Almanac

News - August 13, 2014

Menlo Park: Six candidates for three open seats

by Sandy Brundage

A familiar name popped on to the list of contenders for the 2014 Menlo Park City Council election: Kelly Fergusson, who lost a bid for a third council term in 2012, is running again.

"I am running because current council members are poised to turn El Camino Real into a monolithic office park," Ms. Fergusson told the Almanac on Aug. 7. "Residents need a responsive voice on City Council, and a council member that will stand up to profit-hungry developers."

Save Menlo, the grassroots coalition backing the November ballot initiative that would change the downtown/El Camino Real specific plan approved in 2012, has given Ms. Fergusson its blessing. The initiative would, among other things, restrict the amount of office space per project and require a citywide vote to change the regulations or permit projects that would exceed the cap.

Ms. Fergusson was on the council when the specific plan was approved. She had argued for setting the trigger for public benefits at a lower floor area ratio than the proposed plan called for, a fight she lost.

She was recused from voting on portions of the plan related to Stanford University, which owns property in the area regulated by the specific plan, because her husband worked for Stanford. Stanford now plans to develop its 500 El Camino Real site into a mixed-use complex of office, housing and retail.

Her two terms on the council were not without controversy, including a Brown Act violation that led to her resignation as mayor in 2010.

Five other candidates

When the filing period closed on Aug. 8, the final roster of candidates stood at six. Campaigning this year for re-election are incumbents Rich Cline, Kirsten Keith and Peter Ohtaki. All three have stated that they don't support the initiative, for reasons that include the inflexibility of requiring a citywide vote to make changes.

Environmental Quality Commissioner Kristin Duriseti and Planning Commissioner Drew Combs also qualified.

Mr. Combs said that he plans to keep an open mind during the campaign season, but right now feels inclined to vote for the initiative.

So far Ms. Duriseti has declined to comment on where she stands on the initiative. She would also be recused from voting on any issues related to Stanford, as she works for the university.

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