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Idea: Move Menlo Park Downtown to Belle Haven

Original post made by sadfsf on Mar 7, 2011

Since the current Menlo Park downtown is full of NIMBYs, I think we should consider moving the downtown to Belle Haven. With Facebook, cheaper land, and kinder residents, Belle Haven is a prime location for a new central business district. Why isn't such an idea being considered?

Comments (27)

Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 7, 2011 at 11:42 pm

From an earlier thread:

Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of the Atherton: Lindenwood neighborhood, on Jan 31, 2011 at 8:41 am

WhoRUpeople makes a great point. But let's turn it around - why not use Facebook as the 'anchor tenant' and develop the East of Bayshore Willow corridor into a shopping magnet and tie it into downtown Menlo Park with a good free shuttle system. Castro Street in Mountain View and California Ave in Palo Alto come to mind.

Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of the Atherton: Lindenwood neighborhood, on Feb 25, 2011 at 1:55 am

IF Menlo Park wants to show some real leadership, and by Menlo Park I mean the business and financial leaders - not the Council, then we/they ought to organize an action group focussed on 1) building the east of 101 Willow corridor as a flourishing business/service center with Facebook as its anchor tenant and 2) consolidating all elementary schools into a single school district.

Left to the politicians on the Council and the School Boards this will never happen.

Posted by waitreally, a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Mar 8, 2011 at 10:28 am

i was mugged in the belle haven neighborhood, and with considerably more severe crimes happening more often than in the current downtown area, i think you'll have a hard time convincing all of the wealthier residents to drive all the way to East Menlo Park.

can you really see Larry Ellison cruising up to belle haven in his aston martin? think again.

Posted by Hank Lawrence, a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Mar 8, 2011 at 11:40 am

Downtown is closer and safer and to reduce anthropogenic Global Warming I am trying to minimize my carbon footprint by shopping close to home.

But let the free market prevail. If people want to invest in that area they will.

Posted by Dawn, a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Mar 8, 2011 at 1:03 pm

Downtown is closer for you, maybe. There's a whole other side of town that could reduce their footprint by shopping at healthy grocery stores and nice shops on the other side of (ECR, Middlefield, 101, pick the major corridor I have to cross to get to Safeway). It was nice to see folks having a sizable discussion about Belle Haven that didn't only include more high density housing. The designs were nice. I hope to see some of them in my lifetime.

Posted by Hmmm, a resident of another community
on Mar 8, 2011 at 7:51 pm

Who cares about Larry & his cars? I guess the choice would be mugged in Belle Haven or robbed by the MP Parking Nazis.

I like Dawn's comments.

Posted by c'mon c'mon, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 8, 2011 at 8:16 pm

Peter, I don't agree with you on every topic, but as far as I'm concerned you're right on with the school consolidation idea.

Posted by Mom From Menlo, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Mar 8, 2011 at 8:47 pm

Peter, I volunteer in both the Menlo and Ravenswood schools and am puzzled by your suggestion. They have dramatically different student bodies, problems and opportunities.

Do you see East Palo Alto joining, too, or would you split Ravenswood? Las Lomitas? How big do you think is a "right sized" school district?

Which school board do you see running things -- Las Lomitas and MPCSD are pretty interchangeable, Ravenswood is not. Is your opinion based on your experience with M-A, where Menlo and Ravenswood do come together?

How do you see the combined financials -- or is the attraction that Ravenswood (as a revenue limit district) will absorb the over-the-revenue-limit funding in LL and MPCSD, thus saving the State money, though spending less on local children?

Do share with us the in-depth understanding that led to your conclusion.

Posted by NotAChance, a resident of another community
on Mar 8, 2011 at 9:48 pm

good luck with that. what works for the ikea/home-depot development is a sense of isolation from the surrounging community. Without that sense of isolation, people do not feel secure. Been to that development after dark? significantly less crowded than Stanford Shopping Center... or even Lowes in Sunnyvale. Willow Road east of 101 will not work as a mid/upscale shopping development unless people feel secure. The businesses along Willow WEST of 101 in the Willows get too much crime. The chances of replicating downtown Menlo Park in Belle Haven are slim and none.

Posted by POGO, a resident of Woodside: other
on Mar 8, 2011 at 9:50 pm

I won't speak for Mr. Carpenter, but I think consolidation of many governmental services is long overdue. I would put education at the very top of the list.

California has 58 counties but justifies 1,131 school districts. That's almost 20 school districts per county - each with its own superintendent, assistant superintendent, school board, clerical staff, accounting staff, lawyer, etc. You don't think there's a little duplication in there somewhere?

I have heard politicians talk about cutting "waste, fraud and abuse" for four decades, yet the waste, fraud and abuse keeps rising. I know that the tony towns of Woodside, Atherton and Menlo Park can afford their own school districts (or more accurately, SEVERAL school districts) and probably like their captive, semi-private school systems that cater to their every whim. But isn't it about time that we took advantage of economies of scale and reduced this bloated bureaucracy?

Consolidation would also "share the wealth" by combining the richer districts - their facilities, resources and teachers - with the poorer districts. Mixing privileged students with less privileged students could also be a very important learning experience in itself. A lot of our kids lead such sheltered, protected lives, it would be nice for them to learn a little about their society.

Do I have all the details worked out? No. But that shouldn't stop a motivated and visionary political leader from trying.

Posted by sadfsf, a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Mar 8, 2011 at 10:09 pm

NotAChance: Not sure what you are trying to say, but Ravenswood 101 in EPA is definitely has more traffic than Menlo Park downtown late at night. Oh, and if you are concerned about safety in that area, consider that BBC has way more "incidents" than Firehouse Grill in EPA.

Posted by sadfsf, a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Mar 8, 2011 at 10:17 pm

waitreally: What if the person who mugged you was working at a restaurant or bar instead? There can only be good coming out of moving the town center to Belle Haven. Keep in mind that we will have 220mph trains running next to the current downtown in the future... will it still be suitable for a "mid/upscale" downtown environment? We need to plan ahead and move our downtown to Belle Haven!

Posted by NotAChance, a resident of another community
on Mar 8, 2011 at 11:49 pm


Web Link

In 2010, over half of Menlo Park's rapes, robberies, and assaults occurred in Belle Haven... add in the Willows (and its proximity to Belle Haven and EPA) and you hit nearly 70% of these crimes. As for Firehouse vs BBC? Never been to Firehouse, but I've seen the private security there after being pursued by addicts through the parking lot leaving Home Depot. Been to BBC a handful of times in the past and never had issues, but I do not dispute that, as I would expect any bar on the tracks to have its share of assaults and robberies. Anecdotal evidence aside, the crime statistics speak directly to the likelihood of revitalizing Belle Haven without displacing the existing community. Not a slight on the residents, actually had one call me to tell me they found my wallet in the parking lot a few years back... just reality.

Posted by sadfsf, a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Mar 9, 2011 at 1:29 am

NotAChance: Police will tend to arrest people and charge them of crimes in Belle Haven, while in Sharon Heights, they would encourage the parties to sort it out.
Watch this related clip:
Web Link
Web Link
I know this is not the same setting, but Belle Haven's crime statistics are somewhat inflated due to subconscious differences in police response. In reality, it is not that much more dangerous than Menlo Park downtown, and with substantial redevelopment, it has a good chance of becoming a very safe and upscale community.

Posted by Mom from Menlo, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Mar 9, 2011 at 11:05 am

POGO, from outer space, Earth is a green, blue, and white planet. Tell that to the folks in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, ...

I assume the Tinsley program -- which buses 10% of the MPCSD student body in from EPA -- does not extend to Woodside. If it did, you might be aware of how unproductive it is to crunch kids together from dramatically disparate economic circumstances. Sure, the Tinsley kids get a ton of extra tutoring ... but they are also marked (by second grade) as being poorer, less prepared, and lower achieving -- by themselves and their schoolmates. Kids who, in their neighborhood schools, would be winners are, instead, also-rans -- and feel like flat-out failures.

A "good" education is a dramatically different thing for a West Menlo kid whose English-speaking, home-owning, college-grad parents are established members of the local community, than it is for a Ravenswood kid whose Spanish-speaking, often-moving, grade-school-educated parents are working three jobs.

Go volunteer in these schools -- then come and tell us how to make them better. Right now, you're confusing distance with perspective.

Posted by Mix them up!, a resident of another community
on Mar 9, 2011 at 12:25 pm

Pogo wants to talk blending the school districts; there's always talk of combining Los Lomitas and MPCSD.

How about combining both with Ravenswood?

Huh? Wassamatter with that?

Posted by Old MP, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 9, 2011 at 12:48 pm

Combining the school districts is a pipe dream. It will never happen as those who are in Las Lomitas or MP districts will not vote for any mergers with the east side. It just won't happen.

Posted by Mix them up!, a resident of another community
on Mar 9, 2011 at 1:12 pm

" those who are in Las Lomitas or MP districts will not vote for any mergers with the east side."

golly gee wilikers - why do you think that?

Maybe the governor will just force them together or just get rid of this public education boondoogle once and for all. Private schools for all!

Like Idaho, which took their first step: Web Link Wisconsin rules - Walker for Secretary of Education.

Posted by Menlo Citizen, a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Mar 9, 2011 at 1:12 pm

For those interested in a thoughtful (and thought-provoking) look at the controversial issue of district integration, the following book is a must-read:

Hope and Despair in the American City: Why There Are No Bad Schools in Raleigh
by Gerald Grant

Posted by POGO, a resident of Woodside: other
on Mar 9, 2011 at 3:43 pm

Well, this thread has moved significantly off topic, but I'll conclude my involvement with this.

I put my money where my mouth is. My daughter attended one of the most socially and economically diverse schools in the area and she learned as much from her interaction with classmates as she did from teachers and books. I also found it interesting that some of the most economically and socially challenged students - kids from broken families, from families with history of abuse, or with jobless or alcoholic parents - did extraordinarily well. Her graduating class sent these same students to Stanford and Berkeley on full scholarships.

I have been involved with education at local, county and state levels. I have (and occasionally still do) volunteered my time to speak and teach at local high schools and at Stanford's Business School. My pet project is teaching high school graduates personal finance.

I am very familiar with the Tinsley program.... apparently more than you because Tinsley students have been attending Woodside Elementary School since the Tinsley settlement was signed in 1986.

Posted by sadfsf, a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Mar 9, 2011 at 5:50 pm

Whats with the thread jacking. This should be about the location of downtown, not school districts.

Posted by NotAChance, a resident of another community
on Mar 9, 2011 at 10:45 pm


police don't encourage victims of rape, robbery or aggravated assault to "work it out".

No more dangerous than downtown Menlo Park? Only if you equate a bad check with violent crime.

Interesting video... I do wonder how much is sensationalized though. I used to live in the Willows and with all the robberies that were going on a few years back, I called the police whenever I saw something that looked out of place (i.e. anyone I did not recognize that was loitering, rifling through garbage, sleeping in their car, etc.). There is no way that if I saw a group of people vandalizing I would NOT call the police. Nor would I confront them... that is just stupid. I would not, however, call 911. Vandalism is not an emergency. That 'report' did not state how many non-emergency calls were received... which makes it all a bit suspect in my book. Not to discount racism, but there is no way in this day of constant connection that a car was vandalized next to a jogging trail for three HOURS and the police only received one call... that is absurd.

Now back on topic. What matters with development of Belle Haven is perception. As long as there is the perception of high crime, people who have the luxury to choose where they shop, will not likely think of going to Belle Haven if there is a convenient alternative (which will make it difficult to attract businesses). I would not be surprised in the least to see a drop in business in downtown Redwood City with the recent beating/robbery at the CalTrain station there.

Posted by sadfsf, a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Mar 10, 2011 at 1:39 am

comon are you serious? how is loitering an emergency when vandalism isn't?

the thing about downtown menlo park vs. belle haven, is there are so much more police in belle haven, that crimes are so much more likely to become part of record. things happen in downtown menlo park but you never hear of it. oh, and unreported rape every day i'm not lying.

belle haven is a quiet, idyllic neighborhood that most of menlo park has yet to discover. now that its about to become the downtown, things might change but it will remain as charming as ever. Oh while we get an infusion business from the facebook engineers we are just going to lol at you menlo park downtown snobs as businesses close left and right and move to belle haven where they belong.

lets have some sort of athletic contest, with different sports between east and west. how much you going to be that you west side folks aren't going to win in ANY sport?

Posted by NotAChance, a resident of another community
on Mar 10, 2011 at 10:24 am


I never said loitering is an emergency... that is why I drew the distinction between 911 and the police NON-EMERGENCY line. 911 is for emergencies, not vandalism/loitering/etc.

as I said, I used to live in the Willows... got sick of the crime and moved to another town. Not a big fan of downtown MP, but I do feel safer there than in BH.

unreported rapes in downtown MP every day? seriously? I think you just lost all credibility with that claim right there.

Posted by NotAChance, a resident of another community
on Mar 10, 2011 at 10:27 am

athletic contest? what would that prove? and let me guess, you will limit it to what you consider real sports and exclude the things you think the snobs enjoy as not being real sports. So, no tennis, golf, cycling, mountain climbing, swimming, lacrosse? keep the great ideas coming and I'm sure Belle Haven will be the new University Ave in no time.

Posted by Anon, a resident of another community
on Mar 10, 2011 at 2:11 pm

I went to the Menlo PD calls to determine where crime is getting reported. I looked at all the calls for the last week and a half. There were violent crimes reported in the Bellehaven area. The crime reported in the downtown was one drunk in public at the train station.

In my experience downtown Menlo Park is one of the safest cities around day or night. I haven't even had a problem with the homeless people in Menlo Park. I have had problems with homeless people in San Francisco and Berkeley.

Yes, Left Bank had their safe stolen in 2009. Yes, there are occasional incidents, but I see no evidence of any safety issues in downtown Menlo Park.

Posted by sadfsf, a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Mar 10, 2011 at 2:43 pm

NotAChance: the point is that regardless of whether it is call to 911 or 3306300, people REPORT more in belle haven, not because there is actually more crime there. If you don't believe my rape claim, fine, but I'm not lying.

and about the athletic contest. it shows that the belle haven community is healthier and more vibrant, and the people there have better genetics as well. you know as well as i do that given six monthes of traneing tennis, golf, cycling, mountain climbing, swimming, lacrosse, we would destroy west side in those respective sports.

anon: LOL at homeless people being a safety issue. is this a homeowner/apartment dweller snob thing?

Posted by NotAChance, a resident of another community
on Mar 12, 2011 at 9:45 pm

I'm tired of making logical arguments supported by statistics, so I'll try to be more direct. The world is not out to get you. Just because someone has something you don't does not mean they cheated you to get it. Crimes are committed every day. Violent crimes occur in economically depressed areas more frequently than in wealthier areas. Please do not start arguments about superior genetics, it makes you look racist on top of illogical, immature and ignorant

Yes, homelessness itself is not dangerous... unfortunately, our society does not take very good care of the mentally ill and/or drug addicted. People that have homes, typically have families that DO provide the necessary care (not always... see recent AZ shooting). Homeless people with these same afflictions almost never get the needed care, and can be dangerous... not usually, but certainly at a higher rate within the homeless population than the typical person you'll walk past at Stanford.

One last logic puzzle to get your thinking on the right track... you claim that more crime is reported in Belle Haven, and infer by the videos you posted that it is because of racism, not because of more actual crime. Then, you razz us 'snobs' for being worried about homeless, loitering and such... Given that us 'snobs' report things to police you consider beneath the radar, how do you reconcile a higher number of calls for violent crime in Belle Haven? Is it that the West MPers only care about loitering, recycling theft and parking violations, but are not bothered by violent crimes? Or could it possible, just maybe, be that Belle Haven is less safe than West Menlo??? Keep in mind, I've got no horse in this race, I left the Willows 'cause I got sick of the burglaries, petty theft, and occasional gang activity.

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