I strongly disagree with the petition for the following reasons:
• Vacant lots on El Camino will remain vacant. The DTSP was designed to encourage vibrancy and balanced growth. Since its approval, two projects have already been proposed that would eliminate the blighted, former car dealership lots on El Camino. The petition, however, seeks to restrict the existing approved mix of allowed uses. If approved, the current proposals will have to be withdrawn. Replacement proposals aren't guaranteed. If or when new projects are proposed, the changes may well be more negative than positive.
• Loss of revenue to schools, fire district and the city. The petition will result in significant loss of near-term revenue for our schools, fire district and city. In addition to several millions of dollars in upfront development fees, the current proposals being attacked by this petition would annually generate $3 million for our schools as well as $900,000 each for our fire district and city to fund important community services. A similar petition back in 2006 stopped the Derry property project, which has sat vacant ever since. To date, this lost opportunity has cost our community well over $10 million in development fees and lost annual, incremental property tax revenue.
• School crowding and traffic. The petition could result in significantly more high-density housing being built on the two vacant El Camino lots, leading to more crowding in our over-burdened Menlo Park schools. Additionally, the petition could shift development toward more automobile-intensive retail and high-traffic medical offices. It does not ensure less traffic, and in fact, may result in more.
• Lack of public process. The petition was crafted in secret with zero professional studies or public discussion being done. The DTSP went through six years of public input and independent, professional analysis. It is the result of extensive discussion, debate, and consensus creation. This privately defined petition flies in the face of our Menlo Park values that demand transparency and public participation in our land-use decision-making.
• The petition rejects existing consensus. The petition's changes to the DTSP were already rejected during the recent review and approval of the DTSP by the City Council and Planning Commission. One of the goals of the consensus-driven DTSP was to help our city to avoid the uncertainty and politics that have historically characterized and stalled prior efforts to eliminate the blight on El Camino. Rather than accept the compromises already inherent in the DTSP, this petition returns us to the divisive, political battles of the past.
• Costly litigation and taxpayer expense. The petition could cost the city millions of dollars in lawsuits and legal challenges, not to mention the future "ballot box zoning" elections mandated by the petition should certain untested limitations need to be adjusted. With this unvetted petition, there is no way to anticipate or understand all of the possible unintended consequences. Rather than allow our Planning Commission and City Council to do their jobs, this petition will require citywide public votes and expensive, divisive political campaigns for future adjustments.
The result will be political chaos, development gridlock, and probable lawsuits. Worse, the changes locked into law may well create more traffic, more school crowding, less downtown vibrancy, and reduced revenue sources for our schools, fire district, and city services.
I urge you to join me in rejecting this unvetted, flawed, and divisive petition.