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Time to kill off the Downtown visioning process

Original post made by Morris Brown on Jun 1, 2010

A letter urging Council to rethink the visioning process was suggested.

This downtown visioning process needs much more than just a "rethink". The City needs to cut its losses and kill off the process. It is obvious, just like "Smart Growth" and "City Center Design", failed processes that preceded this -- this is a failed and very expensive failure at that.

The plan has become politically untenable as evidenced by delay of any further consideration until after the Nov 2010 election, using the lame excuse of needed extra work on the EIR.

After phase I, which had some semblance of true Menlo Park voter input, City Staff and the consultant transformed the plan, into what they wanted, not what voters want for Menlo Park.

The Council should not continue down this road of tossing more funds down this failed process. Over 1 million has been wasted thus far and they want to spend more.

How can the Council continue to consider this failed process, when the real stakeholders, the downtown merchants and property owners, are so opposed? See the full page notice paid for by the Menlo Park Downtown Alliance, published in the May 26th, Almanac

Articles which appeared last week in the Daily News and Daily Post point to the truth about this process.

Morris Brown

Comments (21)

Posted by interesting, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jun 1, 2010 at 3:01 pm

Let's see if Morris can kill yet another project in Menlo Park.

At my count that is a no to the Derry project, a no to the 1906 El Camino project, a no to the new gymnasium, a no to the Menlo Gateway, a no to high speed rail, a no to the downtown plan, a no to the new houses at Willow and Middlefield, a no to the Kepler's building, a no to the new swimming pool at Burgess...

Good to get a nice objective viewpoint every now and then.


Posted by Ridiculous, a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Jun 1, 2010 at 4:30 pm

I agree "Interesting" this IS getting absolutely ridiculous. NO to everything, it doesn't matter what it is, just NO, NO, NO. I come from the school of improving things. Most of us just want things to be a little better, a little improved. This attitude of "Pro development, building 5+ story high buildings, building concrete bunker like parking structures, etc.", just isn't true. However, you can never get to the point of at least exploring real improvement because the "no growthers" mean exactly that NO GROWTH, period. They may hem and haw and haw and hem, and delay, and push off, and delay some more, but that's what they mean, NO GROWTH. We must be the only city on earth that believes this, absolutely ridiculous. Nice job too No Growthers putting the spin on "getting rid of the farmer's market", you've got all those that rent out a booth believing it, and those that buy from them believing it. Absolute lie.


Posted by Here We Go Again, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jun 1, 2010 at 6:15 pm

Uh, I would dare say that a full-page ad from various businesses does suggest something is being shoved down more than just a couple of throats.

Likely more $$$ spend on a study that will just gather dust on someone's shelf.


Posted by Enough, a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Jun 2, 2010 at 8:31 am

I think Morris Brown is right on some of his NO's
I agree with the following NO's listed by "interesting":
-- Derry Project
-- High Speed Rail
-- Downtown Plan
-- New Houses at Willow & MIddlefield (and Linfield as well)
And by the way, is anyone paying attention to the fact that the new houses on Linfield have been on the market for years, and they still have not sold? Construction came to a standstill, the sales trailer has been removed, but all the units have not yet sold. There's a big message there. Some development is good. But there is such a thing as OVER-development - and Menlo Park has it.


Posted by huh?, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jun 2, 2010 at 8:44 am

It's pretty strong and frankly unproductive to pigeon hole people with concerns as being against change, and to accuse others of lying.
If the people who run the Farmers Market think the proposed plan would destroy it, then shouldn't we all try to understand why they think that and perhaps reconsider some of the plan details?


Posted by interesting, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jun 2, 2010 at 9:46 am

Morris making an art of attacking people who want to change some things gets held up by his old buddies as what? A leader?

Morris has no ideas and has no vision he just tries to blow up the ideas of others. Why wouldn't Morris add ideas to the plan? Why not try to be a part of the process? He and his little band of no would rather not join, just wait in the bushes and try to blow it up.

It is a sad characterization of what some of us younger residents have to face. Old residents with connections blowing up our chance to do something new.


Posted by Frank Thorne, a resident of another community
on Jun 2, 2010 at 12:26 pm

How did Phase II have no "semblance of true Menlo Park voter input"?

I went to all three meetings (I lived in MP then), and hundreds of people showed up, most of them presumably Menlo Park voters, and offered their input.

If you disagree with the final proposal, then I understand although I disagree. But it was reached in an honest way which very much involved the community and plenty of discussion and compromise. To suggest otherwise is disingenuous.


Posted by Thomas Rogers, a resident of another community
on Jun 2, 2010 at 3:18 pm

Thomas Rogers is a registered user.

[This response is being cross-posted from the City Council email log (Web Link)]

Mr. Brown,

Thank you for taking the time to write regarding the El Camino Real/Downtown Specific Plan (Web Link). We would like to take this opportunity to clarify a few points.

- The recent input from the subset of downtown business/property owners known as the Downtown Alliance is important to review and consider, but it is crucial to keep those comments in the context of overall business/property owner input, which has been strong. For example, the project Oversight and Outreach Committee has included business/property owner representatives from the start, and the broader Chamber of Commerce has been an important partner in outreach. Like the overall Menlo Park community, the business community has a diverse set of interests and opinions. In addition, the Downtown Alliance input itself has been nuanced, for example by including a statement of support for the El Camino Real portions of the plan.
- The implication that the recent EIR-related schedule adjustment was due to political considerations is absolutely false. The preparation of a Water Supply Assessment (WSA) is necessary given the technical reasons described in more detail in the 4/27 City Council staff report (Web Link). If you would like to discuss any of those requirements or the overall EIR process/timeline in person, we would be happy to do so.
- Your assertion that City staff and our consultant have changed the plan to reflect non-community preferences is likewise without merit. On the project web page, we have carefully documented every step of this process, including detailed summaries of all three community workshops and direct video/audio links for many meetings. You and anyone else can see the clear links from the Vision Plan (Phase I), of which you offer measured support, and the current Draft Specific Plan. More than anything, this process has been about reaching an informed community judgment, and the evidence is there.
- To the extent that aspects of the Draft Specific Plan may not reflect the judgment of Menlo Park's diverse community, we anticipate that they will be improved through the comprehensive input process occurring later this summer- see the project page for details. As with the overall process, these meetings will allow for more give-and-take than is possible through emails and newspaper advertisements.

Thank you again for this opportunity to clarify these points.

Thomas Rogers
Associate Planner, City of Menlo Park
tel: 650-330-6722 fax: 650-327-1653
throgers@menlopark.org


Posted by been there, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jun 2, 2010 at 3:20 pm

Morris Brown is the classic NIMBY. There is no pleasing him. I suspect if he tries another petition to stop his development his lying to the residences at the entrances to Safeway will be met with resistance. We are getting smarter.
The downtown Old Crew is simply afraid of change, any change. For them to say they were not included in the decision is their own fault. They were notified of the many meeting just like everyone else. That they decided this was unimportant to attend is their own doing. The political process in this great country relies on citizen's input. Now they are playing catch up by spending money in the Almanac. Looks impressive but buy saying NO to change without any constructive suggestions should turn the voters against them.
To the Council, don't back down from what the residents who were involved said they wanted. It is time to bring this city out of the 1950's and plan for a new tomorrow.


Posted by Henry Riggs, a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Jun 2, 2010 at 3:41 pm

Does anyone remember that, before the city hired Perkins and Will for the Specific Plan effort, there was an immediate precursor to ask the residents and business owners what our direction would be? It was called the Visioning process, and I took part in the workshops. There were differing opinions then, as God knows there always will be in Menlo Park, but the majority identified a direction and the council (all of whom participated and listened) approved a vision as a result. THAT is what P+W were given to build upon.

That a process direction did not meet your own goals does not make it wrong. Business (owners and merchants) were very much represented, they were there at every meeting; that some didn't see fit to join, or were out-voted, is also true.

I suspect there is room for improvement of the parking schemes - meanwhile, open minds need to prevail. For the minority that didn't get its way to damn the very public community process is neither fair nor productive.


Posted by Shoot the messenger, a resident of another community
on Jun 2, 2010 at 3:44 pm

A response to Morris Brown's letter, via the City Council e-mail log, by Associate Planner Thomas Rogers:

Mr. Brown,

Thank you for taking the time to write regarding the El Camino Real/Downtown Specific Plan (Web Link). We would like to take this opportunity to clarify a few points.

- The recent input from the subset of downtown business/property owners known as the Downtown Alliance is important to review and consider, but it is crucial to keep those comments in the context of overall business/property owner input, which has been strong. For example, the project Oversight and Outreach Committee has included business/property owner representatives from the start, and the broader Chamber of Commerce has been an important partner in outreach. Like the overall Menlo Park community, the business community has a diverse set of interests and opinions. In addition, the Downtown Alliance input itself has been nuanced, for example by including a statement of support for the El Camino Real portions of the plan.

- The implication that the recent EIR-related schedule adjustment was due to political considerations is absolutely false. The preparation of a Water Supply Assessment (WSA) is necessary given the technical reasons described in more detail in the 4/27 City Council staff report (Web Link). If you would like to discuss any of those requirements or the overall EIR process/timeline in person, we would be happy to do so.

- Your assertion that City staff and our consultant have changed the plan to reflect non-community preferences is likewise without merit. On the project web page, we have carefully documented every step of this process, including detailed summaries of all three community workshops and direct video/audio links for many meetings. You and anyone else can see the clear links from the Vision Plan (Phase I), of which you offer measured support, and the current Draft Specific Plan. More than anything, this process has been about reaching an informed community judgment, and the evidence is there.

- To the extent that aspects of the Draft Specific Plan may not reflect the judgment of Menlo Park's diverse community, we anticipate that they will be improved through the comprehensive input process occurring later this summer- see the project page for details. As with the overall process, these meetings will allow for more give-and-take than is possible through emails and newspaper advertisements.

Thank you again for this opportunity to clarify these points.


Posted by Ridiculous, a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Jun 2, 2010 at 3:44 pm

Great comments above, and thank you Thomas Rogers for setting the record straight! I think it's laughable that some folks think that they weren't included in the decision making. This is the most transparent, community run, all inclusive type process I have ever witnessed. In fact, perhaps it is TOO transparent! I got so many emails, saw notices on the blog, saw notices in the Almanac etc., EVERYONE knew about this, and everyone could get involved. Sorry Morris that you don't like the outcome. And, sorry those of you that own property up and down Santa Cruz that you don't like it because it requires the upgrading of your properties, but this IS what the community wants, and quite frankly needs. At least come to the table with some creative ideas, or something positive, rather than saying "no". We've had enough "no's" we have many, many, many years of "no" with our abandon theater, Derry Project, dealerships, Mattison property etc. If this does NOT happen, I can guarantee that those abandon sites will still be here, and our downtown will continue to fall apart for more years to come. We have to make some improvements, not an overhaul, some improvements. Please stop Morris and his gang of NO's! It again is RIDICULOUS!


Posted by huh?, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jun 2, 2010 at 4:34 pm

Please stop attacking persons and attack ideas instead.

Seems to me that the 2nd phase of the planning could have done a better job of working with those whose properties and businesses are affected. Ideas like the covered marketplace, and its placement, came from the consultant. Feedback on the location was not positive in the workshops, yet it is still in the same place.

I do agree that the real details are yet to come when the zoning documents come out. However I have seen far too many times in Menlo Park that ideas never get changed despite ongoing feedback with concerns or suggested improvements.The excuse is that thus and so many public meetings have been held, without addressing the real issue of adapting along the way. The number of meetings and the passage of time are not the same as listening and responding. Unlike Mr. Brown, I am willing to see what comes out next, but I worry that whatever the consultant has done is now unchangeable even if it doesn't make sense.


Posted by Call Me Skeptical, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jun 2, 2010 at 8:53 pm

One only has to look back at the laughable "Your City/Your Decision" budget cutting process of a few years back to see how a supposedly transparent and open public-input process was hijacked by city staff and the city council (namely Winkler, Duboc and Jellins) to fit their own "vision" in the end, with the public be damned.


Posted by Ridiculous, a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Jun 2, 2010 at 9:05 pm

What the heck is "Call Me Skeptical" talking about? Why is everything "Winkler and Duboc"s" fault? They've been gone now for what 3, 4 years? Take some responsibility for the inept, do nothing, no growth agenda this current council has been voting on for the last couple of years. Mark my word, the plan will not be approved as is, and will dramatically change by this council. The no growth agenda will continue, unfortunately. The good part about all of this, is that I think the community is finally growing tired of this nonsense. Hopefully, this will be remembered in November. The community wants IMPROVEMENT.


Posted by Peter, a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Jun 3, 2010 at 9:47 am

The process was excellent! The losers are whining the loudest. Everyone had equal input into the plan and now "Those who belive their opinion is greater" are squacking the loudest. Hang in there City Council. Don't give in.


Posted by Mike, a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Jun 3, 2010 at 11:52 am

Give credit to the city council for holding to their process of citizen participation. I felt I was adequately notified, probably OVERNOTIFIED, and when I went to the meetings the city staff listened. I didn't get everything I wanted but I felt once I heard the others position, we all came to an agreement we all could live with. It's too bad some felt that had to get their own way on everything. Keep up the good work city council.


Posted by huh?, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jun 6, 2010 at 3:47 pm

There was a lot of notification, but only a small fraction of Menlo Park ever participated in the process. The committee that was supposed to help engage the community rarely did much outreach, but instead represented their personal perspective. That is one reason why there are a number of business and property owners who felt they were not thoroughly engaged or listened to when they were.

A large number of meetings does not mean that the whole process worked as well as it should have. The workshop portion of each meeting was extremely short. Most of us felt as if we had just started meaningful discussions, but didn't complete them. I firmly believe the plans were shortchanged as a result.

What is striking to me is that certain things came from the consultants, like the location of a covered marketplace. The idea came from the consultants, not from the workshop participants, and it's still there despite feedback that there were better locations such as near the train station. So something doesn't feel right. Going through the motions isn't the same as having a good process.

I would bet most Menlo Park residents have no idea what the plans are. This next phase is when the real outreach must occur. It is the translation of a vague plan into zoning and planning code where the rubber meets the road. It is inappropriate to call it quits yet, either on the plan or the process. The process is not done yet and very important community input has not yet been sought or incorporated. The impacts have not been revealed, and that might change some minds like when someone says they'd like a yacht but not when they find out what it costs and what the upkeep requires.


Posted by Mike, a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Jun 7, 2010 at 2:55 pm

HUH? - Just because your ideas weren't used doesn't mean the process wasn't good. I felt my comments were considered. Very few of my personal suggestions were incorporated into the final product but I felt the city staff presented all viable options and everybody had input. City straff listened to what ALL people were saying and tried to glean the best of the best. What more can you ask for?

HUH? you quote " What is striking to me is that certain things came from the consultants, like the location of a covered marketplace. The idea came from the consultants, not from the workshop participants, and it's still there despite feedback that there were better locations such as near the train station"

As I recall the consultants presented the "covered Marketplace" as one of several possible solutions gathered from citizen input. Just because you didn't get your 1st choice, it wasn't mine either, doesn't mean the process is flawed.

Come on folks, No one gets everything they want. At least I never have. I understand the value of listening to all input and selecting the best. I believe that the final plan includes around half of all the things I originally thought were necessary. I listened to others and even though I didn't totally agree I came away with a better appreciation of others views.


Posted by morris Brown, a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Jun 7, 2010 at 7:57 pm

First, in response to "interesting" -- you can post what you want, but you should not be allowed to post lies, without a rebuttal.

1. I supported the swimming pool. I was against building a 50 meter pool, but always supported the project as built. I was opposed to awarding the operation with a non-competitive, no rent contract to Menlo Masters as promoted by a previous council. Later it leaked out, that Menlo Masters was willing to pay rent, but was never asked by the City.

2. I supported construction of the new gym. I'm very concerned about the effects of inadequate parking and what this will mean to users of the library. The size of the new structure is quite out of character with the rest of Burgess Park.

3. I never opposed the Kepler building.

Mr. Rogers, who is the lead planner for the City on the downtown visioning project, can post what he wishes. I maintain the delay of 4 months or so, pushing off a decision on the plan until after the election is a clear sign of politics.

Mr. Rogers maintains the delay is needed to produce an adequate EIR. Anyone who attended the smaller "stakeholder" meetings, will attest to being told that an August 2010 absolute deadline for Council to decide on the plan was given to the consultant. The City has been at this process for 2 years. How in the world can such a delay, magically appear this late in the process? Is there such incompetence with the consultant or staff, that what is needed in the EIR just suddenly appears at the last minute?

Mr. Rogers can talk about documentation. I attended the meetings. I sat at a table where votes were taken and where discussion was ongoing. I talked with many others and certainly I didn't come away with 4 and 5 story buildings along El Camino being acceptable. Only the southern most part, where Stanford might possibly want a hotel was 4 stories considered acceptable. When I talked to the consultant and voiced this concern -- I told him that almost 3000 voters had signed a referendum petition against the Derry project with its 4 story (50 foot) structures, he simply dismissed me.

Now the City Staff is ignoring the merchants and property owners in the downtown who are saying no to the plan. How much more opposition is needed, before the City will stop pouring funds into this sinking ship?


Posted by Was it "Political" - NO, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jun 8, 2010 at 1:03 pm

First -- I have talked to several of the Councilmembers and they were disappointed that the Downtown Specific Plan was not going to be legally able to come to the Council for a vote until after this election. They did NOT initiate this delay.

Second -- I participated in this process and believe that it has been a very inclusive one and that the current draft by and large reflects the views of the majority. Mr Brown participated, so did Mr Flegel and other key downtown business owners. We need to stay engaged - it's not set in stone yet. Perhaps Mr Brown is concerned that his point of view really does only represent a minority. That is certainly what was reflected in all the public meetings.

The one thing that can really hurt our City is not keeping downtown vibrant and taking care to protect and grown our sales tax base (as well as property tax base). Not all change is bad - some is absolutely necessary to achieve these goals. This public engagement process that linked up with planning experts to envision possibilities for a vibrant future was the right way to go about this. While not everyone will like everything in it, we have iondeed been figuring out as a community where the majority wants to go and shoudl NOT let a minority view stop this now. Menlo Park needs to find ways to get to the right "Yes" here.




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