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The Manhattanization of Menlo Park?

Original post made on Oct 20, 2009

As activists campaign in opposition to long-term plans for the downtown area, city officials struggle to assuage concerns of residents and business interests.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, October 20, 2009, 12:13 AM

Comments (16)

Posted by more info please, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 20, 2009 at 10:21 am

Is it broken? How about some financial information from the tax rolls? How does our downtown compare to neighboring cities? Should we be looking to our merchants to increase tax revenue or should we take the opportunity to increase revenues through rezoning East of 101 (Gateway project)? There is more to this process than just design and density.


Posted by Jlindsay, a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Oct 20, 2009 at 12:33 pm

There is much that could be done to improve our downtown - beyond simple visual improvements. Sometimes not fixing what isn't broken simply means you don't see the parts that are broken because they don't affect you. If we had to choose a look to emulate, I prefer San Carlos to Palo Alto. Great shops, strong community support of local business and Thursday night, close the streets to traffic farmers market. While I think we'd be crazy to "kill" the farmer's market, I don't think that's on anyone's agenda. In my short time in this town I've come to realize that whatever choice you make, someone will accuse you of ruining all that is great or could be great. We seem to be a town of dissenters. Wouldn't it be great if we could all dissent on a lovely downtown street together - shouting our point of view from quaint little sidewalk cafes and restaurants!


Posted by Been there before, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Oct 20, 2009 at 3:54 pm

Do you remember when the Cafe Berone and Keplers Books building was proposed? It barely passed Council approval. One vote made the decision. It was too controversial.
These NIMBYs today would tell you how successful this location is but they can't see how the downtown vision plan won't do the same. If I had a business on Santa Cruz, I would love to have a parking structure behind me where my customers can park and walk to my store. It is fact that the property values will increase when access is improved with a parking structure. I guess Mark Flegel and Rickard Draeger have profited enough from this city and don't want any more business at their stores. That is fine but what about the other businesses and property owners?
To say that this visioning process was not well publicized and Flegel was not informed is a lie. Mr. Flegel decided not to read the notices he received as a business and land owner. If your late for the bus, don't blame the drive.



Posted by Tony, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Oct 21, 2009 at 12:12 pm

The biggest problem with parking is the 2-hour limit. My own mother has to go flapping out in the middle of her hair appointments to move her car. A few areas with a 3-hour zone are what's needed.


Posted by sick of name calling, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 21, 2009 at 1:22 pm

It really doesn't help promote a good sense of community or build consensus to call concerned residents or businesses NIMBY's or write off major stakeholders' concerns as if "they had their chance". Sorry, but it looks as if not everyone could attend every workshop and when there's only one about the current Plan, it shouldn't be a surprise that there are a lot of questions. The notices have been very general; using the bus analogy, the driver didn't mention the bus route or stops.
I think it's really helpful to understand in more depth the reaction of businesses and property owners, but that apparently hasn't happened yet. Some businesses say that a parking structure isn't good to be located behind their stores. Shouldn't we understand why?
It also would be very helpful to understand in more depth the reactions of other major stakeholders to details of the Plan.


Posted by Parker, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 21, 2009 at 1:52 pm

The problem is this: a lot of us thought this effort was going to focus on El Camino, a blighted street in need of modernization. Now, for reasons that I certainly don't understand, the focus has shifted to our perfectly functional (albeit imperfect) downtown, and the consultants have decreed that El Camino is to be rezoned for tall office buildings. They have not, of course, bothered to explain how these office buildings will benefit most residents, or why our downtown needs to be redone.

I do think a parking structure is a good idea. Whether or not the retailers believe it, many residents avoid downtown because we know how tough it can be to find parking there. But I think the council, for one, has been exceedingly rude in its treatment of the retailers. Just because some of the retailers are older does not mean they deserve to be disrespected!

I was able to attend some of the workshops, but not all of them. It is very tough for those of us with demanding work schedules or school-aged kids to go to these long evening meetings. But that does not mean we should not have a chance to know what's going on or to have input. (I agree with the comments made by Elias Blawie and Patti Fry, among others, at last night's council meeting.)

As for NIMBYs -- the term has been used so much as to lose its sting. It's not that residents are opposed to development in our backyards but that we care about what is happening and we can perceive the longer-term benefits (or dangers) vs the consultants and developers who too often are focused on how to maximize their short-term revenues.


Posted by MPworkingMom, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Oct 21, 2009 at 2:01 pm

I like Menlo Park's downtown just fine. Sure, there are some businesses I could do without, and some different types I'd like to see move in, but overall, it's a busy, thriving little downtown with a friendly feel and lots of businesses I like to patronize. I don't see a bunch of vacant storefronts, or tumbleweeds blowing down a vacant street, so what's the problem?

El Camino is a different story. The council needs to commit to some standards so developers know the rules and can plan accordingly. Other cities with car dealerships on El Camino are having the same problems -- I drove through Burlingame the other day, and there's an ugly row of vacant car dealerships.

But enough about the stupid parking structures already!


Posted by Maria, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 24, 2009 at 3:26 pm

I bought in Menlo Park, partly because of the beauth, calmness and spirit of the community. It bothers me that new boutiques are gearing to people under 40. Am very disappointed in Alys vs. Calla.

We do not need chain stores here. Palo Alto and Redwood City have enough. I don't want to feel like I live in Redwood City.

I agree that the focus of larger business belongs on El Camino. If you build a hotel leave it on El Camino.

Has anyone thought of how much traffic will be added to Menlo Park. If there is too much, I'll shop in a different city!! I happen to live on Santa Cruz Ave.!

It sounds like the people making the decisions are more interested in the big bucks. Where is loyalty? Draegers has most certainly helped Menlo.

Do we want our children that go to Menlo and Sacred Heart hanging out in a
Redwood City atmosphere?

Do we want Menlo-Atherton's kids and the kids in our Menlo Park Elementary Schools coming into Menlo, Atherton and Palo Alto where it is safer or to go elsewhere like Redwood City.

And what about our Senior Citizens? They have contributed to Menlo for many years and we are going to have more Senior Citizens!!

These older citizens have poured lots of m oney into Menlo and kids growing up here and Baby Boomers might like to remain here.

There are changes and modernizing that can go on without losing the character of Menlo.

I love our Farmers Market and don't forget that it brings people into shop our stores!


Posted by agree with Maria, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 24, 2009 at 4:27 pm

Maria has it right. Somehow there has been created a huge dis-connect between what I heard and saw at the workshops, and what the consultant delivered. This also happened with the much earlier Smart Growth process, which was eventually dis-credited. Who behind the scenes is pulling this off?

The consultant and some on council will find that residents of MP are not puppets -- you can't just pull our strings to get your desires -- this I level straight at the consultant, who blows into town with their own ideas and seeks to impose them on MP. I simply don't believe the plan that have advanced thus far in any way resembles the desires of the great majority of MP residents.

Time for everybody to start to write council and stop this nonsense -- why should they spend another $500,000 on final plan and EIR when the input is so off base?




Posted by are you kidding?, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Oct 25, 2009 at 10:00 pm

Ms Couperous assertion that downtown visioning will ruin the farmers market is like a mis-information campaign out of the health care debate. any thinking and the whole thing is ridiculous. did she even ask the farmers that show up each weekend whether THEY wanted a more vibrant downtown with plenty of residents living nearby? does she understand that more customers also leads to more choices and a BETTER farmers market? is it not a distinct possibility that our market could be like the one in PA or RWC? i shop the market every weekend, i'm as likely to defend it as ms couperous. she needs to leave the hysteria behind and contribute to the downtown visioning in a positive way.


Posted by cynic, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Oct 25, 2009 at 10:25 pm


Wait, did I read that story correctly? Mark Flegel and Richard Draeger think that city is 'overstepping its bounds, and thinking too big.' Don't these guys have two of the BIGGEST buildings in our downtown? Didn't Draegers squawk so loudly that the city gave them use of a portion of an adjacent public lot to use as a loading zone? Doesn't Draegers generate a huge volume of traffic thru our busy University and Santa Cruz intersection? And finally doesn't Draegers because it sells non-taxed grocery, pay little in revenue to the city despite the burden it imposes on the public?

I'm not a customer of Draegers or Starbucks or Pete's or other high priced high traffic operations like it, but I'm okay with them being here and i realize they add to the quality of the community experience, at least for my neighbors who are patrons. i'm NOT okay with eliminating competition, property rights, or the right to open a business simply because SOMEONE doesn't like it (and someone always does.)

I've been to plenty of successful, beautiful, and lively downtowns WITH chainstores. they can and are a good part of the mix of merchants. BTW, in case anyone forgot or didn't know, Petes, Starbucks, ACE, Walgreens, Le Boulanger, all the banks are chainstores. Get real.





Posted by jim, a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Oct 26, 2009 at 9:28 am

This site had pictures of downtown and what it's become. Web Link


Posted by Kathryn Lewark, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Oct 26, 2009 at 12:59 pm

Quoted from Maria's post above: "Do we want our children that go to Menlo and Sacred Heart hanging out in a Redwood City atmosphere?"

Why not? The diversity would prove salubrious.


Posted by R.GORDON, a resident of another community
on Oct 26, 2009 at 5:53 pm

If all the people here were to join the site, Facebook, I guarantee the entire atmosphere and thinking would change as quickly as Sodom and Gomorrah............TRUTH would evaporate this entire chunk of the Bay Area.
Are there any people from this area who do not believe that there is a massive amount of corruption and deceipt which is glossed over in order to make this a STEPFORD community.
Facebook is a remarkable idea which does not let anyone get away with murder.


Posted by freeze!, a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Oct 26, 2009 at 8:22 pm

Okay Folks!

"Maria" has moved into town for a number of very specific reasons. We can now stop all change, unless of course, it's change that "Maria" wants. It's your property, it's your business, but just in case, check in with "Maria".


Posted by Long term resident, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Oct 27, 2009 at 11:17 am

The primary resason that Coperus, Draeger and Flegel are fighting the parking garages is that, as downtown property owners, they will probably have to pay a fee in addition to the bond funding. They will benefit most from the garages.

Years ago their employees parked in front of my home all day until we imposed two hour parking.

Agreed that El Camino is a more urgent problem than downtown, but the chaotic and dangerous parking conditions downtown need to be addressed.


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