Viewpoint - August 18, 2010

Guest opinion: Lions Club questions city plan

by John Hickson

On behalf of the Menlo Park Live Oaks Lions Club, which has run the Sunday Farmers' Market in Menlo Park for 18 years, I would like to respond to the guest opinion by Susan Gillman in last week's Almanac.

We are of course delighted that she is a dedicated shopper at the Farmers Market but we cannot agree with her view that we are fear-mongering. We feel it is necessary to let our many loyal customers know what effect the city's draft specific plan is likely to have on the market.

Just this week one of the key aspects of the plan, as it appears on Page 6 of the city of Menlo Parks fall Activity Guide, Shaping our Future Together, reads: "Enhances the Farmers Market Home: The parking plaza currently used by the market would be improved with new landscaping, paving and other features." It was only a few years ago that this very plaza was redone so we do not see how new landscaping, paving and other features (whatever that means) will help. We are more than happy the way it is now.

The facts as we know them today are that we would lose a total of 68 parking spaces from Plaza 6 (the location of the existing market) and Plaza 7 (behind Trader Joe's). The draft specific plan then proposes to build a seven-day-a-week covered market in their place and close the Chestnut Street connection to Santa Cruz Avenue.

This means farmers will be unable to park their trucks in what is currently the parking area behind Wells Fargo Bank, and so will not have ready access to their produce. We will be faced with the triple threat of buildings in the plaza (why do we need a covered market?), reduced parking and limited access for farmers and customers. The Live Oaks Lions Club, our market manager and the majority of farmers believe the plan will threaten the long-term survival of the Sunday market.

This is very different from the claim that the Farmers' Market's home will be enhanced.

Finally, city officials say they have had one-on-one interviews with downtown business owners and other important stakeholders, but so far the city has not approached the Menlo Park Live Oaks Lions Club for our opinion. We would welcome a contact.

John Hickson is secretary and past president of the Menlo Park Live Oaks Lions Club.


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