"Residentialist" is a term that has fallen out of favor. The term describes a Menlo Park resident who is dedicated to preserving the small town, residential quality-of-life that characterizes this city. I believe that if we grew by several thousand more, we would no longer have the look and feel of that small town. For us residentialists, it's a matter of livability.
Therefore, to all you candidates who wish to represent me and want my vote, I pretty much oppose population growth and am perturbed if it is imposed on us. I don't want our "small town" to become a "big town." If I had wanted to live in a big town, I would have moved there.
"We must grow; growth is inevitable," we are told. The Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) assigns us a number of new houses. Sorry, I don't agree with that. A city ought to be able to control its own destiny and not have it driven by outside political, economic or self-aggrandizing forces.
Attention, present and future council members. I, for one, oppose the push toward greater urbanization, for whatever reason. High-density housing and traffic-oriented development (TOD) housing on or near El Camino are good examples of a bad idea. If commercial/industrial development must take place, scale is critical. For me, less is more. What happens, far too often, is the intrusion of development that draws on Menlo Park's resources and ends up making problems in our city worse, not reducing them.
You see, I'm not against all development. I'm in favor of careful, thoughtful, beneficial development. I'm in favor of development being "rule-governed," based on vision, policy, and a clear strategy prior to any project approvals. These should not be improvised case by case with constant compromises that don't benefit the city.
I don't want a new "high-rise city" crowding the Bayfront. I don't want Stanford to change Menlo Park into the new medical Welsh Road by building big, fat office blocks along El Camino. That's not the Menlo Park in which I choose to live. I'm against the constant "exceptions," the non-conforming zoning variances, the persistent improvised amending and gaming of the city's general plan in the interests of a seemingly endless series of developers maximizing their bottom line at the city's expense.
I don't want the Caltrain corridor to become the Berlin Wall, separating east and west Menlo Park even further and more definitively. That's another form of development I oppose.
El Camino should not become ever more a through-traffic flyway. It too is a city divider. The Downtown Vision plan needs to physically heal the rail and street fault lines, and our council representatives can and should take leadership in that effort.
Those of us who are residentialists must vote to guide our city away from self-serving developers and housing promoters in order to keep it the way we want it. It seems to be a persistent struggle. It's worth it.
Martin Engel lives on Stone Pine Lane in Menlo Park.