele-Sardiña, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park,
on Jun 4, 2014 at 11:01 am

Roy Thiele-Sardiña is a registered user.

Stu,

At last nights City Council meeting. A number of speakers presented at Public Comment about his very issue. The new group is called "Menlo Park Deserves Better"> Henry Riggs spoke for the group, and we all presented various issues about the Lanza/Fry initiative that are flawed and will harm Menlo Park. We also ALL said we are backing candidates that DEFEND the Specific Plan.

As Henry said, "this initiative is an assault on the most open and thoughtful community process this outspoken city has ever undertaken."

And we wanted the Council to know we had their back with regard to the specific plan. We as a group will defend Council Candidates who stand up for the Specific Plan, and work against ANY candidate that aligns themselves with this misguided initiative.

So while we don't know who is running, candidates will now know they have a large group behind them with financial and political support should they choose to defend the 7 years of hard work for and by the residents of Menlo Park.

Roy Thiele-Sardina


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