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MP does it again - behind closed doors

Original post made by Bridge to nowhere, Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle, on Mar 20, 2009

Menlo Park and Cal Trans have big plans, that cost big money, to tear down an existing pedestrian bridge and replace it with an even bigger pedestrian bridge. 5 million bucks for 50 people, twice a day.

The issues and implications surrounding this project are in themselves problematic but the the first and most blaring issue is the lack of City outreach with respect to notifying neighbors that their home values are about to be turned upside down by the construct of a behemoth concrete pedestrian highway overshadowing them.

Last night only 7 neighbors showed to a design meeting that would directly and profoundly impact home values on at least 4 streets: Sonoma, Ringwood, Oakland, Iris.

People weren't/aren't apathetic. They just didn't know. They didn't know because they weren't notified. Doesn't the city have an obligation to get the word out? Surely sending out a few flyers to four blocks couldn't be too difficult.

The seven who showed were notified by an email sent out by a neighbor the night before who happened to catch the one inch notification buried in the Almanac.

Problem solving after the fact, when the City is being sued by homeowners (as they surely will be - lawyers are standing by) will be another expensive drama distracting our representatives from getting anything done.

This bridge issue is a disaster but the even greater blunder is the City's inability to take simple steps to keep things rolling smoothly.



Comments (20)

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Posted by Ringwood resident
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Mar 20, 2009 at 4:12 pm

The City did send a notice that this issue would be taken up by the Council. It arrived a couple of weeks ago. I agree that it's unfortunate that so few people showed up. I admit I wasn't one of them, but then, I rent my house. So the home value issue is less compelling for me. What is of concern is the ridiculous amount of money potentially being spent on a project that will be little used and which will offer easy access to a residential area. Other than the fact that there's already an overcrossing there, why rebuild it? And why rebuild it there?


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Posted by Concerned Home Owner
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Mar 20, 2009 at 6:08 pm


If someone received a notice that the city council was in attendance at this meeting last night,they are mistaken. There were no city council members there. It was a meeting attended by 8 neighborhood residents,4 Cal Trans employees, and two city employees. It was a "design" approval meeting. Eight people to decide what the design should be? I am not sure that should happen. I did not receive a notice of the meeting.

Given the state of the economy,both federal and state, the cost of this undertaking is shameful. School programs are being cut due to schools losing state funding. Teachers are receiving pink slips, people can not afford to buy groceries, or make house payments. Yet, the city council, and the state of California,are allowing this structure to be built at the worst time.

Wouldn't a community bus be a better alternative,or a school bus? It would certainly be more cost effective.

Willow Road overpass is an option that is already in place. I believe it meets ADA regulations, otherwise Cal Trans would have to replace it as well. Public transportation runs frequently on Willow Rd. into downtown Menlo Park as well as Middlefield Rd, where Menlo Atherton High School is located.

Do we have any options in revisiting this with our elected City Council and the state?


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Posted by You gotta be kidding me
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Mar 20, 2009 at 8:16 pm

I am the neighbor who sent the group email advising others of the upcoming meeting.
I received no notice in my mail from the City or Cal Trans. Perhaps notices were sent to Ringwood residents but there are several other streets potentially affected by the proposed changes and I have heard from many residents on those streets, telling me that they had heard nothing of this meeting or even that the bridge was to be torn down and rebuilt.

I can't speak to the accuracy of the claim but I understand the price tag for this project is 5 million dollars. 5 million bucks to make it ADA compliant? Leave it as if (if we have to) and spend 5 million bucks on real resources that people w/disabilities would use every day; rehab facilities, vans, wheelchairs, therapists, educators, doctors, aides etc. How many wheelchairs will be rolling over this bridge - none.

Common sense has been tossed out the window on this one. Our representatives are asleep at the wheel.

There is no doubt -- that if the City agrees to allow the pedestrian footprint to change -- that lawsuits will roll in en masse (as they should). I wonder what the legal fees will be for those? Taxpayers get your checkbooks out. Truly this is another debacle in the works!

Oh yeah and for 5 million bucks MP could rent a limo to take kids to and from school from EPA - for about 20 years.


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Posted by Received Flyer
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Mar 20, 2009 at 11:45 pm

I live in Flood Triangle.

I happened to spot the light-green half-sheet with the MP logo in the mail a couple of weeks ago. That was the only notice I saw. It would have been extremely easy to toss it in the recycle bin with all the junk mail.

I would have attended but was not in town that night.


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Posted by When does our city start representing our interests?
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Mar 21, 2009 at 12:54 pm

Well written article. It's a real shame that it takes investigative homework and a watchful eye to make sure the city is not screwing over its residents.

I for one will be one of the first on a class action lawsuit against the city and our our representatives if this gets any further than proposal stage. And as I understand it, it's already approved - the're just trying to figure out which of 6 proposals to go with. Amazingly, I just spent most of the last hour on the City of Menlo Park website, and couldn't find mention of this anywhere, over the course of the City Council's meeting minutes for Nov/Dec 2008, when this was supposedly decided.

What kind of communication is this? No advance notification. Who are these people working for?

This is the perfect opportunity to get rid of an eyesore and an access method from East Menlo Park that has been proven to increase crime in West Menlo Park. It benefits only a small minority of East/West Menlo Park residents, while affecting at least as many (and probably more) city residents in a very negative way. Busing and other methods are a lower cost, and more controlled, option that would cost much less. I would be happy to see my tax $$$ be spent towards such an alternative.


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Posted by concerned
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 21, 2009 at 3:17 pm

The label for this thread is inflammatory and misleading in my opinion.

A well-researched article would be welcomed, especially if it includes information from those who either use the current pedestrian bridge or who might if it were enhanced. Although there may be some rightful concerns about resident safety, I have to believe that not all bridge users are criminals. In fact, many may be youth who would be endangered if they had to cross 101 at either Willow or Marsh. I certainly would not want my children to do so.
What are the respective roles of CalTrans and the City of Menlo Park to do the right thing here?


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Posted by Bianca
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Mar 21, 2009 at 3:52 pm

If you want to stay informed on what Menlo Park is planning, you can subscribe to the Menlo Park email service. Just go to Web Link and scroll down to the bottom of the page- there is a link there to subscribe, and the city will send you an email about meeting notices, police notices, city council agendas, and so forth. You can choose to get notices about everything or just a particular area of interest. It's an easy way to keep tabs on what is going on in Menlo Park.

I got a notice about the meeting regarding the pedestrian overpass in my email. And there's a blurb about the meeting on the Menlo Park homepage. It's unfortunate people feel that things are being done behind closed doors, but sign up for email notification and don't feel left out in the future.


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Posted by Bianca
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Mar 21, 2009 at 3:59 pm

Also, there is another meeting about this, taking place next Wednesday, March 25, at 7pm. It will be held in the Senior Center Dining Room, at 100 Terminal Ave.

It's right there on the Menlo Park homepage.


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Posted by Bridge to nowhere
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Mar 21, 2009 at 6:14 pm

Whether people want to the bridge to stay or ago is one issue.

The city taking all the necessary steps it can to ENSURE the average citizen is aware of proposed changes that might fundamentally devalue their largest asset is another.

Hoping the buyers of the house that just sold on Sonoma Place are aware that their new home might look out over a concrete pedestrian freeway. Wondering if this was in the disclosures? Not sure why it would be - chances are neither the Broker, nor the homeowner had any clue that changes were in the air - literally.

My point is that our CIty spends a lot of time talking and not a lot of time thinking or doing. Their passive, superficial approach to communication might wind up costing them - and therefore us - when unhappy neighbors, unaware of the changes already approved, decide to settle their grievances in court.

Debate the bridge all you want. You can't debate the fact that the majority of our neighborhood is JUST NOW learning about this project.



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Posted by hardly news
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 22, 2009 at 5:33 am

Where have you people been? This is hardly new news. I thought the price tag was $7 million not $5 million and these exact same arguments had been raised long ago.

Don't blame the City. If anything the out reach to the community has been over done by this council and is very expensive. I can't imagine residents complaining about noticing on this.


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Posted by bridge to nowhere
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Mar 22, 2009 at 7:52 am

I'm not hear to defend. I'm just telling you most of the people I spoke with were not informed about this issue. Glad you were on top of it.

How expensive could it possibly be to have an admin make some calls or do a few rounds of flyers?


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Posted by Steve Schmidt
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Mar 22, 2009 at 4:54 pm

I attended a neighborhood meeting over a year ago at which these same issues about cost, crime, need, notification and duplication of facilities were expressed and heard at some length. As I recall, the primary justifications for replacement were the deteriorated structural condition of the existing pedestrian over-crossing, the conflict between the existing structural supports and planned auxiliary lanes on 101 and the substandard clearance of the overpass from the surface of the freeway.

The existing corkscrew ramps are difficult or impossible for wheelchair users to negotiate. Most users experience with some unease climbing the blind slope of the ramps, not knowing what lies around the curve ahead.

For those who want this antiquated structure removed and not replaced, consider what that means for high school students who live in Belle Haven neighborhood of Menlo Park. They will face a nearly 2 mile detour each way as they navigate the eight high speed freeway on and off ramps at Willow Rd. each day getting to and from school. None of us would want our children subjected regularly to this danger. These could be students whose parents can't afford the time or extra cost of driving children to school.

Imagine someone in a wheelchair negotiating the Willow Interchange.

Imagine the frustration of west of 101 residents who are trying to get to Bayfront Park without driving a car.

Caltrans will be footing the bill for the new over-crossing; It will be safer for everyone. The City is in no financial position to be subsidizing the cost of transporting residents from one side of 101 to the other. The new bridge will always be there to serve the residents at any time.

The March 25 public meeting mentioned earlier is our chance to show some common sense and empathy for other residents of Menlo Park.


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Posted by Adina Levin
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Mar 23, 2009 at 12:12 am

I am writing as a recreational cyclist who lives on the west side of the highway uses the bridges to cross 101 to get to the parks and trails on the east side of the highway. The current bridge is hard to traverse. I would look forward to a better-designed bridge that allows residents to take advantage of the recreational opportunities across the highway. If it was easier to use, more people would use it.


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Posted by this deserves more thought
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Mar 23, 2009 at 5:01 pm

Grrrr - everyone talks about the kids being inconvenienced but I have yet to hear anyone tell us whether or not there was a new demographic analysis done to indicate where exactly the bulk of the kids/people who are using the bridge live in EPA. The current bridge was built 20 years ago. I presume houses have sprawled, as they have on the West side, in both the North and South directions. Lets make decisions on facts not presumptions.

As for wheelchair usage across the bridge I can tell you in the Flood Neighborhood (how much closer can you get) we have at least three neighbors I can think of who are in wheelchairs and I would be willing to be the equity in my house that not one of them would ever want to use the bridge. That said, I'm sure any of them would appreciate CalTrans redirecting even a portion of that 5 million to continue work on roads, and sidewalks to make sure they are all accessible.

Indeed Caltrans is flipping the bill for the bridge rebuild but they wont be paying the cost for the City to defend itself from inverse condemnation suits brought by resident's whose home value is usurped.

As for the bikers - I get it, its easier to ride up and over a simple ramp but is this really how you want to have any agency spend their money - 5 million bucks we don't have to dismount your bike for literally 30 seconds? I''m an experienced biker myself and have taken many trips back and forth from here to LA. I would certainly rather see that money spent on better bike lanes, smoother roads, better indicators etc.

People will argue that money not spent wont be reallocated so better to take what and when you can but this is exactly how the US has gotten into such a mess. Time to spend more thoughtfully.


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Posted by BH Resident
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Mar 24, 2009 at 11:33 pm

Bring your voices and concerns

March 25,7pm at the Onetta Harris Community Center, Senior Building, 100 Terminal Ave.

I will be there to voice my support for the project.


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Posted by When does our city start representing our interests?
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Mar 26, 2009 at 12:11 am

Just came from the Wed 3/25 meeting at the Senior center. Was disappointing, but expected agenda.

Nice to see two of the council members (John Boyle and Richard Kline) there. Seemed like they wanted to hear the concerns, and see where the process was.

As to the meeting and the process itself, it felt more like an education to the community, rather than one really looking for input, although it was positioned as the latter. Leading questions and points from the city employee leading the discussion were common, even when a majority of votes suggested otherwise. And I'm not saying that voting tonight was the right thing to do - there was a clear slant on opinion due to numbers. Just saying, numerous attempts were made to steer one option over another.

And one other point - almost no attendance from East Menlo Park, at the location for reviewing the proposals in East Menlo Park. 50 people, predominantly from West Menlo Park, were there, 1 week after the meeting in West Menlo Park was held that very few of us found out about at the last minute. Doesn't this speak volumes about both desire AND lack of communication?

I strongly encourage all interested Menlo Park residents to join the pre-petition to remove the POC permanently. You can do so by going here Web Link.


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Posted by Securing the POC
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Mar 26, 2009 at 2:56 pm

How about adding a privacy screen that is positioned at the peak of the ramps. The concern is police don't like any visual obstruction. Currently they cannot look for people on the corkscrew ramp who may be hiding.

A solution would use one way vinyl film applied on a plastic window pane that is placed on the outside of a chain link fence on the new structure (to prevent it from being vandalized). This is the same one-way film used for advertising on bus windows. The Police can then look at the people on the bridge but people from the bridge cannot look out towards the neighbors yards. Menlo Park can put some of it's own advertisments or PSAs or sell ads on this vinyl film. Profits from ads can be used to pay for a security camera and a security gate that locks the POC overnight.


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Posted by Do it right the first time
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Mar 26, 2009 at 11:06 pm

While all of the Flood Triangle community supports the notion of safe, expedient transport from East to West and vice verse, very few believe that we alone should be forced to incur the expense of this privilege. The proposed options, which we were shown last night, all of which were found to be unacceptable to the significant majority of the attendees at the meeting, carry with them an economic hardship that is not shouldered by the City as a whole. Having a bridge overlook your backyard, whether it runs North or South, switchback or horizontal, will affect our property values, simply. Positively. How will the City justify to their constituents the devaluing of their property and the pending costs associated with assured litigation when other -- non-explored --- solutions exist: moving the $5 million dollar column less than a few yards, moving the bridge to Willow (dangerous to cross presently), reallocating the funding for Marguerite (type) shuttle services, installing an ADA compliant elevator to preserve the current footprint.


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Posted by Bill
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 27, 2009 at 10:22 am

Any suggestion that a pedestrian crossing is not needed over 101 at Ringwood is simply wrong. Lots of kids, already at an economic and educational disadvantage, come to M-A over this bridge. Ringwood is the right place for the pedestrian bridge as Ringwood as the main street up to Middlefield, and the closest to a direct route to downtown. My wife and I (Flood Park triangle residents for 20 years) use the bridge to walk with our dog to the Starbucks on Willow out near Sun.

Crime concerns should be addressed, but not by creating a barrier between two parts of Menlo Park.

A Google Search showed that this was discussed at a Bike Commission meeting a couple years back. Conclusion there was that the bridge was needed. Location should be close to existing, but existing should stay in place until new is open, and crime concerns need to be considered.

Can anyone find the plans online? ADA ramp requirements tend to make this kind of structure monstrously large, I'm interested in seeing where the ramps are planned to run.


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Posted by MP resident
a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Mar 27, 2009 at 10:41 pm

I just want to comment that the Marsh road/101 on and off ramps were redesigned and rebuilt very recently and no accomodations were made for bicyclist and pedestrian to safely cross 101. To get from West Menlo Park to the Bayfront Park crossing 101 there are not traffic signals all the way. only part way. It is very dangerous to get across the on or off ramps where there are no traffic lights. All that needs to be done is put a pedestrian/button operated traffic signal where there are no signals, that could be used when needed. How can I get this done?


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