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on Jul 29, 2011
A plan based upon the pipe dream that someone rich will decide a parking garage is the best place to put his philanthropic funds??? Commissioner Kadvany lives in quite another reality than the one I find myself in, I think.
One only has to spend a few minutes in Santa Monica or even downtown Palo alto to realize that decreasing off-street parking and increasing foot traffic will likely drive up customer flow.
What the heck is with downtown MP anyway? How many boutique clothing shops, stuffy furniture stores, and stale cuisine restaurants does a one horse town need?
People are presenting non-falsifiable hearsay arguments without looking at the evidence from similar projects.
Atherton neighbor -
I read Mr. Kadvany's suggestion as being a bit tongue in cheek, not a serious suggestion. Though given Mr. Arrillaga's generous support for first the gymnasium and now the new gymnastics facility, I would have to think that yes, we do live in a different reality than most communities.
As for Mark Flegel's comment that "making customers have to walk to a parking structure will drive them away" - this makes no sense to me. The plan shows a parking garage behind his store. How does it create any more trouble for his customers than the current lot? It seems to me that it protects them & their cars from the hot sun in the summer and the rains in the winter, with no real increase in distance walked. Unless most of his customers are in their 80's or using walkers, this seems disingenuous at best. I know I don't think twice about driving to downtown Palo Alto to shop anymore because I know I can always find convenient parking in one of the 3 new parking garages they've built in the past 10 years.
I really don't see why the merchant's seem to be opposed to these improvements - they only make the downtown more inviting to my mind.
While building parking garages to create more parking seems like a rational approach, many women, whom I believe comprise the bulk of the shoppers in downtown Menlo Park (and probably most towns), feel the confines of a parking garage pose a risk to their safety.
Building one 2 or 3 story parking garage (whose design I hope would include significant lighting and security cameras to deter crime and increase a sense of safety)that employees can use seems reasonable.
However, from this shoppers point of view and from an aesthetic point of view, multiple parking garages - particularly any that are taller than 3 stories above ground would ruin the small town boutique feel of our great town and make it a less desirable place to visit.
As for Santa Monica and Palo Alto, there is still plenty of on street parking in these towns. If I'm alone (as opposed to with a friend or husband), I'll always opt for on street parking to increase my safety.
And, if I'm doing grocery shopping, I certainly don't want to park in a parking garage. Hopefully a garage in the Trader Joes or Draegers lots has been ruled out.
On a seperate note, the Chestnut street trial seems like a great idea.
The primary reason the landlords downtown oppose the plan is their fear of having to pay for parking structures. They have been profitting from having their employees park in the adjacent residential neighborhoods for years.
Downtown Menlo Park needs more parking in parking structures to clean up the downtown streets and get the cars out of the residential neighborhoods.
Public comment last evening's meeting from about 7:15 to 9:20 PM, with only 2 speakers supporting the plan "as is", and somehow disproportionately "equal" time is given in the article to Mr. Boyle's embarrassingly angry accusations (coming from a former elected official, but oh yes, he was on the council subcommittee for the Specific Plan). What about other comments made by community members? There was a creative idea suggested by Rocksie (not sure her last name) about solar panels in the parking lots, by many others about wanting to upgrade the downtown but not wanting to turn it into something other than a small town's downtown.
Thanks for that perspective. I never think of safety concerns in Menlo Park or Palo Alto, though both my daughters always take this in to account.
One question: would safety concerns keep you from using a parking structure even during daylight hours? I ask because that is when most shops in MP are open and because I notice lots of women using the parking structures in Palo Alto. Yes, I notice the men too - just not as much :)
As for your concern about the height of the parking structures, I pulled this quote from the plan:
"the concept locates two parking garages, with one- to one-and-a-half levels below-grade and up to four levels above, on Parking Plazas
1 and 3 north of Santa Cruz Avenue, with potential housing above the garage on Parking Plaza 3."
Sounds like the parking structure behind Flegels would not meet with your approval, though I'd point out that you would only notice the height of the structure from University Avenue; the 2-story buildings along Santa Cruz and Oak Grove would effectively hide even a 5-story structure from view.
As for Downtown Resident's observation that the merchants are afraid that they will be saddled with the full costs of parking structures, I have to ask how did Palo Alto finance the three big parking structures they recently built?
Many also commented on If it ain't broke, don't fix it. Several property owners mentioned that some storefronts are vacant because of the uncertainties about future parking availability and parking lot construction.
A balanced article would report more about the overwhelming number of other comments.
I have to ask those that don't think parking structures are a good idea because they will drive away business; it doesn't seem to have caused that problem at Valley Fair or Santana Row has it?
And to those who don't think they're safe; as long as they are well lit at night and are relatively open there's nothing unsafe about them. I haven't heard of much of any crime in the parking garage below the Keplers building.
The fact is both of these arguments are falacious.
Flegels has long been an oponent of anything that brings any changes to the downtown. As another poster mentioned, if the garage is directly behind Flegels, how does that affect his customers? Or is the problem that increasing the availability of parking might bring more shoppers and more businesses, specifically furniture businesses? It might put a pinch on his ability to sell overpriced furniture.
First off, I've lived here a long time and I don't know which of the newly-described neighborhoods I live in - is this for/by realty interests that MP is now divided into a ton of mini-hoods or is this what our council bothered itself with?
Secondly, why ruin what works? Downtown is fine. I don't think most people WANT a permanent Farmers Mkt, nor storied parking garages. We don't fill them up now! Where is this flush of $ coming from for this and shouldn't it go toward something more meaningful - like helping the homeless or childcare or??? This is amazing to me, the lack of humanity for commercial concerns? - and a tad scary...why
Nothing is going to change quickly - this is just a planning document to guide future growth & development. To quote from the plan:
"the Menlo Park El Camino Real/Downtown Specific Plan establishes guiding principles and an Urban Design Framework for public and private enhancements to the plan area. . . The Specific Plan accommodates future development in ways that complement the areaâ€™s existing character, using design controls and guidelines to regulate building form and scale."
This is a document to guide growth over the next 50 years - it won't take money from childcare or other social programs. It will take money from capital improvement funds that are set aside for just such community improvements. In some cases, it may require MP citizens to vote approval of a bond to pay for some of it, as we did for upgrades to Burgess Park & the civic center. Then we'll see just how much support the plan really has.
It appears to me that about a third of the plaza parking spaces are taken by downtown workers based on observing the plazas about 9:30 AM. This percentage will probably increase as the economy improves. If a parking structure can triple the number of spaces for a given plaza, and if it is filled with the worker's cars from 3 plazas, then the number of surface level spaces available for shoppers will be doubled in those 3 plazas.
I'm told state law prohibits cities forcing merchants to pay for parking structures. My understanding is that the merchants in Palo Alto got together and asked for parking structures. I believe Menlo Park's Specific Plan expects developers to pay for such improvements in exchange for variances they are expected to seek.
What is proposed right now is to give away development rights without asking for anything in return. I thought I heard a doubling of office space (who asked for that anyway?) even before the bonus level that requires some public benefit. Someone asked last night who benefits from this densification of offices. Not merchants, not residents.
Under the proposed Plan, increased building area still requires associated parking be provided by the developer. An additional 4,000 s.f., e.g. a second floor (about the size of Anne's Coffee Shop) would require 15 spaces on site (unlikely) or, at a suggested $35,000 per parking space, paying an in lieu fee towards parking of $525,000 for that one added floor. THATS who will pay most for parking structures.
In my earlier posting I got my math wrong, but the principal is the same, a parking structure will not necessarily decrease the number of street level spaces available to shoppers. If you include the street level inside the parking structure, one can expect a 50% increase I'n available street level spaces.
It's really unfortunate that most of the people who spoke were property owners and retailers. Obviously, they should have a say, but I'm betting that the majority of residents -- most of whom probably were totally unaware that the discussion was occurring -- would love to have wider sidewalks, an all-week market, and a parking structure for employees so that street-level spaces would free up for customers. Those residents tend to be too busy with their families to keep up with city politics, but that doesn't mean their needs should be overlooked.
The plan is not perfect, and I don't think you should blithely approve increased density because none of us want that much more traffic. But there are way too many "40-year residents" who are stubbornly opposed to any change at all. Even if you love Menlo Park the way it is, there are many ways it could be better. Creating a pleasant ambiance and ensuring adequate parking will go a long ways toward improving the quality of a downtown visit.
I spoke at the meeting and I am not a downtown property owner, but rather a resident of Menlo Park. Many other residents of Menlo Park spoke about the problems with the plan as well.
The plan is just not good, I am not against change but I am against destroying existing businesses and using outdated building techniques to create a huge garage for what will be mostly office parking.
I suggested at the meeting we consider improving the current parking plazas, add solar panels that provide shade and protection from rain as well as producing clean energy. There are also new paving materials which allow grass and plants to grow through them, so the plazas would have a parklike feel as well as be able to soak up rain wate. Also, the planning department claims we can only build a parking garage economically on large lots, but this is an antiquated way of thinking. There a new designs using automated lifts that will park cars for you in less then half the space. Santa Monica is building a system like this for 200 cars that costs on 2.6 million. What I don't understand is why the plan doesn't include new ideas like this.
Oops I meant West Hollywood is building an automated parking system
Let's not forget that the plan is the result of an orderly, lengthy public process where EVERYONE was included. It is what the majority wants.
These recent negative comments are from a very small but vocal disgruntled minority. It is not an orderly planning process. The new plan my need some refininements, but should be embraced as what the people truly want.
Whoa! Until the draft Specific Plan came out, no one but the consultant and staff really knew what would be proposed. Until the draft environmental study came out, no one knew what the impacts might be. So it's a big stretch to say any majority wants what has now come out.
From what I could tell, most of the people speaking about the downtown part of the plan were not part of the alliance group. It is very insulting and out of line to marginalize the concerns and suggestions of those who have looked into what the plan now looks like. We do agree on one thing. It needs fixed!
So, someone accuses you of using bullying and intimidation tactics, and your response to boo and hiss him?
Stay classy, Downtown Alliance!
It was John Boyle who angrily accused the alliance of bullying. His words and demeanor were shocking to the audience.
The booing and hissing was inappropriate, but so was Boyle's performance. If you missed it, watch the video online.
"What everyone wants"?? I never met from anyone from Menlo park who was consulted about the plan. Everyone I know is opposed when they see what it really means. I think very few have taken a serious look at it.
First of all where is the money for this grandiouse project? And then, do no harm! We have a most agreeable downtown in Menlo Park --
some parking areas are showing wear... could be improved...some street crossings could be better... yet overall the little town is a good place to walk and shop. (There are empty store sites all over the peninsula....including Palo Alto and Redwood City, this not a reflection of the attraction of the community, but of the economy.)
Maybe the empty sites all along El Camino could be dealt with... or are they waiting to see what will happen with the bullet train?
We have busy, very upscale, heavily landscaped Stanford Shopping center nearby, don't need another like that, and could not sustain it anyway! Palo Alto is a busy place, try driving along University. But we don't need or want to copy that, either.
AT the meeting someone suggested the plan be on the ballot at the next election... seems like a good idea.
I must ask myself, who benefits from this very expensive and I feel wrong-headed undertaking? I don't believe it is the merchants or the shoppers.
John Boyle IS absolutely correct. The Downtown Alliance are a bunch of bullies, and the masters of disinformation. If you don't believe me, grab a second or two and have Nancy whatever her last name is talk to you for about 5 minutes while shopping at the TEMPORARY market on Sundays. You can't get a word in, and she exaggerates things 10 fold. She, and the rest of the group are a minority that have the time to be a bug in everyone's ear. The rest of us have jobs and families and unfortunately cannot attend many of these meetings. The rest of us also travel around a bit and do notice a disproportionate number of continued vacant shops in Menlo Park, versus the rest of the peninsula. No one is asking for a concrete belt, we just want improvement, the Downtown Alliance does NOT want change, period.
I have not met anyone who was "consulted" about the plan, but residents were invited to many (many many) outreach sessions, some in the evenings, some on weekends. I went to a bunch of them, and I saw a lot of people I know. If, for whatever reason, you could not attend, you could follow the progress online. I subscribe to the city's update system and get emails whenever they modify the plans or schedule a meeting.
Though I live here, I don't "shop" in Menlo Park other than to go to Trader Joe's and sometimes the drugstore. Our downtown is ridiculously blah, and it's dead after 5 and on Sundays. You can go to so many other local cities -- I hear Campbell has an impressive downtown -- and find a more lively and interesting downtown. Doesn't mean we are going to look like Stanford mall or Palo Alto (we only wish we had Palo Alto's vibrancy!) but we can try a little harder to look less tired and stuck in the 1950s.
The improvements suggested by the planning commission represent a decent step in the right direction.
I am not a John Boyle fan and I don't agree with everyone he said last week, but I admire his bravery in getting up and confronting the status quo. Someone needed to do it. Pathetic to hear the white-haired crowd hissing him. It's pretty clear to me that this group does not reflect what Menlo Park's vision should be.
Can we stop reliving the who called who what, and the reliving of the booing and the hissing?
John Boyle is a good man. He has a ton of integrity. He is passionate about the Downtown Specific Plan because he cares about Menlo Park.
The Downtown Alliance obviously also is passionate about the Downtown, and has contributed greatly to our City.
Frankly, from watching the planning commission meeting it appeared that some compromises were put on the table. If there are criticisms of those compromises, and other solutions to discuss, I for one would appreciate hearing them without all the other nonsense. It's a distraction.
Let's stop throwing stones and start building bridges.
The old people in Menlo Park have always been anti-everything that involves change. I know, I've been in a lot of the homes owned by those folks. Last remodeled in 1980 and they think it is high style. Eventually it will be possible to make changes in Menlo Park as the "no changers" die off or move to assisted living. Be patient.
They don't call MP "God's Waiting Room" for nothin'!
I haven't seen any comments regarding parking in Los Altos. The lots there are attractive, and I've never had to leave because I couldn't find a space. Los Altos has a fine shopping area, and good variety of stores. There don't seem to be a lot of empty buildings there. So what are they doing right?
Ray who writes:
John Boyle is a good man. He has a ton of integrity. He is passionate about the Downtown Specific Plan because he cares about Menlo Park.
I suggest you look at numerous videos when he was on Council. He was nothing but a constant obstruction weaver. He could dominate time and go on and on, with little or nothing to say. He was the mouth piece of the DuBoc/Winkler/Jellins ousted majority.
He wants the Specific Plan, because he and his supporters want nothing more then zoning changes to build denser and higher and build on the Plazas, which they expect to being to them free of charge.
He was smart enough not to run in the last election, because he was sure to get soundly defeated.
You as a relatively new face to the politics of Menlo Park, need to do much more research.
Respectfully, I know John. I have spoken with him on many occasions. He don't always agree with me, but I believe him to be honest in his opinions. I respect him. And truth be told, I respect the opinions of the Winkler, Jellins, and Duboc, whom you have mentioned as well. I also respect the opinions of Robinson, Cline, Fergusson, Cohen, Ohtaki and Keith.
I may be a relatively new face to Menlo Park politics, but regardless, I hope what I am about to say will hold true many years from now.
Personally, I don't measure a person's integrity with how often they agree with me or not. If they can be wrong, so can I. Even if we passionately disagree. When we start judging a person's statements based on who they are, as opposed to the substance of what they are saying, then we have lost the ability to find compromise, and common ground. There can be no progress, only the constant retreading of ground that is bloodied and worn in a ridiculous unceasing tug-of-war.
I realize that some in our City, perhaps you, expect me to choose sides in a past blood feud. Well let me say this now, very publicly, I won't choose sides. If that means I am going to be disparaged, pigeonholed and bloodied, so be it. It was probably going to happen anyway, if history is any example. If that means those who were inclined to break bread with me now, will not, because they no longer trust me, well so be it. Frankly, unfortunately, I expect that many are going to read this and write me off. I don't care.
I am not interested in wars anyway.
I am interested in great ideas, no matter who has them.
I would not hold Los Altos up as an example of a successful downtown. I used to work in Los Altos and later watched its decline into vacancy - they are hoping their street revisions will change things, but the bottom line may be that there just isn't enough economic (and human) activity to make a party. Can only wish them well.
There has been some concern raised that the construction in Los Altos is affecting current businesses, and worsening the economic environment there, at least in the short term.
Are there any measures that can be taken to address this problem in Menlo Park, should the City decide to proceed?
I go to downtown all the time. Never have trouble finding parking. Why are garages being proposed.
Garages are being proposed because the "church" wants to have parking payed for from someone else prior to them releasing their grand plans for redevelopment of their properties (which they have been purchasing). They would like to build a gigantic performing arts center on the Univ. Ave. side, and this needs parking. Who better to pay for it then someone else.
Let's all be honest (if you're under 70 I believe you'll agree)... Downtown MP is awful, it's boring, there is no vibrant life to be found and parking during the day (midweek or weekends) can be painful. I only go there to get my haircut, what else is there but goofy boutique, over priced and outdated stores.
I'm in my 40s, have two boys and like to enjoy my city. Unfortunately I can't do that downtown. There should be a sign hanging over Santa Cruz that says "When the sun goes down so do the lights, if you don't see old residents shopping we're all closed".
Downtown is absolutely lost, stuck in the past and needs serious help!!
One of the wonderful things about shopping in Menlo Park -- that is not the case in PA -- is that you drive over, find a near-by spot (even if you have to hunt a little for it), run your errands in the variety of daily-needs stores, quickly get back to your car, and be on your way. If I had to use a parking lot a block or so away, it would add time and inconvenience, and would make me less likely to visit.
Truth be Told, I pretty much agree with you about the general level of downtown vitality and interesting shopping opportunities. On the other hand, I don't usually go downtown during the day, but parking has not been a problem for me, especially compared to, say, parking in Palo Alto or Redwood City.
That said, I see a parking garage as a good thing in terms of planning for future growth and more importantly as a way to get employees out of the customer lots. The 20-something employees, not the octogenarian customers, will be the people who have to walk a block each way. Does anyone have a problem with that?
P.S. Revitalizing El Camino is an even bigger issue, in my mind, than fixing up downtown. I expect to see you all tonight at the PC meeting!
Being honest, aren't we going to pay for this plan out of our taxes? I agree that all the Menlo Park residents should be able to vote by written ballot, and not a mail-in one.
I don't feel that the Planning Commission or the Council listen to most of us. They vote their wants, not the residents' wants and they are politicians. I helped vote out Robinson becauase he didn't listen - always no time to or perhaps chose to listen only to people that he wanted to.
Most importantly, in this economy, is it appropriate to spend money for something like this.
Come back with a doiwntown plan when the economy is better.
*the downtown and ecr clearly need a plan for the long term, and what we have befoee us now came out of a process that involved hundreds of MP residents in a hands on participatory way.
* I don't generally see eye to eye with John Boyle but I do on this. We need to listen fairly to one another and focus on coming up with a good plan for the long term.
* I am a woman and I often park in the Palo Alto parking structures both day and night. There is much we can learn from Palo Alto, which has way more foot traffic and vitality/vibrancy than Menlo Park.we will surely need parking structures _ the back parking lots do indeed get full even with downtown still being kinda sleepy.
* the City Council might want to do a phone survey or randomized on line survey with photos from other small cities with similar streetscapes to the plan.
* we absolutely need to move forward with something reasonable for both sta cruz and ecr and both need to be planned together.
First, I have never had a problem finding a parking place in downtown Menlo Park so I don't see a reason for parking structures in the first place.
Secondly, when Menlo Park reconfigured the current parking lots a few years ago they removed about one-third of the spaces and slanted the parking slots in such a way that a lot of the parked cars straddle the separation lines. And now they say they need more parking?
Which, thirdly, brings me to our fair city's last big construction project, the misnamed 'Traffic Calming Project' on Santa Cruz Ave which made a slalom course out of the street, narrowed the space between cars and bicyclists and pedestrians making driving more dangerous, blocked fire trucks from getting to houses and they had not orginally calculated that fifty parking spaces were lost.
Their follies remind me of the old movie, 'The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight'. Please, Menlo Park, leave us alone.
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