Menlo council looks at demanding schedule

By Barbara Wood

Special to the Almanac

Menlo Park's new city manager, Alex McIntyre, has asked the City Council to approve a demanding schedule of meetings in the four-week period from May 22 to June 12, when the council would discuss and take final action on a number of issues that could affect the city for decades. Among them: Facebook, the downtown/El Camino Real specific plan, and the city budget.

Mr. McIntyre warned the council that hearings on Facebook and the specific plan could each last five hours. The council plans to decide on the calendar at a special meeting Monday, April 9, starting at 4:30 pm in the first floor City Council Conference Room at City Hall, 701 Laurel St. in Menlo Park.

After deciding on the calendar, the council will meet in closed session to discuss two legal cases and one potential legal case.

The proposed meeting dates are:

■ Tuesday, May 22, for a public hearing on the proposed fiscal year 2012-2013 budget and capital improvement program.

■ Tuesday, May 29, for a public hearing on the Facebook land-use entitlements, development agreement, and final environmental impact report.

■ Tuesday, June 5, for a public hearing on the downtown/El Camino Real specific plan and its final environmental impact report.

■ Tuesday, June 12, adopt the ordinances finalizing the council's actions concerning the Facebook project; finalizing the council's actions concerning the specific plan and adopting the budget and capital improvement program.

At least one person, Nancy Couperus of the Downtown Alliance, has protested the proposed schedule, calling it "alarming" because "it provides little time for the public, the planning commission and other commissions to review and provide input on the documents," she wrote in an email.

"Is this a deliberate attempt to rush through these important projects without allowing adequate time for public review? We don't know, but we are certainly concerned," she wrote.

It is not only the City Council that will be kept busy considering all these items. Mr. McIntyre has also, in a move he calls in his report "unprecedented," advised the council to tell the Planning Commission "that it has a limited timeframe" to consider and make recommendations on each of these items before the council hears them.

"No matter what the council decides to do with its own calendar for hearings, the planning commission still will need to expeditiously, yet still thoughtfully, work through its own hearings on these," he said in his report.


Posted by Brielle Johnck, a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Apr 9, 2012 at 12:16 pm

Well, there's a new sheriff in town! The masters of delay have been notified. Mr. Mcintyre has probably figured out how out of date the General Plan is. We are working with an 18 year old General Plan.
His approach is long overdue. Welcome to the City of Menlo Park, Mr. Mcintyre.

Posted by katherine, a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Apr 9, 2012 at 12:43 pm

I share Ms. Johnck's perspective. A refreshing approach to Menlo park decision making is welcomed!

Posted by Frugal, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Apr 9, 2012 at 12:46 pm

I can't believe the council is rushing to approve the most comprehensive item to come before it in years - The Downtown Specific Plan.

PLEASE council members, put this plan to public vote!

Posted by truth, a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Apr 9, 2012 at 1:21 pm

Four years of public input and now when decision time nears, opponents want delays. What a joke. Nancy and the out of towners, go away and let us decide our own future. We don't need you.

Posted by real truth, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Apr 9, 2012 at 1:51 pm

The real truth is that a lot of public input has been ignored, and the consultants vision is now what is about to be approved in a rush, not the original vision from the community. Public input is most important when the details are more clear, not at the beginning, but this is an age-old technique of manipulation

Posted by truth, a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Apr 9, 2012 at 4:33 pm

Please spare the old script you guys have been using. I heard the complaints in these meetings and then I watched, sometimes unhappily, while council adjusted the plans to sooth a small group of people. The folks opposing this are in MP for the money. They either own the buildings or own a business and they do not live here.

You cannot find a single city planning process more vetted than this. The frustration is how long the council let these guys hold it up.

You are living in the dark ages if you think a parking garage is unnecessary in ten years or if housing is just a scam for developers.

This is not the 1960s any more. We need new businesses that serve young families and folks who want to go out past 5pm. And we need housing near transit.

Posted by old timer, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Apr 10, 2012 at 6:01 am

With Mayor Keith running for supervisor, she wants as much time off as possible. She along with Fergusson represent the worst in public officials, when they have their own self promotion activities supersede their responsibilities as council members. This crazy rush to get approvals and holding of meetings in the afternoon, when they know damn well the public won't be attending is a clear case of trying whatever they can to push the public opinions aside.

Ex Mayor Cline is pushing to get what has become known as "Cline's folly", the downtown / El Camino specific plan approved with as little further public involvement as possible. Ignoring the stiff opposition from the real stakeholders, the downtown property owners and merchants, and having spent 4 years and about $1.5 million on this fiasco, the net result will be a lawsuit and most likely a referendum. It is a total disaster and should not be approved.

Our part time City Attorney, Bill McClure, who has managed to sit out both the Downtown plan and High Speed Rail issues because he owns a portion of the office building where he has a private land use practice, has been a real disappointment on these issues. The City has depended so much on his excellent talents for years, and yet on these major issues he just sat them out. Our completely divided council, rather than insisting we have a full time, in house legal counsel, has allowed this arrangement to go on for far too long.

The new City manager won't last long with this kind of leadership. Lee DuBoc and company who were booted out of office a few years ago, are trying to push through their developer friendly, give aways. Imagine allowing Facebook to be given outrageous employee density on the Sun site and complaining that the City isn't being fair when asking for public benefit. Yet, Facebook just announced paying $1 billion for a 2 year old start up, that was evaluated only a couple months ago an no more than $500 million on the high end. Come on Facebook, thrown some of that cash our way, because the City is going to need plenty of cash to dig out from all the impacts that your thousands of workers are going to pile up in what was our very nice place to live.

Posted by truth, a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Apr 10, 2012 at 7:32 am

More of the same from a generation of residents losing their grip on the city controls.

This council is divided 4-1 if you are watching.

Hardly divided.

No one can argue the progress of the past six or seven years. Gyms, fields, two-tier contracts, Facebook and a downtown plan on the verge of approval.

Litigation is the obvious answer for the same people. I am sure that is not lost on this council or this city.

Posted by Joe, a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Apr 10, 2012 at 10:28 am

Let's hope they have the completion of Bay Rd on that list. It's amazing (but then again not really) how long it takes to complete this project. The road is uneven and unsafe with cars diving wherever to avoid the uneven ridges and don't get me started on how "lovely" the orange fencing looks. It's been up since last summer.

Posted by real truth, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Apr 10, 2012 at 11:47 am

How can all the details be known? Council members gave direction in the last public meetings about both Facebook and the downtown plan. Only the consultants and Cline and Keith know the details, as the subcommittee of the council. There were issues even the contract attorney brought up.

A lot of time has passed. Much has changed. As long as there are public meetings, there should be opportunities to make even more to make the plans the best possible.

Posted by Marcy Magatelli, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Apr 10, 2012 at 2:28 pm

It sounds like a lot of think, that everyone in Menlo Park, knows all about the Downtown Specific Plan, and it should just be passed without further discussion. Almost every single person I ask, knows practically nothing about it! Most people work all day, and try to keep up with their kids' schedules and school matters, etc. and barely know anything about what is going on around town, until they see it physically. Dare I remind you of the turning islands on upper Santa Cruz Ave.? Perhaps these temporary, trial experiments that have been discussed, will bring more focused interest to these plans.

Posted by truth, a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Apr 11, 2012 at 9:41 am

RT, I agree with you. More public meetings in May will be critical.

Marcy, this process has been stretched out to the extreme by an oversensitive council looking to gain consensus on a controversial plan. I understand they wanted to get as many people involved as they could but at some point it is time to get to decisions.

I believe input from thousands of residents should be enough to get to a decision.

The opponent voice in the blogs and papers are really the same handful of people over and over and over.

It is time for this council to give one past round of hearings and input and get to a decision. And when Mark Flegel and Nancy C. and their lawyers sue (as non residents pretending to "look out" for the city -- these are folks who make millions off of the backs of Menlo Park residents), you will see they only want to kill this.

Posted by real truth, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Apr 11, 2012 at 11:36 am

Since the workshops, there has been little attempt to inform the community about what the plans really are. Marcy is right. The time is now to ensure a consensus.
Unfortunately, like the Santa Cruz barriers, we won't know until things are put into place. Unlike those barriers, buildings won't be removed for another 50 years even if they aren't the vision participants expect.

Posted by truth, a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Apr 11, 2012 at 12:09 pm

Not true. The specific plan draft document is online and has been public for months. Don't even pretend that this is a SC avenue street furniture debacle. It has been the most transparent planning process in city history. All of the meetings, documents, public comment are public and on the city website.

Shame on you for trying to say otherwise.

Posted by real truth, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Apr 11, 2012 at 12:57 pm

Who in the world but a few geeks would plow through tons of documents online? The best way to help people understand is to show 3D models, story poles. Nothing like that since the workshops unless I missed them.

Posted by Joanna, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Apr 11, 2012 at 6:14 pm

[Post removed; see terms of use.]

Posted by truth, a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Apr 12, 2012 at 12:34 am

Joanna = value add, again.

Posted by Joanna, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Apr 12, 2012 at 12:48 pm

Actually it was a relevant and appropriate question. It has to do with how our city council votes and operates. As a component of the city council, it has everything to do with the topic at hand.

I'll rephrase...

When does Kelly Fergusson's term end?

Posted by Joanna, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Apr 12, 2012 at 12:50 pm

Actually... when does everyone's term end?

Posted by bob, a resident of Woodside: other
on Apr 12, 2012 at 1:50 pm

Are the concil members paid?

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