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How will new gym impact Civic Center?

Original post made on Jun 26, 2009

Menlo Park's Planning Commission will review on Monday, June 29, an environmental impact report on a new city gymnasium proposed for the Civic Center complex.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Thursday, June 25, 2009, 10:40 PM

Comments (26)

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Posted by Cmon Menlo Park
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Jun 26, 2009 at 12:10 pm

C'mon Menlo Park, this is an opportunity to do the right thing. Build one story down, one or two stories up, and make a beautiful parking structure. It can be done, it can be hidden, and it solves all problems. Shuttles, leased lots, longer walks to entrances, this does not solve the problem, and it will eventually cost much more, as the years go by.

Parking garages can be good things, they CAN look nice, and they work.

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Posted by observer
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jun 28, 2009 at 7:41 pm

This project must be done right. The parking as shown is just not acceptable --- the library must be protected and eventual remodel / expansion of the rec center must be considered.

As presented, EIR approval recommendation by the PC should be denied. This should be a unanimous vote by the PC --- 7 - 0 to not approve. The community will not accept this as presently drawn up, even though we really want the facility.

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Posted by Crystal Ball Gazer
a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Jun 29, 2009 at 8:30 am

If a parking structure or underground parking isn't part of this project, this community will look back 10 years from now and wonder how our city leaders could have been so short-sighted.

Come to think of it, if some of our city leaders are still in town 10 years from now, and are inclined to use the library, they'll wonder how they could have been so short-sighted.

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Posted by truth
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Jun 29, 2009 at 8:58 am

For new readers, the above comments disregard the fact that we have been gifted somewhere like $8M to build this gym. Underground parking is a huge expense and will take a chunk of that money and, most likely, chase away the donor as a result.

So the cries will follow now, how much is our quality of life worth? Do we just sell out at the first chance?

Of course not.

Let me remind you, most of the people lining up to derail the gym are the same people who argue that we need to be fiscally prudent and gnash their teeth for $100K. But they are willing to blow off $8M.

We need more resources for all activities. Are you all going to oppose a new park in my neighborhood next? Parking will be an issue there too...

Scary contradictions.

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Posted by menlo park resident
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Jun 29, 2009 at 12:16 pm

If the library patrons are concerned about parking they should consider walking, biking or taking public transit to the library. The gym is a huge gift to the community and we've been waiting so long to see the upgrades in the City facilities to the Gym and the Gymnastics Center. Time to proceed as planned. Although it wouldn't surprise me one bit if the Council votes for more studies or consultants and stalls the necessary improvement further.
Of course the change to the Civic Center is going to ruffle some feathers, but the time is right to go ahead and get these gyms built without further delay and debate. The children of the community deserve to use these facilities, keep stalling and they'll be grown and off to college before they get the chance.

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Posted by Curious
a resident of another community
on Jun 29, 2009 at 3:12 pm

Does anyone know if there is an overall long term site plan for the civic center site? I know in the past several years the City has expanded City Hall and relocated the Police Station. Converted the former police station into a day care facility (I think), torn down the old Burgess theater, etc. My query is are these projects, and the new gym, part of an overall long range site plan, or are they handled ad hoc as civic needs or desires drive them to the front burner? IF there is a long range plan, I would think that such issues as parking and traffic circulation would have been addressed in those plans.

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Posted by coach
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jun 29, 2009 at 3:43 pm

>>>If the library patrons are concerned about parking they should consider walking, biking or taking public transit to the library.<<<

That's the most let-them-eat-cake comment I've seen on this thread! The parents hauling multiple tots, the elderly, and the infirm are among the people who get the most use out of the library, and most would not be able to access it if they could not drive.

I want this gym as much as anyone, but any plan that ignores the library users -- I'm one of them too -- is doomed. We must continue to provide adequate parking for library users, and the proposed plan does not.

Curious, the plans I have seen date back to the Measure T era, and have not been updated to reflect the skate park or the child care center. Apparently the newest gym proposal, with the gymnasium sitting right on Alma, was dictated by the terms of rhe Arrillaga donation. Or maybe not. No one seems to know for sure.

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jun 29, 2009 at 4:27 pm

The planned 25,700-square-foot gymnasium is huge. More important than its physical size, however, is the impact that the use of this large facility will have on traffic and parking.

The new gym will generate untold additional traffic and congestion, creating competition for parking spaces, especially those in Library lot #6. People not finding parking there will have to drive past the gym and beyond the skate park to lot #5. Gym users (mostly healthy individuals)will walk 1/8 mile to the gym. Library patrons, including parents with small children/strollers and the elderly, with books in hand, will have to walk back twice that distance, nearly 1/4 mile, to the Library. This is an untenable scenario that cannot be allowed to become reality.
The City needs to consider the broader scope of the gym and its concomitant effect on traffic and citizens' safety and convenience. They need to develop a plan which includes a realistic, viable, and manageable traffic/parking plan. Our Civic Center/Burgess belongs to everyone and should be easily accessible and welcoming to all.

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Posted by Tim Goode
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jun 30, 2009 at 3:14 pm

Not including the Library Commission in the proceedings after selecting the preferred site was the most serious mistake. The Library as an afterthought, left to tweaking after the construction of the gym, created a mess that did not have to happen.

A councilmember going to that meeting commented when asked why he was going to this meeting, "We have to do this (proposal) right."
There are serious concerns for the Council to consider. The majority of the responses reflect that concern, and it is good to know that someone is listening.

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Posted by observer
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jun 30, 2009 at 4:33 pm

Keep up the pressure, Mr. Goode. The City staff really did a terrible job last night trying to sell the completely in-adequate parking. Nobody from rec department to feed information that was needed.

City Council, had better delay any approval of this project, get the parking fixed, or else heads will roll. John Kadvany really got the picture --- good for him. Bressler also understands.

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Posted by coach
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jun 30, 2009 at 9:21 pm

After so many years, this plan is incredibly shortsighted, the staff thrown off balance by the donation and the constraints it imposes (or does it? no one seems to know for sure. Neither the donor nor his representatives have deigned to appear at any public meeting).

We do need to do it right. We can't be so afraid of an invisible and silent (albeit generous) donor that we erect a new building without considering all the ramifications, not just for today but for the next few decades. Traffic, parking, and best use of space at Burgess all need to be incorporated into the plan, and so far those elements have been largely ignored.

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Posted by Yep.
a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Jun 30, 2009 at 9:40 pm

This isn't about "doing something right", this is another case of delay, delay, delay.....I guess this must again be all about progress. We can't have progress in Menlo Park, even if most of the progress is being given to us for free! "Parking and traffic", the two biggest words I've heard in the 18 years I have lived here, and not ONE thing has ever been done about it. I think all of you know this, so you continue to cite these assumed problems. Well, by doing this, you just may win this battle, and again delay a worthwhile project, and lose the money too. Talk about short sighted.

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Posted by coach
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Jul 1, 2009 at 12:35 am

There will be a new gym, which should shut up some of you who love to gloat about lack of progress. But the staff did not properly do its job, and the staff report reflects that. As a result, many problems will have to be fixed before the project can move ahead. Blame the staff, and also blame the staff for not paying enough attention to traffic. The size of the traffic department has TRIPLED in the last couple of years, with absolutely zero improvements!

There are worse things than losing the money from Arrillaga, especially if that money forces us to build a gym according to his specifications. We will have funding from Measure T for a gym in any case, even if the gym we ultimately build is not as grandiose as the one in the pictures.

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Posted by truth
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Jul 1, 2009 at 8:22 am

I, for one, do not plan to let this council drop the ball on the gym and the potential funding source. Working out parking and traffic is common controversy and in no way should threaten this project. We will work out traffic and parking enough to move this along. Will there always be a list of old timers complaining about it? Yes. Is the library community completely out of line creating a political war out of this? Yes.

The fact is a high majority of this city want this gym and the donation makes it feasible.

Traffic in Linfield will be an issue no matter what you put in the park because you have done such a good job of cutting off any reasonable thoroughfare.

The argument that Linfield should be preserved is a fallacy. Just like the Oak Knoll residents, you have valid concerns and you deserve to be a part of the process. But you do not have veto power because no one forced you to live where you do.

You get huge value from your location.

Council, do not allow rhetoric to rule the day. Respond to concerns as best you can, but get this plan going.

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Posted by WhoRUpeople
a resident of another community
on Jul 1, 2009 at 3:11 pm

Truth--I could not agree with you more. Well said!

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Posted by Rule of the Rhetoric
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Jul 2, 2009 at 10:21 pm

Truth, while we tend to usually appreciate your insight, It's disconcerting that you casually dismiss the little people, i.e. neighbors, in favor of a Slocumism quest for banana dollars, be it Arillagas ill gotten gains or "voter approved" funding, as Ruskin would have us swallow on the HSR, or MPSCD/MPAEF manipulated Oak Knoll building gross out. It all comes down to equity and fairness which you seem to dismiss as trivial.
Coincidentally, or not, Santos George, city staff liasion to Park and Rec, unexpectedly resigns. Dianne Dryer, city staff liasion to the EQC commission, resigns. What does that tell you?
Read the Monday nite PC discussion, motions on Burgess Gym Gross Expansion,and, if you are inclined, drive out on Oak Ave. and check out the massive complex at Oak Knoll School under construction for what most reasonable people would expect is a "Neighborhood Elementary School".
Your "New Urbanism", "Transit Oriented Development" with green overtones is in for a for a fight from us Oldtimers. It's all a question of Critical Mass.

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Posted by coach
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jul 3, 2009 at 12:00 am

Is that you, Truth, or an imposter? I usually agree with your comments, but in this case they are off base. I have been working to get this gym built for the last ten years. I have post-Measure T documents in my files that indicate that construction would begin in 2005. The lack of progress has been frustrating.

Now that we are so close to getting the gym built, it is maddening to see how badly the process is working. None of the feedback from the public, including the Planning Commission, has been incorporated into the plan. Last Monday night, the commissioners were stuck in a difficult position, having been presented with a project that obviously had not been properly vetted.

The parking and traffic issues are not going to prevent the gym from being built, but they must be considered. I'm tired of making excuses for the staff. Those people get good salaries and they need to do their jobs!

"Is the library community completely out of line creating a political war out of this?"

War, did you say? Exaggerate much? Lots of people love our library, and have every right to be concerned about their ability to use it. Their concern has nothing to do with politics and everything to do with the fact that the gym is likely to encroach on their ability to enjoy the library facility.

"The argument that Linfield should be preserved is a fallacy."

Right, let's ignore a few thousand people if they're inconvenient, due to be plowed under anyway once Stanford pushes through the Sand Hill-Willow Expressway.

Sorry, we need a solution that accommodates both the library users and the adjacent neighborhoods. No one wants this gym more than I do, but we're almost to the finish line; this is not the time to make dumb mistakes that will haunt us forever.

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Posted by My Bet
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jul 4, 2009 at 9:09 pm

My bet is that all of you continued Naysayers will delay yet another project that, at one time, was a win, win for the city of Menlo Park.(it's not every day that someone hands you millions of dollars!) I find it very difficult to swallow the ridiculous concerns and the comments about the "Sand Hill - Willlow Expressway" STILL to this day. And then we continue to talk about your "Oak Knoll buidling grossout", which I guess is much worse than broken down trailers???? On and on and on, this continues......where it stops nobody knows, because to this day we continue to delay good projects and development to enrich all of our lives, because we do it in the name of "old timers" or "residentialists" or "vacant lots on El Camino" or "abandon buildings on the Derry Dump Project" or "gang land writings on the theater". Let's keep this going, we're quickly becoming East Palo Alto! Cool, now maybe our taxes will go down! Thank you Naysayers!!

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Posted by truth
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Jul 4, 2009 at 10:04 pm

Coach, there is more in common in our thinking than we are making clear.

I think the process is incomplete, but I have yet to hear from anyone on council say it is done. I actually think the process has worked. The library has spoken and loudly. The PC had two meeting, I think. The project has been covered in the Almanac numerous times. At some point we have to decide what a process is I guess.

The early letters I have seen from the library actually had outrightly asked for the gym to be rejected. And so did some of the Linfielders. That is my reference. I think those letters are in very poor judgement. Did you see Mr. Goode's first letter? Or hear some of the comments?

My point is this. Don't cities deal with parking issues, traffic issues all the time? I expect this will create more traffic and that there need to be creative parking solutions, and didn't our PC have this discussion? Where did the PC or council say something in contrary to that?

This is the process. It is the correct process. Lots of fomenting and conjecture but we move forward to get projects done.

Old timers or not, this is not about your values or Linfield. This is about community wide needs. And I voted for Measure T to get the new facilities. I did not vote to get the same gym renovated. I think I am with many on that perspective.

I don't know what a Willow Expressway is, but if you mean something connecting Sand Hill to willows, that is just absurd.

Linfield residents live next to a park and that is their burden and a great value. I live in Belle Haven and I have my own burdens. I do not expect the city to suddenly put my burdens above the city needs. We have a new park that will service tons of people out there and bring in more traffic. We haven't once asked the city to reject those plans.

Linfielders have.

I expect fairness. I did not see or read this in the forum posts above.

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Posted by coach
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jul 5, 2009 at 10:48 am

In theory, the process is working. In actuality, the core traffic problems never seem to get addressed. We go over and over the same ground. Employees come and go. And improvements are so tiny as to be barely perceptible: a speed hump here, a lowering of the speed limit there, a new stop sign. Too much handwringing, not enough action.

Of course there are a few outliers -- from the library fans and from various neighborhoods -- who don't want to see a new gym at all, but most of us do. We want the gym that is best for our city, the gym we might have been had a donor not stepped in to muddy the process.

It's not that I don't appreciation the donation -- I do. But I don't like the fact that almost all community input, including that of the Planning Commission, has been brushed aside with "that's not what the donor wants." How do we know that? He has made no public appearance nor statement. I expect that when he donated money to Stanford, they didn't say "thanks, go ahead and build whatever you want; it's your money." No, Stanford put pretty rigid limitations on what was allowed. Menlo Park should not be afraid to say "we need a gym that has proper ventilation and doors on four sides."

>>>Old timers or not, this is not about your values or Linfield. This is about community wide needs.<<<

Truth, I don't know who you are, and I expect you don't know who I am either. But there aren't many people in MP who have contributed the energy and time that I have to the recreational needs of this community -- the entire community, not just my kids or my neighborhood. Just because I insist on seeing the big picture and on trying to make sure this project is done right -- unlike so many MP rec projects that have somehow fallen apart at the end (note that the Burgess field renovation plans did include a full-sized soccer field, which somehow never materialized) -- does not make me a naysayer but rather someone who truly has the best interests of the city in mind and would rather not see this very important project become yet another annoying problem.

Staff's expressed stance is "let's build it, and then if there are problems, we'll find more money to fix the problems." Sorry, no, that is shortsighted and unprofessional. Of course there will always be unforeseen problems, but let's fix the problems we do know about before we get rolling on construction.

Word is that there is not even going to be any competitive bidding on this project. In this economic climate. Unbelievable, and just another example of how shoddy the process has been.

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Posted by eyes wide open
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Jul 6, 2009 at 11:18 am

<<Staff's expressed stance is "let's build it, and then if there are problems, we'll find more money to fix the problems.">>

There are many unanswered questions surrounding this issue. A big one for me is, Why isn't staff being given more direction from our elected leaders? Do the people we elect to look out for our interests endorse staff's head-in-the-sand approach to potential problems with this project?

I really want to see this gym built, and I think most people do. But we need to proceed with eyes wide open. Avoid problems that loom so obviously. Thinking we can fix them later is folly.

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Posted by look to management
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 6, 2009 at 3:05 pm

The Council can make requests of staff in Council meetings, and I don't think they've met about this project so far. In between, the Council members work through the City Manager because it's his job to manage staff.
There has been plenty of community input on this and he should be held accountable for continued poor staff work, and he in turn should hold staff accountable.
Novel concept.

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Posted by observer
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jul 6, 2009 at 8:58 pm

There has been a clear failure on the part of staff here with regards this project and community outreach. It seems to have not been vetted even to the Park and Rec commission. I give staff, including the City manager a grade of F in this regard.

This council has been advocating open process and outreach. If council approves this project as it now stands, they will have gone back on all they claim to stand for.

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Posted by Tim Goode
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 6, 2009 at 10:42 pm

On one point the Library community has been misunderstood. Most of that community is not against the gymnasium, even given its size and placement. I worked for Measure T and endorsed it as a Friend of the Library. As a coach and grandparent, I would love to see that gym come to be: as an active supporter of the distinct demographics of the Library (young and old, able bodied and challenged), I am against the gymnasium entrance facing the Library and the parking lot 6. The Planning Commission and the City raised questions that made us believe that they want to get this right, and the answers from the City have not addressed the nature of our very real concerns. We have been told that tweaking would be done AFTER CONSTRUCTION. We want it done BEFORE CONSTRUCTION, and the City Council, Planning Commission and the architect gave us hope that meaningful consideration could and will be given to our concerns. We can have both.

Tim Goode

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Posted by Sound of one hand slapping
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jul 7, 2009 at 10:46 am

Post-construction is not the time to re-think the parking situation or orientation of the gym building.

For a town that spends so much time and money endlessly studying things, you'd think that it would pay off for once. Now Menlo Park wants to charge ahead and wrestle with the consequences later? Hello?

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Posted by truth
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Jul 7, 2009 at 2:46 pm

See what happens in these forums? You get some people putting some serious thought into the comments and then you get the same bone-head snarky comments.

Charge ahead? What does that mean?

Again, I remember discussing this gym like a year ago, where the heck have you been?

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