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2014 Urban Canyon Award Goes To......

Original post made by Richard Vaughan, another community, on Aug 11, 2014

The envelope please.....Redwood City! Cue "wild applause"
Having just returned from a few weeks away I was mightily surprised to see the monstrous new building frames going up just a block West from the historic downtown square. If you haven't been to Redwood City in a while, I highly suggest driving Middlefield past Jefferson. What a complete change from an open view where one could see the distant mountains to a narrow street hemmed in by upward reaching steel.

While I'm sure that this was all in line with Redwood City's Specific Plan, I wonder how many now regret the enormity of this project. It kind of reminds me of watching the Atria go up on the Vegas strip.

Why write about it in this forum? Well, given the relentless back and forth regarding the Save Menlo initiative and the controversy over the MP Specific Plan, perhaps one only needs to look a bit North to see what an over-zealous approach can do a downtown. Yes, it can no longer be called "Deadwood City" but I fear that continued building is now completely changing the character of downtown as well as its sightlines and vistas.
Not being a MP resident, I can only hope everyone reads the Save Menlo Initiative and takes into considerations what passage would mean. From my perspective, regarding the ongoing controversy over the Specific Plan it seems hard to believe that there wasn't someone "asleep at the wheel" not to have considered the ramifications of the Specific Plan with regards to Stanford's and Greenheart's current proposals. I understand the reasons for the Save Menlo initiative but also why Menlo Deserves Better believes that there was a democratic process that was followed and needs to be honored. It is too bad that it seems MP can't simply wait the 2 years and then vote to re-ammend the SP without needing to have the Initiative vote this Fall. Perhaps someone can explain to me why that isn't an option? If it counts to anyone, I would also truly like someone to legitimately answer Peter Carpenter's 22 Questions, if for no other reason than to stop having to read them over and over - not that I don't love hearing from Mr. Carpenter on just about every issue in the Almanac ;) .
As to Urban Canyons & Specific Plans....perhaps in this instance, what happens in RWC should stay in RWC.
Good luck Menlo Park. It will be an interesting couple of months up to November.

Comments (10)

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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Aug 11, 2014 at 5:01 pm

Menlo Voter is a registered user.

Mr. Vaughn:

The Stanford and Greenheart projects are no where near the scale of the projects in RWC to which you refer. The Lanza/Fry folks would have everyone believe they are, but they're very good at repeating lies in the hopes people will believe them just due to shear repetition of their lies.

I too wish they would answer Peter's questions. Not because it might make Peter go away (it won't), but because they are important questions that people voting on the poorly worded initiative should have the answers to before they vote on it. Lanza/Fry seems to want the voters to be ignorant to the effects of their initiative.


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Posted by Richard Vaughan
a resident of another community
on Aug 11, 2014 at 5:14 pm

@Menlo Voter,
In truth, Mr. Carpenter's vigilence is appreciated. It is truly all in the "fine print"
In the hopes of avoiding stepping on anyone's toes, wasn't there an impartial third party website that looked at the Initiative and discussed the pros and cons, including the City's recent report? If so, might that link once again be posted by someone?
Lastly, I happen to like the Atria. But I really like that it is in Vegas :)


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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Aug 11, 2014 at 5:39 pm

Menlo Voter is a registered user.

Mr. Vaughn:

I'm not sure there was a website, but there was an independent evaluation of the initiative by a consultant that looked at the pros and cons. It was published by the Almanac and is also available on the city's website.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Aug 11, 2014 at 5:39 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

The Menlo Park Specific Plan WITHOUT the initiative would NOT permit the structures being built in both Redwood City and Palo Alto. Ironically the Lanza/Fry initiative would encourage such structures by virtue of its site limitations and its bizarre open space definition.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Aug 11, 2014 at 5:41 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Here is the referenced web site:

Web Link


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Posted by Richard Vaughan
a resident of another community
on Aug 11, 2014 at 5:50 pm

Thanks Peter! That was exactly the link I was looking for.


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Posted by Joseph E. Davis
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Aug 12, 2014 at 5:07 pm

Given the dusty crypt that was downtown Redwood City for so many years, it's not entirely clear to me that some large office buildings and apartments are really a step in the wrong direction, even if they do block some views. There are ample views from many other places.

My concern is more traffic congestion than the views. At least Redwood City has a rational parking policy, so there is less concern there.

When I gaze at Menlo Park's long-empty lots on El Camino, the dysfunction that they reveal does remind me of downtown Redwood City in the 80s or 90s.


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Posted by neighbor
a resident of another community
on Aug 12, 2014 at 7:45 pm

Redwood City is allowing high-rise development in carefully planned locations -- and these select locations are adjacent to the downtown and near very large traffic arteries and the 101. Traffic gets channeled pretty efficiently.

The large residential complexes are geared toward single people who work at nearby high-tech companies. This population spends a lot of money on restaurants and entertainment -- so the redeveloped downtown will benefit. We already have. AND a side benefit is that RWC has live many music, movie, and cultural festivals each week on the Square -- bringing in more money and bringing folks together.

In fact, everyone is benefitting from growing revenue and tax base.


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Posted by Richard Vaughan
a resident of another community
on Aug 12, 2014 at 11:18 pm

Howdy Neighbor,
Agree with you on the RWC Rec department and how they've used the square and side streets for many wonderful events, from the blues/rock concerts,car shows to the Jazz on Main series. All good for downtown but these were also occuring before these particular buildings were approved. Yes, it is high density and right on the transit hub, all in line with the "vision". For me, it is just the size and scale of this new project. Other projects have already been complted and just don't seem as massive. Perhaps when the building is finished it will have a different 'feel" Or, once finished, we will forget what was once there. Essentially, it was a shock to look down the street from the square and just see a building rather than the foothills.
As for parking, I think it would be very beneficial to investigate an underground, automated parking structure for MP. Seems like this would be a good way to go and then incorporate more pedestrian ammenities on Santa Cruz and El Camino. I also like that RWC has a validation system for it's gated lots. Go to dinner or a movie and get free parking. Win, Win & Win


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Posted by Joseph E. Davis
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Aug 13, 2014 at 10:29 am

Here is a link to the main downtown Redwood City projects underway.

Web Link


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