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Menlo Park staff responds to commissioner's resignation

Original post made on May 29, 2013

Former Transportation Commissioner Charlie Bourne, who resigned after nearly six years of service, and Menlo Park city staff aren't seeing eye to eye on what constitutes adequate public notice.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, May 29, 2013, 11:23 AM

Comments (16)

Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 29, 2013 at 12:40 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

If action is either anticipated or being recommended then the agenda item must so state.

"At least 72 hours prior to a regular meeting, the body must post an agenda containing
a brief general description of each item to be discussed or transacted at the meeting,
including items to be discussed in closed session. ( 54954.2(a).) The Act makes it
clear that discussion items must be placed on the agenda, as well as items which may
be the subject of action by the body.
The purpose of the brief general description is to inform interested members of the
public about the subject matter under consideration so that they can determine whether
to monitor or participate in the meeting of the body."


Posted by resident, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on May 29, 2013 at 1:29 pm

If the city isn't interested in input from the transportation commission on all city transportation issues, they should disband the commission.


Posted by WhoRUpeople, a resident of another community
on May 29, 2013 at 2:31 pm

I won't comment on the Brown Act violation issue, not that it isn't important, but there are others with far more knowledge than I on that subject. I will comment on the idea of expanding the role of the transportation commission to be a required step in getting projects approved--be it Stanford's project, Facebook, or whatever. The review process in Menlo Park is already too burdensome and much of it provides no benefit to either applicant or the City. CEQA is law and must be adhered to. The Planning Commission's role should be limited to just making sure the architecture fits the area--this is a limit in many other cities. Menlo Park has a very competent staff in all of its departments, the City Council can and should depend on that staff to do their job and advise/recommend action by the Council accordingly. Believe it or not,professionals trained in planning, architecture, traffic engineering, etc. are really more qualified to make recommendations upon which decisions are made than are untrained "interested residents". Management by Committee never works well and to throw another committee review in to the approval mix will only serve to delay the creation of the next camel, or, worse, result in no applications to develop/redevelop Menlo Park.


Posted by Sam Sinnott, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on May 29, 2013 at 2:46 pm

Recently the Transportation Commission refused to review a controversial single family driveway I have proposed that allows the traffic from a single family home to go on Louise Street rather than Santa Cruz Avenue(the property abuts both streets). Engineering staff agreed with me, supported my driveway encroachment permit and wanted to prevent any cars from entering or leaving my property on Santa Cruz. The general plan even references reducing traffic on Santa Cruz because it is an arterial.

Although I appealed to the chair of the TC twice to let me present the driveway proposal, she claimed it was not a transportation issue! It is almost only a transportation issue as the permit was approved by engineering.

I believe the reason they declined to review and comment was that a neighbor group was against the driveway and the council voted to revoke the encroachment permit. This failure by the Transportation Commission to perform their duty and analyse the proposal from a transportation perspective can only be interpreted as political. They are selecting what they will and will not review based on a political perspective. In my case it would be an anti developer perspective.

If the commission is being used as a political tool by its members it is no wonder that they are having problems with a very objective and detail oriented staff.


Posted by WhoRUpeople, a resident of another community
on May 29, 2013 at 2:55 pm

Consider Sam Sinnott's situation carefully; he raises a very important, and in my opinion valid point. The same underlying issue is emerging in the way the Stanford project is being handled with regard to expanding the Planning Commission's role and injecting the City Council into the process inappropriately. Believe me, those with the resources and inclination to bring development to a City that badly needs it are watching all of these issues very closely--and likely thinking, Menlo Park, no way.


Posted by Bianca Walser, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on May 29, 2013 at 5:29 pm

Sam Sinnott did indeed approach me about presenting his case to the
Transportation Commission, but only after Council had already voted on it in March 2013.

While the Transportation Commission does hear appeals from residents
regarding decisions by City Staff on transportation issues, the Commission
simply doesn't have any authority to consider appeals to City Council decisions.
Nor should we -- the City Council is an elected body, responsible to the
voters. The Commission is not -- we're appointed, not elected. Furthermore, as I reminded Mr. Sinnott, frontage and address changes are actually *not* Transportation Commission matters, but rather issues for the Planning Department.

I appreciate the difficulty of his situation, but the Transportation Commission just isn't the right body to work with, both because it doesn't have jurisdiction and because the City Council had already ruled on the issue -- and they have the final say.

It's just flat-out false to say that the Transportation Commission somehow chooses what to review based on some political agenda or ulterior motive -- we'll review any issue that falls within the areas assigned to us by City Council, and that is still an open matter. Mr. Sinnott's issue was, unfortunately, neither.


Posted by Public Review, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on May 29, 2013 at 5:58 pm

Sam and WhoRUPeople:

If the commission exists, what purpose would you propose it have?
The commission votes will always be advisory. What's to fear?


Posted by Menlo Voter, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on May 29, 2013 at 6:51 pm

Sam:

you lost your gamble. Shut up and move on and take your lumps like a man instead of whining about it.

You bought a property with a Santa Cruz address and access. You gambled you could get it changed. You lost your bet. Such is the life of real estate speculators and spec builders. I know it usually always goes your way, but occasionally it doesn't. Big risk justifies the big gains, right? Of course, there's rarely the amount of risk that justifies spec builders' profits they usually recognize around here, is there?


Posted by City Staff, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on May 30, 2013 at 12:15 am

Some posters must be city employees, because I don't think anyone else would praise our city staff. The competent members are outnumbered by those whose self-interest apparently clouds their ability to make decisions in the best interests of the people they allegedly serve. Time and again the staff has shortchanged the residents.

The authority of the citizen commissions should be strengthened, not lessened. They, not the staff, have repeatedly demonstrated their care for the community in which they live.


Posted by WhoRUpeople, a resident of another community
on May 30, 2013 at 8:36 am

@Public Review - I did not mean to suggest that the commission should be repurposed; on the contrary, my comments were intended to provide my reasoning for believing Mr. Bourne's suggestion that it be expanded not be adopted.

@City Staff -"some posters must be city staff..." Here we go again, someone has a different opinion so they must be discredited. If your post included reference to me, I can assure you I am not employed by the City of Menlo Park. I do, however, interact with most departments. My praise of the staff comes from personal experience and my own assessment of competence. One more point I want to make, City Staff are there to serve the public, that includes Applicants (be it for permits to build, cut trees, demolish, etc.), and an Applicant can be a MP-based business, a resident, a non-resident, or a non-MP-based business (the dreaded D word). I will say again, MP is fortunate to have a very competent City Staff who serve the City and all Applicants in a very professional manner.


Posted by use the commissions, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on May 30, 2013 at 2:57 pm

Menlo Park is blessed that many residents are highly intelligent, care about the quality of life, and are experts in many fields. Volunteers of this caliber can help immeasurably by applying their expertise and insights, if used appropriately. Instead of harnessing this power to aid both staff and Council in analysis of projects and even to save time (!), neither seem to want anything more than the bare minimum sugarcoating of involvement unless required by law as in the case of the Planning Commission. Many nonprofits use leadership volunteers to a high degree to the benefit of the organization and their constituents. Sadly, our city officials avoid them.


Posted by Sam Sinnott, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on May 30, 2013 at 3:32 pm

Bianca Walser has made my point. She is selecting which items come before the transportation commission.

I was seeking their advice. There is no justification for not hearing a traffic related item that is still being considered by the City - except politics.

There was and is no frontage change or address change being considered as she states. An abandonment process blocking my existing vehicular access on Louise is still in the works and will be considered again by the council July 16. It is strictly a traffic issue.

I only wanted to present it to the commission for their opinion. It has not been finalized with the council.

If she had allowed me to present she would better understand the issue.

Because she is a volunteer, I can't be too critical but she should work very hard not to use her commission for political purposes.


Posted by Menlo Voter, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on May 30, 2013 at 6:36 pm

(Whoa. Let's tone this down and stop the personal attacks.)


Posted by Menlo Park, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on May 30, 2013 at 9:38 pm

Excuse me editor, but there were no personal attacks. Sam Sinnot was telling lies and I called him on it. You chose to delete those comments.

I'll say again, he claims there is no change to the address or orientation of the property. That is a flat out lie. The property has a Santa Cruz Ave. address and access. The supposed Louise access was NEVER an address for this property. His claim that it was somehow abandoned is a LIE.

His attack, or should I say condescending remark toward Bianca is disgusting. And she didn't "make his point" she in fact, disputed his point. The transportation commission isn't the proper place to appeal the councils' decision. And that's why they didn't hear his appeal.

The bottom line is, Sam is upset because he gambled on being able to flip the address on the property he bought and make a lot more money when he sold it. He lost his bet. I say again, man up Sam. You lost your bet. I'm sure you'll still make plenty of money off this deal. Just not as much as you think you should.

Editor: is that cool enough for you?


Posted by +1, a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on May 30, 2013 at 10:04 pm

I agree with Menlo Park. If you're going to exercise censorship on posts that are pretty benign, then eliminate the snarky and self-serving posts too. Sam seems to think he is specially privileged, and I guess you are proving his point, since his attack on a volunteer still stands but criticisms of him for making that attack are deleted.

I don't live anywhere near Louise or know any of the residents, but I signed their petition and I support them because I share the belief that our city should protect its neighborhoods. Residents invest their savings and their souls in their homes, and they should not be expected to sacrifice their quality of life for every carpetbagger who comes along hoping to enrich himself at their expense.

We have all seen this particular drama play out over the last few months. The central actor has no shame and clearly doesn't know when it's time -- past time -- to bow out gracefully and leave the rest of us alone.

To bring this back to the original topic: I laud Charlie Bourne for standing up for his ideals. Instead of rebutting his points, the city needs to figure out why it's failing us so badly and what it can do to improve.


Posted by POGO, a resident of Woodside: other
on May 31, 2013 at 8:09 am

Bianca Walser had it exactly correct.

Menlo Park's Transportation Committee is not an appellate body to contest decisions made by the City Council. In fact, it's just the opposite.

And there is already a well established appeals process if Mr. Sinnott wanted to challenge the decision by his City Council. Given his experience in Menlo Park politics and civic affairs, Mr. Sinnott should be aware of that.

Advisory committees are not vehicles to appeal decisions of the City Council, which always has the final word on these matters.


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