Almanac

Viewpoint - February 15, 2012

Letter: The horrors of paseos and food trucks

What do you get when you hire upscale boutique consultants regarding city planning?

Menlo Park got a hefty price tag — over $1 million and counting — and suggestions that are utterly out of place for our city and which would be ruinous for our downtown.

In the first place, the part of the city that is "broken" and needs "fixing" is not the central business district, but the El Camino corridor, with a number of vacant businesses and the possible need for rezoning. However, that wasn't sexy enough for our hip consultants: after all, to justify a fee of over a million bucks, you need to at least appear to be offering something pretty spiffy.

And so they have come up with the farcical idea of a "paseo" for our downtown. A fancy Spanish word to go with the fancy price tag, but which actually means closing down a street to cars. In our tiny downtown? Removing access and parking spaces?

And if that weren't bad enough, the consultants recommend filling that now pristine, car-free street with, get this: food trucks. Huge, lumbering diesel trucks with motors left on idle, spewing carcinogenic particulates into the air — surely a great way to attract visitors to our downtown. I can hear it now — people from Burlingame to San Jose saying, "Let's hurry over to Menlo Park. Have you heard? They've got food trucks!"

The consulting firm overshot the mark in recommending a "paseo." Menlo Park is not Buenos Aires, or even Santa Monica; and they undershot the mark with their recommendation of food trucks: our city is not a construction site or a theme park.

Our downtown is a precious commodity. It is the jewel of our community. We can't afford to despoil its village-like character with loud, polluting diesel food trucks. Nor can we afford to allow even one of our beloved downtown restaurants, markets or shops to go out of business due to the lack of convenient parking spaces, noxious diesel fumes, and persistent engine idling noise that the food trucks and "paseo" would inflict on our downtown.

Just say No.

Cherie Zaslawsky, Menlo Park Downtown area

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