Almanac

News - May 19, 2010

Property owners organize to oppose plan

by Sean Howell

A group of downtown property owners that opposes the city of Menlo Park's long-term plans for its downtown area now has a public relations firm working for them, as well as a handle: the Menlo Park Downtown Alliance.

The group, which has been active for months in opposing the plan, lobbying the City Council and stumping against it at the weekly farmers' market, reiterated its concerns in a press release May11. While the group supports several aspects of the plan, it's not in favor of losing surface parking in the downtown parking plazas to large parking garages. It also opposes mixed-use developments and a covered marketplace, among other things.

The property owners have retained a public relations firm, Public Good PR, to better convey their message — and perhaps attempt to shift discussion around the plan to their terms, rather than the city's.

Instead of listing areas of the plan the property owners disagree with, the release outlines their vision of the downtown area, allowing for a "modest" parking structure, taller buildings if they provide dedicated on-site parking, and facade improvements. Property owners who oppose the plan have bristled in the past at being characterized as naysayers.

The release serves to further emphasize how far apart the city and this group of property owners is. While the city plans to eliminate some street parking on Santa Cruz Avenue to allow for wider sidewalks, the "alliance" says it would only favor widening sidewalks on a parcel-by-parcel basis, with each property owner able to decide whether to allow widened sidewalks in front of his or her building.

And while the city's draft plan would allow 48-foot-high parking garages of up to five stories, the property owners say they would support a "split-level" parking structure of two stories, with a maximum height of 6 feet.

The group said in the next several weeks, it will release the names of property and business owners who oppose the plan.

Preservempdowntown.org is the group's website.

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