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Does Menlo Park really need Flood Park?

Original post made on Nov 23, 2011

Despite a staff report questioning whether Menlo Park truly needs more open space, the Parks and Recreation Commission voted 5-0 to recommend the city move forward with acquiring Flood Park -- as long as there's a solid plan to cover operating costs.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, November 23, 2011, 7:50 AM

Comments (35)

Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Nov 23, 2011 at 1:09 pm

" the county doesn't want to give more because it's already donating a multimillion dollar piece of property."

What a scam - this land already belongs to the citizens. How can the County claim that by transferring responsibility for the cost of maintenance of this park to the citizens of Menlo Park that it is "donating" anything except a liability?

Posted by Woodrow, a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Nov 23, 2011 at 1:35 pm

The county is pushing their expenses onto Menlo Park. Menlo park is typically gullible.

Posted by Henry Riggs, a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Nov 23, 2011 at 2:41 pm

Same story, same issue. Flood Park is real estate, its not going anywhere - we are talking about who owns it. Our city is a very expensive ship to run, as the predicted park maintenance estimate of $575,000/year shows. And until we can keep the libraries open (and reverse countless other cut-backs), can we afford to take on another agency's responsibilities?

The county is OUR county, we don't need a new ownership unless we want to exclude others from using Flood Park. Is that the goal? Otherwise, we need to get OUR county supervisors' priorities back in line and demand the Flood Park be open, be maintained, and be available to Menlo Park residents.

Posted by WhoRupeople, a resident of another community
on Nov 23, 2011 at 3:21 pm

Here is a thought that no one reading this post will like. How about selling the land to a developer, giving the buyer a fast track to getting entitlements to develop it for revenue producing uses (commercial/retail), and making some money for a change? The County needs more income, not vacant land being under-utilized by soccer teams or dog walkers.

Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Nov 23, 2011 at 3:41 pm

Posted by peter carpenter, a resident of the Atherton: Lindenwood neighborhood, on Mar 23, 2011 at 6:10 pm
peter carpenter is a member (registered user) of Almanac Online

Realist is right - the State is broke, the County is broke and Menlo Park has a structural deficit. The County and Menlo Park should partner on an RFP to private sector firms for the development of this site into an innovative residential community with integrated park spaces.

We, unfortunately, need to convert this property from being a consumer of public resources into a one time cash generator and a long term property tax source. Doing that wisely and creatively is an opportunity and a challenge.

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Posted by Jack Hickey, a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Nov 23, 2011 at 5:40 pm

I agree. Their are other "revenue producing" land uses which the county should pursue to fund maintenance of parks and other open space. Golf courses are a logical choice since they provide greenery and facilitate hadicapped access. They also provide buffer zones for wildfire control.
And, the Community College District should consider selling it's luxury faculty housing.

Posted by SoccerMom, a resident of Menlo Park: University Heights
on Nov 23, 2011 at 8:13 pm

Clearly none of you people have kids in youth sports! We have a dearth of playing fields for our kids. There is no space. We have soccer, baseball and lacrosse teams (among others) all vying for the same space. We cannot get practice times or fields for games. We all could benefit from Flood Park.

I'm hoping all the local youth sports groups will organize together and make a proposal that will benefit everyone - including those dog walkers and soccer players out there!

Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Nov 23, 2011 at 8:31 pm

There are lots of things that would be nice to have but, unfortunately, we cannot afford all of them. In fact, we cannot afford most of them.
An RFP for a mixed use, residential and mini parks, design for Flood Park would cost very little to issue and would tap into the creative competition between bidders to produce the best possible use of this land.

Posted by Pied Piper, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Nov 23, 2011 at 9:04 pm

The issue with Flood Park is the right of way CalWater holds. It runs right down the middle of the Park. Every 50-75 years, it might beed to be torn up. If one looks at satellite imagery, they can see the right of way extend from the bay to Crystal Springs. The problem with a development is the easement. If even allowable, building on top of the easement would be a fool's venture.

The best solution might be to outsource the Park to a third party provider, similar to what Menlo Park has done with their pools. The government's ability to charge fees are restricted due to Prop 26. By outsourcing the Park to a private provider, the City can operate it in a manner which not only allows full cost recovery, but also in a manner which causes the users (not the taxpayers) to cover the expenses. Maintenance would not be hamstrung by Government overhead.

Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Nov 24, 2011 at 7:43 am

A smart developer would simply recognize that the San Francisco Utility (not Cal Water) easement is ideally suited for a string of mini-parks that could be surrounded by clustered housing.

Posted by park lover, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Nov 25, 2011 at 5:20 pm

We need to maintain, if not expand, the amount of park space we have! Playing fields are scarce, the city keeps pushing more development but what makes a town desirable is its livability. High on the list is park space.

Perhaps the maintenance of the park could be outsourced, but the park managed by the city so its residents have priority to use it. Not everything should be measured financially, but it makes sense to get competitive bids for maintaining it (including by city staff).

Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Nov 25, 2011 at 5:53 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

There are lots of things which are desirable but the fact is that we can no longer afford many of them.

The County will not support this park and I doubt that the City of Menlo Park will be willing to support this park.

I urge those who want to maintain even part of this park to encourage the County and the City to pursue a RFP for the development of this space as a combined cluster home residential development and, over the water pipeline easement, a series of miniparks and trails. The revenue from the sale of the residential development rights could be used to create a perpetual endowment for the maintenance of the parks and trails.

Absent making this facility self sustaining it will not survive.

Posted by Mom of six, a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Nov 26, 2011 at 8:46 am

Grassy fields are not an entitlement.

While sports fields are spotted throughout Flood Park, the most alluring aspect to the park is the oak canopy and sprinkled picnic tables throughout. These ammenities require little park maintenance aside from cleaning up the trash some leave behind as many other maintenance activities of the structures have been done by Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts looking to earn their community service awards--their sweat is in this park already and will continue to be.
The hightest costs of maintenance derrives from the cost of lush grassy fields and the maintenance of same. I would argue that these fields are NOT an entitlement that the county or City of Menlo Park should pay for.
I do realize that lots of kids are playing soccer, baseball and lacross and that golf courses or putting fields are a big hit and have been requested at Bayfront Park for decades. Menlo Park and Atherton residents obviously desire additional space for these recreational activities. So, if these users want to pony-up some real fees for utilizing portions of Flood Park to retain and perhaps increase grassy fields, then there should be some consideration for these land uses if they will provide the costs that will deliver maintenance fees. I could envision parents walking and biking to their childrens games if Flood Park is available for these sports.

Grassy fields are NOT an entitlement, especially in the current economic times; but if you want them and are willing to pay for them then keep the existing park and charge adequate field use fees to cover the maintenance costs. Of course, park entry fees will supplement maintenance costs as well.
If sports entities do not want to participate in this venture, or if it is infeasible for the City, then I suggest those of us who find that the park is a benefit to the community form a Friends of Flood Park volunteer group dedicated to maintaining a more natural park, open to all. That's what is happening with many of our state parks--minimal cost requirements for maintaining the natural space, open for all.

The greatest delights of this space is the ample oak canopy and natural greenery . These trees and plants are a benefit to the community and should be retained under all circumstances as they are. Putting sports fields over water easements can be a benefit to the community if it is not a financial burden on the City or County.
I can't imagine that Menlo Park has this kind of money lying in wait for recreational purposes.

Posted by park lover, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Nov 26, 2011 at 8:52 am

actually developers that don't create open space have to put money into a fund for parks so there might be some money. The city may be foolish enough to not require sufficient funds to endow maintenance but they could. Yes, sports groups and non-residents should pay to use the park, too.
We and our grandchildren will regret developing open space that is so accessible to local residents.

Posted by Flood Park neighbor, a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Nov 26, 2011 at 12:10 pm

Those that suggest that Flood Park be developed for housing seem not to recognize this fact: there is no other park in this area of Menlo Park (within walking distance) of the neighborhoods which surround it. This IS our neighborhood park! I don't know what the solution is for affording it's maintenance, but it is an integral part of the quality of life for our neighborhood.

Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Nov 26, 2011 at 7:16 pm

" This IS our neighborhood park! "

San Mateo County won't pay for it and Menlo Park won't pay for it, so are you willing to have a $1000 parcel tax for YOUR neighborhood to operate this park?

I doubt it.

Posted by greed, not need, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Nov 26, 2011 at 11:30 pm

Soccer families do pay to use local fields.

My family and I went to Golden Gate Park yesterday. It occurred to me that Menlo Park would have paved over the park many decades ago. Menlo Park has always placed short-term greed (benefit to the few)over longer term rewards. Our biggest open space is Burgess, which is not even large enough to accommodate a full-sized soccer field.

More housing = more stress on our infrastructure. Parks = a treasure that many generations will continue to enjoy.

Posted by Pied Piper, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Nov 27, 2011 at 9:27 am

I think Menlo Park needs a MASTER PLAN.

Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Nov 27, 2011 at 9:35 am

A Master Plan - what a great idea.

Menlo Park's General Plan was last done in 2004(?) and the OPEN SPACE AND CONSERVATION ELEMENT OF THE MENLO PARK GENERAL PLAN was last done in June, 1973.

Without a plan you have NO idea where you are or where you are going.

Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Nov 27, 2011 at 11:07 am

Does anybody expect a city that has not updated the Open Space and Conservation element of its General Plan in almost 40 years to really do anything about park land that it dose not even own?

Many of the posters on this forum dismiss concerns with process (like the Brown Act) but we should all realize that unless there is a process/law and unless those processes/laws are followed then the citizens will be silently deprived of their voice and their rights.

It is inconceivable to me, as a former Planning Commissioner who helped rewrite the General Plan for Palo Alto, that the citizens of Menlo Park would tolerate a General Plan which is so out of date. And the City's anser is to keep doing area specific plans which lack a proper General Plan framework and which, time and time again, fail to accomplish their stated purpose. "State law requires that all cities and counties adopt a comprehensive, long-term general plan that outlines physical development of the county or city. The general plan must cover a local jurisdiction's entire planning area so that it can adequately address the broad range of issues associated with the city or county's development."

Posted by Kristin Cox, a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Nov 27, 2011 at 1:00 pm

As President of Friends of Flood Park I'd like to make clear that our organization does not endorse or prefer one government entity over another when it comes to ownership of our park. Our mission is simply this: to generate funding and support for projects and programs that enhance and supplement the recreational, environmental, educational, and leisure activities offered at the park. Ms. Nicosia has been a wonderful and steadfast volunteer with our organization but I'd like to clarify that her statements were made as an individual and not on behalf of our organization. Furthermore our fundraising efforts are ongoing to ensure that the park remains open, accessible, and vibrant to all of the community who wishes to enjoy it - not to assist the city in their decision. I am saddened to read that some members of our community wish to develop this jewel of our county park system, but that also serves to strengthen our reserve to turn this park into usable, accessible, and enjoyable space for everyone, especially those who have yet to discover how beautiful this park truly is.

Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Nov 27, 2011 at 1:52 pm

I urge those residents who want to preserve Flood Park to:
1 - Understand that Flood Park is not a priority for either San Mateo County or the City of Menlo Park
2 - That there is between $2-5 million of deferred maintenance needed for Flood Park
3 - That the annual cost of operating Flood Park is between $200,000 and $600,000

Unless a NEW source of funds can be identified to meet both the deferred and annual maintenance costs this park will fall between the cracks with both San Mateo County and Menlo Park disclaiming both responsibility and financial ability.

Selling off development rights to a portion of the land could generate the necessary $10 million fund required to do the deferred maintenance and serve as an endowment for the annual running costs for the remaining park land.

Alternatively, the neighborhood which uses the park could establish an assessment district.
One thousand parcels paying $1000 each per year would generate $1 million a year. I doubt that there would be the votes to either create the assessment district or to increase property taxes by that much.

Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Nov 27, 2011 at 2:27 pm

How can anyone run an organization with a General Plan that is so out of date?

The General Plan is a legal document, required by state law, which serves as the City of Menlo Park's "constitution" for development and the use of its land. It is a comprehensive, long-term document, detailing proposals for the physical development of the City, and of any land outside its boundaries but within its designated "sphere of influence."

General Plan Elements:

Land Use and Circulation (adopted December 1, 1994 plus amendments through December 7, 2010)

Housing Element (adopted July 7, 1992)

Noise Element (adopted November 14, 1978)

Seismic Safety and Safety Element (adopted June 22, 1976)

Open Space and Conservation Element (adopted June 26, 1973)

Posted by Menlo Mom, a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Nov 27, 2011 at 2:33 pm

The Menlo Park neighborhoods directly surrounding the park (2200 people, 30% of whom are kids - higher than the MP average) love this park. It's the Bay Road neighborhoods' community asset. And more Menlo Park residents would cherish it if they came to Flood for soccer, baseball, etc.

There are opportunities to fund the park responsibly (e.g. leagues have come forward willing to renovate and maintain fields themselves, residents and businesses are coming forth ready to donate, residents are asking for indoor rental space for classes, the park could sustain snack or coffee vendors, a part of the park could be sold or leased to a private entity for community oriented parks and rec use, etc)

The MP city staff and city council are only beginning to investigate these options and we encourage them to do so thoroughly.

It is not correct to paint this issue as "fiscally conservative residents vs. spendthrifts". This oversimplification is only used to further the agendas of a few. City government charter should be to balance fiscal responsibility with improvements to the quality of life of residents. Most of the residents who support the park are looking for and recommending thoughtful solutions to balance these two.

Posted by park lover, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Nov 27, 2011 at 5:16 pm

Thanks for the additional information about the deferred maintenance and costs. Much to consider.

About the city's General Plan: staff keeps putting it off and instead has been promoting the piecemeal zoning changes that ensure the whole picture is never considered. Councils have been too weak or lazy to push back or to do what's right.

Posted by Parks are critical, a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Nov 27, 2011 at 9:28 pm

Providing park space is a core service that local government provides that we as tax payers fund.

The thread has a great number of comments related to finances, so I'll weigh in on that piece, too: Property values remain higher in communities where parks are provided. The idea of developing this land would diminish quality of life for thousands in and around Menlo Park whether they use this park or not. Property values, and therefore property tax revenue, would also be affected, which would affect local government's ability to serve residents.

The estimates the city put forward as their costs to take ownership of Flood Park need further scrutiny-- it seems they were created to be extremely high as a bargaining tool to use in negotiations with the county.

Readers, please don't take the city estimates at face value. Whether the city or county ends up owning and operates the park, it is a needed community service and asset. Parks are critical to our physical and mental well being.

Posted by Soccer Mom, a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Nov 28, 2011 at 8:05 am

Menlo Park is a desirable place for families to live in large part due to our parks and award winning public schools. Thanks to all of you who have written comments in support of Flood Park!

Posted by Raymond Mueller, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Nov 28, 2011 at 8:18 am

I just want to throw this idea out there to see what people think of it.

I know some may have objections, but there is one dedicated purpose that some of the acreage in Flood Park could be dedicated to, that will preserve the open space feeling of Flood Park, and generate revenue for a trust that will keep the park maintained: dedication of a portion of the park to the creation of a cemetery.

Cemetery plots in San Mateo County often go above $7500. It is not uncommon for there to be 1250 plots per acre in a cemetery. If the government entity dedicated 8 acres of the park, or found locations for 10,000 plots, that would raise $75,000,000. Assuming the government entity could find a 1% interest rate on that trust, over inflation, the park would have an endowment of $750,000 a year for maintenance. And if you increase the acreage dedicated to burial plots from 8 acres to 10 acres, you would add over $18,000,000 for park upgrades. Moreover all of this assumes that individuals would only be willing to pay $7500 for the plots. Given the charitable purpose, and location of the park, people might be willing to pay more.

And if done correctly, the biking and hiking trails could still traverse those sections of the park, separated respectfully from the burial areas.

Posted by Preserve our green space, a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Nov 28, 2011 at 10:07 am

Peter Carpenter, I can see that you're an enthusiastic proponent of developing Flood Park. I also see that you live in Lundenwood. With all due respect, may I point out that it's easy to advocate development of open space that doesn't abut your neighborhood, particularly when, in all likelihood, you live on a generously-sized lot and have abundant green space in your own back yard. For those of us not blessed with large homes and expansive yards, Flood Park is a huge enhancement to our neighborhoods and our lives. It gives us a place to run and play, to ride our bikes and take our kids to the playground, to host family parties and neighborhood events, all within walking distance. There are a lot of smart people thinking and working hard to find creative solutions to the funding challenges inherent in keeping Flood Park open. Please, before you continue flogging the development idea, think about how people outside of Lundenwood live, and give us a chance to find a way to keep this irreplaceable park green, alive, and open to everyone.

Posted by Preserve our green space, a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Nov 28, 2011 at 10:09 am

That would be Lindenwood ~ autocorrect strikes again!

Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Nov 28, 2011 at 10:18 am

I am an enthusiastic proponent of SAVING Flood Park, but I also believe that neither the County or the City will spend a penny on this park, therefore we need create ideas such a partial clustered residential development or a cemetery or some other revenue producing project to provide sufficient funds to save the balance of the park. Selling cupcakes won't do it.

Here is what the MP staff report says:"According to the Menlo Park General Plan, the California State standard for open space is 3 acres for every 1000 residents. Menlo Park's General Plan sets an even stricter requirement of 5 acres for every 1000 residents. Currently, the City's total park acreage is 232 acres. With a population of approximately 30,000 residents, the requirement would be 150 acres of total park space giving Menlo Park park space well above the specified standard." And that is without Flood Park.

Posted by Hmmm, a resident of another community
on Nov 28, 2011 at 11:40 am

In our current economic climate, being both creative & pragmatic w/solutions makes perfect sense. I spent a lot of time at Flood Park when I lived in Menlo. I know that many people derive pleasure & needed outdoor activity there. I hope that a workable solution is found, perhaps by some of it becoming residential, for the living or the dead, in order to keep at least some of the park.

Posted by park lover, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Nov 28, 2011 at 1:49 pm

The city website says the population is 32,000. The Bohannon project and downtown plan are supposed to add more people and nothing more than a few pocket parks. Maybe.
Regional organizations like ABAG think we're supposed to increase population even more. Menlo Park is built up. There are no other empty sites that could become parks so we ought to pay attention to those sites that already are.
Mr. Mueller's idea is creative. Along those lines, why not make a small portion a "green" cemetary (no caskets, no graves, possibly only ashes not bodies)and allow folks to pay for the right to be buried there? Must be appropriate oversight but it's another idea.

Posted by Ol' Homeboy, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Nov 28, 2011 at 3:04 pm

Flood Park will never be developed. Why?
Just yesterday, while strolling through the park, I saw a San Francisco garter snake slither by two San Bruno elfin butterflies mating on a branch of San Mateo Thornmint and a California clapper rail eating the leaves of a San Mateo Woolly Sunflower. It's the State's "Garden of Eden" for endangered species!

Posted by Jason Primuth, a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Nov 28, 2011 at 3:42 pm

It's amazing how underutilized this resource has been. besides charging for parking, there has been little thought given to generating a revenue stream from this amazing piece of real estate.

Besides the athletic teams that are eager to rent more space, there are also opportunities to have food vendors meet the needs of hungry parkgoers. There are events like movie nights and park-specific tournaments, etc.

The cost is a bit of a red herring; our city will spend the same -- if not more -- money patrolling it. That much unsupervised land in a suburban area rarely leads to good things.

And really, when will the city have the opportunity to get that much land back from the city. In the years ahead, we can decide what to do with it rather than the county.

Seems like a good investment to me...

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