http://almanacnews.com/print/story/print/2012/08/08/parking-downtown-menlo-park-revises-task-force


Almanac

News - August 8, 2012

Parking downtown: Menlo Park revises task force

by Sandy Brundage

Which comes first, defining the mission, or choosing the crew? The Menlo Park City Council pondered that question on July 31 as it discussed the proposed downtown parking task force.

The task force would study implementation of parking changes included in the downtown/El Camino Real specific plan and conduct a parking management study, according to staff.

Public Works Director Chip Taylor clarified that it would not evaluate trial installations proposed in the plan, such as the trial installation of a small marketplace off a Chestnut Street paseo; those features would be overseen by the city's capital improvement process.

While staff suggested first figuring out exactly how the task force should accomplish those objectives, the council decided to focus on who the advisory group should include.

The staff initially suggested appointing five people to the group: two Chamber of Commerce representatives, one resident at large, one transportation commissioner, and one planning commissioner.

That did not sit well with groups such as the Lions Club, which runs the Farmers' Market, and the Downtown Alliance, a coalition of business and property owners. Both have a vested interest in downtown parking and have been vocal in their criticisms of the specific plan.

The Environmental Quality Commission also wants to participate in the hope of evaluating parking strategies in terms of greenhouse gas and other environmental impacts, according to an email sent to the council by Commissioner Adina Levin.

Mr. Taylor said that the goal is to construct a task force with a stable composition that could remain intact throughout a lengthy process. He said the city therefore focused on groups like the commissions that had been around for a long time.

But some on the council thought the groups had a point. "The Lions Club has been around a long time," Mayor Kirsten Keith noted.

The question then arose as to how many members the task force should have. Although no decision was reached, it seemed seven might work, allowing representatives from two more groups to participate while maintaining an odd number of members.

Councilman Andy Cohen suggested sticking with five, but dropping the resident at large in favor of adding an environmental quality commissioner, and replacing another representative with someone from one of the downtown groups.

As it became clear that the task force was not ready for prime time, the council directed staff to adjust the proposal and return at a later date. "I don't want to do this too fast," Councilman Rich Cline said.

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