Almanac

News - August 21, 2013

Menlo Park: Developer asks for police presence at council meeting

by Sandy Brundage

Menlo Park council meetings are generally noted for a lack of physical, if not verbal, violence, but developer Sam Sinnott seemed worried that may change on Aug. 20.

He emailed the council last week to request security at the Aug. 20 council meeting, which has the contentious Louise Street issue on the agenda. The last time it appeared on the agenda — July 16 — Mr. Sinnott wrote, he and his wife were confronted on the way to their car by people opposed to his project.

Obscenities and raised voices ensued, he said. "They were very close to violence," he told the council. "It is unfortunate to see a situation like this in our small City."

So, for the first time in almost 30 years of attending the meetings, Mr. Sinnott wrote, he asked for security at a council meeting.

A Louise Street representative disputed Mr. Sinnott's accounting of events.

"I witnessed the incident Mr. Sinnott describes in his Aug. 15th email," Kiki Kapany wrote to the council the day after the developer made his request. One person who doesn't live on Louise Street approached the Sinnotts and exchanged words, according to Ms. Kapany, and when the person went to sit on a bench, Mr. Sinnott turned back to confront him. "This is not the action of a man who did not feel safe. Mr. Sinnott's wife soon pulled him away and they returned to their car."

The developer "is the aggressor in this dispute, not the victim" and it is the Louise Street residents who have lived in fear and need protection, Ms. Kapany said, thanks to months of bullying, threats and intimidation.

"The bottom line here is that Mr. Sinnott is asking for police protection because he does not like something someone said to him after the last meeting. Spending the city's money in such a manner would be a ludicrous waste of city resources."

In any case, in what may be a happy coincidence for Mr. Sinnott, the police were already planning to attend the meeting.

"The police department is on the agenda for the red light cameras that evening, so there will be police presence at the council meeting," said spokeswoman Nicole Acker.

Mr. Sinnott and investment partner Mircea Voskerician have been trying to build a paved driveway exiting on Louise Street from a property at 1825 Santa Cruz Ave. that they purchased for redevelopment. The exit would cross over some greenery in the public right-of-way, and possibly bolster the developer's case for switching the address from Santa Cruz Avenue to Louise Street, which city staff doesn't support.

Staff initially authorized the driveway. But the council voted 3-1 to revoke it in the face of protests from Louise Street residents, who said that paving over the green space would damage the character of the neighborhood.

The residents then asked the city to turn over the public right-of-way to adjoining homeowners — a process called abandonment — saying they wanted to preserve it as green space in perpetuity with easements for pedestrian access. Planning commissioners voted 4-2 in June that abandonment would be consistent with the city's general plan, but noted that they weren't voting on the abandonment request itself.

Both sides asked the council to delay the abandonment hearing from July to August to explore whether a compromise could be reached.

The council meeting was held after the Almanac went to press.

Visit AlmanacNews.com to see how it turned out.

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