Viewpoint - October 6, 2010

Guest opinion: Why we need the downtown plan

by Kelly Fergusson

Have you heard about the draft plan for El Camino Real and downtown? Menlo Park seeks your comments and suggestions to inform our study and decision-making in the months ahead.

The draft plan is the culmination of almost four years of surveys, community workshops, study sessions, and commission hearings. Thousands of residents have participated — weighing in on what they love today about Menlo Park, and what needs improving. Key priorities have emerged:

• Make our city more walkable and bikeable.

• Create new public spaces.

• Enhance downtown's "village" charm.

• Enhance appeal and attractiveness of El Camino Real and downtown.

• Attract more customers to downtown businesses.

• Increase economic activity/vibrancy.

• Increase family-oriented businesses, activities.

• Create a blueprint for future development.

What's most important to me about the draft plan is that it allows the people that care most about Menlo Park to shape our future instead of out-of-town developers that may not have our best interests at heart.

Today's zoning ordinance is geared to the old days when Menlo Park was mostly used car lots, gas stations, and auto repair shops. Therefore, developers apply for one-off projects asking for large height and size exemptions.

Some aspects of their plans might make sense — like condos near the train station, more cafes and plazas — but are the projects too big, too small, or just right? Are there enough public benefits like wide sidewalks and public spaces?

No city council should make such important decisions on a piece-meal basis. We need a community-driven plan as a blueprint.

Without a plan, developers have the upper hand. But having a plan in place puts the city in an excellent position to enforce public benefits and strong neighborhood protections. We fill empty storefronts with hometown businesses we want.

The draft plan has been available for review and comments for about six months. It provides a good foundation, but still needs work to become the great plan we deserve.

One point of lively discussion is the idea of parking garages — one near the post office and one behind Flegels. Today people complain about employee parking clogging the parking plazas. Moving employee parking into garages would free up surface parking for patrons closest to stores.

If parking garages were ever built, a few things are certain: They would need to be aesthetically pleasing, compatible with existing architecture, and be easily accessible.

Another point of discussion is whether the plan would somehow harm the Sunday Farmers' Market. Claims that the City Council is poised to adopt a plan that would harm the Farmers' Market ignore the careful and inclusive community process that is under way.

I am committed to working with the Lions Club volunteers, who run the Farmers Market, on every detail so the plan truly enhances the market or leaves it as-is.

The City Council will be discussing the draft plan and public comments at meetings in the coming months. We look forward to working with the public and making this plan the best it can possibly be.

Kelly Fergusson is a member of the Menlo Park City Council

(An electronic version of the draft plan is available at Hardcopies are available at City Hall. Contact Thomas Rogers at 330-6722 or


Posted by Hank Lawrence, a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Oct 7, 2010 at 6:39 am

We do need a downtown plan. But it should be one that the residents, business owners, and developers all participate in. Not one that is based on what Kelly Fergusson and Heyward Robinson and their tightly consultants on a short leash want.

Remember it was Kelly's political advisor, Gail Slocum, who opposed the Cafe barrone Keplers complex that most Menlo Park residents have grown to love.

We also neeed a City Council plan so when Kelly realizes that she has no support for running for the board of Supervisors, or the AD21 seat, the residents will rally around the call to keep Ms.Fergusson from having a third term on the Menlo park City Council.

Posted by not this plan, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Oct 8, 2010 at 6:07 am

Fergusson in this viewpoint simply walks around the heart of why this is a bad plan.

She and our City planners want to build higher and denser. She doesn't tall you that they are looking to add 600 housing units, does she?

The whole design of the plan is to eliminate on grade parking and replace it with parking structures to accommodate the extra needed parking. If you want Menlo Park to be a Redwood City or a Sunnyvale, than you will like this plan. Not my cup of tea thank you.

The consultant, claims this is what the public wanted. Hardly. They took off on their own, with covered market place and high rise buildings

Fergusson has been such a disappointment. I voted for her (twice) but never again. You can't trust anything she says anymore.

Just look at her vote on the Bohannon project. She was against until she after meeting with Bohannon privately, changes her mind and announces that she has obtained $500,000 for landscaping and that will make the project beautiful and therefore it is now acceptable.

This council which has spent over $1 million and climbing on this plan needs to be replaced. This attempt at a specific plan should be stopped now and stop wasting money of this lousy plan

Posted by Hank Lawrence, a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Oct 8, 2010 at 7:50 am

Dear not this plan,

Kelly changed her mind regarding the Bohaanon project because Bohannon agreed to Gail's LEED proposal. Once that happened Gail prevailed upon Kelly to change her mind. The landscaping was thrown in to give the appearance that Kelly changed her mind due to the meager beautification. This transparent subterfuge is so laughable. Don't be fooled. It was Gail that brought Kelly in line- as usual.

Posted by not this plan, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Oct 8, 2010 at 2:41 pm

Kelly's not fooling anyone and neither is Gail. The "green" groupies should banish them both for backing a project that is so obviously going to raise the CO2 and other emissions, since 70 - 80% of these come from autos, and this project with its largess is attracting so many auto trips

[Portion removed. Please avoid rumors.] Her position on Measure T is completely out of line with her previous positions on development.

Kelly is working hard to try and get both Cline and Robinson re-elected. That would make her the next Mayor for sure. Otherwise, her chances are nil, and she knows it.

Posted by Gail Slocum, a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Feb 15, 2011 at 1:05 pm


Your facts in your are first posting above absolutely incorrect. I did not and never have opposed the building that Kepler's and Barrone's are in.

That building was fully built by 1988 or so. That was before I got involved with City matters in 1989, and was elected to the City Council in 1990.

Please do not attribute to me positions that are not based in fact.

Gail Slocum

Posted by Gail Slocum, a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Feb 15, 2011 at 1:11 pm

Hank, regarding your October 8 posting, again, please do not make assertions as fact your own beliefs about what happened.

Kelly was opposed to the project even after my and others' suggested modifications had been made and only agreed to support once enough of her own, separate desired changes were added into that mix.

Kelly is her own person and really doesn't listen to or do everything I would like her to, and there are plenty of other examples of that recently.

Gail Slocum

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